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1991.08.03 - Melody Maker - White riot! (Slash)

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1991.08.03 - Melody Maker - White riot! (Slash)

Post by Blackstar on Sat Oct 06, 2018 3:36 am

White riot!
ON THE ROAD WITH GUNS N’ ROSES
BY STEVE SUTHERLAND
 
TRIGGERS OF YOUTH
 
Their latest single is the fastest selling record ever released, their current American tour is plagued by riots and inundated with groupies, their forthcoming album will be released on two separately selling discs simultaneously and still the rumours of smack 'n ' sex and sleaze persist. Guns N' Roses are the biggest band in the world and they're coming this way. STEVE SUTHERLAND joins the tour they said could never happen.
 
THE BOMB GOES OFF DURING "WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE". Axl's singing, "D'you know where you are baby? You're in the jungle and you're gonna DIE!" when, for a split second, everything's white-then-black. Axl just grimaces, breathes hard, pulls down his NWA cap, skips off stage and lets it pass. Slash dons his top hat, lights a cig and plays the "Godfather" theme, Matt does his drum solo, Duff joins in and everything's cool until Axl re-emerges in a fishnet shirt and launches into "Rocket Queen". Suddenly there's an explosion from somewhere about 15 feet from the stage, a blinding flash and a rocket narrowly misses Izzy. Too close for comfort. Too f***ing close...
Axl flips: "First it's a firecracker, now it's a rocket..." He's furious. "If you saw whoever lit that, we'll give you 10 minutes to turn 'em in and we'll be back... We're not here to get hurt or see anybody else get hurt just because some drunken f***in' pussy can't control. .. F***him! No! F*** YOU! It's up to you. Get him outta here and we'll be back. If not... goodnight. Peace."
The band leave the stage. Uh oh...
There's an ominous silence. The police down the front shuffle uneasily. They'd been expecting something like this but, y'know, hoping it wouldn't happen. According to the local paper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, there are 300 cops here tonight, some 50 more than usual for policing a rock event.
There's some whistling... Everybody's thinking about a few nights ago in St Louis. Axl'd spotted someone in the crowd taking pictures, the security guards had refused to do anything about it so the singer dived in and sorted it out himself before storming off stage. There'd been a terrible riot. According to the Maryland Heights Police Department, some 2,500 fans invaded the stage and smashed the band's gear. Sixty people had been injured. Then there was Dallas when a bottle flew on stage, Axl stopped the show and for a minute there it nearly turned real ugly until the culprit was turned over to the cops. Some of us are even thinking way back to Donington '88 - the mighty crush to see Guns, two kids killed.
Some more whistling... a surge... Will it be tonight? Will it all end here in the Tacoma Dome, Washington State? Will brute violent reality finally engulf the Guns N’ Roses rock ‘n’ roll fantasy, here in this soulless indoor soccer hall? Is this where the dream dies, at the hands of 30,000 kids high on beer and adrenaline?
Axl returns.
“Listen Tacoma," he says and he tells how Lemmy told him when he came offstage at Donington that he shouldn't put up with shit like that because he might get away with it this time but on another night, in another place, maybe to another band, there could be injury or worse. He'd made this speech in Dallas and it had helped calm the crowd. It works again. Slash dips into Alice Cooper's "Only Women Bleed" and melts it into Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" and everything's calmer. The air's no longer red, palms have ceased to sweat...
I think of the policeman in the corridor during support band Skid Row's set. The Skids' Sebastian Bach had just informed the crowd that backstage there were "10 f**'in' alcoholics looking for some drugs 'n' pussy", and the cop was on his radio to back-up.
"I thought Vietnam was bad," he laughed. "You should see the casualty room. They're piled up in there. Piled up man!"
Next morning's Seattle Post-Intelligencer front page headline reads: "No riot at Tacoma Dome, just Guns N' Roses all the way".
 
GUNS Ν' Roses, as one of a cluster of tacky books about the group puts it, are "the most dangerous band in the world". According to the papers, that's dangerous as in if you go see 'em you're likely to get hurt. According to the censors, that's dangerous as in pernicious - their songs, their behaviour, the example they set are a menace to the morals of the young. According to legend, that's dangerous as in self-abusing almost to the point of oblivion. According to the kids in Tacoma, that's dangerous as in "F*** yeah! Go for it!"
Theirs may have been a spectacular success story (maybe THE success story of all-time - their debut LP, "Appetite For Destruction" has sold upwards of 16 million copies since 1987 and it's still selling!), but for the individual members of Guns N ' Roses, these are testing times.
W Axl Rose, an ex-teenage f***-u p from Indiana with an excessive police record, has been hospitalised, fired by the band forgoing AWOL in Phoenix, reinstated and arrested in Australia. In 1989, he announced the band was over onstage in LA supporting the Stones. He said he was "sick and tired of too many people in this organisation dancing with M r Brownstone" - a reference to one of the band's most infamous songs about heroin addiction.
The next night Slash, the guitarist, wore a Betty Ford Clinic tee shirt and admitted his addiction in front of 83,000 people. The band stayed together, but Axl’s marriage to Erin Everly (daughter of Everly Brother Don) was on the rocks after two days and one of his songs, “One In A Million” off the “Lies” LP (a record patched up from old material to fill the gap while the band tried to get it together to make something new) was reviled by the press as racist and homophobic.
Axl became a target for abuse and Guns were forced to pull out of a big AIDS benefit in New York. Public Enemy Number One, he had hassles with his neighbours (he allegedly clubbed one with a wine bottle) and the local cops started hassling him. While he was busy being diagnosed as clinically depressive, Slash aka Saul Hudson, was voluntarily detoxing in Arizona. Slash, whose father designed album sleeves and whose mother designed clothes for David Bowie, had been an indulged hippy child who had drifted into the LA smack scene and was legendary for his drinking. At one point he was so out of it that even his beloved pet snakes bit him and friends would leave cards in his pockets so that anyone finding him passed out could phone to have him removed from the sidewalk.
Fellow guitarist Izzy Stradlin, aka Jeff Isabelle, shared Slash's propensity for narcotics and got himself arrested for pissing in the kitchen on a plane while drummer Steve Adler couldn't stick the rehab and was replaced in 1990 by Matt Sorum who'd played with The Cult. There's a rumour that Steve is now trying to sue Guns N ' Roses, claiming they forced him into his addiction. The last time anybody in the band saw him he was walking round wearing only one shoe.
Bass player Duff McKagan's marriage split, the band sacked their manager and rumours were rife that Guns were finding it impossible to record a follow-up to "Appetite". Indeed, it appeared at one stage that they were finding it impossible to even be in the same room together.
The writing was really on the wall, however, when ace ghoul Danny Sugerman, self-appointed curator of the cult of Jim Morrison, chose Guns as the subject for the follow-up rock biography to his Doors book, "No One Here Gets Out Alive".
Surely Guns N ' Roses were ripe for tragedy, but somehow they made it - "Use Your Illusion" will be simultaneously released as two separate LPs in early September and, against many if not all the odds, the Gunners are back on the road together only to find they’re risking life and limb every night.
 
"THE St Louis gig taught us a lot," says Slash, back at the hotel. It's four in the morning, he's the best part of the way through a bottle of evil German liquor brandy, his speech is slurred and pops with little drunken hiccups but his handshake is frighteningly firm. He turns down the Who on his ghetto blaster. "St Louis turned into such a violent situation, y'know, we lost all our equipment. Like, one of Izzy's cabinets we found out by the concessions stands! My amps were out on the lawn, monitor boards... I was wondering what the f*** would make anybody sit there and dig into a metal grate to get into the speakers on a speaker cabinet. And when we saw the lighting truss, they stole half the Guns logo.
'There was cops. There was blood everywhere. And we had to sneak outta the gig. Y' know, we tried to go back on but the kit was down and that made us realise, 'Okay, you have to sort of play it a certain way. You can't just split because the people are not gonna understand'. And we're really close to the people we play for, so we need to talk so everybody's mentality's one... the band, the people.
“That's what it is really - it's just the band and the crowd and the more authority you stick in front of the crowd, the more cops and SWAT guys, even though they're doing their job, the worse the crowd gets because we're a rebellious band and our fans are like, 'F*** this! We'll kick your ass and we'll kick that guy's ass and we'll STORM this f***ing thing!', right? So we have to say, 'Okay, listen, just don't be an asshole okay? We're only a band, y'know? We're as weak as the next guy and, y'know, we're up here playing and it's a sensitive subject anyway...”
I guess it gets kinda scary, huh?
“Well, seeing fire... M80s and whatever that bomb was that went off tonight – that’s so dangerous. I mean, that’s so screwed, right? It happened to Aerosmith once a few years ago and it’s so damaging. I mean, why would you wanna do that? I guess people in crowds like to see the band react. It’s like they think you’re bigger than life, y’know, and it’s not really the case. It’s really hard to differentiate between being on stage and working really hard on, like, playing, and then trying to realise that the crowd thinks you’re something altogether different. I guess it’s never gonna change... It’s a drag but it’s something... we’re not gonna change the world so... ha! We just try and learn from experience, y’ know.”
Some people say that Guns N ' Roses bring it on themselves, that they court disaster for notoriety's sake. Infamous for his stormy relationship with the press (Slash designed the cover of "Lies" as a pisstake on all the "shock horror" stories surrounding the band), Axl reads everything written about Guns and bears long grudges. Forms must be signed before interviews are granted. They gave the photographer who was shooting for their new album cover just 20 minutes to get the job done. And the St Louis riot was occasioned by somebody taking pictures from the crowd.
So what? What's really so bad about somebody taking a few pictures?
"Well, it was one of those things that sorta built up," Slash explains. "Okay, there were some security guys - we're talking about front line house people, right? And the guys are f***ing standing there with their arms on the stage watching the band, okay? And there was this gang of guys, and they're taking pictures and shit. And Axl says to the security, 'Are you gonna do anything about it?' And then he says, ‘Well, if you're not, I will!' That's Axl, bam, right in there. And we kept the suspense beat going, but when he got back onstage, it was just like, 'F*** this' and he threw his mike down. That's just the way he is, all right?
"Y'know, everybody's trying to pick on us because of the taking of the picture. But it wasn't about that really. It was more of like, 'C'mon, there's a f***ing rule. No cameras. Everybody's bootlegging us. Get the f***ing guy and stop it'. And the security are like, 'Oh yeah dude! Rock 'n' roll man!' That's security. So Axl just decided to take care of it himself. It makes us look like a bunch of f***ing pansies and that's not the case. It’s like, 'C'mon! Work with us!' I mean, there's enough people taping us and shit. They make a fortune.
"And really it's out of our hands, okay? I mean, there's too many people out there. I used to bootleg shit, I used to scalp tickets - I know! If we don't see it, then we don't see it. I don't give a f***. I ain't crying. But if the guy's in the front row and it's like click click click this flashing going on, you gotta tell the security to get the guy."
 
JUST before "Welcome To The Jungle", the graphic rampage through urban hell which Guns cameoed in a Miami bar scene for Clint Eastwood's "Dead Pool", Axl makes a speech about "the other people who no longer work for us because they got their ass fired".
He accuses them of greed, of scheduling this tour before the new album was completed because they were desperate to make more money off the back of the band and to hell with the consequences artistically. This presumably refers to Alan Niven, the manager who parted ways with Guns back in April after a long, protracted series of fallings out.
At one point Axl and Niven wouldn't even speak - the manager thought the band had gone mad for wanting to include 12-minute songs on the new album and the singer thought it was none of his f***ing business. Niven's ex-partner, Doug Goldstein, now manages Guns.
Slash brings a different perspective to playing material from the "Use Your Illusion" albums before anybody's had a chance to buy them.
"When the band started, when we played The Marquee, we were a club band and we proved ourselves on our own merit without any singles or any of that shit, right? And so now, although we're headlining, we're still going out and playing on our own merit. We do new material that people have never heard and, if they like it, y'know, then it's a real band as opposed to like pushing some gay single and going out and riding on that.
"We have a f***ing good time and if the crowd gets off on it too, then we feel like we've accomplished something. And it's been great because... I dunno... it's an integrity thing. It's like you go out and no one's ever heard it, but you play it and it's like a question: 'D'you like it?' And the crowd reaction's been great which is so cool."
 
IN Tacoma, Guns N' Roses scatter the set with new songs. There's "Bad Obsession", which Axl informs us was written about a year before "M r Brownstone" and which sounds like "Sticky Fingers"-era Stones on a joyride with Bowie's Ziggy. He gets so many tee-shirts and pairs of knickers chucked at him during this song that he laughs at the end: "I reckon I could open my own used clothes store..."
There's "Estranged", a Zippos-aloft rock ballad, and "Double Talkin' Jive Motherf***er", which is hardly likely to gain heavy rotation on MTV. Nonetheless, it affords Duff the opportunity to sport a Stetson while Slash disentangles himself through some deep, dark blues, delves into Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile" and eases himself into a soothing comedown just in time for Axl to return to the stage in a white cowboy hat, a pair of cycling shorts and a Stars 'n' Stripes shirt, whistling the intro to their peace anthem, "Civil War", the song they donated to the Romanian Relief Fund album and which appears on "Illusion" in a reputedly stronger form.
There are also two Izzy-fronted songs - "Dust & Bones", a raunchy rocker which features Slash on vocoder (you sing through a tube and it merges with the guitar), and "14 Years", which could be Quireboys. During "Dust", Axl wears a plastic pig's snout which he says was a present from the Tacoma Police Department. "It’s a message from them to the St Louis Police Department. The message is: 'F*** you St Louis!' Just because they don't know how to have a f***ing rock concert ain't our problem!"
There's also "U Could Be Mine", the disappointing new single featured in "Terminator 2", which Axl proudly informs us is the fastest selling single in the history of Billboard magazine, and the much-heralded ("and much f***ing bootlegged", according to Slash) "November Rain", the song Axl refers to as their "'Layla' thing", and which some who've heard the album version are calling Guns' "Stairway To Heaven".
Certainly it's epic, starting slow and wistful, Axl at the piano, growling tenderness until Slash takes it soaring. More than anything, it's reminiscent of Elton John's "Rocket Man" (Axl's a big Elt fan apparently) and if the rumour's true that Axl said he'd quit if it wasn't a hit, he should be around for a few decades yet, no trouble at all.
Strangely, there's also a barely recognisable, manically mangled version of Wings' Bond theme, "Live And Let Die". "We were trying to think which McCartney song fit our attitude best," is Axl's only explanation.
"Everything has been really f***ing hush hush and no one knows what the f*** we're doing," explains Slash "The album is pretty extensive. There's 26 songs and we've gone into everything - we covered the whole band's career. It stretches back to even before the band was formed, songs that were sort of... let's say ideas. So we've just cleaned the date, y'know?
“The biggest thing we had to deal with at one point was like the follow-up thing, right? And we were like, 'Ah f***, we don't care'. But finally, when we were off the road and it was time to go back in the studio, people were trying to put really heavy pressure on us and we were just like, 'WHAT?' And it did start turning into a pressure. Even Steven Tyler (Aerosmith, Slash's heroes) goes, 'Is there another "Jungle" on it?' and I was like, 'Of all people to ask me that!' And at that point we just cut it off from everybody. Y'know, ‘We're gonna do OUR record' and that's what we did.
"If it's successful, it's successful. If it turns out to be a big disappointment... well, I know the band's really proud of it and that's the only thing that's important. It's like, if you wanted us to do another 'Jungle', why? We did it already.
"I think that's how we managed to keep our sanity and maintain a certain level of integrity. We don't have to do the next Guns N ' Roses 'Appetite' f***ing bullshit. We're doing something else now, right? It's still us but no, we're not trying to write the next 'Appetite For Destruction'."
But why release two albums simultaneously? Why not just release a double?
"Okay, Guns N ' Roses is a young band okay? It's like a highly volatile, against-the-industry kind of... what's the best way to put it? We do what we do. We managed to go out and prove ourselves as a band and, for some reason, a year after we got signed, off our live performances, we actually turned into like a big band, right? Well, we don't come from that f***ing school at all, y'know? We dig going out and playing, right? We treat every gig like club gigs, okay? This big, huge headlining professional thing is... y'know, we try really f***inq hard to live up to the expectations of being a headlining band but we haven't changed much.
"All right, that being the case, we've gone through a lot of shit since we got successful but we managed to stay together and we wrote a lot of material and it's very emotional, it's very heartfelt, it's all f***ing dead-on real, d'you know what I mean? It's experiences and so on. So... I dunno, we just had all this material that covered all this crap that we went through and we wanted to release it. Y'know, just f*** the standards, y'know, all that. And the only reason it's a double record and it's separated is because there's a lotta Guns fans and they're loyal because there's a certain wavelength that we're on and the public that we play for understand it because a lot of people go through this shit, okay?
"I mean, everything isn't peaches and cream, everybody has a hard time and life is difficult and, y'know, you work through it and so what we do as a band is write and play and people seem to relate to it. Okay, so there's no way you're gonna put out a $30 f***ing record. C'mon, y'know! But we did wanna release it, so we separated 'em. There's two records. You can buy one. If you get off on it then you can try the other one."
The title, "Use Your Illusion" - which is every bit as splendidly apposite to Guns as "Appetite For Destruction" - came from a painting by Mark Kostabi that Axl liked, just as "Appetite" was named after the outrageous robot rape painting that graced its sleeve until record shops refused to stock it.
"Use Your Illusion' is also very ironic for us," slurs Slash. "I mean, I don't know why but this band has just generated bullshit hype for so long that it's like throwing it back in their faces. And d'you know what? The album is so controversial. It's the same and worse than the last one. The subject matter deals with drug stuff. And, uh, I don't think we cut any corners as far as profanity goes. And, uh, it deals with bad relationships and all that kinda crap.
"Y'know, I detect a little bit of anti-feminism shit going on too, because the songs that are about women that are negative are like really f***ing hard. I can see girls going, 'What assholes!' But then, y'know, our angle is just like, ‘This is true you f***ing c***'. This is the way it was and we put it down on paper. But you know, these feminist groups will be like... d'you know what I'm saying?"
 
SOMETIMES when Guns are like this, when they do gross stuff like "Back Off Bitch" or "Pretty Tied Up", the bondage anthem from "Use Your Illusion II", the only sane stance to take is the old liberal position of not sanctioning what they say or do but standing up for their right to do it as a matter of expressive freedom. It's giving them a very dubious benefit of the doubt to say that they're amoral rather than immoral but strangely, when I mention this, Slash is too damn honest to go for it.
"We're not trying to get some truth through. We're not trying to send out any f***ing messages. This is just experience. It's us, put on vinyl. Buy it or don't buy it, like it or don't like it, whatever. But I don't like to be attacked for it because we never...
"Look, I don't know how influential people think we're supposed to be. I mean like, we're an example now because we're a big band? No. Nononono. I appreciate the fact that we’re a big band and I know it's because all these people can relate to us. (The Gunners really are LA's very own punks.) But there's all these outside f***ing people that are just like, 'Okay, well you influence a lot of young kids and you have a high profile'. All right so that’s gonna have an effect on our own musical integrity? Like, we're gonna f***ing alter everything we do so we don't make any waves? No! Guns is all against that.
"People assume we're advocating what the songs say and they go for the throat. Some people seriously want to nail us, y'know? This band is a magnet for it."
I wonder why that is?
"I don't know. It's always been like that. Ever since before we got signed so we just deal with it."
Is it hard not to get mad about what's written about you?
"Certain things bug me depending on how close to home the subject hits. I've been pissed off a couple of times, but I don't read the press very much. I just sort of avoid it. I just try at the shows and if you do that and you feel secure in yourself and the crowd reacts in a positive way, you walk away from a show and you feel proud. Joe Dickhead really shouldn't matter then."
Was the band stung by the unwanted and discouraged reviews of the warm-up dates? I'd read they'd been shambolic at best. It appeared the band barely knew the new material and were pretty unsteady even with the "Appetite" stuff.
Slash laughs: "F***. I mean, the band is the way the band is, okay? We go out and we jam. We react off the crowd and so on. Uh, yeah, we're still rough around the edges, probably always will be, but the spirit's there, y' know, and that's what the f*** matters, right?"
It transpires the club dates which preceded the current tour were only scheduled to whip the Gunners into some sort of shape. The band hate to practice - Axl seldom turns up to rehearsals - so the small secret shows were necessary to establish some vague workable agenda. It's a method Slash approves of.
"We have this responsibility for maintaining headlining status, right? Well, f***in' A, y'know? We can't keep it up all the time. We don't go out and do the same show every night. We use the f***ing people that we're playing for and, if it's not happening with them, then we'll keep working. We work real f***ing hard y'know? I mean, I know you spent so many dollars to get into this gig, but we're not f***ing robots all right? This isn't... I won't name any names, right, but this isn't mechanical. In order to play, we have to get into... this is like emotional shit right?
"Magic is the essence of a great rock show. If there's no magic, it's just dull. I think everybody's been living on just dull, mundane f**ing predictable night-after-night snows where the sets and the lights are the same for too long. We just f***ing go out and when it's great, it's great. When it sucks, f***, we suck. That's the magic of it."
 
GUNS N’ Roses are f***ing great in Tacoma and they know it. They're well into the encore, "Paradise City", and Axl's bare-chested, writhing in pained ecstasy, tearing the bracelets from his arms and tossing them to the back of the stage. As the song climaxes, he stands spread-eagled then hurls himself into the crowd. For a moment he's swallowed up in the heaving mass, then I see him punching at the clinging hands, fighting his way back onstage.
I find out later that the bracelets had to go because he once stagedived in New York and some psycho grabbed onto them and wouldn't let go, cutting Axl's wrists to shreds. Tonight he's safe and grinning.
"Some f***ing faggot tried to take my pants off!" he yells to the crowd. They cheer and he's gone.
 
Next week: More Guns N ' Roses -the battle with smack, avoiding the groupies, dodging death and facing up to fame.

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Re: 1991.08.03 - Melody Maker - White riot! (Slash)

Post by Blackstar on Sat Oct 06, 2018 3:54 am

Unfortunately I don't have the next issue of Melody Maker with the second part of this article.
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