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2004.11.21 - Chicago Sun-Times - For Slash, Happiness Is A Warm Velvet Revolver

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2004.11.21 - Chicago Sun-Times - For Slash, Happiness Is A Warm Velvet Revolver Empty 2004.11.21 - Chicago Sun-Times - For Slash, Happiness Is A Warm Velvet Revolver

Post by Blackstar on Mon Aug 24, 2020 3:39 am

For Slash, Happiness is a warm Velvet Revolver

By Jim Derogatis

Like many critics, I wasn't a fan of Velvet Revolver's debut album "Contraband."

"It's probably better than the long-promised 'Chinese Democracy' from the floundering Axl Rose-led Guns N' Roses," I wrote in my *1/2 review. "But given that we're unlikely to ever actually hear that mythical album, that isn't saying much."

Nevertheless, "Contraband" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard albums chart, and it was certified platinum a few months after its release. Now, guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagen and drummer Matt Sorum (all veterans of Guns N' Roses), singer Scott Weiland (ex-Stone Temple Pilots) and guitarist Dave Kushner (formerly of Wasted Youth) are playing to packed crowds as they headline arenas.

A segment of the rock audience is clearly hungry for the sort of tuneful hard rock this group delivers -- even if it isn't as strong as what the key members' earlier bands produced. Like the album, the tour is drawing mixed reviews from the critics, but fans seem to be happy just to hear Slash shred.

"The main attraction was Slash," liveDaily critic Christina Fuoco wrote in an otherwise lukewarm review of a recent show in Phoenix. "The audience would applaud and scream for the flamboyant Weiland, but Slash's riffs drew an uproarious response. Long-haired fans would twirl their manes to the beat as they played air guitar, [and] other men in the audience would give the 'we're not worthy' salute."

I spoke with the always cheerfully enthusiastic road warrior Slash by phone in the midst of the tour that brings Velvet Revolver to the Allstate Arena tonight.

Q. I'm sure I know the answer to this, Slash, but are you having a good time out on the road?

A. We're having a blast! It's been f---ing amazing, this whole thing. Maybe the best way to explain it is that I feel really blessed. Maybe all that paying dues between the last Snakepit tour I did and the present paid off, because everything is going so well. The band is going f---ing great, and I couldn't ask for anything better.

Q. Did Velvet Revolver feel like a band from the beginning, or did that come from being on the road? You can't get around this tag of being "a supergroup," and people assume that has to be different from the sort of band experience that, say, Guns N' Roses had in the early days.

A. It is a real band. We were all out on the road as individuals doing our own thing -- I was starting a band at the time; Matt was working on a solo record; Duff had a band and was touring; David Kushner was in and out of bands -- and the way this all came about was so spontaneous, it was very much like a high school band getting together, where a bunch of different guys come from different directions and something happens. It had nothing to do with where we were from and what different bands we had been in or anything; it was about finding some kind of energy in the form of a real f---ing rock 'n' roll band. This is about as close to a garage band getting out there for the first time as I've ever experienced, regardless of our past successes.

Q. Do you get the sense that Velvet Revolver will always be judged against those past successes? Is that a drag?

A. I don't really give a s--- when it comes down to it. The blessing is that we've got a wealth of collective experience, which is good. But as far as trying to keep up with the Joneses or trying to keep up with the success of our past, that's never really been an issue. The most inspiring thing for us has been getting together and having this magic thing happen and just being able to ride it together and get along together really well and have a great time recording and touring. In light of how complicated this business is, to be able to just enjoy each other's company and go through it together and not have that affect our personal relationships and our musical relationships, that's an accomplishment.

Q. What were some of the highlights of the recording process?

A. What can I tell you? It was just fun! We got together, we started writing and everything was just flowing, so that was great. I think from the time we really formed the band to the point where the album was finished was just a matter of months. I remember thinking when we were going into the sessions that this was the most fun I've had in the studio ever.

Q. I know this doesn't matter to you, but the sort of hard rock the band plays isn't exactly in fashion right now. Where do you think Velvet Revolver fits in the current pop-music spectrum?

A. I don't know, and you're right: I don't really care. The only way that I can actually measure success being a band is the reaction you get from the ticket-buying public, and that has been overwhelmingly positive. Whatever it is that we're doing, whether it fits into the realm of pop music today or not, it seems to be working. The coolest thing on top of that is that the majority of our audience is between 15 and 25 years old. That's one thing I didn't see coming at all. I think we subconsciously resigned ourselves to the idea that we were going to get a mostly older group of fans, but it didn't work out that way.

Q. Guns N' Roses' influence on hard rock and heavy metal was enormous. Do you think Axl Rose's ill-fated attempts to continue under the band's name tarnishes its reputation?

A. I don't care; that's not an issue. Put it this way: Guns N' Roses is where I come from. When that band started, I was 18 or 19 years old. For me to come to the point of leaving that band, something was seriously, seriously wrong, because I don't quit anything. When I left, I left that whole can of worms, and I never really looked back. I'm very proud of what I accomplished while I was still in the band, and everything that the band accomplished and stood for, and I still love everybody involved in that band -- not on the business end, but as far as the members are concerned, regardless of if I don't talk to the redhead [Rose] anymore. Everything leading up to the time I left was great; it was that final straw that broke the camel's back that was it. Anything that I have done since then has nothing to do with Guns N' Roses, and I have nothing to do with what Guns N' Roses does now.

Q. The redhead aside, I'd love to see you and Izzy Stradlin rocking out together again. I always thought he was the secret weapon in Guns.

A. You know, it's funny, because Izzy came up and played with us for three or four shows in Europe recently, and it was really fun. Izzy is one of those guys who are always floating around. When we first put this band together, we were looking for singers before Scott came in the picture, and Izzy came down and hung out with us for two weeks and we wrote probably 10 or 15 songs together. It was like old army buddies sitting around the studio, exchanging war stories, and during that time we probably wrote the best instrumental Guns N' Roses record to date. Of course, none of that material will probably see the light of day, but it's really cool. At least I have it on tape.

The thing is that Izzy was so shattered by the whole Guns N' Roses experience that he'll never go back to being in [a band] situation again. He does music at this point, but that's just for the love of doing it, and recording stuff on his 8-track. When he makes records, he makes them real quick and just puts it on the Internet and moves on.

Q. You were never so frustrated that you considered dropping out like that?

A. No, I'm way too ambitious for that. Trust me, I've been dealt a few really hard blows by this business, but it can't keep me down.

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