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2004.06.DD - Aloha Magazine (Netherlands) - Guns, Drugs and Rock N' Roll (Slash, Duff)

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2004.06.DD - Aloha Magazine (Netherlands) - Guns, Drugs and Rock N' Roll (Slash, Duff) Empty 2004.06.DD - Aloha Magazine (Netherlands) - Guns, Drugs and Rock N' Roll (Slash, Duff)

Post by Blackstar on Sun Aug 23, 2020 6:25 am

Guns, Drugs and Rock N' Roll

Velvet Revolver is the new supergroup formed by Guns N' Roses-veterans Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum, Stone Temple Pilots-singer Scott Weiland and - for a contrast - the unknown guitarist Dave Kushner. Tjerk Lammers visited the band in Los Angeles.

The Rainbow Bar and Grill on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, is the favorite pub for many rock stars, hordes of would-be rock stars and all sorts of vacuum-dressed women who swarm around them. A nice location for the premiere of Contraband, the fresh debut album of Velvet Revolver. On a hot Californian night, sometime at the beginning of February, the pub is filled with journalists from all over the world who are about to listen to the rock hard sounds of this post-Guns N' Roses/Stone Temple Pilots band for the first time, with the lead characters hanging around. The long, stick-thin Duff Mckagan is the first to arrive, moments later we also see the black curly hair that belongs to Slash. As well as the wide toothpaste-grin of ever-smiling drummer Matt Sorum. Guitarist Dave Kushner stands a bit on the side, hiding shyly under his wool beanie. Singer Scott Weiland is the last to enter. An American record label executive claps his hands and calls everyone to the dance floor, where the album will be played at the highest volume. Everyone makes their way over there like sheep. An announcement is made that smoking is prohibited and after that the first power chords flood the room. The men in Velvet Revolver come together in the middle of the room; the circle of journalists surround them stares at the group as if they are looking at a traffic accident. Scott Weiland lights a cigarette and enjoys the moment, while talking intensly to his colleagues from time to time. Matt lights up the room with his pearly white teeth, Duff stands there with the radiation and mimics of a mummy, Dave is invicible and Slash is the first to retreat to the bar. The album passes by with deafening power: blistering hard rock that walks an expected path between Stone Temple Pilots and Guns N' Roses - even though it seems to be that Scott's influence has been bigger than that of the other members.

The next day, the whole collective comes together at the Chateau Marmont, the hotel on Sunset Boulevard where Jim Morrison once threatened to jump from the gutter and where John Belushi died from an overdose. The Velvet Revolvers talk to the press in several small bungalows, of which the exits lead to a small grass field where promotional people, managers and journalists enjoy the nice weather. Dave Kushner put on a fresh hat and eats a salad. "Everything alright, Dave?" "You bet," smiles the guitarist. "Free food and coffee, what more do you want?" It's not a statement you would expect from a member of a supergroup, but as far as rockstardom goes, Kushner has a lot of catching up to do on his band-mates.

Bungalow 1 offers Slash and Duff, who shake my hand as if there's shit on it - obviously it is not done to touch rock royalty of this caliber. The ice breaks quickly when I ask them if they weren't extremely nervous at the presentation of their baby, yesterday.

Slash: "Man, I almost died! That's why I didn't last till the end."

Duff: "Exactly. We weren't really supposed to be standing in the middle of you, but Scott said "Dude, let's go, I just have to hear it over there." Look, we already heard the record in the studio, bits and pieces in the car, etc."

Slash: "...but Scott had never heard the record from start to finish."

Scott Weiland has some limits in his freedom, because he is in a closed rehab to kick his drug addiction. Every once in awhile he can leave to take care of business - like doing some promotional activities for Velvet Revolver - but after he is done he is taken back to rehab, checked for drugs and locked up again. Why did the Velvet Revolvers decide to choose such a difficult guy as a singer? Aren't they afraid he will relapse again?

Slash: "Drugs have always been there and will always be there. But I don't think Scott can be any better off than in this band."

The guys have been addicts themselves. They understand the problems. Is that the reason why it's better for the relationships to have an addict in the band, rather than a guy who has been drinking milk all his life?

Duff: "Hmmm yes, that could be, uh huh."

Slash: "Look, we all have our problems after all we have been through it's really hard to get us crazy. We'll be fine together."

Everyone has kicked their habit and is sober, except Slash, right? "Let's put it this way, I'm not ...", says Slash. First he hesitates but after that he is resolute: "I don't really want to talk about this. I like a drink from time to time, all serious shit is in the past."

But how do these guys have fun these days?

Duff: "I'm very busy, practice martial arts every day, we're going to rehearse very soon, I have two children, my day starts early. But listen dude there was no fun for me with all the booze and drugs. It was no fun to go out and score drugs, because you had to, man. It had become a physical necessity. It wasn't fun to drink a gallon of vodka every day, because you had to. It was horrible."

Slash: "It was fantastic at the start but it turned into a curse, you couldn't function if you didn't take so much of this and so much of that. And then it's nothing but a chore."

Duff: "Yeah."

In a seperate conversation, Scott admits that it is an advantage that his band members are experienced in the area of drugs: "We've all been done the same road. They've all been junkies and alcoholics, have been through terrible divorces, have been arrested multiple times and done jail time. They lived the same live, so they know what I'm going through."

But how is he doing exactly? Is he still locked up in rehab or is he a free man again?

"No, I'm done with it now," says Scott.

And did it help? "It always worked well for me. It has been a battle (sigh) ever since my childhood. But you know what, it is (sigh)... now I'm a little older and I'm starting to get a little more mature, the stuff doesn't interest me as much anymore. But I have had a lot of bad luck. It's just like playing blackjack: You win some, you lose some. But I have only been high three days out of the last ten months."

America has a very repressive system, but Scott gets caught extremely often. "Yes, that's true," he sighs. "It feels like the cops are watching me all the time. You just can't have as much bad luck as I had. That's virtually impossible."

Rumour has it that the album was recorded while Scott was in rehab, and he was allowed to go to the studio every day for 4 hours under supervision, to record his vocals. But this seems to be only partially true: "It's not like I made this record while I was in rehab. That was just a small period at the end, when the record was already 95% done. I had to sing only two songs, place some finishing touches."

When you have to give up your personal freedom, your creativity can be stimulated very much. "It offers a lot to write about. Drama in your personal life is of course fuel for art and music. That's a positive thing," says Scott. "But I'm tired of this eternal merry-go-round. As far as drugs go, it all went okay, but I'm very depressed now [he starts to talk hesitantly, with lots of stops and breaks]. I'm going through a very painful divorce from my wife right now. Not only am I pulled away from her, but also from my kids. I do spend a lot of time with them, as much as I can, but we do not live in the same house anymore: I live in our house here in Los Angeles, while they are together with my wife a little distance away from here. It's the most horrible experience that I have ever been through in my life."

A painful silence follows. Let's talk about the music. Scott Weiland says he is especially proud of Contraband: "It's the best and most complete rock record I ever made. And I put all my heart and soul in it. When I came to the band and totally fell in love with the guys, I put 200% of myself and all of my energy in it. My wife and I had just seperated, so I had a lot of free time. We practiced in my own studio, so I was on my own ground. So even when we weren't rehearsing, I was still in the studio working on the arrangements. We made demos of all our songs and I wanted each and every one of them to be perfect. So when the guys recorded a song, I spent hours and hours on it to try and approach it from different angles to make it more perfect, but without making it sound overproduced. The songs had to be like the original demos, as raw as possible. I wanted to capture the same energy as Nirvana's In Utero, the way producer Steve Albini did."

Duff McKagan acknowledges that Weiland's influence on Contraband was very big: "We played a riff and Scott responded immediately with: 'What was that!' After which he grabbed the microphone to sing a melody over the riff. That's how easy it went. Before we knew it, we had a verse, a chorus and a bridge. And the parts that we already had before we worked with him, were disected by him, chopped to pieces, and put back together again to be rejuvenated like that. That's how Slither came about.

But don't forget Dave Kushner's contribution. He is like a sound artist, someone who painted around Slash's guitar playing. Most guitarists would be totally intimidated by someone like Slash, but Dave did his own thing and created a unique sound. Not like Guns N' Roses at all. That was one of the last things we wanted to go back to."

"Of course there are some specific Guns N' Roses elements in there. The rhythm section sounds a little bit like Guns before Use Your Illusion, when we still recorded everything raw and sponteniously," according to Slash. He also compliments his drummer. "This is the first time that Matt could do his own thing, could decide himself what he was playing. That's why his influence on Velvet Revolver is much bigger than it was on Guns N' Roses back then."

It's very clear: the gentleman love each other and are proud of their music. It has to be a big relief to put a real band together again more than 10 years after the collapse of Guns N' Roses.

"It just happened to us," according to Duff. "We all worked with different musicians and possibly forgot how it is to work with guys that you really have chemistry with. When we entered our rehearsal space for the first time, cause we had to perform at the benefit concert, we all thought: 'Oh yes, this is how it should always feel...' You know, there was a time when Guns N' Roses was unstoppable as a live band. We were a well-oiled machine. And now we feel again why it was like that back then."

"There was a kind of self confidence that I had missed for years," remembers Slash. "You play with all these different people and you adjust yourself to it. Especially for me, cause I'm not very demanding. But we walked into that rehearsal space, started to play a song by the Sex Pistols and felt instantly like a gang, like 'no one could stop us'. The day of our first show, Duff and I were already on the phone to make plans for further collaboration."

Duff and Slash were both very unhappy in Guns N' Roses. Why didn't they quit sooner?

Slash: "You started something, it's also your baby, so you try to last as long as you can, by delivering your stuff the best you can. And still I was one of the first to reach a point where I couldn't go on anymore. I quit before I was fired."

Duff stayed for a while: "I was in a weird spot. At the end of the Use Your Illusion tour, I was completely wasted and collapsed physically. That's when I decided to go into rehab. From that moment on, I was the only one in the band that was sober. So I became the guy who would always get the calls from the record company, the manager and Axl: 'Try to get Slash back, try to get Slash back.' [He turns to Slash:] You didn't know that, did you? Everyone was calling me continuously to see if I could keep the fucking mess together! Eventually I told our manager: 'Look, I can only do so much. If you want to keep the whole thing on track, you would have to take responsibility and tell Axl the truth, or there won't be any band left for you to manage.' But he never did. So when it was apparent that Slash left definitely, I said 'Fuck it, I'm also out of here'."

"It already went wrong when original drummer Steven Adler was kicked out of the band," says Slash.

"Because Steven was gone, Izzy also left. But we had a whole tour planned so we kept the whole thing going. When it was time to record a new album, though, we missed those guys a lot. Look, nothing was right about our little band, but we were very successful. Without Steven and Izzy, though, it really turned into Axl's trip."

Slash and Duff also kept in touch after Guns N' Roses, Izzy was never far away and they also remained friends with Steven. But Axl?

"The day I left, was the last time that I spoke with him," says Slash. But he isn't bitter. "It just ran its course."

Duff: "As far as I'm concerned the cup is half full: five kids in Los Angeles, who wrote songs and made music without compromise. Who booked their shows themselves, put up flyers and attracted more and more audiences. We didn't have any money, but when someone offered us $10,000 in travellers checks for the publishing rights to Welcome to the Jungle, we said No. Who was he to think that he could buy the rights to the songs we wrote? And then Appetite for Destruction got released. And we toured and we toured and we toured and the record exploded and the whole legion on like minded people supported us. We opened the doors for bands like Soundgarden, Nirvana, and other hard-core groups like that, that were also without compromise. And shit, eventually we played pack stadiums, which isn't bad for five..."

Slash: "...bad boys."

Duff: "...bad boys, fucking bad boys. Even though we didn't like the same music, we still had something in common. And that's what made us the way we were. And now, Axl is doing his own thing. That's cool. I mean: bitterness has nothing to do with it. Guns N' Roses really ended already in 1991/92."

Slash: "The fact that Use Your Illusion albums were made, is a miracle in itself."

In contrast with Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver really is a club of friends. "Last night I accidentally grabbed Slash's wife by her ass," says Duff. "She gave me a hug, and I thought it was my own wife. I said: 'Dude, I grabbed your wife by her ass.' He said: 'That's fine, we're family'!"

But all clubs of friends have a leader. Who is that guy in Velvet Revolver? "We all try to be responsible for eachother's actions: individually and as a group," says Slash. "To be responsible for yourself but also to support your buddies in the group through thick and thin. Duff and I have known each other from long ago of course, Matt joined us when we needed him, after which we became very close friends. Dave Kushner I know from high school and Scott came by and fit in exactly. It went like this [snaps fingers]. As if he walked into the room and had been in the band for years."

It was a bit of trouble for the band to find a singer. Josh Todd from Buckcherry was an early candidate, Sebastian Bach of Skid Row was under the impression that he was already hired, Courtney Love was high on the list, there were performances with actress Gina Gershon and Waylon Jenning's son Shooter and Beth Hart also had some hope. But Scott seems to have been the prime candidate all along.

Duff:"Scott's wife and my wife are friends and they secretly plotted to get him in the band. Even when Scott was still in Stone Temple Pilots. But we didn't really know what to do with it - was this band still together? But on the second try, we had a hit. My wife Susan and my manager told me: 'Man, you have to give Scott a call!' I said: 'Is he still in Stone Temple Pilots?' 'No, they split up!' 'Are you sure?' 'Yeah!' So I called Scott and said: 'Hey dude, you want to come by and talk?' And he said: "Yeah... yeah... yeah'."

So that's how it goes, when your putting together a supergroup. The band was asked to create several songs for soundtracks [among which The Italian Job] even when they didn't have a singer, which sped up the whole process.

Slash: "We even told those movie people: 'Uh, we don't have a singer yet.' So Scott came in right on time and gave us the chance to start working seriously. Just to make music for the sake of making music, but also because someone was waiting for it. Not because we wanted to create a supergroup."

The fact that legendary record label executive Clive Davis took the band in, is almost a guarantee for a success. Davis previously signed Janis Joplin and Bruce Springsteen for CBS records, discovered Whitney Houston and Alicia Keys and put new life in the careers of Carlos Santana and Rod Stewart.

"I already met him a couple of times, long before there was any talk of Velvet Revolver," says Slash. "We became friends, so he was one of the first people I told of our plans. He was interested from the start."

"He even came to our fucking rehearsal space somewhere on a decayed fucking industrial area in Burbank," says Duff. "You don't see a president of a big record company do that very often. And when he came in, it was CLIVE, you know. Oh wow, okay, cool!"

Scott is also a big fan of the record executive: "An amazing man. I had big expectations of him before I ever met him, but he lived up to all of them. I have a great deal of respect for him. Taht's all I can say. Except that he also put alot of money in my pockets."

So it's already a fact that Velvet Revolver will be hugely successful, with all the familiar names and the enormous marketing push that the record company has in store for the whole world. But still, the gentlemen themselves are not convinced.

"We'll see...," Duff hesitates.

"We will have to work hard for it," says Slash. "We really aren't wondering if we'll be on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine next week or not. We concentrate on our music. And on working together as a tight group."

"That's why I think we will be incredible live," hopes Duff. "People will say: 'Fuck man, did you see them live?' That is going to be our strength!"

https://web.archive.org/web/20050208005621/http://belowempty.com/vr/articles/2004/040601_Aloha.php
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