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2011.11.XX - Interview with Dj - weekender

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Post by Soulmonster on Thu Nov 17, 2011 7:10 pm

People seem to have a lot to say about Guns N’ Roses these days. “Why bother” and “It’s not the same without the original members” seem to lead the litany of complaints. Then there’s the chronic lateness at concerts — some recent GnR sets have started as late as 10:45 p.m. and went on for more than two-and-a-half hours — and hundreds of articles alone could be written about GnR’s perennially petulant frontman Axl Rose.

But for Dj Ashba, the band — and Rose, for that matter — is much more than all that.

“The one thing people don’t realize about Axl is he is probably one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my life,” the laid-back guitarist told the Weekender from his Houston hotel in early November. “We’re constantly texting each other just the funniest shit. You’d never probably look at him and go, ‘Wow, he’s a funny guy,’ but he actually is.”

Despite the late starts, Ashba “couldn’t be happier” about the current GnR tour, which stops at Mohegan Sun Arena Sunday, Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. with former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach opening.

The reception to the group — which also includes keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Chris Pitman, bassist Tommy Stinson, drummer Frank Ferrer and guitarists Richard Fortus and Ron Thal — has been “insane,” Ashba said.

“Sold out every night … We’re all excited to be here. We’ve been looking forward to touring the States for quite a while now, and the response has been just overwhelming.”

Rose formed Guns N’ Roses with Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan and Steven Adler in Hollywood in 1985. This original lineup went on to release its smash debut “Appetite for Destruction” and “G N’ R Lies” before Adler, who struggled with addiction, was replaced by Matt Sorum. GnR released two “Use Your Illusion” CDs, which debuted in the top two slots of the Billboard charts in 1991. The cover album, “The Spaghetti Incident,” followed in 1993, and exactly 15 years later, the long-awaited and much joked about “Chinese Democracy” ushered in a new era of Guns N’ Roses.

“They’re going to hear everything from ‘Appetite’ to ‘Chinese,’” Ashba said of the current setlist. “We’re doing a massive, massive show, huge production. They’re just going to get blasted by the whole catalog.”

Earlier this year, Ashba, a longtime songwriter/producer in his own right who also plays in Sixx: A.M., the side project of Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx, hinted that a new GnR album could be on the horizon.

“There’s been a lot of talk about (it),” he told the Weekender. “Of course, me being a songwriter/producer, I’m constantly writing around the clock, so I have tons and tons of new stuff, and I know Axl has a lot of new stuff up his sleeve, just a shitload of songs that no one’s ever heard yet, which is really cool.

“I think it’s just a matter of all of us deciding what’s going to be the next move.”

Will that CD be another 15 years in the making?

“No,” Ashba replied with a hearty laugh. “That’s probably the most-asked question.”

Indiana native Ashba moved to Los Angeles at age 19 and cut his teeth with various bands, including BulletBoys, Beautiful Creatures and his solo band, Ashba. In 2006, he and Sixx created Funny Farms Studios and began writing, producing and performing together. The guitarist, Sixx and James Michael formed Sixx: A.M. and released the soundtrack to Sixx’s memoir, “The Heroin Diaries,” which had a hit with “Life Is Beautiful” in 2007. When Robin Finck left GnR to rejoin Nine Inch Nails in 2009, Ashba stepped in.

“In the beginning, it was tough because the Guns N’ Roses fans, I didn’t realize how hardcore they are,” Ashba shared. “You have to win their loyalty — you have to really go out and really give them 200 percent. When you’re stepping into a position like I did, there’s a lot of pressure, a lot of expectations.

“It’s neat going out and winning fans over every night. It’s been a lot of fun for me; it’s definitely some big shoes to fill. I never came in to replace Slash or replace anybody, I just want to do the gig justice.”

Over the course of the past two years, Ashba, whose favorite song to play live is “This I Love” from “Chinese Democracy,” has seen GnR become closer and tighter together when it plays.

“You can sense it on stage. We’re actually up there having an amazing time playing music again,” he said. “I think that’s the No. 1 thing, and I think the fans see us up there having a blast. They see the chemistry on stage.”

When he’s not performing with Guns N’ Roses and Sixx: A.M. or producing other artists, Ashba’s favorite music might come as a surprise to fans.

“My true love, my true, true love is listening to Christmas music all year round,” he said, chuckling. “I can be in the worst mood, and I’ll put on a Christmas song, and it just takes me back to when I was a kid and that feeling that Christmas always gave you. Those feelings come boiling back up to the top and put a smile on my face — the day usually goes pretty good from there on.”

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