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2005.04.15 - Inside Bay Area - Whether In Guns Or Velvet, Slash Just Plugs In And Plays

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2005.04.15 - Inside Bay Area - Whether In Guns Or Velvet, Slash Just Plugs In And Plays Empty 2005.04.15 - Inside Bay Area - Whether In Guns Or Velvet, Slash Just Plugs In And Plays

Post by Blackstar on Tue Jan 12, 2021 12:05 am

Whether in Guns or Velvet, Slash just plugs in and plays

By Jim Harrington

VERY FEW MUSICIANS get two chances to make it big. An even smaller percentage make good at both attempts. Slash, the former guitarist for Guns N' Roses and new ax-man for Velvet Revolver, is one.

Since solidifying its lineup in early 2003, Velvet Revolver has surpassed all expectations with last year's "Contraband," which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart and quickly sold more than 3 million copies. The band also earned three Grammy nominations and took home the prize for Best Hard Rock Performance for the single "Slither."

Velvet Revolver now builds upon its sold-out 2004 club tour with a headlining jaunt through larger venues, including the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco on Tuesday.

While Grammy Awards look good on the fireplace mantle and platinum records can help pay the mortgage on a cool pad in the Hollywood hills, Slash says it's the live show that makes everything worthwhile.

"Really the measure of success is how people react to you when you are playing live, and that's all it ever has been," the guitarist says during a recent telephone interview from a tour stop in Vancouver. "I don't think people understand what being a musician is, in general. It's just you are out there to play, and it's all about the music and whether people get off on the show.

"It's not really about achieving this monumental place where all of sudden you can be on MTV's 'Cribs' and all that other stupid s—- that people think is so hip."

Fans of old-school arena rock are pretty hip on Velvet Revolver, a band that was really born at a funeral.

Having left Guns N' Roses in the mid-'90s, partly because of widening artistic differences with the controlling Axl Rose, Slash was in the process of putting a new band together when he attended the burial services for Randy Castillo in 2002.

The funeral for the former Ozzy Osbourne drummer turned out to be a regular who's who of the rock community and one of the other guests happened to be fellow ex-Gunner Matt Sorum. The two musicians hatched a plan to form a band to play a one-off benefit show to help defray the mighty medical and funeral costs facing the Castillo family.

With Sorum on drums and Slash on guitar, the band needed a bassist, so the call went out to another former Roses-man Duff McKagan. The semi-reunion wasn't as unlikely as some would expect.

"We've always been good friends," Slash says. "I think one thing that people forget is that all the ex-Guns guys keep in touch. There's only one of us that we don't talk to."

The show, which featured a variety of guest vocalists, went great. In fact, it almost went too great. After splitting ways again with his old pals, Slash simply lost interest in his quest to form a band of new players.

"I realized that whatever I was working on with my new band didn't match anything near what it was like to play with Duff and Matt," he says.

McKagan and Sorum agreed that the old chemistry still worked and the threesome set out to find other players to join the cause. The first addition was relatively painless, as Dave Kushner from Wasted Youth joined as the second guitarist.

In contrast, the next step was an arduous, lengthy process that was even documented in realty-TV style by VH1.

"We started looking for singers and the first guy we thought of was Scott Weiland, except he was still in STP (Stone Temple Pilots)," Slash says. "So we auditioned singers for 10 months, and 10 months later it turns out that Scott quit STP."

Given Guns N' Roses' fiery career and Weiland's troubled past, it's understandable why many odds-makers believed the mix was too combustible to last. But Weiland has proven to be the perfect fit for the new band — a darkly charismatic front person to lead the arena-rock charge.

Despite the innate irony of that collaboration, given that STP's early grunge sound helped momentarily spell an end to flamboyant Guns N' Roses-style groups, Velvet Revolver immediately clicked with fans and has quickly risen to the top of the rock heap.

The obvious difference between Velvet Revolver and just about every other rock band out there is that these guys have been to the peak before in previous musical lives. They all know the drill, from press interviews to photo shoots, and they are ready for Round Two.

"When it comes down to it, if you make cars, no matter what car company you work for, there are going to be similarities," Slash says. "There are similarities between this band and all the other bands I've been in.

"It's sort of a real simple job. You plug in and you play and you make records and you see what happens."

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