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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

2023.05.05 - Riverfront Times - Richard Fortus Didn’t Know Guns N’ Roses From the Stooges. Then He Joined

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2023.05.05 - Riverfront Times - Richard Fortus Didn’t Know Guns N’ Roses From the Stooges. Then He Joined  Empty 2023.05.05 - Riverfront Times - Richard Fortus Didn’t Know Guns N’ Roses From the Stooges. Then He Joined

Post by Blackstar Sat Sep 09, 2023 7:45 pm

Richard Fortus Didn’t Know Guns N’ Roses From the Stooges. Then He Joined

"It wasn't my world," says the St. Louis-based Guns N' Roses guitarist

By Steve Leftridge

Seeing a full-blown rock star — the shoulder-length black hair, the skin-tight black jeans, the Chuck Taylors, the tattoos — walk into a generic Creve Coeur coffee shop between a Hair Saloon and a Jimmy John's is a bit of a shock.

After all, Guns N' Roses guitarist Richard Fortus regularly travels all over the planet playing stadiums filled with 80,000 or more screaming fans and counts some of the biggest rock legends in the world as his best friends.

Yet here he is on a sleepy afternoon in the suburbs asking the kid at the counter if he has any almond milk.

Fortus is perfectly content with his West County home base. In fact, he lives in the exact same house in which he was raised. Years ago, while living in L.A., Fortus bought and rehabbed his old home as a place to stay when visiting his ailing father. Now, he lives there full time with his wife and two daughters.

"When we would visit, my girls would say, 'Why can't we just live here?'" Fortus says. "St. Louis is just such a great place to raise kids. Everything is so easy."

It's so easy. That's a phrase Fortus will hear come screaming through his in-ear monitors soon enough. The morning after our interview, Guns N' Roses will announce a 2023 world tour, which will include a September stop at Busch Stadium.

Needless to say, he has come a long way since he was playing St. Louis underage clubs Animal House and Reflections as a teenage punk rocker enrolled at the then-Visual and Performing Arts High School.

Back in those days, Fortus was already something of a prodigy, having started violin at 4 and guitar at 12. "I had this voracious desire to listen to and learn as much music as I could, an insatiable desire to live music all the time," he says.

He had plenty of access. His father was co-owner of St. Louis Music, an instrument manufacturer that built Alvarez guitars and Crate amps.

"I was lucky because my dad's company was going to all these concerts to bring instruments to the artists," Fortus says. "I would tag along with him, so I was going to concerts at a very young age."

Fortus' eyes light up when asked about specific shows, mentioning seeing Kiss and then Parliament at the Checkerdome when he was 10. "That was the Mothership!" he says.

The young Fortus even got Kiss frontman Paul Stanley's autograph, which reads, "Richie — Keep practicing and someday you might be playing with us!"

Fortus didn't sit on that advice.

At VPA, Fortus met likeminded singer Michael Schaerer and formed the Eyes, a band that built a grassroots following on the Midwest college circuit and became a popular draw at Kennedy's on the Landing.

Eschewing the Top 40 and mainstream metal of the day, the Eyes were known for shadowy, goth-y live shows that were smothered in fog and slathered in reverb. While Schaerer struck Jim Morrison poses, the young Fortus flashed formidable guitar skills, using a unique pick-and-finger technique to execute runs up and down the neck. Everyone who saw him knew he was special — driven, talented and already famous looking.

With a sizable fanbase in the Midwest, the Eyes inked a deal with Atlantic Records in 1990. There already was a '60s psychedelic band named the Eyes, so the quartet rebranded as Pale Divine, a name sprung from a misheard lyric from the Velvet Underground's "Pale Blue Eyes."

Fortus remembers Pale Divine's first and only album, the prophetically titled Straight to Goodbye, as a difficult experience. "We had struggles internally with the band and were under a lot of pressure," he says. "We were trying to change our sound to fit the popular alternative stuff, and it was a mistake, you know? It just wasn't who we were."

Regardless, Pale Divine toured the U.S. and Canada, opening for the Psychedelic Furs, and Fortus found a kindred musical spirit in Furs frontman Richard Butler, whom he'd been following since seeing the band at age 14 at legendary St. Louis venue Mississippi Nights.

After Pale Divine's debut album, the band waited in limbo for a follow-up to be greenlit as tensions grew within the band. When Schaerer announced plans for a solo record, Fortus moved to New York to work with Butler on a new project. (Pale Divine continued on with a replacement guitarist for a short time before fizzling.)

With Butler, Fortus formed Love Spit Love in 1992, releasing two albums, charting a single, achieving MTV rotation and recording the theme song for the TV series Charmed.

As a session guitarist, Fortus accumulated hundreds of credits, recording with everyone from Puff Daddy to Pink to NSYNC, eventually opening his own successful music production company, Compound, which created soundtrack films, TV shows, video games and commercials.

He also served as a touring guitarist for arena-sized acts such as Rihanna and Enrique Iglesias, maintaining an insane schedule. "I was definitely burning the candle at both ends," Fortus says.

It was while in Europe with Iglesias in 2002 that Fortus was invited to audition for Guns N' Roses, a band Fortus had previously never taken much interest in.

"Obviously, I knew who they were, but it wasn't my world," he says. "I remember being in a bar in New York and ["It's So Easy"] came on, and I said, 'Is this the Stooges?' My friends were like 'Are you crazy? This is Guns N' Roses.' I thought, 'Oh, this is pretty cool.'"

With two days off from the Iglesias tour, Fortus flew from London to L.A., jammed with the band and hung out with Axl Rose all night, listening to music in the singer's car.

"Axl told me that rehearsals started in two weeks, but I told him I had to finish the Enrique tour in Europe," Fortus recalls. "I could tell he was thinking, 'Are you fucking kidding me?' But I told him I wasn't going to screw all of [Enrique's] people over. Then he thought about it and said, "Well, then I know you won't do it to me.'"

In a bizarre bit of timing, a fan approached Fortus in the airport the next morning and asked him if he was Izzy Stradlin, GNR's original rhythm guitarist. "No one had ever asked me that before!" Fortus says. "I was looking for a hidden camera. I said, 'No, but I think I might have just taken his spot.'"

Sure enough, Fortus officially joined Guns N' Roses a few weeks later, jumping into rehearsals, touring Asia and Europe, and rerecording guitar parts for GNR's long-awaited album, Chinese Democracy.

A huge bonus for Fortus was playing with former Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson, another of Fortus' childhood heroes. The two became great friends.

Fortus weathered several lineup changes during the peculiar years that Rose was GNR's only remaining original member, as fans continually speculated on the possibility of a reunion with original guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagen, a topic Fortus says Rose never talked about.

"Axl is such a loyal guy," Fortus insists. "I think a lot of people think Axl is always firing people. I never remember him firing anybody as long as I've been with him."

In 2015, Slash and Duff returned to the band after nearly 10 years away, and GNR launched the massive Not in This Lifetime ... Tour, named after Rose's earlier avowal that a reunion would never happen.

Fortus remembers those first rehearsals with Slash. "He's a nice guy, and I am so used to playing with different artists," Fortus says. "He's very streetwise. Musically, I relate to Slash and Duff really well. They were both punkers, too."

With Slash back on board, Fortus had to recalibrate his guitar role in the band, ceding to Slash some of the intros and solos Fortus had been playing for years. "I mean, obviously [Slash] is gonna play the parts he [originally] played," Fortus says. "And some of the Chinese Democracy leads that I didn't play before, I cover now."

According to Fortus, the old GNR chemistry returned quickly. "When Slash and Duff came back, everything felt totally different," he says. "It was just a completely different band. There's so much history there, so it was like getting back in the saddle. There's magic there."

As a St. Louisan, Fortus was well aware of Rose's reputation as an unpredictable, perhaps volatile, performer. Pale Divine was playing Kennedy's the night of the 1991 Riverport Riot, when Rose, unhappy with security, stormed off stage midshow. An ensuing melee resulted in multiple injuries, arrests and vast amounts of property damage. "Everyone came down to see us after the show, and people were carrying pieces of the seats from Riverport," Fortus remembers.

Fortus subsequently learned how traumatic the riot was for the guys in Guns. According to Fortus, when Slash returned to the amphitheater as a solo artist in 2019, he experienced flashbacks. "Slash was shaken up just being there again," Fortus says. "He was showing me the door backstage that he would open to watch all the chaos."

The liner notes to GNR's next album included "Fuck you, St. Louis!" and Rose was later photographed wearing a "St. Louis Sucks" T-shirt. Unsurprisingly, when GNR played the Dome in 2017, its first return to town since the riot, nerves ran high backstage.

As a sign of good will, Fortus bought the band T-shirts of old St. Louis landmarks to wear during the show: the Coral Courts Motel for Rose, Streetside Records for Duff, Kennedy's for himself. "I bought Slash a 'Brains 25 Cents' shirt, but he didn't realize he was supposed to wear it in St. Louis. He ended up wearing it during some other show," Fortus says with a laugh.

These days, Fortus and Rose are close. "He's a smart motherfucker — I'll tell you that. We text all the time, and he's a very sharp dude. And very, very funny."

In terms of Rose as a singer, Fortus is a big fan. "That is a fucking tough gig, and we play for three, three-and-a-half hours. He does an hour of warmup and 45 minutes of cooldown religiously every night."

That kind of work ethic fits Fortus, who has been a health nut who runs between 5 and 20 miles every day and a workaholic for decades.

In his non-GNR musical life, Fortus produced the Psychedelic Furs' acclaimed 2020 album Made of Rain from his recently overhauled home studio, where he continues to score films and video games, composing and performing all the string orchestrations himself. "During COVID, I started diving into that world in a major way," he says. "I would get up, have breakfast with my family and get to work. It was awesome."

But now his attention is turning back to Gun N' Roses. Fortus says new GNR music is on the way, much of it already recorded, and rehearsals for the upcoming tour begin in May.

After a two-hour hang, Fortus checks his phone and announces that Michael Schaerer is waiting for him at home.

"See you at Busch," he says with a grin. With that, Fortus heads off to meet his old Pale Divine partner, linking his rich Landing-era music past with the stadium-sized St. Louis rock history he is soon to continue.

https://www.riverfronttimes.com/music/richard-fortus-didnt-know-guns-n-roses-from-the-stooges-then-he-joined-39997417
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