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APPETITE FOR DISCUSSION
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.

Cheers!
SoulMonster

2022.08.15 - Vinyl Writer Music - Interview with Chris Weber (Hollywood Rose)

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2022.08.15 - Vinyl Writer Music - Interview with Chris Weber (Hollywood Rose) Empty 2022.08.15 - Vinyl Writer Music - Interview with Chris Weber (Hollywood Rose)

Post by Blackstar Sat Aug 20, 2022 4:18 pm

An Interview with Chris Weber of Hollywood Rose

By Andrew DiCecco

A typical night for Chris Weber in the early 1980s involved stopping off at the Rainbow Bar & Grill on Sunset Boulevard, in the heart of West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, where he frequently found himself among the throngs of people congregating out front and in the parking lot.

Rock ‘n’ roll’s undisputed epicenter, the Rainbow was notorious for its lavish festivities that often spilled over into the parking lot, fostering excessive behavior, late-night hookups, and after-hour soirees.

Despite being renowned for its overindulgence and debauchery, however, one parking lot gathering consequentially led to the formation of one of the most influential bands in rock history.

When a 16-year-old Weber expressed interest in joining the band Pyrrhus as a second guitarist, Tracii Guns, a friend and classmate at Fairfax High School, declined the proposal, maintaining his single-guitar philosophy. Guns, however, had an ideal pairing for Weber in mind.

The two guitarists convened one evening in the Rainbow parking lot, where Guns introduced Weber to a fellow guitarist named Jeff Isbell, who was also interested in starting a band. Though Weber and Isbell were at opposite ends of the rock music spectrum – Isbell preferred Hanoi Rocks and Mötley Crüe, whereas Weber favored Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin, and Rush – they sat in a truck owned by Guns’ father, listening to cassettes of Hanoi Rocks and New York Dolls while discussing their respective visions. As a result, an inseparable partnership was formed that night.

The ever-eccentric Isbell eventually transformed himself into Izzy Stradlin, and shortly after the riff-oriented Weber and Stradlin began working on material, Stradlin recruited his childhood friend, former Rapidfire frontman Bill Bailey. At the behest of Bailey, the band was initially dubbed A.X.L. before pivoting to Rose and ultimately settling on Hollywood Rose. The incessant rebranding brought on another notable name change, and after a brief stint as W. Axl Rose, Axl Rose was born.

With Weber’s father funding a five-track demo recording at Mars Studio in Hollywood, Hollywood Rose, now composed of Weber, Stradlin, Rose, and drummer Johnny Kreis, sought to generate momentum amidst a burgeoning West Hollywood music scene. The demo tracks included “Killing Time,” “Anything Goes,” “Rocker,” “Shadow of Your Love,” and “Reckless Life,” recordings that Weber would preserve 20 years later and market as The Roots of Guns N’ Roses.

In spite of its apparent cohesiveness, the initial configuration of Hollywood Rose was not destined to last long; Rose fired Weber, replacing him with Road Crew axe-slinger Slash, and the tides of history would shift once again. Weber had become an afterthought in all but name.

As the story goes, Guns N’ Roses was born out of an incestuous carousel of lineups and musicians, achieving monumental success with 1987’s seminal multi-platinum album Appetite for Destruction.

While the iconic cover art of Billy White Jr. will forever be synonymous with Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan, and Steven Adler, many others have left their genetic fingerprints on Appetite for Destruction, contributing to the album’s roaring success in relative anonymity, including Weber, co-writer of one of my favorite tracks on the album, “Anything Goes.”

Furthermore, two songs on GN’R Lies (1988), “Reckless Life” and “Move To The City,” – both co-written by Weber – further demonstrate Weber’s immense talent and diversity, despite not playing on the album.

As for Weber, the multifaceted guitarist migrated to London in the 90s, shortly after the Rodney King riots, where he remained for seven years, recording several albums and touring consistently through England while also making his way to Turkey and Portugal.

After returning to the states in 1998, Weber formed the post-grunge band U.P.O. with friend Shawn Albro and promptly signed with Sony/Epic. The band’s debut album, No Pleasantries (2000), produced two singles, “Godless” and “Feel Alive,” and sold over 200,000 copies. No Pleasantries can be found on iTunes and all music platforms.

In a recent phone conversation, Weber and I took a deep dive into his history with Hollywood Rose, revisited his instrumental contribution to Appetite for Destruction and initial impressions upon the album’s release, and much more.

Andrew: Before we dive in, Chris, let’s take a look back at your earliest musical days. What was it that first sparked your passion for the guitar?

Chris: Well, I was nine, and my parents were friends with some musicians. My best friend’s dad was a bass player in sort of a funk-R&B band back in the 70s and he ended up joining the band War. His name was Luther. [Luther] and another fellow from War, the drummer, Ronnie, kind of befriended my family. I think I was first introduced to the guitar – I must’ve said I wanted to pick one up or I played one – and somebody who was a guitar player, I don’t know if he was the original, of Steppenwolf, was friends with that group and got me my first guitar. I can’t remember his name. The reason I mention the guys from War is that those were the guys who started to show me how to play. Soon after learning how to play, I put together a band with a friend of mine, Colin, whose mom was dating Luther, and some other friends, including Tahlia Fischer. We put together a little band called +4, played a couple of parties, and kind of started that.

Andrew: Was there a concert or defining moment in your childhood that inspired you to pursue a career in music?

Chris: You know, not to go for fame because that was never really in my sights – it was really about playing – but I was a big KISS fan and I saw a couple of early KISS concerts back in the 70s. I think there was something about that really kind of made it pretty fantastic and I wanted to kind of play like that, although I never really could see playing like that in a band. But it certainly started getting me going, and Ace Frehley was a huge influence back then.

Andrew: When it comes to your early bands, which one would you say ultimately shaped your style and got you started playing live?

Chris: I played with a couple of friends of mine; I don’t even remember the name of the band. I was friends with Derek Frigo, who was in Enuff Z’nuff – he passed probably close to 20 years now – but he and I and my friend Colin really played a lot. So, although we didn’t gig out that young, we were constantly playing Van Halen, Rush, and a lot of those [bands] at my house. So, there wasn’t really a band. I mean, I started Hollywood Rose when I was just late sixteen, maybe even just about ready to turn seventeen. So, that was really the first band that was gigging.

Andrew: Set the scene for me if you could, Chris. How do you remember your experience navigating a burgeoning L.A. music scene at such an early age?

Chris: I mean, those were some great times. The 80s were pretty fantastic. Not just being young and being able to experience it, but it was kind of a different culture back then that was a lot more allowing. It was the first time, as a kid, you were allowed to go without your parents to an amusement park. It was kind of like that, especially at sixteen. And those guys were five years older than me, Izzy and Axl.

Before I met them, I was spending a lot of time at The Troubadour and spending a lot of time at The Rainbow – at least in The Rainbow parking lot; getting in as a young male was a little bit more difficult than underage girls getting in. But I spent a lot of time sort of in those clubs; everybody knew each other. I really noticed that a lot of people were not from Los Angeles but from another part of the country. So, that was kind of my first introduction to the kind of people that were from New York, Arkansas, Indiana, or Texas. You’d meet them in the parking lot, and they’d have a little bit of an accent. And for somebody growing up in Hollywood, you’re like, “Geez, where’s this guy from?”

I don’t wanna sound hokey, but it was kind of magical. I mean, I was the type of kid that my parents somehow let me – I mean, this is the 70s – so, like, I even went to Cal Jam II. I look at pictures of it and I must have been, like – let’s see, that was ’76 – I must have been ten. There were like half a million people there at a motor speedway, and it was me and two other friends of mine, all the same age. We were allowed to do shit like that. So, by the time I was sixteen, I certainly wasn’t sheltered at all. But anyway, there were lots of musicians that ended up becoming nationally known; certainly Taime [Downe] and my friend Tracii [Guns], obviously, with L.A. Guns. They were all just hanging around, just like I was.

Andrew: What are you able to recall from the night you were introduced to Izzy Stradlin in The Rainbow parking lot?

Chris: Well, that was through Tracii. Tracii and I had been friends from Fairfax High, which is where Slash went, as well. I wasn’t actually friends with Slash while he was there. I was friends with Tracii, and Tracii was in a band – I don’t know if he was gigging in clubs so much – but his band was playing parties and he would play the quad at school. And I was always hitting him up to kind of play with his band, which at the time was, I think, Pyrrhus. He was definitely a one-guitar player band; I mean, he was very much into Randy Rhoads at the time, who is a very single guitar player outfit. So, he never had space for me at the time. But one day, he comes up and he goes, “I got this guy that I met, and he’s looking to start a band.” So, he was kind of looking out for me. And then he introduced me to Izzy, who was Jeff at the time. And we just hit it off.

I think Izzy saw that I’ve got gear, and I’ve got a truck; those things didn’t hurt. I wouldn’t say we were totally on the same musical page back then; we were kind of on different sides of the same kind of thing. He was definitely into Hanoi Rocks and the New York Dolls – a little bit more of a sort of punky feel to the band – whereas I was coming from more of a metal background; Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Rush, Zeppelin. But we kind of hit it off and it was like, “Yeah, let’s start a band!” He was a perfect fit for me – somebody who had a vision – because I didn’t have a vision. I just wanted to play.

Andrew: Describe the songwriting dynamic between you and Izzy at that time.

Chris: You know, he and I would sit across from one another. I would have started with a riff, and then he plays over the top of that. And so, he’ll write his part, and we’ll just sort of craft the song that way. I did that with “Anything Goes.” I guess I would have done that with “Reckless Life” and “Move To The City.” And then, [Izzy] would have done the same thing; he’d go, “What about this song?” His styling was a little bit more basic, but he would do that, and I would tend to be more chordal. And then I’d write some riffs over the top, and then that would be a song. So, it would either start with me, and then he would add to it, or it would start with him and then I would add to it.

Andrew: Izzy then arranges for you to meet with a highly regarded singer from Indiana named Bill Bailey. As it turned out, this proved to be a defining moment in the origins of Guns N’ Roses.

Chris: There are a couple of things that everybody, as they’re growing up, has that memorable visual of. And that day, I remember it very clearly, just going over to where Axl was living with his girlfriend Gina. Izzy took me over there, this old apartment building (probably from the 1920s, with an elevator where you had to pull the gate shut) on Whitley in Hollywood, above Franklin. We got up to the top of the roof and open the elevator that brought me up – I walked out, it was a hot summer day – and at the corner of the building is Axl getting some sun. He was really white, I remember that. He was really almost translucent. And Izzy just said, “Hey, this is my friend Bill,” and he had been introducing me to the idea of his friend coming out. There’s the whole Rapidfire thing, and I’m not quite sure how that factored into where he was in us meeting. So, he was either in Los Angeles just finishing with that band or just coming out after having finished the band, going home, and then coming back out from Indiana again. But it seemed like he was just kind of landing again, and that was the band. Izzy had talked to Axl about it ahead of time, saying, “I’m with this guitar player,” – which was me – so that when we saw each other, we were like, “Oh, this is the guy in my band.” Which is an interesting thing; it’s almost like an arranged marriage.

Andrew: I realize this is going to jog your memory a bit, but do you have any recollection of your first gig as A.X.L., which I believe took place at The Orphanage in North Hollywood?

Chris: Visually, I can remember what it looked like. There was hardly anybody there, maybe a handful of people. I wanna think that it was late in the summer and there was still sunshine out. I can’t remember what month it was, but it was definitely a bar; it was a bar with a little stage to it. It was cool. It was kind of one of the first real gigs that I had ever played, certainly at a venue like that where there were other bands that I probably would have heard of that had played that stage before. That was kind of cool. The idea kind of crept in that, “You know what? I’m gonna start playing the same stages as the bands that I actually like.” And that was meaningful for me.

Andrew: Over a short period, the band’s name changed several times, even briefly pivoting to Rose. If my timeline is correct, Bill changed his name to W. Axl Rose around this time. What’s the story there?

Chris: There was some sort of difference of opinion, or squabble, or something like that. So, I think, whether it was a day, or a week, or whatever, everyone kind of went their own separate ways. Soon, Axl said, “Hey, let’s get playing again.” What I remember is that we get the band back together, but we needed to change the name, and we had been playing around with some names – Izzy and I – and we liked the name Rose. So, we opted for Rose, and he went for it; I don’t know if that’s his last name. I know Axl has the name Rose somewhere legitimately in his name. At least that’s what I remember. And we changed it to Rose, then it subsequently changed to Hollywood Rose when we found out there was a band called Rose.

Andrew: During a time when flyers were the primary promotional tool, Hollywood Rose felt compelled to record a five-track demo as a tactic to gain traction amongst a thriving music scene. As I understand it, this was well before pay-to-play was a thing and you also didn’t have a rhythm section, so I’m curious as to the logic behind it.

Chris: Well, in order to get a gig, you had to have something promotional. I mean, unless you knew the promotor. Everybody had a tape demo. Every time you went to The Troubadour, or The Whisky, or Madam Wong’s, or Music Machine, or Gazzarri’s, or any of that, people had demo tapes – there were certainly no CDs at that point, and those demo tapes were really how people got gigs. So, it was pretty clear that we needed to get that in order to get some gigs. I happened to be living with my parents at the time, actually, all of us were living up at my parent’s house for a long bit – Izzy had gone at some point and me and Axl ended up just staying there for a while – and I just bunked with my parents to get that tape done. And then we knocked it out pretty quickly because we had the songs already written. The only thing that took a little bit of time was finding a drummer, which didn’t actually take that much time; I think we looked in The Recycler, which was a weekly magazine for sale, kind of like Craigslist but in paper form. It’s what everybody used to find musicians, and we found Johnny [Kreis]. He came up and learned the songs one day, and then the next day, I think we went and recorded it.

Andrew: Do you have any memory of those demo sessions?

Chris: Again, I remember what the vibe was like. We walked in, I think Izzy, Axl, and I were plugged straight into the board just to kind of keep the song going; I don’t think we set up any amps at the time and we just plugged our guitars right into the mixing board – there was an engineer there, obviously – and knocked out all the drums parts, which was no small feat for really not knowing [Johnny] for that long. It wasn’t digital back then; you couldn’t cut and paste. It had to go straight from the top to the end. And then Izzy and I went and did our parts – in hindsight, I wish I had spent a little bit more time making the parts a little better – and then we traded off on playing bass because we didn’t have a bass player yet. I don’t remember Axl; I mean, after the music was down, Axl went. I think he probably blew out all five songs pretty quickly; I don’t remember what particular order, but his voice was young and powerful at the time, so it wasn’t like he couldn’t sing those things five times over. If I remember right, there are not any background vocals on any of those songs, either.

Andrew: One of my favorite songs on Appetite for Destruction is “Anything Goes,” which you co-wrote. Walk me through how it came together.

Chris: That riff, I was inspired by Rock in a Hard Place by Aerosmith, which is still one of my favorite records. It was just the feel of it, the guitar playing – it was Jimmy Crespo on that record – and he just wrote such a great record. It was really inspiring. I think “Anything Goes” was inspired by some of the riffs from that record that I liked. I just wanted it to kind of sound like that; kind of groovy, more in the pocket. So, I came up with the riffs and Izzy wrote his part over the top because the guitars don’t play the same part. The original version has a faster verse than the one on the record, so they ended up changing that, and then it was obviously the same chorus. But again, just kind of writing it with Izzy and then handing it, which was in a tape form, to Axl. And this would have been the tape that Izzy and I would have recorded right into one of our tape machines. Then Axl would have gone away with it, written the lyrics, and then come back. Maybe some changes with the arrangement. That was kind of the songwriting process.

Andrew: When did you discover that “Anything Goes” made it onto Appetite?

Chris: I don’t know if I did. I mean, before then was Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide, so I was kind of surprised by – the two original songs on that whole, entire EP were co-written by me. So, when that came out with “Reckless Life” and “Move to the City,” when those were on it, I was like, “Jeez, aren’t these guys writing any newer songs?” I’m sure the record company had something to do with picking the songs for it, and they were live, as well. And then the other two songs are “Mama Kin” and “Nice Boys.” So, that album came out first, so by the time Appetite came out, I was already kind of used to my songs being on their records. And then I guess Appetite came out; maybe I would have known about it; I don’t know, I can’t really remember. I also went in there to do some tapes – I think it was probably prior to them getting their deal – that I kind of produced a couple of songs. I don’t know if they ended up anything with them or if they just used them as promotion. Then Appetite came out, which was great, except for it being back in the time when there was no internet, where it’s like being able to say, “Hey, I’ve got a song on this big record that’s happening now.” Then you meet somebody and they’re like, “Yeah, right.” Nowadays, they Google you and it’s like, “Oh, yeah. That is you!” Or as you’re talking to them, they’re on their phone, and they can see it on their phone and they’re like, “Oh, it’s great to meet you!” Back then, it was like, if you weren’t in the band, it just wasn’t something that helped your career because a lot of that stuff was pretty unbelievable back then.

Andrew: You obviously took your recordings with you when you left the band. Where was it stored for all those years?

Chris:Good question. It was in a safe deposit box. I mean, it was in there for a long time. Then I moved to England in the 90s and came back and then I got it out, and I just left it with my dad and went back to England. My ex-wife and I, nobody was paying for the safe deposit box, so I think they were saying, “We’re gonna throw your shit away unless you come and get it.” It was one of those things. So, we got it – didn’t think much of it – and just hung onto it. But then later, somebody sort of mentioned doing something with it, and I think I had all five of these songs – at least three of them – on a cassette. And they weren’t really worth listening to. It got passed around through Hollywood quite a bit, and people had certainly listened to it, but you wouldn’t have released anything like that. The quality wasn’t good enough. But this two-inch 16-track? That was a different story.

So, I went into a friend of mine’s studio – Craig Adams – and Craig and I mixed it down to get the music off before anything happened. Because when a tape gets that old and it’s not kept in a particular way, it starts to degrade. So, when I came into town and I was gonna do this, what I had to do is bake the tape, which is a term where they take a tape and then they put it in a particular – I would imagine something hot; I gave it to the person to do it. What it does is, is it does something to the particles that are on the tape that sort of adhering to it a little bit more. I think they developed this to save a lot of old – whether it’s music or tapes over the years – they developed this way of being able to do that. In this case, it was something digital because the technology was digital. So, I took this tape, and The Roots of Guns N’ Roses wouldn’t be a record if it wasn’t for the benefit of being able to extract the music from a two-inch tape, which was dubious at best at the time had it not been for the baking of it. So, I was pretty thrilled when we were able to get a digital copy of it after that.

Andrew: Did you hold onto the tape with the intention of doing something with it one day? Is there anything that influenced your decision to keep it?

Chris: I didn’t really think I’d do anything with it; I just didn’t wanna get rid of it. There was a time when Geffen really wanted it, and they offered me a very small amount of money for it. I guess they were just trying to do their best to kind of get any product off the market that somebody else, at some later date, would come back and want as a release because that’s kind of their normal policy. But at the time, the money wasn’t good enough; it didn’t make any sense. Which I’m glad I didn’t. That would have been in the 80s; maybe ’88 or something like that. Then the next ten years, it just sat in that safe deposit box until I got it and Cleopatra released it. That was fortunate, not just for me – it wasn’t the biggest moneymaker of all time – but I like listening to old Van Halen demos or early Zeppelin stuff that wasn’t released; so, I would imagine that although I don’t have the same experience because I was the one that was playing on it and wrote it, there’s probably a whole group of people who appreciate being able to listen to this older stuff.

Andrew: To set the record straight, can you clarify which Guns N’ Roses recordings you contributed to?

Chris: Well, “Anything Goes,” “Reckless Life,” “Move to the City.” The two on Cleopatra that aren’t Guns N’ Roses songs, which is “Rocker” and “Killing Time.” And I can’t really speak too much about what ended up happening with “Shadow of Your Love” or “Back Off Bitch.” I suffice to say that those were songs that were in our set. They were in our set – and we wrote all the songs together.

It’s interesting; I just looked at a Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide cassette tape, and on it, “Move to the City” is credited: Stradlin, me, and D.J., which is a fella who was a friend of ours. Then later, everybody in the band that wasn’t even part of the band at the time is credited for it. So, there are a lot of interesting things that happened with credits that aren’t totally on the up-and-up. I’ll put it like that.

Andrew: Although I didn’t know how much you were actually allowed to say on the subject, I figured I’d ask, as the songwriting credits issue appears to have been quite muddled back then.

Chris: Yeah, I appreciate that. I mean, I’m grateful to the band and its popularity. I made a great contribution to musical history. I love being on one of the great rock records of all time and having songs on that. But I still try to get clarity on how a song could be credited after the fact, with people who weren’t in the band, if it’s just re-recorded. It’s just not the way songs are; a song is a song, even if you change it after the fact. But again, super grateful for what ended up happening with it. I’ve got no sour grapes about it at all.

Andrew: From your perspective, Chris, what direction would Guns N’ Roses have taken if you remained in the band?

Chris: You know what? That’s an interesting question. I don’t really know. Put it this way; I don’t think I would have written “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” That sort of styling, his lyrical riff writing, wasn’t really coming out of my fingers as much. So, I think it probably would have been a little bit more hard-edged. Although I think I was really getting into – “Move to the City” would have been the last song that we wrote, and I was really thinking, again, that Rock in a Hard Place style rock. I was really trying to explore that. And I think that a lot of the bands that I was in afterward were versions of what Hollywood Rose would have sounded like had I remained. A friend of mine by the name of Jimmy Swan and I tried to create a Hollywood Rose Mach 2, but it was ill-fated for whatever reasons. But those songs, again, were more Aerosmith-y, I think.

Andrew: You mentioned earlier your affinity for Judas Priest and Rush. Knowing Slash was very much Joe Perry-oriented, I’ve often wondered how the sound might have differed.

Chris: Yeah, I mean, I think that as a lead player I hadn’t really hit my stride yet. So, I was just trying to figure out who I was as a lead player. The rock guitar riffs, I was right in my element with that; I had been listening to Zeppelin since my first musical experiences. So, I heard the guitar riff as sort of the basis of it anyway. I mean, I had friends, like, as I mentioned, Derek Frigo, and Derek grew up and played all of Van Halen. I didn’t play like that. I looked at him like he was a magician or something when he played “Eruption.” The best I could do was some of the hacky versions of the solos on some of the Led Zeppelin records. But again, the riffs and the songs themselves, I think that was really sort of coming into my groove. So, it would have definitely been written like that, as the Appetite record pretty much was.

Andrew: When Appetite was first released and started making headway, what were your initial impressions?

Chris: It may be unbelievable, but I don’t remember being overly excited or impacted by it. Kind of my overall disposition, even now. I was young and pretty much running wild in the first year of its release. But soon record companies and management started to approach me. I recorded a bunch of songs at Prince’s studio, Paisley Park, in Minneapolis in around ‘88. Generated a huge amount of interest due to my connection with Appetite, which distracted me from its successes at the time. Really just focused on my career. Their success could have ended at any moment, as it happens with many bands, and I wanted to capitalize on the timing.

https://vwmusicrocks.com/an-interview-with-chris-weber-of-hollywood-rose/
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