With the musical treadmill of recording, promoting, and touring, it is very rare that any one artist can get out an album every year, even if doing it as a full-time occupation with label support and a whole management structure supporting the effort. To do so in the underground scene covered by Ave Noctum where musical endeavours are juggled around a far more grounded and down to earth lifestyle is even rarer; to produce two excellent albums with two different acts is nearly unheard of. However, Johnny Gorillar, vocalist and guitarist for the nearly eponymous Gorilla, and the definitely not eponymous The Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, has done just that in 2019. In between assorted gigs, ferry trips, driving marathons, and what I have been told are numerous Jack and Cokes, as well as cultivating some of the finest sideburns in rock, he has kindly taken the time out to answer a few questions.
Ave Noctum: Firstly, congratulations on the new album ‘Very Uncertain Times’ which is an absolute stunner. Also, it’s your second release of the year after Gorilla’s ‘Treecreeper’, so how do you manage to fit so much in just one year?
Johnny Gorillar: Highfangkyeeoow! It certainly is, and although an old cliché, I really do think these two albums are the best both bands have ever done! It was pretty hectic, especially combined with the real life, out of band shit that was going down at the same time! On the plus side, I tend to find that the more music I make, the more inspired I get, and the more immersed in the whole studio process I become. I was sad when it was all over!!
AN: With two different acts on the go, and touring schedules that seem to criss-cross each other, how do you keep the two bands separate in terms of writing and playing?
JG: It’s pretty easy really, we work around band members work leave and all that stuff. I can’t remember ever having to choose between one or the other, so I guess it’s down to precision, military style forward planning. That or just blind luck!!!
AN: This is your first album with Serra Petale on drums, albeit you’ve been playing live together for a while and are clearly a tight knit group; how did the change in personnel affect the band dynamics in the creation and recording of ‘Very Uncertain Times’?
JG: I think the affect was bluddy awesome! When new blood is injected into an old warhorse, it can have a spectacular effect! The whole thing became tighter, better focused and even more dynamic, as hopefully the new LP proves! Having the chance to break some of the numbers in live before recording is always a bonus to us too. Serra’s a phenomenal drummer and was able to channel the Shovells twisted vision of rock n roll very nicely thank you! When you get that kinda psychic connection, everything just flows…maaaaan!
AN: Your last Shovell album ‘Keep It Greasy’ featured a number of tracks well over the six minute mark, as well as a few studio tricks such as the effect of making the album sound like a mix tape recorded off the radio, whilst ‘Very Uncertain Times’ is full of shorter tracks with a lot more of a raw sound. Is this intentional, and if so why?
JG: I think it was just a natural progression, we never write to any pre-conceived plans or formula’s, we just write a bunch of riffs and see what happens. There’s just as much going on with the new numbers as there was in the long numbers, just more concentrated, we trimmed off the fat and cooked the fuckers on an open fire!! There’s still a few freaky bits in between songs, but I think we covered all that on Greasy? On Very Uncertain Times, I was more into making the meat sizzle than fucking around with the gravy!!
AN: Both the Shovell and Gorilla are three piece acts, renowned for their sheer energy both on album and live. Have you ever thought of trying to get both bands on the road together, or would playing two full on sets the way you do be just too much?
JG: I’ve thought about it, then tried to forget it as quick as possible! Don’t think I’d have the energy to do both bands justice at one show! Either that or my speed consumption would put Lemmy to shame, and I’d be in hospital for 6 months after!!
AN: When I listen to Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, I hear the influence of such power trios as Cream, The Jim Hendrix Experience, and early Motörhead and Thin Lizzy, as well as a classic hard rock sound. Are there any bands that influence you that might surprise the listener?
JG: We all listen to lots of different styles and genres, Louis (Comfort-Wiggett: Bass) loves his 60’s psych and sunshine pop, Serra’s into all sorts too. I listen to everything from 50’s rock n roll, 40’s delta blues, 60’s beat through 70’s rock to folk and acoustic guitar pickers to NWOBHM and metal. I think the main thing is to keep an open mind and not get stuck in listening to one genre, that makes for very boring songs. I might hear a Cat Stevens bit or a Bobbie Gentry riff and mix it up with a Maiden style bit or whatever. I find it more fun and challenging to use unusual influences to write songs, makes for far more interesting results. I guess that why we don’t sound like any other bands around at the moment?
AN: You have live shows coming up to coincide with the album release, and I am wondering who I have to bribe you get back up to Scotland; are there any more dates in the pipeline? Also, you played an absolutely barnstorming set with Gorilla at Bloodstock VIP in 2019, so do you have any hopes or plans to play some more festivals?
JG: We play anywhere and everywhere we’re asked! Just write any requests on the back of a pre signed blank check and send em in!!
AN: As well as your headlining shows, I’ve seen you play with such diverse acts as straight rockers Danko Jones, and the psyche heavy Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, yet you’ve always gone down a storm. Now you’ve been on the road with murder obsessed doomsters Church of Misery; how do you adapt your playing to the different crowds, or what is it about your style of music that has such a broad spectrum of appeal?
JG: I make sure NEVER to adapt or compromise! We do our thing in our way and that’s all you should do. I think it’s pretty lame if you start questioning your approach, or start trying to second guess audiences. If you’re confident with what ya do just do it, some people will get or like it, others won’t. Sometimes support slots can be tricky in as much as a half hour warm up slot is about 4 songs for us sometimes!! All the above bands respect or like what we do, that’s why they’ve invited us to tour with em! We don’ t do ‘buy ons’!!!
AN: My follow up to that would be a two parter. If you could go on any tour with any bands, who would they be, firstly, bands that are currently on the go, and secondly, a dream tour with any acts past or present?
JG: Tricky question! Gotta say, all the “current” bands I’d wanna tour with are probably considered pretty old school by most people now, apart from Amyl and the Sniffers – great Aussie punk. Apart from them, Fu Manchu, Iron Maiden, Crypt Trip? Shit I don’t know anything much about new stuff it would appear!
Fantasy touring wise, too many to choose! Sabbath or The Who earl y 70’s, AC/DC with Bon, Iron Maiden mid 80’s, Motörhead anytime, and Lady Gaga or Beyoncé so I could watch from the back of the stage! Hahaha!
AN: Finally, you must have to plough through a pile of interviews and the same old questions. Is there a question you would like to be asked, what is it, and what is the answer?
JG: Don’t know if there is, but I’m always surprised no one has asked me “Why do you bother?” To which the answer would be “drunkenness and blind stupidity”!!!! Chinchilla!
Many thanks again to Johnny Gorrillar for taking time out to do this, for producing another excellent album, and here’s to the continuing success of both The Shovell and Gorilla. For those who have yet to catch either of his acts, check out these links for releases and shows.