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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.


1998.01.DD - Press Kit for "117 Degrees" (Izzy)

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1998.01.DD - Press Kit for "117 Degrees" (Izzy) Empty 1998.01.DD - Press Kit for "117 Degrees" (Izzy)

Post by Blackstar Tue Feb 25, 2020 6:47 pm

117 Degrees
Biography & Info


Says singer-songwriter-guitarist Izzy Stradlin of the recording philosophy behind his new album, 117˚ (Geffen Records), "At the end of the day, if it sounds good, don't screw with it." The result is a no-nonsense rock 'n' roll record that draws from many styles - metal, punk, rockabilly, blues, country, surf. Despite Stradlin's lengthy visits abroad while the disc was gestating, the songs generally reflect life in middle-American Lafayette, Indiana, where he was raised and still lives. "The album is totally random," he comments. "It's just about situations I've been in over the past few years. That's always how I've approached songwriting - no big statement, just telling it like it is. Otherwise you take all the fun out of it." (Release Date: March 10, 1998)

* Stradlin was a co-founding member of, and a principal songwriter for, Guns N' Roses. He left the band in November 1991.

* He released Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds in 1992 to warm critical reception. The album spawned two Top 10 Rock radio hits: "Shuffle It All" and "Somebody Knockin'." Stradlin also went on the road with the Ju Ju Hounds, touring the world twice over.

* After returning home in mid-1993, he began a period of sporadic recording, traveling (to Europe, the Caribbean and South America, with extended stays in Spain and Scandinavia), and racing ('70s-era BMWs and Alpha Romeos on the quarter-mile oval track he built himself). By 1996, he'd begun assembling songs for a new album.

* 117˚ features former Georgia Satellites guitarist Rick Richards, who was also a member of the Ju Ju Hounds; former Reverend Horton Heat drummer Taz Bentley; and bassist Duff McKagan, who played with Stradlin in Guns N' Roses. It was produced by Stradlin, Eddie Ashworth (Sublime, Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds) and Bill Price (Sex Pistols, the Clash) and recorded at Rumbo Recorders in Canoga Park, Calif.; Matrix studios in London; the Complex in Santa Monica, Calif.; and Caribbean Sound Basin in Trinidad.


Izzy Stradlin wrote 12 of the 14 songs on his new album, 117˚ (Geffen Records), produced or co-produced the entire disc, and even co-mixed the tracks. Of course, he also sang and played guitar. Asked if he's got control issues, he says: "I've been down that road, and it's just a lot of aggravation. It's not worth it. At the end of the day, if it sounds good, don't screw with it."

This no-bullshit attitude is a constant for Stradlin. He says he picked up the guitar in 1983 - after having played drums since he was a kid - so he could write songs. What motivated him to write? "I wanted to make money," he laughs. "Songwriters make more money than drummers." He displayed similar cut-to-the-chase resolve in 1991 when he walked away from Guns N' Roses, which he'd co-founded six years earlier and for which he'd co-written numerous hits. Life in the biggest rock band on the planet had just gotten too complicated.

A year later, he resurfaced with Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds. Rolling Stone called it "a ragged, blues-drenched and thoroughly winning solo debut" (Oct. 10, 1992). Words like "simple," "intuitive" and "raw" appeared consistently in reviews of the album. Several years have passed since then (during which Stradlin essentially returned to "normal" life), but his approach to making music remains rough and ready.  He says of recording 117˚ (released March 10, 1998): "The sessions were real casual. I had the songs worked out on cassette, basic acoustic recordings. We'd jam through 'em a little bit, get the feel right, work on the arrangements. Nothing was written down and there was no strict style of playing. We just did whatever worked."

And through the disc has a cohesive band feel, Stradlin was equally relaxed about personnel, calling on Guns colleague Duff McKagan, former Reverend Horton Heat drummer Taz Bentley, and Ju Ju Hound Rick Richards (who initially made his mark as guitarist for the Georgia Satellites). With typical modesty, Stradlin calls Richards - whose distinctive leads, solos, slide and backup vocals are all over the album - "the real six-string maestro" on the project.

117˚ is a no-nonsense rock and roll record that draws from many styles - metal, punk, rockabilly, blues, country, surf. Despite Stradlin's lengthy visits to Europe, the Caribbean and Central America while the album was gestating, the songs reflect life in the decidedly unpretentious locale of Lafayette, Indiana, where he was raised and still lives.

"It was cool growing up there," he says. "There's a courthouse and a college [Purdue University], a river and railroad tracks. It's a small town, so there wan't much to do. We rode bikes, smoked pot, got into trouble - it was pretty 'Beavis and Butt-Head,' actually."

His folks and neighbors had extensive record collections. By third grade Stradlin had discovered Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd. Radio exposed him to Alice Cooper and Led Zeppelin, though he says the first record he bought was Vanity Fair's 1970 AM pop hit "Hitchin' a Ride."

The biggest musical factor in Stradlin's young life, however, was his grandmother: "My dad's mother played drums. She had a band with her friends - these old ladies who'd play swing and jazz at parties. I knew by second grade that I wanted to play drums, too, and the idea of being in a band seemed pretty treat. I'd watch 'The Partridge Family' and think, "'That looks good. I'll do that.'"

Stradlin talked his folks into buying him a drum kit. He didn't take to lessons, but he taught himself enough to show his parents he was serious. They soon upgraded his "$20, piece of shit" kit to something more respectable. His father, it turns out, saw other uses for the new drum set as well.

Stradlin recalls: "My dad built a bar in our basement. He sold insurance, and on the weekends all his work buddies would come over to get drunk and party. There would always be a band, and while I was working the keg, they'd use my drum kit. The guy who played drums would teach me stuff. I had a guitar, too, at one point, and I dicked around with it, but I always went back to drums."

In high school, Stradlin and some friends began playing in his garage. Axl Rose was the singer. "I met Axl in drivers' ed," Stradlin relates. "We were long-haired guys in high school. You were either a jock or a stoner. We weren't jocks, so we ended up hanging out together. We'd play covers in the garage. There were no clubs to play at, so we never made it out of the garage. Axl was really shy about singing back then. But I always knew he was a singer."

By senior year Stradlin was set on a career in music. "When I wasn't in school, I was practicing," he says. "I was trying real hard to put together a solid band in Lafayette, but it wasn't working out. After graduation, I just said, 'Fuck it - I'm going to L.A., because the weather's better and that's where everything is.'" In 1980 he loaded his kit and "this little-bitty P.A. system some nutbag had stolen from a church and left in my garage" in to his Chevy Impala and headed for Hollywood.

He immediately hooked up with an Orange County three-chord punk band called the Naughty Women. "They were kinda like the Stooges," he recalls. "The guitarist looked like Gene Simmons. He had this apartment covered in rock posters, with a ton of records. And to me, straight from Indiana, I thought, 'He's really got it goin' on!' I had a car, a kit and a P.A., so they figured, 'This guy came from Heaven!'

"I played my first gig with them in downtown L.A. The audience was like the angry guys in 'The Decline of Western Civilization.' I'm sitting there waiting for the rest of the band to come onstage, and they finally get out there - and they're all in drag. The singer's wearing pink spandex and this big afro. I'd never thought twice about the name Naughty Women. The crowd hated us. They were throwing beer bottles and jumping onstage. Finally they started beating the shit out of the singer. They knocked over the guitar player's amps, and he got his hand busted. I just grabbed a cymbal stand and stood on the side trying to fend them off, yelling, 'Get the fuck away from ME, man!' That was my introduction to the rock scene in L.A. I was like, 'Wow, this is exciting!'"

His two-month tenure in the Naughty Women gave way to a stint with the Atoms, which had more of a Johnny Thunders/Rolling Stones cast. Then, one fateful day, part of Stradlin's kit was stolen out of his car, which died shortly thereafter. Undaunted, he decided to ditch the rest of his drums, buy a bus pass nad start playing bass. He joined a Scorpoins-ish group called Shire, but by 1983 he'd left that band, sold his bass and gotten a guitar. He remembers: "A friend from Indy had lent me his guitar for three months. I had this little amp and just taught myself to play. It seemed cooler to play guitar, and easier to write songs on it."

Ted Nugent was one of his early guitar heroes, as were the Stones' Keith Richards and Ron Wood and Aerosmith's Joe Perry and Brad Whitford. Later it was Johnny Ramone and Sex Pistol Steve Jones. The first band Stradlin played guitar in also included Axl Rose. He recollects: "I was living in Huntington Beach, and Axl came out with a backpack. He stayed for about a week. But he came back a year later and we started a band called Hollywood Rose.

"Our first gig was at Raji's, in Hollywood. We realized that if you wanted to get a club gig, you had to say, 'Oh, man, we're HUGE in Orange County. We play these keggers, and they're MASSIVE. We can probably get 500 people.' Then seven people would show up, but we got to play." At some point, Rose quit and Stradlin joined a band called London. But, he recounts: "Axl came back. He showed up at my apartment saying he wanted to start the band up again. It seemed like a good idea." In 1985, Hollywood Rose morphed into Guns N' Roses.

Reflecting on his ultimate departure from Guns, Stradlin expresses no regrets or ill will toward anyone in the band. "There was the riot in St. Louis - when stuff like that happens, you start wondering what you're doing," he confides. "Plus, I'd gotten sober around the time the Use Your Illusions albums came out. The machinery was working, the planes were flying, the shows were happening just like always. But once I quit drugs, I couldn't help looking around and asking myself, 'Is this all there is?' I was just tired of it; I needed to get out."

He went back to Lafayette, set up an eight-track studio and started writing the songs that would appear on Izzy STradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds. Two of these, "Shuffle It All" and "Somebody Knockin'," went on to become Top 10 Album Rock Hits. In a second article on the record, Rolling Stone dubbed it "an infectious, '70s-flavored groove-fest that rocks like a three-way pileup of Exile on Main Street, Aerosmith r la Rocks and punked-up Desire-era Bob Dylan" (Oct. 29, 1992). Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds traversed the glove twice in support of the critically acclaimed album, finally returning home in late 1993.

After this extended road trip, Stradlin certainly could have been forgiven for logging some serious couch time back in Lafayette. But, he explains, "From 1985 to 1991 I traveled constantly, spending most of my time in hotels. Then we went all over the U.S., Europe, Japan and Australia with the Ju Ju Hounds. It becomes a lifestyle. You feel this forward movement, and you gotta keep it going."

For the next several years, Stradlin kept up the momentum with extended stays in England, Trinidad, Costa Rica, Spain, Denmark and Sweden. The Ju Ju Hounds were along for the first two stops, laying down tracks at London's Matrix studios, where the Sex Pistols recorded Never Mind the Bullocks, and trinidad's Caribbean Sound Basin. "We did nine songs at Matrix, which is this old church that's been converted into a studio, and ten in Trinidad. That was a killer studio, too. It's a state-of-the-art-complex, with the same rates you'd pay in the U.S., but there you get fresh papaya for breakfast and see iguanas running around."

After these jaunts, Stradlin narrates, "I went back to Indiana. At that point I was absolutely fed up with the whole music thing. I was just bored. I had to do something else. So I went over to Madrid and started looking for a place." He spent several months in Spain, at a rented house with no phone. "That was a little tough," he admits. "It got to where I had this uncontrollable urge to send a fax or something."

He stayed abroad a few more months, however, before returning to Indiana. Once there, Stradlin resumed one of his consuming passions - racing. Between stints overseas, he'd managed to build a quarter-mile oval track in a field near his house. "We bought this old road grader over the phone - sight unseen," he says. "It had no brakes and leaked, but it had the big blade and we just went around in circles and made the track. We started out racing bikes, theses specialezed models. But then we moved on to cars. It was a generally a 'run what ya brung' setup. I started getting into the old BMW 2002s and Alfa Romeo GTVs. They're from the 70s. You can pick 'em up pretty cheaply, maybe $1,500 for the beaters, and they run real well. They were endurance races, just for fun. I've always been into anything motorized. Racing is a great tension release."

In late 1995 Stradlin took a trip to L.A., where he spent some time with his old pal Duff McKagan. Not surprisingly, the two soon found themselves in a studio with a couple of musician friends. "We recorded ten songs in eight days," Stradlin says. "It got me excited about music again. I realized how easy the whole process could be. Those sessions were fun and painless. We just had a great time and didn't think too much about it."

Around that time, Stradlin heard drummer Taz Bently had left the Reverend Horton Heat. A huge fan of Bentley's work, Stradlin tracked him down and asked if he wanted to come to L.A. and write some songs. (Stradlin had taken similar initiative back in 1992 when he recruited Rick Richards for the Ju Ju Hounds.) Bentley took him up on the offer and the two quickly became friends.

Richards, whome Stradlin calls "the real six-string maestro" on 117˚, signed back on, and with a buddy filling in on bass, Stradlin turned out a third batch of songs: "We went to the Complex, in Santa Monica [Calif.], and recorded this really aggro stuff, all thrashers. Then Duff came in and re-recorded all the bass parts. The songs sounded amazing."

"In the beginning, I'd really wanted to put out a screamin'-fast, 100-mile-an-hour record," he continues. "But after Duff got involved, we decided to work on some slower stuff to give the album more depth and variety. So we went to Rumbo [Recorders, in Canoga Park, Calif.], where Guns did Appetite for Destruction, and cut a few more tracks." Producer Bill Price, known for his work with the Sex Pistols and the Clash, lent a hand on some of the early recordings, while Ju Ju Hounds (and Sublime) producer Eddie Ashworth pitched in on the songs tracked later.

Recorded in fits and starts, 117˚ never conformed to any grand scheme - and Stradlin wouldn't have it any other way. "The album is totally random, " he insists. "It's just about situations I've been in over the past few years, mostly in Lafayette. That's always how I've approached songwriting - no big statement, just telling it like it is. Otherwise, you take all the fun out of it." International stardom, worldwide travel and widely envied chops aside, Stradlin still seems to have one foot planted firmly - and happily - in the garage.


Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds, Geffen, 1992.
117°, Geffen, 1998.


Izzy Stradlin recently discussed the songs on 117 (Geffen Records). Produced by Stradlin, Eddie Ashworth (Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds, Sublime), and Bill Price (the Sex Pistols, the Clash), the disc was recorded in England, Trinidad and California and released March 10, 1998.

"Ain't It a Bitch": That's one of the last songs I wrote for the album. It's a frustration song, dealing with some of the hassles involved in putting a record together. It's a very Stonesy thing. The open-G tuning - if you do that, you'll get that Stonesy sound.

"Gotta Say": We recorded that in London. It's about people who bullshit you, and seeing right through them. Someone I knew was doing that, being a real pain in the ass. That was kind of a moody time. But, you know, it passes. Eddie [Ashworth] plays mandolin on there.

"Memphis": This was written by Chuck Berry. He was a true innovator, and he's got such an incredible history. I love his stuff. It's never too heavy. You never put on a Chuck Berry record and go, "God, this is depressing." It's all fun.

"Old Hat": That's a piss-take, kind of riffing on some stupid, clich'd stuff. The cocaine line is a reference to the old rock star bullshit, and how you just get over it. While we were tracking the song, the North Hollywood bank robbery was happening. And I was thinking how even stuff like that, you see it so much on TV that it becomes old news. You just kind of bet on the car chases. You become cold.

"Bleedin'": That's about someone I knew who was still bellyachin' about this chick who'd split a long time before. It's kind of a "get over it" song. I haven't even told the guy it's about that it's about him. Maybe if I tell him, he'll finally get on with his life.

"Parasite": Angry - that says it all.

"Good Enough": This was recorded in Trinidad. I felt like everything in my life was fine, but I was getting a lot of flak, a lot of judgement calls on my life from other people. And I thought, "Wait a minute, man. This shit's GOOD ENOUGH for me! I'm happy with it. Fuck you!"

"117": That's a full-on roead-trip song. My dad, brothers, uncle and I all rode Harleys from Lafayette [Ind.] to New Orleans, then down to Texas. Then just my brother Joe and I rode to L.A. We were out for eight or nine days total, ridin' eight to ten hours a day, cruising along with nothing to think about. Riding all day is like therapy. By the time we got to Yuma [California], though, it was 117.

"Here Before You": I have no idea what this song's about. I just woke up one morning with the chorus in my head. I think I'd heard that song "I Saw You First," by John Cougar Mellencamp, and it stuck with me. That line seemed to describe a real innocent, childlike mentality. But then the song turned into a car-oriented song. I was gonna call it "The Parking Lot Song." You know how people get in parking lots - "I saw that space first!"

"Up Jumped the Devil": That's a Ronnie Dawson song. He's got a great record called Ronnie Dawson: Monkey Beat that I got turned onto in Indiana. There are about ten real rockabilly tunes on there - simple, basic stuff - that really stick. On this version, the guitar's tuned down to a low D, which gives it a thick, swampy sound.

"Grunt": This is my favorite song on the record. I worked on it for quite a while. I started it in Indiana, and we tracked it in Santa Monica. I wanted something like "Frankenstein," by Edgar Winter.

"Freight Train": I have a thing about trains because I grew up by the railroad tracks. I've always loved 'em, the sound of the whistle, the way you can feel it go by the house. In fact, I still live by the railroad tracks.

"Methanol": We had a speedway motorcycle that ran on methanol. It's really high-octane stuff - highly explosive. Those bikes will go from zero to 60 in three seconds, just wicked fast. I had jugs of methanol in my garage, which is how I got the idea for the song. It started out with the fast riff, and then Rick came up with the drop-down riff we sing over. Then it turned into a song about cars.

"Surf Roach": I wrote this with my brother Joe. He lives in Lafayette and he's a real good musician. We've always jammed, but it's the little-brother syndrome, where you smack him in the head and say, "You can't play!" We hang together all the time when I'm back home. He was helping us out as a guitar tech when we were recording in Santa Monica. We were jamming on acoustics, and hi came up with this really cool, fast part that ended up in the song. It really made it work. Before that, this was a little three-chord thing I was gonna toss. I've always liked surf guitar, and over the past couple of years I've really gotten into the Ventures, all that stuff. Then I saw "Pulp Fiction" and it got me really fired up - I headed straight for the guitar.



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