Arguments with Guns N’ Roses
LA Guns guitarist Tracii Guns recently gave an interview to The Quietus where he discussed Guns N’ Roses and Gilby Clarke among other things. See the snippets of the interview below.
“Please tell me about your involvement with Guns N’Roses.
TG: Ok, I’ll try to make it as direct as possible. In the beginning Izzy [Stradlin] lived at my house, years ago. And he had Hollywood Rose with Axl [Rose] – that was their band. I never played in Hollywood Rose. And I had my highschool band and I was really looking for a cool name and I loved Hollywood Rose. And I had a girlfriend that had been calling me Mr Guns. One day me and Izzy were sitting in the living room of my house and I said ‘L.A. Guns’ and I made this Cheap Trick looking logo on a blank album cover, and I show it to Izzy and go ‘What do you think of this for a band name?’. And he goes, ‘That’s great.’ So that’s been my band name ever since. So anyways, we had a little manager guy at the time and he hated our singer Mike Jagosz, so we fired him. So then I asked Axl to join L.A. Guns and he was in the band for about six, seven months, and then the same manager ended up hating Axl and he wanted to fire him. We’re all living together at this point and Axl and I sat down and went ‘What are we going to do?’ So we both said ‘Fuck that’, and came up with the name Guns N’Roses which was going to be just a record label that we’d put singles out on.
Sadly that idea only lasted for about 10 minutes and then we decided to keep L.A. Guns going, add Izzy and call it Guns N’Roses. And that’s it, that’s the whole story. And then I lasted for about seven or eight months in that, and then Axl and I got into an extraordinary fight – and we had never argued ever in the past few years before. [Then] I just kind of went my own way.
What did you argue about?
TG: That fight stemmed from a girl named Michelle Young [of ‘My Michelle’ fame] not being put on a guest list at three in the afternoon before even sound check, and we did two shows after that argument and then I left. It just wasn’t fun anymore. I was probably 19 then and I thought Great band, and I love these guys, but they’re not worth the headaches.’ Even at that age I didn’t want to deal with it.
So when you were still playing with those guys, was the material made up of a mixture of L.A. Guns tracks as well as early Guns N’ Roses material?
TG: Exactly. It’s funny, no one’s ever asked me that question before, but that’s exactly what we did. It was a mixture of these heavier L.A. Guns songs and I had helped working on some Hollywood Rose songs, which were really the tracks that became Guns N’Roses songs later. It was cool because Izzy and I were very systematic about how we would play in the band together. It was really fun structuring the L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose songs for two guitars. We’d spend a lot more time making two really different guitar parts and two different guitar sounds. More than anything it was an incredible experience. That’s when I really learned how to play with another guy. Izzy’s so talented – not like a real master and he’s definitely not a shredder – but he’s just got a brilliant brain for music.
Is it true that you wrote some of the famous Guns N’ Roses riffs but were never credited for them?
TG: No, the reality of that is that anything from Appetite For Destruction and Use Your Illusion I didn’t write from scratch. Anything that I was involved with for those songs was a combination of me, Izzy and Axl. But they consciously didn’t use anything that I’d brought in from scratch because they didn’t want to pay out; plus the stuff maybe didn’t stick with what they wanted to do at that time. So I lay no claim to like ‘Hey, I wrote ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ man, where’s my money?’ It’s not like that.
You don’t seem to bear any grudges about not having stayed with Guns N’ Roses who obviously went on to make millions of dollars.
TG: I think I’m more proud of it than anything. I had the good time that I did with the band, and then when I got fed up I think I made the right decision to leave so I could continue to do my own thing and take the education I got from playing with those guys. And you know, it’s never really been about money for me until now, because now I have a little son. So now I have to make money, but up until this point I never thought ‘Oh, those guys must have gazillions of dollars and I only have thousands of dollars’. But erm… I’d love to have that money! But no, it’s never been part of my depression, I have my own reasons for depression [laughs].
Are you still in touch with those guys?
TG: No, not really. Oddly enough, the people I probably talk to the most are Gilby Clarke and Matt Sorum. Slash I talk to maybe every two or three years, Axl I haven’t talked to since 1989, I’m very friendly with Duff (McKagan). But you know, everybody’s kind of scattered.
Talking About Gilby Clarke
You’re just about to bring out a deluxe version of your 1999 album Shrinking Violet on Steve Vai’s Favored Nations label. Why did you decide to reissue that particular record?
Tracii Guns: The connection with the Steve Vai label started about a year ago, around the same time Jizzy [Pearl, singer on Shrinking Violet] came back into the band.
Dean Schachtel, who runs the label, got a hold of me on Facebook and asked me ‘Whatever happened to Shrinking Violet?’ I told him we’d made that record because we were going on tour with Poison in ’99, to have something to sell on the road. It was something we had to get together quickly and it never had proper distribution. So he suggested, ‘Well, we love that record and your fans might not have heard it or even know about it’. So I talked to Jizzy and since we own the masters for it, it was a really easy thing to do.
What do you remember from recording the album?
TG: It was really cool, we’d just come off the road and had all these riffs ready that we’d worked on while touring. Gilby Clarke was the support act on that tour and when he overheard us talking about forthcoming recordings he said ‘Hey, I have this studio, I’m actually a pretty good producer’. I went ‘Well ok, when we get home let’s have a trial run and see what it’s like.’ I’d known Gilby for years but I’d never recorded with him before so I had no idea what it would be like.
He had this little studio in his house which was half in his bedroom, and the drum and amp room were in his garage so it was really a makeshift kind of rock & roll thing. The whole record took about a month to do. When we got there the songs weren’t fully written yet. We went one at a time and finished the songs up, and the chemistry was really good. It was a really fast, inexpensive record to do but it turned out really good. As far as records I’ve done go, it’s probably the most classic rock sounding album.
When did you first meet Gilby Clarke?
TG: Well, in the very beginnings of everything for Hollywood Rose and L.A. Guns, Gilby did one of our first gigs together at a place called Madame Wong’s. So the very first day I ever met him he was doing live sound for both bands. And I stayed in touch with him and we’d been friends ever since. I was about 17 and he was 19 or 20 back then. At the time he was actually in a pretty popular L.A. band called Candy, which was a very poppy group, not heavy at all. But he’s slowly evolved getting more into rock. Gilby’s a really even headed guy. Out of all the guys I know from that time, he’s the most sensible one.”