As GUN wrap up their European tour, we caught up with new frontman Toby Jepson for a chat.

R13:In your own words, can you tell me what GUN is all about.
TJ:GUN is about old men making new music (laughs). I think GUN is a band of passionate musicians that have had successful careers under somebody else’s terms, who are re-emerging under their own terms. Most importantly, GUN is about moving forward and making something fresh and new.

R13:What’s happening with Gun right now?
TJ:Well, we’ve just finished a huge European-wide tour so we’re all resting at the moment (laughs). The plan next year is to carry on touring; we’ve got lots of plans and invitations with a good chance of playing at festivals but I can’t say which ones yet. And of course, we’ll be making more new music. We recorded and released Popkiller this year [2009], there’ll be a Popkiller 2; it may not be called that, but something along the same lines.

R13:How does Popkiller compare to Swagger, which is widely seen as Gun’s best album, isn’t it?
TJ:Many people think so, but Popkiller is a different record, I don’t think much more needs to be said than that; it’s folly to compare the two. We didn’t want to create another Swagger and GUN has moved on a lot since then. I’m the new boy in the band - Mark [Rankin] was a great singer and a huge part of their sound; it would be ridiculous to try to make GUN what it used to be. I don’t want to sound like Mark, I want to make my own impact. We want to make something that’s relevant for now. (laughs) The only thing that’s the same is the name.

R13:There’s only one original member, isn’t there?
TJ:No, two members are original, Jools and Dante. They’re brothers. Jools formed the band, Dante joined when they got signed. He’s the guy who played all the bass on the first album.

R13:What, in your opinion, has been GUN’s biggest achievement to date?
TJ:Including the past or where we are now?
R13:Let’s go with now. As you said, GUN is a completely different animal now.
TJ:Okay. I think on the whole we feel that our biggest achievement so far has been to re-emerge as a band with a successful past, to create something new that allows a future for us to exist. We’ve done a whole bunch of shows and released a popular album which is still emerging in its own right. To be able to get up again after 10 years away from it all and still feel compelled to do it is a big enough achievement in itself. You see, none of us have anything to prove; we’ve all got hits and chart records but we want to prove to ourselves that we can continue to write great music and when we come on stage we don’t look like a bunch of old farts..! We want people to agree that we’re making good music and performing out of our skins because we believe in it. The feedback we’ve had this year is that people see it as a new band with something to say, not an old one.

R13:Your recent tour culminated with a main stage appearance at Hard Rock Hell • how was that for you?
TJ:We think it was the best show we did in 2009. It was a turning point. You see, GUN is a lot bigger on the continent than the UK. This tour was good and we had some fantastic gigs, but some weren’t so fantastic. We expected that, we knew we’d have to work hard to get an audience. To play in front of 3,000 people at Hard Rock Hell, we didn’t know what to expect. I think a lot of rock bands in all honesty didn’t regard GUN in the day as a traditional rock band because of the pop element. They all even had short hair at one point, they were a lot more mainstream. We didn’t know if people would remember GUN or what they would think or even expect it on that bill. We had nothing to lose so we went out and gave it a go and it went fantastic. It clicked, the audience loved it and by the end people were cheering, it was a fantastic indication of what the possibilities could be for next year. If we can get that audience that were after heavier bands, it’s a really cool achievement. We gave it our best shot.

R13:Are there any hard rock bands or artists today that you think could be just as successful as GUN has been, given that the charts are dominated primarily by pop, RnB and so on?
TJ:Funnily, New Device who toured with GUN were really good. They’re a traditional rock band even though they’re young. A lot of the stuff they’re playing is, in my mind, quite traditional rock. There’s a bit of early 90’s influence in there, Skid Row etc. A lot of young bands are listening to their dad’s records from 20 years ago, love them and are starting to make classic rock music again which is really encouraging. Also Riot: Noise from Bristol were a great bunch of lads. They’re a tough rock band but classically traditional. Riot: Noise also played Hard Rock Hell.

The overriding thing I’ve noticed in recent years is young bands returning to the old sound in a positive manner.

R13:Do you have any advice for any wannabe rock acts out there?
TJ:I think bands should only think of the music. It may sound obvious but when you’re young you get caught up in the romance of being in a band. You think you need to get a manager and an agent but no, concentrate on the music as it’s the only thing that matters. It doesn’t matter about having the right guitar, trousers or hat; if you’ve got the talent you could have the worst drum kit or guitar in the world and you’ll still sound great. If you want to be good, concentrate on the music. Play lots of shows in pubs or even at birthday parties, it doesn’t matter. Play gigs, show your music and everything else will follow.

R13:In an ideal world, if you could collaborate with any artist past or present, who would it be?
TJ:That’s a tough one because I’m a singer/songwriter, as are my idols. My biggest hero is Freddie Mercury but how could I possibly compete with him? He was a better singer than me and arguably the greatest songwriter the world has ever seen. I would’ve loved to have been in his presence when he wrote ‘We are the Champions’ or ‘We Will Rock You’, I would’ve loved to have seen how he did that, got to know him and how his mind works. Making great music is not easy, it’s a natural gift. I mean it in the best way; you can learn to be a great player but you can’t learn songwriting. You’ve either got the talent to be a great composer or you haven’t.

Also, I love guitars. If I could’ve been parachuted into the middle of Led Zeppelin as their singer at their height with Jimmy Page on guitar it would’ve been the greatest moment ever.

So Led Zeppelin and Queen would be my choices.

R13:Finally, what’s on the horizon for GUN • is this long-term or solo?
TJ:I have one EP to finish from my solo work, it’s been a long time in completion. I may also do some solo gigs. As for the future, never say never. GUN hopefully will go from strength to strength and we’ll go where we want to go, but who knows! We all feel completely passionate about it, we have an independent record deal and we have a great agent and a lot of support out there from the industry. I think if we keep enjoying ourselves and keep working positively towards improving we could be around for the next ten years.

R13:Do you have any preference between solo and group work?
TJ:It’s a weird one because I love doing solo stuff, everything’s on your own terms, you make all the decisions but then you don’t always get it right. A band is a pool of people that help each other make creative decisions and work towards a positive end. So I think upon reflection, I prefer being in a band.

R13:Thank you very much for your time Toby, I found that very interesting.
TJ:Alright darling, thanks very much - enjoy the rest of your day.