GABRIEL FRANCO (UNTO OTHERS): “Strength Is Darker And More Raw Than Mana

Unto Others
Photo: Peter Beste

With Covid scuppering the tour in support of their debut release, Mana followed by a dispute over their original name, you’d have thought that, that would be enough to put anyone band off but no, American Goth Rockers, Idle Hands are back with a new name, Unto Others, a brand new album, Strength and a 20 date tour of the UK in March. Mick Burgess called up lead singer Gabriel Franco to talk about the tour, the new album and the issues with the band name.

These last couple of years have certainly been a strange time for everyone. How has this time been for you?

When Covid first started I was quite optimistic about song writing and everything. I felt like a lot of people and thought it was like a vacation but after that I was wondering when it’d all be over. Then another year passes and you wonder if you even have any friends anymore. It got pretty dark right around the time I was finishing up Strength. The upside was that I could be with my band all that time as we were our own Covid group. They all live in town so we could still have our band practice. Even though we couldn’t play shows, we still had regular practices.

How long have you been unable to tour?

It had been almost 18 months since we played any live shows when we started playing again in November for a month or so and getting our sea legs back again. The shows were crazy. When we finished our first show, I just felt this great weight being lifted off me.

You’ll be over in the UK for an extensive tour starting in Liverpool on 10th March. You must be looking forward to playing throughout the UK again?

We can wait to come over again. The last time we played we did London, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh but this time we are playing a lot more shows.

Quite a few American bands have postponed or cancelled their UK and European tours already this year. You are still all set to come over aren’t you?

We are. Everything is in line and is looking even brighter the further we go along. All of the Covid restrictions have just been lifted in the UK so there’s nothing to stop us.

A 20 show UK tour is huge. Is this the biggest run of shows you’ve done in the UK so far?

It is and I’m so excited. I’m finally got to see all parts of the UK. We’re doing Belfast, Cork and Dublin in Ireland and Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland, Bridgend in Wales and all over England from Bournemouth to Newcastle and everywhere in between. We’re hitting all the places and some I’ve never even heard of before now.

What do you enjoy most about playing in the UK?

I particularly like your food and your beer. The fans are awesome too. I do love everything about the UK that I’ve seen so far. My wife and I spent some time in London on our honeymoon and got to see all the tourist spots like Buckingham Palace. America and the UK have this connection that goes back hundred’s of years and getting to see the stuff that we see on television all the time is really cool. You guys have a lot of cool history so it’s a magical experience to come over.

What about the setlist. What have you got lined up for this tour?

That’s what we’re having trouble with. We want to get a balance between our two albums and the EP’s that we’ve done, including our latest ‘Halloween’ EP as well as a couple of covers. I sometimes wish we were still on our first record as it was so easy. It’s much harder now that we’ve got more songs to choose from. We’re aiming for an hour or so and if people are really stoked and want more then we’ve got some more songs in our back pocket so we could do an hour and a half.

It’ll also give you the opportunity to play songs from your first album Mana which was released just before the lockdown?

We were playing songs from Mana like “Give Me To The Night” and “Cosmic Overdrive” on our tour before the lockdown but nobody had heard the record at that point as it hadn’t been released. So we’ll be able to play those songs to people that have heard that first album now.

You actually had a few problems with your name after releasing your first album and were forced to change your original name Idle Hands to Unto Others. What happened there?

We got signed to Roadrunner Records and they said that we couldn’t operate under the name “Idle Hands” unless we owned it. I reached out to the owner and asked if I could buy his trademark. His lawyer said they’d licence the name to us for a percentage of our future profits. They’d be in control of my business until I was dead so that wasn’t going to happen. After that they were talking of ludicrous numbers that we couldn’t afford. They held their ground and that’s their right as the trademark owner so I just said forget it. I haven’t seen that band do anything in years. They’re just sitting on the name so we decided to change our name to Unto Others.

Did you have to triple check the name, Unto Others, just to make sure no one else had it?

We did have to double check and triple check just to be sure. The name came from six months of brain storming. I had a massive list and I came up with names every day. Unto Others came up and I really liked it. I thought it was in tandem with Idle Hands. It has the same Biblical reference and can be interpreted in different ways while still having that Heavy Metal meets religion kind of vibe I was after. It was a name that if we used it, we didn’t have to change who we are or change our image and it still had the same vibe as the old one.

What did you do with the first record with your old name on?

We didn’t re-release the first record or anything. I just went back and changed the name and logo on the first record as I didn’t want to have that under Idle Hands and everything else under Unto Others as we’re the same exact band and the same exact songwriters. I didn’t want people getting confused.

So those with that copy will have something of a collector’s item?

They may well have. When we changed our name, I had to sell our old merchandise and ended up selling two thousand orders in a week. In each one I sent out a letter telling them of our new name and logo. We did a massive online campaign too to get our new name out there. I kept one box of records back with the old name though and if anyone does anything really nice in the future and is a big fan then I can give them a special present.

As for your latest album, Strength. It’s been out for a couple of months now. Are you pleased with the reaction it’s received?

Reviews are interesting as you have to take them with a grain of salt. If you are going to believe the good reviews, you have to believe the bad reviews. For me I try to avoid getting into the review hole.

How do you see this as a progression from Mana?

I think that Strength is a natural progression from Mana. I come from a very traditional Heavy Metal background and I was just infusing a little bit of Goth Rock into the first album. With Strength I’m drifting further away from that traditional Heavy Metal sound and I’m bringing in different styles to the music. In my opinion it ended up darker and more raw than Mana. I think they are both very different albums.

Are you the main writer or do all of you contribute?

I write everything although Sebastian does some of the solos. He wrote the solo in “Destiny” and “Heroin”. We were sitting in the studio and I just said to him to go crazy on this one and he delivered a great solo but I’m the primary song writer right now.

Were you able to record together in the studio or did Covid restrictions impact on this?

No because that’s not how I make records. I write the music at home and when a song is done I’ll send it to the band to learn. Colin will then lay down his drum parts and then I come back with his drum tracks and I rewrite everything around his drums so that I can really get into the details of the song. Sometimes I hear a cool fill so I’ll cut out the guitars and let that fill shine or I’ll have the guitar play in time to a snare roll or that kind of thing. It makes it sound like we planned every little bit without actually having to do it.

How long did it take to make the record?

We started recording in June 2020 and finished our final session in February 2021, so around 8 months or so.

You’ve done a great cover of Pat Benatar’s “Hell Is For Children”. Why did you choose that song to cover?

I’d heard the song once a long time ago but I’d forgotten about it. It was our drummer Colin who suggested it. He played it to me and said we should do it. I loved it but I didn’t actually want it on the record. For me covers are bonus tracks but I compromised with the label. They stood their ground and I actually think it works really well in the context of the album.

Musically you have a unique style which has hints of The Damned from the Phantasmagoria-era, Love era The Cult, a touch of Billy Idol and The Chameleons with a big slab of Metal running right through the middle. Does this reflect your influences?

I’ve always loved Billy Idol. I love those radio hits particularly “Rebel Yell”. As far as The Chameleons, I hadn’t heard them until 2019 after I’d done Mana and a friend of mine said that we sounded a little like The Chameleons and that I should check them out. I’ve always felt there was a Dave Vanian from The Damned reference. People have compared me to other vocalists but if I had to compare myself to anyone it’d be Dave Vanian.

Which bands were you listening to growing up?

Actually, my favourite band when I was at High School was Cradle of Filth and extreme Metal like At The Gates, Dimmu Borgir and Black Dahlia Murder and bands like that. I definitely don’t sound like any of those singers. I came from a household where my parents listened to Tina Turner, Fleetwood Mac and Earth Wind and Fire and stuff like that. My friends had Heavy Metal parents who listened to Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and Metallica. I’d never heard of those bands before. When I first heard a band like Cradle of Filth, I was thinking what on earth is this? Then I was introduced to those other bands and I had my learning phase. Leading into the Idle Hands years I was just listening to straight up Heavy Metal.

After your current run of shows are over, where do you head next?

We end on 2nd April in Glasgow and we fly back home. I have a week at home and then I drive down from Portland to Phoenix to start our US Tour with Behemoth.

What are you planning for next year?

I’m already working on new music. I have 20 demos ready for the next record and I’ll be working on more when I get back home. In the summer we have a one-off show in Poland with the Deftones and we’ll be playing at Beyond The Gates festival with Merciful Fate and then we come back to Europe to do a tour with Behemoth and Arch Enemy. When we get back from that we’ll probably tour the US again so we have about 100 shows this year.

Unto Others UK Tour starts on 10th March in Liverpool and ends in Glasgow on 2nd April.

Strength is out now on Roadrunner.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

    View all posts

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.