Slash on Velvet Revolver: “We’re doing pretty fucking well for ourselves.”


By Steve Newton

When the remnants of Guns N’ Roses-guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Matt Sorum-went looking for a vocalist to front their new band, the first name that came to mind was the Stone Temple Pilots’ Scott Weiland. The problem at the time, though, was that Weiland still had commitments to the multiplatinum act he’d made his name with.

So after putting the bug in Weiland’s ear, the three GN’R alumni–along with guitarist Dave Kushner–decided to hold auditions and see what other options came up. Because the position up for grabs was basically to be the next Axl Rose, the response was overwhelming, but after nine months of sifting through talent, the band that would become Velvet Revolver still had no singer.

“It was pretty tedious,” Slash explains on the line from his home in L.A. “It was like listening to two- to three-hundred singers a week.” Although a film crew from VH-1 was on hand to document the proceedings for one of its “Making Of” specials, the famously top-hatted picker asserts that the assembled footage doesn’t capture the same internal squabbles that characterized the recent documentary Metallica: Some Kind of Monster.

“For me, personally, I don’t want to know about the ins and outs of the personality aspect of a band, because as it stands, it never interests me. You know, all this other stuff that goes on behind the scenes–with the exception of groupies, drugs, and all that–nobody wants to know about all the different personality weaknesses. I mean, I stopped reading rock ‘n’ roll books a long time ago, because I always thought that they were somebody else’s interpretation, regardless of what’s really goin’ on.”

After the tedium of endless tryouts-which included auditions by some famous rockers, though none Slash will divulge-the quartet jumped at the offer to contribute a couple of tracks for movie soundtracks. They set out to record an original track for The Hulk and a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Money” for the remake of The Italian Job, even though they still didn’t have anyone lined up to sing the songs. When Weiland finally cut his ties to STP, the offer was put forth again.

“We just asked him if he wanted to work on these two songs,” Slash recalls, “without making a direct offer to join the band. And then around that time he came up with the lyrics to ‘Set Me Free’, and that was pretty much it.”

The raging “Set Me Free” would turn up on both the Hulk soundtrack and the debut Velvet Revolver CD, Contraband, and set the tone for the supergroup’s assault on the charts. The album takes a straightforward, riff-driven approach to melodic hard rock and is closing in on two million copies sold in North America since its release last June. It appears the choice of Weiland was a good one, popularity-wise.

“Scott has great charisma,” Slash raves, “and he’s got such a great voice. When he came in, he added something that made us sound completely original for a straight-up rock ‘n’ roll band.”

Though Slash won’t stop gushing about his latest singer’s talent, the admiration is mutual. In VR’s Sony/BMG bio, Weiland claims that he was a huge Guns N’ Roses fan. “Appetite for Destruction had the same impact on me as Never Mind the Bollocks by the Sex Pistols, Nirvana’s Nevermind, and Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing’s Shocking,” he’s quoted as saying. But if this musical marriage seemed made in hard-rock heaven, there was always the question of Weiland’s much-publicized struggles with drug addiction. Weren’t they a serious concern to his new bandmates?

“Well, we sort of knew when he came into the whole thing the kind of baggage that he had,” Slash contends. “I mean, it was pretty common knowledge. But we’re all from the same place; we’ve all been there and done that. So we were more into Scott as a person and as a vocalist and performer, and [the drug abuse] seemed like an issue that, for some reason, wasn’t at all intimidating.”

Having been at the top with Guns N’ Roses–whose only serious challenger for rock domination in the late ’80s was U2–Slash claims that he doesn’t feel any renewed pressure to follow GN’R’s legacy and sell shitloads of CDs.

“You know what?” he asks. “I don’t think that was ever even an issue. It has just never been my way to try and conquer, you know what I mean? The most important thing for me is just to sound good, to play good, perform well, and all that kinda stuff. Just go out there and be in the moment and do a really good job, and then continue on doing what we’re doing and take whatever opportunities would be in our favour. Then you sort of ride that and see where it goes.

“You know, Guns N’ Roses was one of those things that was sort of a classic, right-time, right-place, right-band kinda situation,” Slash continues. “Two seconds earlier or two seconds later it might not have made as much sense. But this band I think is amazing, and I think the timing is perfect and it’ll turn into what it turns into. I’m not one to sit there and predict all that, but we’re doing pretty fucking well for ourselves.”

Slash sounds off on the things that enquiring minds want to know.

On whether people automatically compare Velvet Revolver vocalist Scott Weiland to Guns N’ Roses’ Axl Rose: “I think a lot of people saw [Velvet Revolver] as like the Guns N’ Roses band with Scott singing, but that was way early on, before we actually started touring. I think just the merit of the band itself changed that immediately.”

On why he wanted Weiland as Velvet Revolver’s singer: “I’d never seen Scott, or met him, but I’d heard all these different songs on the radio, so I knew he had a good voice. To me he was like the combination of Jim Morrison, David Bowie, and the Paul McCartney/John Lennon kinda thing. And that’s what really appealed to me.

On coguitarist Dave Kushner, formerly of Wasted Youth and Electric Love Hogs: “I’ve known Dave since junior high school; right when I first started a band he was just starting to play guitar. We have a really cool, unique kinda two-guitar thing going on, which is sorta hard to find.”

On how he feels about playing in Velvet Revolver: “For guys that have as much experience as we have, it’s really invigorating that everybody is as passionate about doing it as they were when they first picked up an instrument. When we go out there it’s like you might as well be in a garage band from high school. That kinda hunger’s there, and it’s genuine.”

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