Giuda: The Glam And The Sass That Goes With It

Jim Fry of The Pre-New shares his love for mighty Italian glam rock bovver boys, Giuda in this new band feature cum (on feel the noize) live review

Saturday night and lightning strikes, instantly electrifying a sweaty basement venue in Glasgow City centre. But this sacred lightning bolt wasn’t cast down to earth by any old Greek or Roman god but by Ziggy Stardust himself. Giuda have just come on stage.

For the uninitiated, Giuda (‘Judas’ for those who don’t speak Italian) are a pop group from Rome. They play loud and fast channelling glam and blues and rock and glam rock though fuzzy guitars, shouted terrace chants and bombastic drums, imagine The Faces vs The Sex Pistols for a nuclear age.

Rewind to 2008 and Tenda (vocals), Danilo (bass) and Lorenzo (guitar) were just about surviving the burnout of their fierce and abrasive punk outfit called Taxi following the death of close friend and drummer Francesco. As a band there would seem little point in caring on.

But like lasting memories of close friends, pop music doesn’t just desert you and delete itself, and the three remaining members of Taxi would find themselves in a rehearsal studio trying to write new songs. After all that had happened playing together was above all their way of staying together. Songs created during this period of transition would make up Giuda’s remarkable first album, Racey Roller released in 2010.

At Giuda’s live debut in Rome in 2009, Lorenzo remembers being worried that their audience, accustomed to the darker, harder sound of Taxi, would react negatively to this change in style. But his concerns proved unfounded. The glitter rock of their Let’s Do It Again album would follow in 2013 with consistent gigging across Europe, developing a live show that would leave audiences ‘jaw dropped’ at their simple and direct brilliance.

Here in 2016, and their third recently released album, Speaks Evil, which embraces a much rawer/blues groove and their concrete brutalist pop sound, is upon us.

And right now they’re in their natural habitat: a club rammed with well-oiled teenage grown-ups, sweat dripping onto their newly acquired ‘Giuda Horde’ T-shirts, a river of finely tuned feedback flowing from the back line into the Glasgow night as frontman number one, Tenda their wide-mouthed charismatic singer, stares straight at you and shouts… "HEY!"

This group don’t appear to warm up. They just Are. There is no room for back stories and mood swings as the opening chords of ‘Working Class Man’ are exorcised.

C’mon Boyz Let’s Make Noise.

A Giuda song is a pure and simple thing. It contains words like "Rockin", "Rebel", "Teenage" and "Hey" and sometimes it doesn’t have any words at all. This is rock shorthand with big noisy repetitive riffs and even bigger drums, yet with a reassuring familiarity to everything it communicates.

This group may come from Italy but they choose to sing in English, their words distilled down to simple headlines, avoiding complex wordplay and metaphors, as a result they get to join pop’s elite, Kraftwerk and even Abba, by dispensing easy-to-grasp phrases and hooks. Their simplicity is their beauty.

As Dexys Midnight Runners would have projected their particular passion via northern soul and Stax, Giuda generate their world view through 70s rock and celebrate pop and glam before they became dirty words. They don’t revive at all, they embrace, and as a result carry the very essence of guitar rock into the 21st century.

The first 20 minutes of this set feel like 2. ‘Get That Goal’ (their Geno moment), ‘Don’t Stop Rockin’, ‘Roll The Balls’ , ‘Bad Days Are Back’ trip over each other with barely a heartbeat between. This gang are bullish and intimidating on stage tonight so when Tenda greets the audience, surprisingly he’s a charmer with a no bullshit attitude, he just makes it clear they are actually glad to be here.

Their foundations are brick solid, framed by lost Dr Feelgood riffs, built on Danilo’s bass, and Daniele’s drums which manage to sound like two kits played once. Lead guitars are dispatched by Michele while principle song writer Lorenzo holds down the rhythm. Effortlessly and thrillingly, the front four drop a few synchronised choreographed moves: they surround the drum kit, guitar necks slung high, gift wrapped in double denim. It’s a wonderful moment: they are literally Charisma, Comedian, Corinthian and Conquistador.

At this point it occurs to me that it is what they chose to ignore that makes them so special. GIUDA DON’T DO IRONY.

This pulls them head and shoulders above the revivalist pack, their charm and appeal comes from a rare embedded sincerity. In this wobbly age of blurred crossovers and mixed media this band choose to work in bold straight lines, they have more in common with the futurist concrete of 70s tower blocks and shopping centres than any cautious and self conscious 2016 band.

Inevitably doubters will tilt their heads and consider Giuda a band severely out of time, maybe thats how Dr Feelgood were regarded in 76? and I for one have to ask, why glam? Why now? They appear to do anything they want to do based on instinct rather than historical research, but as much as we can wrangle with the facts I’d rather put a few questions to Lorenzo about the how and why and where of this thing called Giuda.

What are you doing right now?

Lorenzo Moretti: Apart from answering your questions, I just finished eating a very nice soup I made with pulses. I drank a glass of Barbera wine too, that wasn’t bad at all. But now I’ll have to start thinking about serious things like preparing for the US tour. We’ll be gone for a month.

You sound very British to me, particularly the with punk and glam references, how did you arrive at this sound?

LM: When I was about eight, I bought my first tape: Iron Maiden.

I’d been friends with Tenda from an early age and soon after we discovered punk. I must say that my favourite bands have always been of British origin. I always thought that what differentiated them from American bands was the ability to write songs with a more pronounced "pop" approach, and that doesn’t just apply to punk groups. Italians have always been quite well known for their ability to adapt. If you think about all kinds of music, from folk to punk, progressive rock to disco, variants have been produced throughout Italy that have sometimes become subgenres of their own in music history. Probably this English influence you hear in our sound stems from this.

As main songwriter where does this music come from?

LM: Partly from the heart, partly from the mind. I try to strike a balance between the two. I like the idea that our music is recognizable but is still perceived as instinctive.

And where does the LIVE music come from?

LM: At 14, I saw The Ramones live and they certainly made a deep impression on me with the tightness of their sound. A very important thing for us is to write songs that work well live. We want our sound to always be recognizable: we want that to be our trademark. There’s so much passion and a lot of hard work behind it. One of our aims is to try to put on an impeccable show.

How has being from Rome shaped and affected Giuda?

LM: We grew up in the suburbs, right next to the biggest landfill in our region. We were quite isolated, but growing up away from the centre of town probably helped us to detach ourselves from the musical trends of the moment. We were a group of friends who didn’t have much to do so we put together a band. I was just 12 years old and Tenda and Danilo, the singer and bassist of Giuda respectively, were already part of the group. Rome was our first real stage and where we met people who understood what we were trying to do.

What are you listening to today? – Who would you consider your current closest musical allies, who would you ideally share the stage with?

LM: We’re a modern band. We learned from the past, shaped our sound and have brought it all into the present by adding in what have now become typical and recognizable elements of the ‘Giuda Sound’. Several bands from previous decades have influenced us as musicians and songwriters, and we still listen to many of them frequently. Groups from the 60s like The Move and The Equals, outfits like Slade, Third World War, Jook, The Gorillas, the so-called Junk Shop Glam of bands like Hector and Spiv, the punk rock of Slaughter & The Dogs and Art Attacks. I still consider these bands to be our closet allies. It’s too bad that many of them are too advanced in years to share the stage with us!

The sound of Giuda has evolved over your three albums. Where do you see the sound going next?

LM: Our albums are the result of the band’s natural evolution. We wanted Speaks Evil to have a much rawer sound than our previous records, one that reflected our live approach better. I think we hit the mark with this album. We’re developing a songwriting style that’s recognizable as our own. Like sponges, we absorb influences and everything we like. Everyday we discover that we like new things, new music, new records. Sometimes a song is created without too much thought: we just let ourselves be guided by instinct. That’s why I can’t tell you where we’ll go next, even though I’ve had a word buzzing around in my head for some time, “extreme”. It’s hard to put it into words but I want the sound of the next album to “implode".

How important is nostalgia in music?

LM: What it was must be handled with care and respect. It should influence a band to take a small step forward and change the perception of what was called Rock & Roll. But if you rock, you must keep rolling along. It’s the history of a music that continues to fascinate, and it’s not as simple as it seems. It’s a special process that has nothing to do with just crossing over bits of musical genres. Everything has to flow and be as exciting, as if the past were being projected into the future – even if you’re still just playing Rock & Roll. It’s the longing for something exciting that hasn’t yet happened that drives and keeps a rock band alive, even when it’s inspired by a sound that has its roots into the past. Punk rock was the result of this projection.

You can look intimidating in photographs and on stage. Does it bother you that people might find you unapproachable?

LM: And we are! With our first band, Taxi, we sometimes got involved in punch ups. We’re much more well-mannered now, so maybe this makes us seem more distant. After a show, we like to have a beer with friends and fans, and that’s the way it should be. The show is the show, however, there’s no time to mess around when you’re on stage!

What about your artwork, where /who do these ideas come from?

LM: It’s all thanks to the one and only Tony CrazeeKid. He’s created all our graphics from record covers to merchandise. He even came to Rome specially to do the graffiti on the wall behind us for the cover of our latest album cover for Speaks Evil. I believe that his work has been an important factor in getting us to where we are now. We couldn’t ask for anything better: all his graphics fit perfectly with our music. Absolute genius!

Finally, tell us something we don’t know about Giuda.

LM: A few years ago we refused to open for AC/DC. We would’ve played in front of about 100,000 people. Someone (not a member of AC/DC staff), asked us for a portion of our publishing proceeds in return for letting us appear onstage. Obviously it was a question of dignity not money, so the answer was, "Fuck You!”

Speaks Evil by Giuda is out now on Burning Heart

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