ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, AUG. 13, 1992
By Steve Newton
Some hard-rock bands like to boast about not using keyboards; they take pride in sticking with the trusty old guitar-bass-drums ideal. Guns N’ Roses might have been such a band in its early days, but when it came time to record its ground-breaking Use Your Illusion albums, the band changed its ways.
That’s when Dizzy Reed lucked out.
“When they decided they needed keyboards, they tracked me down,” says Reed. “But I’ve known the guys for a long time; I met ’em before they even got signed and did Appetite and all that. The band I was in at the time had this studio off of Sunset Boulevard behind Guitar Centre, and they moved into the studio next to ours, so we were like next-door neighbours. We lived there and practiced there and had parties there, and did all kinds of wild, fun stuff.”
Things just keep getting wilder for Reed and his bandmates; headline-grabbing controversies, lawsuits, and criminal charges have dogged the band since its inception. Just last weekend a riot ensued in and around Montreal’s Olympic Stadium when the band cut short its show because of Axl Rose’s sore throat; last year 80 people were injured at a St. Louis-area concert when Rose’s stage-abandoning antics sparked a more violent outburst.
Trouble just seems to follow Guns N’ Roses around like an unwanted groupie, although it could be easily argued that the group brings much of that trouble onto itself. At any rate, there’s no denying Guns N’ Roses’ current place in the upper echelons of rock, a place where Reed always figured the group would end up.
“I always had that feeling, just because I used to go to all their shows at the clubs, and there was just this thing, this chemistry, this vibe happening. So I always predicted big things for ’em, ya know. I don’t think anyone thought that it would get this big, but it is.”
Before being called up to flesh out Guns N’ Roses’ two-guitar assault, Reed played in a band called Wild, which performed around the Hollywood area for several years. Before that he lived in Boulder, Colorado, where, as a rock-loving youngster, he took the first of few piano lessons.
“I remember when I was about 10 I went to this lady, and since I’d never had any previous training she started me out on this first-grade-level stuff. So I’d go home and learn Deep Purple songs—I wouldn’t even look at the lessons—and then I’d go back the next week and play it [the piano exercises] for her. She’s like, ‘My God, you must have been practicing all week!’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, okay.’ So it was kind of a waste of time.”
Reed’s biggest keyboard heroes during his formative years, besides Purple’s Jon Lord, were Elton John, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Billy Powell, Stevie Wonder, John Paul Jones, and all the Rolling Stones keyboardists. Nowadays, he gets off on bands like the Black Crowes, Body Count, and in particular an “awesome” Southern rock band called Jason and the Scorchers.
“I was at this girl’s house and I found this old tape by them that I thought I’d never find,” says Reed. “The tape’s history; you just can’t find it, so it was like, ‘I’m taking this. You can’t possibly appreciate this band as much as I do, so I’m taking this tape.’ And she gave it to me.”
At 29, Reed is living the big-time rock ’n’ roll fantasy most folks only dream of, and he’s enjoying the ride. So far, the high points of his time in the band include playing the Freddy Mercury tribute/benefit for AIDS research in England last year and playing sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden and the L.A. Forum. He’s a little less forthcoming about the low points, though.
“Well, you know…actually there really haven’t been any low points. I can’t really say, just…yeah there’s been a few bad things that have happened, but everybody knows about [the riot in] St. Louis, so I won’t bring that up. Actually, not touring—just sitting around doing nothing—is the low point. I like to be out there.”
Reed’s out there right now, on a huge tour that brings Guns N’ Roses, co-headliner Metallica, and openers Faith No More to B.C. Place on Monday (August 17). He claims that none of the other acts on the bill has blown his band off-stage yet (“No, no, that doesn’t happen”) and insists that the triple bill can work wonders for open-minded fans of raunchy rock.
“One of the cool things about having three—not entirely different, but fairly different—bands in one show is that, hopefully, some people who weren’t Metallica fans, or weren’t Guns N’ Roses fans, or weren’t Faith No More fans will walk away liking the other bands.”
And what will Dizzy Reed walk away with, after his sojourn in one of history’s fastest-rising rock bands is done? A million memories, perhaps, and maybe even that many bucks. But he doesn’t brag about the toys that his new-found wealth has allowed him to acquire recently. He only goes so far as to say that now he can buy his own drinks at the bar.
“And I can even buy drinks for all my freennz,” he adds, imitating Mickey Rourke in Barfly.