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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.


2022.12.04 - Stuff (New Zealand) - Guns N' Roses On That Time Axl Rose Wore An All Blacks Jersey (Duff)

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2022.12.04 - Stuff (New Zealand) - Guns N' Roses On That Time Axl Rose Wore An All Blacks Jersey (Duff) Empty 2022.12.04 - Stuff (New Zealand) - Guns N' Roses On That Time Axl Rose Wore An All Blacks Jersey (Duff)

Post by Blackstar Sat Dec 03, 2022 8:53 pm

Guns N' Roses on that time Axl Rose wore an All Blacks jersey – and whether they’ll do it again

Steve Newall

The thrill of your first big concert is an enduring memory, and an experience that Guns N' Roses have been serving fans for decades. In the band's only New Zealand interview, bassist Duff McKagan talks to Steve Newall about punk rock, the All Blacks, pandemic touring and why he still finds stadium shows surreal.

I’m standing in a mass of people, nearly 30 years ago, on February 6, 1993. As well as Waitangi Day, it’s also Bob Marley’s birthday and in a coincidental tribute to the icon, the air is thick with the potent, unmistakable smell of dak.

A stranger turns to us with a dank offering. Passed around my friends, by the time the joint reaches me, I’m anxious about being busted and don’t really know what to do with it. Choking, I’m smoking pot – badly – for the first time, at my first international gig. And it’s a big one.

Soon, Guns N’ Roses is scheduled to take to the gigantic Mt Smart Stadium stage. Unsurprisingly to fans, “soon” proves somewhat elastic. (I’ve still never got to the bottom of whether Axl Rose really did keep us waiting to finish his game of chess, as rumoured, or whether the reason was more prosaic: Partying? Procrastination?)

In the meantime, I’ve convinced myself I’m high, and soaking in the whole experience. Locals Dead Flowers are on stage, serving up songs from their debut album. New Jersey’s Skid Row and their hyper-enthusiastic singer Sebastian Bach bring bravado and mic-swinging antics, but the afternoon and evening are all about one of the biggest bands in the world.

Guns N’ Roses had been here before, playing the Supertop in late 1988 off the back of their monstrous Appetite For Destruction, the best-selling debut of all time. By the early 90s, when they returned to Mt Smart Appetite was well on its way to current sales of more than 30 million copies, and the band had doubled down with its successor(s).

The two-volume release of Use Your Illusion was a huge event in 1991, which saw stores opening at midnight, more than half a million copies sold in just two hours in the US, and the two volumes sitting tight in first and second spots in album charts.

The band was huge, a juggernaut of shows, videos, singles and albums. They felt dangerous and excessive, an incredibly potent mix to an adolescent. They really were Guns N’ Roses. That’s why tens of thousands of us had stumped up $50 for tickets (not a cheap show in 1993). And it’s why I pinch myself at interviewing Guns N’ Roses bass player Duff McKagan.

I can’t help but establish my fan status in the moment – decades of versions of me would be really happy to be where I'm sitting right now, I tell him, even though I’m sure McKagan hears it all the time.

“Thank you,” the 58-year-old, who played a key role in anchoring the band’s classic lineup, tells me. “You know, we don't do very many interviews. So it's kind of nice for me to do actually. Sometimes I don't hear it too much.”

Surviving against the odds

It’s been six years since McKagan rejoined the fold alongside fellow icon Slash, after both had spent years away from GnR. McKagan is rightly proud of where the band’s at now: “These days, we're in better shape – better mentally, physically, centred, all that shit – than we were ever even close to in our 20s,” he says.

“We only were able to play those gigs because we were stupid and young, you know? F...ed up and young. If we were anywhere close to that now, in that physical condition, we'd be toast. We’d be dead, literally.”

Somehow, and it really was against the odds, Guns N’ Roses survived, and are coming back to New Zealand for shows in Auckland and Wellington this week.

“We play long shows,” McKagan tells me, which mirrors my memories of 1993. Back then, I’d been able to prepare for what was coming – the band had documented their live show with a two-part video, Use Your Illusion World Tour – 1992 in Tokyo. Sprawling, like the albums of the same name, the VHS tapes captured the bombastic scale of their show.

At Mt Smart Stadium, then, I was ready for the sight of band members sprinting at phenomenal pace across a stage covered in ramps and catwalks. I knew there would be covers, extended solos, and all manner of big stage theatrics. Special to Auckland, though, and etched in my memory: an enormous cake comes out at the end of November Rain, and the whole crowd sings Happy Birthday to Axl.

It’s a beautiful moment, and one that inadvertently benefited some Auckland musos. “We saw it backstage after [the] show and thought, we’ll have that”, Dead Flowers singer Bryan Bell would later tell AudioCulture. “We lived off that cake for a month back at the band flat.”

A ripple also goes through the crowd mid-show when Rose emerges from a brief spell in the wings. He’s now wearing an All Blacks jersey, an outfit gesture that’s pure performance – and lands the desired impact, further endearing him to the crowd.

With Saturday’s show taking place at New Zealand rugby’s spiritual home, Eden Park, it seems like the perfect reminiscence to bring up with McKagan. Was this jersey choice something they did on all tour dates to get the locals revved up?

“Um, no, you don't want to do it toooo much, right?” he says. “You don't want it to be a gag. I think when Axl does it, it's honestly just that it's something he likes. He won't wear every soccer or football jersey or whatever. No, no way. I think ‘all black’ is just kind of punk rock all around the world. You know what I mean? It kind of signifies the toughness in punk rock.”

McKagan’s on the line from the Gold Coast, the morning after playing to 25,000 fans at Metricon Stadium as part of the band’s We’re F’N Back! Tour. “We have a really good time,” McKagan says, describing Slash and Axl as “my bros”.

It’s still a little surprising to hear after GnR’s well-documented interpersonal friction and all the years he and Slash were out of the band before thrilling fans by rejoining in 2016.

“Last night, we played a setlist, like, it was all over the place,” McKagan tells me. “‘I don't know, let's throw in this now!’ We're not playing the same thing, you know.” Alongside songs from all eras of the band, one of the treats for Gold Coast was a cover of AC/DC’s Whole Lotta Rosie, played for the first time on this tour.

“Sometimes we have to play the same set five nights in a row, but it's fine, you know, because it's a new crowd. But last night we played this wacky, killer set, songs were all over the place. And it was fun.”

Punk rock roots

Back in 2017, the aptly named Not In This Lifetime… tour (named after Axl’s dour 2012 prognosis about a GnR reunion) saw Guns N’ Roses return to a giant Auckland outdoor stage at Western Springs. More than 50,000 people converged on the suburban amphitheatre, myself included. The atmosphere at the show was electric, and so was the trademark Axl Rose wail, impressing the crowd from the get go.

For many of us, it was an opportunity to revisit memories of Mt Smart decades earlier, among another huge crowd. Like my own formative experience in 1993, McKagan’s gig-going in late 70s Seattle had also kicked off with shows of this scale – until his taste in music took a critical detour.

“When I was young I went to the big shows, when I was 12 and 13,” he recalls. “And then I discovered punk rock through some kids in the neighbourhood. I started going to these little shows, but these people that were playing, to me, they were as big as Kiss. There was no difference to me between Led Zeppelin and [hardcore pioneers] D.O.A.”

“I got to see so many great shows,” McKagan recalls enthusiastically, “I saw The Clash before London Calling.”

It proved life-changing for him, breaking the barrier between artist and audience metaphorically - and nearly literally. At The Clash’s infamous Seattle show, venue security mistook the crowd’s energy for fighting (“this is 79, it wasn't even slam dancing, it was pogoing”). And, when a security guard punched someone in the front row and broke their nose, all hell broke loose.

“We knew everybody there,” McKagan recalls. “In the punk scene there was only like 85 people in Seattle. So it was one of our friends and The Clash stopped the show. ‘Whoa, he saw that happen?!’ Joe Strummer dressed down the security, Paul Simonon went to the side of stage, grabbed like a firefighting axe, to chop down the wooden barrier – which he didn't do.”

“But he was threatening ‘we’ll chop down this barrier’ and Joe Strummer was like ‘there's no difference between us and you. We're all in this together’ – and that was the moment for me. I was like, ‘I can do this?!’”

‘A whole different reality’

Time in a succession of Seattle punk bands followed this galvanising moment, before a move to Los Angeles and, eventually, Guns N’ Roses in the mid-80s. But even after hundreds of shows, McKagan tells me, exposing his punk roots, those huge stadium stages never feel entirely normal.

“Dude, it's surreal,” McKagan confides. “And I'm still not used to it. It's not something you get used to. You know, maybe, how to move better on a stage. You just hope you’re not going to f… up, f… the whole show up. Really. Like, you're trying to just stay on point the whole time.”

As McKagan puts it, going out on stage is “a whole different reality”. After warm-ups and stretching, perhaps a little different to pre-show activities of the 80s and 90s, he’ll come out on stage “and it's a bunch of people, super happy to be there, super stoked. This is their night out.”

“I remember that feeling, like you coming to our show,” he says “I went and saw The Clash, I went and saw Led Zeppelin, I have shows that turned my f…ing whole life upside down. You know, because it was so f…ing amazing. And I know, these people are coming in hopes of that same experience.”

The excessive Use Your Illusion-era GnR of constant partying and 80-person entourages wouldn’t recognise today’s touring landscape – especially during the pandemic. While it disrupted GnR’s touring plans like everyone else’s, the band resumed its “aggressive” touring when they were able, getting back out on the road in the US as Covid was receding.

McKagan describes that run of shows, happening under pandemic protocols, as very strange and very alienating: “No guests, nobody on your bus, no restaurants. Nothing. So it's like you're making salami and cheese wraps, and you get on your bus.”

“You just see nobody,” McKagan says. “OK, I’ve got my wraps and my Netflix. And let's go rock.”

As well as the focus on health and wellbeing, it seems there’s a resilience among the band that they might never have had. Has Guns N’ Roses actually been setting itself up for the future? To quote the opening lines of Terminator 2, which featured the band’s Illusion-era You Could be Mine: “The future has not been written. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves."

“I don't think we were thinking in those terms like setting a foundation for later,” says McKagan. “We just been going, like just kind of got the blinders on. We're just going for it. It's not like a plan. We don't have a big plan.”

As the band approaches its New Zealand shows, though, McKagan offers a glimmer of planning: “Maybe I’ll wear that goddamn All Blacks shirt.”

Guns N’ Roses play Sky Stadium in Wellington on Thursday and Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday with support from The Chats and Alien Weaponry,

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