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SoulMonster
APPETITE FOR DISCUSSION
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.

Cheers!
SoulMonster

2005.01.DD - Metal Hammer - This Is Not A Band To Mess With! (Slash, Duff, Matt)

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2005.01.DD - Metal Hammer - This Is Not A Band To Mess With! (Slash, Duff, Matt) Empty 2005.01.DD - Metal Hammer - This Is Not A Band To Mess With! (Slash, Duff, Matt)

Post by Blackstar Mon Jan 11, 2021 10:27 pm

THIS IS NOT A BAND TO MESS WITH!

Until a few weeks ago, Hollywood thought it had seen everything. Hell, in a place where you can witness a bank robbery and not know if it's the real deal or someone making a movie, you'd be hard pushed to raise more than an eyebrow if you set your own head on fire and inserted it into Governor Schwarzenegger. Like any place that has the Terminator as governor is going to be phased by anything at all!

But then along came Velvet Revolver with the notion of playing a free show on the roof of the Hustler building on Sunset Strip, right opposite the legendary Rainbow Bar and Grill. Perhaps understandably, city authorities panicked and, on the very day of the gig, refused the band permission to play. Undeterred, Velvet Revolver set up a stage in a car park near the sleazier end of Hollywood Boulevard and leaked the information out on local radio. Upwards of 3,000 Los Angelians showed up, blocking sidewalks, hanging out of windows, and peering down from rooftops to get a glimpse of the band. Just six songs into their set, the city shut the show down, but nonetheless a point had been proved; Velvet Revolver are here to rock and nothing's going to get in their way! Not that you'd expect anything less from a band with such an enormous pedigree. Having formed almost by accident in 2002 when drummer Matt Sorum was spearheading a benefit show for the family of his late friend and fellow drummer Randy Castillo (best known for his work with Ozzy Osborne), the band have been on a mission ever since. By all accounts the first rehearsal was something of an epiphany. As guitarist Slash will later relate they, “played the first three notes of ‘God Save The Queen', f***ing loud, and knew at that point something was going on.”

Indeed. While its not so unusual these days for a major label rock band to go platinum with their debut album – as Velvet Revolver have done with ‘Contraband' – it's very rare for a band to do so entirely on their own terms, “auditioning” as many labels as they did singers, before settling on RCA and ex-Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland respectively. And as we soon find out, for good or ill, the band still does everything on their own terms. Initially this means nothing more ominous than interviewing each band member separately, (which is not unusual for a major league band) and in different locations (which is hardly a problem when it gives you an extra glimpse into their lives).

We start off with bassist Duff McKagan, meeting him in his local coffee shop in the Studio City area of Los Angeles. Casually dressed in tracksuit pants and sneakers McKagan is obviously a regular here and even jokes about his credit being good when he realises he's forgotten his wallet. Perhaps with to much of a ‘chemical' past to ever look the archetypal picture of health, he does look healthy and happy and is very keen to talk about Velvet Revolver.

“We treat it as a new band, but I guess we have these massive pasts,” he begins. “For me, Guns N' Roses was a long time ago, almost a lifetime. We all approached this as a new thing because it is.”

But although Duff insists that nobody would touch them when they first got together, it's not often that a band comes along with so much instant industry clout and interest that even the forming of the band has been filmed for a forthcoming documentary. And Duff says there were only a few changed made, “like a couple of parts where Scott was nodding out and no one needs to see that” says a lot about the honesty of the band. It also suggests that they've got a strong sense of unity – perhaps made stronger because they're all surviving nutcases.

“That's a good way of putting it,” laughs Duff. “Guns were a bunch of nutcases and with the original band there was a real sense of family. When we had to let Steven [Adler, Guns N' Roses' drummer] go, which was moronic, we came to him and said, ‘Hey, look who's telling you you're too f***ed up! It's us! If we're telling you you're too f***ed up then you're too f***ed up!' With this band there's an unspoken wisdom because we have all died or should be dead. And we talk all the time so we don't have that thing that festers for three months. If it comes to the point where one of us wants to come to blows with somebody, we'll stop and go, ‘What's the problem?'”

More than anyone else McKagan has been credited for helping Scott Weiland get clean of a truly crippling drug addiction – even to the point of injecting Mr Weiland in the arse to help him get off heroin. But today he seems keener to relate that to the whole band and how they all help each other on the straight and narrow
.
“I think we do that to each other,” he reasons. “We've created this thing and we're nurturing it along right now, kinda pulling each other up from the ashes. At this point nobody's going to let anybody else down. Like, I can call any guy in the band right now if I have a problem. It's not like we go home and say, ‘see you next tour.'

Velvet Revolver is very obviously a new beginning. For a start McKagan gets a ‘real' rush from playing now instead of some chemically induced blur. Today he appears not just coherent, but driven. He is also, against all expectations, surprisingly grounded.

“I've always been grounded,” he shrugs. “There was a point really on when Guns blew up, when I really thought that everyone finally got my humour and I was the funniest, best looking guy in the world. But that lasted about five months until I realised, with the help of my seven older brothers and sisters, that it was just because the band was big. They're like, ‘Duff, you're not that funny or good looking!' People freak out at shows when we're signing autographs and we're like, ‘hey, chill out. If you want an autograph we'll sign one. Let's just hang out.”

A; the same there must be a part of him that misses that element of danger in his former life?
“Well if you're getting f***ed up a lot that's just pure misery,” argues Duff. “When it becomes a thing just to stay well, it's not fun any more. There isn't enough of anything and you're spending every day in every town trying to cop. There's no real danger to that. It's just lame!

“With this band,” he adds proudly, “the element of danger comes because Scott's really good at controlling a crowd, but the crowds we're getting are really young kids and there are near riots almost every night! The element of danger is the band! And this is not a band to f*** with! Three of us are martial artists and Slash is one of the strongest guys I've ever met. He's got a long fuse, but if you get to the end of it, you're f***ed.

Thankfully when we meet Slash about 10 minutes later in a Mexican restaurant around the corner, it soon becomes apparent that his fuse isn't even lit today. Having arrived a little early, he's sitting at the bar ordering a beer; no entourage, no bodyguards, just one of the world's biggest rock stars sitting on his own like a regular guy. He did, he tells me, have a bodyguard once, but found it wasn't comfortable especially when the bodyguard got all “single white female” and started dressing like a copycat Slash.

“We used to shut this place down every f***ing night!” grins Slash as we head for a table in the corner. “We'd keep it open all night and act like fools, but they let us keep coming back. They figured we'd grow out of it or something.”

In reality Slash doesn't seem to have aged at all since his wilder days. He looks exactly as you'd expect, leather jacket and pants, and a pack of smokes by his side even though you can't smoke in here. And his demeanour is more that of a fellow rock fan shooting the s**t than that of a multi-million selling rock star He retells the story of how the band got together, with only a few personal variations, like the fact that he and guitarist Dave Kushner went to the same junior high school, but hadn't seen each other since. And how he was the only member of Velvet Revolver that didn't know Scott Weiland previous to the band, but the felt an instant rapport.

“We've had this ‘supergroup' label,” says Slash, “and I hate it because all the bands that I ever heard of that were considered super groups were people from bands who you loved, that got together and made one s**t record and tried to make a lot of money. That was not at all how this band was reconstructed. Whether you like the band or not, it's very genuine rock'n'roll and everybody had a lot of input on it. We were all energised by the desire to do something that nobody else seems to do any more. There's tons of integrity and it's all from the heart. We were a bunch of guys who were really good at what we do and we couldn't find anyone to play with because there's no rock'n'roll in this business any more. It was like somebody over-qualified looking for a job! So when we got together we had no idea where it was headed, we just had a mutual desire to do something really cool.”

Like the other members of Velvet Revolver, Slash has cleaned up his act considerably, nowadays sticking to a few beers rather than imbibing vast quantities of heroin, but he seems less keen than the rest to make a deal of it.

“One of the things I hate is carrying the f***ing sobriety flag,” he shrugs. “Everybody in the band has had pretty long, outstanding, outrageous and very excessive chemical abuse problems. Everybody quit for a reason. Dave was just too f***ed up and went to AA. Duff almost dies, which I used to do all the time and it didn't stop me, but he had a serious physical problem and he didn't have any choice. And Matt was just f***ing out of control; every time he drank he'd do blow and then drink more.

“My whole thing,” says Slash, “was I burned out on dealing with dealers and trying to find drugs all the time. I was always teetering over the edge and when I left Guns N' Roses I finally got sick of it. Now I keep one foot on the ground while the other one is still dangling. The whole sobriety thing doesn't really have to do with anything. The most important thing is that we never lost the really innocent drive to do what we grew up as kids listening to. It's always been the only reason we exist.”

This above everything else is the one point that Slash reiterates time and time again; Velvet Revolver, whatever their pasts, are a rock'n'roll band pure and simple, with all the inherent excitement that comes from being a part of that.

Remarkably Slash admits to still getting nervous before they go on.

“I always get nervous,” he smiles. “The only show I ever did where I wasn't nervous sucked. One of the things that I use to deal with all my deepest fears or inhibitions as a musician is to stick myself out there in situations that I'm not familiar with. I play with people who are 10 times better than me, doing different kinds of music; people that intimidate me like Ray Charles and James Brown, Motorhead, AC/DC, Iggy Pop… I get myself into those kind of situations all the time just to combat my fears and keep myself constantly on my toes. At the same time I can't do it without my cigarettes and some kind of access to alcohol!”

Surely Slash is aware that he probably has that same effect on other people?

“Keith Richards pulled a knife on me once, just to intimidate me,” he says, rather failing to answer the question. “It was the first time we ever really met and I was more paranoid about being in his presence just because of who he was, but the knife thing totally killed it! But I haven't done anything that important or that significant for people to be like that with me,” he adds with a total lack of false modesty. “When we were auditioning singers people would bring that up, like ‘it must be really intimidating to walk into a room with you guys' but we're the most laid back guys. It's like all the accomplishments that went into the whole Guns N' Roses thing never really sank in properly. I can imagine how Britney Spears or Elton John must walk around thinking they're above everyone else because they're so huge. Maybe Axl felt like that, but for me Guns were always so close to the edge that whatever success we were getting didn't sink in because every moment could have been the last.”

Like Duff, Slash is easy company, seems completely grounded and sows a humanitarian quality that is rare to the point of extinction in big rock bands. And about to get rarer!

True, Dave Kushner is far from hard work even though he confesses to being uncomfortable in the limelight and glad that much of the weight is taken by the other band members.

“I feel like if Velvet Revolver turn up somewhere, people won't go ‘hey where's Dave?'” he says knowingly. Meanwhile Matt Sorum is just getting used to being an original band member instead of a hired hand as he was in both Guns N' Roses and The Cult.

“I always felt like I was an onlooker and I didn't have much say,” Matt concedes. “In a lot of ways it was easier. There's a lot more involved if you're an equal partner. We argue and before I'd watch s**t go into disarray and never really be able to do anything about it. Now I'm really on top of it.”

And aside from being a driving force in the early stages of the band, pushing the other to make Velvet Revolver a real band rather than a hobby, he also comes across as the last remaining footloose and single party guy in the band.

“I'll continue to wave the flag for rock'n'roll!” Matt insists. “Like, let's get the f***ing strippers back here! And it's not even about me; I just don't want some guy showing up backstage without going, ‘f**k, I was at Velvet Revolver and there were all these chicks backstage. It was awesome!' When I was a kid I wanted bands to be larger than life and that's started to happen on it's own. At the shows lately, there's more and more girls flashing their tits at us and it's great, just like it should be!”

But in all fairness, you'll never see a lone drummer on the cover of a magazine that isn't specifically about drumming. No, it's the singer we want and he's proving to be an illusive bugger to say the least. Interview times are set and rearranged almost every hour, flights are booked and cancelled, and deadlines are pushed back and back. And while it's difficult not to be infuriated when you're sitting by the phone for days on end, it's somewhat refreshing to know that somewhere out there in sunny rock land there is a bone-fine rock star who does things his way and f**k all of the consequences.

Fearing the interview will take an early nosedive if anything to contentious is brought up straight away, I start by suggesting that, though the band have a commercial sound, Weiland's lyrics seem to be headed in completely the opposite direction. Bad move.

“Commercial sound?” Scott sneers. “As opposed to what? I disagree. For a major label rock record, compared to what is being passed off as rock music for the last eight years – which is f***ing s**t and totally trite – I don't think this is a commercially sounding rock'n'roll record at all. There's a couple of songs that could be called rock ballads, but they came from a place where I was close to suicide… so I don't agree that it's commercial other that it sounds good on the radio.”

But none the less the lyrics will limit what you could even put out as a single.

“Actually it's funny that you said that,” says Scott, and then he goes into a huge, empassioned rant about the record company attempting to edit the next single ‘Sucker Train Blues'.

Everything about the man screams intensity, even when he's asked an innocuous question, like is his writing approach different for this band than it was for Stone Temple Pilots?

“Yeah, the energy was different and I was in a different place,” says Weiland. “There's a lot less self-pity. I'm over the self-pity and I'm f***ing pissed off and ready to rip my skin off and climb out of the boy I was and be a f***ing man. I'm sure I was angry at myself for locking myself inside Peter Pan for so long and I was angry at a lot of people around me who I felt had kept me down. Also, my wife and I were going through a lot of shit that I brought on myself, although I didn't feel that at the time. I thought she'd betrayed me. Things are awesome now; my family is more solid than it's ever been.”

Weiland frequently offers more than you expect, talking openly about his personal life, almost as if it's a form of atonement or catharsis, then just as suddenly he'll give a one word answer or somehow defer the question, like when he's asked if Duff was instrumental in ‘saving him '.

“Yeah,” Scott says bluntly, “but at a very crucial time, I'd say that it all happened serendipitously. Total chance and circumstance collided.”

And then just as swiftly he'll show a glimmer of humour. Why does he think Velvet Revolver attract such a young audience?

“I think it's that I'm just so damn good looking!” he laughs, before becoming deadly serious again. “No, it's simple; kids today just haven't heard this type of rock 'n 'roll. For us to put an album out right now almost sounds like alternative music compared to what has been offered up to them. What's been called alternative music has been so average that for a lot of kids, when they wanna hear real rock 'n' roll, they listen to older records and that sounds more exciting. For us to put out a real rock 'n' roll record sounds alternative. And there's also a major sense of explosiveness because there are no Mother Teresa's in this band. Dave has his head on straight and I kind of look to Dave as a good way to keep myself in check, like a positive beam of light. But the rest of us are pretty f***ing crazy and there's always that element of not knowing what's gonna happen at any time. It's pretty combustible. We get along great and we're all friends, but it's a powder keg at times and I think that's what makes our shows great".

Given that Velvet Revolver have already made the leap from clubs to 15,000 seater arenas, you can't help but agree that Weiland has a point. Put simple, there is no other major rock band on the planet that oozes such potential for dangerous rock 'n' roll. Velvet Revolver certainly aren't firing blanks!

“I'll never sell myself out and do it just for the money because there's other ways of making money in the business, like producing records,” says Weiland. “But as long as we're doing it for all the right reasons and it's still honest, it seems like the sky's the limit. We're already on the path of taking over the world!”
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