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Francis Rossi Likes Shooting Things

The Quo man talks to Classic Rock about his love of clay pigeon shooting

From fish-keeping to fattening Italian food, Status Quo stalwart Francis Rossi has had a variety of passions over the years. But his longest-enduring obsession has to do with aiming double-barrelled shotguns at brittle discs spinning through the sky...

“The Status Quo website lists my hobbies as koi carp, eating pasta and clay pigeon shooting – but the pasta-eating’s come down over the past couple of years and I’ve sold the carp to a friend of Rick’s,” Rossi says. “The carp were too much of a liability; the kids would get upset when we lost one. But when I have the time I’m still shooting...

“I first got into clays 10 or 15 years ago when we were about to promote a new album. Someone said to us, let’s do a shoot for the [press] launch, so we went down to the Royal Berkshire Hunt and I really got into it – I even bought my own gun. There’s just something about it. My old manager, Colin Johnson, said you need something that can completely take you away from everything else. When I’m shooting I just want to hit the bugger, and when you do it’s such a great feeling.

“I was always fascinated with guns when I was younger. We used to go to various fairgrounds, particularly in Ireland, when they had sideshows with live .22 ammunition, but you can’t do that kind of thing any more unless you join a gun club. So I went on to this and got the children into it as well – it’s something we can do as a family.

“When Quo did a video the other year we had a day off somewhere up in Scotland and had a fantastic shoot. Each shoot is different; they have ways the traps are set to mock certain birds. This one in Scotland is particularly nice, I might go there again, but you have to carry the gun and hotels get nervous, understandably.

“You look for the bird, as they call it, you look for the clay as it comes out, and once you’ve spotted it in your sights your natural reaction is to stop and then shoot – but it’s gone! You have to pick it up, follow it and then fire; if it’s falling away you come underneath it and if it’s still rising you go above it. You have to work all that out in a split second – but hitting it is such a great thing.

“Now my pastime is out in the open, I don’t think Quo fans will think I’ve gone a bit upper class. It’s one of those things that has always been in my family. I didn’t start shooting because I thought it was a class thing. I shoot because I like hitting things – it’s very therapeutic. I wouldn’t have started if it hadn’t been for that day out with the band.

“There are other musicians I know who have got into it. Suzi Quatro has asked me to go shooting a couple of times, but she’s shit hot, championship material. I understand Mark Knopfler is keen, too, but since 9/11, the Tony Martin thing and everything else...

“Have I ever shot anything that’s living? (Laughs) A couple of humans, but I wouldn’t shoot animals!”

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