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SoulMonster

1988-11-DD - Interview with Slash, Izzy and Duff

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1988-11-DD - Interview with Slash, Izzy and Duff

Post by Soulmonster on Sun Jun 05, 2011 2:10 am

Putting Rebellion Back Into Rock

Great rock & roll has always been perceived as a threat by those people who couldn't appreciate or understand it. Back in 1956, Elvis Presley's gyrating pelvis was too intimidating for most adults. Consequently, Ed Sullivan decided The King could only appear on his nationwide TV show from the waist up. Presley's career skyrocketed nonetheless.

If the parents couldn't stand it, it followed that the kids would embrace it. This was true for the Beatles and their "long" hair in '64. And the Who and their stage-trashing antics on their first U.S. tour in '67. And Ozzy and just about everything he's done (or rumored to have done) since '69. The best thing about rock & roll was the rebellion element. It was the one type of music that your parents couldn't listen to. It was youth music, it was our music. But all that's changed these days.

Many parents were raised on the music of Presley and the Beatles. And while some of the most extreme hard rock retains an edge, the majority of what sells in today's record shops is about as threatening (and exciting) as a corporate board meeting. Like it or not, rock is now a multi-million dollar industry geared as much towards selling hamburgers on the radio as it is teenage rebellion. It's no huge surprise that Bon Jovi, Def Leppard or even the new Van Halen can make it to the Number One spot on the charts.


That a band like GNR can do so the first time out of the starting gate, though, is nothing short of a miracle. After a 50-week climb, AFD did just that last August 6th.

"We were in a place called Sandstone, just outside of Kansas City, when we found out," recalls Duff 'Rose' McKagan. "And we were like, 'Ok, we're Number One.' There was no big fanfare. It was during our soundcheck, so we didn't even celebrate or anything." The blond bassist pauses and nonchalantly fingers the lock he's wearing around his neck. "Geffen sent us a cake, though."

Axl Rose, the charismatic frontman whose volatile performances both on and off stage have helped earn the band more notoriety than a platoon of publicists ever could, apparently shares his bandmate's almost icy indifference.

"It's kinda like those Izod shirts that were fashionable once, a while back. We're cool to like now. Six months ago, kids were afraid to like GNR because their parents, teachers, or friends would come down on 'em. When I was on the track (in high school), if you said you liked Alice Cooper, you had to run an extra lap."

"Now it's cool to like us," echoes Duff. "And don't get me wrong, we're all happy and everything that we went Number One, and that so many people like us now. But it's gotten to the point where you walk down the street and you'll see some preppy guy singing 'SCOM' and you'll go 'wait a minute...' "

It was the unexpected success of that single (at press time, #2 and climbing) that kicked AFD into multi-platinum overdrive. Prior to its release, radio play was, at best, limited to a handful of adventurous AOR stations who picked up on "Welcome to the Jungle" because it, along with the band, received exposure in Clint Eastwood's The Dead Pool.

This, coupled with MTV's traditionally slow response, left the Gunners no choice but to build their following through touring with Motley Crue and Aerosmith and self-generated press. The stories of trashed hotel rooms, sexual excess, chemical and police problems cancelled shows and near riots followed the band around like an ugly groupie. GNR meant bad news to many people even before they had a chance to judge the band on its obvious musical merits.

Yet "Sweet Child" had the right combination of hooks and real hard rock credibility to make it the perfect yuppie metal track for people who wanted to look cool. The song, which Axl wrote as a tribute to his longstanding girlfriend Erin (daughter of Don Everly from early rock legends, the Everly Brothers), generated enough listener response as an emphasis track to force radio programmers to play it.

You'd have to imagine that Axl and Co. would be thrilled with the song. You'd have to believe they'd be happy with their label for the way they promoted it. You'd think they'd be ecstatic with the way it was almost universally received. You'd also be dead wrong.

"We're not a product to be sliced up," gripes Duff. "Editing really sucks...that's not what we're all about. ('Sweet Child') was our first experience with a single, so we didn't know what was going on. (The editing) was done behind our backs, and we're not gonna let it happen again."

In fact, it's anybody's guess if GNR will be releasing a follow-up single off the now triple platinum AFD.

"(We've shot) a video for 'Paradise City' in Giants Stadium and at Donington," explains McKagan. "Whether or not we'll release it as a single, I can't really say. They'll take the whole thing or nothing - we're not gonna let them edit this one." Since the song clocks in at just under seven minutes, it appears that Axl, Duff, Slash, Izzy Stradlin and Steve Adler may be gearing up for one more uphill battle.

"We're just a bunch of guys doing what we want, and not kissing anybody's ass while we're doing it," notes Duff in a voice that hints he's had to give this speech one time too many. "Some people can't take this at face value; they think that there's something deep going on. Believe me, there's nothing deep about us. People Magazine wanted to do an article on how America is accepting us as sleazy as we are, so we turned 'em down."

"The press," he continues, slowly shaking his head. "It’s like they expect us to live up to this reputation that they've tagged us with. Well, maybe deep down inside I might feel I have to, to some extent," he notes candidly, but quickly adds, "still, none of us have ever tried to be anything that we weren't. We never wanted to be role models for anyone. When I was 12 or 13, I saw how people like Sid (Vicious) and Darby Crash of the Germs OD'd, and I was smart enough not to do it. I'm just living my life, that's all. If someone is dumb enough to want to try and do something that I or any of my friends do, I think that's their problem. I think they're just being dumb."

"Take a look at Aerosmith. They've been through more shit than we have and they look healthier now than ever. And they're playing great. I've seen them when they sounded like shit, and I can honestly say that I've never heard them sound better, now that they're completely straight."

The lanky bassist pauses and gulps on his beer before adding, "We've never been completely straight on stage yet...but we never go on so (trashed) that we can't put on a good show, regardless of whatever (the press) says."

Izzy adds, "I've got no time for people with that kind of attitude, anyway. The press tries to glamorize us - they make it seem like we're always strung out or trashing a hotel or something, and that's not the case at all. I mean, we're worked really hard to get here, and they choose to ignore that aspect of the band. To me, destroying a hotel room is boring. It's a waste of time and money."

However GNR may feel about the good, the bad and the ugly press they've received, it was the media which first realized GNR's potential, even before AFD was released. And in view of their love/hate relationship with MTV and radio, it was the press that got this particular ball rolling, with favorable coverage beginning in their club days.

Slash admits he'll be glad "when all this hype and press bullshit is over. I don't like 90% of the writers out there. I don't trust 'em. I might slip and say one thing I shouldn't and two months later, I'll see an entire five-page article built around ten seconds of an hour-long interview. After this album, I'll let the other guys deal with the press."

And even though MTV has never gotten entirely behind the GNR juggernaut, the band has agreed to appear on their annual video awards show. After all, they're nominees in the Best New Artist category, alongside Swing Out Sister, Jody Whatley and Buster Poindexter. Still, it's an event the band views with mixed emotions.

"I still feel kind of strange about it," concedes Duff. "The way we're looking at it is that we're spitting in their eye. So many people requested our video that they had to play it. So I guess we get the last laugh."

L.A.'s latest inductees into the Bad Boys Hall Of Fame may well yet have that last laugh. The music industry is littered with the wreckage of too many one-hit wonder bands whose stars shone bright, then burned out, leaving them little more than a footnote in a rock & roll encyclopedia. It's a danger that the band is painfully aware of and determined not to let happen to them.

"We've said all along that we're just a rock & roll band," sighs Duff. "We're aware of what's going on around us - we're not stupid. We're being very careful not to let success go to our heads. If it ever does, we'll be finished and we know it. Five years down the line, where will I be? I could be working in a restaurant."

"Say this is the only record we ever get out," he continues. "Who's going to remember me? We are all very careful. And if nothing else, we went to Number One with our first album. That's something that no one will ever be able to take away from us."

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