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Welcome to Appetite for Discussion -- a Guns N' Roses fan forum!

Please feel free to look around the forum as a guest, I hope you will find something of interest. If you want to join the discussions or contribute in other ways then you need to become a member. We especially welcome anyone who wants to share documents for our archive or would be interested in translating or transcribing articles and interviews.

Registering is free and easy.


2015.09.16 - The Final Mix Show - Interview with Tom Zutaut

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2015.09.16 - The Final Mix Show - Interview with Tom Zutaut  Empty 2015.09.16 - The Final Mix Show - Interview with Tom Zutaut

Post by Blackstar Tue Nov 27, 2018 12:13 pm


Tom Zutaut: You know, Guns N' Roses scared people. I mean, you know, Mötley Crüe were like the third rate Kiss that were the laughingstock of LA. You know, Guns N' Roses were these like dangerous drug addicts that everyone was scared of and, you know, MTV vowed from the day the album came out that they would never play something like Guns N' Roses ever, and to not even bother badgering them or talking to them. Radio refused to play Guns N' Roses. I mean, at least with Mötley Crüe, I mean radio wanted to play it, but the Elektra employees were trying to keep it off the radio because it wasn't their priority. In this case, radio literally said, "This band is too dangerous, we can't play it, and they don't have any hits."

So, you know, I called up friends and got them on tours. Ian Astbury was a fan of the band and Guns N' Roses were dying on the vine. I talked to Ian and said, "Hey man, I got this new band. If you guys take him out on tour, it'll be really awesome." And he did. And you know, and I mean lo and behold, you know, later on Use Your Illusions when Steven Adler, you know, was out of the band, you know, Matt Sorum from The Cult came in and played drums and they totally hooked up on that tour. You know, the Cult tour ended and, you know, I got them on some Mötley Crüe dates and just, you know, paying it forward, you know, trying to keep them out on the road. And you know, the record kept selling by word of mouth. And of course, you know, in today's world 200,000 would seem like a lot, but, you know, we're at 200,000 units with no airplay, no MTV, no nothing.

Interviewer: Just by creating the demand, virtually supply and demand, right? You're out there creating the buzz and the band was creating their own buzz and they have no choice but to start like/

Zutaut: You know, it's great because you put them in front of a couple thousand people or 5,000 people and hundreds of people in that city went out and bought the CD the next day. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am. So I get called up into the president of Geffen's office and he looks at me and he says, "Appetite for Destruction is over. There's no debate, no discussion. The record's done. I'm instructing you as the president of the company, you're not allowed to go into anyone's office and badger them about Guns N' Roses anymore. The record's done." So I looked at him and I said, "Well actually, the record's just beginning, I mean, you know, this record still got sell like 5 or 10 more million. I mean, you know, 200,000, that's just like a few people like going to the concert and getting excited. You know, we're not done yet." He said, "You got to listen," he said, "Radio's not going to play it, MTV's vowed they'll never play it. It's done and I'm instructing you to go do demos and make their next record." And I said to him, I said, "Well," I said, "Actually it's a good thing that I work for David Geffen and not for you, because I'm not going to listen to what you have to say and I'm gonna go see David Geffen."

Interviewer: Who was that that just told you that, what you just said?

Zutaut: A guy named Ed Rosenblatt. He's actually a great guy. He was like the Solomon who kept everyone stable at Geffen Records because we were a bunch of crazy people working there. It was like, you know, David's playpen. I mean, you think, you know, Brian Wilson in the sandbox is weird, you know. Geffen was this crazy place filled with like lots of A-type personalities who kicked ass at whatever they did. And man, people could could get into a big fight there if they disagreed on things. But anyway, so I went up to David and, you know, I made my pitch and he looked at me and he said, "Well," he goes, "What is the one thing that I could do to make a difference in this situation?" He goes, "On one hand I have you, you know, the ears and soul of the music of the company, and then I have the people who market and sell it and promote it." And he goes, "Because right now they want me to fire you because they feel like you've unmercifully beat them up over Guns N' Roses."

Interviewer: I love it.

Zutaut: And I said, "Well," I said, "I guess you could fire me, but then you wouldn't sell 10 million Guns N' Roses records because you walk away from this record." He's like, "Well, what's the one thing I can do?" I said, "If you put the Welcome to the Jungle video on MTV, man, the record will literally explode overnight." And he said, "You really think that?" I said, "No, I don't think it, I know it." I said, "There's some things I know and some things I think, but this I know." And he said, "OK." So about a day later, he called me up into his office. He looked at me. He goes, "You're a liar." He goes, "You lied to me." And I said, "What are you talking about?" He goes, "You didn't tell me that MTV had vowed to never play this band," and I said, "You didn't ask." And he said, "Well," he said, "Let me explain something to you. Do you understand how it works? MTV survives because these like right wing conservatives who own these gigantic cable companies like John Malone and the Dolans that run Cablevision," and he names all these people who are probably like in his circle of like billionaires and who owned these cable companies that service millions of homes. So he says, "Here's the thing, this band is very dangerous and TV feels that if they put this band on the channel, if John Malone decides to drop MTV off of his networks, they lose like 10 million viewers overnight." So he said, "This is like the impossible task," but he said, "In spite of that obstacle," he said, "MTV are going to play that video one time, so," he says, "I will have honored my commitment to you. You asked me what was the one thing that I could do." And he goes, "They vowed to never play it, but they're gonna play it at 4:00 AM New York time. It'll be 1:00 AM in LA on Sunday night. They figured John Malone won't be watching then." And whatever the other guys' names were, they run these conservative cable organizers, companies that pipe stuff into people's homes. But anyway, so I thought, "Well, I guess the band and I'll have a party, we'll, like, stay up and watch it on the screen, see what it looks like." And I was like almost fully prepared now because there was nowhere else to go, really, other than David Geffen, it's down to this one play on MTV, like the entire fate of rock'n'roll and certainly Guns N' Roses-

Interviewer: -seconds on the clock, the Hail Mary of rock and roll, you know.

Zutaut: Yeah, that's it, man. It's like, you know, one second left and, you know, the quarterback is like back there dancing around, you know, the clock is gone and, you know, literally if he gets the pass off, once that either gets caught or drops, it's done.

Interviewer1: Yeah.

Interviewer2: So you had how much time to prepare for this? Like, was it a few days later they were going to air it?

Zutaut: This was like on a Tuesday and I had to wait till Sunday. So, you know, I was pretty antsy, man, just sort of on pins and needles.

Interviewer: Did you try to get word out? Did you try to promote the fact that it was going on at that time?

Zutaut: Oh yeah. I mean, you know, we put the word out wherever we could, but there was no Internet then.

Interviewer: No Facebook or anything.

Zutaut: Yeah, there's really no way other than word of mouth.

Interviewer: Right, right.

Zutaut: There were some press people, you know, that could put blurbs out, but by the time they got printed, it was over, you know, so it was really a different kind of world. It wasn't like MTV was gonna promote the fact that they were gonna play this video. So, you know, we finally get to Sunday and you know, Guns N' Roses were, you know, living in what we called the Hell House and, you know, there was a TV there, fortunately. So we go and, you know, we all hang out and watch this video and it's a great party, you know, like, you know, throwing stuff up in the air. We see it, it was amazing. We're probably up till about 8:00 AM and so, you know, I got back to, you know, my place and crashed out and at about, you know, three in the afternoon, I finally woke up. And you know, at that point we had like cell phones that were like the, the size of gigantic brick, right.

Interviewer: Like Wall Street.

Zutaut: Yeah, exactly. So I noticed I had like a bunch of missed calls. And I was like, "Wow!" So I called my office and like, "Where are you, man? People are looking for you. Everybody's looking for you." And I said, "I was up late last night." You know, one of the great things about doing A&R is that you can stay up all night and sleep all day and still get your work done. You know, but anyway, so I got into the office and the Head of Promotion was waiting for me and this is a guy who told me Guns N' Roses would never get put on the radio and all that good kind of stuff. And I thought, "Well, I wonder... he's trying to get me fired a few days ago and complaining about me and getting the company to walk away from Guns N' Roses, and now he wants to see me." So - I swear man - I go into his office and this guy, he turns red, his eyes are bulging like a monster and he's, like, jibbering and I can't even understand what he's saying, you know? Finally I decipher what he's saying is, MTV's switchboard blew up and caught on fire.

Interviewer: Literally?

Zutaut: Literally. And their phones are down, but somebody called me to tell me that they never got so many requests for video in the history of the channel. And they never knew it was even possible that if like X thousands of phone calls came into a switchboard simultaneously, it would blow it up. Because back then, you know, it wasn't a digital like thing. You know, it was like, you know, all wires and circuits and stuff, you know, a switchboard was like a, you know, it wasn't all through a computer. It was like a physical thing, and that physical thing like caught on fire from all the phone calls raised, all those electric impulses coming in at once. And they added the video and, you know, the record went from 200,000 to 1,000,000 in like 10 days. It was the most insane thing that anyone ever seen. And it was so undeniable, the response was so overwhelming, that, you know, it changed MTV's opinion. I mean, they were like, "Well, we gotta get in on this," because, I mean, you gotta imagine that people were like literally watching MTV, waiting for this video, and then one kid would see it and just freak out and call out his friends and, you know, people were having parties to watch it. It changed the course of history, you know,  and it just proves that if you believe, you know, you can overcome the obstacles, even one as great as MTV saying they would never play the band. And it's kind of funny now because when MTV meant something and it really was music television, I mean Guns N' Roses was one of the things that put MTV over the top and made it a 'have to do kind of thing'.

Interviewer: Oh for sure.

Zutaut: And then of course, you know, we made the video for Sweet Child O' Mine. And, you know, I'd given, you know, we basically had a Head of Pop Promotion and a Head of Rock Promotion and this guy who handled MTV was like the pop guy. But then the rock guy, you know, I thought he was going to be a big supporter of the band and then he wasn't because he couldn't get radio to play it, but he at least liked the band. But I'd given him a sealed envelope and inside that envelope I had written that Sweet Child O' Mine will be a number one hit on Top 40 record. And we made this video. That track exploded. It went on Top 40 radio and it went to number one. And the day it went to number one, you know, I went down to that guy's office and I said, "Hey dude," I said, "You got that sealed letter I gave you?" He goes, "Yeah, I've been wondering about that for months, like for a year, because," he goes, "You wouldn't let me open it, so it's still sitting in there, sealed." I said, "Why don't you open it up and read it right now?" He opens it up, he reads it, he goes, "How the fuck did you know? How did you know?"

Interviewer: You were some sort of sorcerer.

Zutaut: And I just said, "I don't know." But the one thing I didn't know was that Guns N' Roses were gonna be huge and they're gonna have a number one hit single with Sweet Child O' Mine, cuz that was the song that finally said to me they were ready to make the record. But I buried it at the end of side two because radio people, being how they are, they'll just go to that first. And you know that wouldn't have been the way for people to discover Guns N' Roses. The way to discover was through Welcome to the Jungle.

Interviewer: One thing I don't get is, visually Mötley Crüe seemed a lot more shocking than Guns N' Roses. Why do you think you got more resistance with Guns N' Roses and not Mötley Crüe?

Zutaut: Um, you know, I could never really figure that out.

Interviewer1: Do you think it was like their antics and their street life, so to speak? Because they were always up, they were always getting into something and, like you said, drug use and that kind of thing. You think it was like their reputation?

Interviewer2: Nikki Sixx was no angel.

Interviewer3: But were people afraid of them?

Zutaut: People were literally afraid of Guns N' Roses. You know, people weren't afraid of Mötley Crüe. I mean, you know, Mötley Crüe were rebellious and, you know, they had antics and they did crazy stuff.

Interviewer: Yeah, they did kind of dress like chicks though.

Zutaut: But somehow they were less threatening, you know, believe it or not. And, you know, their songs actually are very hooky and very poppy and very commercial in a way. You know, Nikki Sixx writes hit songs, you know. Guns N' Roses obviously had as many, or more, hits than Mötley Crüe, but, you know there was this thing about Guns N' Roses people were deathly afraid of them. I mean, they were afraid to look at them. I mean, one of the funniest days at Geffen would be when Guns N' Roses were rolling by, everyone would close the doors to their offices and hide.

Interviewer: Seems so ridiculous.

Interviewer2: You know, I don't know if you know this, but Mickey Finn, former singer of Jet Boy actually played some early shows with Guns N' Roses. Were you afraid of them, Mickey?

Mickey Finn: No. I mean, because I was friends with all the guys and, you know, we were peers in the music scene and I just didn't see him that way at all. I mean, they were all super cool guys and fun to hang out with.

Interviewer: They even came to stay at your house even, right?

MF: Yeah. Yeah. We were kind of ruling the San Francisco scene and we came to LA and opened for Guns N' Roses and Poison and L.A. Guns and those bands, and they would come up to San Francisco and play with us.

Zutaut: We met back then?

MF: Yeah, absolutely.

Zutaut: Very cool.

MF: We wound up signing with MCA and we had our trials and tribulations. But no, I didn't... You know, it's kind of shocking to me to hear that people were that terrified of Guns N' Roses because they weren't big, muscular, scary guys, so to speak-

Zutaut: I could never, like, put my finger on it, but, you know-

MF: They were reckless, though. They were super reckless.

Zutaut: Absolutely.

MF: You never knew what they were gonna do next, you know.

Zutaut: I mean, there was an RV like for dressing room at one of the video shoots, and, I mean, Slash disappeared with the RV in the middle of the shoot and turned up like a day later. The thing was all bashed and dented. And, you know, I mean, they were crazy like that. I mean, we're making a video and all of a sudden, you know, the dressing room is gone and Slash is gone, only to be found a day later. The thing looked like it had been squeezed through parked cars.

Interviewer: Oh my God.

MF: But somehow that kind of behavior worked for them.  It doesn't always for every band, it definitely didn't work for us. There was a few hotel thrashings and that kind of thing, and which we got totally screwed for and in trouble and huge bills and stuff. But I was always hearing about stuff with those guys and they could just get away with it for some reason. I don't know.

Interviever: Wow.

Zutaut: Yeah, it's it's amazing. I mean, you know, your band was great too, you know, you were just missing someone like me to push that company over the edge.

MF: Exactly.

Zutaut: It's really, you know, it's like a lot of the success stories, you know, there's that one person behind the scenes that just, you know, doesn't give up and just keeps pushing it over the edge. And you know, it's really fortunate that, you know, David Geffen encouraged the sort of rebellious behavior that allowed people like me and John Koladner and Gary Gersh to push things over the edge. But, you know, a lot of companies were way more corporate than Geffen.

MF: Yeah, definitely.

Zutaut: And, you know, people didn't have that sort of freedom. It's like, you know, if someone said it's over, it's over.

Interviewer: Absolutely. Hey, before we get a break, just wanted to ask you about this real briefly. We've never actually talked about this, but Metallica, I know they were on like an independent before they got to Electra. So were you, what was your involvement with them? I mean, did you?

Zutaut: Well, it's, it's really a funny story, but I got a phone call from their attorney and Lars and basically they called me and because of what I had done, you know, with Mötley Crüe and Dokken and a band called Riot, you know, they knew I was like a rock [?]?

MF: I remember Riot.

Zutaut: And yeah, Swords and Tequila, Fire Down Under. Anyway, basically they were in this like lawsuit and they needed a couple of $100,000 like yesterday. And basically they were so desperate to get off of - I think it was Megaforce. There's a revived Megaforce now, that's a whole different animal and they're putting out a lot of interesting records and it's not the same sort of setup, the one that Metallica we're trying to escape from. And that was one of those things that, I mean, you know, I felt like it was just, you know, like, you know, a gold bullion bar falling in your lap and, you know, to me spending a couple hundred grand to extricate them from Megaforce was a no brainer. I knew at that time that I was going to be leaving Elektra, so I was begging them to wait, but because of their legal situation, they had to jump. And so, you know, basically I signed them and brought them into Electra and I turned them over to a guy named Michael Alago to actually be their day-to-day A&R guy because I knew I was leaving. And the band knew that I was gonna be leaving and, you know, I'd get a call from Lars or Kirk every now and then and I'd give them some advice and help them out even after I left. But the other thing is there's a great Head of Promotion, a guy named Mike Bone,  and, you know, knowing that I was leaving the band and Mike Bone's [?] and Mike Bone was going to put them on every radio station in America, they're going to have their big breakthrough. And then they then hooked up with Bernstein and Manchin Q Prime. And so it wasn't like I was leaving them in a bad position. You know, I was mainly bummed that I couldn't have them be my first signing at Geffen.

Interviewer: Right. So you left Elektra to go to Geffen?

Zutaut: Yeah.

Interviewer: OK, cool.

Zutaut: And this was about three months before I was going to leave and it wasn't 100%, but it was like 99% because Electra was no longer an LA based company. I didn't really want to move to New York and it was being run out in New York. But my my good buddy, Mike Bone, was one of the main guys in New York so, you know, I hung around for a while, but, you know, ultimately it became a New York based companies with different kinds of priorities. And, you know, I signed a band called The Cure to Elektra and the credit for that was given to someone else and-

Interviewer: You left them with a couple nice parting gifts, didn't you?

Zutaut: Yeah, I left them with some really nice gifts. You know, Public Image, you know,

[cut a section not focused on GN'R]

Interviewer: So, Tom, let me ask you this. You're batting 1000 as far as being able to pick bands are going to be successful. Was there ever a band where you were like, "No fucking way are these guys ever going to make it?" And then they went on to actually do something. That you passed on and maybe wish you hadn't, but were they surprised you and actually became successful anyways?

Zutaut: Um, Poison.

Interviewer: Really?

Zutaut: Yeah. I passed on Poison. You know, I thought they were just like a big bunch of posers.

Interviewer: Well, Slash actually almost was a guitar player in Poison.

Zutaut: Yeah, he auditioned and then, you know, he thought there were a bunch of posers too. But, you know, it's really funny because, you know, I actually respect those guys now and I view it as it was kind of a dumb sort of thing. But yeah, I went to the studio and heard their stuff and, you know, I thought that they were more in it for being rock stars than in it for the music. But then, you know, when I heard that song Every Rose Has Its Thorn, you know, it was like a very touching song and one of those classic, yeah, 80s hair bands-

Interviewer: They definitely, they came into their own. I mean, I have to agree, they were posers, you know, back then and the songwriting was, you know, not so intellectual but, you know, they had good work ethic.

Interviwer2: Yeah, Bret's work ethic-

Interviewer: And they became a great band. They became a great band, you know, can't take anything away from them.


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2015.09.16 - The Final Mix Show - Interview with Tom Zutaut  Empty Re: 2015.09.16 - The Final Mix Show - Interview with Tom Zutaut

Post by Soulmonster Thu May 04, 2023 8:50 am

Finished transcribing this interview.
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