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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.


2005.08.DD - - All Rumors Aside... The Real Velvet Revolver Story (Duff)

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2005.08.DD - - All Rumors Aside... The Real Velvet Revolver Story (Duff) Empty 2005.08.DD - - All Rumors Aside... The Real Velvet Revolver Story (Duff)

Post by Blackstar Tue Jan 12, 2021 2:13 am

All Rumors Aside... The Real Velvet Revolver Story

Velvet Revolver is a band that, for all intents and purposes, shouldn't be. They arose from the wreckage of two of the most popular bands of the 1990s - Guns and Roses, and Stone Temple Pilots. Sadly, they were formed by the death of a friend, and amazingly, we'd have likely lost one of the most amazing singer-songwriters of the rock world to drugs had the band not formed.

For those who have been living in a hole for the last two years, Velvet Revolver is Guns and Roses alumni Slash (Guitar), Duff McKagan (Bass), and Matt Sorum (drums) joined by Dave Kushner (guitar) who played with Duff's band Loaded and the former front man of Stone Temple Pilots - Scott Weiland (vocals).

In mid-July 2005, I had the dubious honor of talking to Duff McKagan about his near-death experience that led to his sobriety, the story behind Velvet Revolver's formation, and the road to sobriety that has lead the band to fame and a fortunate life.

Sean Claes: How are things going?

Duff McKagan: Awesome, I'm rested. I'm looking at the lake out my back window in Seattle. This is my first day of doing phoners in like three weeks.

Claes: Well, sorry you had to do that, but I'm glad to be talking to you.

McKagan: No, it's actually kind of cool though. I have perspective now. I've come out of the foxhole. I just feel relaxed. We kind of have a debacle on our European tour where they booked us for six weeks without us knowing. We thought we were doing seven gigs on the Ozzfest and that was it in Europe. Then Bob Geldof called to do the Live 8. We had to reschedule the whole Europe thing and make it four weeks long. After touring for a year, to go over to Europe and tour for six weeks and be away from your family for that long... It'll kill you.

Claes: That's something that a lot of people don't understand. They just want to know why you aren't coming to their town. They don't understand you've been on tour for fourteen months without a break.

McKagan: We really did tour like twenty-year-olds on this tour. We went for it. Fourteen months straight. We all have families, except Matt has got a girlfriend.

Claes: Did you get to fly your families out?

McKagan: Absolutely. But even then you're moving, and packing, and waiting, and traveling. Which is fun probably from someone else's perspective.

Claes: Any job is fun for a few weeks.

McKagan: It sure is. It comes down to this. You get paid to wait and travel. The playing part is for free, because that's the fun part. I could play a gig every night. It's more fun than anything else there is besides having sex. But being away from your wife and kids or flying them out, or flying home for a night only to fly out at 4a.m. the next morning to get to a gig... it does get old after awhile. And it tears at the fabric of the band. You have got to stay healthy. I feel healthy again.

Claes: And you've got a lot of band to tear the fabric of.

McKagan: Yeah. But the good thing is, we've all been through it before. It used to be that we didn't know what was wrong. Well, shit... you've been on tour for two-and-a-half years, that's what's wrong. So we're being cognizant of our situation and we did set it up so we would have this break, and that three weeks of the break would feel like a break. Because the first week, you still feel like you're in a hotel. We all know that in the band. After that you can actually get up in the middle of the night and know where the bathroom is. You know? "This is my house." We had a birthday party for my five-year-old daughter and had a magician over and a big bouncy bounce. Just fun, goofy, cool stuff. But now I've started to think about writing more songs and listening to the stuff we've written on the road, which is like fifty songs.

Claes: Are you guys working on a follow up to Contraband?

McKagan: We have so much material that it's more like paring it down then coming up with more stuff. We really evolved as a band, and became a band in that fourteen months.

Claes: That was the big question on everyone's minds... everyone who didn't really have the right to ask... "Is Velvet Revolver going to be able to become a "real" band... what about Weiland?"

McKagan: Put yourself in his shoes. Fuck man. Go all the way back. You start playing when you're 15 years old. Then you get good enough, or lucky enough, or fortunate enough to be signed by a record label. They are going to condone anything that you do as long as you're selling records. There are people out there on the road that are promoters or what-not and they are going to make it really convenient for you, whatever it is... whether its your drug of choice or poison of choice. As long as you're popular or selling records... give them what they want. It really is that way. It is not a falsity. I've been through it and my pancreas exploded (in 1994). I was like ten minutes from death.

Claes: Wow. Was that the point for you where you were forced to stop?

McKagan: I was in triage for fourteen days. They had a rehab set up for me. I had morphine in one arm and librium in the other... with buttons for the first five days that I could punch whenever I wanted. I needed both of them. I was going through the delirium tremors (DTs).
Then they took the buttons away, which sucked, but they kept the IV in for like five days then they started to wean me off. They had a rehab set up for me to go to in Olympia, Washington. I was in Seattle when it happened. Now, this could go for any one of us, I'm telling my story.

Claes: I guess, in an odd way, you're lucky you were in your hometown when it happened.

McKagan: True. My best friend came over to my house. He saw my car and he knew I wasn't one to go out and jog (laughs) so he came in. I was mentally cognizant but I was in so much physical pain that I couldn't do anything. So he found me and carried me to his car... so you're right I'm lucky that I was home. But they had a rehab set up for me. I saw my mom. I'm the last of eight kids. My mom has passed since, but she had Parkinson's and she came to the hospital every day in her wheelchair. Someone took her to the hospital to see her youngest son with tubes running in and out of him. It's not cool. It's just not fucking cool.
Scott, in his case, he lost his wife and kids for a year and he didn't know how to get out of the spot he was in. In my case, I was lucky my pancreas blew up because it forced me to go sober. I got sober through drugs, but at least I got sober.

Claes: And at least people weren't scrutinizing every little move you made.

McKagan: No, I was underneath the radar at that point. Guns was supposed to be making a new record, but nobody knew about it and I was in Seattle, not LA at the time. Guns was still a huge band at the time.
Scott's been busted so many times. That was the problem. If you want to talk about drugs, which I guess we are now.

Claes: That isn't really where I wanted to take this interview, but since we're talking about it... It's tough as it is to go through an addiction like that, and then to do it under the eye of the public who are just looking for you to slip up.

McKagan: I know. But I'm really proud of that guy. He's spouted out a few times, and kept his mouth shut a couple of times. The most important thing is, he got his family back. First of all, he got his health back. He worked his ass off. I was right next to him going through all of this stuff. Then he got his family back. Usually these people die. So, it should be a celebration at this point.

Claes: That's exactly why I wanted to do his interview. He's got his health back, he's got himself straight, his drug charges were dismissed on July 12, 2005. It looks like there's nowhere to go but up.

McKagan: Yeah. And of course people are now saying, "he doesn't have probation, he's going to go back to drugs." People don't know Scott anymore. I know Scott. It's the knee-jerk average Joe guys. It's just sad that people look for other people to fail... but people like Scott should be celebrated. People like Mark Lanegan (ex-Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age) should be celebrated. He's gone through hell. He's a really good friend of mine. He may not be as popular as Scott, but he is a really good fucking singer.

Claes: How did Velvet Revolver form?

McKagan: It was just a thing that came out of nowhere. I was up in Seattle, going to Seattle University. I had a band called Loaded. Slash was trying to reform something in Los Angeles and Matt was doing soundtracks for movies. The three of us hadn't played in earnest together for seven years.
A collective friend of all of ours, drummer Randy Castillo (ex-Ozzy Osbourne) died (March 26, 2002). He was just a super nice guy. Had you met him, he was just a magnetic personality and he died a really horrible death, throat cancer, slow and really brutal. He died penniless. For how famous he was as a drummer, he never really had any money. There was a funeral down in LA and there was talk of a benefit to get some money for his family and pay the hospital bills.
Someone came up with the idea of getting Matt, Slash and I back together and thinking that it would at least sell a club. So, Matt called me and asked me to come down and do it. I said "sure." We got together and rehearsed the day before the thing and we had been away from the chemistry we all had together for so long that we forgot what it was. It just overpowered us. Steven Tyler came down and sang for us that night. Josh Todd, Steven Tyler, Cypress Hill. It was just fucking killer. Once they heard we were playing the place sold out in like five minutes. We were pretty impressed by that... and flattered. It raised a lot of money for Randy's family and it was all very positive.
This all happened really quickly. Four or five days. The day after the gig, Slash and I talked and said, "maybe enough time has gone by that it's OK for us to play together. It's too good for us not to. Fuck what everybody else says, let's just do it." So Matt, Slash and I got together and started to write songs together. We got Dave Kushner, who was playing in my band, Loaded and had known Slash since Jr. High...and had known Scott Weiland even longer. He was the perfect muse for Slash's style of guitar playing.

Claes: Speaking of Weiland, how'd he end up in Velvet Revolver?

McKagan: My wife, Susan, is good friends with Scott's wife - therefore me becoming friends with Scott. I had seen what Scott was going through, and I kept my distance but offered my solid friendship always. I did martial arts for eleven years, and he knew that was how I got sober. But one thing led to another...we started looking for singers. Stone Temple Pilots broke up, but we didn't know that. We got two soundtrack offers, one for The Hulk and one for The Italian Job. We had a manager by this point and he called me and said "Stone Temple Pilots broke up." And I said "Well, Scott didn't tell me that." I felt really weird about calling him, I'd rather Scott tell me. And he said "He doesn't know you have these soundtracks. Why don't you call him to do these soundtracks?"
So I called him and said "How are you doing, man?" And he said "Well, I'm not doing great." He was going through hell. I asked him if he wanted to sing on these two soundtracks with me and Slash and Matt and Dave and he just jumped at it. It turned out the chemistry was really great between the five of us. We'd all been through the same crap. Even better, Scott came to me. You know, he came in and did the two songs and he was strung out. He said "dude, I've been to rehab five trillion times, obviously it isn't working. I want out of this addiction. And I know you got sober through martial arts, it's something I've always been interested in."
So I called a guy I knew... a cifu, a sensei, a teacher in Eastern Washington. Pretty much in the sticks in Washington. It was like a Bruce Lee movie. I called up Cifu Joseph and told him the situation. I talked to a doctor and he filled up this backpack with all sorts of syringes, and drugs and all kinds of crap. Scott, Dave and I got on a plane and flew to Eastern Washington. I met this Cifu at a Safeway (Supermarket) in this little podunk town and followed him up to this little house on top of a mountain. There we were and there was no way out. For the first time in Scott's life, there was no way out. Just a mirror in front of him and people to help.
The bag of drugs was synthetic stuff for us to wean him off. We did it. Cifu Joseph taught him martial arts, and the martial arts philosophy - which is more important- and ran him to death. Worked him out, made him write in notebooks and made him talk. He grabbed onto it and really hasn't let go of it to this day - the martial arts philosophy. It saved him.
So, that's how it came together. That was it.

Claes: I knew nothing of the back-story.

McKagan: Our video for "Fall To Pieces" is kind of a metaphorical story of his downfall and how the band came together.

Claes: The band's next little uphill battle is replacing Iron Maiden on the bill for Ozzfest.

McKagan: Well, we had some training. We did a few of the Ozzfest shows in Europe. We definitely know now which songs not to do. We did Donnington. We were right before Black Sabbath. We have all these heavy bands going on before us. Well, opening for Black Sabbath, we go into Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" before going into "You Got No Right." On our own, we go into that at and the whole crowd is singing along and it gives you goose bumps. Scott will stick the microphone out and the whole audience sings it. We tried that at Donnington and there was just a bunch of guys in black shirts just staring back at us. Like 100,000 of them. It was like "O.K. Pink Floyd is out."
It'll be a great way to end the whole tour cycle. Hard and heavy. Of course we'll have a few dates of our own since Ozzy doesn't play every night. After this time off, it'll be great to get out there and just do this little leg. And, actually, it kind of pays which is nice to get paid for what you do finally.
This is a business you can make a lot of money at. Once you figure out all that it entails to actually go out on the road, have a tour bus and crew and hotel rooms and all that other crap. The logistics are mind-blowing. So it'll be fun to do this. Hell or high water we're on the Ozzfest. If we're playing over Mudvayne and everyone else, so be it. We're booked.

Claes: Who booked you?

McKagan: Well, Sharon. She wanted us for the whole thing. It's kind of killer.

Claes: On a side note, do you have any kind of relationship with Axl Rose at all?

McKagan: No. Not a good one anyhow. Not an existing one.

Claes: Pretty much between court proceedings.

McKagan: It's kind of sad. We went through so much together. I hold no animosity toward him or toward my past. Our past lead us where they lead us. But, nope, I haven't talked to him since about 1996.

Claes: You played Live 8 a few days before the bombing in London. Do you care to comment on that?

McKagan: We flew home on that Sunday, the gig was Saturday, so we weren't there when the bombing happened.
But, the mood in London was amazing. Personally, every person I saw on the street was wearing one of those white wristbands with "Make Poverty History" and everyone was communicating and talking about third world debt and explaining what that meant and imperialism and how it got to be this way and little kids working for 8¢ a day. Having really important conversations that people in England and the US and Japan and Germany needed to hear.
Then all of a sudden this thing happens. I don't know if these things were linked, if anybody has taken responsibility, but it's fucked up to say the least. I don't mean to dumb-down the situation. There was so much good will in the city just four days before. If someone was trying to make a point, I guess they did. I'm sure the mood changed instantly in that city.

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