From the Archive: Slash, Duff McKagan, Scott Weiland, Dave Kushner and Matt Sorum Discuss Velvet Revolver
Here's an interview with Slash, Duff McKagan, Scott Weiland, Dave Kushner and Matt Sorum of Velvet Revolver from the November 2003 issue of Guitar World. To see the cover of the issue -- and all the GW covers from 2003 -- check out the 2003 GW covers gallery.
It's another unseasonably hot summer day in Burbank, California. But inside a small rehearsal and recording studio on the city's industrial outskirts, five musicians are staying remarkably cool, even as they rack their brains to remember how to play a new song they're practicing.
"I think we missed the second bridge," shrugs guitarist Slash, as bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum nod in agreement. "Maybe we should go in and listen to it one time," Sorum suggests. "I think I was playing the wrong song for part of that," McKagan says with a laugh as he heads into the control room. "We've been so busy writing songs," he explains, "that we haven't had a chance to really get them down."
Back in the early Nineties, Slash, McKagan and Sorum comprised three-fifths of Guns N' Roses. Together, they still clearly possess the kinetic chemistry that once made that band such a major rock force to be reckoned with. But today's rehearsal session has nothing to do with rehashing past glories. Instead, it's all about Velvet Revolver.
For nearly a year and a half now, the internet has been crackling with talk of Slash, McKagan and Sorum's new band. Variously dubbed the Project and Reloaded, the group had been rumored at times to feature such disparate luminaries as original Guns guitarist Izzy Stradlin, former Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach, Days of the New frontman Travis Meeks and Buckcherry singer Josh Todd.
But this past June 19, the official Velvet Revolver lineup of Slash, McKagan, Sorum, guitarist Dave Kushner and Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland was unveiled to the world with a press conference and a six -song performance at Los Angeles' El Rey Theater.
The show was a success, but nagging questions lingered: Were Velvet Revolver for real or just a bloated "supergroup" put together to revive a few faded careers and make some cash? Given Weiland's recurring drug and legal problems, could anyone be sure that this project would even get out of the starting gate? Would "Set Me Free," the hard-driving song they wrote for the Hulk soundtrack CD, be both the first and last recorded example of original Velvet Revolver material?
But on this sweltering Burbank afternoon, such questions seem utterly irrelevant. Weiland, looking healthier than he has in ages, wraps his angular frame around the microphone stand and leads the band through "Headspace," a song that seems to combine the freight-train velocity of GN'R's "Paradise City'' with the effervescent vocal hooks of STP's "Big Bang Baby'' -- a radio hit in a perfect world, and maybe this one as well. When that song slams to a close, Weiland relinquishes the mic and perches himself on a nearby road case, listening intently while the other four work their way through something with the provisional title of "Rock Song."
The number begins with a jangly, atmospheric buildup that leads into fiery, Zeppelin-esque riffing. "I don't normally say things like this," Weiland pipes up during one pause in the action, "but you guys should extend that intro. I think I can definitely do something with that."
This is how it's been all summer for Velvet Revolver. No egos, no entourages, no rock star decadence -- everyone other than Slash is presently sober, and even he has pretty much been on his best behavior -- just intense rehearsals five days a week and an ever-expanding repertoire of riffs and songs. "So much of the stuff has been written on the spot," Sorum explains. "It's like, Duff will play some bass thing and I'll start kicking a groove, and before you know it, it starts turning into something. Then we'll give it to Scott. If it inspires him, he'll do his thing with it in Pro Tools, and he'll come back and say, 'Look!' And then we'll put it away and start working on something else."
It appears to be an ideal creative situation, which is pretty ironic, considering how often both Guns N' Roses and Stone Temple Pilots foundered on the rocks of terminal dysfunction. "This particular thing has been a true expression of dedication; it was so fuckin' against all odds, and we just did it," Slash says enthusiastically. "It's amazing to be sitting here talking about it in the past tense -- all the auditioning, all the writing, all the naysayers, all the Guns N' Roses comparisons… "
Unflattering comparisons between Slash's post-Guns projects (Snakepit, Slash's Blues Ball) and his old band have dogged the guitarist since he left Guns N' Roses in 1996; so, too, have incessant rumors of a Guns N' Roses reunion. In 1990, original drummer Steven Adler was the first to go (booted out when his heroin addiction got in the way of his playing), and original rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin left soon after, unable to deal with the increasingly imperious behavior of lead singer Axl Rose. But with the departure of Slash -- whose hot-rodded blues-metal licks were as much a part of GN'R's sonic imprint as Axl's feral yowl -- it seemed like the true essence of the band had been lost forever. Slash, for his part, seemed pretty lost as well.