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Gentlemans Pistols: the best band the 70s never had?

A Sex Maniac, a former ‘zombie’ and a death metaller. Meet Gentlemans Pistols - sonically in thrall to the 70s but looking toward the future.

"I bet it was impossible to get a decent pizza back then,” James Atkinson says with a cheery laugh. “But no, we take everything for granted that we have now. Besides all the cool music, think what it was like in the early seventies when they had the blackouts, the three-day working week…”

This is not the response we anticipated when we asked him whether he’d rather be in 1973. 

On face value, Gentlemans Pistols are 1973. They look like missing members of Humble Pie. Or Cream. Or anyone pre-dating the CD, nicotine patches and Guns N’ Roses. Atkinson, for all his straight-talking, may as well have just returned from Woodstock (needing a shave). 

They’re not exactly alone. Graveyard and Blues Pills do it for Sweden, Kadavar for Germany, and now Gentlemans Pistols are putting a retro-rock stamp on Yorkshire. Flares? Check. Rock songs that sound like lost early-70s gems? All of the hair? Check, check…

Still, their tastes weren’t always this nostalgic. Before forming Gentlemans Pistols in 2003, Atkinson played in hardcore group Voorhees; drummer Stuart Dobbins used to be in ‘zombiecore’ brigade Send More Paramedics. In 2009 they were joined by guitarist Bill Steer (of death metallers Carcass, and formerly of grindcore pioneers Napalm Death) – delighted to find an outlet for his classic rock roots. 

“Playing extreme metal is very disciplined,” Steer says. “It’s fun, because it’s like an assault course. But the first records I picked up were things like Rory Gallagher. Playing with Gents is fantastic because it’s very ‘feel’-based music.”

Gentlemans Pistols found like-minded company, supporting bands such as Pentagram, Orange Goblin and Witchcraft. With new bassist Robert Threapleton on board, their latest album, Hustlers Row, plays like a hard-hitting tick-list of classic rock faithfuls. There’s The Who in The Searcher, Thin Lizzy here, Free there… 

“It’s the longevity of good melodies and riffs,” Atkinson says. “Why are a lot of people, a lot of newer bands, rediscovering these bands now? It’s because good music stands the test of time, doesn’t it?”

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