BLINK, and you’ll miss a band being compared to the Rolling Stones. Everyone from the Monkees to Crowded House to your local pub group have probably been likened so the Beatles on different occasions. But it’s a tough job being compared to the Rolling Stones. The Stones don’t just represent a musical watershed. The Stones were not so much a reflection of modern rock’n’roll music as of modern rock’n’roll, full stop. Of sleaze, of self abuse, of arrogance, of cockiness, and, consequently, of genius.
And that’s why Guns N’Roses have attracted the hallowed comparison. They personify decadence with their attitude and look, and institutionalise it with their music. So far, they’ve inherited the kingdom so many wanted — W Axl Rose and his band of street kids not only purport to be bad guys, they are.
They admit to having sold drugs to the “second Stones”, Aerosmith. The five Gunners lived in a small studio for months, burning drumsticks as firewood and holding parties fur pimps and drug pushers in a parking lot next door. They courted record companies just for the free meals.
And like classically inconsiderate rock’n’roll bands, they have stories to back up their boasts. Chicago: Axl punches a businessman in a bar who calls him a Jon Bon Jovi lookalike; Philadelphia; Axl gets in a fight with a parking lot attendant and is jailed but is released in time to sing; Hamburg: the guitarist Izzy Stradlin and bassist Duff ‘Rose’ McKagan beat up Faster Pussycat’s drummer, wrap him in tape and leave him in an elevator; Saratoga Springs: a riot is narrowly avoided when 25,000 fans threaten to invade the stage.
According to one wag: “Guns N’Roses are what every other LA band pretends to be”.
The songs on Appetite For Destruction, which at last count had sold six million copies in the US alone, were written by juvenile delinquents with plenty of anger and not much time for airs and graces. It’s effacing, rude, piercing and, to many, unlistenable. But it’s not pretentious
The vinyl insolence has only been magnified, or rather immortalised, by the album’s fearless escapades through wimp-infested charts. It hung around like a literal bad smell until a sobering ballad called “Sweet Child O’Mine” started to surface and propelled the long-player to number one in the US. The single followed suit. The fortune was made, the immediate future assured, the bandwagon jumped.
Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy, Duff ‘Rose’ McKagan and Steven Adler now face a new battle just as tough as those they faced when they were penniless on the streets of LA: how to be millionaires and still sound angry and damn mad.
They will get drunk on cheap wine and get in trouble. And the time-honoured American fascination with young kids who go from the basement to the penthouse only keeps pushing them to a higher penthouse.
“I don’t care if people think we’ve got a bad attitude,” says guitarist Stradlin. “We’re the only band to come out of LA that’s real. And the kids know it.”
Led by unkempt, defiant and certified manic depressive Axl Rose, Guns N’Roses have entranced a generation looking for heroes who don’t have their photos taken in Mercedes. A Guns N’Roses t-shirt is almost as common in the western suburbs of Australian cities as a CD player in the affluent areas.
They sold out two shows in Melbourne and 5500 tickets in the first hour in Sydney.
Slash won’t tell anyone his real name. He was born in Stoke On Trent in England 23 years ago but he was still young when his parents moved to Hollywood. His father designed album covers, his mother suits for people like David Bowie.
It was Slash who reportedly placed the ad in the LA paper which eventually spawned the Gunners.
When we called his apartment on Sunset Boulevard, he was not there. A girl called Kimberley answers the phone and tells us she’s his girlfriend. Slash is leaving tomorrow for Japan and she’s a bit upset. Are you planning a big farewell? “No, just a private one (giggles).”
She tells us Slash has just walked in and is “urinating with his pet spider” before the initially withdrawn guitarist takes to the line.
OTS: Hi Slash. What have you been up to?
Slash: “What have I been doing? I can’t even go into detail. Who cares?”
OTS: How long is it since you played a show?
Slash: “Four months. No, three months. We’re gonna go to Japan for the first gig and suck miserably. Isn’t that terrible?”
OTS: I supposed you’ve been partying for a few months, or have you got withdrawal symptoms?
Slash: “I’m the guy in the band that works constantly. I’m always working so, you know, I find it very hard to be not working I guess.”
OTS: What about comments that ‘oh, they’ll be dead in two years’? is there any basis to that?
Slash: (laughs, Kimborley giggles in the background). Uh . . (laughs) … um sorry, I’m beieg distracted. Anyway, what was I gonna say?No, I won’t be dead in two years.
OTS: Since the album has gone to well and you’ve had to work so hard, do you think anyone in the band has quietened down to any extent?
Slash: “Not really. The subject of the album, the reasons behind doing that, hasn’t really changed much.”
OTS: It doesn’t worry you that you can no longer walk around the streets and keep in touch with the things that inspired the album?
Slash: Well, there are little problems here and there as far as trying to maintain any animosity (ed: I think he means ‘anonymity’), but otherwise, no, not much of a change. You get recognised a lot more.”
OTS: Is that what the album is based on? Animosity?
Slash: “What, the actual album? It isn’t based on anything. It’s just our album. It’s just our album, y’know?”
OTS: Does Axl still show up before the show and leave straight after?
Slash: He sleeps a lot and he’s gotta keep his voice together. It’s not a matter of drugs or attitude or anything like that. I mean, hanging around with the rest of us is a bad influence on him. He’s gotta take care of his vocal chords, y’know?”
OTS: It must be hard for him though….
Slash: “Well yeah, it is hard. He has tendancy to break down every so often.”
OTS: How much do think the lifestyle and the image sells your records? I know image sells rock’n’roll anyway….
Slash: ”I know that’s true. But I try not th think of it that way because that’s not where our heads are set or what we set out to do. So I try not to take it too seriously and I try not to make myself bigger than life. If you start believing your own hype that’s when it starts to go downhill. You go out and do what you feel natural doing and all the consequences and everything that goes with it will just happen by itself.”
OTS: Do you think all the success has sunk into the band yet or are you still on a high?
Slash: “Everybody’s still a little bit spaced out by it. I don’t think it’s been fully realised by anybody, which is cool.”
OTS: I suppose you’d start to get a bit complacent if you did fully realise it….
Slash: Yeah you would, wouldn’t you? Like, ‘things are just TOO cool”.
OTS: So what do you do to relax now?
Slash: “What do I do to relax? What do you do to relax? I drink and … and have sex (Kimberley giggles again). I play music too. I do have spare time more than anything else.”
OTS: “Where can you go on the next album? How can you stay away from just singing about being a rock star?
Slash: “We’re not gonna. Who cares? I mean, there’s plenty of other stuff to sing about, there’s other bullshit. I mean, the bigger you get, the bigger the problems. The bigger the problems, the more stuff you have to write about.”
OTS: But isn’t staying in touch with your audience a problem when you’re isolated?
Slash: “Only when you’re off the road. When you’re on the road, you keep in touch a lot.”
OTS: Do you go out incognito and try and just talk to people?
Slash: “How on earth can we go out incognito? What, do we put on our Groucho moustaches or something?
OTS: What about the bumout facto? When people say you won’t be alive in two years, does that make you angry and want to prove them wrong?
Slash: “Actually, to tell you the truth I don’t look that far ahead. I know it sounds very un-indepth and it sounds like I’m not looking into it very deeply but I really don’t see any purpose in it. Like any band … it’s so insignificant. I think people take themselves too seriously. It’s like, you go out, you play, you make an album, people listen to it and it’s like a sort of escapism. You keep doing what you’re doing and be good at it ‘til people aren’t interested in it anymore. And then you’re out. People who think they’re going to be the next biggest thing for the next 10 years and try to make a lot of big comments and trying to make a lot of big statements and stuff … I really think you should just go out and do what you’re good at for as long as people are interested. As long as you keep some integrity and not worry about the bullshit.”
Filed for: ON THE STREET