John Parks of Legendary Rock Interviews recently conducted an interview with “Reckless Road: Guns N’ Roses And The Making Of Appetite For Destruction” author Marc Canter.
Canter — an amateur photographer and owner of L.A.’s famed Canter’s Deli — documents GUNS N’ ROSES’ early years via never-before-seen photos and lots of memorabilia.
Canter witnessed the creation of GUNS N’ ROSES and photographed every gig the band played on the Sunset Strip. With nearly 1,000 never-before-seen photos, original gig memorabilia, hand-written song lyrics and and exclusive interviews with over 20 people, “Reckless Road” chronicles the formation of GUNS N’ ROSES and the creation of their seminal groundbreaking album, “Appetite For Destruction”.
A couple of excerpts from the Legendary Rock Interviews chat follow below.
Legendary Rock Interviews: Axl [Rose] is a talented singer but always has this reputation of being difficult. What were your impressions of him?
Marc: Axl is very headstrong and he knows what he wants; he always has. The first time I met him, the very first time was at a rehearsal and they were talking about the arrangements for “Anything Goes”, and I remember making a comment about it and him just looking over at me, not knowing me at all and basically telling me it wasn’t my business and he didn’t need my opinion or something like that. I was like, “Oh, OK. That’s cool. man, it was just a suggestion; you don’t have to listen to me, it’s cool.” After that, we became really good friends and I never really had a problem with him. I’ve seen him be really frustrated at times with certain situations, but he never really took it out on me. I’ve seen him take it out on everyone else and he could be really controlling. For instance, when they did their first demo, one of the other members wanted to copy it and Axl was like, “I don’t know about that” — like he really didn’t want it getting around. He wanted to hoard it and listen to it and analyze it to make sure it was right. Axl is a perfectionist to the extreme; it had to be right or not at all. Somewhere along the line, he had to start eating some of that and realize he couldn’t control everything. People would tape shows and he might forget a lyric or something and he ended up having to accept some of that on some level. Interestingly, they never argued amongst themselves or fought over how a song would be written, though; the songs always just happened and it wasn’t any type of power struggle or control trip in that regard. A lot of the songs would start with some idea from Izzy [Stradlin, guitar], like “My Michelle” or “Nighttrain”, and then Slash would come and punk it out or rock it up, like the spooky intro part of “Michelle” was total Izzy, but without Slash, we wouldn’t have gotten the harder riff that followed it. Axl would hear these unfinished songs and just know exactly how to work within them. Duff [McKagan] and Steven [Adler] would then make the songs truly swing and really flesh them out with their ideas. You could say as some have that Axl was the most important, because he was the singer, but even then I don’t think Axl would agree with that. If you took any one of those guys out of the equation, it would have drastically changed all of those songs. It was truly a democracy in the beginning. At that time, in 1985 or 1986, they were all on the exact same page.
Legendary Rock Interviews: They are one of those signature bands that really had five captivating personalities and styles to begin with.
Marc: Oh, totally. They were a rarity because it wasn’t like one or three things working for them. Some bands, it’s a great guitarist or a great singer or great drummer or songs or an amazing live show, but with GN’R, it was the whole package — the sum was greater than the individual parts. They had every element and it fit together like a puzzle. I noticed that the songwriting was so effortless and democratic and that’s what seemed to change. They had a couple songs in 1988 for the “Lies” album, but I think that was when things started to change. It was harder to get music to come out of them and I think it was simply because they weren’t living together like they were. Before that, they were all living together in this little storage space that they rehearsed in and their instruments were there and they were just naturally writing like musicians do. It was like, “Hey, check out this,” and the other guy would be like, “Yeah, yeah, you have something but what about if we change this and add that,” or say, “Well, here’s a thing I’m working on we can put the two together.” After 1987, they all had houses or at least apartments of their own and that dynamic changed because they all had their own little studios in their places and were writing and completing songs on their own. Then they’d submit the song to the rest of the band who couldn’t really do as much with a fully written song as they could when they were working with bits and pieces.
Legendary Rock Interviews: They, of course, made the universe laugh by firing Steven for drugs, and I was just wondering what your opinion was on what he brought to the band or how the band changed after he left. Did he have a certain style that was hard to replace or replicate?
Marc: He did. He had something special and also, this is important, Duff and Izzy were also drummers and they could sort of see things from that drummer’s perspective and really expand on it or in some cases even sit down and play a different part which Steven could then pick up and work from. That’s not to say Steven didn’t write his own stuff, because he absolutely did, but on a few occasions I did see those guys thinking from that beat perspective. Also, in an Alan Niven [former GUNS N’ ROSES manager] interview, he said something that really made sense which was that Steven wasn’t really fired for the drugs but more for the fact that the “Illusions” stuff was so much different and he wasn’t really getting it. It was so 360 from the swing, groove stuff on “Appetite” and it required less rock and roll and more technical drumming which was more suited to a drummer like Matt Sorum. If you listen to a song like “Locomotive”, it sort of makes sense what Niven was saying. It’s almost got this unreal, machine type feel to it. Of course some of those songs like “Don’t Cry” were older, and he could have easily performed those, but on many of those songs, especially Axl’s ideas, the groove just changed and the songwriting was totally a different beast.