>> BackVelvet Revolver - Drugs! Booze! Kung Fu! GN’R! 

November, 2004
Velvet Revolver - Drugs! Booze! Kung Fu! GN’R!
Classic Rock, Issue 72 November 2004




“THEY ARE IN A HEIGHTENED state of sensitivity about Guns N’ Roses questions.”

That phone message came through just as I was getting ready to leave my house and travel up to London to meet and interview Velvet Revolver. The warning was understated, but the implication was obvious: I should not – under any circumstances and on pain of death – make the merest mention to any VR member the name of the former Most Dangerous Band In The World.

This struck me as being rather strange; it appeared as if I was being urged to collude in a cover-up bigger than the bandanna that often stretches over GN’R singer Axl Rose’s generous forehead. And that despite the fact that three-fifths of Velvet Revolver were once among Axl’s closest associates: guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum.

But the problem, I would learn later, actually centres on Velvet Revolver’s singer, former Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland, who, despite never having been a member of Guns N’ Roses, doesn’t wanna talk about them.

But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. That kind of irrational behaviour – or so I am led to believe – is par for the course for Weiland.

In their short career thus far, Velvet Revolver have generated a vast amount of column inches in the press, both specialist and mainstream. Reading several past articles as part of my research for this story, Weiland is rarely portrayed (better make that caricatured) as anything other than a strung-up one-time junkie with a hair-trigger temperament and an appetite for self-destruction.

“He (Weiland) keeps bringing the conversation back to his (heroin) addiction and its consequences, and his shoulders keep hunching up with tension”, reported a story in Rolling Stone.

“Weiland claims he is now clean for good, but he remains hugely suspicious of the media”, commented The Times.

“Velvet Revolver are an alliance of battered ex-junkies – in Weiland’s case, the “ex” is in rather faint lettering”, noted The Guardian.

And Kerrang! This past June reprinted the following post, direct from Weiland himself, on the Velvet Revolver website: “To me the word “journalism” is blurred with tabloid sensationalism and untruths. I will not stoop to the level of these mosquitoes to simply sell records. I won’t play your fucking game”.

In response, Kerrang!’s front-cover headline ran: “Velvet Revolver: Has Weiland completely lost it?”

Well, no. The good news is that he hasn’t. And what’s more, his super-sized media suspicious don’t appear to include us malarious insects on Classic Rock.

AT THE STROKE OF MIDDAY I ENTER THE PLUSH FOYER OF LONDON’S five-star Athenǽum Hotel & Apartments, at 116 Piccadilly. A former gentlemen’s club, brochures scattered around the reception area claim the lavishly refurbished venue now offers “relaxed elegance in the heart of London”.

In a nearby lounge, Sash is doing his best to turn that description on its head; studied decadence in the centre of London” is probably the most appropriate substitute slogan.

Much to the bemusement of the suits seated on leather Chesterfields and sipping Pimm’s, the man who was christened Saul Hudson –popularly believed to have been born in Stoke-on-Trent; he’s actually from London’s Hampstead- is enjoying coffee and biscuits, in a small annexe, seated behind a crisp, white cloth’d table.

It’s quite a sight to witness Slash –replete with the obligatory tumbling corkscrew curls, creaky distressed leather pants and disarming grin- pick up a dainty silver jugful of cream and, with his little finger bent just so in a style strangely reminiscent of Dr Evil in Austin Powers, pour a dollop of the good stuff into his steaming cup.

It’s difficult to tell if Slash ahs noticed me standing in front of him, as his coal-black-lensed sunglasses are impenetrable. Eventually he utters a croaky: "Hey, haven’t I met you some place before?"

For a man who has been known to die occasionally, Slash has got quite a memory for faces. Apart from a brief encounter in 1995, when he played with his band Snakepit at the Castle Donington Monsters of Rock festival, the last time I’d chatted to him must have been 17 or 18 years ago. As a hip young Guns-slinger, Slash had visited the old Kerrang! Offices at the bottom end of Camden Town, in north London. As the guitarist breezed in brandishing a full bottle of Jack Daniel’s, my phone rang and I answered it. By the time I’d finished my conversation –it wouldn’t have lasted any more than two or three minutes- Slash had gulped down every last drop of his JD. I remember looking up to see him propped on the corner of my desk, flourishing his empty bottle and grinning gleefully.

"Yeah", I nod to Slash in reply, "it was when you came up to see us all at Kerrang!, in the early days when you were just starting out in [I take a deep breath and prepare for him to adopt a heightened state of sensitivity] Guns N’ Roses".

But Slash just smiles. "Guns?" he chortles dryly. "Yeah, that’s right. I came in with a bottle of Jack".

He stirs his coffee absently. "Would you care for a biscuit?"

I JAM OPEN THE DOOR TO ROOM 307 WITH A WEDGE IN CASE I MISS Duff McKagan as he walks by. I needn’t have bothered. The guy’s so thin he could probably squeeze through the crack between a closed door and its frame.

McKagan is smoking a pungent cigar and carrying a can of non-alcoholic beer. His corn-yellow hair looks meticulously unkempt, and is teased around his creased face. Dressed casually in pale denim with, apart from a shiny silver bracelet or two, the minimum of rock-star-bling accoutrements, McKagan is very tall and his body shape has no definition, it just falls straight from his shoulders to the ground. To say that he tumbles into the chair in front of me like a bag of bones is not quite fair; it’s more like a giant puppet that’s just had its strings cut. Whatever, it’s certainly a long way away from Duff’s bloated, blundering-around-the-stage-in-a-daze image that long-time GN’R fans will remember.

McKagan seems chilled and relaxed, and when I offer a hearty congratulation on his new band Velvet Revolver’s burgeoning career he simply shrugs and says self-effacingly: “Well, so far, so good”

It’s rare for Classic Rock to feature a brand new act on its cover, but for Velvet Revolver the decision is justified. The band’s genesis began on April 29, 2002 when the ex-GN’R alliance of Slash, McKagan and Sorum reunited to play a benefit show fro drummer Randy Castillo (of Ozzy Osbourne / Mötley Crüe fame) who died from cancer a month earlier, at the tragically young age of 51.

That fund-raising gig featured Buckcherry frontman Josh Todd on vocals, and away from the steely-eyed control freak that is Axl Rose, the former Gunners were delighted to discover that they really enjoyed playing together again. So they bought in a second guitarist, Dave Kushner, and began the ling haul to find a permanent singer, with a view to forming a full-time band.

After an exhaustive but fruitless search, a well-timed event fell into place: Stone Temple Pilots –the LA band that got unfairly dumped in with Seattle’s grunge scene- imploded. A little bit of collusion between Duff McKagan and Scott Weiland’s other halves (both ex-models, Duff and Scott’s wives –respectively, Susan Holmes and Mary Frosberg- are long-standing friends) resulted in the former Pilots singer being brought into the frame as a VR trooper. Why Weiland? Matt Sorum explains: “Scott is a completely different frontman in Velvet Revolver than he was in Stone Temple Pilots. If anything he’s even more aggressive; there are similarities with Iggy Pop and David Bowie; he’s got a punky edge to him.

"We made the choice of vocalist based on the way we thought our music should go. Before Scott, we tried out some, if you like, traditional rock singers, but it came out clichéd. But with Scott it’s vibrant and fresh."

However, to start off with, Slash, Duff and Matt must have wondered if they’d simply swapped one incendiary vocalist (Axl) for another (Scott): in May 2003, shortly after Weiland had signed the contracts and agreed to join his new band, he Scott was nicked for narcotics possession. Cynics shrugged and said this was something of an everyday occurrence. All the same, it was hardly the most auspicious of beginnings for the singer’s Velvet Revolver career.

McKagan raises his eyebrows in mock despair: "Well, everybody said this thing would never happen in the first place," he sighs. "Me, Slash and Matt got back together and the attitude was: 'Oh fuck, this bunch of Guns N' Roses losers are going to try to do something together again'. So yeah, there were a lot of naysayers.

"Then Scott came in and people said: 'Oh yeah, great, a fucking junkie. They won't make a record.' Well, we made a fucking record. We'd heard all this negative stuff. But as soon as we got together in the same room it was just pure fucking amazing energy... We knew what we had.

"The naysayers began to fall by the wayside as we made the record, as we completed the record. But then when we started playing club gigs the naysayers kinda regrouped and started to sneer: 'They'll never finish this American tour.' Well, we finished the American tour. We made two videos. And we're halfway through our first set of European dates, and Scott's got his family back, and everything's great. This band functions so well together." McKagan shrugs his sharp shoulders and adds: "We've all been there, we've all done that we don't need to talk about how many drugs we've done, or how much we've drunk. Everybody fucking knows about that crap. We don't have to prove anything to anybody about who we are. When people see us together as a band, they always come away with their blinkers well and truly off. And all that stuff about, 'Oh, they're those hopeless wasters from Guns and that drug-addict casualty who used to sing in Stone Temple Pilots'... all that stuff is gone."

To start with, the morbid interest of the naysayers - as Duff continually calls them –centred on the various Velvet Revolver members 'long years of supreme debauchery. McKagan, for one, consumed drugs and drink in such vast quantities that his pancreas exploded. That was some 10 years ago. Slash now describes the 40-year-old bassist as "the king of health, fitness and fucking kick boxing; he's amazingly healthy".

Scott Weiland, meanwhile, got weaned off heroin by McKagan a mere two weeks before Velvet Revolver played their debut gig, at the art-deco El Rey theatre in Los Angeles, on June 19, 2003. (More about Duffs rehab tactics, plus how they're linked to the video for the band's new single, `Fall To Pieces', a little later.)

Velvet Revolver performed six songs at the El Rey show: the Sex Pistols cover 'Bodies, 'Set Me Free, the GN'R cover `It's So Easy', the STP cover' Sex Type Thing, 'Slither, and the Nirvana cover `Negative Creep'.

"It was like pure elation, you know," McKagan recalls. "It was this incredible release. It was actually one of the most amazing gigs I've ever been a part of."

But still doubts lingered about Weiland's ability to carry this thing through. Slash recently said warily: "There's still a sense of unpredictability going on with Scott." Duff, although reluctant to place a wager on the singer being dean in a year's time, countered: "I feel very, very secure being in a band with Weiland." In further substance-abuse news, Matt Sorum has never been arrested like Scott has, but the drummer guarantees he did a lot more drugs. These days, like McKagan no doubt, an abstemious Sorum finds "a good cigar is better than crack".

He tells me: "I do enjoy smoking those things. Especially in Europe, it's nice to get Cuban cigars, because they're illegal in the States. It's nice to know I can do something that's still a bit illegal, ha-ha!" Later, Slash's guitar sparring partner Dave Kushner will inform me guardedly: "I've had my problems too, although obviously they've not been as well publicised."

Slash is the only member of Velvet Revolver who still drinks. Strangely, he finds the other members' sobriety to be beneficial: "It's sort of good in a way; it helps with iny self discipline I'm pretty much the same guy I always was, although I don't put a lot of fucking narcotics into my system any more and these days my wild nights out are few and far between."

McKagan adds: "To me, it's almost kind of cool that we've got Slash, the one guy that gets fucked up once in a while."

I remark to Duff that a photo in Classic Rock issue 70, of a Velvet Revolver live show at The Wiltern in Los Angeles, showed a bottle of energy-charging, non-intoxicating Gatorade standing prominently next to Weiland on the edge of the stage.

"Yup. Well. That's fine," he responds bluntly.

So anyhow, like McKagan said, Velvet Revolver made their album... and somewhere along the way, while they were building up to it, they piqued the interest of RCA's Clive Davis, an old-school record mogul, who promptly signed the band to his label.

"Clive is very much a music guy and he totally understood," McKagan offers. "He flew out to Los Angeles, to our little rehearsal place, and it was hot and loud. He sat there and watched us play-it wasn't an audition, he just wanted to come and see us-and he loved it on a musical level."

Before they released their debut album, 'Contraband', Velvet Revolver contributed songs to two movie soundtracks: 'Set Me Free' for The Hulk, and the Pink Floyd cover 'Money' for The Italian Job.

Arriving in the shops this June, 'Contraband' reached No. 1 in the US chart with the largest ever week-one sales of a debut album from a rock act in American chart history. That's an extremely impressive statistic. But to begin with I was of the opinion that Velvet Revolver had a much better record in them; 'Contraband' only seemed to contain a handful of hallway-decent tracks. Before long, however, the album started to burrow beneath my skin like a blood-thirsty termite.

Three songs made an immediate impact: the tightly coiled sleaze-fest that is the aforementioned 'Slither' (a US No.1 rock single); the steamrollering `Big Machine' (with Weiland spitting the words: 'He's a junkie piece of shit because he says so' with some considerable feeling); and the big power ballad 'Fall To Pieces' (with Slash's guitar cheekily recalling passages from GN'R's 'Sweet Child O' Mine).

But initially-to my ears at least- the remaining tracks, including statement of intent opener 'Sucker Train Blues', sounded overwrought, sludgy and blurred. That disappointment didn't last for long. After two or three extended plays of 'Contraband', a terrible insidiousness crept in: Slash's deceptively simple, jarring riffs (augmented by Kushner's edgy rhythm guitar) commenced their tormented assault; McKagan and Sorum's craggy backbeat grew ever more mountainous; and, especially, Weiland's chilling, self-absorbed lyrics started to judder the soul.

But all that barely mattered to the hordes of closeted teenagers who snapped up 'Contraband' the first day it went on sale. The fact is, they'd never heard anything quite as insurrectionist as Velvet Revolver before; to them, the quintets painstakingly cultivated brand of fuck-you debauchery was a brand new thing. For, as McKagan insists: "This is the first dangerous band that's come around in a while."

WHICH BRINGS ME NEATLY BACK AROUND TO GUNS N' ROSES, WHO WERE once described-as I mentioned earlier-as the most dangerous band in the world. McKagan grimaces: "Well I think it was me who actually originally said that, and I've been fucking kicking myself ever since."

So what sums up a 'dangerous' band?

"Kind of just a band that wears its heart on its sleeve," McKagan replies blandly. "We feed off the audience, and every night is going to be a different thing. Look, I've got a little story for you. Me and my wife, we have two small girls, and we employed an au pair who came from Guatemala. For some reason the au pair wanted to go see Nickelback, so I took her to one of their shows in Los Angeles... and I swear I couldn't last. I had to give her the cab fare home. I had to leave... "

Why was that?

"Because it was such fucking crap," McKagan groans. "I don't mean to dis the guys in Nickelback personally. After all, they found this little formula that enabled them to enjoy themselves, and to go on and play around the world. But to me it was really watered down and [sighs] boring. There was the band and the audience, but there was nothing connecting the two.

"So, a good rock’n’roll band, and a good rock ’n’ roll show, should involve a good amount of bruises and blood, and an outpouring of emotion. It should be something you leave behind with the attitude of: “Fuck, that’s something I’m never going to forget”. With us, there’s an element of: what’s going to happen next? Like it used to be with Guns N’ Roses"

I was warned before I came here not to talk to you about Guns.

"Oh, it’s not me, really”, McKagan discloses." It’s just that Weiland got asked too many fucking times: “How does it feel being compared to Axl Rose?” Which is, like, nonsense. These are people who haven’t seen Velvet Revolver play live yet –and we’re not Guns N’ Roses. Guns N’ Roses played their last gig eleven years ago. In a musician’s time-frame, that’s a lifetime ago.

"Let me give you a comparison. I recently went to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, where they had a Monet and Manet exhibition. For Manet’s work, they had about a twenty-years span. Before he started doing Impressionism he was just doing straight-up things, like seascapes. And then he started to get fuzzy and Impressionistic, and to do the work that made him famous. And as a musician, I think it’s kind of the same thing. Guns N’ Roses were a long time ago. It’s great legacy to have, but Scott’s not singing in Guns N’ Roses, you know. This is not Guns N’ Roses. We’ve grown as players just as Manet grew as a painter."

McKagan continues: "Guns N’ Roses played together eight years at best –and, as I say, eleven years ago we did our last gig. So a lot has happened in-between times. And this – Velvet Revolver- is a whole new animal. So for Scott to get all those questions about Axl is just kind of like: “Oh, do you really, really have to go there?” I think it’s a very non- intellectual question. It’s retarded. The question’s fucking retarded"

Velvet Revolver, McKagan explains, have tapped into some kind of long-lost rock’n’roll spirit: "Well, after all, I had the objectivity. I went to college recently [post Guns, Duff worked on a degree in finance at Seattle University], and the kids I was going to school with –eighteen-,nineteen-,twenty-year-old kids- they were saying to me: “We don’t have our own rock band. We all got cheated, all we have are Nickelback or Creed or *NSync or whatever"

"Things just go in circles," Duff contemplates. “When Guns came out, I remember when our album “Appetite For Destruction” finally hit the top ten the other records on there were, like, Paula Abdul, Milli Vanilli, Debbie Gibson. And recently there’s been a lot of bubblegum pop that probably started with The Spice Girls.

"The record companies latched on to this kid audience; they knew their parents would buy the records. It’s a cash cow. So they went to where the cash was, although the rock'n'roll scene was still around, it just wasn't getting into the mainstream. Not at all."

He smiles: "I think there's a resurgence of kids who want something that's honest brutal and inventive, and not just spoon-fed to them."

WEILAND IS AN HOUR LATE FOR CLASSIC ROCK'S PHOTO SESSION IN the Athenaeum hotel's apartment complex. He rushes into the suite like a whirlwind - and I catch a glimpse of a shock of short black hair, a pair of deep-set cheekbones, and another hyper-thin, angular body. The rich American husband-and-wife couple climbing the stairs recoil in horror as they hear a crash of furniture and Weiland's demand: "Where's the fucking eyeliner?"

I don't get to see him dose-up again. Such is the pressure of Velvet Revolver's European schedule - and the problem of coordination in a band that has three separate managers; a legacy from GN'R/ STP days - that my interview with Weiland is conducted by phone after the photo session, perilously close to this issues deadline I'm in London; Scott is in his room at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Cologne, Germany.

In-between times Velvet Revolver have played three dates in the UK: at Glasgow Academy, Manchester Apollo and London's Hammersmith Apollo. With the honourable exception of The Sun newspaper's Bizarre column, which compared Velvet Revolver to Spinal Tap, the reviews of the band have been very positive, and Scott is little short of ecstatic. (He closed the London show with the riposte: "This ain't Guns N' Roses or Stone Temple Pilots... this is fucking Velvet Revolver!")

"I thought the British shows were great," the singer gasps. "I had a feeling they'd be good, but they surpassed my expectations- particularly the London show. With London having such a major musical history and tradition, it takes a lot to impress a London audience. But as soon as we hit the stage... from the very beginning to the end it was a great crowd. The energy from the band surged into the crowd, and then it came back from the crowd into the band; it was a great synergy."

Sadly, our conversation time is limited: I only have a handful of 10-pence pieces with which to feed the Classic Rack payphone, and Scott, emitting the occasional quiet cough, wants to preserve his voice for VR's gigs on the continent. So our chat centres on two intriguing stories that came out of the earlier interview with Duff McKagan: how the bass player helped Weiland get off heroin, and how the video to 'Fall To Pieces' turned out to be a self-purging experience for the singer.

As Duff told me: "When Scott got in this band he said: 'I've got a habit, I've lost my family, and I want to get off of this shit'. Scott knew I got sober through martial arts, so I took him twelve-hundred miles away from LA, up to these mountains to see this martial arts, kung fu master that I know. I had a bag full of fucking drugs that this doctor gave me, for me to wean Scott off the shit-and I'd have to shoot Scott in the ass a couple of times a day. It was like a boot camp-but it worked."

McKagan continued: "So Scott came out of that experience clean, and slowly but surely he won his wife back, and his kids. So that fight we have, in the 'Fall To Pieces' video, is all part of that; and then fm shown hugging him, and I'm saying: 'It's okay, you've got yourself through it, it's going to be alright "'

In response, Weiland expands: "Oh yeah. That experience up in the mountains was a real purge for me, naturally. It was actually quite surreal. We had a master in about six martial-art forms, and his wife is a master in t'ai chi. So we would get up in the morning and meditate and go into t'ai chi, and then there was a schooling session, and then there was some running, and we would finish with a hard training session later on in the day. And it went on like that."

Duff said you came to him when you were desperate for help.

"That's right," Weiland affirms. "It all came to a head after I was arrested for narcotics possession, and the day after was when I really fell to pieces, so to speak. I had always looked to Duff as a sort of mentor. I was very interested in how he got sober through martial arts. So I asked him for help. And he suggested that we get on a plane, fly up to Seattle, where he's from, and then drive up to the mountains. We ended up staying up there for about a month and a half, and it was completely cathartic... although even that word seems to be taking it lightly."

And the 'Fall To Pieces' video tells the tale of that experience?

"All that and more Scott reveals. "The song is really the crux of the album, it's really the turning point. Without Duff's help, I wouldn't have my wife and my children back; and I really can't tell you if I would be even talking to you today, to tell you the truth. So for the 'Fall To Pieces' video I called up Kevin Kerslake, who I've worked with many times in the past with Stone Temple Pilots, and I told him what my idea was, to tell the whole fucking story. And he said: If that's what you want to do, you're going to have to be really brave about this and dig deep, and go to a place that could be scary. You're going to have to go back to some experiences over the last couple of years that were really dark for you."

Even thought Weiland forced himself to relive some of his bleakest moments in the video, "there were some beautiful times too," he sighs. "Because my wife actually plays herself in the video and there are flashbacks back to when we first fell in love twelve years ago. When I first met her I had a job at the agency that she was modelling for and I used to driver her around to her castings in my old Chrysler."

I remark to Scott that contrary to my expectations, he sounds very amenable. I was expecting a barrage of invective...

"It depends on who I'm talking to" he replies. "I'm not a person who judges a book by its cover; I give everyone a fair hearing. That's the kind of man I am. Everyone deserves respect. But I also demand respect - and if I don't get it. I don't give it."

Regarding his sensitivity toward Guns N' Roses questions, Weiland retorts: "It's like this - I'm no fool. I know Stone Temple Pilots didn't tour that much in Europe. I'm not going to name names, but there was one member in my old band who hated touring in Europe. He absolutely despised Europe. Whereas I'm the opposite, I absolutely adore London, for example, and would love to have a flat here.

So Stone Temple Pilots were never over here that much, and we never sold the kind of records that Guns N' Roses did here; in the States, Stone Temple Pilots sold nearly thirty million records. But even when I'm back home, I don't like being asked Stone Temple questions during Velvet Revolver interviews. I don't like being asked questions that are tabloid-esque, because I don't think that's respectful.

So when I'm doing a Velvet Revolver interview in Europe, and I'm sitting next to Slash or Duff and they're being asked Guns N' Roses questions that eighty or ninety per cent of the time have to do with their relationship with their former singer... that's tabloid fodder; they're trying to get an emotional rise. And I don't appreciate that. It doesn't have anything to do with Velvet Revolver."

As the interview begins to wind down, I'm surprised to hear Scott deliver the following, unprompted, comment: "I just want to say something. I think the magazine that you're writing for is one of the best music publications out there. I read it all the time. There's a music stand by my house where I pick it up. Classic Rock is an absolutely great music magazine. It's a true music magazine for true music fans."

Ha! Put that mosquito swatter down. I think we should scrap that "Where Legends Live" slogan straightaway.

Perhaps we should leave the final word to Slash who, when I asked him how far this Velvet Revolver thing can go, said: "One thing I never want to do again is go in the same direction as Guns N' Roses did... At one point at the end we were on this big stage with dancing girls, horn players, pianos and all that fucking crap.

"Velvet Revolver will always stay a streamlined rock'n'roll band. There aren't going to be anymore big steps for us. The big step was just getting this fucking band going in the first place."

Ex-Guns N' Roses losers?
Not us, says Velvet Revolver's Matt Sorum.

WHEN VELVET REVOLVER STARTED OUT, A FAIR AMOUNT OF SCEPTICISM GREETED THE unholy re-alliance of ex-Guns N' Roses members Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum. "I really don't know why people would feel that way," says Sorum. "It's a kind of shitty attitude. We were never the guys who fucking let anybody down. That was somebody else. We stopped Guns N' Roses at the top of our game - we were playing stadiums, we were the biggest fucking band in the world, and then we just stopped.

"So for anyone to chastise us for wanting to play music together again is kinda fucked up. We were the underdogs, and we never let down the public. It was Axl who did all that. "As far as the 'supergroup' moniker goes, I think we've already shot that one down. All we want to do is keep this thing going as an honest rock'n'roll band. If people like it, that's cool, and if they don't... whatever."

Who's Dave Kushner?
Introducing Slash, Duff, Matt and Scott's 'secret weapon'.

BEFORE JOINING VELVET REVOLVER GUITARIST DAVE KUSHNER WAS IN AN ECLECTIC collection of bands including Electric Love Hogs, Infectious Grooves and Spread (Jane's Addiction's Dave Navarro's group). He also played in Loaded with Duff McKagan, and is a former schoolmate of Slash's.

Duff McKagan describes you as Velvet Revolvers’ ‘secret weapon'.
So I've heard. Maybe that's because no one knows who I am! But I guess it's just because I don't really play much like you would expect a rhythm guitarist in this band to play. I try to play parts that are more like something the guitar player in Filter would do, as opposed to the son of stuff Izzy [Stradlin'] would've done in Guns N' Roses.

What was it like going to school with Slash?
We went to Bancroft junior high and Fairfax high school together. He was a good BMX bike rider back then, before he started to play guitar. We were at the same schools between the ages of maybe fourteen to seventeen, something like that. He looked similar back then - although his hair was a little bit shorter.

Did you know Scott Weiland before he joined Velvet Revolver?
Yeah. I'd known Scott for about fifteen years. He was in a band that kind of became Stone Temple Pilots. That band and my old band used to play together all the time. My band was Electric Love Hogs, his band was Mighty Joe Young.

Your first impressions of him?
I can honestly say Scott was not the singer he is now, not even in Stone Temple Pilots. In Mighty Joe Young - from what I remember; it's a little vague - it was leaning toward a Red Hot Chili Peppers kind of thing. It was almost like the music back then didn't give Scott the right outlet. He's matured as a singer a hell of a lot in Velvet Revolver.

Are Velvet Revolver trading on their past, or are people thrusting the heritage of GN'R and STP upon the band?
I remember seeing Slash the day that he went to meet with Axl and Duff and all the lawyers to quit Guns N' Roses. I just happened to have been at the dentist, and I had gone into this bar next door to the dentist. I was in there and Slash was in there, and Geffen Records [GN'R's label] was across the street. You know, Slash has always been the guy that just wants to play guitar. I said: "What's going on? Why are you quitting Guns N' Roses?" And he said: "It's just so not about the music any more. All I want to do is play guitar."

And Slash plays guitar every day - he's the only guy in this band that walks into his hotel room most days with a guitar. That's part of why he's so great - he's a musician, not just the rock star from Guns N' Roses. He's a musician. And that's all most of us are. We're very stubborn, and we want to prove ourselves. And we're certainly not trading on the past.

Thanks Graciela for the transcription.


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