Guns N’ Roses is one of the most iconic bands in history, selling more than 100 million records worldwide. They are also one of the most controversial bands around, a controversy which travels deep into the band’s roots, and includes front man Axl Rose and his quasi revolving door of band members.
That was then.
Now, Rose seems to be getting things on track, and with the band’s release of “Appetite For Democracy 3D: Live At The Hard Rock Casino - Las Vegas,” Gn’R is moving in the right direction. So far, the live concert has reached #1 on the Billboard Music DVD Chart.
Guitarist DJ Ashba recently phoned in to talk about the live concert, being in Guns N’ Roses, and the possibility of a future Gn’R album.
Thank you, DJ, for taking time out.
You got it, brother.
I was reading a little bit about you. You’re around the same age as I am and saw Guns N’ Roses break big as a teenager. I’m assuming you loved this band as much as I did when they came out?
Oh yeah, I think everybody our age did, for sure.
Now you’re in this band. How does it feel playing these iconic songs that you grew up listening to?
It’s pretty surreal. If you would have told me back then I would’ve thought you were snorting glue. It’s fucking a trip; it’s cool. Very surreal to just share a stage with Axl; it’s always a good time.
The band recently released a live 3D concert called “Appetite for Democracy.” This really is as close to seeing a band live as you can get. Do you think this prevents fans from going out to see live music to save money, time, convenience, etc.?
I don’t think so. I think they did an incredible 16 cameras, 3D shoot for this but no matter how good you get it, it’s never like being at the concert. The experience of having booze run through your veins and just hearing that so loud, and the heat off the pyro… I don’t believe it does.
How did the idea to release a live concert come about?
I really don’t know. I think that was Axl; probably something he wanted to do. I have no idea. I just remember the year we were cutting up the cameras and filming so I was like, ‘Alright, cool.’ I actually never thought it would come out, to be honest, because a year had gone by and they finally released it out of nowhere. Yeah, it’s cool.
Guns N’ Roses is an international band. Having been able to play both internationally and in the states, what’s the main difference between American and international fans?
The passion for music, I think, not that everywhere in America has lost it somewhat, I think just overseas they seem to be, for whatever reason, so much more passionate about rock n’ roll. I just know in the states it’s more about pop and R&B and stuff like that, like club music. It used to be different. I think it will come around again. It’s amazing and I’ve noticed that the crowds over there just lose their minds… it’s awesome.
(Photo by Ethan Miller, Getty Images)
The rock industry seems very, for lack of a better term, diluted. Even the top tiered bands like Avenged Sevenfold don’t compare to Guns N’ Roses in terms of popularity and recognition. Do you think there will ever be a band as big as Guns N’ Roses?
No, I don’t think that’s ever going to come back. Because of the Internet, because of those things, and just the way music is today, I think, what’s sad is legendary bands like Aerosmith, Guns, the Stones, and all those bands, I don’t know, man, it’s hard to call… I guess, not in my lifetime, because I would never look at Avenged Sevenfold one day as being legendary being my age, maybe as a kid, but one day I don’t know. They’re a great band, awesome band, but I think it’s one of those things where the mystique, without the Internet, you had no way of getting a hold, or following these people on a daily basis which caused that, bigger than now, type feel when you go to the concerts and actually see them in real life. The only other place you can see your favorite bands was on MTV or in magazines. I don’t know. There’s something about it that’s different.
Obviously, the majority of these songs you’re playing were made legendary by Slash. How do you respond to the old school Gn’R fans that will always see these songs being played by Slash? Have you seen a backlash?
I really don’t go looking for it. I know it’s out there but at the same time I welcome it all. To be honest, it really doesn’t bother me either way. I have a great gig and I’m very honored and am doing everything in my power to - I take it very serious - do the guitar slot justice. And I try as hard as I can to stay as true to what was originally put there. That’s all I can do as a guitar player. If anybody wants to try and compare me... I’m too busy to worry about that shit. I think more people (that) do their homework and learn about me they realize, ‘Wow, he didn’t just join this band, he’s been around a long time, he’s done a lot of things, and he obviously isn’t trying to be Slash.’ That never ever was the intent of joining the band. It wasn’t even more about playing the guitar but coming in as a songwriter and producer. That’s my forte; that’s what I get excited about.
You came into the band about five years ago. As much as you enjoy playing the classics, how excited are you to sit down to write and record new music for the band?
Incredibly excited. I have a slew of songs and I know Axl has a bunch of stuff I’m going to rummage through, and together as a band we’re going to put together what we all feel is going to be the next best Guns n’ Roses record.
Before I let you go I wanted to ask you about your other ventures. You’re not just a rock guitarist but you have a clothing and design company, www.AshbaSwag.com; media corporation; and you’re also a spokesperson against bullying for www.bullyville.com. How important is it to be a role model for people when you easily could be lumped into the “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll” stereotype?
It’s very important to me because I’ve went through a lot of really hard things in my life, lost a lot of really close friends to drugs and alcohol, and to me I feel it’s kind of my duty to give back. I’m lucky enough to be able to do this for a living - what I love to do for a living – and to give to the fans so to me I’m putting out a positive message and trying to show kids that you don’t just have to be a guitar player. You can design clothes, you can do this, you can do that. The sky is the limit. You can go and be a fireman if you want, it doesn’t matter, just as long as you’re following your heart.
Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He also is the author of the novels, The Extraordinary Life of Shady Gray, Hello Lesbian!, Hello Fabulous!, and Anonymous. Visit him at www.tanamor.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.