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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.


2007.05.21 - Reverb Magazine - Velvet Revolver: Free At Last (Slash, Duff)

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2007.05.21 - Reverb Magazine - Velvet Revolver: Free At Last (Slash, Duff) Empty 2007.05.21 - Reverb Magazine - Velvet Revolver: Free At Last (Slash, Duff)

Post by Blackstar Fri Mar 05, 2021 2:52 am


Mark Millar chats with two of the most iconic rock figures of our time, Duff McKagan and Slash, on the good life after Guns N' Roses and the trials and tribulations involved in making Libertad, the second album from Velvet Revolver.

Rock and roll is a mad, bad and dangerous animal and when you think of all the debauchery and craziness it can bring its little wonder that the road of success is littered with casualties along the dusty highway. The burned-out acid freak who breaks down and retreats, the alcoholic star who chokes on his own vomit, or the depressive junkie who blows his own face off with a shotgun, once you sign the deal with the devil it can be hard for some to live long enough to wrestle their souls back from the brink.

Two of those who have managed it (at least for now) are Slash and Duff McKagan, former members of Guns N' Roses and now kingpins of Velvet Revolver, the band they formed alongside Dave Kushner, Matt Sorum and Scott Weiland.

There's little doubt that the pair have lived the rock and roll lifestyle. Amid tales of wild drink and drug fuelled orgies and opulent pig roasts during their days with GNR Slash was found dead in a hotel corridor, only to be brought back to life. Living a similar lifestyle Duff's pancreas exploded through alcohol abuse and was told in no uncertain terms, if you drink, you will die. And you thought it was all plain sailing this rock star lark...

In the beginning

It's been three years since Velvet Revolver released their debut album, Contraband. Once the line-up of the rock 'supergroup' was announced, the very idea of this band existing was met with sneers and jeers by many, who dismissed them as a poor imitation of Guns N' Roses before they had even heard a single note of music. But it was the music in the end that proved all their doubters wrong, with their album achieving multi-platinum sales and winning a Grammy, letting the world know that the big guns were most definitely back.

"I guess it was well received because the album sold well," said Slash thoughtfully. "But you know it was one of those things that we were spending so much time on the road and getting everybody hip to what we were doing, what the band was about and who the band was, eliminating a lot of rumours, combating that kind of 'new/old' band kinda deal. It's tricky situation that we'd got ourselves into, seeing that everyone was well known from other bands. Trying to come out as an entirely new band is almost an oxymoron."

Duff too is well aware of the battle they faced in the beginning. "A lot of people went out to get it and hoped that it sucked, a lot of people went out to get it and hoped that it was a rock and roll record that they could grab onto," he says when discussing the success of their debut. "After that initial phase f the rock and roll people it started to find new audiences. You know, Fall To Pieces crossed over a bit and all of a sudden we're seeing kind of regular people that listen to the radio coming to our shows. It kept kinda growing and growing and the success was pretty awesome. I think before the record came out there were so many people that were looking to shoot us down, a lot of people doubted the whole thing. We just had to stick to our collective..."


"Yeah stick to our revolvers!" he laughs.

Did you feel vindicated in a way, seeing as there were so many people suspicious of the project, almost willing you all to fail?

"You know I was making music and Slash was making mush and Matt was doing his thing and we got together because we got asked to this benefit show back in 2002," Duff explains. "We played on stage and we felt that power and energy of our chemistry and we hadn't played together in seven or eight years at that point. It was just so good you know, it kind of beat everything else that we were doing in the interim. So we were like 'this is too good, we gotta get playing together.' It was then that people started coming out saying: 'What are these guys doing? Oh they're going to start looking for a singer huh?'

"At that point we just started writing songs and we didn't listen to what anybody said. Then we got Dave in as rhythm guitar player and people were like 'Hey why didn't they get Izzy?' At some point we just had to put our blinkers on and just do what we wanted to do. Then we found Scott and he was in the same mindset as us and we just pushed ahead and made a good rock and roll record and a few million people got into it. That's great and the people who were doubting us during the whole process, they probably went off and found someone else to hate."

Rubin up the wrong way

Heavy touring in support of the success of Contraband took its toll on the band. The 19 month long stint on the road saw some members fall into old habits, with drink and drug abuse raising tensions and leaving some wondering if the characters themselves, never mind the band, would make it through to write and record a follow-up.

"We had so many f**king conflicts internally and externally that the band was dealing with throughout the last leg of the tour," Slash told us. "On a creative level that's one thing I can say about when we get together, we don't really have a lot of issues standing in our way. When we write or perform or record then all the bullshit seems to be alleviated, but it's about getting us into that room to write in the first place. There was just a lot of shit going on that made it hard for us to start doing that. A lot of rumours flying around, a lot of Guns N' Roses bullshit that really didn't help anything, there were lots of personal issues, there was just stuff that was going on that wasn't lending itself to getting everyone in the same room as each other and we had to get through that."

When producer Rick Rubin reached out to the band it seemed like it seemed like it was the impetus that Velvet Revolver needed to kick start the whole process, but that initial hope and optimism turned into disillusionment and self-doubt under Rubin's control, or lack of it to be precise.

Duff said, "You know Rick just works completely differently than we thought he would. He showed up like 3 or 4 weeks after our initial meeting and we were wondering where he was. He showed up and we had about 30 songs at this point and he said: 'Ok, write more songs'. Then he went away and showed up a few weeks later, by that point we had 50 songs and still he said: 'Ok write more songs'. I mean we really started to doubt the fact that we were good song writers. We were thinking maybe we've lost it, maybe we suck now."

"He's got a sort of formulaic way of working a band and he's got a way of trying to produce a commercially successful record," Slash continued. "Which his way of doing is just sitting around and writing and writing and writing forever...for a rock and roll band like us we just go where the inspiration is there and we do what we do at that moment and you know, if we think its good then its good."

Duff: "Rick's a great guy and I've known him a long time but he just wasn't the right guy. It was about November 10th or 11th and his contract came in, and you know Rick demands a high price, and we're looking at this contract, looking at each other and going: 'We're not going to have a record out until 2008 if we sign this and we're probably going to end up killing each other'."

That very day the band called Brendan O'Brien who'd worked with Scott Weiland previously on Stone Temple Pilots as well having production credits for artists such as Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith and Neil Young. His arrival heralded a new phase for the band, a period of feverous activity that resulted, finally, in the recording of their forthcoming second album, Libertad.

"From the day he walked in everything just kind of took off," Slash told us about working with Brendan. "We spent about a total of three weeks in pre-production then we went straight into the studio. So we'd accumulated enough material by that point and we just put it all together and started working at fever pace and everything went great."

Duff continued: "Yeah he (Brendan) was like a 6th member, he was like a peer you know. He really knows what he's talking about and he's threateningly good on guitar and bass so you're sitting there going 'shit I'd better get my act together'. I mean he's f**king good, he'll copy a Slash lead lick in two seconds, a tough lead lick."

Did you feel any pressure considering how well received Contraband was?

Duff: "I just didn't. I think that's what I do and what we do as a band, as song writers, we have our own gauge of what's cool and good to us. We hold a pretty high benchmark, even in our rehearsal room. So I think the pressure of having a commercially successful record is kinda secondary. There's a pressure within the band, write a great song, write a great verse...We're not just hashing out songs to make it commercially viable or anything. In saying this I think the record is kinda commercially viable in a way, just by its nature. As we recorded them and mixed them and I really had a chance to listen to the songs it was like 'wow this is a pretty good f**king record!'"

Lifestyles of the rich and famous

With Libertad complete and set for a July release the band are set to head off on tour of South America, North America and Europe, including headline dates in the UK and an appearance at Download.

After the state that the last tour left some individuals in the band in are they worried that this forthcoming tour will bring about the same degree of hedonism?

Duff remains confident saying: "On this tour I've kind of come to grips with what's going on with me and I'm really positive about the tour. I'm really glad Slash is where he's at right now because hopefully that's going to help me and maybe I can help him. And Scott's like the sober guy too now. How things turn around real quick..."

Slash, who recently completed a successful two month stint in rehab says: "I went through a period between 30 till 40, I went through so much where I tested my mortality that when I turned 40 I was pretty shocked. At this point I've learned that I'm sort of disinterested to test the boundaries of my physical limitations," he laughs. "So I've gotten to be a little bit more relaxed about all that shit, and in contrast to all that stuff when I was 29 now I can actually picture myself being 50."

You're 41 now, do you still have vices?

Slash: "Yeah it was only a matter of months ago that I had them big time. But yeah I still smoke and my rock and roll vices or whatever are still the same, the only thing that's changed is I'm not shooting up and I'm not drinking a gallon of booze every 5 minutes, all that kind of stuff, which is probably for the best."

Duff: "You know what, I think it's just the fear of being sober. My big thing back when I got sober, my biggest fear was...I didn't want to get sober because I was like: 'I won't be able to be f**king rocker or something, I won't be able to do this thing'. I had to get sober eventually because for me it was pretty grim. There's that fear of the unknown like, what am I going to discover? And will it be good and will it be f**king cool you know? So once you get over that, over that hump, then its fine. I found that it was only a little pimple of a hump. I thought it was going to be a mountain I'd have to scale but it was really nothing, you realise you're just the same as songwriters, or in every way, probably better, in fact most certainly better.

"You know the first time Slash and I had ever been in a room together sober, this was years and years later, more recent. That was weird you know, both of us there, sober. But after that first time it happened it was fine..."

But isn't that crazy since you've pretty much been in a band with each other since you were 19?

Duff: "Yeah it was probably 21 years or so before we were ever in a room together sober. And that's no bullshit too, I mean I'm not saying that everybody in the band is sober, I'm not saying that at all. We've all had battles, some very recently, all of us. But this was backstage at an Alice In Chains gig of all places in August last year or something. I can't tell you everyone that was there but me and Slash, we were in this room, everyone's going around and talking a little bit and I looked at Slash and he looked at me and I said to him, 'this is the first time we've been in a room since we met, since we met in 1985, no 84, and got f**ked up, this is the first time we've been in a room together, ever, when we've both been sober."

Guns still blazing?

When interviewing bands over the course of the past few issues it soon becomes clear just how much of an influence Slash and Duff's former bad had, being that everyone from Killswitch Engage to Trivium, basically rock bands of all genres and description have quoted Guns N' Roses 'Appetite For Destruction' as the main reason why they ended up being musicians themselves.

Even now the rumours of a reformation continue, not least because Slash has recently told Brazilian MTV that he'd like both Guns N' Roses and Stone Temple Pilots to reunite for a series of dates. A blatant attempt at fuelling the new VR record? Or is it an olive branch to old friends? Whatever it is its little wonder that the rumour just won't go away.

"I think that's been going on forever," muses Duff. "It goes in waves, I'll probably be asked more about it once a year or so. There'll be a huge rumour going on and I can only tell by doing interviews. I'll get more questions about it or even from kids at gigs or something. I don't know why it is, it's just...well it was a great band and the five guys who made up that band are all still alive. I don't know how but they are."

Even Slash seems more philosophical about the demise of his former band.

"Now I'm at the point I feel like if anybody came up to me and said something negative about Axl then I'd f**king punch them in the mouth. I'm very proud of my relationship with him and all the other guys and what it achieved and all that kind of shit. But more importantly I think I've grown up past all that bickering back and forth stuff because that stuff was initially very personal and it shouldn't have been glorified by the media. You know that band was f**king bad ass and I'm very proud of the whole legacy which is obviously pretty cool."

"My feelings at this point are just that I'm so happy that I can get out from underneath of all that stuff. I mean there is a legacy to that band and I'm immensely proud of it but I'm glad that I've been able to go off on my own and do something else."

Do you ever feel lucky to be in the position you're in. lucky to be still making music, lucky to be alive even?"

Slash: "Well yeah I'm really grateful that I can actually live the life that I want to live, a lot of people take it for granted. But it's a really f**king great thing to live your life revolving around getting up and playing. It's a lot of work and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy to go through what you've got to do to do it but for me it works out perfectly and I pretty much thrive on it.

"I came to the conclusion that without it I would cease to be a person. It's what makes me, its what makes up my whole f**king reason for being around. Its like there's me but the only thing that drives it is what is it that I do. I even have a hard time trying to explain that to my wife!"

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