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1991.05.26 - Detroit Free Press - Under The Gun (Duff)

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1991.05.26 - Detroit Free Press - Under The Gun (Duff)

Post by Blackstar on Wed Apr 04, 2018 7:50 am

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UNDER THE GUN
 
Guns Ν’Roses revs up for album release and tour
 
By GARY GRAFF
Free Press Music Writer
 
Guns N’ Roses’ Michael (Duff) McKagan hears the question 30 times a week, easy.
 
“ 'When’s the album coming out, dude?’ is the expres­sion,’’ McKagan, a founding member, bassist and songwriter for the hottest rock ’n’ roll band on the planet, says by telephone from Los Angeles before jetting to East Troy, Wis., to open a two- year concert tour. “I’m at the point now where I don’t mean to be rude, but I just say, ‘When it’s in the stores. When you see it in the store.’"
 
McKagan says he’s even toyed with the idea of having T- shirts made with the message “When it’s done!” to deflect in­quiries about the group’s new album, "Use Your Illusion.”
 
But there’s no question that the album — now slated for release in two volumes in late July — will come out to heavy expectations and hype. More than two years in the making, "Use Your Illusion” follows 1987’s "Appetite for Destruc­tion” and the archival 1988 “GN’R Lies" — records that sold a combined 17 million copies.
 
With hit singles such as the No. 1 “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “Para­dise City” and "Patience,” they established the group’s position in rock’s upper echelon.
 
Now Guns N’ Roses, which has appeared only sporadically since 1988, is under the gun as fans, critics and the music industry watch to see if the quintet can maintain its substantial following and the momentum of its early successes.
 
“See, I don’t see that,” McKagan says. “When we went down and played Rio (in January), that was a slap in the face. All of a sudden it was, ‘Oh yeah, that’s right. Our band is popular.’ It was really a weird feeling.”
 
Guns N’ Roses’ popularity, however, is based on more than music. During its lightning rise to the top, McKagan and his bandmates — singer W. Axl Rose (real name William Rose), 29; guitarists Slash (Saul Hudson), 25, and Izzy Stradlin, 29, and drummer Steven Adler (since replaced by Matt Sorum, 30) — cultivated a bad-boy image that at times made the Rolling Stones of the ’60s look like altar boys. The musicians’ seedy appearances and flaunted drug and alcohol abuses — plus Rose’s lyrics about dreams clashing with the gritty realities of street life — fed a perception of danger and decadence that has always intrigued rock ’n’ roll fans — particularly teens.
 
But the image caught up to the group in the past two years. Founding member Adler was kicked out when he couldn’t clean up his drug habit. The group was labeled racist and homophobic for the song “One in a Million." McKagan and Slash made an embar­rassing drunken national TV appearance during the 1989 American Music Awards that prompted some radio stations to boycott the group’s music. And the quintet almost broke up onstage in Los Angeles when the group opened for the Rolling Stones later that year.
 
As Slash recently told the heavy metal video magazine Hard ’n' Heavy, "Whoever it was that we entertained, that (was) the simple part. It was the other part that made it so complicated and sometimes unenjoyable.” Adds McKagan, "All that s— you’ve heard ... whether it’s true or not, it happened, meaning it’s past tense, it’s in the past. As a band, we’re heavier and tighter than ever. ... We’re not just dumb kids who say, ‘Let’s sell some records by saying 'F— you.’ It’s just not that way.”
 
Heading down a rocky path
 
That flamboyant, flip-off atti­tude is as much a key to Guns N’ Roses’ success as the group’s songwriting skills and Slash’s gui­tar-hero solos. Like its forebears, most notably the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, a mythology encases the group, celebrating it as a secret society prone to dark, hell-bent behaviors.
 
Andy Secher, editor of the heavy metal magazine Hit Parader, traces the group’s lineage back to Motley Crue, Van Halen, "maybe Kiss if you want to go further, of rock ’n’ roll street punks that are on the cutting edge of outlaw.
 
“Guns N’ Roses came along and said, ‘We can take it one step further.’ There’s a great deal of musical skill involved, but the basic appeal is street level—'We’re not posers. We’re not fakes. We come from the gut, from the street. We could be dead tomorrow.' Kids like that.”
 
That the members of Guns N’ Roses have been largely inaccessible during the past two years only heightened their mystique. They’ve kept a tight control over the media; earlier this year they required reporters and photographers to sign con­tracts giving the group full copy control and copy­right over stories and pictures, with $100,000 fines as punishments for violators. Though designed as an easy way to deflect interview requests, McKagan acknowledges a sincere distrust of the media.
 
"The critics are looking for us to fall on our a—,’’ he says. The group went from being critics’ whipping boys to being “the press’ darling, then the press turns around on you."
 
He admits the group wasn’t ready for its massive success. But, beyond that, "we didn’t care. We didn’t record (‘Appetite for Destruction’) to become mil­lionaires or whatever; we recorded it to get out songs that were us, that we felt. I remember saying that if the thing only sells 10 copies, we’d be happy that 10 people bought it.
 
“Put yourself in our shoes ... going from s— poor, seriously, getting $100 a week. All of a sudden you’re handed a gold card. You get a thing in the mail saying, ‘This is how much money you’re worth. You should probably look for a home now. You can actually buy a car.’ We were on the road for at least 2 1/2 years, and that’s what we got hit with when we came off. That’s when the drug prob­lems ... started happening.”
 
If their subsequent behavior seemed to turn the tide of support, the Guns N’ Roses members found support and understanding from their peers. ‘‘They’re not dumb boys,” says Iggy Pop, who was backed by McKagan and Slash on his most recent album. "They’re canny guys. They’re very aware of the world around them and things. They know a lot of stuff I didn’t learn until just this last year.”
 
Adds Alice Cooper, who uses Slash on his upcoming album and duets with Rose on a “Use Your Illusion” track called "The Garden”: "They’re just kids, you know? They went from being this bar band in Los Angeles to being bigger than God, or something like that. You can’t expect someone in their 20s to handle that with grace. ... I know I didn’t when it happened to me.”
 
Now, McKagan says he hopes mu­sic will speak louder than misadven­tures for Guns N’ Roses. The group has kept a relatively low profile since its tumultuous opening dates for the Rolling Stones (the problems were rectified when Adler was kicked out and Slash conquered his heroin habit).
 
It did play at the 1990 Farm Aid IV concert and in Rio, and a couple of new songs were released — "Civil War” on the “Nobody’s Child” benefit album and a version of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” on the “Days of Thunder” soundtrack. But the group was mostly holed up in the studio, working on “Use Your Illusion.”
 
McKagan says the addition of the solid and competent drummer Sorum, formerly of the Cult, “brought the family back together, the sense of family that was totally missing.” And the sessions were admirably prolific; the two “Use Your Illusion” albums will contain at least 30 songs, and a wealth of punk rock covers — includ­ing songs by the Damned, Fear and the UK Subs — will be released later on a separate extended play version.
 
Two-album set takes shape
 
The two-album plan, according to McKagan, came about simply because the group couldn't pare the material down to one record.
 
“We were going to just record until we burnt out,” he explains. “We thought that if we only made it to 12 songs, cool, then we’ll stop there, go tour and make another record later. But we had all this material, and we didn’t burn out.
 
“We didn’t make it a double album because that’s a little overboard and a little pretentious. Plus, this way, a kid can go out and buy one record, his buddy can go buy the other record or whatever... and maybe when they get enough money to buy the other one, they can do that.
 
“Plus,” he adds, “it’s never been done this way before.”
 
From all reports, including bootlegs that have been circulating and perfor­mances of some new songs at Rio and during recent pre-tour dub dates in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, “Use Your Illusion” cuts a wide stylistic swath. There are long, epic pieces such as “November Rain,” “Es­tranged" and the dark “Coma,” which features Rose recreating a drug over­dose. There’s a cover of Paul McCart­ney’s “Live and Let Die,” an anti-press tirade titled “Why Do You Look at Me?” and a wealth of rockers such as “Dust and Bones,” "Pretty Tied Up,” “Shotgun Blues,” "Double Talkin’ Jive” and Bad Apples.”
 
“I’ll put it this way,” McKagan says, "take the songs from ‘Appetite,’ the rocking songs, the heavy songs ... they’re magnified by 10. The pretty songs? Magnify that by 10, too. 'Sweet Child o’ Mine’ was a real pretty song, but compared to the new s—, it’s real amateur.”
 
Before the rest of the world makes its own judgment, Guns N’ Roses will be two months or more on the road. Anticipation for the tour has been high — three shows at Los Angeles’ Great Western Forum sold out in an hour, while tickets for a suburban New York concert blew out in 40 minutes. And radio, where Guns N’ Roses has faded from playlists, is equally excited about the prospect of new music.
 
"I think the long gap (between albums) actually helped them, helped build the anticipation,” says Jim Pem­berton, program director of Detroit rock station WRIF-FM (101.1). “I expect it to be right back up there when the album comes out.”
 
For its part, according to McKagan, the band has the same goal for "Use Your Illusion” as it did for "Appetite for Destruction”:
 
“We make music for us. I just hope our new songs ... make kids think a bit, just realize that some things are going on. These aren’t just your aver­age la de da, f--- your girlfriend in the car songs. Our songs never have been.”

ON STAGE: Guns N’Roses and Skid Row will perform at 7 p.m. June 2 at the Toledo Speedway, just off I-75 at Exit 210 (Alexis Street). Tickets are avail­able at Ticketmaster outlets. Call 419- 729-1634, 9-7 daily.
 
THE BULLETS OF GUNS N’ ROSES
 
1985
Band forms in Los Angeles. Re­jected names include Heads of Ama­zon and AIDS.
 
1986
May — Release of “Live ... Like a Suicide.”
July — Signed to Geffen Rec­ords.
 
1987
April — Pulled off as support act of Iron Maiden tour when singer W. Axl Rose loses his voice. Guitarist Slash travels to Hawaii for drug rehabilitation.
August — Debut album, "Ap­petite for Destruction,” released. Eventually sells 12 million copies.
 
1988
May — Begins tour opening for Aerosmith. Contract specifies drugs and alcohol must be kept in Guns N’ Roses dressing room to not tempt the sobered-up members of Aerosmith.
July — "Sweet Child o’ Mine” hits No. 1 on Billboard charts.
August — Plays the Monsters of Rock concert in Britain. Two fans die in the unruly crowd during Guns N’ Roses’ performance.
October — Rose guests on Don Henley’s album, “The End of the Innocence.”
December — “GN’R Lies,” compiling the independent EP and four new cuts, is released and goes on to sell five million copies.
 
1989
Jan. 29 — Guns N’ Roses wins an American Music Award but courts controversy when Slash and bassist Duff McKagan appear drunk and use obscenities during their acceptance speech. The incident causes some radio stations to boycott the group. "We didn't think we’d win anything,” McKagan said. “We went to hang out... and got drunk.”
October — The group opens for the Rolling Stones in Los Angeles. During the first show Rose berates unidentified members of the band for drug use; at the end of the show, he says it’s his last with the group. He’s there for the next show, be­fore which Slash — who kicks heroin after the dates — makes a brief speech against drug use.
 
1990
April 7 — The group performs at Farm Aid IV in Indianapolis, debuting the new song “Civil War.”
April 28 — Rose marries Erin Everly, daughter of pop star Phil Everly and inspiration for “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” in Los Angeles. He files for divorce less than a month later.
July — “Civil War” is included on the "Nobody’s Child” benefit album for Romanian orphans.
August — The group’s version of Bob Dylan’s "Knockin’ on Heav­en’s Door” appears on the “Days of Thunder” film soundtrack.
 
1991
January — The group performs two shows at the “Rock in Rio II” festival in Brazil.
May — Guns N’ Roses plays “surprise” club dates in San Fran­cisco, Los Angeles and New York. World tour, with Dizzy Reed added on keyboards, opens May 24 at Alpine Valley in East Troy, Wis.
July — Tentative release date for "Use Your Illusion” album.
 
By Gary Graff
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