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SoulMonster

1992-09-DD - Interview with Izzy

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1992-09-DD - Interview with Izzy

Post by Soulmonster on Fri May 04, 2012 7:55 am

Rock & Folk Interview - Izzy Stradlin

The protagonists:
- I is Izzy Stradlin
- J is Jimmy Ashhurst
- M is Philippe Manoeuvre, R&F guru and Rolling Stones specialist!

I: Everything you see here, in this suite are records I've... I've never had any collection, some lined up stuff. At home, in Indiana, I've got some bags of tapes, I find some in my boots. I'd dig in it and say "Hey, I had this? Cool!.." (laughs). My girlfriend's been talking about buying some shelves to put away all that mess for years, but... (small laughs) but, actually, the records of my life, I buy them again and again on the road, in Chicago, in LA, in London. Look, I bought some again yesterday in Copehagen.

M: The Stereo?

I: It's a mini Yamaha stereo that Geffen Danemark lent me. I'd like to thank them, it's got all the things I need. Quite a normal thing, yeah. CD, DAT and tape players... The 3-way speakers are all right.

On the carpet there are some stacks of CDs and hand-made tapes. A mess of boxes, on the mere floor. Ike and Tina Turner from their great period, George Thorogood, Aerosmith, Chuck Berry, the Ruts, some reggae (and a great deal of Bob Marley) but also some good old Howlin' Wolf, Chess or Sun, and a bunch of Muddy Waters...

M: So who's in your new band?

I: We've got Rick Richards on the guitar, he used to play with the Georgia Sattelites, but they've splitted now. Yeah, that's sad. Charlie Quintana is on the drums. He played with a lot of people, Bob Dylan, Little Bob, yeah, YOUR Little Bob! Jimmy Ashhurst is on the bass. He worked a lot with Stiv Bators. And me, as everybody knows, I used to be in the Bee Gees (big laugh). Sorry, I always get confused, I meant Guns N' Roses!

M: Have you seen your old partners lately?

I: We haven't talked to each other for seven or eight months. Actually, we did. Two weeks ago I was in New York and I bumped into Slash. Of course, he was furious. Well... We finally talked a little bit, just him and me. That was cool!

M: Why did you leave in a few words?

I: Well, this gig wasn't making me laughing anymore. You know, it's quite easy, I wasn't happy anymore. So I told myself, all right let's do something else!

M: Can we say that Nick Kent's article in the 13th issue of Vox ("The Daze of Guns N' Roses") accelerated the processus?

I: I read this one when I arrived in London, and I found he perfectly summed up the situation and understood the vibe of the "Get In The Ring" tour. For the first time I saw it written in black on white. Actually, no need to exagerate, it's an accumulation of internal things that drove me out of the band, not an article.

M: Yeah, but you weren't going to the video shootings either! And now, alone, you put out an album in six months?

I: How can I say this without spitting more venom into the debate? I saw all their dirty laundry bashing all over the magazines. At some time, I felt a little bit like picking up my phone, call a journalist and spit my answer, my version of the story...

M: As in the "Van Halen wars"?

I: Yeah, you see... Finally I decided to get into the studio. The others can say whatever they want.

M: That thing about the co-written songs, what was it?

I: Listen, to sum it up, at a momemt, I felt like scraping it all down to the bone. Do some rock n' roll. Stop complicating the thing with a six-piece brass band, three back up singers, the harpist and the pianist... Dizzy plays great, that's not the problem, but that's not rock n' roll... What Guns did well, and that I will always defend, is our erruption on the scene. You remember? Our songs were good too! But me, I wanted to go ahead.

M: I felt like I couldn't hear your guitar in the final mix of the "Illusions".
..
I: Yeah, what happened there? (laughs) They took two years to finish the two records, and at the end I don't even feel like listening to the final product. Not at all! In fact I listened to the records only after the concert at Wembley in August 91, and I freaked out: "Where the hell is my fucking guitar?" It's gone! From there I lost the little interest I had left in the G N' R enterprise. This and the stadium tour!

M: Yes, but isn't that rock n' roll finally? You start at the Gibus (nftt: a small club in Paris) and you end up at Wembley. What's gonna happen if the Izzy Stradlin band becomes enormous too?

I: Well, we'll hire a brass band and a harpist! No, really, we're giving our first-ever gig on September the 30th in Paris (nftt: at the Espace Orano). Afterwards, we're going to Germany, and if everything's cool, we'll think about one-thousand seaters. But we're gonna stick with this, because... hmmm, I remeber this Rolling Stones gig in Atlantic City, we played "Salt Of The Earth" with them, and I really enjoyed it. But, then again that was the Stones!

M: Sure, they played 1000-seaters themselves for years too.

I: Yeah!

M: And with Guns, it all happened so fast...

I: Yeah.. Yeah... We're gonna try to keep in touch with you, the journalists, and the fans too! I don't have anything against stadiums, holy god, not me! But that's enough!

M: The Ju Ju Hounds album, you had it in reserve?

I: No, I wrote the whole thing after the split. I retired into my lands, in Indiana, where the sky scrapes the fields. And I and Jimmy got there, and we started working together.

M: And I find you with Alan Niven as manager, which I have met with Great White, and who was Guns' first manager!

I: Yes, yes, yes... Alan of course. Axl fired him.

M: How?

I: We weren't given any choice! It happened like that. Four members of the band were against and Axl said "All right, take him as a singer then because if he stays, I leave!" What can you do? What can you say?

M: You say: "We're four and you're alone!"

I: Yeah, but at this time, discussion had a little bit rarefied..

M: The Jim Morrison syndrom?

I: That old Jim, how is he doing? Have you talked to him lately? You should ask him!

M: Axl and you, you had been friends for years. You were together in high school, right?

I: Well, Axl and high school... He must have spent at least two days there! (laughs) Yeah, I saw him briefly there. But don't count me in to bad talk Axl, Guns and all the rest. Time... time's gonna heal all this!

M: Slash's position is "I haven't spent two years of my life giving birth to the "Illusions" albums to give up when the first incident comes around".

I: Slash's forgetting that he didn't spend two years on these records. He spent like... hmmm, two months! Like all of us! Afterwards, we waited for a year for the other to write the lyrics, you see? So... But it all gets too complicated. Hey! Music! Rock'n'roll! After all, four guys write some songs, record them, and go play them in front of the public... Keep it simple. What about listening to the EP?

(Izzy takes some Senheiser headphones, listens, nods, and give them to me).

M: What about you personally, are you still clean? I mean, you don't drink alcohol anymore?

I: No, I'm done with these things. Sometimes, of course, I miss them... I think of it.

M: Does anybody get you excited in the current rock?

I: Who gets me excited?

M: Yeah...

I: Well... The last record that made me feel like listening and listening to it was the Nirvana album. Great! Otherwise I dig the second Black Crowes', yes, it's good. Ronnie Wood also made me listen to his new album in LA. It's superb, really cool. And that's all.

M: Wow, Ronnie Wood's back?

I: Yeah, he did a song with us on my album! Something called "Take A Look At The Guy"... It was on his first record "I Got My Own Album To Do". Actually, we called him from the studio one night and he said: "Hey, Izzy, come immediately to my place listen to my new album" (nftt: "Slide On This) We told him: "Ronnie, we're recording ours. So you're the one who comes!" So he did, and it happened. We sang together and he did an awesome slide solo. Alan, can I make him listen to it?

(We listen)

M: You've got a lot of blues records, a bunch of reggae. You think we should all go back to the roots?

I: Look, I listen to all this, I also love Grand Funk Railroad who's a group from the 70's I used to listen to when I was a teenager. And Grank Funk still makes me freak out! These guys were kicking ass, I mean the construction itself of the songs. They had some delirious intros, too long, which they would end with a drum solo (laughs)! Fuck, really, you had to dare! Crazy, these guys! Me, as a teenager, I would smoke pot while listening to them. It was all different back then. Grand Funk is not "in" anymore, so what?

M: According to you, what is rock music's problem in 1992?

I: A lot of things. The click tracks used to record the drums. All that synthetizers shit too. That's the reign of the machines, the end of rock'n'roll! Well, that's the crap of the machines, man.

M: You're still very young. I've always wondered where you found that science of the riffs you were using since the very begining of Guns. Where did you take it from, tell me?

I: From the Ramones (laughs)! I've stolen it all from Johnny Ramones! Actually, at the begining, from them and Motorhead. Then you discover the blues, you slow down, and you find out about the Great Chuck Berry...

J: Wait, there's something else too... You, at the begining, you were playing drums...

I: That's right, that's the thing... I mean, as a guitarist I still play drums. I hear these drums everywhere, all the time, even while I'm sleeping (laughs). Drums! Drums!

M: Did you record some covers?

I: Yes, but they won't be on the album. In Chicago, we did a Howlin' Wolf cover, "Spoonful", all distorded and crazy, and also "It Wasn't Me" by Chuck Berry, and a very obscure Stones song, "Jiving Sister Fanny"...

M: Yeah, it's on "Metamorphosis"!

I: Fuck, you know everything! That's right! When I was talking about this song to some morons in LA, nobody knew it.

M: Notice, it's not even out on CD!

I: At the begining, I had the tape. So long ago. I can't tell you from where I got it. This THE Stones tape, you know, the one you keep playing until the labels wear out. He he, and then I found the vinyl in a used record shop in LA. That's where we are. Maybe they'll become b-sides.

M: All right, that leads me to the next question: for you, Izzy, it all turned out right. I mean, with the royalties from the songs you wrote for Guns, you can live as you please, quietly doing your own little band.

I: Yes, exactly!

M: You're a little bit like Keith Richards or Ron Wood. The luxury to call up Nicky Hopkins or Ian Mc Lagan to play the piano...

I: Yeah. Jimmy's got an address book full with these guys' telephone numbers. We work for fun and that's fantastic. We wanna play and have some fun. Ain't that right, Jimmy? That's it all. We're gonna release a buch of records and I see it as an advantage, yeah.

M: What I heard from the record made me think of the New York Dolls.

I: That's a compliment! What a band! If I tell you "Don't Start Me Talking", I'm the one who asks the question, who wrote it?

M: Not them!

I: Yeah, but who wrote "Don't Start Me Talking"?

M: Sonny Boy Williamson!

I: Exactly... Fuck, man!

M: They had a real sure taste for covers, the Dolls... From "Great Big Kiss" to "Hoochie Coochie Man"...

I: Yeah.

M: And you see, just one band like this one, and everything can topple over!

I: I saw David Johansen in New York some time ago... He was doing his Buster Pointdexter revue and it was...hmm...not that bad, but no more. Just a show. And I was there, in the first row and I was completely fascinated. You know, I've never had the luck to see the Dolls, and from memories of photos and some videos, I would half close my eyes and try to imagine Johnny Thunders, on the right, with the gold lame and the mascara, and Sylvain Sylvain...
Fuckin' night...

M: They never played in any stadium, them!

I: Oh, no! (laughs!) I really can't imagine the Dolls at Wembley, he, he, he!

M: But that's what ought to happen, don't you think?

I: Yeah, but they lost their first drummer very early, you know...

M: And you, Guns, you lost Steven Adler, your first drummer... Was it another decision made by Axl or by the whole band?

I: At this time I had nearly managed to get clean up, from everything. When I was looking at the band, I would see Stevie, who was a good guy, who's been struggling with us during all these years, but couldn't handle it anymore. He was a real millstone, he needed to clean up! Fuck... We all tried to help him, to support him. But no, finally, we'd been on the road with this guy for years and we lived this dilemna: "OK. We leave him six months doing nothing without any guarantee it gets better, or we forget about the double album and we burry the band?" Actually, the industry's machine woke up and the answer was: "We take someone else to cut these records." It's wasn't an easy decision. Look, yesterday, I talked to him over the phone for the first time in a year. I told him: "God Stevie, get your act man, record..." And he answered: "Fuck, man, my reputation is fucked up." I couldn't help laughing! And I told him: "Open your eyes, your reputation has always been fucked up (laughs)! Get a band! Play!"

M: You didn't think about taking him with you?

I: I might have thought about it (smile). But (silence).. I told myself: "Let's do something new, a little bit."

M: Some people also said you would play with Mike Monroe, the singer of the late Hanoi Rocks?...

I:
And why? He's got a band, Mike, hasn't he? Anyway, he had one! Why him? Mike... He's in New York, he enjoys himself. That'd have been cool to have him on the harp on a song, but he had already done that on the GnR album.

M: About your album's sound, what are you gonna try? Something like the "Butch Wig sound" developed for Nirvana, or are you gonna do another "Beggars Banquet", which I see here on the carpet?

I: We're gonna try to keep the thing down to earth. Nothing too polished, nothing too technological. Hmmm...it's gonna be more organical... Like something live if you want. Well, we hope!

M: You're gonna make a video?

I: Yeah!

M: So, you'll go to the shooting?
I: Videos! It's necessary nowadays, or so they say... I'll be there, of course. I've already got an idea... I'd be dead, they'd put me into a coffin. And when they would put the coffin into the ground, at this moment, we'd see... We'd see my ass (laughs)! Oh, oh! And Jimmy would hold a sign with "Here's Izzy!" Ah, ah! Nah, enough kidding, we'll do a live video, you see the concept?

M: What happened in America? I was there in '77 with my Pistols and Clash singles and nobody wanted to hear about it. I mean, there it was Led Zep or Wings! Nowadays, fifteen years later, you've got Nirvana, you, Pearl Jam... You needed all this time to digest Sid Vicious or what?

I: I dunno... There was that punk scene in LA at the begining of the 80's, but it was fucked up. The English message was perverted, bent... It became something speed, hyper-violent... Americans took what they wanted.

J: And they wanted ultra-violence. Me, I remember Huntington Beach in 1980, there was this punk club, the Cukoo's Nest, OK? And there was a country bar just next door. And every night, I say every night, the skinheads and country fans would fight to death in the street. The bottles were flying, wham, bam! Me, I saw a punk die there, OK? This guy had been knocked down, his head on the pavement, his body in the gutter, OK? Then one of the cowboys jumped with his two feet onto his head. We heard a big crack, the guy was dead, you see?

I: I was there. It was completely fucked up! So now the radios air some grunge, they needed fifteen years to digest it all. What's gonna happen tomorrow, I really don't know. America's gone some weird way. Us, we just just tried to write some songs that'd kick ass live. That's all, our goal. The energy...

M: The energy, but without the dope, right?

I: Oh, I've taken quite an advance (laughs)! I've tried everything! I've done plenty!

M: Is that possible? To be a clean rocker?

I: Sure! (solemn) That's already been done, and others will do it again! Pfff... (laughs)

M: Yeah, but you know, some stop taking heroine and start to drink liters of bourbon, just to compensate.

I: I can only talk for myself, my case, but I'm gonna tell you, I couldn't have done this record if I was still kicking! Dope slows you down, slows-you-down. It fucks you up! I'm not a moderate person, OK? I would take my share, then the drummer's and the singer's, and then the bassit's! You got it? And I would go: "You don't have some more? You really don't have some more?" Pitiable (laughs)! You become a monster, an hydra! You know... But sometimes some good songs came out of it...

M: "Bad Obsession"?

I: Yeah, and some others! Now, I don't think of it during the day, that's over. You've got to live from day to day. That's the Anonynous Alcoholics' trick. Otherwise, you say: "I stop for ever", and immediately that's the mistake: "So I can allow myself a small indulgence..." Nha, from day to day. The only thing is that I still dream about it at night... That's sad. This said, in the band, they do what they want to do. That's their life and all right with me. Look at the bands from Seattle, what's gonna be left of them in a year from here with all the dope and aids?

M: Tell me, Izzy, you could have become Guns N' Roses' Brian Jones?

I: Oh, God, I think not (laughs)! I thought about it one time. And at the last moment, I changed my mind. "Oh, no, I don't wanna die!" (laughs) The journalists would have liked it so much.

M: Your parents?

I: Them? They wanted me to go to college. I didn't give a fuck! I was playing drums, I just wanted to hit my skins. My mother was behind me, but my father was really more skeptical. When I brought my first electric guitar at home, he went: "How much did ya pay for this?" "One hundred dollars" I answered. And him: "Some wasted money!" The other day, I told him: "Hey, pop, you remember when you shouted at me for that guitar? Well, how much money did I get with this guitar?" He's a real fan now. He's cool my father. He's got a tractor and he mows my lawn!. He married a new wife and made two little girls, I told him "Hey, pop, slow down a little bit!" Ah, ah.

M: Where do you live?

I: Hmm, I need a little reflexion! I've got a house in Indiana, I can't really say I'm there a lot, a flat in LA, and we are in a hotel in Copenhagen... That's what fabulous, this bohemian life, these travels!

M: Axl was making fun of you in "Rolling Stone". He was saying "Izzy doesn't have any vision. He sees the things very small. He doesn't have any vision."

I: Ah, I read that too. Ah, and you know what?

M: Well...

I: He must be right! Yeah, that's right!

M: You mean that he had, him, from the begining, this super-star, international band vision?

I: Surely, yeah, whereas we wouldn't see beyond an hotel bar's closing at two in the morning. Without doubt! We played behind him for five years, and never, at any time, we thought about what was happening! Authentical! Whereas him, he was cogitating, in his bedroom. You know, we were just trying to stay in life, behind. Sometimes, you find yourself thinking... hmmm...two plus two, how much is that? It's always been madness, like this, for five years. I don't have any precise example, but it had become a maelstrom, fuck, it wasn't the thing to do, not for me anyway. I'm proud of the songs we managed to knock together. And what we did...Everything! We smoked everything, drank everything, ate everything! Yeah, everything! I won't say more, we broke havok, and that was great, we were the walking revolution! Only one thing was happening, and we were this thing. I remember the gigs in England, the first time, it was complete hysteria! And then everything changed. It wasn't the same anymore. At the begining there were two guitars, two! On my album, that's what I wanted to do with Rick: two guitars. The same school... Like Keith Richards and Brian Jones. Like Aerosmith and Hanoi Rocks, that's the trick.

M: And the vocals? I mean, you sang one or two songs in Guns, but that's a long way from becoming a singer.

I: In five years with Guns, Axl never came to a rehearsal. So I always was the one who would end up singing. I would do "Welcome To The Jungle", "Mr Brownstone"... I got to like it. Singing just cleans up your head...

M: It's funny, you don't have any Jimi Hendrix records here...

I: Well, no....

M: Some explanations?

I: I listened Hendrix to death in '88. I remember some songs like...I won't tell any title here, but suddenly, it became very depressing...Hendrix...he's dead, I mean! And me I was tripping on his lyrics. Even though there were some fabulous things, everytime I was reading an article, it was the same old story, the living hell of his life. Here's a genious, an great composer. And what's his fate? To be manipulated by his producers, his record companies, ripped off and his money taken away by his managers...that's frightening!

M: On the other way, you've got quite a reserve of Stones.

I: Yeah, I always have an "Exile" somewhere... And a "Beggars", just in case. And "Some Girls" and "It's Only Rock'n'Roll"...

M: They're the ones who taught Americans what they needed to know about the blues.

I: Right!

M: Are you into Robert Johnson?

I: What I like the best in the Robert Johnson boxset, that's Keith Richards' text. I tried to listen to it, you know! But, I don't get as much from it as, let's say, Muddy Waters. So, yeah, when Keith tells you about "Love In Vain", that's great. But you listen to Robert Johnson's version, and it's obvious that our generation will always prefer the Stones' version.

M: Do you have a lot of speed-trash-metal?

I: Ah! I was reading an interview with Metallica's drummer, and he was fucking with Charlie Watts: "Yeah, this guy can't even do a roll!" What a moron! He didn't understand a thing! You need to find the groove, my friend, the groove! Then, you'll come back tell us about Charlie Watts.

M: And you, what kind of guitar do you play?

I: A Gibson Birdland. Before, I was playing on an old piece of junk, as soon as I got enough money, I bought a Birdland. I've been playing it for years. Sometimes I use an old Les Paul Special from the end of the 60's for some recording. For the amps, I've got a Fender Bassman head pissing into a Mesa Boogie. The general idea is to have a thick song, got it?

M: Well, that'll be all for me!

I: See you in Paris!
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