Posted October, 2011
Since the advent of rock and roll in the 50’s, it seems that there is at least one person or band that served as a lightning rod of criticism of the genre. It started with Elvis in the 50’s and then on to the Rolling Stones in the sixties. In the seventies, Alice Cooper and KISS drew hostile artillery from parents and press, alike.
In the late eighties, the cloak of controversy fell – no, strike that – was taken by force by an aggressive new band called Guns N’ Roses. The band sonically carpet bombed the world with their debut album, Appetite for Destruction, unleashing such hits as Welcome to the Jungle, Sweet Child o’ Mine and Paradise City. With subsequent tours and multi-million selling albums, the band developed the reputation as The World’s Most Dangerous Band.
Last month, the band was nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which, under howls of “foul” by fans of many other artists and bands, stirred up more controversy. Then, again, a large percentage of nominations from the Hall have attracted the same kinds of criticisms so the more things change, the more they remain the same.
To the outside world, every GNR tour (and this current tour is no exception) appears to be a rolling thunderstorm of chaos, confusion and confrontation. I caught up with Dizzy by phone at his hotel room in Paraguay during the South American leg of GNR’s tour and I asked Dizzy if the view from behind the keyboards is any different than the fan’s perception.
“Well, you know, it is different. It’s confusion, chaos and rolling thunder. It’s similar to how it’s probably perceived but the most amazing thing is that we actually get out there and get the show on for everybody and that’s the most important thing.” Dizzy concludes with a bit of humor, “I’m sitting right now in a hotel room in Paraguay and wondering how I’m going to get a cup of coffee.”
Once upon a time, that crisis would have precipitated a royal trashing of a hotel room if not the entire floor but cooler heads obviously prevailed.
Artists and bands are often mischaracterized in the press and by “urban legend”. While I seriously doubt that the boys in the band were holding Bible study every night while they’re on the road, I did suspect that there was more to the stories that I have read. Laughing, Dizzy shed some light as to how the band is misunderstood and misquoted.
“Everything’s misquoted.” Reed then shares a personal story as an example of how the view of the fans often is different from the reality of the band.
“I was watching a friend’s band at this tattoo convention out in California a couple of months ago. This guy comes up to me and goes, ‘Do you still ride?’ I say, ‘What? What are you talking about?’ He goes, ‘Oh, c’mon, man! You’re gonna blow the whole image!’ I go, ‘What image is that?’ He goes, ‘You know! You ride motorcycles!’ I’m like, ‘I’ve never been on a motorcycle in my life, dude! And, you know what? To be honest, I don’t know too many others in the band or have ever been in the band who has spent a lot of time on motorcycles. I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
“People get it in their head what they want and they’re going to believe it until it’s proved wrong. I don’t think he was a big Guns N’ Roses fan to begin with or he would have known that. There are a lot of those people out there. Honestly, I think about my favorite bands as I was growing up and I had these images of them of how I wanted them to be like. I never got to meet them so I don’t know. Maybe they were like that. Maybe they weren’t. There are so many people who are going to think what they want to think.”
Busting into his humorous vein again, Dizzy engages in a mock conversation with the mistaken biker fan.
“‘Yeah, man! Let’s do a ride, dude! Awesome! I’m going to Sturgis, like, five times once this year! I’m going back and forth. It’s awesome!’ But, I wasn’t in the mood so I just said, “Sorry, I hate to blow your image.”
Along the same line of thought, Reed shares where he thinks band mate, Axl Rose, is getting unfair characterization.
“The guy works his butt off constantly. I don’t know if that ever gets represented. He’s had so much to do with the success of the band over the years. Perhaps he doesn’t make himself as visible as other people that have been in the band. Therefore, he doesn’t get attached to what was, what has been and what will be the success of the band when he probably has more to do with it than a lot of people outside of the raw riffs and guitar talent that he’s surrounded himself with. I think that might be one thing – the main thing.”
In “Guns N’ Roses” years, Dizzy is the second oldest member of the band, second only to Axl. I state that as a lead-in to my next question when he interrupts me.
“In ‘Guns N’ Roses’ years, I’m like 275!” And what does that make Axl? “300, probably”.
With so many GNR years behind him, I asked Reed how this tour is different from the other tours over the years.
“Right now, we’re in sort of the same mode that we’ve been in the last couple of years – like all of last year. I was thinking about South America last year and I go, ‘Oh, wait! I’m in South America again!’ It’s the same show. We’re doing a couple of new songs that we haven’t done – new ‘old’ songs and new ‘new’ songs. Other than that, it’s pretty much the same. We’ve had DJ Ashba on board now for going on two years, I guess. So, that’s different but it’s great!”
As for what’s next for the band after this tour, Reed says with a laugh, “I go home and dry out for the holidays.” Then, in a slightly more serious tone, adds, “I keep ticking away on my solo album when we have some down time. If we have some significant down time then I’m out performing those songs with whoever I can get together to play with me. So, that’s what I’ll be doing. You never know what’s around the corner for Guns N’ Roses, to be perfectly honest about it. It’s an ongoing, constant ‘adventure’. Hey, it keeps things exciting!”
As our call was wrapping up and Dizzy about to continue his search for a cup of coffee, I asked him how he hoped he and the band would be remembered and what their legacy would be.
“I hope people remember that I added some tangible, cool stuff to the band’s music and helped the band grow; that the band is remembered – that we delivered kick-ass music on a nightly basis that, hopefully, affected people in a positive way. I’m leaving my dream and I hope somehow, some way, people can get that out of the music and be able to apply it to themselves and do what they want to do with their life.”
You can keep up with all things Guns N’ Roses at GunsNRoses.com. Be sure to go there to check out when they’ll be appearing at a venue near you.