Last week, ex-Guns N' Roses guitar slinger IZZY STRADLIN' gave PAUL ELLIOTT exclusive details of exactly what went down with his shock departure from the former Most Dangerous Band in The World. In part two this week, Izzy previews his Stones-influenced upcoming debut solo LP 'Ju Ju Hounds', and reveals that yes, he DID almostjoin forces with this week's K!cover stars The Black Crowes!...
By Paul Elliott
Kerrang! Magazine - Sept. 1992
"...And that goes for all you
punks in the press / That want
to start shit by printin' lies /
Instead of the things we said /
That means you, Andy
Secherat Hit Parader, Circus
magazine, Mick Wall at
Kerrang!, Bob Guccione Jr at
- 'Get In The Ring', Guns N' Roses
Although Mick Wall no longer works for Kerrang!, Axl Rose's anger at the publication has not abated. Guns N' Roses' outspoken frontman routinely bitches about Kerrang! when the band play in London,
Presumably, the root of the problem was a feature of Wall's on the Rock In Rio festival in which he accused GN'R of aloofness. Kerrang!gave Guns N' Roses their first British magazine cover in 1987, but Rose chooses to remember only one comment from one journalist.
And that, it seems, is the bunker mentality behind the Guns N' Roses/Kerrang!/'Get In The Fucking Ring' feud.
Former GN'R guitarist Izzy Stradlin' is equally bemused by it all.
"I just write songs," he shrugs, grinning. "I honestly don't know what that was about or what was said. Axl was mad at Kerrang!, right? There were so many things that pissed him off..."
It's said that Bob Guccione Jr, editor of US rock periodical Spin, was baited by Rose on 'Get In The Ring' simply because Spinprinted the contract which Guns N' Roses attempted to force on all journalists interviewing the band. The contract sought to censor the press.
"I didn't even know about this contract," Izzy protests, "so when I heard Axl was mad about it, I was going, 'What?'!
"If I were a journalist I'd probably just tell somebody to shove it up their ass too, cos I guess that'd be like somebody telling a musician how to write a song.
"I wasn't aware that Mick Wall was one of the guys in that song. The only one I knew about was Guccione. I was sitting back in Indiana watching MTV and I saw that thing about Axl challenging him to go fight, and Bob said, 'Okay'. And I didn't hear anything else about it!
"Axl's real critical of himself, and his anger seems to propel him in a lotta ways. That song 'Get In The Ring', I really love a lot of the lyrics just cos they're really aggressive. Axl played guitar on that track as well, that was the first time I saw him play electric guitar, and he did pretty well. I was digging it cos it was good punk energy. But with all the names at the end I was thinking, shit! I wouldn't have slagged people off on my record."
Izzy's Record, his first since quitting Guns N' Roses, is titled 'Ju Ju Hounds' and is as cool a rock 'n' roll record as anyone has made in the last 10 years.
Like The Black Crows', Izzy's music is simple, intuitive, soulful. Both he and the Crowes have covered reggae standards, but where the latter play a lot of blues, Izzy's more of a punk.
Axl calls 'Ju Ju Hounds' "Izzy's Keith Richards thing", which is as good a description as any. Izzy's LP has the same lazy charm as Keef's 'Talk Is Cheap'.
"I read what Axl said," nods Izzy. "I think Keith Richards is great, but I don't think he has any songs that play as fast as 'Pressure Drop' (Izzy's souped-up cover of the Toots and The Maytals classic, also recorded by The Clash). I wish he would - It'd be great to hear him do that.
"I called Keith last week; he was in the studio. I'm gonna try and hook up with him in New York sometime. There's a part of me that wants to take a tape of my record along and play it for him, and there's another part that's going, 'Fuck it, I'll just say hi and listen to his record'."
Izzy's such a big Stones fan, there's still disbelief in his voice when he speaks of his friendship with Keef and fellow Stone Ron Wood, who guested on 'Ju Ju Hounds'.
"We got together with Woody in LA. We did an old song of his called 'Take A Look At The Guy'."
A Stones CD plays as Izzy talks. The album is 'Black And Blue', one of the Stones' most laid back and most underrated works, featuring classic heartbreakers 'Fool To Cry' and 'Memory Motel'. plus the reggae number 'Cherry Oh Baby', covered by UB40.
"I got into reggae partly through the Stones," says Izzy. "I guess it just bled over from stuff like 'Black And Blue' - it's killer. The thing I love about reggae is that it's not technical music where things are perfect; it's very freeform, just a groove. You can lay on a beach or a couch and just absorb it It slows down your heartbeat too, those drum beats and the slow pulse of the bass. It's like a tranquilizer.
" 'Pressure Drop' is in this great movie called 'The Harder They Come', starring Jimmy Cliff as a ghetto kid who goes big time with guns; he shoots his way to the top. It's really cool.
"There's an energy about 'Pressure Drop' that I love, the rock-steady rhythm. It's very loose, but at the same time it gets the point across."
Guesting on 'Pressure Drop' and on 'Can't Hear 'Em' (a reggae number of Stradlin's which features on the 'Pressure Drop' EP released this week, a month before the LP) is reggae star Mikey Dread, who worked with The Clash on their 'Sandinista' LP. Izzy met Mikey through bassist Jimmy 'Two Fingers' Ashhurst.
"Jimmy saw Mikey play in Chicago and got hold of him the next morning. It turned out he was in the hotel right across the street from the studio we were using. We were just gonna do one song dub, but we ended up recording four songs with Mikey, for him. Jimmy and I played bass and guitar on them. Mikey did his rap thing on 'Can't Hear 'Em' and I think he sang some backups on 'Pressure Drop'. His guitar player did a reggae rhythm, real quiet, just a plunky, straight-through thing."
Was Mikey surprised that a former member of GN'R loves and can play reggae?
"I don't know but it was a trip working with those guys. Mikey had worked with The Clash before, so he must've been familiar with our style."
So he didn't think that the way you speeded up 'Pressure Drop' was sacrilegious?
Izzy smiles, "His first comment was, 'Y'know, man, this was a big hit in England'. I'm supposed to look him up when I get to New York. He's gonna take us to some place to get us some suits made - they do 'em overnight."
The whole of the 'Pressure Drop' EP has a raw feel evocative of Guns N' Roses' debut EP 'Live Like A Suicide'. 'Came Unglued' is as fast and lean as the obscure GN'R tune 'Shadow Of Your Love', while 'Been A Fix' has the hangdog vocals and fuck-off riff of late '70s Stones (it's also reminiscent of Aerosmith's 'I Wanna Know Why').
"Basically, I just wanted to get back to what really gets me off, just a basic rock 'n' roll band, a couple guitars, drums and bass. Simple.
"The album's better, I would think, it's more mixed. The EP's just got three slammers on it, and a reggae song. The album's got a couple of acoustic songs, a coupla slammers, some basic rock tunes and one reggae song too.
"The title of the LP came by accident in the studio. I was singing a backing track to something, and when I played it back it sounded like I said, 'Ju ju hound'. It doesn't mean much really."
Before Izzy began recording his album and EP, his name was linked with The Black Crowes, who at the time had not announced a replacement for Jeff Cease.
So was he offered the gig?
"I don't think so," Izzy shrugs. "When I left LA after I split from GN'R, I went on a road trip to New Orleans. From there I called my brother and he told me I'd got a fax from Rich in The Black Crowes. I had no idea their guitar player had split.
"I stopped by Rich's home and he said, 'Maybe we should get together and write some songs'. I said, 'Let me take my stuff back to Indiana and get my house in order'. I love The Black Crowes, but because it was immediately after GN'R, I don't think I was ready to make any quick moves. I thought I'd just go and ride trials for a while.
"I just wasn't interested in playing guitar at that time. I don't think I touched a guitar for about a month. I was getting off on riding, but, it got cold, Winter came, and I was sitting in a room with a guitar in the corner and it's like, 'C'mon, play me'! Once I started playing again I thought, this is the one thing that seems to make sense.
"I started putting a band together in January. I was sitting in Indiana thinking, fuck, man, how do I find musicians? I couldn't just run an ad in the local trade paper. You wanna find somebody you can relate to, and the guys I got are all seasoned, proven.
"I hooked up with Jimmy in LA. I'd known him for years, when he was in The Broken Homes. Once we'd got a drummer, Charlie Quintana, we'd recorded these basic tracks, so I asked Jimmy what Rick Richards from the Georgia Satellites was doing. Jimmy told me the Satellites broke up. This is how outta touch I am!
"Rick's playing is so natural. I'll just throw out a coupla chords and he'll bounce stuff of it. He knows how to make it work."
Album and EP feature a number of guest musicians, including backing singers the Waters Sisters, who lift the chorus of 'Can't Hear 'Em' in much the same way that the I-Threes sweeten classic Bob Marley tracks like 'Could You Be Loved'. Barbara and Joy Richardson do likewise on The Black Crowes' 'The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion'.
"The Water Sisters did 'Knockin' On Heaven's Door' for GN'R. Man, they can sing," Izzy adds with a smile, "but I can't see us going out on tour like that. I think we'll keep it real simple."
Izzy's keeping everything simple these days. Guns N' Roses are no longer The Most Dangerous Band In The World, but they'll never be free of the controversy and all that bullshit. Stradlin' is, and he's happier for it. Simply, he's happy just to be back playing rock 'n' roll. It's all he ever wanted to do anyway.