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2004.06.23 - Aquarian Weekly - Fully Loaded (Duff)

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2004.06.23 - Aquarian Weekly - Fully Loaded (Duff) Empty 2004.06.23 - Aquarian Weekly - Fully Loaded (Duff)

Post by Blackstar on Sun Aug 23, 2020 2:00 pm

LOOKING DOWN THE BARREL OF VELVET REVOLVER
FULLY LOADED

By now everyone knows who Velvet Revolver are. Rock’s latest supergroup is chock full of familiar faces including former Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland, and ex-Guns N’ Roses members Duff McKagan, Slash, and Matt Sorum. From the day that their collaboration was announced, Velvet Revolver immediately became one of the most anticipated projects in music history.

Embarking on a series of small venue dates across the country to promote their album, Contraband, Velvet Revolver have made it clear that although you may know these faces, you’ll be surprised at what you hear. Since we can skip with the formalities of introducing the band, we can jump right into the good stuff, where bassist Duff McKagan took some time out of Velvet Revolver’s insane appearance schedule to talk to The Aquarian Weekly. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that Duff, although a certifiable rock legend, is one of the most honest and down-to-earth people I have ever had the pleasure of speaking with.

Duff, thanks for taking some time for us. I know you guys are extremely busy.

Duff: Hey, it’s cool. Just trying to spread the gospel, you know?!

Can you tell us a little about how the band came together?

Duff: Well, let’s see... We, meaning Slash, Matt and I, really never, after we left Axl, thought that we would ever play together again. Everybody’s eyes would be on us. The only way we would ever do anything again is if it was really great. We never said this, it was just something we all thought.

Anyhow,flash forward seven years, and a friend of ours, Randy Castillo, the drummer from Ozzy Osbourne, passed away from cancer. I was up in Seattle going to school. I had a band up there so I wasn’t down in L.A. a lot. So I didn’t make the funeral. Slash and Matt were there and there was talk about doing a benefit to pay for Randy’s hospital bills and maybe some money for his family. They wanted to get someone that would bring bodies into the club. So Matt, Slash, and I were brought up. I got a call from Slash so I came down. And they got Josh Todd, Cypress Hill, and at the last minute, Steven Tyler decided he wanted to sing. So the first three chords we hit together (were) was really explosive. It was really there for us, that whole chemistry thing. That’s the only way I can explain it. The gig was one of those magical gigs.

The next day, Slash and I talked and said, ‘You know, maybe it’s time we look into this because that was too fuckin’ great.’ We started writing and we needed another guitar player. The guy from my band, Dave Kushner, came in and started playing with us and fit in perfectly. That gave us more incentive. So we put out word that we were looking for a singer and got like 1,000 CDs of different vocalists. You can imagine how much of that was good! Here’s a good way to get your stat: one day we listened to 100 straight CDs. Out of the 100, one was okay.

All we needed was a singer. Someone equal to us in aggressiveness. So, we got an offer to do song for The Hulk, and another offer to do a cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Money,’ for The Italian Job. And Scott was a friend of mine who had been asking what was up with the band. He was still in STP. And, voila, right when the movie offers came in, Stone Temple Pilots broke up.

It was a simple phone call, ‘Scott, do you want to do some songs with us? We’ll make some dough.’ We did the songs and it was just love at first sight. Since that day, about a year ago, we haven’t looked back.

When Scott came in the band, it really sharpened our focus as to which way we were going. He’d hear a riff, ‘What’s that?!’ and we’d just be jamming and the next thing we know,a great vocalist would be singing a melody over something we might have passed by.

And did the songwriting process with Scott flow as expected?

Duff: Yeah, it’s all band written. There’s not one song by one person on the album. We’re inspired by each other. A lot like it was with Slash and I, and Izzy and Steven. We would just come in and at the end of the day a song would be done somehow.

It’s clear that the album is not a knockoff of either Stone Temple Pilots or Guns N’ Roses. Did it take a lot of maneuvering or experimenting to construct the songs?

Duff: I think we’ve all progressed. We weren’t wary of, you know,‘We can’t make this sound like a Guns record or an STP record.’ We let it naturally evolve to what it was.

There’s going to be people looking over our shoulders and naysayers and all of that. That comes with the territory. Look at what bands we’ve been in! It’s gonna take a lot of us playing live for people to really get it that we’re a real band. And that’s understandable, that’s cool. We have the mettle for it. I think we’re more comfortable in an against the grain situation.

When word of the project got out, it was probably some of the most anticipated music ever. The only thing that comes close in recent times is Audioslave. Did that faze you for even a second?

Duff: To be honest with you, when you’re in the middle of it, we had our nose to the grindstone and it went really quick! We got Scott in the band, we started writing, we played a gig. Last June 19th was our first gig. Then the record companies started and there was a bidding war for us. Clive Davis stepped up with the most passion and the best deal. From there we started doing pre-production on the record. We started recording in November, mixed it in December, took Christmas off, and have been doing press and promoting it ever since. We haven’t had time to figure out what’s going on out in the real world! (laughs)

That’s the way to do it, isn’t it?! So how is Scott doing now? His problems have been pretty well publicized but to his credit he’s never ducked responsibility. Even the song ‘Big Machine,’ on the CD puts his plight in perspective.

Duff: Yeah, he’s doing great. He’s been great for probably eight months or more. Now that we’re touring, it’s the best place to be. Stone Temple Pilots ended and he started up his old habits. He had nowhere to turn and nobody to lean on. It was almost like Scott says,‘The Rock and Roll Gods made this thing happen,’ because it saved him and we’ve created something that we’re really happy with. Around us, Scott looks at me and Slash and Matt... I mean Matt and Scott were rehab mates like four years ago! But he looks at us and thinks,‘Wow, if these guys can fucking do it, I can do it.’

That’s great, because when a talent like his goes to waste there’s really no bigger shame. He seems like a really hard working guy and that he’s trying to work on sobriety as best he can.

Duff: Yeah, he’s so brilliant that he’s got so much going through his head. He’s a true artist. I think the razor sharp edge of life cuts a little deeper on him. His way that he would fight for escapism is (to do) drugs and gets fucked up.

You rarely see stupid junkies. The people I’ve met have been brilliant people. Like Marine Biologists and shit!

Look at the well-worn path and the trail of the dead and there’s not a lot of dummies in there.

Obviously, the situation you’re in now is much different than the one that you were in with Guns N’ Roses. Having been thrown in the fire like that when you were younger, can you appreciate this experience in a different way?

Duff: Yeah, a lot of it. That’s a very astute observation. We’ve learned from our past. We’ve learned, hopefully, how to keep a band together. The pitfalls you fall into are really not within the band. It’s people outside the band. People get involved and start putting their nose up your ass. It starts to divide the band.

We’re realists now. We’re having a lot of fun and enjoying it for now. Hopefully, we can make this thing go on. We all want to have this band in our rock and roll careers. We want to make a lot of records. But we’re trying to slow this thing down and take it day by day. Especially these club gigs we’re doing. Like in Guns, we couldn’t play clubs after a certain point. It got really alienating to just play stadiums. I’m not complaining about playing stadiums because that would be the ultimate (for Velvet Revolver). But for this promotional tour, we’re doing theaters and some clubs. It’s amazing.

I don’t know if you’re allowed to comment because it seems like there are lawsuits everywhere, but what do you think about (Guns N’ Roses long awaited CD) Chinese Democracy seemingly never going to hit the shelves.

Duff: You know, we don’t pay that much attention to it. Slash and I did this promotion tour where we went to Japan and Europe in March and that’s when we started to hear about Axl’s record. That’s the first I’d heard about it. I was going to school and then I moved down here and we just weren’t around anybody then. I guess, with that, I just kind of left it behind when I walked away.

So we went out on this press tour and people asked us, ‘What do you think about Chinese Democracy not coming out?’ We were like, ‘It’s not coming out?!’ (laughs)

Well, it might, but we know how Axl works and nothing’s surprising to us. I hope that guy finds happiness one day but right now, we’re fully focused on (Velvet Revolver).
Blackstar
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