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1988-05-DD - Interview with Axl, Slash, Izzy and Duff

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1988-05-DD - Interview with Axl, Slash, Izzy and Duff

Post by Soulmonster on Fri Jun 17, 2011 9:57 pm

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Soulmonster
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Re: 1988-05-DD - Interview with Axl, Slash, Izzy and Duff

Post by Soulmonster on Fri Jul 24, 2015 6:20 pm

A type out of this interview:

If you don’t know better, you’ll swear that Guns N’ Roses are just another band from that LA metal scene, trying to be the newest and sleaziest party badasses on the block, hoping eventually to form a corporation so they can buy shopping malls and stuff — and not knowing a decent rock n’ roll riff if it comes and hits them in the face.

Before I moved to LA, over a year ago, the hype machine had already been running full-throttle for Guns N’ Roses, and although I couldn’t have told you anything about the band’s music at the time, it wasn’t hard to figure out that the cover of their debut LP, Appetite for Destruction, had managed to offend lots of people with its rape imagery (so much so that Geffen released a second cover).

Of course, word was filtering up from the street about them as well. When the band played a huge benefit concert with an all-star heavy metal ensemble dubbed: “The Party Ninjas”, they reportedly blew everyone else off the stage. When Alice Cooper recently played in Long Beach, three members of GN’R joined him onstage for the encore, Under My Wheels, which was said to be the only real highlight of the entire show. (Cooper subsequently took the band into the studio to re-record the song.) Of course, none of this may sound like any big deal, considering the competition, but then I ran into this guy I know who was leaving a party early so he could see Guns N’ Roses play.

“I didn’t know you liked heavy metal,” I said. (I mean, this guy’s favourite band of all time is Mission of Burma). “Guns N’ Roses aren’t heavy metal,” he replied. “Believe me, they aren’t.”

And you know something? He was right. Oh, sure, Appetite for Destruction seems socially irresponsible, sexist, and totally reprehensible at times. But you know what else? The music is great. These guys wear their influences on their sleeves like a banner – and all the influences are obviously there, not just Aerosmith, Led Zep, early Alice Cooper, and Black Sabbath, but also the Dolls, Stones, Ramones, Cheap Trick, Iggy and the Pistols, as well as Bo Diddley, whose classic riff creates GN’R’s Mr Brownstone. These guys have been known to dust off Heartbreak Hotel or Jumpin’ Jack Flash for live performances. The dual lead guitars of Slash and Izzy Stradlin are much more interested in playing melodies and rock’n’roll riffs than demonstrating their Eddie Van Halenisms — and they’re both pretty incredible as a result. The rhythm team of bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Steven Adler has obviously listened to stuff like the MC5 somewhere along the way. And lead singer/band focal point W Axl Rose — Axl, for short — is a man of more voices than any hard-rock singer in recent memory. This is a record that may actually make you want to play air guitar again.

Something else is different about Guns N’ Roses. Although their songs are about the decadence one associates with Hollywood, there also seems to be a strange, moralistic overtone to some of them. Or at least a song like Welcome to the Jungle reflects what the porno scene around the newsstand I frequent really feels like more than any song I can think of.

Guns N’ Roses seem to be writing about the things they see in the city, but they don’t necessarily glamourise. Mr Brownstone can be interpreted as much an anti-heroin song as it can be pro, and, hell, you can say the same thing about the Velvet’s Underground’s Heroin. Even the excesses that are celebrated in It’s So Easy seem to be delivered with a passive indifference. A steady diet of decadence can get pretty boring, or worse. And lyrics like “Take me down to Paradise City, where the grass is green and girls are pretty” aren’t exactly your standard celebration of sleaze, while some of Axl’s love songs (Sweet Child O’ Mine, Rocket Queen) reveal a beating heart beneath the hardcore exterior. And besides, if they really are a bunch of scumbags … well, we didn’t stop listening to Paint It, Black just because Keith Richards stuck spikes in his veins.

Still, there is this image and reputation that have to be dealt with. People at Warner Brothers, the band’s parent label, wrote them nasty letters about the offensive album cover. These guys even have a bad reputation among their peers, and can’t get on certain tours as a result. AC/DC did offer them an opening slot, but wanted to hold their pay as security for three weeks, and then planned to kick them off the tour at the end of the grace period; they declined the offer. The organisers of this summer’s forthcoming Monsters of Rock extravaganza (featuring Van Halen, Judas Priest, Metallica, etc.) wouldn’t have any part of Guns. “I mean, what am I going to do?” asks guitarist Slash, whose eyes make only rare appearances from beneath his Joey Ramone-like bush of hair. “Get the bassist from Van Halen or Judas Priest strung out on something? We’re just a bunch of kids, you know.”

Three of these kids – Slash, lzzy,and Duff – are sitting in a quiet Mexican restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, conversing with an older dude who likes their music but doesn’t understand their image. (Axl, maintaining his mysterious veneer, isn’t here for this session, though he has promised to call later.) They’ve been in and out of bands since age 14, which was approximately 10 years ago. None of them are originally from LA, though Slash moved here from England with his parents years ago. Axl and Izzy both migrated from Indiana, while Duff hails from Seattle.

The band formed to play a $50 gig in that latter city three years ago – after hitchhiking across the desert subsequent to their car breaking down – and carried on from that point. A year later they were signed, and, lacking a manager, proceeded to negotiate their own contract, a most uncommon occurrence in this biz. They claim to be a real band in that they’re all the best of friends, create everything together as a joint effort, and really concentrate on their music. And — I hate to blow any illusions here, but – they’re nice guys (“You’re not going to print that, are you?” one of their publicists asked the morning after) … or at least they’re putting on a hell of an act for me. Sure, they like to drink a lot, but then so do the Replacements and Dean Martin.

So why the “bad boys” rap?

“I don’t know,” says Slash. “Because we drink and do whatever, and we’re just basically real people to the point that I think it almost offends other people.”

“I’m immediately embarrassed when that image comes up,” says Duff. “A lot of bands go: ‘Good, we got the bad-boy title this week,’ but with us, it’s like we’re just a rock’n’roll band. A lot of things go along with that that we take full advantage of at times. We were doing all that stuff before we were in the band, though. We didn’t try to create any kind of image. It was created for us. Decadence was laid on this band.”
Appetite For Destruction – full stream

“Well, some of those early parties were pretty brash,” laughs Izzy.

“You’ve heard some of those old Stones stories, right?” asks Slash. “It was sort of the epitome of that. The thing is, we don’t take shit from people, and we’ve never conformed to anybody else’s standards, and most of the people we had to deal with at the time, we’d tell, ‘Fuck you.’ So it was like ‘Oh, my God!’”

“But it wasn’t a bratty thing,” Duff explains. “It’s just what we were used to, but the industry and record company weren’t.”

“If I remember correctly, they wanted to drop us at one point,” says Izzy. “About a year after they signed us.”

Slash: “Well, what happened is, we got restless. We get signed, they give us a bunch of money, put us in an apartment, we can’t go out and do any gigs – so we fucking got bored, and started doing a lot of drugs, drinking a lot, tearing up houses. We had $7,500 apiece – which was unheard of for us.”

Izzy: “We partied hard for about two weeks.”

Slash: “And just about every single manager that we met was scared shitless of us. And it was bad. We couldn’t help it. We were bored. So we started to fuck up. But we finally got it together and gave them what they wanted.”

Izzy: “So now they all love us.”

What about the rape charges?

Slash: “That was no big deal. What happened is Axl and me were with these two girls, and they got in a sexual situation and they decided to file rape charges. Me and Axl had to borrow suits one day to go down to the police station and turn ourselves in over this crap – and when it came down to the wire, they dropped the charges because it was all bogus. We didn’t fucking do anything to them.”

Izzy: “It turned out that our drummer had fucked one of their mothers, so it was a complicated story.”

Do they feel an association with the metal scene?

Izzy: “We have metal guitar strings. That’s the only similarity we have.”

Slash: “It’s like this new cliche to say, ‘We’re not a heavy metal band. We’re a rock’n’roll band.’ Poison and everyone are saying it, so I can’t even say that any more. But the truth of the matter is when rock’n’roll was young and stuff, the bands were real, the people were real and sincere – the only thing that was fucked up was the business itself. But now to sell, bands conform to what the record company wants, and the magazines are conforming to what’s selling, so they get together to create like this whole bullshit fad. I mean, you look at it, and just go, ‘Fuck, it’s so unreal.’ I mean, obviously we’re a product of what we’ve grown up with, regardless of what it is. But it’s scary because the next generation of rock’n’roll – it’s already getting to be this way – is going to be a bunch of morons, because these bands aren’t doing anything with it that’s interesting or even educational on a rock’n’roll level. It’s all garbage.

“I mean, you can’t be a rock ‘n’ roll band, and only have your roots go back five years. What the fuck is that? As a result, now we have bands like Kingdom Come, and their Led Zeppelin … ”

Izzy: “… regurgitation.”

The most ironic thing about this interview is that these guys ended up being really likeable, Johnny Thunders fetishes and all. They’re passionate about certain music that I once felt that way about, and they’re awfully non-jaded for all their worldliness. And all indications pointed to them being incredible assholes.

Duff: “What sticks in the back of my head most of the time when I do interviews is why would anybody want to know about me and what ticks inside my head. I don’t understand that because it’s just a rock’n’roll band. We’re just playing.”

Slash: “In the general scheme of things, us and other bands are pretty insignificant when you look at the rest of the world. And for bands to think that they’re the centre of the universe just makes me sick. Basically, rock’n’roll is like an aphrodisiac for people who have everyday jobs and shit, and their one stab at total freedom and anarchy and whatever is to listen to rock’n’roll. But if we faded out tomorrow and Guns N’ Roses faded out tomorrow, no one’s really going to give a shit [everyone laughs].”

Duff: “Also, it’s like we’ve played some big places, and all the people are going nuts, and we’ll look at each other, and it’s like, ‘What is this all about?’ And then doing interviews and stuff, people will get really serious and in your face – so you’ll get back in their face, ‘Why would you want to know this? This is ridiculous.’ And maybe it’s a band that’s different than the ones that have come along in awhile, which I think we are. But, then again, to get so into it, and to think that you’re … ”

Izzy: “… it … ”

Duff: “… and something like the Persian Gulf doesn’t matter … ”

As I said, very likeable.

A PHONE CALL FROM AXL:

So, I’m told you’re out of control.

“Me? Well, out of their control, maybe.”

Do you think the record company has you manufacturing rebellion?

“It’s kind of weird, because we are just being ourselves, but at the same time, these ‘bad boy’ images tend to sell. So it’s being capitalised on, and I think the industry may not know how to deal with it because they’ve been dealing with bands as a package for years. But then there are bands that profess some type of image that they live and lead, but it’s not something that they actually do. They’re more apt to stay home. I stay home a lot just so I don’t go out and get on a roll that I don’t want to necessarily lead me to wherever it may.”

Heavy metal?

“We like a lot of forms of music. What came out on that record are songs we’ve written that we’ve had the most fun with. We don’t consider it heavy metal, but hard rock. We recently did two shows in Anaheim in which we did some country-type stuff, and it went over really well. We’ve got acoustic stuff ready for the next record, and I think we’ll have a pretty broad range of stuff to give the public — but it won’t be lacking the loud guitars because that’s something I’m a fan of. Right now, like my favourite songs are Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson and Fab by George Harrison – so I try to stay open to all kinds of stuff. It’s not cool in the rock’n’roll world to like George Michael, but he’s done some great stuff on this last record.”

On It’s So Easy:

“It is. If you want to like disappear for a while, and then get back into the scene a little bit, you’re back in the first night out, whether you want to be or not. It’s already there – 200 people in your face with this and that. ‘Come and do some blow, I’ve got some heroin … ’ You can choose to do it, and if you don’t, it’s kind of weird. But it can get a little depressing.”

On responsibility:

“It kind of surprised me to see so many kids coming to the show. Nothing against kids, but we didn’t write our songs with anyone in mind really other than the people we were writing them about and the Hollywood scene. And in Hollywood, most of the clubs were 21 and over, so we weren’t really writing for the younger kids. I’m not encouraging a 13-year-old kid to go and do drugs. We’re just writing about something that happened in our life. It’s strange that’s who comes to the concerts and stuff, and I wonder where all the older people are, but, then again, they go to Bruce Springsteen concerts because I’m not writing about the things he writes about. I’m not writing about having a job in the midwest and stuff.”

Other fab facts:

He writes about “things that really happened”; his steady girlfriend (the subject of Sweet Child O’ Mine) is famed brother Don Everly’s daughter; he plays piano; and he started singing in church at the age of five but never wanted to be a singer because he didn’t like his voice.

And the notorious album cover? “It was a postcard called Appetite for Destruction I found and submitted as a joke, and the other guys liked it. I’d originally seen it in a book, and I liked the artwork because I’m a fan of those underground, strange, X-rated comics. And it got turned into us condoning rape and stuff.”

“I can’t believe everyone made such a big deal out of a postcard,” says Izzy.

Slash cons me into driving him and his girlfriend home (he actually lives in a TraveLodge motel) to Hermosa Beach. He tells me that, being naive at first to celebrity status (“We used to have to look for drugs, now people force them on us”), he eventually had to move outside of Hollywood just to keep things under control. He gets me lost on the California freeways for over two hours. “I’m really sorry, man. I’m always wasted when I leave Hollywood, so I forget.” We both agree that almost every song on the heavy metal station that’s playing sounds alike, and that Judas Priest’s Johnny B Goode doesn’t sound anything like Chuck Berry.
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