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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.


2005.02.DD - Revolver Magazine - Interview with Velvet Revolver

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2005.02.DD - Revolver Magazine - Interview with Velvet Revolver Empty 2005.02.DD - Revolver Magazine - Interview with Velvet Revolver

Post by Blackstar Mon Jan 11, 2021 10:46 pm

Velvet Revolver

By Dan Epstein

With a platinum album under their belts and a legion of skeptics silenced the members of Velvet Revolver are back on top again. And damn it feels good.

On a cool October evening in Hollywood, California, eight massive searchlights are whipping their way back and forth across the night sky, their majestic beams illuminating the heavens in a manner befitting a major Tinseltown awards ceremony. But if you follow the lights to their source-a vacant, fenced-in lot at the southwest corner of Selma and Ivar-you won't find anything resembling a red carpet. Instead of tuxedos and designer gowns, the 3,000 people gathered here tonight are attired in an impressive array of rock T-shirts, representing everyone from the Misfits and Ramones to Moonspell and Warrant.

The members of the crowd are as diverse as their attire: Punk rockers stand next to Eighties hair-band refugees; professional types from the surrounding office buildings share space with teens who look like they came here straight from shooting The O.C. You can even spot a couple denim-clad toddlers, strapped into strollers pushed by their doting mothers.

Though these people may appear to have little in common, theyre all totally stoked to catch a free concert by the hottest rock band in America, Velvet Revolver. Tonight's impromptu performance, announced only a few hours ago on local radio, is intended as both a thank-you to the fans and a celebration of the fact that Contraband (RCA), Velvet Revolver's debut album, has sold more than a million copies since its release in June. But as with every other Velvet Revolver concert to date, the show is ultimately a celebration of the band's existence, a defiant affirmation of survival against severely long odds.

In hindsight, of course, it looks like a slam-dunk how could a band featuring three former members of Guns N' Roses (lead guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Matt Sorum) fronted by former Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland fail to click? But even before Velvet Revolver had a name or a frontman, the band had already inspired an avalanche of rumors and an army of skeptics.

The Velvet Revolver story officially began on April 29, 2002, when Sorum, Slash, and McKagan reunited for a show benefiting the family of late Ozzy Osbourne/Motley Crüe drummer Randy Castillo. Realizing that the old musical chemistry was still there, the former Gunners decided to form a new band. Slash's junior-high-school buddy Dave Kushner (who had also played in McKagan's band Loaded) was tapped to handle rhythm guitar duties, and a search began in earnest for a lead vocalist. Skid Row's Sebastian Bach auditioned, as did Travis Meeks of Days of the New and dozens of others; hundreds more submitted CDs, most of which were rejected after a single spin.

The search for a singer, which was documented by VH-1 for an upcoming show, continued for nearly a year. Despite their frustration, the four musicians continued to write and rehearse together, compiling a backlog of more than 60 songs in the process. Then in February 2003, the band was offered the chance to contribute tracks to two different film soundtracks. They invited Scott Weiland - who had just parted ways with Stone Temple Pilots, to sing on a cover of Pink Floyd's "Money," recorded for The Italian Job, and on an original called "Set Me Free," recorded for Ang Lee's Hulk. The experiment worked, and Velvet Revolver were born.

But while the addition of Weiland caused a stir of excitement among STP and GNR fans alike, many music-industry insiders and observers wondered whether the new project could actually be commercially viable or culturally relevant in an era dominated by hip-hop, teen pop, and increasingly extreme metal. After all, none of the various post-GNR projects had exactly set the world on fire: Slash's band Snakepit went through several lineups, with diminishing returns. Sorum had most recently participated in a disastrous reunion record with the Cult. McKagan put Loaded on the back burner after enrolling full time in Seattle University, where he was studying for a finance degree. And then, of course, there was the question of Weiland's self-destructive behavior, which had already landed him in jail and rehab, and contributed mightily to the breakup of his previous band. After all the crazy shit they'd gone through with GNR lead singer Axl Rose, weren't these three former Gunners essentially just trading one wild card for another?

As if on cue, on May 18, 2003, just days after he'd told Rolling Stone that he had officially become the band's singer, Weiland was arrested in Burbank when a police officer, who had pulled him over for driving without headlights, allegedly found heroin and cocaine in the singer's car. The arrest marked the fourth time Weiland had been busted on drug charges. But instead of kicking him to the curb, his new bandmates-all former substance abusers- pledged to stand by him and help him get his shit together. Weiland responded to their collective vote of confidence by throwing himself headlong into the creative process, jamming five days a week with Velvet Revolver and writing reams of new lyrics. An impressive showcase at L.A.'s El Rey Theatre in June 2003 caught the attention of several major labels, and Velvet Revolver inked a deal with BMG a few months later.

In October, the band went into the studio with producer Josh Abraham (Orgy, Staind), and everything seemed like it was finally falling into place-until October 27, 2003, when Weiland was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of a prescribed drug. " It was a trying time, an emotional time," says Sorum of the Contraband sessions. "When things got crazy with Scott, it touched on other things I'd dealt with before, like situations I've been in with Axl. And I would feel this overwhelming fear, like, Oh my god! This is getting fucked up! But sometimes, you just have to take a deep breath and say, 'I'm just gonna take it one day at a time and enjoy it.' I mean, every great singer I've been in a band with has been a fuckin' nutcase, okay? I've got that figured out by now. But when he's up there onstage and at the microphone and he's kicking ass, I'm like, 'Oh fuck, man, this is great!'

"I think Scott's proven that we can all be fuckups and can still pull together and make things happen," Sorum continues. "He's kind of an underdog, in a way. There's been all this press on him and us, stuff like, 'Scott's Last Stand.' I told him at the beginning, 'This is your chance to show those motherfuckers'. And that's what he lives for."

Though he was ordered by the court to report immediately to a rehab program, Weiland was allowed several supervised visits to the recording studio so that he could finish his vocals. The rage, anguish, and pain he was dealing with at the time are apparent on hard- rocking tracks like "Sucker Train Blues," "Headspace," and "Do It for the Kids," but the power ballad "Fall to Pieces" stands out, both for its superb song craft and Weiland's moving vocal performance. Penned shortly after his arrest on May 18, 2003, the song is both a naked admission of helplessness in the face of addiction and a genuine expression of desire for a better life.

"I was literally bailed out about six hours before I wrote it," Weiland explains. "I was in the depths of desperation. I knew at any moment that the news of that event was going to hit the press, and that my wife - who I was separated from [at the time] would get that news and feel utterly humiliated again. I thought those days were totally behind me, I thought that there was no way in hell that I would ever be busted for a possession charge again. I thought my days of that level of heroin abuse were behind me. But when it looked like I was losing my wife for good, I fell back.."

"You hear people say that 'everything happens for a reason,' "he continues. "It's such an overused cliché, but I do believe that that was God acting for me in a way that I couldn't act for myself. In a sense, God was driving that police car, you know? Because that was the moment, that was the turning point. I don't think another event would have been enough of a catalyst to turn my shit around."

Fast forward to October 2004. Scott Weiland is backstage at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, ingesting a dangerously addictive - but perfectly legal-substance. "Wow! Funnel cake" he enthuses, digging into the fried dough that one of the band's catering assistants has brought in from the nearby fairgrounds, where the Arizona State Fair is in full swing. Tonight's show will be the first Velvet Revolver arena gig on American soil; to date, the band has only played smaller theaters in the U.S., so this performance feels like a welcome return to their natural stomping grounds.

"There aren't a lot of bands that know how to work a stage anymore," says Sorum, as he limbers up for the show with some yoga stretches. "With Guns N' Roses, our daily office routine was playing fucking Wembley Stadium, you know what I mean?"

While McKagan warms his fingers up by playing along to classic Motown hits by the Temptations and Edwin Starr, Kushner flips through photos of his new house on his laptop. Kushner-who has also played over the years with Dave Navarro, the Electric Love Hogs, and Wasted Youth-is just beginning to enjoy the financial independence that his better-known bandmates have known for at least a decade, and he's still marveling at his newfound good fortune.

For Kushner, the most significant moment of the past year was when he received his first check from the Hulk soundtrack, which enabled him to buy an engagement ring for his fiancée. "Up until then, I had no idea how I was gonna buy one of those," he says. "How was I gonna get that money together, let alone pay it back? That was, like, the first thing I bought-that, and I bought a new bed for me and her. To be honest with you," he continues, "everything that I dreamed about as a 16-year old, playing guitar in my bedroom, has happened to me in the last year."

In the first week of Contraband's release, the record sold 256,267 copies in the U.S. alone, knocking Usher off the top of the Billboard album charts. Considering that most industry pundits didn't believe the record would even get finished, the members of Velvet Revolver can be forgiven for feeling at least a slight sense of vindication.

"Making the record was amazing," Weiland says. "I felt like we were in a bubble, and I sort of felt like we couldn't lose. I guess it sounds a little bit hocus-pocus, perhaps, but I really had that same feeling that I had with the first STP record, and with (STP's 1994 release) Purple. I just saw that it was gonna happen."

"The point for me where vindication was established was when we were actually in the studio making a record," says Slash. "And when it was completed, I felt completely vindicated – this is what we set out to do. All the naysayers and all that stuff, I wasn't really paying that much attention to it, but I know the vibe, and it still exists to this day. Every single fucking day that we go out there and play onstage is one day further than they thought we would get. We made an album against whatever odds there were."

He chuckles softly, eyes hidden behind his trademark mane of curls. "And I know there were a lot of them!"

But if Velvet Revolver were confident in their record's success, no one in the band could have possibly predicted how well Contraband would connect with young audiences. At the Phoenix show, for instance, most of the fans singing along with every word seem to be of college age or young "Eighty-five percent of our audience is, 16 to 24," says McKagan with some amazement. When pressed for an explanation, the bassist harkens back a few years to his days at Seattle University. "A lot of the kids there would bring Guns N' Roses records for me to sign, and this girl came up to me, a little punk-rock chick about 19 years old, and she was real sad. She said, 'You know, our generation ripped off - we don't have a rock-and-roll of our own.' So I think maybe that's part of it."

"It really seems like there's a big resurgence of nubile beauties that want to rock," says Sorum, flashing a bright-white smile. While the rest of his bandmates are happily married, Sorum continues to revel in his bachelorhood. "You know, I'm just trying to wave the flag for rock and roll. I'm the last of a dying breed." He laughs. "And I don't want to be like Ozzy Osbourne say this is my last hurrah, and I'm going to retire.. from boning groupies! But I'll say that, so they'll hurry up and get here!"

"Scott's a really good father, Slash is an amazing father.. .and then there's Matt," says McKagan. "We do a little vicarious living through his stories. We're always like, 'So how was it, dude?' But for us, it's really great to be grounded. I'm really grateful for the situation I have with my wife and kids."

Velvet Revolver may play raunchy, balls-out, high-energy rock and roll onstage, but these days they strive to keep their offstage lives as low-key as possible. McKagan and Weiland actually brought their wives and kids with them on this past summer's tour of Europe, and tour dates are generally arranged so that the guys can fly home to their families at least one day a week.

"It used to be, when you had two or three days off between shows, you were just out there partying," says Slash. "It was like, 'Find me in two days, pick me up, and point me in the right direction.' Now you have the option-as it was so eloquently put by Walter Matthau in The Bad News Bears-to go home and get to know the wife and kids again. You go home and get grounded, because that is part of your life. It's not this fuckin' fly-by-night thing anymore. So you go home and do that, until it's time to go back to the airport and get back on the plane. And that's pretty cool! As un-rock and roll as that sounds, I now have at least one foot extremely grounded. The other one's still sort of dangling."

Of course, when you travel in rock-and-roll circles, you're always going to run into people who want to hook you up, hook up with you, or both. How do you deal with the folks that haven't gotten the memo that Velvet Revolver are, for the most part, family guys with clean lifestyles?

"You just say no," says McKagan with a grin. "Like the other day, we were in Oklahoma City, and this guy was down in the lobby, like, 'Hey, dude, can you sign this?' And then he was like, '[whispers] You wanna smoke some weed? I've got some good bud, dude! You wanna smoke out?' It's like, No, man; I don't wanna 'smoke out.'

"People might try to offer me [some coke], but I'll just blow 'em off," says Sorum. "And if they give me grief about it, I'll just say, 'Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt!' Dude, you don't even fuckin' know. I'll write a book, you read it, and you'll probably fucking OD just reading it." He laughs. "You'll have a fucking seizure just reading that motherfucker!"

The moral of the Velvet Revolver, so far seems to be that, once you rid yourself of the fringe benefits of rock and roll, the rock and roll still remains. Contraband may not be the second coming of Appetite For Destruction, but it's easily the best, most focused record that any Velvet Revolver member has been involved with in at least decade. And onstage, all five members seem as thrilled with their new creative lease on life as they are to simply be playing guitars and drums really fucking loud.

Old Guns N' Roses tunes "It's So Easy" and "Used to Love Her" get an enthusiastic audience reception, as does Stone Temple Pilots' "Sex Type Thing," but the ecstatic cheers that greet Slash's solo on Velvet Revolver's "Fall to Pieces" prove that this is more than just a hard-rocking nostalgia act.

"These days," McKagan reflects, "everybody's like, 'Yeah! Velvet Revolver!' And it's like, 'Hey, a year ago you were saying that this was never gonna happen...' "That feels good for us, but we knew all along it was gonna happen. Everybody asked those questions like, 'Is Scott gonna make it? 'Is this thing gonna implode?' 'Is anyone gonna sign you guys?' But the truth is in the old adage 'Let the music do the talking.' That's all we can do, that's what we do best, and that's what we're doing now. And it's great."

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