VELVET REVOLVER, A ROCK SUPERGROUP FOR NEW DECADE:
June 7, 2004
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The bad boys of rock are back — sober, older and wiser, but still hoping to turn the music world on its head.
Guns N’ Roses ruled the 80s with a mixture of punk and glam rock, while Stone Temple Pilots were one of the top grunge bands of the 90s. Both crumbled under an avalanche of alcohol and drug abuse, but now individual members have recovered and merged to bring back rebellious rock anthems as Velvet Revolver.
The supergroup emerged when Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum co-opted Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland and Wasted Youth guitarist Dave Kushner.
“Guns N’ Roses just got so big and we were so young and didn’t know any of the pitfalls, both on the physical level and on an ego level,” McKagan said in an interview. “Scott has seen it too with Stone Temple Pilots, so I think we all come better armed for this thing.”
The group already has a radio hit with “Slither,” the first single off their album “Contraband” set for release by RCA on June 8. And they are wrapping up a U.S. theater tour feeling invigorated and ready to make a dent in today’s heavy metal scene.
“This is the most punk-rock major label record I’ve been involved with,” McKagan said. Since he left Guns N’ Roses, “music has come full circle, people are really hungry for pure, unadulterated rock n’ roll,” he added.
“We’re coming out very energized, youthful and powerful,” Sorum said. “Come and see the band live, there isn’t going to be anybody that can touch us, I guarantee it.”
Slash (born Saul Hudson), McKagan and Sorum left Guns N’ Roses in the mid-nineties after singer Axl Rose insisted the band abandon the sound that made “Appetite for Destruction” sell 15 million records to experiment with electronic and industrial music.
Slash toured with his band Snakepit, McKagan got a college degree in finance and Sorum scored films. Rose kept the Guns N’ Roses moniker, but his 2002 tour was canceled after he twice failed to show up. He has yet to release a new record.
Two years ago, after reuniting at a benefit for the late Ozzy Osbourne drummer Randy Castillo, Slash, McKagan and Sorum realized they still had the urge to play together.
Former Guns N’ Roses rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin was no longer interested in being in a band, so the three enlisted Kushner to provide texture under Slash’s solos. All they needed was a singer.
After auditions with established vocalists like Sebastian Bach (Skid Row) did not produce the right sound, they asked anyone interested to send a demo.
“We heard over one thousand CDs — some of it was pretty hilarious, some of it was brutal,” McKagan said.
Eventually they settled on Weiland, whose glory days with Stone Temple Pilots were far behind.
“The minute he walked into the room and started singing, we knew this was the guy,” McKagan said.
Before they could rock, Weiland had to overcome his heroin habit. He had failed rehab before, but the band’s support and an intense martial arts regimen worked this time. With their charismatic frontman in better form, Velvet Revolver set out to put showmanship back into rock.
“We’ve cleaned up our act to a point where we’re all in great shape and we’re ready to present ourselves to the world again,” Sorum said.
Clean and sober, they recorded “Set Me Free” for the movie The Hulk and the contract offers poured in. The band signed with RCA after Chairman Clive Davis courted them personally.
Feeling like underdogs out to stake their turf again, Velvet Revolver set out to make an aggressive record that reflects the band’s energy and abrasiveness. The result was “Contraband,” a blues-rock album. It received good reviews from critics who appreciated the return of old-fashioned, straight-ahead rock.
The Washington Post said in its review that with “such anthemic burners as “Sucker Train Blues,” “Do It for the Kids” and incendiary first single “Slither” … there’s nothing even slightly ironic about the old-school theatrics of Velvet Revolver. These days, that’s a beautiful thing.”
Playing mostly new songs plus a few Guns N’ Roses and Stone Temple Pilots favorites on their current tour, Velvet Revolver tipped their hat to their past as Weiland sang through a megaphone and Slash donned his trademark top hat.
“Incendiary guitars and locomotive grooves … added up to a sweltering performance successfully designed to be a welcome throwback to the days before rock n’ roll was invaded by clowns like Nickelback,” said the Chicago Sun-Times.
Gelu Sulugiuc courtesy of Reuters