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SoulMonster

1988-09-DD - Interview with Izzy and Duff

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1988-09-DD - Interview with Izzy and Duff

Post by Soulmonster on Sun Jun 05, 2011 1:44 am

Inside Guns N' Roses' Explosive Success

When it comes to rock bands, some personalities within a group always get more attention than the other members. With the Stones, it was Jagger and Richards, with Aerosmith, it's Tyler and Perry - and the list goes on. But what people don't always realize is that the quiet guys, the ones who aren't constantly in the spotlight, are just as interesting and often provide the backbone for the band.

"I don't really enjoy being a center of attention," says guitarist Izzy Stradlin of L.A. sensation Guns N' Roses. "I'm more into the music and what's happening with that. I enjoy having those guys take care of the publicity."

"Those guys" are singer W. Axl Rose and lead guitarist Slash, who have been the main visual and public symbols of Guns ever since the band began their climb to Top 10 chart success over a year and a half ago. The group built up an enormous buzz by playing the L.A. circuit before signing to Geffen Records and releasing their debut L.P. Appetite For Destruction. Since then, endless touring and growing video and radio airplay have made the California rockers one of the hottest bands around.

Through it all, the dangerous looking Axl and somewhat creepy Slash have presented the image of a group living on the edge, and stories of excessive, abusive behavior have followed the group continually. But Izzy, bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Steven Adler are all very much part of Guns N' Roses, though they have generally avoided the glare of publicity.

"It suits me fine," remarks Izzy. "I don't even have to think about actually planning out what I want to say in interviews, or what topics I'm gonna talk about. It's funny, because I can walk through a club without anybody recognizing me, knowing me or bothering me, whenever I want to. Those guys, they're so out front, no matter where they go they get spotted."

"I don't give a shit," agrees Duff. "Slash and Axl are vocal and they like talking a lot. I mean, we're all onstage when we play, and that's what's most important. As far as magazines and stuff like that goes, it doesn't matter who does what. It's a band, and our fans know it is. They know it's not just Axl and Slash. There's no jealousy about that between anybody in this band."

That's good news for Guns fans no doubt, especially since breakup rumors have also plagued the tumultuous quintet. But Duff and Izzy are firmly in agreement when it comes to the group's internal relationships. "Everybody's good friends," insists Izzy. "When the band started - it was like the day after Duff or Stevie joined - we had the infamous Seattle trip. We hitchhiked up there for a gig, and it took a long time, but it pretty much solidified the lineup. If everybody could hack it and get along in the back of a semi trailer that's five feet by eight feet, with five guys and no money, well...it was like a test to see if everyone could get along in the long haul."

"That Seattle trip was the proving ground," chimes in Duff. "If we could go through that shit, we could go through anything, and we've been through a lot of shit. At one point, we were living in a one room place in Hollywood, where we also rehearsed, and we had no money but we just survived together. If you had something to eat, you had to share it with everyone else."

This camaraderie has not even been punctured by the bassist's recent marriage. In rock & roll, "the wife" has had a reputation, however unfair, of being a band wrecker. No such demon plagues the Guns N' Roses camp. "My wife's a musician, so she supports what I'm doing one hundred and fifty percent," says Duff. "I try not to bring my marriage into the band's business at all, because it's really my personal life, and there's no need for it to be public knowledge. But I'm real happy with it. It was weird the first coupla days with the guys, and I thought, 'Oh, man.' But it was just me being paranoid. I asked Slash, 'What's wrong? You're lookin' at me funny,' and he said, 'What are you talkin' about?' They couldn't be happier for me."

"I haven't even noticed that he's married until you mentioned it!" quips Izzy.

Duff's big event did affect GNR in one small way: his actual wedding day forced the group to use ex-Cult bassist Haggis as a stand-in for him because of haphazard scheduling. "We had planned the wedding for a year prior, and I asked our manager (Alan Niven) when he thought a good time would be, that we wouldn't be touring," recalls Duff. "So he told me to make it for May. And he promised me. So every two weeks I would remind him: 'All right, we've set the date, we've paid all the money, and made all the plans.' And then, a month before the wedding, he calls me and he goes, 'Yeah, we're on the Maiden tour now!' And I said, 'What about May 28, Alan?' And he says, 'What's May 28?' And I said, 'My fucking wedding!' It pissed me off, but you've got to deal with it, so I called Haggis, took one day off to get hitched, then came back on the tour.

This wasn't the first time the band had to deal with substitutes, since drummer Steven Adler was out for several weeks with a broken hand, replaced by Cinderella's Fred Coury. "That was very strange," Duff recalls of playing with someone different in the rhythm section. "Freddy is a great drummer, but every drummer has a different feel, and even if he's playing exactly what Stevie's doing on the record, it's not the same. You know, I was a drummer before I played bass, and that gave me more insight into working with a drummer, because you know what's going on inside his head. So it creates a much better groove because we can talk to each other. Most drummers are odd things to begin with, and usually the band can't understand what he's saying. But me and Stevie are real tight, so I did not enjoy playing with a different drummer."

The whole, relatively healthy GNR should be wrapping up a tour with Aerosmith any day now, despite an earlier scare when Axl came down with laryngitis. He bounced back in time for the trek, however, and after it's over, the group head to Japan for five dates before beginning work on their already anticipated second LP.

"It's hard to say what the next album is gonna sound like," ponders Izzy. "It'll definitely be interesting. I don't think anyone's given any thought to it, so we'll just go and see what comes out. It'll definitely be varied. I think the first album has diversity to it, but the next one will have even more. We've got a ton of stuff to sort through. It'll be a rock & roll album, that's for sure."

Does this mean that GNR are tired of being labeled a heavy metal band? "We used to get really pissed off," admits Izzy. "Especially in the early days. But now it doesn't bother me. The general public doesn't really break music down past a few different kinds, and they either like it or they don't. We've been called so many names, it doesn't matter."

"People will always have their own specific label for you," concurs Duff. "That's just the way it is in society. There's nothing that can be done about it. In interviews, you say, 'Listen, we're just a rock & roll band,' but you can only say it so many times."

They may be "just a rock & roll band", but GNR are becoming almost a way of life for the over two million fans who have bought AFD. It's been a long journey for all five musicians - Izzy used to jam with Axl in Indiana garage bands before moving to L.A., while Duff played in 31 different bands in Seattle. Both knew that Guns was it for them as soon as they joined. And they haven't looked back.

"It still hasn't hit me as being fast paced," says Izzy. "I was expecting things to start moving very fast. But it's been comfortable, although I miss being on the road when I'm home. All in all, the past year has been great."

"Right from our first tour, with the Cult, until now, there's been a lot of ups and downs," sums up Duff. "What with Stevie breaking his hand, Axl losing his voice, us losing tours and getting frustrated and kicked around a bit - but it's still been fuckin' great. I think we really proved ourselves, since before we started touring there was all this hype that we weren't gonna last, and we have lasted. All those people are eating crow now. We'll be around for a while."
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