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SoulMonster

2011.10.10 - Interview with Dj - SoundSpike

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2011.10.10 - Interview with Dj - SoundSpike

Post by Soulmonster on Thu Nov 10, 2011 10:03 am

Guitarist Dj Ashba says that joining Guns N' Roses two years ago has been "everything and more," and he's happy for the opportunity to prove his mettle to the band's longtime fans.

"I didn't really think about it too much in the sense of I didn't realize you have to win these people over," he told SoundSpike via telephone from Dallas.

"They're hardcore, and you go up there and you have to give 300 percent or you won't gain the respect. To me, I like that. I would rather get somebody's respect by going in and kicking their ass than to have people go, 'Yeah, I've heard of him. He's cool. It's fine.'

"My whole thing is I'm not coming in to this to try to replace anybody. I am my own person. I want to do what I can to do the job justice. I'm a fan of the band, too. I'm trying to give the crowd what I would want to hear if I was standing in the crowd if some new guy was on stage. I don't want to sway too hard off the original vision. People come out to hear those old songs, and they're classics. They take you back to certain memories in life. I'm trying to stay as true to those parts as I possibly can on this stuff."

Ashba is his own person. In addition to his skillful ax-wielding, he is a respeced producer, songwriter, multi-platinum recording artist, graphic designer, entrepreneur and, besides Guns N' Roses, a member of Nikki Sixx's Sixx: A.M.

Born in Monticello, IN, and raised in Fairbury, IL, Ashba played his first piano recital -- Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" -- at age 5, according to his bio. Eleven years later, his first concert was the Motley Crue "Girls, Girls, Girls Tour."

Fast forward to 2005, and Ashba founded Ashbaland, the production company for which he writes and produces music. He has collaborated with the wide-ranging likes of Motley Crue, Neil Diamond, Run-DMC and Drowning Pool. He co-produced and wrote on Motley Crue's "Saints of Los Angeles" album, which was nominated for a Grammy in 2007.

Ashba spoke to SoundSpike about his run in Guns N' Roses, his clothing line Ashba Swag and the chances that GN'R will release a follow up to "Chinese Democracy."

I saw some pictures from the show on SoundSpike and the show looks amazing.

I really am excited for people to come out and see the show. It's so much fun. Last night I think we played a little over three hours.

Wow, that's definitely giving fans their money's worth.

Yeah. That's the whole point. We don't want to obviously bore anybody, but the shows are just awesome, as far as the production and a lot of rockets and bombs and stuff. We play everything from "Appetite [for Destruction]" to "Chinese [Democracy]." Everyone seems like they're having a great time.

How's the reaction been to the "Chinese Democracy" material?

It's been great. It's been really positive. Tons of people are holding up signs for different songs off the records every night. It's really good. I'm really happy.

It must be amazing to be a part of a tour like this.

Yeah, it really is. I was just saying, "Wow, it's a pretty brutal tour schedule." But at the same time, every night the shows are packed and it's just overwhelming. The fans give us such a warm welcomes. It's really neat to be up there.

You said you're a fan of Guns N' Roses.

I cut my teeth on bands like Guns and Motley and bands like that. It's a lot of fun like that. It's surreal.

What have been some of the highlights of the Guns N' Roses tour?

Just getting out there. I think some of the highlights, Rock in Rio was amazing. That was probably one of the big highlights. Playing Latin America. A huge highlight is obviously playing the States with Guns. Every show is just been overwhelming and fun. I love playing the States because you finally get to play for your friends and family and meet a lot of new people throughout the country. It's a lot of fun in that sense.

How important is it for Guns N' Roses to be nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I just pulled Axl aside the other night and congratulated him. I think it's a huge honor for him. I'm really happy for Axl. There's nobody out there who deserves it more. I'm talking me stepping away from the band and looking at it for what it is -- I think anybody who gets nominated, it's a massive honor. I wish him nothing but the best.

I don't understand these bands who say it doesn't mean much, or they have a negative attitude toward the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or the Grammys.

Yeah, I got nominated for a Grammy with Motley Crue. That was a lot of fun. It's one of those things, whether you win or you lose, it doesn't really matter. It's just the fact that you left a scar on the face of rock 'n' roll, and people appreciate it. It's definitely an honor to be nominated for Grammys or win Grammys or get inducted. It's a huge thing, I think so anyway.

How was it to work with Motley Crue?

It was amazing. They kind of brought me in as their little brother. I've been great friends with those guys for so many years now and done a lot of work with them. Between Sixx: A.M. and working with Motley co-producing and co-writing, it's been good.

Do you think Guns N' Roses will record another album?

Yeah, I absolutely do. I'm writing around the clock, obviously. Axl has tons of songs up his sleeve. The main goal is to regroup, put our heads together and figure out what Axl would feel would be the next best Guns N' Roses record to put out.

What do you have planned for next year?

A bunch of stuff. We're doing some cool stuff with Sixx: A.M. hopefully. Obviously Guns N' Roses, we have more tours and stuff; we're talking about and putting together this record. The clothing line, Ashba Swag, I'm really very passionate about that. That's really fun for me to do.

Tell me about Ashba Swag.

I've been working with the lady who's been making all my stage clothes for the last 10 years, Cody. We put out stage clothes for the fan. I'm from Indiana. I remember what it's like to grow up trying to play with little bands and make your little outfits. There's really no place to get authentic, really cool, one-of-a-kind handmade, hand-stitched stage clothes. I kind of never forgot that. I went to Cody and I said that it would be really cool if some kid in Ohio or Brazil or wherever could have a place to go and actually buy the exact same clothes that I'm wearing on stage. She makes clothes for Motley Crue to Buckcherry and it goes on and on. This is the real deal stuff. Stage clothes are just one part of what we do at Ashba Swag. If you can, check it out Ashbaswag.com. It's really cool clothing and just tons of different stuff on there. Like my signature guitars are on there. A lot of fun stuff.

How do you manage to balance all these projects?

I don't sleep much. [Laughs]

You still perform with Sixx: A.M., correct?

Sure yeah, Sixx A.M. is my labor of love. It's James Michael, me and Nikki. We put it together. It's something all three are very passionate about it. When Nikki goes and does Motley, I do Guns. When we're not doing that, we're focused on Sixx: A.M. and stuff.

Tell me about your songwriting process.

It's always different. When I'm writing for me or Sixx: A.M. or perhaps I'm working on something possibly for Guns, I never force it. I wait until I'm inspired by something, or maybe something somebody says, or something that pops in my head that inspires me to pick up the guitar. I think [with] songwriting, you really can't force it when it's not there for you. I write for a lot of different artists. So, for me, when I'm writing for different artists, it's a different process. I pull out all their albums. I literally dissect what every guy in that band is doing to create the sound of that band. I learn the bass player's style of playing. I learn the drummer, the way he plays. The way he contributes to that band. For instance, with Motley Crue, Tommy -- Tommy Lee -- has a definite, a certain style of playing drums. Vince [Neil, lead singer], you gotta break it down to what key does the vocalist sound the best in? When the choruses hit, when they explode, what's his range? You kind of break it all down and kind of write according to that.

It sounds like you really do your homework.

You got to. When you go from writing for people like Drowning Pool to Motley Crue all the way to Neil Diamond, it's broad. It's pretty broad. You have to kind of do your homework and you always gotta be always listening to different styles of music and really studying it. It's fun for me. I love it. One of my passions is writing 60-piece orchestra parts. I really want to get into movie scoring, and it's a lot of fun for me.

Did you grow up listening to different styles of music?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. My mom always had classical music playing. She's a classical piano teacher. She always had Elvis jamming in the house. My aunt and uncle grew me up on Molly Hatchet to Edgar Winter to Meat Loaf to "Hocus Pocus" by Focus and all this random stuff that nobody my age was listening to. I was exposed to a lot of cool music early on.

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