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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!
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2018.04.16 - Rock Talk With Mitch Lafon - Conversation with Alan Niven

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2018.04.16 - Rock Talk With Mitch Lafon - Conversation with Alan Niven Empty 2018.04.16 - Rock Talk With Mitch Lafon - Conversation with Alan Niven

Post by Blackstar Sun 25 Feb 2024 - 3:36

Listen to Y&T's Dave Meniketti, Night Ranger's Kelly Keagy & Moby (talks metal) on this episode of WESTWOOD ONE's Rock Talk With Mitch Lafon. Alan Niven (GNR/Great White) & Little Caesar's Ron Young co-host.
In our first interview, Y&T's Dave Meniketti talks about the band's latest album Acoustic Classix Vol. 1, the importance of the M3 Festival [...]
Our final interview is with MOBY. He had worked on GNR's Chinese Democracy. Alan Niven and I discuss that fact before the interview starts. As Alan points out, 'Axl is a good writer. He's not going to put rubbish out there." (Quote lifted from the 1.51.09 mark). And added, "This might surprise you, but I rather wish that the core of GNR would write together again. I think that would be a very interesting thing to have happen. I think you have the potential there for something serious and magical."
With Moby, we discuss his love of hard rock/heavy metal, veganism, his new album Everything Was Beautiful And Nothing Hurt, not touring, the 'act' of making an album, Moby's metal band DiamondSnake, Metallica, genres becoming arbitrary, not wanting to have a career as a musician, his memoir, getting older, Misfits, Arch Enemy, Rob Zombie, his restaurant, career vs. creativity, Mylène Farmer and much more.




Transcription of the Alan Niven parts:
--------------------------------------------

Mitch Lafon: Just before we head over to the Dave Meniketti of Y&T interview, I have got my favorite - and I'm going to call you a co-host because that's what I like calling you - my favorite co-host from the old Guns N' Roses and Great White camps, Sir Alan Niven. And I said “sir” because, you know, that's respectful. Good day.

Alan Niven: Good day to you, too. I hope you're doing well with the weather up there in Canada.

Mitch Lafon: Yes.

Alan Niven: Let's dispense with the “sir”. I'm an anti-authoritarian and one of the reasons I chose to live in America was to get away from that kind of feudalism.

Mitch Lafon: But, you see, I've been watching so many British shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime that I have to go with “sir” and “mum”. “Mum”. Everything is “mum”. Right? (laughs)

Alan Niven: Yeah, well, there's a sense of English society that I was never comfortable with, you know, related around boarding schools, which I think we've spoken of, and that sense of aristocracy. I think it is better to live in a meritocracy where you rise according to your ability and your standards, not where you were born.

Mitch Lafon: Well, that's true. That is true. So, speaking of merits and standards, Y&T, here's a band that has these great players. You know, Dave just rips on guitar. They've got these great songs, including Summertime Girls. And yet in Canada, they almost sort of don't exist. They've never really played up here. What was your take? Because this was a band that spent a lot of time in California, spent a lot of time touring in California, especially in the ‘80s. Were they around sort of the Sunset Strip and that whole adventure that was the Great White and Guns N’ Roses years for you?

Alan Niven: Well Mitch, this I will say about “Yesterday & Today” or Y&T. Being a California band, obviously a lot of people were aware of them and, without fail, any decent guitar player that I knew all rated Dave Meniketti. They all thought he was a great player. They all made the observation that he never ever phoned it in, that he always brought it, and he has an almost universal respect amongst players. And how that did not translate into a greater career, we could maybe look at a little bit. But for one thing, it's for sure, every guitar player that I knew, you know, from George Lynch, and Kendall obviously - everybody I knew in LA rated him and thought he was really good.

Mitch Lafon: Yeah, in fact, they really do. And when you mentioned the name, and I had mentioned on my socials that I was gonna interview him, and then I mentioned that I did interview him, a lot of the rock stars that follow me and that I follow wrote in and said, “Oh my God, it's so cool that you spoke to him, he's such a great guitarist”. There really is a great, great love for him. What I don't understand, though, is when you look back at the catalog and you look back at songs like Black Tiger and Rock N’ Roll Is Gonna Save The World, which, by the way, are part of the new Y&T Acoustic Classics Volume 1 EP, which I should suggest that people pick up - but why were they not playing Madison Square Garden five nights in a row?

Alan Niven: Well, the conundrum of any band that's fresh and new is how are you going to rise to a national prominence. And in America, you're not just trying to rise to a national prominence, you're trying to rise to a continental prominence. It's such a big country and that's very cost intensive in terms of marketing. Obviously, with GN’R, everybody knows that a major aspect of the strategy that I employed for them was to focus on England early. My sense of Y&T is that I think an English or a British following would have been the quickest that they could have formed and, in that way, broken out of Northern California. I rather wonder if they spent enough time connecting to the British press and the British audience. Because I rather feel that they would have done very well in the United Kingdom had they made that a focus.

Mitch Lafon: I agree because they - and how can I put this… When you look at bands that the UK especially and Germany and stuff have embraced, bands like Status Quo, there's this musicianship and this intelligence to what they're doing. And I don't want to be disparaging by saying that American bands aren't intelligent, but there's something about Y&T and the way they put the songs together and the way Dave plays that I think would have really spoken to a European market. And in fact, had I been managing them in ‘84, ‘85, I would have almost ignored the American market, and just set up camp at the beginning of May in England, and then toured around and around and around, and then come home in October. Right? I mean, they seem to have more of an European ethic, if that makes any sense.

Alan Niven: It makes total sense, Mitch. And, you know, nothing is original and nobody has a fresh idea. Obviously, I looked at how Jimi Hendrix broke through the United Kingdom, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers broke through the United Kingdom, the Pretenders broke through the United Kingdom. And then you consider the fact that the crucial move that AC/DC made was to encamp themselves in London with an attitude of “we'll play anywhere and play everything until we're known up here,” and that was absolutely critical to the development of AC/DC as an international act. And I think what we both kind of sense about Y&T and the UK is that when you mention some other bands, there's a hardcore attitude in England that some American bands are a little bit fufu. But Y&T are essentially blue collar, working class, and that connects to the core British rock audience profoundly. And I think that they had that blue-collar authenticity. And I think that they would have found a bigger audience through England for the entire world if they'd spent more time there. Of course the other thing is that, you know, maybe the label that they were on at the time didn't see or understand that. I mean, they were on A&M who had great success with a lot of different acts, but I really - you know, I'm sure someone will shoot me down on this, but I'm really at a stretch to think of a hard rock band that A&M had success with.

Mitch Lafon: Well, Brian Adams.

(Laughter)

Mitch Lafon: He was on A&M as far as I remember. But is that why, for example, when you sent Guns N’ Roses over, what was it, was it the Hammersmith Apollo or… Where did you send Guns the first time in England?

Alan Niven: Well, we started at the Marquee Club when it used to be-

Mitch Lafon: Right. Oh, that's it, the Marquee. Was that sort of the plan, to go over there and say, “Hey, we've got these sort of down and dirty, sort of, you know, working class guys coming over to the Marquee”? Was that sort of the plan, conquer England and then come back and conquer the States?

Alan Niven: Absolutely. And when we went over to play those Marquee shows, I sat with the band and said, you know, “Audiences here are a little different. Don't be surprised if they spit at you. Don't be surprised if they heckle you. Don't be surprised if they look at Axl's hair” - that used to be bouffant in those days - “and call him a pretty boy wanker. The one thing that you cannot do is cave to that kind of a response”. And at the first Marquee show, the magic moment for me was when Axl threatened to come off the stage and mix it up with a couple of hecklers in the audience. And from that moment, the audience loved them.

Mitch Lafon: Yeah, see, and that's the way to do it. And in England, I think when they throw piss bottles at you, that's their way of saying, “We love you”.

(Laughter)

Alan Niven: Who can explain it? Who can explain it… I mean, there are those moments when you look at the audience and you go, “Oh my God, they terrify me”. You think that you're suddenly in the middle of some medieval battlefield. Who can explain it?

[…]

Mitch Lafon: And just before I get over to Moby talking about his new album, Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurts, I have got former Guns N' Roses manager and Great White, Alan Niven on the phone again. Good day - I was going to say “sir”, but I can't say “sir”. So good day, monsieur.

Alan Niven: Good day, Mitch, and I hope you're good. And how did your conversation with Moby go?

Mitch Lafon: It was a great conversation, actually. We talked about veganism, we talked about his love for hard rock, heavy metal, and all this wonderful stuff. But what we didn't talk about, because, well, I forgot, was his involvement with the Guns N' Roses Chinese Democracy album. And so I know that, of course, by that time in their career you were far out of the Guns N' Roses milieu, as we say here. But were you aware at all at the time that he was being tapped to do this Chinese Democracy thing? And if yes, what was sort of your reaction? Because you know, yes, he has a metal background in a sense that he was in a punk band and stuff, but that's not where he cut his teeth in terms of production.

Alan Niven: I found it very interesting when I heard that Moby was going to take a shot at the helm of the recording. My understanding was that former lawyer to Guns N' Roses, Peter Paterno, who had gone on to run Hollywood Records, came up with the idea and suggested Moby to the GN’R camp. And I thought it was interesting, because Moby's past didn’t suggest the kind of blood, sweat and tears rock and roll that I kind of thought that GNR was. So it seemed to indicate to me that there was a definite determination in the recording to make the band sound and feel very different from what had already been established. And I rather wondered whether it was - you know, sometimes I think you can be a little overly aware of what I would call your competition, Nine Inch Nails, and so on and so forth, and how they were sounding. Sometimes you can be a little overly aware of your competition, and maybe move to be contemporary and, in doing so, perhaps you risk losing your signature.

Mitch Lafon: And your fan base.

Alan Niven: I rather wondered if that might be the case in that situation.

Mitch Lafon: Yeah. And I don't want to use the word “contrived”, but that's almost what it sounds like: “we're just trying so hard to be different,” we're just trying so hard to not be the Appetite band,” you know. But that said, at the end of the day, Chinese Democracy as an album - it didn't, of course, sell as well as people expected. But I think if you listen to the songs that are on there and some of the playing that's on there, and if you listen to those songs now, live with Duff and Slash, they're actually decent songs. You know, it turned out okay with hindsight. But boy, when you say to me “Moby is going to come produce Guns,” you go, “Hmm, I'm not so sure about that, but hey”.

Alan Niven: Well, you know, everybody's got their own viewpoint and everybody's got their own opinion. But I personally, when recording, have always been a little suspicious of what is deemed contemporary. And personally for me, what I look for is something that I hope will be realized as a little more timeless. And to me that's an organic thing. I hated drum machines, they were too perfect. There were certain amplifiers that I didn't connect to because they lacked the organic quality that I love in an amplifier, that you find in an old Fender or an old Marshall head. I think you've got to be very careful about being contemporary, because sometimes when you're contemporary, in the future being dated.

Mitch Lafon: Yeah, you see? You're very right with that, because when you look back at some of the early ‘80s music, whether it's Flock of Seagulls or not, and they were all doing that ‘80s keyboard - and I know people know what I'm talking about, that ‘80s keyboard that has that… When you're chasing the new thing, sometimes it ends up sounding dated. But that said, I will say this, and you may or may not agree, but I think the song itself, Chinese Democracy, is one of the greatest songs GN’R has ever put out. And I know, I know, I’ll get gruff for this, but I really like it and I really like what they did with them live. And I think when you put Slash's guitar on any of these songs, they become Guns N' Roses songs. So there you go.

Alan Niven: I think that's an entirely valid observation. You know, whatever his style or what is closest to his heart, Axl is a good writer.

Mitch Lafon: Oh yes.

Alan Niven: He's not going to put rubbish out there. And the minute that you have Slash involved, you've got one of the most articulate and expressive players to ever breathe. Of course it's going to take the song to another level. This might surprise you, but I rather wish that the core of GN’R would write together again. I think that would be a very interesting thing to have happen. That if you had an Izzy song, and Axl's lyric and vocal, and Slash's guitar playing, I think you have potential there for something serious and magical.

Mitch Lafon: Oh, I fully agree. And not only did Slash's guitar playing take these songs to the next level, Slash's guitar playing in 2016 and 2017 were some of the best playing he's ever done. I mean, usually as artists get older and, you know, baseball players, the skills diminish, but I think Slash's skills have actually increased in the last couple of years.

Alan Niven: I think that is an observation that no one can deny. He's playing the best he's ever played. And it's interesting, when he turned 49, he had a little bit of a meltdown on me ruing the fact that next up was 50. And I said to him, “Listen, and listen good, if I could get one decade back to relive, it would be my 50s, because that's the best balance of body, mind and soul that I've experienced”. And I said to him, “Your best decade is about to come”. And I think I'm being proved right. I think he's playing better than ever. I think he's in a really good head space and this is going to be the apex of his life, the next 8 or so years. Of course, once you hit 60, it's all over (laughs).

Mitch Lafon: Well, listen, as somebody who's about to enter the realm of 50 this year, we'll have that conversation in a couple of months as I get closer and closer to it - oh, well, we'll see about that. But,  and I'll finish with this with the GN’R stuff, I don't think the band should obviously go back in the studio and re-record these songs, but I would like to see them put out a live album or even an EP where these songs are featured being played the way they're being played today, you know, with Duff, and with Frank, and with Slash, and with Melissa, and just the whole band, because those shows and those songs, they just sounded the way they should have sounded when the album came out in, when was that, 2008? 2008. Wow, it's 10 years since…  

Alan Niven: Well, if somebody was smart, they would have recorded the show in Harlem, because everybody who had the grounds to make comment on it said it was far and away the most excellent show of the entire tour. And, of course, you can readily comprehend that when you think of them taking the momentum and power of their stadium shows and compressing it into a small theater. It must have been very intense. So I'm hoping somebody recorded that and I'm hoping one day it'll come out.

Mitch Lafon: Well, you know what, they did, because it was a SiriusXM special that ran on air repeatedly for a couple of weeks, if not a month at that time. So it exists. SiriusXM probably owns the rights to it, but at some point there's got to be some kind of give and take negotiation where they could have it put out for the rest of the world to enjoy on a more permanent basis. So fingers crossed on that.

Alan Niven: Put it on vinyl.

Mitch Lafon: Or CD, because CDs sound better.

(Alan Niven laughs)

Mitch Lafon: See, we're going to have that debate. But instead of debates, let us listen to Moby. […]
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