2004 släppte Cleopatra Records “Hollywood Rose – The roots of Guns N´ Roses”. Chris Weber, som spelade i bandet, beslutade sig för att demolåtarna skulle få se dagens ljus. Strax efter skivans utgivning fick jag möjlighet att snacka med Chris om bandet som blev starten på det som senare blev ett av världens största band, Guns N´ Roses. Jag lyckades gräva fram intervjun igen och den ger en liten bild av hur det hela började. Dessutom hittade jag delar av en e-mailintervju jag gjorde med Brooke Ellis 2005. Han jobbade då tillsammans med Steven Adler och hans mamma på det som senare skulle bli Adlers självbiografi “My appetite for destruction: Sex & drugs & Guns N´ Roses” (2011). Nu var det ett tag sedan jag läste den boken och jag minns inte om de stories han berättade om kom med i boken. Hur som helst bjuder de på lite kul läsning nu när “Appetite for destruction” fyller 30 år.
What´s the story of Chris? Did you grow up in LA or…?
I´m originally from where I live right now. I´m from West Hollywood, California! Went to all the West Hollywood high schools that everybody reads about when they´re connected with the guys in Guns N` Roses. Fairfax High, Hollywood High and I´ve been here through my whole life until I moved to England for six years. Returned in the mid 90´s and got a new record deal and been here since.
What were those early days like? When did you pick up the guitar?
I actually got a guitar when I was nine and was tutored by some friends that my parents had in the music business. One worked with The Doobie Brothers and he showed me a little bit and taught me the first couple of chords. I plugged along and then when I was sixteen I formed the band Hollywood Rose.
Was that your first band?
It was the first band of any real substance. There was a garage band thet I put together, just learning how to write songs and work with other musicians. You just wanna play with other people and explore your musical taste, so I had one of those bands. But my first real gigging band was when I was sixteen and Hollywood Rose.
It´s a long time ago!
(laughs)Yeah, it is a long time ago. I can´t believe it!
Was it just you and Tracii Guns first or…?
He didn´t have anything to do with it! Tracii ended up playing in that band for six months or so and it was well after I left.
So how did it all start? Was it you meeting Izzy Stradlin and Axl Rose or..?
Well, Tracii didn´t play but he was a friend of mine and he introduced me to Izzy. I met him one night in…fuck I can´t even remember…1983 I think. We met at the Rainbow Bar and Grill. Tracii was in a band and I always told him that if you find any musicians who wants to be in a band, let me know! We´d put together something and play around Hollywood. I had already been going to the club scene by then, dressing up and going to see all the bands like Ratt, Motley Crue and WASP. So he found this guitar player who was Izzy and he introduced me to him one night and right away he said: “Let´s put a band together!” and I was like: “Cool!” The next day he said: “I´ve got this friend that just flew in from Indiana”, and that was Axl, but he said his name was Bill. So we went to Hollywood, some apartment in the middle of Hollywood, and I met him and then we started the band. It was like: “You wanna be the singer?” and he just said: “Yeah, ok!”. It was that easy!
Was he named Axl back then or…?
No, he was named Bill!
So, it was the three of you and who else?
We did all the song writing and put together a whole set before we even looked for anybody else. Then we had an opportunity to go into a studio and record some stuff, because we wanted to find musicians and to find shows around town you needed a tape. The infamous demo tape! My family gave me some money and we booked some time and then we needed to find a drummer, because we had just been working off a drum machine. There´s a couple of papers here and one is The Recycler and one is Music Connection. And from one of those two, I think it was The Recycler, we found Johnny Kries. Just a drummer and I don´t think he even rehearsed. He basically came in and we told him where the studio was and he showed up that day. We played for twenty minutes and showed him the songs and he put down the tracks. And then me and Izzy just traded off playing bass.
But did Tracii play on any of those demos?
Not those demos at that time! He wasn´t involved in Hollywood Rose until much later. Hollywood Rose started out as a band called AXL. And that was me, Izzy and Axl. Then the drummer and bass player came along afterwards. Then we changed the name of the band to Rose and then it became Hollywood Rose. That band stayed intact with me, Axl and Izzy and then the bass player and drummer. The bass player was never part of the band. He was just part of it when we were playing live, so it was just basically us three. Three leaders and then we had these other guys playing and Johnny was consistently our drummer. Then some time after that…I mean after I left, Tracii did join the band for a short period of time but I really don´t know Tracii´s story. He came after I left!
Who came up with the idea for the name of the band? I guess AXL was Axl?
Axl called the name of the band AXL and then slowly but surely he wanted to take on that name for himself. So he took that name, but I never called him Axl. He was always Bill when I was in the band. Then he reinvented himself. AXL was the original name. After maybe 2 or 3 shows, the name was changed to Rose. Axl Rose (then Bill) had some sort of fall out with Izzy and I and to continue playing as a band , Izzy said we were to change our name to Rose, and we did. The word Hollywood was added when I stumbled upon the name Rose being used by another band. I think they were on the East coast, maybe New York. This was towards the end. It was always the same band, except for the bass player change mid-way. The name of the band (Guns N´ Roses) came because at one point we broke up after a show and Axl joined Tracii´s band LA Guns. So Axl sang with LA Guns for a little while and I think he did some recordings. Then when he came back, when they merged, and this was after I left because I was in Hollywood Rose, they just put the two names together and that´s when Tracii took the spot that I left open. Then Slash joined and then I played another show actually. I played a final show about six months after I left the band. By that time it was…you have to get an exact timeline to figure out what was what.
Do you look back thinking that if you had stayed in the band you might have wound up in Guns N´ Roses?
I mean, I was a songwriter and one of the principal musicians in the song writing team in Hollywood Rose. It would have sounded as if I was playing so whatever it was it was just the perfect thing for them at the perfect time. So to answer your question, no I never really felt like that. In hind sight it would have been a different band.
Sure! And looking back, what was Axl and Izzy like back then? You read in the press how strange Axl is and was he anything like that back then?
He was really different. He thinks of himself a lot and he´s very ego motivated. He has an idea of what he wants and goes out and gets it. Not a lot of time spent selfishly helping other people. I don´t see him donating blood or that type of thing. He´s got an idea of what he wants in life and he gets it. He was actually a friend of mine and all that stuff that has happened since, clearly has changed him. Certainly the person I knew when I was friends with him wouldn´t be considered all these names that people call him. I obviously got out of it at a certain point and since I parted ways with him he´s changed, which is good because I remember the good sides. He was just like the coolest guy that ever walked the planet. He was the epiphany of cool and the style he generated and he had an air about him that almost everybody thought was really charismatic.
Of course! Have you ever met them or talked to them since the Hollywood Rose days?
Yeah! I actually remained friends with them after the band broke up and Slash was playing with them. I would go to the shows and I was in another band. They hadn´t become world famous yet. This is still back in the 80´s and we´re talking a long time ago. Since then not so much. I had some things that I had to sort out with royalties and records that… brings me in connection with them. But basically they´ve got their own lives and they´re adults now and well into their forties. And I was five years younger than them.
Putting out this demo, is that a demo that you have kept or did someone else…?
So, was it your idea to release it?
About five years ago when I came back to Los Angeles I wanted to do something with it. No point keeping something under your bed if it´s interesting. So I got some interests from some places and then I really didn´t do anything. Then my band took off and I went on tour and I was doing records. When things slowed down at the end of last year, for some reason, Vicky Hamilton who was Guns N´ Roses manager back then and I´ve known here for twenty years, she said that there was this record company called Cleopatra Records and that they might be interested in releasing it. She asked them and they thought it was a great idea. So they offered to buy it and do a deal.
Who came up with the idea of doing remixes with Gilby Clarke (ex Guns N´ Roses) and Fred Coury (Cinderella)?
Not me! I went in actually because I didn´t have versions that at the time were represantive of what the tapes were. The best versions were on cassette tapes. I had the master recording so I went in and remixed them pretty much exactly as we did when we mixed them in 1983. But I had to remix them myself as well, because it really wasn´t anything you could put on a cd. I didn´t do anything special to them, so they´re pretty much true to what you would´ve heard if it was put on your desk back then. I like some of the remixes and some add something to it.
Do you have more stuff laying around? More songs?
There´s no more of this and in this format. No more high quality sixteen track masters laying around. I do have some songs on video and other stuff, but I really don´ have an intent of doing anything with it.
What were those days like? I was a young teenager back then and Motley Crue became my KISS, because I was too young to experience KISS in their heydays. And then the entire LA scene, they were my heroes and you were in the middle of it.
What happened was that because there was so much music happening here, there were a lot of venues and they were in all sorts of places. There were places to play in the Valley but then in Hollywood just off Sunset Boulevard there were a number of places. What you would do when you go out in the evening, you go to one place and see a band and then you move on to the next one that was really close. It was like bar hopping! But there were numerous bands in every place so you would go down to The Trobadour and then up to The Whisky and then The Roxy. It was great and people went out just to go out. Not even to go to a club, but to hang out at the Rainbow parking lot.
What was the first major band that you saw live?
I saw Ratt before they made it and I saw WASP and…I mean…they´re not the biggest bands in the world, but still. Motley Crue was around. You could go see them in a club and later in the early nineties you had Warrant and those bands, but it was the same idea. A bunch of shows and a lot of girls hanging around. That´s just what you did at night. Now it´s not like that. Now you have to make a special trip to go see some band and afterwards everybody leaves. Back then you´d get all dressed up and you could show up at a club and not even know who was playing, but you spent two hours getting ready.
What´s the Hollywood scene like today. I know there´s different music and all that, but is it still alive and are there still a lot of bands playing?
There´s a lot of bands, but the thing is that it´s so easy to have your music heard and it´s easier to get smaller record deals now. Back then it was just major labels and you didn´t get those deals. A lot of people are releasing cd´s on smaller labels. There are a lot more bands that have high quality stuff to put out. It´s a bit overwhelming because you don´t know who to follow. It´s not like there are these super great bands from Los Angeles that are very unique. Or unique…but there´s so many of them that it takes away a bit of that specialness. It´s not like you go: “Hey, we´re gonna go see Motley Crue!” “Oh, who´s Motley Crue?” “I hear they do this!” “Ok, let´s go!”. Right now there´s just a lack of originality.
Would you say the music was better back then?
For the time it was. You have to take into context. Put in in context, yeah, I think it was definitely better!
Back to Hollywood Rose again! Who wrote the songs? Were you the main writer of the songs or…?
Of the music? Yeah! I would say primarily, looking back on the songs, seventy-five percent of them I came up with the original idea for them and Izzy would put his part over the top and then we´d give it to Axl and he wrote all the lyrics.
So, he wrote all the lyrics?
Yeah! I just did the music.
Did Axl play any instruments back then?
Axl never played any instruments on stage, but he wrote on my baby grand piano whenever he could. Probably the beginning of “November Rain”.
Cool! What were your influences back then? When I listen to the songs I can hear a lot of…and I don´t even know if you listened to this stuff, but there was a lot of NWOBHM in there. Not the same kind of stuff the rest of the LA bands played. There are some punk elements as well.
Well, the punk element might have come in because Izzy was part of that scene. The bands that I grew up listening to were Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and stuff like that. So you´ll notice that the guitar riffs sound a lot like that. I also listened to Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. But I was really into Aerosmith and Zeppelin and I think those guitar riffs are the primary starting point. Especially on a song like “Anything goes” off of “Appetite for destruction” (1987)! The guitar riff is like something that I would think would be right off something like “Rocks” (1976) or one of those early Aerosmith records. And then you know, we´d give the music to Axl and he would write lyrics to it and then it´d be a finished song.
Were all you guys, except for Axl and Izzy since they just moved there, but were you all in school at that time?
Well, at sixteen when I was in the band, I took a test to get out of high school. After the band finished I ended going to college after that. But they were well past that age. They were well into their twenties back then and I think both graduated high school and then left Indiana.
How long had they been in LA when you met them?
I think Izzy had been in LA for about a year and I think Axl had just come within that week or something. Yeah, he was pretty new to us.
And he just moved there himself…?
Well, he knew that Izzy lived there. He moved to be near him and start a band.
And then you guys moved to a house that your parents owned?
Yeah! Well, they were living in their own place and as the band went on and we rehearsed all the time it helped to be in one place and my parents had a big house and we moved in.
It must´ve been a lot of fun?
Yeah, we had a great time! Nobody wasn´t really drinking or doing drugs or anything. It was just about getting into the idea that the music scene was more intoxicating than any drug or alcohol. We spent alot of more time getting ready and know what we looked like. Hair everywhere and make up. It took two hours to do and if you were drunk you couldn´t put that together. And then there was a lot of hours working for the band. Putting out flyers and doing promotion at night between two o´clock and three o´clock in the morning when the bars let out. You would stand in front of a bar: “We´re playing next week! Blah blah blah…!”
Do you remember the first show you played or where it was? And what other places in LA did you play?
Yeah, we played at a place called The Orphanage in North Hollywood. It was a small bar and I think there were three people there (laughs). And that includes the bartender! We also played the Troubadour a couple of times. We also played both the Madame Wong´s venues, East and West. Those are not around anymore and neither is the Music Machine, which was one of the last gigs. The very last show was at Dancing Water. It´s not there anymore but a great, huge venue that also boasted a full size waterfall behind the band on stage.
What was that first gig like?
By that point there were five of us. We had a drummer. It´s like when you really wanna do something but you´re gonna be scared, so you just do it. Like in an airplane with a parachute: “Ok, I´m on and I´m doing it!”. For some people it works and they say that they gotta do it again and some people say “It´s just not my thing!” For me it was like “I gotta do this again!”.
Do you have any idea of how many shows you played all together, when you were in the band and could you name some of the songs you played live?
I believe like somewhere between fifteen and twenty shows! Song titles live were: “Killing Time”, “Shadow of your love”, “Hollywood Girls”, “Anything Goes” , “Beat on my Head”, “Back off Bitch”, “International Boys”, “Rocker”, “Cold Hard Cash” and “Rock and Roll Rose”.
Have you stayed in touch with any of the other guys in Hollywood Rose?
I contacted Johnny just before the release of the Hollywood Rose album and sent him a copy. He’s still playing and is still a nice guy. He came to a UPO (Chris Weber´s band) gig at the Whiskey and we caught up a bit. Andre Troxx , one of our bass players, passed away recently. I’m going to miss him, he was a good friend. Rick Marz contacted me about a year ago. He still lives in town, but I don’t know if he is playing. We didn’t keep in touch.
Cool! So to round things up, what´s in the future now for you?
Well, UPO´s got a great record that´s in all the shops, so we´re promoting that. And we just came off an east coast tour. It´s difficult now because a lot of the record companies are fighting all this down loading and piracy, so there´s not a lot of money for support anymore. So to get a band on the road you need to go really low budget like getting in the back of a cargo van or you need to set it up really specifically, so you have some guarantees. Bands have a hard time just going out and supporting themselves when there´s so little money out there and people are not going to clubs as much as they used to because the ticket prices are so much and because there´s more to do now basically, with video games and so on. It´s hard and it´s just constantly trying to do it which ever way we can. I´ve been doing it for all my life and I need to do it, even if they don´t pay me. So UPO will just keep going on and keep looking for opportunities. Maybe some more of this Hollywood Rose stuff will come out in the future, if I have any more. It´s kind of fun just to watch it!
Well, I saw some sales figures for it and last time I checked on Soundscan it had sold like ten thousand copies. That´s really good!
Yeah, it´s more than that, but it is really good! I´m hoping that it continues to sell because it´s one of those things that isn´t just going to be a flash in the pan, because…God…they broke up basically eight years ago. So if this thing´s selling it will just continue to sell over the years. New people will get turned on to Guns N´Roses and they will be turned on to this and they´ll buy it. So hopefully it´ll stick around for ten years or as long as they keep selling records. Little bit by little bit!
What do you think of “Chinese democracy”?
I´ve heard it and I don´t like it!
You´ve heard it?
I´ve heard some of the songs that he promotes as being “Chinese democracy” and the songs that he did on MTV. Some of the tracks I´ve listened to on the web and they sound like him. I know his voice, but I don´t like it!
Do you think it´ll come out?
I think it´ll come out eventually! Hopefully he´ll pick songs that are the best of the lot. But what I´ve heard so far doesn´t sound nearly as good as the worst song on “Appetite for destruction”. But you know, maybe that´s why he hasn´t released it? Maybe he´s just waiting until he has all the good ones together, so we´ll see!
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Här följer en Q&A med Brooke Ellis, som 2005 jobbade med Steven Adler och hans bok. Brooke var även ansvarig för Adlers officiella hemsida vid tillfället. Han blev i slutändan inte en del av boken, vilket han senare öppet kritiserade Adler för.
What’s happening with the book? Any deal yet and is it really all written?
I’m not sure exactly what’s happening right now. Remember I said that the family had already written quite a bit before I was brought on? Well, what was actually completed was Deanna’s story, her life dealing with her troubled son. She witnessed the whole ordeal. She watched her son achieve fame and fortune and then dealt with his subsequent spiral into a drug induced abyss. Y’know, getting the calls in the middle of the night, telling her that Steven has OD’d or is in jail. She also writes of the last time Steven saw his father, and the violent circumstances therein. It’s all very interesting, intense stuff. Well, my assignment was just to get Steven’s story. I guess they felt it would be best to leave it up to the publisher on how they want to work the two stories in with each other. That could be a potential cause for the delay. Personally I’d like to do it for them. In fact, since the book has been completed, so much has happened! Plus, Steven has so many great new stories that could to be included!
Tell us about the book! Is it about Steven’s life from birth till present day or just about Guns N’ Roses and the ’80s?
Literally from birth. Steven was out of control since Kindergarten! I shit you not, the guys life before rock n’ roll is just as wild as anything that happened after he became famous. He was couch-surfing and roaming the streets of Hollywood since he was twelve years old. Saul Hudson, who of course later became Slash, was his best friend. Saul was very artistic and had fashioned fake IDs for the two of them when they were thirteen. They became regulars at Hollywood’s top spots, including The Rainbow, The Starwood, and Osco’s Disco. The latter of which was sort of L.A.’s version of the infamous Club 54 in NY. Steven and Slash were already partying with celebrities when they were barely teenagers! The fantastic ride of GN’R’s success is well documented, absolutely. The years after his dismissal from the band are some of the darkest pages you’ll ever read. We finished the book a year ago. I’d like to go back in and really elaborate on Steven’s comeback. If you had seen Steven five years ago…I mean personally, I felt that his days were numbered. The fact that he turned himself around like he did and is out there making music again has got to be one of the greatest personal triumphs ever.
Any interesting stories in it that you could tell us a bit about?
There’s so much great stuff! He and Slash would hang out in the Hollywood Hills at parties thrown by hippies. Steven was fourteen and he would have sex with women twice his age. On one such occasion he was banging an older girl in her bedroom. When they finished, she got up and went to the bathroom. Steven spied a bag of fresh mushrooms (the hallucinogenic kind) on the floor. He grabbed them and took off. Upon returning home, his grandma tells him that she is feeling harrassed by an angry fellow calling over and over again for Steven. When he finally reaches him over the phone, the man shouts, ‘My woman says you stole mushrooms from me!’ Steven denied the accusation, claiming “I didn’t take shit from you!” but did admit, “I did fuck your woman though!
The first time an 18 year old Steven Adler smoked coke was at a well-known, platinum award-winning musician´s house. Steven was invited to live there, partying non-stop for a month. When he moved out, his buddy Izzy moved in and ended up staying through the next month! The band’s well-known trip to Seattle in ’85 is told in detail, too. When the band’s car broke down, the guys were tired and bummed out. Steven was the optimist and he was the one that stood out on the side of the road and hitchhiked rides for them. A good-hearted Mexican man with his son pulled over in a dumpy pick up truck. The guys piled in the back. The weight was too much for the vehicle and the frame was scraping against asphalt, generating a thick smokey fog. Needless to say, he had to drop them off after only a quarter mile. Nevertheless, they scored big when a couple of heavy-set hippie chicks picked them up. They had weed and fed the boys pot brownies. Steven was in heaven! It was an adventure just getting to the gigs.
Also, we examine the rare kind of camaraderie that the band had. There was bonding. One of the most touching stories comes when Steven experiences his first OD. The band was in Frisco hired to do two days of filming for the Clint Eastwood flick, “The Dead Pool” (1988). After the first days’ shooting was completed, Steven was picked up by a girl who brought him back to her place. She slipped something in his beer. He passed out while she was molesting him. He woke up in the hospital. The first person he saw was Axl, who had chosen to wait by Steven’s bedside while the other guys shot their final scenes. Axl was truly concerned and said something like, “I thought you blew it, bro.” That’s why you don’t see Steven or Axl on the boat scenes of the film.
Then there’s the stories from the 90´s. One time, Steven was high and left his home to get a Slurpee at 7-11. What he didn’t realise was that he didn’t have any clothes on, except for a pair of boxers. A cop pulls alongside him and Steven asks, “Can you take me to the 7-11? I just want to get a Slurpee.” The cop eyes him up and down, says “You’re on your own!” then screeches off. So Adler makes his way to the store only to discover he had no cash. His old house, which he had just sold to ex-MTV VJ Martha Quinn, was of closer proximity so he made his way there. He knocked at the door and her husband answered. Steven said, “Do you have 75 cents? I just want to get a Slurpee.” So Martha’s husband takes him back to the store only to find, after all that, the Slurpee machine is out of order!
Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen