From the Archive: Slash, Duff McKagan, Scott Weiland, Dave Kushner and Matt Sorum Discuss Velvet Revolver
"It's hard for me to quit anything, and it was a moment of truth when I finally decided, 'I cannot do this!'" he remembers.
"I can come up with two million ways to try and make something work, and I just fucking had to go. With Snakepit, that was just to get out of the situation that I was in; something fun to do, without, like, all the bullshit. It became one of those things where, every time I did it, I would just hook up with different people, and I found that finding the right combination of guys is not easy. I love working with people; I love going to other people's sessions or writing something with somebody, or jamming live with people I've never played with before. But when you're doing a band, you need the right chemistry, and I think I had to learn that.
"The last incarnation of Snakepit was just a huge mess; as much as I liked it, I was all fucked up -- I almost killed myself drinking too much -- and I had a lot going on. And I did this record [2000's Ain't Life Grand] with a bunch of guys who'd never been around the block before. For me, it was like revisiting what it was like to go out and start your first band; for them, it was their first band! One was strung out, blah blah blah; we were always getting guys out of jail for stupid shit." He laughs. "It had its moments, but it was like, John Lennon had his lost fuckin' summer, right? For me, it was like my lost four or five years!"
When Snakepit finally curled up and died, Slash decided to go back to square one, trying once again to put together a band with the same elusive chemistry that had sparked the original Guns N' Roses. Fate intervened in 2002, when drummer Randy Castillo, who'd played with Ozzy Osbourne and Motley Crue, died of cancer. A memorial concert to raise money for Castillo's family was scheduled for April 29, 2002, at L.A.'s Key Club, with many of Randy's old musical pals on the bill.
"I got a phone call from Matt," Slash recalls. "'You wanna go jam at this thing?'" The pair dialed McKagan in Seattle and enlisted his services, then roped in Buckcherry's Josh Todd and Keith Nelson to complete what looked like a purely one-off collaboration. At the concert, the quintet (billed as Cherry Roses) ripped through Guns N' Roses classics "Paradise City'' and "It's So Easy'' and jammed with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith on "Mama Kin." The response was electric, and Slash immediately felt a regained sense of purpose. "The chemistry that I have with Duff is not something you can emulate," he says. "I didn't have any intention of getting this whole thing rolling, but the day after the gig, Duff and I talked on the phone and were like, 'Maybe we should do this!'"
Of Velvet Revolver's members, Duff McKagan seems to have had the least interest in returning to the rock and roll wars. Newly remarried and happily resettled in his hometown of Seattle, McKagan was in his third year at Seattle University when Slash and Sorum asked him to play the Castillo benefit. "I was really serious about getting my finance degree, with a minor in accounting," he explains. "I was fully going toward that. I still had my band, Loaded, because I can't stop playing music, you know? On spring break or winter break we'd go and play Europe or something. But I really got into school and the field that I was getting my degree in. And this changed everything, you know?"
McKagan convinced Seattle University to let him complete his degree online, and almost before you could say "Welcome to the Jungle," he relocated to Hollywood and began writing songs with Slash, Sorum, Nelson and Todd. But within a matter of months, the Buckcherry guys were gone. Perhaps "musical differences" reared their ugly head, or maybe the fact that Buckcherry were generally perceived as a poor-man's Guns N' Roses imbued the whole enterprise with something of a not-so-fresh feeling.
"The initial thing with the guys from Buckcherry would have been a completely different band," Sorum admits. "No disrespect to Josh -- I mean, what he does is cool -- but I think that particular style or direction we were going in might have not been taken as seriously as what we're doing now. I think what we're doing now just has so much more substance."
Being taken seriously is important to Sorum, a friendly chap who has never been entirely able to shake his "replacement drummer" tag. "I came into the Cult to replace a guy; I came into GN'R to replace a guy," he says. "But I've gotten more love and respect from both those bands than I could have ever possibly imagined, and I feel like I've made good choices with my career decisions. But this is my band, you know? It's really my first band where I can say it's something I helped create."