- 05 Feb 19
On the Guns N' Roses bassist's 55th birthday, we revisit his Velvet Revolver-era interview with Hot Press's Steve Cummins, originally published in 2004.
How is touring going?
The tour’s been amazing. We started off here in the States last spring doing theatre shows. Then we came to the UK and Europe and did theatres and some festivals. It kind of blew up while we were in Europe really. Nobody really knew who we were until we came there, or they didn’t want to give it any credit until we actually came and played there. I understand that, especially with the volatility that this band could possibly have.
People thought it wouldn’t last?
Oh yeah! Everyone outside the band thought the band was going to implode rather than explode. No one thought this was gonna happen. They didn’t think we’d be able to make a record, just do a few gigs and that would be it. So the sceptics really started to go by the wayside the more and more we toured.
As a result you must be delighted by Velvet Revolver’s success over the last year?
It’s been pretty cool, you know. We’ve been doing an arena tour of the States and that’s pretty much the tip of the iceberg or whatever. Coming back though to the UK and Ireland is what we’re most looking forward to, because that’s where Guns N’ Roses' success really started. That’s where we were first really accepted so it’s kind of like our second home.
Can you remember when you last played in Ireland with Guns N’ Roses at Slane?
Oh absolutely. I remember that. I don’t remember a lot of other things but I remember that ’cause it was the first time that I’d met my family. I’m Irish-American, but I’d never been to Ireland to see my cousins or that up until we played Slane. So they had a big party for me and that. They’re from County Cork. The day before the gig we had a day off so I went down to Cork and had a party by the beach.
So you're looking forward to meeting the relations again?
Oh yeah. I’ve got plans to meet them. You know, I haven’t been back to Ireland since that gig. I’m really looking forward to getting back though. It’s been 11 years or something crazy like that. It’s my entire mom’s family over there. Their last name is Harrington so I’ll see a bunch of them in January for a party. This time though I won’t be hitting the Guinness. God, I don’t remember much of that last party! By the time I got down to the beach side where the party was, my cousin Joe had taken me to I swear every pub on the way down. So by the time I got there I was completely out of my mind.
What can you remember of the gig?
I remember playing some guy's castle (laughs). I think there was a fire or a bomb in the castle afterwards or something. I remember the Queens of Stone Age saying they’d been there and had a blast. It was a cool place to play – I mean basically we were playing in, what is he a Duke or and Earl?
He’s a Lord
Oh, a Lord. There you go. Anyhow we were playing in his back yard you know. It was a good day.
It’s a sort of infamous gig in the history of gigs at Slane Castle, in that you were two hours late on stage because Axl refused to get out of the bath in the hotel room, and leave for the gig.
Well that happened so many times. That was pretty much a nightly occurrence. If we were only 2 hours late that was a good night, you know? That had a lot to do with my drinking too, because the band would be there. We’d be there, ready to go on stage, waiting for Axl to show up. You could hear the crowds getting pissed off and chanting "bullshit, bullshit, bullshit" you know. That didn’t feel too good to say the least. You had 50,000 fans or more out there, who had paid good money to see the band, and they had to wait 2-4 hours to see ya play. It’s not good.
Did you ever row with Axl about it?
Well sure but nothing big, nothing major. There was though a lot of anger within the band at his behaviour. It was a shit situation. Though you couldn’t go after the guy. You couldn’t really have a go because you’d a gig the next night. You knew that if you went after him about it, he would just fly home. So you had to keep it going and that’s that. I’m telling you a story about that aspect of it but when I look back on Guns ‘N Roses' past, I do look at the glass as half full. We accomplished a lot. You know, five guys basically from the street who wrote songs that meant something to millions of people. We wrote honest songs. We weren’t trying to write pop songs or singles. A whole generation of kids gravitated toward it and still do. There’s a whole new generation coming towards Velvet Revolver. Our audiences are between 16 and 24 which is amazing
Was Velvet Revolver’s immediate success a surprise?
It was. I mean we just came together. We had no idea. The band came together as it came together and we made the record we wanted to make. It’s been great. I just caught on. I mean, we’re playing five nights in London which is pretty much unheard of I think. It’s cool to be where I’m at right now.
Can you remember a point this year when you went ‘Shit this thing is taking off?’
Well when you’re on tour, all you hear is numbers. You know the album has gone number one in the US or whatever, but you don’t really take that in ‘cause you’ve a gig that night or whatever. I think when we came to London and did an in store signing in Virgin on Piccadilly Square that it really hit home. There were so many people there. Thousands upon thousands. We couldn’t sign everything. They said that they hadn’t seen anything like it since NSync or something. It really hit home then.
Does this band mean more to you then say Gun’s N Roses?
Well I know what’s going on now (laughs). I don’t remember half of the Use Your Illusion tour. I simply don’t remember it. I have a complete black out. There’s stamps on my passport of country’s I don’t ever remember being in. So I think it does mean more to me now because I’m present. I’m experiencing the whole thing, the good, bad and the ugly, and I’m dealing with it.
As a band did G N’ R party the hardest?
Oh yeah by far. It’s well documented. We did just about everything you can imagine. I don’t want to get into it ‘cause it’s just a mess and a haze but we did it all. Scott made a comment that the members of this band have collectively died 12 times which is the truth really. You know, we took it to the limit. I’m just glad I’m here to talk about it.
Slash reckons Motley Crue could party harder.
Well we toured with them. It was chaotic. I’d say we were on a par. There were no limitations. Our management would try keeping things away from us but we always caused mayhem. Madness is the only word. We just didn’t give a shit.
Did you ever play with U2?
We shared a plane with them on a European tour. We saw them play a lot and partied a bit I think, but compared to us though they were saints. They're a band I have a lot of respect for.
Do you look back on those days as happy days or bad days?
Well I’m much happier and healthier now. I got to the point where things were pretty bad to say the least. I wasn’t your average drinker. I would drink at least a gallon of vodka a day, which I guess is about 2 litres. That’s pretty heavy going. I mean I’d go to bed with a drink on the bed side table so that if I woke up in the middle of the night with the shakes, there would be a drink there. That’s not good. That’s not fun drinking. And that went on until my pancreas exploded, and that's not good by anyone's standards.
Well it’s a sure sign if ever there was one to quit the booze?
Yeah. I mean put it this way, I nearly died. I was in hospital for 12 days. They had a rehab for me, and I was done. I didn’t want to do rehab. After the 12 days, when I could get up, I wanted to leave. They said that they couldn’t make me go to rehab, but that if I didn’t, my pancreas was so exposed that if I took a drink I’d die. It was a choice of life or death. Pretty black and white.
The Gun’s N’ Roses greatest hits came out despite you trying to stop it. Can you see more stuff coming out against your will?
Well that came out without either Axl, Slash or myself knowing anything about it. We didn’t know they’d put it together and scheduled it. The company put it out to coincide with the release of the Velvet Revolver record, to sort of cash in I guess. They sort of did it against our wishes. They weren’t the songs we would have picked for the Greatest Hits. Interscope or whoever just decided that they needed to re-decorate their offices that quarter or whatever, and put the record out.
Is their much unreleased stuff out there? Can you see a future box-set?
Well I’d never say never. Who knows what will happen. There’s no dialogue between myself and Axl or between Slash and Axl. There hasn’t been for about 9 years. But there’s a lot of stuff that hasn’t been put out, a lot of good stuff as well. It would take a concerted effort of at least the three of us agreeing for that stuff to come out. That’s not going to happen (laughs) for a while anyhow.