Rip Magazine - 1992
Whether you like Guns N' Roses or not doesn't really matter. You can't close your eyes and make them go away. You can't turn on the radio or MTV and not hear 'em. You can't pick up a magazine and not see them. The more opposition they triumphed over, the stronger they became as a unit. And when this group is unified, there's no more powerful or dangerous band in the world. They speak their truth, they play for their people, and nothing can stop them from realizing their dreams, dreams so many fans around the world share. This was proven once again on their trek across the US and Canada with Metallica. The faithful came out in droves to hear Axl and the boys put their anger, rebellion, sadness and, yeah, sometimes, joy into words and music. For me, watching from backstage, it was, to put it mildly, f?!kin' wild. I wasn't at all surprised to find out you'd voted them Best Band of 1992 in the reader's poll.
Whether on the plane, at the hotel, onstage or at the party after the gig, the camaraderie of the members of GN'R is always intense. The bonds that have been forged between these guys are impossible to break. It's a difficult world to be a part of sometimes, so intense and so serious, it often borders on life and death. For Guns, it isn't just about being the biggest or the loudest; it's about trying to do something historic as well as self-satisfying. The six men who make up Guns N' Roses - Axl, Slash, Duff, Matt, Gilby and Dizzy - are kindred souls fighting for a common cause: to make GN'R the best band it can be. No cost, personal or financial, is too great. Regardless of what obstacles arise, Guns N' Roses have an uncanny knack for overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. Whether it's a first-round knockout or a bloody brawl to the final bell, GN'R ain't afraid to get in the ring.
"The way this band works is that we are going to accomplish whatever it is that we set out to do," explains keyboardist Dizzy Reed. "It may not happen on schedule, but it will eventually happen. The tour with Metallica was a lot of fun, but it was very stressful. Everyone in both bands was a little more pumped up than if it was just another show. 'F?!k, we have to go on after them.' It was more challenging than anything I've ever done. When I get stressed out, I try to find some sports on TV and just relax. When I'm on the road, I think about home a lot, but I enjoy the road. I'm gonna show up and be ready to play no matter what's going down. That's all you can do. At times you could feel the pressure in the air, but once we were onstage, then it was a blast. Nothing compares to the big stage. Matt and I have been doing this for a while now - but we're not like original members of the band - and Gilby's been here for a year or so. By the end of the tour the shows were really starting to come together. We became a lot stronger as a band. Playing the sold-out Rose Bowl for something like 70,000 people in our hometown was probably the most memorable gig. That was the shit. I took the final bow with my son, Justin, and for me that was really cool I don't know what he made of it, but I think he dug it. He'll probably be doing it someday, and he'll have to roll me out in a wheelchair."
There was a point during the tour when I flew out for a series of shows, and those gigs just weren't happening. I was in Montreal for the riot that ensued after GN'R left the stage because of sound problems, and the plane ride home that morning had to be one of the longest and hardest things I've ever been through - and I'm not even in the band! I also attended the shows in New Orleans and Denver, two gigs where, again, GN'R's magic wasn't all that magical. Slash got to where he dreaded seeing me, because I was the "jinx". When problems began to arise and shows had to be postponed, one has to wonder if GN'R's faith in their ability to pull this off ever dwindled.
"No," says Slash. "You know me: My faith in us is the only thing that keeps me going. No matter how personal anything is, Axl and I can talk about it as long as we're square with each other, there's no chance of anything going wrong with the band. I think besides those four Rolling Stones gigs, this was the hardest tour we've done. When we did have downtime, like when James got hurt, I just found things to bide my time with. It was actually kind of easy to keep it together. Whenever something happened, the band would get together and decide what to do about it. You can't see obstacles before they happen. Every day is a new adventure, but there's nothing that's so hectic that Guns N' Roses can't deal with it.
"When things weren't going that good, I think we adjusted pretty well," adds bassist Duff McKagan. "For the most part things ran pretty smoothly - as smoothly as Guns N' Roses can run. At one point we had like five gigs left, and we were all pretty spent. If we'd slouched after everything we'd been through to get there, we would've lost. Once we got onstage, everything was alright. We're brothers on that stage, but, yeah, we needed some time to recharge our batteries. We've been touring for a f?!cking long time supporting the Illusion records, like a year and a half or something. Since the Metallica tour ended and we've been home, like four weeks now, I've been running around like a madman, mixing my record and getting my life in order. We're getting ready to go back out, and I'm looking forward to it again. After this tour is finished and we take another rest, I can't wait to go back into the studio with GN'R and see what we come up with next. We've got some really, really intense shit that we've come up with at soundchecks, and I wanna see what that stuff sounds like. Gilby and I have been writing, and Matt and I have come up with some intense stuff that I can't wait to jam during pre-production or whatever. This whole experience has brought us even closer as friends."
Despite its popularity with the fans, the GN'R/Metallica tour seemed to get overlooked by most of the media. Were the members of GN'R upset at the cold shoulder turned their way?
"This tour was positive for rock and roll in general." explains McKagan. "Whether you like it or not, Metallica and GN'R are two completely different bands that attract different types of fans. We put those people together. It wasn't quite as intense as when punk rock and heavy metal came together and you got speed metal, but it was cool playing in front of the Metallica diehards. People were holding their breaths before the tour. Nobody in the bands was though. We're the ones that came up with the idea. After all, it's only rock 'n' roll. Getting shined by the press started getting to me a little, but sold-out coliseums during a recession proved we weren't wrong. If I was to let the press get to me, then I'd be letting every little thing in life get to me, and I'd never leave my house."
Touring, with its seemingly endless possibilities for adventure, isn't all that it's cracked up to be. There's a lot of dead time, a lot of anxiety and a lot of loneliness. It's a catch-22: When you're not out on tour, you can't wait to get out; and when you're out, you can't wait to get home and see your family and friends. Even GN'R get the homesick blues.
"We usually wind up spending a lot of time in the bar," says a snickering Reed. "Everyone has their own little niche and does their own thing. I hang out with Duff a lot, but we all hang together. I watch a lot of TV and wait for the show. I've written a lot of songs and lyrics. At least one member is always trying to drum up some kind of social activity. A rock club or a jam session are always ways of killing time. During the last tour we played a lot of softball for local charities, and that was fun."
Toward the end of the tour with Faith No More, who were the show's openers, had to leave to do their own headlining tour and were replaced by Motorhead at some shows and Body Count at others. Body Count are respected by, as well as being friends with, the members of Guns N' Roses.
"I saw their first show," McKagan enthuses. "Those guys are hard-core. Ernie-C [Body Count's lead guitarist] and I are really close. I was hanging out with him last night. Their biggest crowds before playing with us were on Lollapalooza, like, what, 10,000-15,000 fans? We were doing three and four times that, and Body Count was up to the challenge. They put on their hard faces and went for it. Ice-T can take a crowd that is like, 'Who are these guys?' and work them so that, after three or four songs, the kids are going wild. It was so cool watching them take control of the crowd. I wish we'd taken them out a lot earlier in the tour."
When Guns N' Roses are on, there is no band in the world that comes close to matching their sheer rock 'n' roll intensity. These guys have taken rock music to a new level that frightens some people, but maybe they deserve to be frightened. No one ever said rock 'n' roll was supposed to be safe. Besides the not-so-good shows I mentioned earlier, I also caught many great ones this past summer. Pittsburgh and San Diego immediately come to mind, but the creme de la creme had to be the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. The night was made a little more decadent than usual when Andrew "Dice" Clay did about 15 minutes of stand-up comedy before GN'R came on. From the first chord of the opening number, "Nightrain", it was an exciting display of on-the-edge rock 'n' roll. Songs like "Civil War," "Estranged," "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," "You Could Be Mine," "Welcome to the Jungle," and as a final encore, "Paradise City" were played to perfection. The Casablanca-themed party afterwards was also perfect, but that's another story.
When GN'R heard that you'd voted them Best Band of 1992, they wanted to express their appreciation. Awards like this, that come from the fans, mean a whole lot to them.
"It's a nice pat on the back, winning the reader's poll. It's like people are telling us, 'Hey, you're doing okay,'" says McKagan. "For me, personally, it all comes down to me, my boots and a hunk of wood with four strings on it. It's that simple, and it's very cool being appreciated by the fans."
"It's really cool winning here, because RIP is one of the few magazines that I read and respect," Dizzy adds.
"I've been thinking
about this since Lonn told me we won," Slash says. "I can't
analyze it and try to figure out why, because it's too involved. I'm sitting
on my floor with a bunch of boxes, watching the edited version of Down
and Out in Beverly Hills on Channel 5. Until we go back out on the
road, that's what my life consists of, the basic shit. It's not like I'm
any different from anybody else. There seems to be a lot of Guns N' Roses
bashing going on, especially from our so-called peers, but I guess enough
people believe what we're doing is genuine to vote for us. They believe
in our attitude. We may let people down from time to time, but maybe this
will help them understand that we're not as untouchable and superhuman
as the media tries to make us out to be. If the people think we're band
of the year, then all I can do is be thankful and appreciate it. It's
too much of a compliment, and all I can do is keep going out there and
sweating it out."