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2005.04.21 - Salt Lake Tribune - Act II: Velvet Revolver 'Ferocious' (Duff)

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2005.04.21 - Salt Lake Tribune - Act II: Velvet Revolver 'Ferocious' (Duff)  Empty 2005.04.21 - Salt Lake Tribune - Act II: Velvet Revolver 'Ferocious' (Duff)

Post by Blackstar on Tue Jan 12, 2021 12:08 am

Act II: Velvet Revolver 'ferocious'

By Dan Nailen

Three former members of Guns N' Roses, an ex-heroin addict and a guy from a Suicidal metal band. Mix them up, and you get multiplatinum-selling group Velvet Revolver.

There are few second acts in rock 'n' roll.

In a genre as fickle as rock, where fans are bombarded by whatever record labels and radio executives decide is the "next big thing," one shot is basically all you get, unless you are Sting leaving The Police or maybe Frank Black, post-Pixies. Once a megaband splits, you generally can find the members moving on to other things or struggling to reclaim past glory.

Consider, then, the challenge for three former members of Guns N' Roses - bassist Duff McKagan, guitarist Slash and drummer Matt Sorum - as they began thinking about working together again. Not only would they have to overcome the image fans have of them as one of the biggest hard-rock acts of the past two decades - they would have to find a lead singer capable of making people forget the infuriating but mesmerizing Axl Rose.

Enter Scott Weiland, singer for the much-maligned Stone Temple Pilots, who was more famous the past few years for run-ins with the law related to his heroin addiction than any music the Pilots were making. On paper, it looked like a disaster waiting to happen - a band full of addicts, whose former band split over the flakiness of the lead singer, joining forces with one of rock's most notorious druggies.

But it worked, and Velvet Revolver was born.

"Initially, when Matt and Slash and I got together to do a tribute for a friend of ours who died," McKagan said, "there was just - and this is an overused word, but I gotta use it - there was just the chemistry between the three of us that when we hit the first three chords the day before the benefit at the rehearsal space . . . everybody just went, 'Whoa!' "

Charged up to work together again, the trio of former Gunners recruited guitarist Dave Kushner - formerly of Suicidal Tendencies and a high school buddy of Slash - and got hired to do a song for "The Hulk" soundtrack.

"Scott became free from the Stone Temple Pilots about that time and came in and just nailed 'Set Me Free,' " McKagan continued, referring to the soundtrack cut. "And when Scott came in, that was it and we all felt it and we just really were all about making the best music we could make. We weren't really thinking about anything past that."

That would change soon enough, but the band had to face down some of Weiland's demons. He was busted for heroin possession shortly after the band got together. The chemistry McKagan speaks of was strong enough for the rest of the band to wait for Weiland to go through rehab in Washington state - a program of detox and martial arts - before recording began on Velvet Revolver's debut, "Contraband."

The results speak for themselves. The joyfully sleazy mix of glam-rock licks and punk attitude on "Contraband" debuted at No. 1 on the American album-sales charts, did the same around the world, eventually went multiplatinum and garnered the band a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance for the album's first single, "Slither."

"We weren't going to try and be anything we weren't," McKagan said of the album. "Slash is who he is. We've all grown as musicians in the interim between G N' R and Velvet Revolver. We all kept playing music and were listening to new music and becoming better at our craft. Velvet Revolver is just a product of that. And I guess, much to our delight, there was a big audience out there for it."

McKagan sounded a little shocked that Velvet Revolver has been able to find an audience beyond old Guns N' Roses and Stone Temple Pilots fans, noting that "85 percent of the people coming to our shows are 16 to 24 years old."

That sounds about right in terms of the hard-rock demographic, but consider this: Guns N' Roses' monster debut "Appetite for Destruction" is now 18 years old. Stone Temple Pilots' grunge-riding debut "Core" arrived 13 years ago. The fans who have picked up on Velvet Revolver aren't just old fans looking to rekindle their love for those bands. There are plenty of new, young fans on board who never heard either G N' R or STP before Velvet Revolver came along.

"There are guys like you who come to the gigs, and they're all the old farts!" McKagan said, referring to his 33-year-old interviewer. "I met a guy who was like 45 who was just losing his mind over Velvet Revolver, and he had his 11-year-old daughter with him, and we were her favorite band."

Velvet Revolver's success has actually been more pronounced overseas than in the states. At the time of this interview, the band had gone from England, where it sold out 17 straight shows, to Japan for a short tour, then back to Los Angeles to perform at the Grammys before heading to New Zealand and Australia for more sold-out shows. Now, nearly a year after "Contraband" hit record stores, Velvet Revolver is headlining a full U.S. arena tour, dubbed the "Electric Wonderland Show."

"America is kind of the last place to really conquer," McKagan said. "Rock 'n' roll hasn't really had a foothold here in a long time."

Asked if touring is any different now that he and his bandmates are nearly a decade older than the last time many G N' R fans saw them, McKagan said the new vibe on the road is due to something else.

" 'Lucid' comes before 'older,' " McKagan said. "I feel more alert and more alive now than when I was 26 or 27 years old. The shows are just great. We play a lot better, a lot more ferocious. Guns N' Roses was truly, on some nights, the best rock 'n' roll band on the planet. But it wasn't every night. With us, we give it our all every night and we haven't had a bad show."

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