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2005.02.02 - The Daily Yomiuri - Velvet Revolver Shoot To Thrill (Duff)

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2005.02.02 - The Daily Yomiuri - Velvet Revolver Shoot To Thrill (Duff) Empty 2005.02.02 - The Daily Yomiuri - Velvet Revolver Shoot To Thrill (Duff)

Post by Blackstar on Mon Jan 11, 2021 10:55 pm

Velvet Revolver Shoot To Thrill

By Dave Hilson

When word got out a few years back that former Guns N' Roses members were getting together with the lead singer of the Stone Temple Pilots and a guitarist from Wasted Youth to form a supergroup, there was a collective snicker from the music press. It all just seemed like a recipe for destruction. These guys were well-known for their rock 'n' roll excesses--including alcohol and drug addictions--and most people thought the band would simply implode after a few weeks.

But Velvet Revolver have proven the critics wrong, not only by staying clean and together for a couple of years now but also by recording what has turned out to be a very successful album. The group, whose combustive pedigree consists of former GNR members Duff McKagan (bass), Slash (guitar), Matt Sorum (drums), Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland, and Wasted Youth's Dave Kushner (guitar), have come out with their guitars a-blazin' to defy the odds and make themselves into a legitimate contender for the title of world's rockingest band--no stylish New York rock here, this is Sunset Strip rock 'n' roll, big hair and leather jackets required.

"They (the press) didn't think we we're going to finish the first record," says an amused McKagan down the line from Los Angeles. "To the naysayers, our middle finger was always out there. And our middle finger has just gotten a lot bigger," he adds in the true spirit of rock 'n' roll.

McKagan has reason to be defiant. The group have just returned from a triumphant tour of Britain, where four extra dates were added to their original London show to meet ticket demands, and a 6,000-seat venue in Birmingham was replaced by a full-sized arena to accommodate fans.

Their U.S. chart-topping debut album, Contraband (2004), which is an aggressive slice of updated '80s glam metal, has gone platinum and landed them several Grammy nominations, including best rock song for "Fall to Pieces," best hard rock performance for "Slither," and best rock album.

"What's better than all those awards is playing to full arenas, and people being into your music," McKagan says of being nominated. "I don't know if we'll win. We're up against U2 and Green Day, and even though we've been around the block, we're looked at as the underdogs, the f***-ups...And the people that are voting for the Grammies are probably going to look at us and go, 'Oh, these guys are a bunch of junkies.'

"But it's nice to be considered," adds McKagan, who along with his bandmates will be performing at the show.

But why do it? Why form a band likely to strengthen a temptation to fall back into old habits?

"Well, music is in all our blood," McKagan says. "We're all sort of shipwreck survivors. We're all lucky to be alive. We (GNR members) gave the Stones a big run for their money (in excess)."

McKagan recounts a recent conversation he had with Elton John, during a recording session for a tsunami-relief cover of Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" organized by Sharon Osbourne.

Osbourne called the band when they arrived in London and asked them to put down the music for the track, which will be released later this month.

"He (Elton) said 'Last time I saw you, mate, I was holding you up at the side of the stage at the Freddie Mercury concert.' And I was like 'Oh, really?'' because I was so out of it then. And he said, 'It's good to see you alive and well,'" McKagan recalls.

"We'd seen everything. Slash and I took it to the hilt, you know, to the f****** hilt. Slash almost kicked the bucket. Matt overdosed a bunch of times and was actually Scott Weiland's roommate at Impact, a rehab center a bunch of years ago. Dave Kushner was, way before us, really really bad. So, if anything we're a support group for each other.

"We're a family and no family gets along perfectly all the time, but the thing about this band is that if anybody has any problems anywhere, I can call anybody in this band and say 'hey man, I need your help' and they'll be there in a second.

"I've never had that in a band before."

McKagan says the drugs and alcohol are definitely behind them now.

"We're a rock band and its innate for us to be who we are, but it's just better without drugs... You remember where you're at," he says.

The group first formed after Slash, Sorum and McKagan got together to perform at a benefit concert while the world waited restlessly for Axl Rose, the singer from GNR with whom the others had had a well-documented acrimonious split, to put out the much-hyped but never-released Chinese Democracy album. McKagan says they hadn't played seriously together for six or seven years.

"The first three chords we hit at the rehearsal was just like, 'Oh, my God.' And we did the show and just tore the place apart."

The next day they talked and decided they had been apart long enough, and that it was time to form a new band.

"The chemistry was just too powerful," McKagan says.

Kushner joined the group four weeks later and after a search for a singer, which was filmed as a rockumentary titled The Rise of Velvet Revolver by VH1, Weiland was brought on board.

McKagan says the group like to be spontaneous and feed off each other's creative juices.

"We don't like to spend too much time...if it's something we have to spend too much time on then let's throw it away because you lose you inspiration," he says. "Contraband was really a spontaneous record, we wrote it in a five- or six-week period, and recorded it in 2-1/2 weeks. It was a perfect snapshot of us at the time."

Not surprisingly, the group's sound is a mix between GNR and STP, but McKagan denies Velvet Revolver are simply an amalgamation of the former two.

"I think it's new," he says. "Of course, we are who we are, but we're not going back and taking from our past, we're forging toward the future and reinventing ourselves. We're proud of our past laurels, but by no means are we resting on them."

That's not just empty talk. Velvet Revolver are already looking ahead and staying creative. McKagan says they have plenty of material for a new album, which they hope to have out by Christmas.

"We've been touring since May and we've grown as a band and as friends and songwriters," he says. "We've gotten to know each other as players, so I'm sure this next record is going to be pretty mind-blowing."

They recently completed a video for their third single, "Dirty Little Thing," featuring animation by Japanese artist Rockin' Jellybean, who designed the band's backdrop for their tour and is known for his revealing over-the-top illustrations of sexy women and muscle cars.

"The guy is badass," McKagan says of Jellybean. "We went through a bunch of different animated stuff people did and this guy is just so inline with how we do things."

During their five days off between touring Britain and coming to Japan to perform at this weekend's Sonic Mania and on their own, the group were in the studio working on an acoustic version of "Fall to Pieces." They got the idea for the remake while performing an acoustic take on the song for Access Hollywood and MSNBC.

"Then we decided 'well, let's just do an acoustic version for radio," McKagan says. "So we did this really loose, almost Motown-ish version" of the song.

Much of the group's success may come down to them filling a musical void just the way GNR did when they came along in the late '80s and gave the world a slap in the face with their aggressive debut album of searing glam metal, Appetite for Destruction.

"It (our music) is honest, it's raw and it's brutal," Mckagan says. "I think it just boils down to us being an honest rock 'n' roll band. We don't punch in and out when we play a gig, you know. It's a show and it's real musicians. It's not guys gazing down at their shoes.

"There's too much of that layover from the '90s, that 'Woe is me,' you know, 'I don't really want to be up here playing, I'm just playing because it's my art' type of crap. We just made the record we wanted to make and all of a sudden there's this rather large audience for it--and they're young. You've got the older GNR and STP fans in the back (at live shows) but you look out in the front row and there's a bunch of pimple-faced kids just going for it. It's great to see.

"I grew up seeing bands like Black Flag and the Clash and Iggy, and I was able to get my aggression out. You don't necessarily get that with Nickelback or Creed or Good Charlotte."

McKagan, who has been to Japan about a dozen times with various bands, says the group will play almost the entire album as well as some covers that could include anything from old GNR and STP to Cheap Trick, Nirvana and Aerosmith.

So while the group are still supplying GNR-style aggression they're doing it differently this time--without the drugs. And McKagan, who is on a strict martial arts regimen that he continues even while on the road, says he's never felt better.

"I'm almost boring on tour," he says with a laugh. "But I have a regimen and I have peace of mind. And, man, I'm telling you, I'd much rather be where I am now than where I was 10 years ago...which was not a good place."

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