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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.


2004.11.19 - Entertainment Weekly - Sex, Drugs & Rock N' Roll (Slash, Duff, Matt)

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2004.11.19 - Entertainment Weekly - Sex, Drugs & Rock N' Roll (Slash, Duff, Matt) Empty 2004.11.19 - Entertainment Weekly - Sex, Drugs & Rock N' Roll (Slash, Duff, Matt)

Post by Blackstar Mon 24 Aug 2020 - 4:35

Sex, Drugs & Rock N' Roll

Think four days on the road with the (mostly) sober family men of Velvet Revolver would be boring? Not a chance.

By Karen Valby


The refrigerator backstage at a Velvet Revolver concert is packed with Vitamin Water, canned shots of Starbucks espresso, and the nonalcoholic beer O'Douls. But after tonight's show at the U.S. Bank Arena, guitarist Slash, formerly of Guns N' Roses, wants to unwind with a stiffer drink. So he pours himself a plastic cup of red wine and toasts...himself.

Slash is a man with every reason to celebrate. Velvet Revolver's debut, Contraband , buoyed by the radio-friendly growler "Slither" and the power ballad "Fall to Pieces," is one of the best-selling rock albums of 2004, and the band is halfway through its first tour of American arenas. And yet he is a party of one.

"Well, I hate to play and run..."announces bassist Duff McKagan, also once of GN'R. Ever since his pancreas, brutalized by daily dumpings of dope and liquor, blew up nine years ago, he's been as clean as a monk. Even when he's on the raod, McKagan, 40, likes to be in bed with a book by midnight. Newly sober lead singer Scott Weiland, who's fought a public battle with heroin for years, isn't sticking around either. The band's 37-year-old frontman does some vocal exercises in the venue's shower before leaving in a bathrobe without a word, eye makeup running down his face. Velvet Revolver's other guitarist, Dave Kushner, 38, hasn't touched alcohol in 14 years. And drummer Matt Sorum, 44--another GN'R survivor--is the only guy in the band without a wife back home, so his main interest is the eager-eyed women clustered in the hall outside the band's dressing room.

Drugs and groupies have a dangerous way of drawing a band together, and GN'R, led by mercurial frontman Axl Rose, toured the world as a bleary-eyed pack of wolves. "We drank together, we played rock & roll together, we traveled together," says Sorum. "It was like a gang." Older and wiser, Velvet Revolver must endure the difficult process of redefining what it means to be a touring band.

Left alone, Slash, 39, heads to a sports bar, the kind with friendly bartenders and quarters stacked on the pool table, a block away from the band's hotel. "You think this is a good idea, man?" wonders a crew member who's shuttling his charge around in a van. "I stir up the littlest shit on my own," Slash promises before entering the bar's genial confines. "I put my hair in a ponytail, put my sunglasses on, and I just go on in, have a drink, and hang out. No big deal." But five minutes later, Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" comes pounding out of the jukebox. "Oh, man, this always happens," he groans. Fans start sending over shots, but Slash sticks with his pint of Guinness, shy and good-natured with the rowdy well-wishers.

At 2am, the bartender closes up and invites Slash to smoke a joint in the back with the fry cook. Slash happily obliges, then takes his own turn at the jukebox. With U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" filling the room, the conversation ranges from Slash's lifelong romance with the guitar to his flirtations with the afterlife. "I've died, like, four times and I haven't seen shit. Well, I was probably too fucked up," he says, laughing. "But isn't that part of the beauty of living, that we can't imagine what comes next?"

His is a good attitude to have when you're a member of Velvet Revolver. "I have no idea how long we'll be able to keep this going," says Slash (born Saul Hudson). "All I know is that we want to make music that we would have loved when we were 19 years old. And the miracle is that we were able to get together at all. I mean, look at this band, look at our histories: We've just had the shit beat out of us."


Scott Weiland moves wraithlike from gig to gig, showing up at venues minutes before the band is due to perform, releasing his writhing, bug-eyed fury on stage, then retreating to his private world. He doesn't do sound checks with the others, doesn't do meet and greets with radio-station contest winners, and stays up alone most nights, watching movies by himself until 5am.

After Contraband came out in June, the quick-tempered singer, fed up with the cheap shots he felt the music press kept firing at him, temporarily stopped doing interviews altogether. Now burdened with a journalist for four days, he's distant and tightly wound. Simple questions like "What did you do today?" have so far yielded little response: "I did the same thing I usually do, which is just about nothing. Sit in my room...masturbate occasionally..."

But at 2:30am, after a show at the Spectrum, on a long overnight bus ride to Boston, the rest of the band asleep in their bunks, Weiland finally opens up. He's dressed in slippers, a pair of black sweatpants, and a gray sweatshirt, the hood pulled tight over his magenta hair. His sinuses are bothering him, so he takes a hit of nose spray, wryly noting that the medicine is his new addiction.

Beats heroin, which long had Weiland by the scruff of his neck, beginning with his days as frontman for Stone Temple Pilots in the mid-'90s. "The philosophy of 'one day at a time' never worked for me," he says. "I'd say, 'Okay, I won't do it for a week,' but after a week, 'I haven't done it for a week! so goddamn it, good job.' Fucking bam!" He was first arrested for drug possession in May 1995, and in 2000 was sentences to a year in county jail for violating his probation. Ruined by infighting and the stresses of Weiland's addiction, Stone Temple Pilots dissolved soon after. Then his wife left him, taking their two young kids. "I pushed everyone completely outside of my box," he says. "And almost nobody came back."

Despite that dubious history, Velvet Revolver--then known only as "the project"--invited Weiland to join the band in 2003. "We knew he was getting high," remembers McKagan. "He kept going to rehabs and saying 'I want to do this clean, I don't want to be fucked up.'" But five days after Weiland officially announced that he was the band's fifth and final member, he got busted for driving under the influence of drugs. "Our managers came and bailed me out, and they had the most disappointed looks on their faces," says Weiland. "And I was so disappointed. I couldn't believe that had happened again. I thought those days were completely behind me."

Weiland went home, slept for a few hours, then faced his new band at a rehearsal studio. "The guys didn't judge at all," he says. McKagan and Kushner whisked him away for an intense retreat at a friend of McKagan's, a kung fu master who lives in the mountains of eastern Washington. "It was three guys in the middle of nowhere," says Kushner, "doing yoga and martial arts and running and living with each other in this tiny house for two weeks."

"It's the same process I went through," says McKagan, who credits its kickboxing with saving his life. "I wasn't thinking about getting a lead singer. I saw a guy in agony who needed help. But he did it himself. I don't take no credit in saving Scott Weiland." (Their experience led to the video for "Fall to Pieces," a song about Weiland's addiction.) Today, the singer says he's clean. He's back together with his wife, "a beautiful pit bull," who makes sure her husband's schedule doesn't interfere with their son's fourth birthday.

Conventional wisdom might suggest that the safest place for a recovering addict isn't traveling the country with a rock band. But "being in a band keeps Scott busy," says McKagan. "It's his savior. Yeah, there's people who got drugs. But my bass tech has been with me for 18 years. Slash's guitar tech, same thing. They'd kill somebody if they saw'em trying to bring drugs backstage."

If Weiland trusts his crew, he's still suspicious of the music industry: "It's easy to get trapped in that mode of being a quote-unquote rock star. The industry wants you to stay young, you're living this fast life, everything's accessible. The rock & roll industry is built on junkies just like me. Look at this band--we're a band of junkies, liars, thieves, and vagabonds. The only difference is, we've figured out a way to grab ahold of ourselves and say enough's enough."


The band is enjoying a much-needed day off. Matt Sorum is lizard-lounging in a robe in his suite at the Ritz-Carlton, his 20 year-old girlfriend, Ace, a dancer from Oklahoma, asleep in the bedroom. "I'm in a lot better head space than I was in GN'R," he says. "We did so many drugs, and things got to be so toxic with Axl and his whole entourage. If I look back, they almost liked us being fucked up, because they could control us. 'Okay, there's our fucked up band, and we'll just tote these guys around and push them up on stage. Oh, man, we really love you, man; you should try to cut back on the drugs, man.'"

But a sober band doesn't necessarily equal stability. "You don't need drugs and alcohol to have drama," says Kushner. "Sometimes the absence of it makes it worse. You've got five big egos, you've got testosterone, and there's not a lot of solutions out here on the road." Sure enough, tensions have been running high. Weiland is mad at Sorum and his appetite for groupies. At every venue, the crew sets up a a "Vibe Room"--with tapestries on the wall and mellow lighting and comfy chairs--for the band to relax in after a show. Sorum, sick of hanging out with a bunch of married guys, created an alternate space, a party room dubbed the Velvet Lounge. "He just wants to proliferate his own image," fumes Weiland to the rest of the band, "but it's degrading porno orgy shit! What are our wives going to think when they go backstage and there's boobs everywhere?" Sorum, for his part, is still irritated about Weiland's posting a long rant in support of John Kerry on the band's website. "Scott got something up his ass that day, so he put something on our website," he says. "We don't have to fucking put our political views on other people."

"Those two cause the most drama," sighs one crew member. "It's like having two lead singers." They're the ones who will pitch a fit about an early flight or the lint on a hotel room rug. Meanwhile, Kushner, who was on unemployment before Velvet Revolver signed their record deal, can barely bring himself to splurge on room service. "Part of you has to realize that it could end tomorrow," he says over a lunch of two Dunkin' Donuts. "If I spend like a jerk, I'm going to end up a broke jerk." Still, Kushner is trying to enjoy the ride while it lasts. "When Scott was having his chemical misadventures, a friend told me, 'You know, dude, you're in a rock band. If you want a safe and steady job, go pound nails for a living.'"

McKagan, the band's diplomat, floats above the mini-melodramas. But he's missing his family back home. When McKagan got sober, he was celibate for a year and a half, cut off all his hair, and went for his finance degree at a Jesuit college in Seattle. Once he felt confident in his sobriety, he agreed to a blind date with the woman who would become his wife. Married for five years, they have two girls, Mae, 4, and Grace, 7. "I wish they were here right now," he says, tears creeping out of his eyes. "I missed Halloween. Mae was a witch, and Grace was Hilary Duff. We'll adapt, but we're just in that 'How do we do this?' phase."

As for Slash--well, Slash is happiest on the road, lugging his guitar from city to city. He misses his wife and two young boys, but he is made for the stage. When a crew guy asks if he's seen the Metallica documentary Some Kind of Monster , he shudders at the thought of watching musicians hash out their issues in therapy. "It just sounds too fucking personal," he says. "That's the thing about a rock & roll band. You don't want to know about all that stuff . You just want them to get up and play."


At tonight's concert at the Centrum, women take off their tops, young men puke on their sneakers, and one kid is carted off on a stretcher. Lighters flick wildly during "Fall to Pieces." The crowd cheers harder for "Slither" than for the cover of GN'R's "Mr. Brownstone."

Back on the bus, everybody is in high spirits. A great show has a way of reminding everyone why they're out here in the first place. "As frustrated as you can be at a person right before a show, it just kind of dissipates when you play," says Kushner. The friction from the previous day is momentarily forgotten, replaced by the simpler pleasures of routine and camaraderie. McKagan is asleep in his bunk, conked out with Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven on his chest. Slash and Kushner--friends since junior high--are merrily reminiscing about shoplifting from Tower Records when they were young. Sorum returns from the bar across the street, drunk and happy, with tales of girls kissing girls. Eventually Weiland emerges from the back of the bus in a plaid flannel robe and pajama pants. He's snuffling and complaining about his sinuses and dry skin. "That's our singer--Granddad!" teases Sorum.

Everyone gathers around the TV to watch a movie. "Okay, like every night, it's between Joe Dirt and Tommy Boy ," says Slash, flipping through the band's meager DVD collection. Weiland, meanwhile, makes himself a bowl of instant oatmeal in the galley kitchen. "Yes, we have chocolate milk on this bus!" he says, grinning like a kid on Christman morning. "What we really need is some peanut butter. Mmm, and raspberry jam. And remember Wonder bread from when you were young? "We need Heath bars!" says Sorum. "Sno balls!" votes Kushner. "Liverwurst!" chimes in Slash. "Orange Crush," says Weiland. "And ice cream sandwiches!"

The bus engine thrums along to their easy laughter. Slash cracks the window and lights another cigarette. And grown men go on remembering what they loved when they were boys.

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