It was the end of the road for Steven Adler, the end of the rock star trip, the end of his lifelong dream.... "I had just shot up some coke. I was in the bathroom, puking my guts up for the fourth time that day. A little coke, a little junk, just mix it together and get the needle.... Man I was good at that. But I must have mixed in too much coke..I knew this was going to be some helacious speedball trip, and the only thing I could do was hang on for the ride.
In the next moment, I was on my stomach, my face uncontrollably hitting the tile floor. My eyes were open - I was aware of what was happening, but I couldn't stop. I could glance over to the tub where in arms reach was a towel draped over it. All I had to do was grab the towel and shove it underneath my face. But I couldn't do it. I could feel my face hit the tile floor- up and down over and over again. And i couldn't stop as the convulsions swept over my body.I felt my teeth loosen as they broke away from my gums, I felt the lacerations on my face. The last thing i remember was pounding my face in to a pool of blood."
This turned in to Steven Adler's first stroke, there was to be another, plus a heart attack, and an estimated 31 trips to the emergency rooms of various LA hospitals.
Still living in North Hollywood, Steven Adler's nature is as sunny now, nearly 15 years later, as it was back in the halcyon days of the 80's, but his voice betrays him now, the soft drawl is not all sun and surf any more, you have to listen a little more carefully to understand him through his slur, the most obvious side-effect of his travails, his own private little track mark.
"Yeah, I'm a rocker", he laughs at himself, "I'm a roller, too, baby, it's the only happiness I ever really get".
Steven was a hyperactive child who lived with his grandmother in LA at the age of 12, he was a doer not a thinker and was obssessed with Kiss since a family outing to Magic Mountain where Kiss were performing, from then on he would tell his mother that he wanted to become a rock star, she said, "that's nice, Stevie, and I thought that would be that!"
At school, Steven found a freind in Saul Hudson, later of course to become Slash, another displaced, slightly unorthodox boy who also lived with his grandmother in LA.
Adler recalls, "At school there was this three story building, and there was a metal rail around the balcony there, I used to sing this little song, King Tut, it was called, and it went like this, King Tut...God works in mysterious ways, well, me and Slash used to climb out on to that rail, three floors up, and we sang King Tut as loud as we could, we had this really nice young teacher, and when she saw us we hopped down, really laughing, and we ran down the hall and ditched school. After that we'd ditch school nearly every day. Me and Slash would walk up and down Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards, and each day we had this thing where we'd take a different type of alcohol, and we'd walk up and down, and what we'd be talkin about was how we'd be living when we were rock and roll stars, it was like this dream that I always knew would come true.
We'd go out and meet chicks- older women- who would take us back to their Beverly Hills homes. They'd give us booze, coke, they'd feed us, really. All we had to do was fuck them. Occasionally a guy would pick me up. In return for a blowjob, I'd get a little dope and maybe 30 or 40 bucks. I lived about 5 or 6 blocks from Santa Monica Blvd, so if I was with Slash, we'd get back to my house first, I had two rooms, a living room, and a bedroom, and I'd always sleep in the living room. In the bedroom, I had this guitar and a little amplifier that I was learning to play, and one day I just showed it to Slash. I knew two chords and two scales and I tried to play along to Kiss Alive- strike all the Ace Frehley positions, man! Well, Slash just fell in love with that guitar. I gave it to him, and within a week he was writing songs. He was just made for the guitar. Made for it. I just wanted to be a rock'n'roll star, the guitar was too complicated for me. I set up all these pillows and coathangers and got my first drumsticks and played along to Kiss and Boston. Music made me feel special. Rock'n'roll is in my heart and in my soul and the lifestyle was a huge part of it. It's like, sex and rock'n'roll, that was the lifestyle I was living, right from then. It was never heavy drugs at that age. The heroin thing didn't come until after we were successful, I was a big pothead, thats what I liked, the three P's man - Pot,Pussy and percussion! We had waaay more fun before we got success than after.
Back in June 1987, Axl nailed it with deadly efficiency: we're a bad boy band, we're not afraid to go to excesses with substances, sexually and everything else. A lot of people are afraid to be that way, we are not.
People say that Appetite is this amazing sounding record, but man, I listened to our first demos a while ago, and shit we kicked ass! We really fuckin' rocked and we meant it! The first time Axl ever rehearsed it with us, we were playing in this little room and he was late. We were playing Reckless Life and he fucking ran in to the room and grabbed the microphone and started screaming- really fucking screaming- and he was running literally halfway up the walls from side to side across the room. I was just kind of looking at Slash..... Hell the next morning I woke up and we had a rock'n'roll band. The band began living in a communal house, which they called the hellhouse. It accurately reflected the bands boast on their early fliers: Guns'N;Roses: Straight from detox! We had all kinds ofstrippers comin in, and they made good money. At the start, we all had odd jobs, but then we started playing clubs and getting in to the studio, and the house became this disgusting mess. We lived off the girls, but it wasn't nasty. We were in a band and we got to meet girls.We never hurt nobody. One of the strippers i still know to this day- Monica, shes a lovely girl, they all really wanted to help us and that's what the lifestyle was. Really, they were the best days, just playing in the clubs, selling them out, having guys come up in the street and say Hey I saw you guys, your band really kicks it! Having girls and some pot, that was the best of it.
Heroin was something that Slash was doing, because we came off that huge tour 20,000-30,000 people per night, and we were waiting to go in to the studio, and Axl kept delaying it..... it was just something people were doing. I don't blame my decision to try it on Slash, and I thought well, let me try it. And the thing is, the first two times I tried it I never used a needle, i was like no way, and they said, you don't need to use a needle you can just smoke it. The first two times, I was so sick, and as sick as it sounds, I did it again. I was waking up every morning and not having something wonderful and exciting like a gig to do, I started to get down, a real depression, like a valium down, and time flies when you get on heroin, that's why I got in to it, I kind of took it to make the time go by. Getting addicted, he insists, was the last thing I expected to happen.
I went totally off, I was thrown out of the band because they said I was doing heroin, but everyone was, Doug Goldstein (band manager) took me to this doctor, the doc gave me this thing called an opiate blocker, and it works by making you violently sick if you take any opiates. You can absolutely not take it if you have any trace of heroin in your system, because you can die. Now I did have, they put this injection in my buttocks and I have never felt pain like that, I can still remember it now, I was so sick, I will never forget that needle in my ass. I was sick for 6 weeks, and during that time, Slash called up and said that they were in the studio recording Civil War, and I had to get down there. I said shit, man, I can't, he said, but we can't waste the money, so I got up and went and I was so weak and sick that I had to play the song 25 times if not more, Slash and Duff got fucked up, I was not, but I was so sick. I never said nothing bad, I love those guys, Guns n'Roses was always the five of us. This was something that Axl wanted, there was a whole plan to get rid of me. Then Izzy cleaned up and couldn't stay with them because of the drugs, it hurts me so bad that I didn't play on the Use Your Illusions, if you listen to Civil War it sounds like a totally different band to the rest.
I went to jail, he says simply, some girl said I beat her up, some crazy psycho girl wanted to go out with me, she lived in my building, she asked me over to eat, now I might not be big, but I eat like a pig, I'm not gonna say no. She beat her leg up, she had a little charlie horse on the rightside of her leg, this was just when OJ did all that stuff and the cops were so ridiculous. If I was going to hit somebody on the side of the legs 50 fucking times- who's going to stand still? I did 3 months and I cried every single day."
Steven Adler continues to struggle, but belives one day the original lineup of GNR will reform. He produces some pertinent retail information for Axl to chew on, too: The last GNR albums he contributed to as a player and co-writer Use Your Illusion 1 and 2 were to prove the bands last multi-platinum releases, and although the albums made the gunners the first band to twice have two albums simutaneously in the top five, subsequent sales of those albums and of all product total over 30 million, compared to those of Appetite which sold 34 million copies world-wide, making it the 4th biggest selling album of all time.
As Izzy Stradlin notes: Adler's drumming made the band, he made a big musical difference, his sense of swing was the push and pull that gave the songs their feel, afterwards, nothing worked.
Steven is now planning a book and a film about his life, and is now very close to his mother Deanna, who says, I didn't know for months at a time where he was, I only found out he had got married through a friend who read about it in the National Enquirer, Steven's been through terrible times in the music business and it is not all his fault, he has a younger brother, Jamie, who absolutely worships him, what do I say to him? Steven has lost his marriage, so much of his life and it's so hard, but he's a lovely person, my husband has been very ill and Steven has supported us and looked after us, he's been a good son.
"I'm 35 now, he reflects, and I'd love to have kids, I loved my wife, and I miss her more than anything, I've got a new girlfriend now and I love her very much too. And just about 4 or 5 months ago I found out that I have a little girl, she's 12 years old, I knew her mother in LA and she was a very beautiful girl, she was only 18 and she put the girl up for adoption, but I've never met my daughter, and I'd never try to let her know who I am, I could never go up to her and tell her I'm her father, I'm glad she's just happy.
It makes me sad though. Kids are the greatest thing apart from playing music, Hey, I'm the smiling drummer, though, I'm a rocker man...and a roller too..."