Axl Rose might own the legal right to use the Guns N' Roses name, but with four ex-Gunners regrouping, the question arises: Will the real Guns N' Roses please stand up?
Slash, Duff McKagan, Izzy Stradlin and Matt Sorum are forming a band together, and all they need now is — surprise, surprise — the perfect singer.
"This is all very ironic timing, because it's been six or seven years since we all quit Guns," Slash said, "and we just started doing this in the last six months, and all of a sudden, Axl's got his Guns out right now, so it's almost comical."
Despite the bad blood, Slash said they weren't looking to create a rival project to Guns N' Roses, nor were they even looking, at least at first, to form a band. "There's just a certain chemistry we have," he said. "None of us were planning on getting together. None of us knew it was going to happen. But when we get together, there's a certain kind of click we have."
Slash, McKagan and Sorum — who played lead guitar, bass and drums for GN'R, respectively — first found that "click" again when they played a Los Angeles benefit for the family of drummer Randy Castillo last spring, following his death (see "Ozzy Osbourne Drummer Randy Castillo Dies"). With Buckcherry's Josh Todd and Keith Nelson aboard, the group was jokingly referred to as both Buck N' Guns and Cherry Roses.
"The five of us played this gig," Slash recalled, "and it was just insane. It was just really powerful, and Steven Tyler got up with us, and it was just an amazing night. And so we all talked about it, the chemistry, and how that was the first time we had all played together, really played together, since Guns broke up. And so we started writing songs."
Todd and Nelson dropped out of the venture, but the group — still without a proper name — soon attracted rhythm guitarist David Kushner, as well as Stradlin. "Izzy showed up, all of a sudden," Slash said, "and so we wrote a whole bunch of songs with Izzy. Izzy's sort of in and out. He's not what you would call a permanent fixture in this thing, but we've just been writing a lot of really great songs with him. And we just decided to go the full nine yards."
It's not the first time that former GN'R mates have joined forces since leaving the group — McKagan played bass on previous Stradlin solo albums (see "Izzy Readies Second Post-GN'R Solo Effort"), Slash has jammed over the years with Stradlin (see "Slash: Making His Mark Without Guns") and all three worked together earlier this year on Izzy's most recent solo album (see "Slash, Duff & Izzy Reunite: Three Out Of Five Ain't Bad"), their first time playing together since the Use Your Illusion albums in 1991, when the enigmatic rhythm guitarist left GN'R.
The focus for the band right now is finding its voice. For the past four months, the group has been soliciting material to find someone who could not only take over mic duties, but also contribute to the songwriting process. Slash estimated that they've heard about 500 singers, some of whom they've given instrumental material to put vocals on, and if that has passed muster, they've been invited to jam in the studio. Neurotica's Kelly Shaefer, Psychotica's Pat Briggs and Lit's A. Jay Popoff have all auditioned. The short list now includes some six to seven top candidates, none of whom Slash was willing to identify just yet.
"This is f---ing poor man's 'American Idol,' " he laughed. "I'll know it when I hear it. Right off the bat, I'll know. We're just trying to find a really great f---ing rock and roll singer, and it's really hard to find anybody that you'd consider genuine, and it's also somebody who's got to fit in with us. It's not impossible, but it's not easy. It could be somebody known, or somebody unknown, who's just a star and doesn't know it."
Female contenders aren't being ruled out, either, Slash added. "If we got a girl that sounded like Janis Joplin crossed with Joan Jett with a bit of Tina Turner, that would be rocking," he said. "That would be an unprecedented move, because no one would expect that. But just not that many girls have actually applied."
What about Courtney Love, who's got the rock wail down, and might also be looking for a gig?
"It's funny, we were joking about that yesterday," Slash said, "but I just don't see her being into it, all things considered. But you know what? We haven't exhausted that idea, let's put it that way."
So which of the two Guns bands — Axl's version or Slash/ Duff/ Izzy/ Matt's grouping — will be the one to revitalize the GN'R repertoire?
"There's some [old Guns] material we would play, a couple of songs that are really indicative of the real hard rock side of what Guns N' Roses was," Slash said. "But it's in no way, shape or form a Guns reunion, or supposed to be labeled as the original Guns back together to rehash Guns material. We've written up to 60 songs at this point, and we're not really concerned about old sh--."
But for the fun of it, he said, they'd whip out songs such as "Paradise City," "Mr. Brownstone," "It's So Easy" and "Nightrain." "I don't think I'd ever go near 'Welcome to the Jungle' or sh-- like that because it's too Guns N' Roses," he said, "signature material that I think is better left off to Axl to do."
As for the Guns tour kickoff that became a riot instead, Slash said it didn't surprise him (see "Fans Riot After Guns N' Roses Tour Kickoff Canceled: Kurt Loder Reports"). "Nothing surprises me," Slash said. "When he really has all his sh-- together, Axl is brilliant, so it'll be happening. It just takes him a while to get around to it. As far as showing up to gigs? That's all par for the course. We've all seen that movie. What better way to kick off a Guns N' Roses tour than to miss the first gig?"
For the time being, the new songs — and their new voice — are more on Slash's mind. "It's time for another really good rock and roll band," he said. "And we have the perfect canvas to do it on, and we're not going to stop until we get it done. That sounds very valiant, doesn't it?"
Singers can send tapes to Slash, 13636 Ventura Blvd., Suite 434, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423.