|BY RAY MEYER
For a long, long time the mere notion of a rock and roll “supergroup” seemed as dated as yesterday’s news. After all, one of the Primary lessons espoused by the “grunge” generation in the early ‘90s was that rock stardom was “bad” and that a high-profile public persona was nothing short of evil. Oh sure, the concept of melding some of the best-known and most-respected musicians of an era into a single unit was virtually as old as the rock form itself – dating back to such ‘60s “supergroups” as Cream and Blind Faith. But for most of the last decade, such a notion was held in low regard by the true movers and shakers of the music industry. For some reason that may forever remain a mystery, their idea of a star attraction remained a misbegotten group of musicians fronted by a shaven-headed frontman singing seemingly endless tales of woe.
Then, however, in 2002 along came Audioslave – a band comprised of former members of two platinum-selling bands, Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine – and suddenly the concept of a “supergroup” didn’t seem quite so crazy anymore. Indeed, in the wake of that unit’s platinum-selling success the doors were virtually thrown open for any and all stellar talents of the last few decades to at least consider combining forces in a special project. So when it was announced that guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum – former members of one of hard rock’s most legendary ‘80s units, Guns ‘N Roses – were planning on forming a new band with ex-Stone Temple Pilots vocalist Scott Weiland, the entire music biz was abuzz. Now that band, intriguingly named Velvet Revolver, has taken another giant step towards making their existence as an album-making, hit-the-road, rock and roll supergroup a reality.
“Slash, Matt an I have been fooling around, making music for quite a while,” McKagan said. “For a while we were just doing it for fun, and we didn’t know exactly where we were going with it. But then a number of very talented vocalists started to hear about what we were up to, and they began to inquire about who was doing the singing. From there, this thing took on a life of its own.”
As far back as mid-2002, word of the Slash, McKagan, Sorum band – then simply known as the Project – began to filter through the rock and roll rumor mill. With their former Guns ‘N Roses partner Axl Rose then about to launch a “new G ‘N R tour – one that would feature none of the band’s original members and run asunder after only a few shows – some insiders believed that a full-scale Guns reunion was a near-inevitability. But the bad blood that has apparently existed between Rose and his ex-bandmates since the mid-‘90s continues to boil as hot as ever, and the idea of a G ‘N R reformation quickly took a decidedly different twist. Soon such names as Hole’s Courtney Love, Days of the New’s Travis Meeks, Lit’s A.J. Popoff, Buck Cherry’s Joshua Todd and ex-Skid Row Wildman Sebastian Bach (who appeared to be the frontrunner for a number of months) were being rumored to fill the high-profile vocalist slot within the band. But it wasn’t until the legendary Weiland agreed to join the band in the studio and lay down blistering versions of Set Me Free (destined for The Hulk soundtrack) and Pink Floyd’s Money which subsequently appeared on The Italian Job movie track) that the true nature of Velvet Revolver became abundantly clear.
“Doing those two songs kind of stand at the cornerstone of this band,” McKagan said. “It was our first chance to work in the studio with Weiland, and it showed that we could really do something special together. It also was good that we could control those songs, make a little money, and then do the full record just the way we wanted to do it.”
Of course, it seems highly unlikely that these platinum-coated rockers – who together (if one includes Sorum’s stint with the Cult) have sold a combined total of over 60 million albums – are in dire need of cash. Still, having dealt with the various vagaries associated with major label record deals, the concept of controlling their future product and licensing it out was extremely appealing to these gristled veterans of the rock wars. At the present time, this fivesome – including rhythm guitarist Dave Kushner – hope to have their debut album out early in 2004, on a still-unspecified label.
“We’re not really the interested in who puts the album out,” McKagan said. “Right now our focus is on making music. We don’t want to even think about a lot of that other stuff. We figure everything else should take care of itself. We’ve all been through this before – both the good and the bad parts of it. And right now we want to make sure that we enjoy it as best we can. So far, it’s been a blast!”
As with any project as complex as Velvet Revolver, there stand to be a few key issues to be ironed out before all the proverbial pieces fall perfectly together. Perhaps paramount among these is the on-going health status of Weiland, who has spent time in rehab for an admitted drug problem, and was running afoul of the law as recently as early this summer for an alleged drug mishap. But it appears as if everyone associated with Velvet Revolver is doing their best to put aside past difficulties and place all of their creative energies squarely on the line. For the likes of Slash and McKagan – who have seen their careers admittedly stumble since their departure from G ‘N R – this may be their last chance at big-time success. For Weiland, it may be an opportunity to resurrect a career that had seemingly begun to go off-course with STP. But with any group of musicians this talented, and this potentially volatile, who really knows what might happen next?
“This is definitely one of the most intriguing bands to have come down the pike in a long time,” a major label executive stated. “Any label would love to have them. There’s instant name recognition – along with the promise of some incredible music. What more could you want? You have a true guitar hero in Slash, a great rhythm section in Duff and Matt and an incredibly charismatic, talented vocalist in Weiland. I’m not saying that they can capture the magic of Guns ‘N Roses or STP, but who’s to say that they can’t?”
Thanks to Gypsy