Todd Kerns speaks on playing bass with Slash and living the rock ‘n’ roll fantasy



By Steve Newton

A couple of weeks ago former Guns N’ Roses drummer Steven Adler called from L.A. to promote his gig at Venue this Thursday (August 25), and ended up chatting up a storm. Since then former Vancouverite Todd Kerns–who plays here the same night at the Media Club–checked in from Vegas to update us on how he’s been doing as bassist for ex-Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash.

Kerns proved quite the talkative sort as well, going on at length about joining up with Slash, his old band Age of Electric, and what life is like in Sin City. My story on the affable rocker comes out this week in the Georgia Straight, but here’s a few excerpts from our conversation to keep hardcore Kerns fan going till then.

On whether or not he was a big Guns N’ Roses fan: “I was massively into Guns N’ Roses, especially on Appetite for Destruction. I mean we often talk about how Nevermind kinda changed everything–and it absolutely did–but there was a period where Appetite came along and put the kibosh on a lot of stuff too. I think it sort of opened the door and felt like it was something real and something a little bit dangerous. You know, we’re talking like before there were dolphins in the videos and stuff like that [laughs].”

On whether he’s ever played with a guitarist as capable as Slash before: “I’ve known a lot of technically proficient players, and I’ve known a lot of very skilled musicians, but there’s always that sorta X-factor that comes in with guys like Slash where it’s kinda like there’s something more there. Not only is he a great guitar player, he has this whole other thing going on that kinda comes with the package and creates this whole other giant entity. I think that there’s a real trick between being a great musician and being a rock star or a legend or whatever the hell it is; there’s something else there. And he’s one of those kinda guys.”

On singing lead with Slash’s band on a couple of songs: “On the last solo album Slash did he had Iggy Pop and Lemmy from Motorhead singing on a couple of tracks, and he really wanted to do those songs, and Myles [Kennedy] just sorta went: ‘Let Todd sing those, I can’t sing that kinda stuff.’ So it’s a pretty challenging gig. People think it’s like a walk in the park playing bass with Slash, but you gotta keep in mind there was Duff McKagan on the Guns N’ Roses stuff, there’s Mike Inez of Slash’s Snakepit on stuff, Chris Chaney from Jane’s Addiction plays on the solo album–very talented people. And then on every song there’s some sort of impossibly challenging vocal harmony to try and hit, and to try and do well. So I’ve definitely grown in doing it.”

On whether he gets the impression from hanging out with Slash that he’s in favour of a Guns N’ Roses reunion: “Slash is kind of in the position where he doesn’t do anything if he doesn’t want to. He plays music ’cause he wants to play music. Guys like him are in a whole other league of success, and I think that as far as Guns N’ Roses goes… I never got into a major conversation with him about it, but I know that he enjoys playing in the particular lineup that we have now because there’s not a lot of drama. People show up on time; people don’t have drug problems. I know that there’s probably a giant dollar amount that’s being added to this thing, and if those guys haven’t accepted it yet, I don’t really know what would be the thing that would make them do it. But I certainly think there’s a possiblity, and I would be one of the first ones in line to see it, you know.”

On how his bandmates in the Sin City Sinners took the news that he was joining up with Slash: “Well that was a bit awkward, only because, you know, these kind of things are thrown at you, the opportunities come up and you go: ‘Geez, I have to do this.’ As much as I was invested and really loved my life here in Vegas and the things that we’d established, it was like: ‘I have to pursue this thing and see where it takes me.’ So I’m back [with the Sin City Sinners] right now, and we’re playing together. We’re doing an awards show this coming week—we have like Vince Neil from Motley Crue and Sebastian Bach and Lemmy and all these people coming out, and there’s very likely gonna be a huge jam session and stuff like that. So the Sinners have become very much a Vegas staple as far as like, if you want to go see a rock band, you go see the Sinners.”

On being a transplanted Canuck in Vegas: “It’s the funniest thing—when you’re a Canadian living in the U.S., Canada’s become that much more romanticized, you know. There’s so many Canadians in Vegas it’s crazy. With the Celine Dion band and crew, and the Cirque du Soleil people are all Canadian, and there’s a gazillion other Canadians living here. It’s like everybody’s all Tim Horton’s and hockey talk, you know what I mean?”

On how he’s keeping the spirit of his former bands Age of Electric and Static in Stereo alive: “You wouldn’t believe how much life those acts have down here all of a sudden. Not because I’m so awesome or anything like that, but my presence in Las Vegas has kind of created this thing where suddenly people are coming up to me at shows with Static in Stereo CDs to sign and Age of Electric CDs to sign. I’ve actually tried doing an acoustic show where I’m busting out ‘Remote Control’ and ‘Ugly’ and ‘Before My Time’ and a bunch of these old songs—in Vegas! It’s like these people know these songs here. It’s the strangest thing.”

On the possibility of an Age of Electric reunion: “Nobody really regrets that that band didn’t carry on. It’s like looking back at a relationship and thinking: ‘Oh, we woulda had a very happy family and a nice house with a white picket fence but it didn’t work out.’ And that’s kind of how it feels like with that band, because that band was really special and really magical, and that’s something that I have constantly been sort of seeking out the rest of my life—that kind of connection. The fact is that we’re all still alive, and I have no doubt in my mind that at some point, somewhere, those four guys are going to play together, and it’s going to be amazing!”

One whether he expects any old bandmates from Vancouver to show up at his gig here: “I certainly hope so. We talk all the time. I haven’t had a chance to speak to them about it just yet, but I certainly would love to have them come down. I would like to make it really loose and fun and jammy, if we could make it that way. But it’s definitely gonna be a chaotic evening, I’m sure, especially considering I gotta be back in Vegas the next day to play a show—two shows, actually, Friday-Saturday—so it’s gonna be pretty crazy. Story of my life.”

On how he’s doesn’t take for granted that he’s living the rock ‘n’ roll fantasy: “When I was a little boy all I wanted to do was play music. I didn’t care about bein’ an astronaut or a cowboy or whatever it is little boys think about being. And now I’m a grown man and I play music, you know, that’s just what I do. And even when things get kinda weird or hard you take a step back and go: ‘You know what? Things are good, man. I wake up every day and the sun is shining and I play music.’ So life is good.”

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