Richard Fortus dishes on the many guitarists who have passed through Guns N’ Roses’ ranks

Axl Rose and Richard Fortus of Guns N' Roses perform at BankAtlantic Center on October 24, 2011 in Sunrise, Florida
(Image credit: Larry Marano/Getty Images)

Guns N’ Roses has been riding high for several years now on the return of glory days members Slash and Duff, but as far as the guitar/bass corner of the band is concerned, it’s actually Richard Fortus who is the longest-serving member of the band, having played electric guitar continuously alongside Axl Rose for roughly 18 years.

With that in mind, Fortus recently appeared on the Radical With Nick Terzo podcast and spoke about having to adjust to the various players that passed through the Gn’R ranks during his tenure with the band, including guitarists Robin Finck, Buckethead and Ron Thal  (aka Bumblefoot) and bassist Tommy Stinson.

Said Fortus, "I love Robin. I loved his playing. I loved working with him. And obviously, Tommy’s like my brother. We were all very tight. And then there was Bucket[head], who was just sort of out on his own. But it was very musical, and it was exciting to be a part of.

“He's a phenomenal talent. Man, he's pretty out there. And he definitely can be difficult to work with. I enjoyed working with him, because he's very musical.”

Fortus went on to admit that "It was a difficult dynamic to make three guitars work. He [Buckethead] did an excellent job, because he understood the dynamics of it, how the puzzle pieces have to fit together, and Bucket really understood that. Everything sort of has to have its place.

"Then when he left and Ron Thal came in, it was a different dynamic, because I think Ron had been used to sort of doing his own thing, with his own band and sort of didn't really get how that worked, or how to make it work. So it was difficult at that time."

This is sort of a dream scenario for me in that I'm playing with guys that all take it as seriously as I do and are as committed and dedicated

When Slash and Duff came back into the fold in 2015, Fortus said it was an easy adjustment. "I wasn't uncomfortable in any way. It was a little bit… You're cautious at first, you don't want to step on anybody's toes; everyone's sort of feeling each other out. 

“You know, Duff and I had worked together before and were friends. And it fell together really quickly and very naturally. I think we have so much musical background in common, as far as where we came from and the bands that we sort of grew up listening to and the progression of our musical interests, with the whole background in older music and then punk rock and our love for the Stones. It sort of gelled. But as far as with Slash and I, it really came together very naturally and in a really easy way.

He continued, "This is sort of a dream scenario for me in that I'm playing with guys that all take it as seriously as I do and are as committed and dedicated. And that's really rare and awesome to be a part of."

If anything, Fortus said that it took longer for Slash and Duff to feel things out with current Guns drummer Frank Ferrer.

"I think that was the toughest fit, when those guys came back," he said. "For Duff, well, for both of them, sort of adapting to Frank and trying to get him to adapt to them, you know? It wasn't as natural. But it has ended up working out well."

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.