for Destruction's 15th anniversary Guitar
One Interview-June 2002
on Appetite for Destruction's 15th anniversary. Were you aware
it had been 15 years?
It was brought to my attention yesterday. I hadn't been counting.
it safe to say that Appetite is your favorite Guns album?
I love playing, recording, and touring so much that each record has its
own "whatever" about it. I had a blast making that record, but
I just didn't realize how cool it was until way after the fact. When you
make a record, it's really of-the-moment. After it's done, I never even
listen to it again. I just enjoy the time that I'm in the studio. So really,
the only reminder I have about any of the recordings is usually through
But it was your debut album. Didn't that make it special?
It was the first extended studio effort that we'd done collectively, so
that in itself was a gas. At the same time, there was so much else going
on I was staying out till four in the morning, getting to the studio at
least by noon. And I wasn't living anywhere, so I was a complete vagabond
during the making of Appetite. There was a lot of craziness and
partying going on. All of the stuff that comes with being a rock 'n' roll
band that has no idea where it's going. We did everything we wanted to
do and got away with whatever it was we could get away with. So looking
back on it now, it's like, yeah, that was totally cool; I wouldn't have
missed a minute of it.
Were there any templates you were holding up back then, saying, "If
I could make an album like this, I'd be happy"?
No. Everyone else might have a different story, but I'm only speaking
on my behalf. From the time the band started, it's always had chemistry,
where everybody played what they thought needed to be incorporated into
the music. The band had a very magical chemistry. I was thinking about
this last night, because I was jamming with Izzy. Everybody always
came up with their own ideas. Nobody really asked a lot of questions.
We just had an unspoken chemistry, a natural feel for knowing where to
put a part. There wasn't a lot of sitting around and looking to the future
as far as how big a hit this was going to be. We just incorporated what
we each liked as individuals into the songs. And it just happened; there
was no discussion.
Did the band feel unified at that point?
We were the only five guys who could have made up that band in the whole
of L.A. Especially at that point in time; the '80s was probably
one of the worst decades of all time for music [laughs].
Which was similar to the current climate-disposable-pop and cookie-cutter
Exactly. We hated everything that was going on everywhere, so we ended
up falling together. It was sort of a fluke how it happened, but it was
inevitable because individually, we couldn't pair up with anyone else.
We each had our own personal direction. We all eventually got together,
and that was the only combination that worked. Against all odds, we went
headlong into this thing. But it wasn't preconceived. That's just who
we were. When we went in to do the album, we just wanted to make our album
and to be good at what we did.
But were you reacting against how plastic music had become?
No, it wasn't that. It was just that. given the time period what we did
was very much against the grain. And we enjoyed the static [laughs].
Your playing was more raw, melodic, and bluesy than the fleet-fingered
style that dominated the L.A. hair-metal scene back then. What were some
of the reactions to your style?
I wasn't riding anybody's opinion. It wasn't until much later that I got
recognized as a half-decent guitar player. But in the Hollywood scene,
we were such a brash band that the whole thing was overwhelming. I just
liked to play what I liked to play: As long as I thought I was playing
well, I didn't really give a shit what anyone was thinking. But I've always
been very paranoid about the quality of my playing. I'm one of those guys
who always ask afterwards, "Did I play okay?" But I wasn't judging
my playing by anyone else's standards but my own. I didn't have any convoluted
dreams about being a guitar hero.
But you became one anyway.
There was a point when I started getting phone calls to do magazine interviews.
And then at another level, me and Axl got the lead singer/lead
guitarist combo thing going that was very recognizable. From that point
on, I started to get recognized as a guitar player, which was very flattering.
I appreciate the fact that I've done pretty well for myself in the context
of being one fifth of a cool rock 'n' roll band.
How difficult was it to get the band's sound on tape?
Capturing it properly was a hard thing to do because it was very raw,
and we didn't want to use a lot of effects and other stuff to embellish
it too much. At the same time, we did have a certain amount of professional
integrity, and we wanted it to sound tight. There are a lot of bands that
try to sound unhinged. We were unhinged, but we also liked to tie it together
enough to keep it from exploding all over the place. So it always had
that sound where it was just about to fall apart, but it was a little
tight at the same time.
What was your daily routine like at that time?
My existence has always been that detached gypsy kind of thing - very
focused around my music; but as far as everything else, very detached.
So I'd work until 11 or 12 at night, and then hit the street, find a place
to hang out, then find a place to sleep, and then find a way to get back
to the studio the next morning. That was the making of the whole record.
Would you indulge at all when you were recording?
One of the most important things to know about how Guns worked,
is even on our worst days, everything else would take a backseat to the
band in order to do that properly. There was a little of everything within
reason, but it wasn't excessive during the actual recording process because
as soon as you couldn't play well, then the whole point of being around
ceased to exist. So in the studio, maybe a little jack and coffee, but
after a day's work, it was go-for-broke. And then the next day, you just
showed up at the studio on time, and no one had anything to say, as long
as it didn't affect your performance.
So where did it start to go wrong?
First there was Steven [Adler, the band's first drummer,
who was let go for excessive drug abuse]. That was a big change, but we
survived it. But that still had a big effect on the camaraderie of a bunch
of guys who, I hate to sound cliché, really came from the gutter.
But it was hard, because I was only 20 and Steven was only 21 when
the band really started. We had professional ethics, but at the same time,
we were a crazy bunch of kids. Trying to keep a tab on anyone of us was
difficult [laughs]. We just knew when we had to show up for work, but
after work. .. God knows what was going on.
when we buckled down to do "Use Your Illusion," [former
Cult drummer] Matt Sorum came in, and he was just like the rest
of us, so that was cool. And then we're doing this whole double-record
thing because we had so much material. And then we had all these huge
shows coming up, so it's like we were touring during the making of the
record. There was a lot going on. So we were out for two-plus years on
those albums. Then Izzy left, and a lot of that had to do with
the excessive shit happening on the road, as far as going on late and
riots and that kind of stuff. We were a really simple band from the start.
We really looked forward to getting up and playing every night; that's
what we're all about. But when that started to get complicated for reasons
that didn't have anything to do with the rest of us, it put a strain on
wasn't a "success kills" kind of story; it was just that what
Axl had originally planned all along started to become something
that none of us knew anything about [laughs]. So when the tour was over,
I looked at what was going on, and I realized I felt very estranged. What
bound us together was really lacking as soon as we were missing a couple
guys. You just can't reinvent something like that.
tried to hang in there as long as possible, but Axl was going in
a musical direction that none of us could fathom. Eventually, it just
wasn't fun for me, and I finally left. And consequently Duff left,
and Matt got fired. Now Axl is doing Guns on his
own. I have no regrets about the whole thing, because it was a slow, systematic
thing that went on. I'm just waiting for the new Guns album to
come out so I can have something solid in my hands to explain where Axl
was headed, just to clarify some things [laughs].
But musically, at least, something good came out of Axl's temperamental
Oh yeah. He's one of the most brilliant lyricists. He's got so much going
on, and he's really an intelligent, amazing guy. It's just...it depends
how much of that [emotional baggage] you want to experience with him.
A lot of it is stuff that not everyone in the band necessarily understands.
So you try to understand, and you try to be a good friend and band mate
as you go through it. But when it negatively affects everything the band
is doing, it's really hard to stand by him.
also interested to hear the new Guns record because so much has
gone on since this whole thing started, I know he's got a lot to say.
Even a lot of his stage performance is fueled by angst. And it's essential
to have that sort of soul and energy for the music to come across as genuine;
that's an integral part of rock 'n' roll. But it just depends on how far
you want to take it. It's like, if you can get it all out of your system
in the two hours you're onstage, great--as long as you're onstage [laughs].
You've been jamming with Izzy again. Any new perspective on why your playing
styles work so well together?
It's the kind of thing where no matter who comes up with the initial idea,
I never really have to go, "Izzy, play this part this way."
He just plays his thing his own way, and we never really talk about it
night, we went in and took two songs from scratch, just basic chord changes,
and worked them into full songs. That's one of the things about me and
Izzy working together, he knows where I'm at, and I know where
he's at. And that's the way it's always been. I make up something that
accompanies his part, and at the same time accents it, and he does the
same with my parts. We have that kind of chemistry. We've always been
good friends, so for us to get in a room and play is a very easy thing
What can we expect from you next?
I'm putting together another record with some stuff I've done with Izzy
and other stuff I've done on my own. I want to start writing with other
people as well, and put together an album with a lot of guests -- a really
cool rock 'n' roll record with people you wouldn't expect to hear together.
And finally, what's the strongest impression you have of your time creating
Appetite for Destruction?
You should probably ask the rental car companies who rented us the vans
we used to drive from the Valley to Hollywood and back [laughs].
There were a few damaged vans, we must have dropped off about three or
four in the middle of the night. So many rental places were pissed off
and ready to sue, except there was no entity to sue, really. That's what
that album was about, an appetite for destruction. It was us against the
world. And it was a really cool time, because we pulled it off.