Saturday, January 26, 2008

Reckless Road: Interview With Marc Canter

LAist recently got the opportunity to sit down with Marc Canter, author of Reckless Road; Guns N' Roses and the Making of Appetite for Destruction.

LAist: So how did this all start?

Marc: I grew up as a big Aerosmith fan. I decided that I would document Slash the way I would document Aerosmith because I saw he had the talent and everything else. I always knew he would make it as a guitarist, I would tape record the performances even before GN'R, just because I wanted them. If he goes and plays a party, he’ll play and it’ll be gone, so if you record it, you’ve got it.

So for a dollar, you put a tape in, you got it. Taking pictures was just a fun thing that I learned how to do. I saw how it started to mold especially after we met Axl, and I saw more of the same coming from different sources. Then I knew if that if they would stay together they would make it. Now I got stuff or myself and for the world, because I wish someone would do for Aerosmith.

GN'R still sells about 5,000 records a week so we knew that there are some people who would be interested in this. We would raise some money since Jason’s company was new, and he calls me back 6 weeks later, saying that they raised the money and they want to make a deal. So I told him how I wanted to run it, and we did it.

LAist: That’s awesome. So to change the subject a little, what was the scene like in LA at the time?

Marc: Punk was hot in 81, 82 and then it started to disappear. By the times ‘84 came, punk was dead. Motley Crue may have been the only one left making rock, Stones weren’t doing anything, neither was Zeppelin or Aerosmith. And these guys were listening to all those bands, a 70’s with a bit of 60’s influence.

LAist: So did the guys consider GN'R a metal band?

Marc: They considered themselves an Aersomith/ Zeppelin / Stones type of band just doing their version of that. Slash has these dimensions that he can see, like 12 bars into the future. The first time you hear the lead from Welcome to the Jungle or Paradise City, it’s the same as the record. How could that possibly be? He would hear the song and come up with a solo just like that. It would end up being on the record the exact same way as the first. His guitar sings. There’s something about the sound; some people thought it was a special amp. Twice he played here (at Canters) where he just came up and plugged in with the band. Within 15 seconds he’d warm up and you’d hear that it was Slash. But it wasn’t him that made the band. You needed everyone involved to make what it was. You know they were young 21-23, living on the streets, some of them angry, tough, so they had things to write about. Not only did they have talent, but they had the lyrics. Later, they weren’t writing about the hard times on the streets so you lost something just based on the fact that they have houses and aren’t writing in the same room.

LAist: So were you into the partying scene with the band at all?

Marc: Not at all. Slash was always a drinker; there were a couple of them fooling around with stuff that they shouldn’t have. I mean once you fool around with them you’re married. They took a dark path down for a while. The funny thing was, whatever Axl experimented with, he was done with in 4 or 5 months. By June of 86, he was completely done. He just did it because everyone else was doing it. So it wasn’t like they were a bunch of drug addicts, but they did go out and have a good time.

LAist: I know that you were around all the time documenting the group, but how did the band deal with the real media?

Marc: They dealt with it. But for me, after they made it big, I still recorded their shows. Right around when they started touring with Metallica was when I stopped. I had what I wanted and the band had been captured. I just wanted to watch and enjoy the show.

LAist: Well being a young person born and raised in LA, its really great to be able to see what the scene was like.

Marc: It was totally an exciting thing because they started their own scene. Suddenly everyone started looking like they did. Everyone had that glam going on while they played rock and roll. There were always flyers all over the street. It just kind of took off. I mean at the time they had very little air play. But then MTV was ready to play Welcome to the Jungle one time at like 4 in the morning on a Sunday night, and the switchboard blew up. All the sudden Slash calls me and says that they’re in the top 10! Jungle stayed in the top 10 for months, then Sweet Child O’ Mine came out, and they showed what they could do as a rock band as well as show their softer side, which went onto the radio and TV. That’s what set them a mile ahead of everyone else. We have another Zeppelin, we thought, not just some band that would make one album and then disappear.

LAist: Which is what some of the Geffen people were starting to see, at this point.

Marc: Yeah they were late though, I saw that they had what it took at the first Street Scene when they were opening up for Social Distortion. Nobody knew who they were, they came there with makeup and so forth, looking like the New York Dolls. People were spitting on them, throwing beer, but they maintained the stage. They only played 4 or 5 songs but they finally broke through. That was when I saw the power of the band. Every time I saw them play I would get butterflies in my stomach. However, every time I went to a show to take pictures, you lose a little something.

LAist: So you basically made a sacrifice for all the fans. We should be thanking you for it!

Marc: At the time I didn’t see it that way because I couldn’t believe no one else was taping the shows. I just didn’t let it go. There was only one show that I missed. (Points to a map in the book) And this map will be online, where you can roll over the different spots and look at the history. The whole point is that I want this book to be relevant 100 years from now.

You can read the entire interview here.


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