From Appetite to Chinese Democracy: all the albums reviewed and rated
The band, the manager, the A&R guy, even the Rocket Queen…
30 years of dirty sex, bad drugs and timeless rock‘n’roll
Features 6 The Wild Ones: GN’R – The Early Days Originally published in Metal Hammer, the inside story of GN’R’s formation.
14 10 Things You Didn’t Know About…
Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide: The facts behind GN’R’s first release.
16 The Story Behind Appetite For Destruction The only UK journalist at the LA album launch looks back at the drugs, the women and the chaos.
28 The Destruction Years (continued)
Mick Wall was the writer closest to GN’R in the early years. Here, he reports from the heart of the chaos.
32 Anarchy In The UK Hanging out with Guns in June 1987 as they hit the UK.
Reviews 26 Appetite For Destruction
The best-selling debut album of all-time, reviewed. (Spoiler: it’s good.)
62 GN’R Lies
The ‘filler’ album that proved even more controversial than their debut.
78 Use Your Illusion I&II Their big moment, reappraised.
100 The Spaghetti Incident?
The ‘punk rock covers album’ that was the end of the road for Slash, Duff and Izzy
128 Chinese Democracy
38 The Story Behind Welcome To The Jungle The story behind the song that soundtracks sports events to this day…
80 Tales of Excess
In 2004, Slash and Duff looked back at the madness of GN’R, while Steven Adler spoke frankly about trying to get his life back on track…
84 The Use Your Illusion Tour
No-shows, bomb scares, police intervention: inside the volatile Use Your Illusion tour.
94 Hey, GN’R! We’ve Fixed Use Your Illusion!
UYI: there are too many songs and they’re not all gold. We got our man Sleazegrinder to narrow idown to a single album.
96 Axl and Kurt Cobain’s MTV Bust-up What happened when grunge’s poster boy and wife met GN’R’s short-tempered frontman…
102 The Izzy Stradlin Interview
In this classic interview, Izzy looks back on leaving GN’R, getting sober, and Axl’s transformation into a “monster”.
108 It’s So Big Easy Izzy and the ‘missing million’ – illustrated!
112 Why Izzy Stradlin Was The Heart Of GN’R By their former manager Alan Niven
40 The Sixth Silent Member
114 The Great Chinese Robbery
48 Why I Love Appetite
118 The Making of Chinese Democracy
50 Slash: Ever Meet Hendrix?
130 Q&A: Duff McKagen
54 The Year Of Living Dangerously
134 Q&A: Steven Adler
Guns manager Alan Niven talks for the first time about what went doen at the height of the madness.
Alter Bridge frontman and Slash collaborator Myles Kennedy on his love for the Gunners’ first album.
As part of a regular CR feature, Slash looked back at the people he’d worked with and hung out with over the years…
Inside 1988-89 as the wheels starts to come off and GN’R Lies adds to the controversy…
64 The Making of Use Your Illusion
Inside the Chinese Democracy leaks
Yoda, Buckethead and chicken coops: a weird year in the making of GN’R’s last album.
2011 and Duff talks up his new album and avoids questions about reuniting with Axl. Are relations thawing?
A happy and healthy Adler makes his comeback in 2013.
136 Not In This Lifetime: The Reunion Inside the most amazing reunion in years.
Years in the making, you’ve never heard anything like it.
How do you follow Appetite For Destruction? With TWO albums. Inside the making of GN’R’s most ambitious statement yet.
142 Duff: Ever Meet Hendrix?
132 After GN’R: A Buyers Guide
72 How I Ended Up In Get In The Ring
146 Heavy Load: Slash
Which Gunner did the best post-GN’R work?
Mick Wall on how he ended up being called out by Axl Rose.
As part of a regular CR feature, Duff looked back on the people he’s worked with.
The guitarist answers life’s big questions.
The hungry years: Guns take Appetite… on the road.
‘Axl was distracted. He seemed apart from the rest of the group. The dynamic between them had changed. The singer’s isolation had begun.’ Axl. Nobody – not Goldstein, nor the band – seemed concerned about it. But to me it felt weird. Ever since that first time I’d met them, Guns N’ Roses looked an acted like a gang. They had that ‘us against the world’ mentality. But now Axl was on a different schedule to the others. Maybe he was just resting, as Goldstein had said. But after those rumours about Axl being kicked out of the band in Phoenix, it didn’t look good. Just 90 minutes before GN’R were due on stage, I interviewed Izzy and Slash in a large backstage toilet-come-shower room. Slash was revelling in the band’s phenomenal success. “It’s completely against the industry,” he said, proudly. “What this industry’s about in the 80s is pretty obvious – trying to polish everything up. Everything’s like techno-pop, even heavy metal stuff. We go against every standard. Even when we play live to 20,000 people, we’re like a club band. We do whatever we feel like doing. That’s just the way it is. And if people come expecting us to play hit after hit, it just ain’t gonna happen.” On this tour, however, there were some rules that GN’R had to abide by. Aerosmith, formerly the most fucked-up band in America, were now teetotal and drug-free, and in an effort to keep them sober, their manager Tim Collins had drawn up a contract forbidding Guns N’ Roses to drink alcohol outside of their own dressing room. GN’R honoured that contract out of respect for their heroes. “The vibe between the two bands is great,” Slash smiled. “These guys have been through a lotta shit and we have a lot of respect for them. And it’s funny – they don’t do drugs, they just like to talk about them. They love to ask you about what you did last 24 www.classicrockmagazine.com classicrockmagazine.com 52
night and how fucked up you got.” Izzy added, laughing: “You drag your ass into the gig sometimes and you see these guys and you think, aw, fuck! They’re eating watermelon and drinking tea and they go: ‘Man, I’ve been up since nine o’clock this morning.’ You say: ‘What drugs are you doing?’ And they say: ‘No, I just been up since nine!” I suggested to them that few people would have believed that Guns N’ Roses would have survived 14 months of touring like they had. Izzy snorted: “They didn’t expect us to last a week! But touring really doesn’t faze you. if you get twisted backstage, the walk to the bus is only a few yards, y’know? But yeah, if you get twisted every night, you start draggin’…” Of course, I had to ask them about Axl. I’d been around the band for 24 hours and I still hadn’t seen him. Slash went on the defensive. “You gotta understand that with us, excess is best and all that shit. Axl has to keep from smoking or drinking or doing drugs to maintain his voice. He doesn’t hang out that much because the atmosphere that’s created by the other four members is pretty, uh…” Izzy cut in: “…Conducive to deterioration.” “Axl just hangs out by himself,” Slash added. “He takes it pretty seriously. He’s doing well to maintain a certain sanity level, seeing as he can’t go out cos of his position in the band. If he was doing what we were doing, he wouldn’t be able to sing at all!” When I mentioned the rumours about the band firing Axl in Phoenix, Slash responded like a seasoned politician. “That’s been one of the stories that’s gotten bigger than all of us,” he sighed. “And, as little as it was, it’s past tense and it’s not worth talking about
cos it doesn’t relate to what’s going on now.” We returned to the dressing room, where Steven was drinking vials of royal jelly. “Builds up cum in your balls!” he explained. Somewhat belatedly, Doug Goldstein presented a birthday cake to Slash with a message in pink icing: ‘HAPPY FUCKIN’ BIRTHDAY, YOU FUCKER’. A pack of Marlboro Reds, his preferred smoke, had been squished into the cake. 20 minutes before show time, Slash and Izzy were jamming on acoustic guitars, Steven rattling his drumsticks on the back of a chair, when, at last, Axl arrived. He barely acknowledged the other members of the band before disappearing behind a ring of flight cases arranged in corner of the room. Hidden from view, Axl went through his pre-gig warm-up ritual, singing to a loud playback of The Needle Lies, a track from Queensrÿche’s concept album Operation: Mindcrime. The meaning in the song’s title wasn’t lost on anyone. Axl emerged from his den just as Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler entered the room, causing general panic as everyone with a beer in their hand tried to hide it. Tyler seemed oblivious: he just wanted to congratulate GN’R on their No.1 album. He hugged them all and quickly left. Axl disappeared again to change from jeans and T-shirt into his stage gear: leather chaps and codpiece, snakeskin jacket and wide-brimmed leather hat. He looked surprised when he saw me. He walked over, his bangles and spurs jingling, and we talked for a few minutes. There was no time for a formal interview. I told him what Slash and Izzy had said about him earlier, and he seemed happy enough with
IF YOU WANT IT, YOU’RE GONNA BLEED
Whole lotta Rose: as the Appetite… tour progressed, Axl withdrew into a world of his own.
Slash’s 23rd: why have candles when you can have Marlboros instead?
that. He appeared distracted, which I attributed to him being psyched up about going on stage. But even when he broke away for Ian Tilton to take a band shot, he seemed apart from the rest of the group. The dynamic between them had changed. The isolation of Axl Rose had begun. Guns N’ Roses were brilliant that night: the best show I ever saw them play. At times, Axl was in playful mood, swapping cowboy hats with Duff. But his focus was absolute. Aerosmith might have been the headliners on that tour, but Guns N’ Roses were the main attraction, and Axl owned that stage. Just before they’d gone on, Ian Tilton had asked Doug Goldstein if he could shoot from the side of the stage. “Not unless you want to eat a mic-stand…” Ian asked me if that was a joke. I assured him it wasn’t. Guns N’ Roses whipped the Texan crowd into a frenzy. Standing beside me at the mixing desk in the centre of the arena was Slayer’s Tom Araya, a broken arm in a sling and a beer in his good hand. Even between songs he had to shout right in my ear, such was the noise from the fans. It seemed ironic that Araya was there. Just 18 months earlier, I’d gone to LA thinking Guns N’ Roses were nothing compared to Slayer. Now GN’R were on a different level altogether. Guns N’ Roses were a phenomenon. They had the world at their feet. But their enigmatic singer was already withdrawing into a world all his own. But then fame can mess with your head. Earlier that day at the hotel, Izzy, Slash, Duff and Steven had appeared in the lobby and were immediately mobbed by a group of pre-teen kids. Izzy smirked as he signed autographs. “Maybe they think we’re Bon Jovi,” he whispered in my ear. Seconds later, the kids all ran off. Izzy looked bemused until we realised where they’d gone – to the other side of the lobby, where they were crowded around another celebrity who had just arrived: A-Team superhero Mr. T. If ever Guns N’ Roses required a lesson in the fickle nature of showbiz, they got it right there. classicrockmagazine.com 53 25 www.classicrockmagazine.com
“Alan niven was the sixth silent member of GN’R,” says Izzy Stradlin. The manager of guns n’ Roses from 1986-1991, he talks here for the first time about what really went down at the height of the band’s crazy days.
zis for Christmas? There coulda been.” Alan Niven, Guns N’ Roses’ original manager, is thinking back to December 1992 when, rumour has it, he gave a member of the GN’R entourage three enormous wooden boxes for Christmas. Imagine the guy’s yuletide joy when he cracked open the boxes on Xmas morning to find that in one was a very deadly (and very illegal) Uzi sub-machine-gun, while the other two were rammed with rounds of ammo. Deck the halls with bows of holly, motherfucker. “I know that sounds demented to a European sensibility,” says Niven, “but then you didn’t live through the LA riots. Let me tell you, it was a moment of pure social breakdown and lawlessness. The first arson fires were lit on a Thursday night, and the National Guard arrived Monday morning – without ammo, as it happened. In the meantime the LA cops were nowhere to be seen. We were on our own – and on top of that there were rumours that cop uniforms had been stolen from dry-cleaning businesses, that National Guard armouries had been broken into by the rioters…” When three LAPD officers were acquitted on April 29 that year of using excessive force during the arrest of one Rodney King – despite footage clearly showing a group of cops beating a man no longer able to put up any resistance – the people of Los Angeles displayed a genuine appetite for destruction: looting, burning and battering anything and anyone in their path. Fifty-three people died in six days of rioting: gunned down by the police, shot by storekeepers protecting their
Words: Scott Rowley Portraits: neil zlozower & Ross halfin
properties, burned alive, beaten, or the victims of random drive-by shootings. Niven had been fired as GN’R manager the year before, but “when the riot went down, Iz [Izzy Stradlin] was over to my place in a heartbeat for a brown bag containing my .357 Magnum and beaucoup ammo. After the riot I bought him a gaspowered 12-gauge shotgun used by the LA SWAT teams. That’s a serious piece of ordinance. I took him to the gun club to teach him how to use it. The target basically dissolves in a rapid-fire hail of slugs. I ask him: ‘Feel safer now?’ ‘Yeah Niv,’ he says, with a big grin on his face. “After all that I even got hold of Kevlar [bulletproof] vests for my family, and arranged for an Arizona helicopter company, at huge expense, to pick up the wife and kids should another riot occur. “It wasn’t Welcome To Disneyland,” says Niven. “It was Welcome To The fuckin’ Jungle.”
Gn’r’s siXTH silenT MeMBer Alan Niven is the forgotten man of the Guns N’ Roses saga. Izzy Stradlin once described him as “the sixth silent member” of GN’R, but he refused most interview requests during his tenure with the band (from 1986-1991), and has done few subsequently (“I recently did an interview for Fuse TV, something I will not be doing again any time soon,” he says. “I’ve rarely ever talked on the record – I thought the music ought to be eloquent enough”). Instead he lives in Arizona, an Englishman abroad, where he keeps his hand in with Tru-B-Dor, a production company he runs with his partner Heather, which helps new bands and musicians. He also continues to write songs – Rick and John Brewster of Australian band The Angels have released three albums’ worth of his material. While this may be unusual for a manager,
it’s nothing new to renaissance man Niven: he was, after all, the main co-writer for Great White, who he also produced and managed – something that’s still a bone of contention in GN’R circles. Both bands sold their millionth record on the same day – April 7, 1988 (coincidentally, Niven’s birthday) – and the combined pressures and betrayals that came with managing two bands that broke at the same time were immense. “Pressure?” he says. “Let me put it to you this way. When the relationships ended, I retreated to the desert. To the mountains of Arizona and a house five miles down a dirt road, 25 miles north of nowhere. We made our own solar electricity, pumped our own water from two wells. I couldn’t get far enough away from LA, the betrayals and all the negative crap.” But managing two bands, however different, was an advantage at first. Niven talks of how, famously, the Welcome To The Jungle video that broke GN’R in the US only happened because it was piggybacked on to a shoot for a Great White video. He talks of the support slots Great White got them, and how, when GN’R went stratospheric, Great White graciously and wisely gave up closing slots to Guns (“Better to be a hard act to follow than to follow a hard act and all that,” he says). Under Niven’s management GN’R went from being unmanageable train-wrecks to being one of the decade’s most iconic bands, with the biggestselling debut album of all time in Appetite For Destruction. He coulda been lucky. On the other hand, it could easily be argued that after his departure Guns N’ Roses rarely put a foot right – releasing the overblown Use Your Illusion albums, before disintegrating into the epic saga of sackings, back-stabbings, rampant egoism, missed deadlines and blown budgets that eventually produced Chinese Democracy. ➻
R a YEerously oF
IEDER : JoN W
if 1988 was the year Guns N’ Roses became superstars, then 1989 saw them flying off the rails. from the controversy of GN’R Lies to their on-stage meltdown with the Rolling stones, this is the story of 12 insane months with The World’s Most Dangerous Band.
neil zlozoWer - aTlasicons.com
rom their earliest days as the brat-princes of Sunset Strip onwards, Guns N’ Roses thrived on chaos. The spark of volatility that coursed through their veins defined their music – never more so than on Appetite For Destruction, the feral debut album that would turn them from messy hopefuls into the biggest rock’n’roll band on the planet. The all-encompassing success of Appetite masked the fact that it had been slow out of the blocks. Released in July 1987, it took 12 months for the album to properly break. Although when it finally did, in the summer of 1988, there was nothing and no one that could stop it.
But that was just the beginning of their fame and notoriety – and of their problems. The road to success was littered with insanity and carnage, but it had nothing on what would follow. With Appetite For Destruction an unstoppable tsunami, Guns N’ Roses were about to enter the craziest period of an already crazy career. Between the end of 1988 and the end of 1989 they’d become the most talked about, celebrated and controversial band around – all on the back of just one stopgap album and a handful of live appearances. That this period would push them to the brink of extinction in the most public manner imaginable wasn’t the most surprising thing about those 12
months. The fact that they all made it out alive was. Not for nothing did GN’R start billing themselves as The World’s Most Dangerous Band. And it was a reputation they more than lived up to. “Being involved with Guns N’ Roses at that point was insane,” says Tom Zutaut, the A&R man who signed the band to Geffen Records and remained at their side as their success escalated. “They were the biggest band in the world and they were out of control. That was extremely stressful. I woke up every day listening to the radio, fully expecting to hear that Slash was dead. But there are just certain bands that nothing can stop – no amount of alcohol, no amount of drugs. Guns were one of those.” 55 classicrockmagazine.com 33
Elt and Ax at the Freddie Mercury Tribute, Wembley 1992.
Duff: The King of Beers
Never plane sailling: GN’R were held up at Prague airport due to a bomb scar e.
86 classicrockmagazine.com 38 Classic Rock
forUse those nearest andtour. dearest to theanband. No one Your Illusion It wasn’t isolated episode, escaped the crew, notwere the caterers, either.unscathed. It would getNot weirder. GN’R sufferingnot from thea bus drivers, not the band success and their media backlash aftersupport the massive of Appetite associates. No-one. Nearly a decade and a half later, For Destruction. And Axl was getting more and more people who were on theontour agreed speakthe paranoid. The GN’R theonly Illusion tourtowasn’t with Classic the shield of strict anonymity, same oneRock we’dunder seen storm the Marquee in ’87 or stun such the fear of the wrath thewas Donington crowd in ’88.of God instilled in Think about it, a 12-piece Guns N’ Roses? It doesn’t make sense does it? Even now, when Gun N’ Roses means whatever Axl Rose wants it to mean, he’ll be stretching credulity if he walks on stage at this year’s Download Festival with a dozen musicians in his band. But the Guns N’ Roses that assembled in Dublin in mid-May 1992 for the start of a 20-date European tour consisted of 12 musicians. It was the culmination of the band’s transition from hedonistic heroes to stadium rockers. It had been a traumatic adjustment costing two of the original members: drummer Steven Adler was fired from the band at the end of 1990 because, unlike the others, he did not cure his heroin addiction. A year later guitarist Izzy Stradlin quit because he could them. But it’scope timewith to break the silence.Guns N’ Roses – no longer a “cleaned-up” The Use YourheIllusion had started even though too hadtour cleaned up. in May 1991, four months Use Your Illusion albums were They hadbefore been the replaced by former Cult drummer released. It would carry for the next 28 months Matt Sorum, who hadon experience of playing big gigs, with showsGilby in 27 Clarke countries indid front seven and128 guitarist who notofhave big show million people. experience but had played in various Los Angeles For thelike first few weeks theFor shows ranand smoothly, bands Candy and Kill Thrills came out of apart lateclub starts, but that at Sthad Louis, Missouri in the from same the gritty circuit spawned GN’R, early July Axl yelled atRiot security Mötley Crüe, Quiet and to theremove rest. a camera fromTo a fan the stage and when thisnear reconstituted band had nothing been added happened heplayer leapt into theReed, crowd to dealbrass withtrio, the a keyboard Dizzy a female offender Thesingers resulting riot left and 50 people couplehimself. of backing (also girls) Ted
‘YOU JUST COULDN’T PREDICT WHAT TIME AXL WOULD SHOW UP. OR WHAT HE’D DO. OR WHAT HE’D SAY…’
Lying down on the job: when they finally hit the stage, GN’R were unstoppable.
injured and Axl facing assaultascharges. Andreakis who was billed an “emulator” but also Another riot was narrowly avoided a week later in played harmonica and keyboards. Englewood, Colorado when Axlmainly took exception to afor It was Slash who had been responsible heckler. And later that at Inglewood, putting together thesame Gunsmonth N’ Roses big band. California sensibly up Iawas traffic ticket for they’d “Aroundpolice the time Gilbytore joined looking some issued Axl’s made illegal left turn hornafter players tolimousine fill out songs likeanNovember Rain and outside the Forum and hemore threatened torecord,” cancel the get them to sound a bit like the he said show 19,000 people already inside. in awith TV interview. In “Axl contrast, Wembley Stadium at the end reallytheir got into that idea too. I didn’t wantof August under a baking sun was relatively anything corny like three guysa in tuxedosrestrained all moving affair, although atto Brent in unison, so Ithe gotjobsworths some chicks do it.Council But thathad hasn’t done their best by demanding the band changed the way we play,” hethat added. “It’s asdesist chaotic as from swearing on stage. That resulted in posters it’s always been.” around London proclaiming ‘Guns the N’ Fucking Roses. Pressed about tensions within band Slash Wembley Stadium. Sold Fucking Out’. Theyou replied, Fucking “This band’s always been tense because, language from thelike stage wasjob. equally know, this isn’t a day Mostblunt. bands these days But the tooshow thin for Izzy sleep. Stradlin could gojoke out had andworn do their in their We go who already takenup. toWe travelling separately outhad there all stirred care about every from show we the the group.happens By the time the two separateshow do,rest so ifofsomething during a particular Use Illusion albums weretense. released September thenYour yeah, it can get pretty Thein way we treat it is he’d AWOL, failing show for video to gogone out and do the bestto show weup possibly can. It’s shoots. A few weekswe later it was confirmed that he not pre-meditated, just go for it.” was leaving. Anyone thinking that a 12-piece band couldn’t Slashgo made the callreckoning to Gilby Clarke. “I Guns knewN’ Gilby “just for it” was without Roses before GunsFor N’aRoses even started,” helist. explained. “He attitude. start there was no set The opening was playingwasn’t in thedecided same clubs Hollywood number untilthat a minute or twoRose before [Axl’s group] bands I was in played at.be theypre-GN’R hit the stage. Thatand kind of spontaneity might But I hadn’t seen him all those years. with adoring fine and dandy in a in small club packed “Hisbut name was brought up by a couple of people fans in front of 50,000-100,000 people? Not to and I thought In guy fact controlling he was the only personand mention the‘Yeah’. lighting 900 lights wehalf auditioned. I brought him into the studio with us a dozen guys operating follow-spotlights and we jammedperched and it worked, juststage, like that.” precariously above the each waiting Clarke confirmed that story while admitting that for instructions. he’d surreptitiously in the frame. of Axl And then thereput washimself the erratic behaviour
rex features x2
Rose. You couldn’t predict what he and xl Rose has hadtime enough. It’s the Juneband 3, would come on stage although you could generally 1992–and we’re in Hannover at the guarantee that it wouldn’t be within 30 minutes of theon Niedersachsen Stadium. He’s sitting scheduled time. You couldn’t predict whatseething he’d do the drum riser, a sweaty, when he got there60,000 either:strong what he’d say or how he’d stadium rock crowd react to the music, the audience, anything… swarming in front of him. The band No wonder thetore road were(on always oncrew to stage time,fully for the first focussed as showtime-plus-30 approached. MostIllusion time on their massive Use Your bands leave nothing toripped chancethrough when hethree comes to but tour), songs, stadium shows –now evensomething’s The Rolling not Stones have used right. The backing tapes. But Guns N’singer Rosesdoesn’t deliberately put petulant say one word to their stadium shows on a knife edge. That meant the the assembled throng, and he’s sitting shows could By the same they down. Notbe thestunning. usual behaviour for a token man who could also beraces shambolic. Guns N’ Roses ordinarily aroundBut likethen a maniac. knewSlash, no other Duff,way. Matt and Gilby all share confused Not thatThey’re the critics saw it around, that way.doing To them, glances. running theirthe best to band they’d championed had the soldstage. out. Even worse, cover up, galloping around The monitors they’d becomeThe hugely popular. “Just anotherAnd are checked. teleprompter is checked. stadium act, up there with the fatted turkeys,” rechecked. Nothing’s wrong. Except the singer’s according to Melody Maker.strange. “A saddening musical behaviour. It’s all really mess,” said Kerrang!. doesn’t move. Then he does. He Axl, meanwhile, But wanders then Guns gone to war withinto thethe just toN’ theRoses fronthad of the stage, climbs press and the slag-‘em-off’ security pit,‘build-‘em-up, looks at the audience, then mentality. returns to the Demanding approval guaranteed rile any drum risercopy and sits downwas again. And thento starts to journalist, was another part of the Guns N’ sing. Butbut notitfor long… RosesBlame attitude. out onwritten Get In The Ring On on BobThey’d Dylan.spelt If heithadn’t Knockin’ their Use Your Illusion album.never For the crowds who Heaven’s Door, GN’RII would have covered it, and flocked to see them, theedgy air ofHannover excitement in Axl wouldn’t havehowever, berated the crowd thefor (frequently extended) build-up to the show told its not singing loudly enough. And then perhaps he own story. have introduced Sweet Child O’ Mine as “a wouldn’t Security, orgetting Axl’s paranoia, had song about fucked up thereached ass by aridiculous coke heights. wanted He demanded complete bottle”.He But that’s control. exactly what he does. And then he control. stormsLegal off. documents flew about backstage – disclaimers, gag orders, lot. And these weren’t just Incidents like thesethe characterised Guns N’ Roses’
Tired and emotional: the Illusion tour took a serious toll on Axl.
“I guess you don’t know much English so I’ll just say fucking Hi!”
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Classic Rock 39
Lying down on the job: when they finally hit the stage, GN’R were unstoppable.
Rose. You couldn’t predict what time he and the band would come on stage – although you could generally guarantee that it wouldn’t be within 30 minutes of the scheduled time. You couldn’t predict what he’d do when he got there either: what he’d say or how he’d react to the music, the audience, anything… No wonder the road crew were always fully focussed as showtime-plus-30 approached. Most bands leave nothing to chance when he comes to stadium shows – even The Rolling Stones have used backing tapes. But Guns N’ Roses deliberately put their stadium shows on a knife edge. That meant the shows could be stunning. By the same token they could also be shambolic. But then Guns N’ Roses knew no other way. Not that the critics saw it that way. To them, the band they’d championed had sold out. Even worse, they’d become hugely popular. “Just another stadium act, up there with the fatted turkeys,” according to Melody Maker. “A saddening musical mess,” said Kerrang!. But then Guns N’ Roses had gone to war with the press and the ‘build-‘em-up, slag-‘em-off’ mentality. Demanding copy approval was guaranteed to rile any journalist, but it was another part of the Guns N’ Roses attitude. They’d spelt it out on Get In The Ring on their Use Your Illusion II album. For the crowds who flocked to see them, however, the air of excitement in the (frequently extended) build-up to the show told its own story. Security, or Axl’s paranoia, had reached ridiculous heights. He wanted control. He demanded complete control. Legal documents flew about backstage – disclaimers, gag orders, the lot. And these weren’t just
for those nearest and dearest to the band. No one escaped unscathed. Not the crew, not the caterers, not the bus drivers, not the support band and their associates. No-one. Nearly a decade and a half later, people who were on the tour only agreed to speak with Classic Rock under the shield of strict anonymity, such was the fear of the wrath of God instilled in
‘YOU JUST COULDN’T PREDICT WHAT TIME AXL WOULD SHOW UP. OR WHAT HE’D DO. OR WHAT HE’D SAY…’ them. But it’s time to break the silence. The Use Your Illusion tour had started in May 1991, four months before the Use Your Illusion albums were released. It would carry on for the next 28 months with 128 shows in 27 countries in front of seven million people. For the first few weeks the shows ran smoothly, apart from the late starts, but at St Louis, Missouri in early July Axl yelled at security to remove a camera from a fan near the stage and when nothing happened he leapt into the crowd to deal with the offender himself. The resulting riot left 50 people
injured and Axl facing assault charges. Another riot was narrowly avoided a week later in Englewood, Colorado when Axl took exception to a heckler. And later that same month at Inglewood, California police sensibly tore up a traffic ticket they’d issued after Axl’s limousine made an illegal left turn outside the Forum and he threatened to cancel the show with 19,000 people already inside. In contrast, their Wembley Stadium at the end of August under a baking sun was a relatively restrained affair, although the jobsworths at Brent Council had done their best by demanding that the band desist from swearing on stage. That resulted in posters around London proclaiming ‘Guns N’ Fucking Roses. Wembley Fucking Stadium. Sold Fucking Out’. The language from the stage was equally blunt. But the joke had worn too thin for Izzy Stradlin who had already taken to travelling separately from the rest of the group. By the time the two separate Use Your Illusion albums were released in September he’d gone AWOL, failing to show up for video shoots. A few weeks later it was confirmed that he was leaving. Slash made the call to Gilby Clarke. “I knew Gilby before Guns N’ Roses even started,” he explained. “He was playing in the same clubs that Hollywood Rose [Axl’s pre-GN’R group] and bands I was in played at. But I hadn’t seen him in all those years. “His name was brought up by a couple of people and I thought ‘Yeah’. In fact he was the only person we auditioned. I brought him into the studio with us and we jammed and it worked, just like that.” Clarke confirmed that story while admitting that he’d surreptitiously put himself in the frame. classicrockmagazine.com 87 Classic Rock 39
Steven Adler Strokes, heart attacks, addiction – is the man who got kicked out of GN’R rock’s biggest fuck-up? Not any more, apparently. Words: Paul Elliott
hen Steven Adler says: “I’m lucky to be alive,” it’s no exaggeration. The former Guns N’ Roses drummer has cheated death many times since he was fired from the band in 1990. In his autobiography, My Appetite For Destruction, named after GN’R’s legendary debut album, he lists “28 overdoses, three botched suicides, two heart attacks, a couple of jail stints and a debilitating stroke”. But, now sober and drug-free, Adler is launching a new band, called simply Adler, and a new album, pointedly titled Back From The Dead. “There’s nothing greater than a comeback,” he declares.
Tell us about this new album you’ve recorded. It’s a rock’n’roll record with a lot of passion. And, like Appetite, it’s all feel. Is is true that you met your singer Jacob Bunton and guitarist Lonny Paul at a memorial for former Warrant singer Jani Lane? Yeah. Even in death Jani Lane did cool stuff. I love you, Jani! And it’s perfect timing for us, because the world needs a new rock’n’roll band. I did 10 years with Adler’s Appetite [essentially a GN’R covers band]. But that was really just a rehearsal for putting this original band together. And I know you’ll love this record – I bet a quarter you’ll love it. You also have an old friend, Slash, playing on the album. Yes, Slash plays on a song called Just Don’t Ask. And John 5 [guitarist for Rob Zombie] plays on Good To Be Bad. Having Slash play with us was a dream come true. The only guy from GN’R that gives a shit about how I’m doing is Slash. He’s been such a big influence on me because he’s been sober for years. And the only way he was going to come back into my life was if I got sober. And it took a few years to do it. But once I got off heroin and crack I got my life back. Is this band 100 per cent drug- and alcohol-free? It’s 111 per cent, not even 110 per cent. I totally have these guys’ support. I took drum lessons for a year to get my chops back, and I’ve been working out every day with Lonny in his garage. My goal was to be able to take my shirt off on stage and feel comfortable. Marilyn Manson once said: “People who abuse drugs give people who use drugs a bad name.” Discuss. Drugs are something you do when you’re a kid. When I was young and able to get away with shit, drugs were great. But in the end, all the drugs and alcohol blinded me to what was really important in life.
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How is it possible to get kicked out of Guns N’ Roses for doing too many drugs? That was just the story from management. You know, I really don’t want to talk about that shit. But they threw me out. And anything that happened to me, I guess I deserved it. When did you last speak with Axl Rose? It was around 2006, when Guns N’ Roses played in Las Vegas. Before the show I had 50 people around me, I was signing autographs, and Axl’s friend Del James said to me: “I don’t want Axl to be upset that you’re here, so you’ll have to leave.” So I left. And when I got home, Del James called again saying: “Axl wants to see you.” So I went back and I hung out with Axl till six in the morning. We drank a 3,000-dollar bottle of tequila. And it was really nice just to spend time with him. I love him to death. How did you feel when Guns N’ Roses were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and Axl refused to attend the cermony? It was disappointing for me, and for the fans. But Axl is one of the most talented singers in rock’n’roll, and it was an honour to work with that guy. Are you still holding out for a reunion of the classic GN’R line-up some time in the future? Hell no! I have this poster from the first time GN’R went to England, in 1987, when we played the Marquee. I walk by it every time I go to the bathroom. Before The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, I’d look at that poster and go: “Man, one day we’re gonna do this again. It’s just too great to not do it.” But now I just feel blessed that I was a part of that band back in the day. What would it take to get the old GN’R back together? I think they’d have to tie Axl down and beat it out of him. For all the ups and downs in your life, you were a part of one of the greatest rock’n’roll bands of all time. I’m very proud of that. You know, I wasted 20 years of my life. But as Frank Sinatra said: “If you ain’t got no scars, you ain’t lived life.” Well, I got scars head to toe. Back From the Dead released in 2013. On July 2016, Steven Adler’s Back was From The Dead is released on6, November Steven AdlerOcean joinedMedia. GN’R onstage for the first time since 1990. 26 via New
At what point during your wild years do you think you really hit rock bottom? I’ve had a few low points. In 1994 I had a mild stroke. But I don’t know how a stroke could be mild. Doctors said I wouldn’t be able to use the whole left side of my body. But God was watching out for me.
Do you think there’s ever been a bigger fuck-up in the history of rock’n’roll than Steven Adler? I was in one of the biggest bands in the world, I had everything and I lost it all. I was a superstar but I was living like a street urchin. I was a drug addict. And it was a long, hard fall. But if you survive it you come out stronger. Because of what happened to me in GN’R I have a lot to prove. And it means so much to me to do it. When people listen to the new record they’ll know whether I’m talking out of my ass or not.
Feature Steven Adler: now “111 per cent” drug- and alcohol-free.
“A GN’R reunion They’d have to tie? Axl down and be it out of him.” at classicrockmagazine.com 135
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