Ian Gillan & The Javelins
As he resurrects his teenage band, the Purple frontman tells us about scraps, girls and being a “total arsehole”.
There’s a cab driver, an architect and an international rock star… The line-up of The Javelins sounds like the set-up to an old joke, but Ian Gillan is dead serious about resurrecting the covers band he joined as an 18-year-old. Ian Gillan & The Javelins’ self-titled debut album, recorded with minimal polish, nods to their setlists of the early 60s, revisiting standards such as Heartbeat and What’d I Say and showing a new side to Gillan’s singing. “This is a joy project,” he says. “I enjoy the simplicity of it all. It’s kinda naïve. It’s honest. And it’s different.”
There’s something magical about your first teenage band, isn’t there?
You can’t ever forget it. Those were special times. Not just the music, but the teenage rebellion. We were living a vicarious thrill through our heroes – Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, the Everly Brothers, Howlin’ Wolf. I remember taking some speakers and mic stands on a bus to a gig. I couldn’t carry them all at once, so I had to do a relay, fifty yards at a time, or they’d get pinched. It was an education. But we didn’t see it that way. We just saw it as a load of fun.
What were you like at eighteen?
Well, I was a total arsehole. I think most of us were. I mean, I grew up when I was about sixty. So it took a while. When you’re that age you think you’re immortal. You’ve got no fear. But the paradox is that you know nothing.
You must have got up to some antics in those days?
There were fights and girls and whisky and cigarettes. There were times in The Javelins when everyone would have a fight, but there were no guns or knives around, so you’d just knock nine bells out of each other then go for a beer. Nobody got badly hurt, although we did get hospitalised a few times in Episode Six, getting beaten up in Catford or somewhere after a gig.
Why did you record the album ‘live’, with basic analogue equipment.
I was once staying at the Holiday Inn in Liverpool, and Liverpool FC were having their Christmas party in the same hotel. We were in the bar, and every time the door opened we could hear the music, and it was amazing what sounded the biggest. They played a Motörhead record and it sounded like a fly in a jam jar. The big sounds were Elvis and the Beach Boys, and they were recorded on two- and four-track analogue tape recorders. The other thing is, they were recorded with the band, so there was a humanity. With the Javelins album you can hear the room, the intake of breath when I start a line. You wouldn’t hear that on any modern recording.
“I enjoy the simplicity of it all. It’s honest. And it’s different.”
How’s the dynamic with your old bandmates?
I was the only one that turned professional. The other guys were very content to be architects, cab drivers and various other occupations. But I’m definitely not treated like a superstar. Everyone’s equal, as they always were. In fact they’re probably trying to bring me down a peg or two.
Ian Gillan & The Javelins is released August 31 via earMUSIC.