In the spotlight – The Holy Guns

In the spotlight – The Holy Guns

Brad Williams (Guildford, UK) wanted to start a modern blues/rock/soul band, playing original songs with honesty, integrity and soul. The mission was to write and perform songs for the sheer love of the music, no compromise. The Holy Guns were born.

Tell us a bit about your musical past. What can you tell us about your early years? Was there anything or anyone in particular that sparked your musical fire?

“This is going to sound pretentious, but it’s the truth. I had a difficult childhood, and when I discovered music at about 8 or 9 years old, it gave me comfort and escape – a route out of there! My sister was a few years older than me and I would hear her records – the ones that her boyfriends, who were a few years older again, listened to. These just smashed me sideways. It was so illuminating in my low wattage-bulbed life…and so varied! But then I heard ‘If You Want Blood’ by AC/DC. The sound of Angus’ guitar – the untamed power of it – the simplicity, the rawness – it was primeval! In particular the feedback section in ‘Bad Boy Boogie’ in the instrumental breakdown. I used to put the needle back repeatedly to hear that again and again. It just touched me. I don’t why or how, it just did. From then on, I knew I wanted to make those noises myself.”

What music inspires you?

“All music inspires me! You would be surprised by the range of genres. It can be the deepest of world or folk music to the fastest of techno or metal. So long as it moves my soul in some way, I’m good. If the artists’ intention touches me, then it is something I value highly.”

What artists, would you say, have played a significant influence on you as a musician?

“So, so many… Angus, Eddie van Halen, Hendrix, The Doors, SRV, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Deep Purple, UFO, Thin Lizzy, Joni Mitchell, Prince, Led Zeppelin, Johnny Cash, Marvin Gaye, The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd…the list is endless. And long may it remain so!”

Do you have literary or non-musical influences that have made a big impact?

“Again, so many! But Jean Pierre Jeunet and Wes Anderson are amongst my favourite film directors. ‘Un long Dimanche de Fiançialles’ by Jeunet has possibly the saddest film ending I have ever seen.”

“Authors and artists are like colours – if you were choosing a few to paint with, the pictures would end up being dull, so I try to keep open to all…”

Can you talk about the vision for the Holy Guns?

“After being in loads of bands previously and involved as a session player in lots of projects over the years, I realised I had become a little tired of playing what felt like ‘other people’s songs’ even if I had written parts of them. I knew that I needed to pursue my own thing and live or die by it!”

“The idea for the band was to be less hung up on what genre or vibe it should be, or who was involved. It meant that it could be fluid enough to be whatever it needed to be so long as it was honest and uncompromised by anything! Life is short and doing it this way means that I can sleep at night, knowing that the music is the best, and most representative of us, it can be, with the tools and mechanisms that were available to us at that moment in time.”

What dynamics do other members bring to the band?

“Jake (vocals) gives a totally experienced and talented perspective to the songs – he just ‘gets it’, you know? I give him a guide vocal track of my ideas and he just turns it into something magical. I never have to give him much direction. He always seems to just realise what I had in my head perfectly, and then offers even more with it, especially with his backing vocals and harmonies. He’s a joy to work with and makes my job easy!”

How did the band name come about?

“We had been watching ‘The Purge’ on TV, and my daughter had seen some of the characters wearing these clear face masks -kinda creepy! A few days later we were at a Halloween bonfire party, and there was a couple wearing the fancy dress costumes of those characters. She recognised them and whispered in my ear: “They’re holding guns…”. I misheard her and thought she had said “The Holy Guns”, which I thought was a great name for a band, so it stuck! I like the connotations of it, the implicit contradictions and the sort of suggestion we’re some kind of Mercenaries of Music…Messengers of Soul! But most of all, that my daughter had given us the name.

What inspires you to write songs? Do you have a songwriting process and routine that you follow?

“Writing songs for me is scratching an itch. I don’t have any choice! Like so many others, I just have to do it. I’ve always said that if I could give up music, I would. But it’s just not an option, I just have to get it out there.”

“I don’t really have any one process, but I do find that, over the years, I’ve learnt to chase simplicity. I often find when writing and especially recording, that I will put a lot of ideas in there, but then remove most of them. I try to distil the idea down to its most direct form. The temptation to overwork something is always strong, but the maxim of ‘less is more’ is usually true.”

What do you look for in a good song?

“Just something that makes me feel something, anything. So long as it hits that spot or any in that huge panacea of human emotion. People are often surprised when I quote Marvin Gaye’s ‘Sexual Healing’ as one of my favourite guitar moments, but I defy you to not hear the Blues in the way he bends that note when he sings “Baaaaabbbbbyyyy….”!

Are there any songs you wish you’d written yourself?

“Oh man, there’s so many. Too many! Lyrically, one of my favourites is ‘Desolation Row’ by Bob Dylan. Musically, I guess anything by Prince and all-round, would be something like AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’ for the good times.

What do you think sets your music apart?

“I don’t know if anything sets it apart really, but I just hope that people like it, and that it offers something honest that they can enjoy, and even better, identify with.”

Up until this point in your career, what would you describe as your favourite song you’ve recorded or performed live? What makes that song special?

“My favourite song is ‘Girl With The Red Dress On’. I don’t know why. It just came from a place of wistfulness, or somewhere different from my norm. It’s actually quite hard to play, but it has a flow to it that’s a bit unusual for your average song. It takes a while for the chorus to hit. Jake nailed what I was hearing in my mind for the melody and lyrics. It’s a love song, of course, but a sort of table- turning right of passage and I love the sense of bewilderment that Jake manages to convey in the third verse – echoing what the guitar solo says.”

Where do you see the band being in a couple of years’ time?

“I would like to get a settled band line-up so that we can perform these songs widely. Small venues would be perfect for the intimacy I’d like to have performing them. I hope to tour these songs through Europe and if luck shines on us, further afield. We hope that we can make people smile!”

What’s on the horizon?

“More new songs, and hopefully getting back to live performances. We have a song in a US documentary film about Normans Rare Guitars that is due out now, so hopefully that will spread the word a little!”

What’s your favourite song from the Cool Top 20 and why?

“All the songs in The Cool Top 20 are great, but one for us at the moment is ‘William and Emily’ by Portobello Express. It stands out from the others, and has so many interesting elements in it. It even reminds us a little of Queen in their ‘Night At The Opera’ period.”

What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?

“The song ‘Wild Is The Wind’ by Kari Kirkland is a cover of the Bowie original, which we love. It conveys the kind of helpless, compulsive and desperate feeling of loving someone, probably too much and to one’s detriment. Her version of it is an interpretation that works so well. Joanne Shaw Taylor’s version is another we love too.”

More about the Holy Guns: website, YouTube, Bandcamp, Instagram @the_holy_guns



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