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2012.04.27 - Legendary Rock Interviews - Interview with Vicky Hamilton

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2012.04.27 - Legendary Rock Interviews - Interview with Vicky Hamilton Empty 2012.04.27 - Legendary Rock Interviews - Interview with Vicky Hamilton

Post by Blackstar on Wed Nov 28, 2018 3:18 am

Guns N’ Roses insider, manager and consultant Vicky Hamilton (THE ART, Motley Crue, Stryper,Poison) talks shop with LRI

By John Parks

Vicky Hamilton is no stranger to rock and roll personalities.  She’s made a career out of dealing with them, guiding them, supporting them and even at times, mothering them.  She’s also no pushover.  She’s worn enough hats that she knows what card to pull and when, having done everything from music journalism, venue booking and record store managing to Geffen Records A&R, artist management and consulting.  Vicky basically played a part in the careers of most every band I bought a concert tee of growing up but will always be remembered for being the only person in L.A. willing to take on Guns N’ Roses (which the band just thanked her for at their Hall of Fame induction).  However, there is way more to her than just that little window of time with GNR.  She had an interesting path leading to Slash and company and has had an interesting career since including her latest artist, a very interesting band called THE ART, who are currently making waves stateside and abroad.  We recently had the pleasure of talking to Vicky about all this and more, read on…

[...]

LRI:  I know it’s been mentioned that your time managing Poison ended badly but you really believed in them at a time when few people did, isn’t that correct?

Vicky:  Pretty much.  They were really fresh and Pennsylvanian (laughs).  We had done a demo deal with Atlantic and they passed on the band.  Because of my association with Motley and Stryper I was very friendly with the Enigma people and we were offered a very small deal by Enigma, I think it was like 25,000 dollars or something and they of course took it.  At that point I was not getting along with Bret Michaels so I sold my contract to Howie Huberman who was my financial backer so he took over management from there.  They were released by Enigma and Capitol bought it and it blew up.

LRI:  Bret has made such a name for himself outside of Poison and much of it has to do with this easygoing, fan friendly persona but he must be at least somewhat difficult to deal with behind the scenes or creatively.  Is he headstrong?

Vicky:  I’ll put it to you this way John, everyone assumes that Axl Rose was the most difficult personality or character I’ve ever dealt with which ISN’T true.  It was unquestionably Bret Michaels (laughs).

LRI:  (laughs).  Wow…ok, that IS interesting.

Vicky:  (laughs).  It’s true.  Say what you want but at least Axl wears his heart on his sleeve.  You know where you stand because he’ll let you know.  He’s honest to a fault.   Bret is much more devious and just not a nice person in that regard.  Those bands were very much at war at one point with each trying to outdo each other.  It was very high school (laughs).  Of course, everyone knows that Slash auditioned for Poison and they were going to do it but he was not gonna do the bit in the show where he was like “Hi, my name is SLASH!!!!” and he said “I’m not gonna wear all that fuckin makeup”.  They ended up going with C.C. because he was a good fit and Slash was not going to bend to Bret Michaels “rules”.

[...]

LRI:  When you and Bret had the falling out was that around the time you got actively involved in Guns N’ Roses?

Vicky:  Yeah, pretty much.  Well, I had always been a big fan of Slash and his playing.  I always kept an eye on what he was doing and I booked Hollywood Rose when i was an agent for Silver Lining Entertainment which I was also doing when I was working with and booking Stryper.   Axl and Izzy came into Silver Lining and played me their demo tape and it was amazing and I booked them sight unseen.  The first show was at Madam Wong’s with Candy and then I booked them with Black Sheep, Slash’s band at the Music Machine.  Around that point Chris Weber left Hollywood Rose and Slash entered the picture and I started working with them then.  I really liked both Chris and Slash.  I thought Chris was a really good writer and I’m still friends with him to this day.  It was so funny because our paths always seem to cross.  Well after those days, probably ten years later I was working with a band and in England and saw this band whose guitarist was….Chris Weber.   I was like “Holy shit!” (laughs).  Chris is a great guy and now he works at a recovery/sober living place.  He’s just a really good guy who was very important to that whole time and place.  No question about it.  He co-wrote a couple of those songs on Appetite so he’s a talented writer and a talented cat in general.

LRI:  You’ve mentioned a couple times that you booked bands at various venues in L.A. and I was just wondering how difficult that was.  From what I understand the deck was always stacked in the venue’s favor and it was very hard to get anywhere with the whole pay to play format.  Is that correct?

Vicky:  Yeah, it was generally a losing venture (laughs).   I figured that out soon after booking Guns N’ Roses a few times at the Roxy to full houses and barely breaking even.  You had to buy the beer from the Roxy, you had to buy security from the Roxy, the lights, even the dressing room and after you did the advertising or whatever there was just no way to win even if the place was packed.  I still had to pay the band a few hundred bucks too after all that.

LRI:  Was that ever an issue for any of the bands looking at you like “Hey, we just played sold out gigs where the hell is our money?”

Vicky:  Not too much because they could see how I lived.  It wasn’t like I was doing well at their expense.  I was hardly living well and in GNR’s case most of them saw that firsthand.  Booking bands was not very lucrative, that’s why I didn’t stay in the booking biz for too long, I said “Screw This”.  You had to find some kind of financial backer in order to finance the cool clothes, the cool gear and the cool stage elements cause you sure as hell weren’t gonna make any cash gigging.   It’s harder than ever today believe it or not.  I just got my band THE ART out here from Australia and they toured with the Pixies and Marilyn Manson and all these people but here they opened for Steel Panther and probably only got 70 dollars while their song is doing great overseas.  It’s still hard out there.  The cream rises to the top but it’s a hard fight.

LRI:  I didn’t see the band until the Illusions era so I can’t imagine what you saw at the Troubadour.  Did you ever see GNR in a bad show or a sloppy show back in the pre-Appetite days?

Vicky:  I wouldn’t say sloppy was the word maybe raw but even in the very beginning they were brilliant.  Everyone knew that you were watching a trainwreck but you couldn’t take your eyes off of it.  It was RAW.  It felt a little dangerous and there was just so much magic and brilliance in that original lineup.  Those five guys together were the magic ingredient.  It’s hard…..it’s hard to really describe what that band was like but it was amazing and it was pure magic.  Noone can take that away from them.  I went to go see Axl’s hired guns at the Forum this January.  All those guys in Axl’s band are technically great musicians but that magic and fire is gone, it’s just….dead and gone.  There was no fire.  It’s not what GNR was when they were young and living.  That was like real life to them, those songs were their lives, it wasn’t just a bunch of good musicians playing a show, it was REAL.  It’s those five guys or nothing, I mean Matt Sorum is a great drummer but it just wasn’t the same without Steven.  Steven had a way of playing that was stylistically important and his spirit and spark drove those songs where they needed to be.  Steven’s early friendship with Slash added a certain dynamic and then when Izzy left it was just OVER because he was such a grounding force to the songwriting and was childhood friends with Axl.  Those two being replaced by other musicians didn’t replace that chemistry.  When Izzy left that was when Axl really just lost his mind in a lot of ways.  By the time Illusions had hit I was so far removed from all things Guns that it was interesting.  Axl had this Elton John thing going (laughs) and keyboardists and background singer girls.  It just wasn’t the same rock band I had even worked with, not to say there wasn’t some brilliance on those albums because there clearly was it was just so radically different.  I mean the first time I heard him play November Rain on the piano I was blown away that the same guy who could write the stuff on Appetite could play such a beautifully arranged piano ballad but they were clearly headed in a different direction.

LRI:  Alan Niven mentioned that he feels that Axl’s lateness for gigs is sort of a form of stagefright or performance anxiety more than anything else…Did you see anything like that?

Vicky:  Well, first of all, nobody would have put up with that shit back before he got famous but yeah I could see what Niven is saying by that.  I mean a lot of people who are as super famous as Axl still get performance anxiety, they just learn how to manage it.  Axl is a complex character, bi-polar, there’s a lot going on there (laughs).

LRI:  I liked Chinese Democracy and actually went out and bought it full  price on Vinyl which is the only format I’m willing to pay for.  I know some people were snickering or making jokes about it being reduced to 99 cents by Best Buy or whatever but I was a little bummed out to see the brand fall so hard.  Do you think he still has something to offer artistically?

Vicky:  Hmm….I think that he could, but I think that he needs to make amends to four people in that band and I think that his anger has eaten him from the inside out.  That’s what I think.

LRI:  Marc Canter sort of intimated in our interview that the things holding back a Guns N Roses reunion were not that complicated, that they were in fact pretty simple and somewhat based on misunderstandings that could be worked out by a marriage counselor between two prideful personalities in Axl and Slash.  Do you agree?

Vicky:  Pride?  I think it might be more ego.  I’m clearly on the SLASH team and I know that Slash would do it but you know Axl is just…..I mean, he had people thrown out of the forum for wearing top hats (laughs).  I mean, it’s gotten to the point of absurdity and then some.  I just don’t know that Slash would ever bow down to Axl and I just don’t think Axl would allow a reconciliation any other way.   It’s become such a Guns N’ Roses spider web.  It sucks for the fans because not only can they not reunite but they can’t even all get on the same page to release this movie of the footage from the Use Your Illusions tour.  I find it really sad and the mere fact that they can’t get up onstage together and accept the Hall of Fame thing together was just SAD.  They made the greatest hard rock record of the decade and they should be able to all be on the same page about that and stand together and at least wear that badge proudly for one night.  The fans want it so much and it’s so sad that they couldn’t put their differences aside for even ONE song.

LRI:  Was the floor of the GNR “living space” really as bug infested and disgusting as its been described?

Vicky:  I wish I had taken photos John.  It was probably worse than it’s been described.  It was so bad that I left everything in that apartment when it was time to go except the wood table which I still have.  It was a beautiful wood table but it now has cigarette burns and water circles from all the beer bottles and stains from Jack Daniels bottles.  The table is just completely ravaged by GNR but I keep it because I love it so much (laughs).  It was a pretty rough place, this much is true, but we all survived.
LRI:  Did you and the strippers buy the vast majority of those cigarettes and bottles?
Vicky:  Oh, the strippers certainly chipped in.  I bought my fair share of cigarettes as well.  Mario from the Rainbow had a deal goin with me and would feed them pizzas and Marc Canter would give them pastrami sandwiches.  They managed to stay alive (laughs).

LRI:  You always stayed above the whole groupie scene but your bands obviously didn’t (laughs).  Did you ever see anything in regards to the girls that just made you ill or found revolting?

Vicky:  (laughs).  The 80s were a weird time.   It was actually considered “cool” to be abusive or degrading towards women and looking back it is amazing to me that in that regard I really came out of the era unscathed.   I truly believe that everyone is a volunteer in their own life and those girls…..they got what they asked for basically,  you know?

LRI:  I don’t know how many countless times you’ve had to answer this but in terms of your exit of managing Guns N’ Roses it was very ugly and unfair, and not necessarily in terms of  all of the individuals in the BAND but in the sense that you were truly STABBED in the back by Attorney Peter Paterno.  You hired the guy and he in turn fucked you over royally and started handling the band instead.  I cannot imagine what went through your mind or how you felt and you’ve had plenty of time to think about how shady it really was.  Steven said he still thought it was horrible when we talked to him, that it was one of the reasons he wanted to mention you at the hall of fame ceremony.  How do you put that whole Paterno thing  in perspective?

Vicky:  That’s a really good question and actually no one has ever asked me that before.  I am writing a book and really planning on getting very truthful because that is in fact what really happened.  The Sludge interview was the first time I ever mentioned it and this is the first time anyone has ever really asked me.  At the time, my main concern was that I wanted to make sure that the band was taken care of and I thought he was the guy to do it.  I never dreamed that in the process, he was going to fuck me over to the degree that he did.  The other piece of it is that, at the time, I knew that Guns N’ Roses would be successful but I didn’t know that they would sell 150 MILLION records.  There’s no way to really know to what degree someone is going to be successful.  I had seen Motley Crue and Poison do it but still, I had no idea that GNR would be as huge, huge, huge as they became.  I mean, in my opinion, every single band that I have ever dealt with has been that talented but they don’t all make it to that degree.  Guns N’ Roses was so volatile that I was surprised they all lived through it to see that kind of success.  It was really hard to predict and at that point in the game what I really wanted was a Record Company A&R job because as good of a job as I was doing as a manager it wasn’t paying my bills.  I craved the security of a record company job, it became a practicality.  I’m grateful to have the life that I have truthfully.  Of course I’m not gonna lie and say I wouldn’t like a Malibu beach house or financial security but I’m happy.  Even with everything I’m doing and have done it is all still financially challenging for me so it would have been great to have that security but I’m still out there and I don’t hear the fat lady singing.  I’m writing a book, I just wrote my Motley Crue chapter and it was so good that I felt like I was doing coke by the time I finished writing it (laughs).  I didn’t do coke for very long but when I did it was during the Motley days.   I started getting the nosebleeds, that was enough for me  but writing that Crue chapter brought that same feeling back for me (laughs).  I’m making a documentary, I’ve written a musical play that has a great director.  Done some screenplays and I’m managing a great band in THE ART who I think could be the next big rock band, they’re that fuckin good.  They live in Australia and it’s hard for me to manage a band that lives in Australia but they’re that fuckin good.  Someone said to me “God, Vicky you live in L.A. couldn’t you just pick a band in your backyard???!!”.  But THE ART doesn’t live in my backyard, they live in Sydney, Australia (laughs).

LRI:  Did you have a ear to the ground and decide to start working with Faster Pussycat?  They were always sort of underrated to me and I wondered how you came to be involved…

Vicky:  No, actually AXL brought them to me and demanded that they open one of their shows and I went to go see them and I basically agreed.  They were clearly a FUN band and it started from that show, I think it was at the Roxy.  I got them their record deal with Elektra.  I’m still friendly with Taime, I just hung out with him and Riki Rachtman at the Velvet Margarita about a month or so ago.  It was really fun (laughs).  I’m hoping to put my band THE ART out on the road with Taime and  Faster after this Great White tour they are doing this summer.  Taime loves the band.

[...]
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The full interview can be found here:
http://www.legendaryrockinterviews.com/2012/04/27/legendary-rock-interview-with-guns-n-roses-insider-manager-and-consultant-vicky-hamilton-the-art-motley-crue-stryperpoison/
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