Far from being a hired hand, guitarist Richard Fortus has become an indispensable part of the Gun N’ Roses line-up. He tells Wayne Byrne how the massively successful Not In This Lifetime tour has been going.
A mainstay of the Guns N’ Roses line-up since 2002, former Psychedelic Furs man and sometime Thin Lizzy member Richard Fortus has been rocking stadiums around the globe as part of a phenomenal dual guitar assault with Slash on the Not In This Lifetime tour. Given the massive success of the GNR reunion, he’s unsurprisingly in top form when Hot Press catches up with him.
“This tour has exceeded anything that I’ve previously been a part of,” he beams. “The band is tighter than it’s ever been and everyone is extremely focused and at the top of their game. It’s been an honour to be a part of it and something that I will always be very proud of.
“Playing two nights at Giant Stadium in the city where I lived most of my life, New York, was a huge thrill. I’m also really looking forward to playing my other hometown, St Louis. It’ll be the first time that the band has played St Louis in 26 years! It will be my first time to play.”
In a band that has seen many members come and go, what does Fortus feel has been the key to such longevity for him?
“It’s really not been much of a challenge for me to stay in this band,” he replies. “It’s frustrating for some, because there are periods of downtime. I’ve always been able to find work when I needed to without much problem.”
From an observer’s perspective there seems to be an effortless chemistry between Fortus and Slash.
“I’ve a lot in common with Slash,” he notes. “He feels like a kindred spirit and we relate on many musical levels. I’ve a lot of respect for him as a musician and have a blast playing with him. The greatest thing about him is that he’s constantly stretching out. He’s trying new things. Every night, he plays differently and is always reaching for new heights. He’s very inspiring to play with.”
With Slash and Duff now back in the saddle, Fortus says he hugely admires their no-nonsense style of playing.
“Slash and Duff have the same approach that I do. You play for the song, first and foremost. It’s not about it being some type of masturbatory showcase for your abilities; it’s about working together as a band. Supporting wherever the focus needs to be, not simply waiting for your turn to wank. I don’t think this band has ever sounded better than it does right now. Axl has never sounded better and we’re tighter and more focused than ever.”
Although unable to shed much light on possible future material - “I sure hope so!” he says simply - Fortus is hugely looking forward to Slane, given his familiarity with the Meath venue – even if GNR’s notorious 2010 gig at the O2 (now 3Arena) was the one major misstep in their Irish history.
“That was a very rough night. Fortunately, the Dublin fans were willing to give us another chance and the last time we played there went great. And playing Slane with Thin Lizzy in 2011 was pretty incredible. They were the first band to ever headline Slane, so it was special to have been a part of their return.”
How did the reunited line-up go about choosing the setlist for the tour?
“We all threw in ideas and then played through everything,” explains Richard. “The ones that were working the best were the ones we went with. In terms of Slash and Duff tackling the Chinese Democracy material, they took a straightforward approach. They both have such strongly unique musical personalities and they insert those personalities into the songs. I love the way we’ve been doing those songs on this tour. Of course, we also have Melissa Reece playing on keyboards. She has an incredible energy and is very musical. Her backing vocals add so much, and the auxiliary keyboard parts that she adds allow us to do everything without utilising backing tracks and having to play to a click.”
What is it about the reunited GNR core of Axl, Slash and Duff that gives them such an incredibly unique chemistry?
“They care more than most and work even harder,” says Fortus. “It’s been an incredible honour and learning experience to work with all three of them.”
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