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1987.06.03 - Time Out (UK) - Clubbed To Death (Axl, Slash, Duff, Alan Niven)

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1987.06.03 - Time Out (UK) - Clubbed To Death (Axl, Slash, Duff, Alan Niven)

Post by Blackstar on Tue Aug 28, 2018 12:57 am

Many thanks to [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] for sharing with us the rare articles and interviews he has collected, as well as many other amazing GN'R memorabilia.

The original pictures of this article can be found on his site here:
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SHOCK
Gutter Rock With L.A.’s Guns ‘n’ Roses
 
CLUBBED TO DEATH
By Simon Garfield
 
For a City of Angels, Los Angeles has more than its share of demos. Most of them frequent clubs like the Scream, along with a Scrabble-playing bear and a roomfull of scorpions. And some of them are coming over here...
 
It’s 80 degrees, and I’m by a Los Angeles pool recovering from all varieties of mayhem. Last night it took eight hours to get home. One wrong turn off the Santa Monica freeway and bang, I’m downtown in the large and grisly Scream club with truly serious axe murderers.
 
There are all sorts of interesting nightclubs in L.A. Some are quasi-illegal and have names like Pow: er Tools (door policy: $5 and a motorised Black & Decker of your choice). Others are specialist legals like the Tuesday night Boss Club, which, for an annual membership of $125, plays non-stop Bruce bootlegs (I promise you this is true). And then there is the Scream, a club unquestionably named after pain not pleasure, and which consists of a vast number of dark labyrinthine rooms at the back of a downtown hotel. It is one of the hippest spots in the world, because in each of these rooms there are things going on that you will never believe unless you see them, but which I will nonetheless shortly attempt to describe. Teaser: one room involves a large and very angry Canadian bear.
 
The L.A. club scene is actually quite enjoyable, particularly if you have permanent access to a medium-size bazooka. The current crop of L.A. bands, and especially something called Guns ‘n’ Roses, are, however, rather less palatable. Guns ‘n’ Roses are not the sort of combo that can boast a classically trained keyboard player. They are not just speed-metal or thrash-metal or punk-metal or glam; they are most of these, but the essence of the band lies not in their sound but in their smell. They are quite horrible in many ways: frequently more frightening in appearance than Tama Janowitz, ever a species of great and unwashed hard-rock ham, once the most extreme object of punk venom, currently the central target of evangelist wrath.
 
The evangelists have a point. It’s likely that Guns ‘n’ Roses do not only believe ‘Spinal Tap’ to be unfunny, but also wonder why they weren’t selected for the part. Most of them have boggling criminal records – ‘mostly for drugs and alcohol; we draw the line at murder’ – and within ten minutes of our first meeting have conned me out of $20 so that one of their groupies can buy some rare Mexican beer (he never returned, and one week later was still missing). Guns ‘n’ Roses live shows have a lethal-incident-to-song ratio of about one to one. The band have recently signed to the Warners-linked Geffen Records, a reasonably ordered place that also handles Joni Mitchell and Peter Gabriel, and there are some at the company who regard Guns ‘n’ Roses as a greater liability than the Pistols. They have one consolation: the band almost certainly won’t be alive to pick up their first royalty cheques.
 
The reason I’m relating all this now is primarily as a warning. Most of the people described in this piece are coming to London next week, and any personal contact is to be seriously avoided. This is not intended to read like some wimpy little ‘they’ve come for our kids’ rant. This, I warn you, is clearly not a band or a youth movement in control. I have often seen grown men naked, and this is rather worse. Guns ‘n Roses are very very frightened of some skinhead called Animal, but apart from that, it is they who terrorise L.A. And later on I’ll have extra bad news for everyone who lives in Hounslow.
 
A New Era
 
Guns ‘n’ Roses are in many ways the ideal Scream club band. They have now outgrown the place and speak only ill of it, but both the band and the club represent something of a new musical era in L.A. People you meet are awfully proud that LA is no longer in the musical shadow of New York. London and Manhattan have seldom spoken highly of the spaced West Coast scene, and even more seldom in positive terms of anything happening hard on the streets, but attitudes are changing. Sure, at one end of the city you still get the beach and the tan. But downtown and in West Hollywood you get maniacs with guitars that can break bones at 20 paces.
 
Not that this phenomenon is altogether new: a tough-kids underground club scene of some sort has been happening here since punk. What’s new these days is the health, size and vigour of the action, and the fact that there’s rarely been such moneyed interest from New York.
 
The major companies have just been here to sweep up such horrors as Jet Boy, Jane’s Addiction, Faster Pussycat, LA Guns and Guns ‘n’ Roses. Malcolm McLaren is said to be interested in shooting a film about the scene (and there’s still nothing that hypes up quite as much commotion as that). Rick Rubin, the young, bearded Def Jam label-head who writes and produces all the Beastie Boys music (especially the bits that aren’t pinched from elsewhere), is also in town this week, ostensibly for a massive wrestling contest and to promote his band Slayer, but also to see Guns ‘n’ Roses and the Scream. (Rubin apparently likes the Scream so much that at 4am on Oscar night he drags resident DJ Mio Vucovic on a wild car chase to find anywhere that sells ‘tomato-based soup’.)
 
DJ Mio has been with the Scream since its inception a year and a half ago. It opened as one small room on Monday nights and drew 50 people. It now opens at 11pm on Friday and Saturday at the rear of the old Embassy Hotel on Grand Street, downtown, and pulls upward of 1,200.
 
There are many rooms on many floors, though how many there are of each isn’t easy to tell. Every Scream night there are band rooms, video rooms, a room with nothing but a huge white skull, a room where a 50-piece piccolo marching band from Watts rehearse (they’ve been rehearsing for eight months but have never yet performed). There’s also a tattooing room that only lets you in if you already have a large tattoo (little swallows on the scapula will not do), and a room where a man dressed as Jesus with a life-size wooden cross on his back crawls around on all fours begging for someone to buy him a gin and orange.
 
It may just have been jet-lag, but there was also a partition where a 12-foot bear played a giant version of Scrabble, getting increasingly furious when he failed to land on a triple-letter score. There’s another space where the floor moves, and you look closer to find the floor is pet scorpions (all owned by one man who frightens the life out of the Scream owner by not collecting his insects until five minutes before closing). There’s also a room where you can get your legs shaved for a dollar.
 
I was told there were lots of drugs around – quaaludes, valiums, poppers, even heroin (cocaine is too expensive) – but I didn’t see any (I never do, actually). I saw something far more modern, though: Ener-B. Ener-B is a vitamin B-12 nasal gel that you snort like coke for a 48-hour high and no side effects (apart from the drag of it bunging up your nose like glue and causing devastating illusions). The gel pipettes come in packs of then, each dose containing 400 milligrams. I took two packs of Ener-B home with me, and in fact I’m using one dose while I’m writing this. It’s giving me so much extra energy that I wrote everything you’ve read so far in just under 12 minutes.
 
There are several makeshift corner bars selling cans of beer to people over 21, many of them in fact no older than 15 with fake I-Ds. The admission charge is outrageously low for a place like this - $5 membership and $5 per night – and often that includes three local bands, most of them gruesome and therefore rather good. The trend here is for dancing alone in front of mirrors and flipping free to Sweet, T Rex, The Cult, The Sisters of Mercy, Aerosmith, any version of ‘Louie Louie’, Free, Steppenwolf and many hard rock and mystical rock guitar gems. We are really back in the ‘60s and ‘70s – a place where The Kinks get a strong hand and where cerebral music like Brian Eno is not popular at all.
 
Wigging Out
 
DJ Mio reckons that there are a fair number of off-duty young prostitutes here each night, but the majority are just reasonable normal middle-class kids wigging out in large quantities of make-up and togged in all things black, trashy and leathery. The look itself is not one to frighten Leigh Bowery or the old Taboo set, but it sure seems to terrify the Scrabble bear.
 
Unlike with punk, which came characteristically late to LA, there is little interest in politics at the Scream. Bitching pivots around bonking, hair, clothes, etc., some of it in hijacked surf ‘n’ skate speak, some of it directly out of Brett Easton Ellis’s ‘Less Than Zero’. The man charged with the unenviable task of turning that book into a film, Marek somebody, is also Scream-ing it tonight, and is entertaining Bib Audio Dynamite publicist Trisha Ronane (‘Let me tell you, hon, everyone’s here tonight!’)
 
The Scream is the wildest LA club at the moment, especially if you enjoy the sort of hallucinations that I did there, but it does have its rivals. Michael Stewart, its 27-year-old owner, is a veteran of the New York Mudd, Area and Limelight clubs, and is convinced that one neighbouring club, White Trash Au Go Go, is nicking all his best ideas – not least the crowd-pleasing Alcoholic Jesus-On-The-Cross. There is also the Whisky and the Roxy and the Rainbow, all very basic hard-rock clubs, and notable mainly for the fact that they are all owned by the same firm from Chicago. A placed called the Troubadour seems to be famous only as the home of the first LA punk riot, caused when Nicky Alexander, now the drummer in the buzzing band LA Guns, hit Tom Waits over the head with a chair for insulting someone called Alice Bag.
 
Then there’s the Cat House club, a hard-rock retro scene with any mysterious mature women and no music post-’76 apart from Queen. When I went there two people in particular stood out for me. One had Bolan-style hair, a mucky face and big boots, and spent a fair part of the evening jumping on wooden chairs until they splintered. The other had long matted yellow/black hair and a couple of unusual facial scars, and spent at least 40 unhappy minutes whirling around on his back weeping about guitar insurance. These two fine people are Slash and Duff McKagen [sic], the guitarist and bassist with Guns ‘n’ Roses.
 
Guns ‘n’ Roses are not as maliciously evil as they might like to believe, but they’re sure not Joni Mitchell. Along with ten friends/roadies/groupies they make their daytime home at place called the Hellhouse, a filthy, blitzed suburban bungalow in an otherwise pristine street in West Hollywood. They are not a popular neighbourhood gang, and are especially unpopular with the local police officers. During my brief visit, the cops pull up at the Hellhouse three times: once to advise an occupant against parking on the front lawn; once to announce that if there was any more bottle smashing in the road there would be severe trouble; and once to raid a Hellhouse car and its passengers for drugs. No drugs are found, but one of the women in the car is called Candy, and she winds up with one officer’s home phone number and promises to call.
 
Inside the Hellhouse
 
Inside the Hellhouse, guitarist Slash lies flat out on a very dirty mattress. Around him are grabby sheets, empty beer bottles, reclining garden chairs, piles of trash and a nasty rhombus shape moving around in the corner. There is also a flat and almost naked man slumped head-back in an armchair who could be taken for dead if it wasn’t for his occasional piggish snorting noises. He remains perfectly still for damn near my entire visit, only once getting up to ‘check that my meat cannelloni was still in the freezer’.
 
Slash’s first words to me concern his last girlfriend, a possessor of apparently gigantic breasts. He says, ‘I had to let her go. What do you do with them? Flop, flop, flop.’ Slash, who was born in England but has since lost both accent and our mythical sense of decency and reserve, also tells me that he has just recovered from a rather vicious bout of crabs. Bassist Duff recently told another interviewer that he ‘just found out that if you take a crab off yourself and somebody else who’s got crabs and put them in a jar, the crabs will fight each other to death. In Frisco you can sell your crabs to the VD clinic for $20. I know someone who did it five times and made $100.’
 
You’ll understand, even at this early stage, that Geffen Records are taking something of a risk with these fellows. Alan Niven, the band’s English manager (ie real-life ‘Spinal Tap’) says that ‘half the time Geffen are thrilled with their acquisition, and half the time they’re scared shitless.’ Tom Zutaut, the 25-year-old A&R who signed them because he was initially impressed with their ability to sound louder than AC/DC, admits that he once had to be forcefully persuaded from ditching the band for psychopathically naughty behaviour.
 
Slash claims that the bad-boy image is a natural Guns ‘n’ Roses asset and is never contrived. Bear this in mind as he talks about drinking: ‘You get warned that when you go on the road, people will try and push shit on you – drugs and booze. In this instance we’re going to push it on them. Me and Duff have been on this drinking phase for about two years. When we get up in the afternoon to do a soundcheck, we drink so much that we can’t play, because our hands are shaking like windmills. So what happens? We drink! We drink more and more, and then we’re fine, and we wake up the next day with some floosie, and you don’t know her name, and you’ve got fucking weird shit on your dick, and your bed’s all wet from pissing in it, and you go, “listen, will you do me a favour and find me some booze and some pizza?”’
 
Intelligent member
 
Axel [sic] Rose, the vocalist and perhaps the most intelligent member of the band – and the man who is currently dating Don Everly’s daughter – arrives late and is introduced to me by Slash as ‘the most temperamental fucking meanest little fuck in the world’. Axel [sic] himself makes an auspicious opening gambit: ‘I’d just like to say that I have a personal disgust for small dogs, like poodles. I have some serious physical problems with them. Everything about them means I must kill them. I must!’
 
Axel [sic] is the main songwriter in the band, but is not as prolific as he might like. ‘Sometimes six lines take two years,’ he says. ‘It’s just got to say exactly what I mean. Sometimes I write some great words, and then hear this fabulous music in my head, and I think, ‘Wow! This is really happening! This is better than Led Zeppelin!” And then I go home and put on a record and I realise, shit, it was Led Zeppelin.’
 
The bulk of Guns ‘n’ Roses material is taut, all-out hammer-rock – a clichéd, unhip sound that turns on four-fifths of American teenagers. Their debut EP (on their own Uzi Suicide label) delivers only half the punch they throw in the flesh. One can pay this band perhaps the greatest compliment of all: they are not in it for the videos or career moves. They live this stuff, and they live it because it’s money for booze and chicks for free.
 
‘We have the major influences,’ says Slash. ‘Between the five of us it would take until Tuesday to name them all.’
 
Me: ‘But it is Tuesday!’
 
Slash: ‘Look, we can sound like AC/DC, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Aerosmith. We can sound like whatitsname – what’s that fucking idiot that plays guitar real fast?’
 
Me: ‘George Formby!’
 
Slash: ‘Al DiMeola, that’s right. And you put that all together, put it in your head and bang your head like this (thump, thump), and then maybe you get a new tattoo, and then bang – out come Guns ‘n’ Roses songs. It sounds like a lot of shit.’
 
At this point Slash gets up and insists that he must smash his empty Jim Beam bottle.
 
Slash: ‘I got to, man.’
 
Alan Niven, manager in English accent: ‘Oh come on now, Slash.’
 
Duff: ‘Please don’t.’
 
Local hairy: ‘Please don’t, I live here.’
 
Axel [sic]: ‘Only do it up and across the street.’
 
Slash: ‘I got to!’
 
Alan: ‘Come on now.’
 
Axel [sic]: ‘No, no. You don’t live here anymore.’
 
Slash: ‘Just against this wall here, I just want to break it.’
Alan: (Turns white.)
 
Slash: ‘This little wall. Hello wall!’
 
And he breaks the bottle, it shatters everywhere, and he seems relieved.
 
The next time I see Slash is later that evening at the Cat House. My natural inclination is to offer him a delicate glass of Chablis, but I soon realise that at this stage in the proceedings – the chair-smashing stage – he may not appreciate its full bouquet. He is the only person I know who could challenge the Scream bear and win. His constitution may survive just long enough for him to haul himself and the rest of his band to London next week, and I wholeheartedly recommend the Guns ‘n’ Roses show to anyone who feels their life has recently been a tad light on the mental derangement front. For the rest of you, I hear that even Stevenage is nice this time of year.
 
Guns ‘n’ Roses play the Marquee on June 11 and 19. Their single ‘It’s So Easy’ is just out on Geffen.
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