Friday, November 7, 2008

Exclusive Interview with Izzy Stradlin

“It is difficult to maintain your mental health when you are surrounded by madness”

In the only interview that he’s granted this year, Izzy Stradlin tells our correspondent in Brazil, Thiago Sarkis, just what any follower of this man wishes to know: Why he decided to tour again with Axl Rose, how he feels about the possibility of a GN'R reunion, how his present relations are with Slash, Duff, Steven and company, and how he remembers the glory years of the band.

Exclusively for Popular 1 - Izzy Stradlin.

What have you been doing the last two or three years? If time is difficult to track, can you talk about the discs Miami and Fire?

Izzy: “Sure. Every year I record material. The album Miami - I recorded it years ago in Miami, Florida, in an old studio where they had worked with people like James Brown, The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, a fantastic place. After that album, I recorded Fire in a very short period of time. One is simply a more basic version than what I usually do."

Do you think that fans can appreciate facets of you as a solo musician that couldn't be seen in Guns N' Roses?

Izzy: "Each song that I've recorded since I left Guns N' Roses, is the same type of song that I did when I was in GN'R. What happened then was that I composed a song, and then Slash added his part and Axl added his part, and that became Guns N' Roses. Whereas, what you hear when you put on one of my CDs, is the same ideas and the same inspiration that I had in Guns N' Roses but without Slash or Axl. It is the more basic version."

What are you working on now?

Izzy: “Right now I am in contact with people in Argentina that want us to tour there, and I would really like very much to do it. Recently I have recorded another disc called Concrete and that you can acquire through iTunes."

Before you spoke of the process of composition in Guns N' Roses. Since then, Slash became an icon, thanks to his attitude, his image and his style as a guitarist. Nevertheless, we who followed GN'R from the beginning, know that you were one of the main composers of the band. How would you describe the way you worked with Axl and Slash in those years?

Izzy: “There was a chemistry there that worked well. Sometimes, our way of work was slow and difficult, if I compare it to what I do now, but the main thing was that the results were very good. Now, everything is easier for me. It’s much simpler to write for my band. Now I don’t have to discuss it with two other people whenever I write something."

Do you think that your role in GN'R was the one of creative composer, whereas Slash existed mainly as guitar-hero?

Izzy: “The other day I read somewhere that Slash is the last guitar-hero of history. (Laughter) I don’t know. I don’t know how to respond to that."

How was your relationship with Slash, as much at a musical level as at a personal level?

Izzy: “Musically, we contributed things mutually, and we tried to put in more effort than the others. (Laughter) And at personal level, we took many drugs together in the ‘80s, and after a time got we clean and left it. I still consider him a friend and we stay in contact."

You returned to tour with GN'R in 2006. How did you get back in contact with Axl?

Izzy: “I don’t know. It’s been two years since we did that tour of Europe … it’s hard to think … I believe that they gave the number me of his management … No, now I remember: I went to his house, then he called me because they were going to do shows in New York and I said to him: “Hey, why don't I play with you? It could be great." And we did it. And then we toured Europe."

At that time you had already solved your problems with him?

Izzy: “See, I’ve known him for so many years, that there is a familiarity between us. We grew up in the same place, the same atmosphere, and I believe that part of our friendship always will be there."

I’ve always read that you are a calm and reserved type, who doesn’t like to tour or to spend too much time far from home. What made you want to get back together with GN'R?

Izzy: “You know, there exists a very special connection with rock' n' roll audiences, and I had the desire to experience that again. When we play songs like "Nightrain," "Mr. Brownstone" or "Welcome to the Jungle," an instantaneous connection between the band and the listeners takes place, it’s something electrical, and I had the desire to experience that again."

How did you feel at your first show with the new Guns N' Roses?

Izzy: “I arrived at Heathrow airport, I rode in a van and they took me to the Donnington Festival. I had fatal jet lag, but I went to the scene and I felt better instantly. It’s magic."

Much has been said about the present formation of Guns N' Roses. What’s your opinion of the present band compared to the original Guns N’ Roses?

Izzy: “They are more together than we were. (Laughter) Those guys are great musicians. We let ourselves go more."

But do you like the way they interpret the songs or do you prefer your ‘80s style, more direct and wild?

Izzy: “During that tour I only played four or five songs a night and didn’t see a lot of the show. So, I really wouldn’t know.”

Which GN'R song is most special to you, and why?

Izzy: "Knockin' on Heaven's Door” was brilliant. The fact that we took to an old Bob Dylan song and turned and it into this enormous hymn was really special."

How did it feel to play four or five GN’R songs every night? Did you have to learn some of them again?

Izzy: “Yes I had forgotten them almost completely. I had to learn to play them again.”

Which song was the hardest?

Izzy: "Nightrain.” I kept forgetting the part in the middle, I don’t know why, after all I wrote it!"

I have heard that you are in contact with all the original members of Guns N' Roses. How is your relationship with them?

Izzy: "Slash, Duff, Matt and even Steven Adler, we all call each other from time to time, and sometimes we see each other in Los Angeles or where ever. We all have very good relationships. We are all still friends."

Steven Adler has spoken frequently lately of his desire for a reunion of the original GN'R. Tell me what you think of that and how your relationship with Steven is at the present.

Izzy: “Steven lives a very confused life."

But if it were to occur, you would consider the possibility of a reunion?

Izzy: “Yes, of course. I wrote a great deal of that material."

You said once, when Matt Sorum entered the band, that you missed the style of Steven Adler. What differences did you see between the two of them?

Izzy: “Steven had a more accidental style and Matt is more precise."

Have you read Slash’s autobiography?

Izzy: “No, I have not read it. I listened to something about it on the radio the other day and it seemed to me to be gracious."

Slash comments in the book about the last shows that you did before you left the band, when you asked Axl to show up on time.

Izzy: “Axl continued arriving at each concert behind schedule. In 1991, the regular thing was that Axl delayed each concert, like minimum, two hours."

Why did you reject the invitation to reunite with Velvet Revolver?

Izzy: "I wanted it to be a quartet: Slash, Duff, Matt and I, but they really desired a singer, and as we know, singers can be quite problematic sometimes. So I simply decided to follow my own path."

Is it true that you suggested that you Duff would take care of the vocal tasks in the band?

Izzy: “Yes. That would have been better."

How did they respond to that idea?

Izzy: “I believe that Duff liked the idea, but Slash said no."

Don’t you think that Scott Weiland was the worst decision for musicians like them, who had so many problems with Axl in the past?

Izzy: “That’s a very legitimate question, but I don’t have an answer."

It was impossible for something like that to work.

Izzy: "I don’t know."

As I commented to you before, your public image is the one of a calm and reserved man. Is it hard for you to have to always respond to questions on GN'R from fans and the press?

Izzy: “You are the first journalist with whom I have spoken this year, so it is not something that I do quite often (Laughter).”

Oh thanks (Laughter).

Izzy: “In the last years I’ve limited myself to releasing one disc every year with iTunes, and I don’t give any interviews."

But, how you feel being an ex-member of the greatest band in the history of the rock?

Izzy: "It’s insane when I’m going to a store to buy cords for my guitar, and the young employee tries to sell me a Les Paul Guitar with Slash’s name on it. (Laughter) The guy asks me: ' Have you seen the new Slash Les Paul guitar?' I respond to that no, and he says to me: 'Oh, we just got five today!’ (Laughter)”

That must be strange for you, but at the same time, I imagine that you feel good knowing that you were part of the same band.

Izzy: ”I feel good.”


lectible said...

Mack, A couple weeks ago I started reading “Watch You Bleed” & got about a 120 pages into it & decided that ½ of what I was reading was total B.S. So I checked out SLASH’s book from the library, started reading it instead, & pretty much immediately heard “Chinese Democracy” was coming out Nov 23 rd. So.. it’s the first time I’ve actually believed it was REALLY coming out. The first time in a long time anyway! Slash’s book is very good. You definitely get the feeling he is being as honest as he can be w/o bad mouthing others (mainly Axl). This Izzy interview actually answers some questions I had about it. Like – ‘Why Izzy wasn’t a part of Velvet Revolver?’. Slash just said something like “Izzy ditched out as soon as the singers started showing up.” Personally I’ve ALWAYS wondered why Izzy, Slash, Duff, & Matt haven’t got together with Duff & Izzy doing vocal dutys. To me that’s STILL a freakin’ great idea!!!

Anyway, since you are the most dedicated & prob the most knowledgable GnR blogger, I thought I’d ask you about this!? I planned another GnR post immediately after hearing of ‘Chinese Democracy’ finally coming out.

Here’s what I came up with:

-Lies Acoust Demos (including ‘Cornshucker’)
-5 song live acoustic show (NY I think) from an unknown date to me (circa 88) which includes Mr Brownstone & Move to the City
-Patience (from AMA Awards show 89’ recorded straight from my video version of it) w/ Don Henley on drums
-Mr. Brownstone (David Niven mix) who was trying to compete w/Mike Clink for production duties – ripped straight from my LP version of the It’s So Easy 4 song EP/ single.
- and maybe a couple tunes from the Horizon 87 show or even the infamous MTV NY The Ritz show.

Tell me what you think. What am I missing?

If you got something good I might’ve never heard tell me. I prefer high sound quality material (no audience bootlegs).I’ve had most of this stuff since prob 1989. The Acoust Lies Demos we’re bootlegged before “Lies” ever came out, if you didn’t know that fact! I’ve download several items via the internet since, but the best GnR stuff I’ve ever found I had back in like 89’. Basically this stuff! Anything you can add to it, be it just a song or 2, just tell me. I prefer stuff w/ Izzy. Either way….

Axl will have his day with “Chinese Democracy”. I think it will be a ‘hit’. In my mind though, it’s just one step closer to what we really want. A full fledged reunion. It seems impossible yet… I still believe it may actually happen. At this point in time I’m sure all members (except maybe Steven) are still capable of kickin some major ass, if they chose to get off their MILLIONS & actually do it. If they truly are the ‘realest’ band ever…they need to prove it one more time. They need to get together. Hate each other if they want to. But make more music!!

Anonymous said...

Ok, in my opinion reunion is possible, but... do we really want it?
Axl now makes diffrent music than 15 - 20 years ago. Propably without this crazy, 80s hardrock feeling and fun. But it doesn't mean worse.

What do you think, if they unite now, Axl will get rid off Robin Finck, Bumblefloot, Buckethead?
Is he gonna replace they Slash, Duff, Matt or Steven?

Another issue: they would join before "Chinese Democracy" tour or after, in order to record new album?

I think, that they are able to make great band once again, but we must put some question, 'cause it's may be hard. Do ex gnr musicans want and does Axl want?

PS lectible: Everybody wants another version of their beautifull music ;) Demos, bottlegs, acoustics, Hollywood Rose or Rapidfire songs. Every fan search for it.

lectible said...

Anonymous, YES. People in general want it!! I do not think they will re-unite now. Or maybe ever. I think there is a language barrior here. You are misinterpreting my thoughts.

I think Velvet Revolver made some pretty good music although not comletely my taste. Izzy's stuff has been solid, but it's never been quite GnR & he always seems to have a song or 2 I don't like on everything he does. All I was really saying was that I think every single member was talented & brought something to the table. So it'd be ashame for them not to do it again as soon as poss when it is obvious to some of us that they are STILL very capable of doing it! All the elements are still in place. But they kinda just don't like each other or just have differ views on things or whatever... I'm not any of them so I don't know exactly. To me their just rich & spoiled & have forgotten why they got together to make good music in the first place. Every single member seems to be striving to re-live the experience. Someone needs to tell 'em the only way to truly get it back is to reunite.

Mack Arillo said...

lectible - December 7, 1988 Nakano Sunplaza, Tokyo is a classic soundboard show that is a must-have. I can send it to you.

Also here is the alternate version of "14 Years."

It has slightly different lyrics, a different Duff bass track, and a cool "outro" jam. Enjoy.

Anonymous said...