Stuart Gili-Ross on the band's success, the haters and finally put to bed the rumours surrounding their parting of ways with Warner Bros
Photo by Marcus Maschwitz
Unquestionably Britain's most successful punk act of the last decade, Gallows are a band who everybody has an opinion on one way or another. The Watford-based outfit's rise from being cult favourites on the underground hardcore scene to becoming the subject of an industry bidding war, which culminated in them signing a million pound deal with Warner, is an unparalleled success story. Sure other UK bands such as Enter Shikari and You Me At Six have similarly blown up huge in recent years, but simply put, never has a British band so damn-right vitriolic and uncommerical sounding as Gallows attracted this level of attention before.
It all started with the release of their stonking 2006 debut album Orchestra of Wolves (Reviewed here) through In at the Deep End Records, initially to little fanfare, a series of blistering live shows saw the mainstream media suddenly prick up their ears and rediscover the album and suddenly the Gallows rollercoaster was in full swing. After signing to Warner their debut was swiftly re-released to a much wider audience, and last year the band delivered Orchestra of Wolves' hotly-anticipated follow up Grey Britain (Review here). A marked departure from their venomous, foul-mouthed debut, Grey Britain received near universal praise from press on both sides of the Atlantic, and yet the band split with Warner late last year amongst all manner of rumours.
Following their latest stint in the US supporting AFI, the five-piece toured a number of the UK's smaller towns and cities in November and December, but were forced to postpone the latter part of the tour when guitarist Steph Carter was taken ill. Prior to the band's storming rescheduled date at The Peel in Kingston [Live Review], Dan Jones grabbed some time with bassist Stuart Gili-Ross to discuss the band's success, the haters and finally put to bed the rumours surrounding their parting of ways with Warner Bros...
You've had a bit of a down period at the start of the year before these rescheduled dates, what have you been up to?
"As you know managing others bands, trying to get all that sorted out and organized. I'm in another band too called Spy Catcher and we've been recording and playing shows as well, we went to Holland with them. So yeah, I've been really busy doing other stuff outside of Gallows."
What have you been recording with Spy Catcher? An EP?
"No, they're basically album quality demos. We're looking at doing an album so we've just basically approached the recording like we're doing our album, but the idea is to really get someone interested to pay for us to record the album after that."
Did you meet the other Spy Catcher guys through the Watford scene?
"I've known them all for years yeah. They're all from Watford, who we all went to school and played in bands with over the years, so it's pretty natural to play with them."
Gallows seem to have a good connection with Kingston and The Peel in particular, playing the venue a number of times despite it being a small venue for a band of your size. So what's behind the love in?
"Well it's been around for years obviously and back in the days when we were all reading Fracture zine and stuff, it was the place to come to, to see really cool shows and so we saw a lot of bands that we love here before we played in a band together. We always wanted to be one of those bands that play here and its always been really cool. The sounds always been good, the crowds always mental. It's just a really good layout, it's like a traditional venue in terms of there's a stage a floor and a bar, there's no weird barriers or balconies or any shit like that, it's just a really cool place for us to play."
As well as the Kingston date, this tour has seen you play a lot of non-traditional towns that bands usually avoid like the plague. What's the thinking behind it? Is it anything to do with you all coming from a satellite town yourselves that bands don't play?
"Yeah, exactly, that's a big part of it. We just wanted to play to those people who we'd missed out before. A lot of bands do, so it's nice to go there as they really appreciate it when you do go and the shows have reflected that, they've been really lively."
So Grey Britain is almost a year old now, how do you feel about the record listening back to it? Are you still immensely proud of it?
"Yeah I'm still really proud of it. It's funny you ask because I haven't really listened to it much since we finished it until I put it on a couple of times the other week. I think the songs still stand up and I'm not sick of it yet!"
Gallows - The Vulture (Act II)
Would you say Grey Britain was written much more as a band compared to Orchestra of Wolves?
"Definitely. We didn't even have singer when we were doing Orchestra of Wolves. The songs were written when Lags would come around to my house and we'd just try and get it written, and this one was much more focused and was a completely different way of approaching it."
Grey Britain was a brave and big step on from Orchestra of Wolves, but do you still enjoy playing the songs from your first record?
"Yeah I do. Or I like the reaction they get, put it that way."
Grey Britain was a concept record that focused on everything that's wrong with "broken Britain", but do you think everyone has a love hate relationship with where they're from?
"Sure the grass it always greener if you're from somewhere else. But I don't know, Frank's leaving to America and I could see myself living somewhere else definitely, but I think it's a hate hate relationship really."
The album can be seen as a political statement. Do you see Gallows as a political band?
"Well, we always said from the start that we'd never be a political band, but I guess you can't not be to some extent these days really if you're talking about the things that we're talking about on our record. It has politicised us a bit I suppose yeah."
So as I said earlier the album has been out for a year now, have you had the chance to work on any new tracks yet?
"We had some time off in Brooklyn in the gap in the AFI tour we did and we recorded a few songs there in a studio, but other than that not really no, as we're still on the road."
Late last year you left Warner after all the hype of you signing with them. What can you tell us about what happened there?
"They signed us on a two album deal with an option for if they wanted to keep us on and if we wanted to stay to do two more – that had to match the level which we were signed at before. The two albums we delivered for them were Grey Britain and Orchestra of Wolves so we fulfilled our contract. But the whole music industry has changed, we were like the last big record deal to get signed for that kind of money and they're just not happening any more. So we just parted ways, we'd fulfilled our contract and it was very unlikely that we were going to get signed for another million pounds again."
Gallows - London Is The Reason
Do you think that Warner expected too much from you? Realistically a hardcore band can't get much bigger than you already were at the time.
"I don't know really, I didn't really think about it. We never had to change what we were about and stuff. The people who actually signed us to the label weren't working there for much longer after we signed so it was weird. I guess they fucked up, but whatever, we're laughing"
So do you think we've seen the last of the majors spending so much after this?
"Oh yeah definitely. It's a fact now that the only kind of record deal that you get are 360 deals and are definitely not for anywhere near the kind of money that was thrown at us."
Do you tend to read much press at all about the band?
"We get sent our press cuttings from our PR guys sometimes"
I ask because I've seen some of you on various forums, does it annoy you reading some of the stuff that gets written there? What's the most ludicrous thing you've ever read about the band?
"There's too many to mention really. I kind of read that stuff for amusement half the time, but there's a couple of times where you've got to bite your lip because some people are just so ignorant, they think they know what's going on. I think the most ridiculous thing I read was that people thought we'd signed for Warner and would end up in a load of debt. That you have to pay record advances back or something, it's just not how it works."
Do you think it's a British mentality that there's always a backlash against our bands who do well?
"Yeah definitely. It's definitely a British thing where you support a band until they get out of the basement and then we hate them. I've probably been guilty of it before I was a musician. I don't know why we're like that."
Have you had any ideas what you're going to do label wise next then?
"We're courting a few labels at the moment, I think words out that we're free agents. We're not in any real hurry so we'll see what comes our way."
Are you still with Epitaph in the US?
"No, we're completely label free for the world. We're still talking to them about doing the next record and stuff, but nothings been decided on."
So do you think you'll be spending as much time over in the US and doing Warped Tour again?
"I don't think we'll do Warped Tour again"
Is is not an enjoyable experience then?
"It can be for like the first three weeks, but it's like ten weeks non stop. After the first few weeks it's just like Groundhog Day."
Is it draining for you touring then? Is it difficult keeping up the intensity of your performances on tour?
"Oh yeah, completely. Gallows is a basically a release for us and when you're playing shows that often, everyday, you've got nothing really to get off your chest so it's hard."
Gallows - I Dread The Night
Refreshingly you don't always speak well of bands you tour with such as an Warped Tour, but do you ever think that in doing so you're giving the bands the oxygen of publicity they don't deserve?
"We started thinking about that and we stopped actually mentioning their names. But we definitely have more people agreeing with us than not."
You've archived a hell of a lot as a band so far, but has there been any particular moment you knew you made it?
"Last year's Reading and Leeds festivals were pretty insane – that was pretty mental. Just compliments from your peers really, like Henry Rollins and Keith Morris, the Black Flag singers for example, giving our band shout outs from onstage. Rage Against The Machine asking us to do shows with them all the time is really cool because I grew up listening to that band."
Did you ever think it was weird when you appeared on Guitar Hero?
"Oh god the only time I've ever played that was when it first came out, there was a launch night with a free bar so me and Lags went down to have some beers and check out the game and we were just awful at it. It's actually harder when you know how to play the song really."
You mentioned Spy Catcher and then of course there's the other bands you manage, do these other commitments ever get in the way of Gallows?
"Not really. I mean other than when I'm talking to yourself for example or for that hour onstage at the end of the night you can see that we're pretty much sitting around with our thumbs up our arses – so I'm normally always on my laptop sorting stuff out or on the phone so it's fine. When Spy Catcher did The Get Up Kids tour last year and I was on Warped Tour, the guy who usually bass techs for me in this country filled in, so it's pretty easy man."
You're off to play in Australia at the end of the month, but after that what are your plans for the rest of the year?
"I'm going to have a month off in America with my fiancée after Australia and then we go to Japan to do Punkspring and then we've got a couple of shows in Europe and doing the festivals in the summer. Then after that I don't know, start looking at writing some new songs, that's about it really. We've just toured our arses off for the last five-six years so now it's nice just to stop and take a look around us, and like you say, when was the time I felt I had achieved something, I think that will happen when I actually stop and look back because we haven't really had any time off."
Gallows' second album, Grey Britain, is out now through Warner Bros.