Circus Magazine - September 30,
by Don Kaye
N' Roses' Explosive Success
When it comes to rock bands, some personalities
within a group always get more attention than the other members. With
the Stones, it was Jagger and Richards; with Aerosmith, it's Tyler and
Perry - and the list goes on. But what people don't always realize is
that the quiet guys, the ones who aren't constantly in the spotlight,
are just as interesting and often provide the backbone for the band.
"I don't really enjoy being a center
of attention," says guitarist Izzy Stradlin of L.A. sensations
Guns N' Roses. "I'm more into the music and what's happening with
that. I enjoy having those guys take care of the publicity."
"Those guys" are singer W. Axl
Rose and lead guitarist Slash, who have been the main visual and public
symbols of Guns ever since the band began their climb to Top 10 chart
success over a year and a half ago. The group built up an enormous buzz
by playing the L.A. circuit before signing to Geffen Records and releasing
their debut LP, Appetite for Destruction. Since then, endless
touring and growing video and radio airplay have made the California
rockers one of the hottest bands around.
Through it all, the dangerous-looking
Axl and somewhat creepy Slash have presented the image of a group living
on the edge, and stories of excessive, abusive behavior have followed
the group continually. But Izzy, bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Steven
Adler are all very much part of Guns N' Roses, though they have generally
avoided the glare of publicity.
"It suits me fine," remarks
Izzy. "I don't even have to think about actually planning out what
I want to say in interviews, or what topics I'm gonna talk about. It's
funny, because I can walk through a club without anybody recognizing
me, knowing me, or bothering me, whenever I want to. Those guys, they're
out front, no matter where they go they get spotted."
"I don't give a shit," agrees
Duff. "Slash and Axl are vocal and they like talking a lot. I mean,
we're all onstage when we play, and that's what's most important. As
far as magazines and stuff like that goes, it doesn't matter who does
that. It's a band, and our fans know it is. They know it's not just
Axl and Slash. There's no jealousy about that between anybody in this
That's good news for Guns fans no doubt,
especially since breakup rumors have also plagued the tumultuous quintet.
But Duff and Izzy are firmly in agreement with it comes to the group's
internal relationships. "Everybody's good friends," insists
Izzy. "When the band started - it was like the day after either
Duff or Stevie joined - we had the infamous Seattle trip. We hitchhiked
up there for a gig, and it took a long time, but it pretty much solidified
the line-up. If everybody could hack it and get along in the back of
a semi-trailer that's five feet by eight feet, with five guys and no
it was like a test to see if everyone could get along
in the long haul."
"That Seattle trip was the proving
ground," chimes in Duff. "If we could go through that shit,
we could go through anything, and we've been through a lot of shit.
At one point, we were living in a one-room place in Hollywood, where
we also rehearsed, and we had no money, but we just survived together.
If you had something to eat, you had to share it with everyone else."
This camaraderie has not even been punctured
by the bassist recent marriage. In rock & roll, "the wife"
has had a reputation, however unfair, of being a band wrecker. No such
demon plagues the Guns N' Roses camp: "My wife's a musician, so
she supports what I'm doing one hundred and fifty percent," says
Duff. "I try not to bring my marriage into the band's business
at all, because it's really my personal life, and there's no need for
it to be public knowledge. But I'm real happy with it."
"It was weird the first coupla days
with the guys, and I thought, 'Oh, man.' But it was just me being paranoid.
I asked Slash, 'What's wrong? You're looking at me funny,' and he said,
'What are you talkin' about?' They couldn't be happier for me."
"I haven't even noticed that he's
married until you mentioned it!" quips Izzy.
Duff's big event did affect Guns N' Roses
in one small way: his actual wedding day forced the group to use ex-Cult
bassist Haggis as a stand-in for him because of haphazard scheduling.
"We had planned the wedding for a year prior, and I asked our manager
[Alan Niven] when he thought a good time would be, that we wouldn't
be touring," recalls Duff. "So he told me to make it for May.
And he promised me. So every two weeks I would remind him: 'All right,
we've set the date, we've paid all the money, and made all the plans.'
And then, a month before the wedding, he calls me and he goes, 'Yeah,
we're on Maiden tour now!' And I said, 'What about May 28, Alan?' And
he says, 'What's May 28?' And I said, 'My fucking wedding!' It pissed
me off, but you've got to deal with it, so I called Haggis, took one
day off to get hitched, then came back to the tour."
This wasn't the first time the band had
to deal with substitutes, since drummer Steven Adler was out for several
weeks with a broken hand, replaced by Cinderella's Fred Coury. "That
was very strange," Duff recalls of playing with someone different
in the rhythm section. "Freddy is a great drummer, but every drummer
has a different feel, and even if he's playing exactly what Stevie's
doing on the record, it's not the same.
"You know, I was a drummer before
I played bass, and that gives me more insight into working with a drummer,
because you know what's going on inside his head. So it creates a much
better groove because we can talk to each other. Most drummers are odd
things to begin with, and usually the band can't understand what he's
saying. But me and Stevie are real tight, so I did not enjoy playing
with a different drummer."
The whole relatively healthy Guns N' Roses
should be wrapping up a tour with Aerosmith any day now, despite an
earlier scare when Axl came down with laryngitis. He bounced back in
time for the trek, however, and after it's over, the group head to Japan
for five dates before beginning work on their already anticipated second
"It's hard to say what the next album
is gonna sound like," ponders Izzy. "It'll definitely be interesting.
I don't think anyone's given any thought to it, so we'll just go as
we go and see what comes out. It'll definitely be varied. I think the
first album has diversity to it, but the next one will have even more.
We've got a ton of stuff to sort through. It'll be a rock & roll
album, that's for sure."
Does this mean that Guns N' Roses are
tired of being labeled a heavy metal band? "We used to get really
pissed off," admits Izzy. "Especially in the early days. But
now it doesn't bother me. The general public doesn't really break music
down past a few different kinds, and they either like it or they don't.
We've been called so many names, it doesn't matter."
"People will always have their own
specific label for you," concurs Duff. "That's just the way
it is in society. There's nothing that can be done about it. In interviews,
you say, 'Listen, we're just a rock & roll band,' but you can only
say it so many times."
They may be "just a rock & roll
band," but Guns N' Roses are becoming almost a way of life for
the over two million fans who have bought Appetite for Destruction.
It's been a long journey for all five musicians - Izzy used to jam with
Axl in Indiana garage bands before moving to L.A., while Duff played
in 31 different bands in Seattle. Both knew that Guns was it for them
as soon as they joined. And they haven't looked back.
"It still hasn't hit me as being
fast-paced," says Izzy. "I was expecting things to start moving
very fast. But it's been comfortable, although I miss being on the road
when I'm home. All in all, the past year has been great."
"Right from our first tour, with
the Cult, until now, there's been a lot of ups and downs," sums
up Duff. "What with Stevie breaking his hand, Axl losing his voice,
us losing tours and getting frustrated and kicking around a bit - but
it's still been fuckin' great. I think we really proved ourselves, since
before we started touring there was all this hype that we weren't gonna
last, and we have lasted. All those people are eating crow now. We'll
be around for a while."