Annette Brown, Lifetime The story of June Carter Cash comes to life in the…
- Posted on Aug 13th 2007 1:00PM by Steve Baltin
When did you guys actually start working on the new album?
We didn't do jack for a long time. We didn't really all get together and start working ... I don't even know when that was. Let's see: I went to rehab in July, and I was there for a couple of months, so maybe in May we finally got together and did some work, and then I sort of fell off the radar, then we really got together in August. Then Rick Rubin came on board, which was somebody back in May; we called and asked, "Are you interested in doing this?" But the thing with Rick was that he has a certain way of making records, which I can appreciate, but I don't think it jelled with us right. It was like coming down and dictating what he thought was good and wasn't good, then he'd take off. And when he'd come in, it would just take the air out of everything. I love Rick to death and I don't want to put a negative thing out, but he was going and working on the Metallica record and the Linkin Park record. Finally it came to a head, and we decided to go looking for somebody else, and Scott [Weiland] mentioned Brendan O'Brien. So I talked to him on the phone, and he just seemed to have all the right answers and the right attitude.
You guys were very prolific from the outset. After doing an album and tour together, was that same burst of creativity there?
When we did the first record, there was that instantaneous electricity when we found there were five like-minded people, and we wanted to make a record quickly and get out on the road and tell the world, "Here we are!" But as successful as that record was, I was never really satisfied. There was something about that album, maybe because of the pedigree of the band, I just didn't feel like we scratched the surface of what we were capable of. So going in to do this record, nobody was intimidated by the whole sophomore thing or anything like that. But for some reason it just seemed hard to get everybody focused and on the same page. And there was a lot of negative s--- going on at the time, because there were rumors about me joining Guns N' Roses and Axl had his f---ing press release that came out, which started friction between myself and the other guys. So when we started to get back together it just seemed hard, but then once that all subsided there was this certain kind of relaxed, creative atmosphere that became the paramount thing that was really inspiring.
With those rumors in mind, how gratifying is it to have this album do well when people have been constantly looking for trouble from you guys?
I don't want to age myself or anything, but in the old days nobody gave a s---. The bands worked out the material on a record, delivered it to the record company and sort of waited to see what happened -- and maybe generate a certain kind of buzz with some live shows and maybe would do something on the street that generated a certain amount of controversy. Now a band like this especially has people that are high profile, you get together and the s--- just starts flying. And if there's nothing interesting going on, then you'll make it [happen]. There's this communication stream that's endless with the Internet and also just the media in general, 'cause everybody is capitalizing on whatever negative there is. And everybody's feeding on it; some even respectable kind of publications have all gone the way of the gossip rag. So you go and make a record and your every move is scrutinized beyond what you can even possibly control.
I've noticed that a lot of artists these days, and the record industry at large, are all working in some sort of tandem with this Information Age. The mystique is gone, it's like overexposure, and the kids who are writing records and feeding into that, it's all become very diluted creatively. And with that in mind, I don't see how you could make an interesting, groundbreaking or original record with all that stuff influencing what you're doing. It's just a sign of the times. It's the evolution of ... I don't know what the right word is: communication age, the technology generation or whatever. The lowest form of entertainment is now the mainstay of every network on TV, which is the reality thing, and it's funny. You think of Orwell's '1984' and that whole concept of Big Brother, and people are actually selling themselves out for that and probably don't even realize that. It's like, "Here's everything you could possibly want to know about me."
What's your take on the usefulness of technology like MySpace in cultivating an audience?
I remember back in the day, if you wanted to get a reaction from somebody you threw a bottle, but now I think people do feel like they are personally connected. And I think in some ways the fact that I don't have a MySpace and I don't go online and do chats and all that sort of stuff, people find it offensive that I'm not dialed in. I've heard, and it's probably true, that in order to really sell records that's the avenue a band needs to go down to connect with the kids, which it's just a sign of the times.
Do you feel this helps you maintain more of a mystique, a sense of privacy?
I think it just stems from certain habits I've developed that I can sort of pick and choose which I want to change or how much adapting I want to do to what's going around me. I've always been pretty much easy with interviews, because it's always felt like it was part of my job promoting a record or whatever was going on. So I was never elusive in that way. But looking at all the other avenues there are to promote a record it seems like, "I'm not going there." Having been around for a while, I don't feel like I've been wrong about it, but new bands that are coming out ... all those different techniques that are out for promoting your band it's almost like you have to do that because that's the only way you're going to get the exposure and attention you need. With a band like ours, it's sort of caught in between both worlds. There are opportunities in the new one and you sort of look at which ones you think actually do something worthwhile. When it comes down to it, we're having this pseudointellectual conversation about this stuff, and I find a lot of it pretty boring. I just want to plug in and go. But you just sort of go along with it because it's all part of what makes it worth going up and spending an hour and a half onstage.
What were your motivations for including Alice in Chains on your tour?
I saw Alice in Chains originally with Layne [Staley] in the band in the early '90s, and Duff [McKagan] and I were really into the 'Dirt' record when it came out. That and 'Let Love Rule' were the only two records we listened to all day and night, and we got to know the Alice in Chains guys. Then when Layne died, that was one of the really major examples of a tragedy that just didn't seem like it needed to happen. It wasn't like it surprised his people that it happened, 'cause he was as deep in the abyss as you can get. So I felt really bad for Jerry [Cantrell] and for the band as a whole, 'cause they were really getting to that place where they were huge. So I've known Jerry all these years and he's done his solo records, and when those guys got back together it was sort of weird. I was like, "This is going to be interesting." I went to go see them, it was amazing, and William [DuVall] sounded great, and I was like, "More power to 'em." So when we started putting a package together for this [tour], the name Alice in Chains came up and it really sort of gave me these goose bumps. I was thinking, "That would be a significant bill" -- two of the rock 'n' roll stalwarts really doing our thing and doing it well. Jerry was working on the new Alice album and I didn't expect him to want to do it, but I saw him one night and he goes, "We were talking about doing this tour with you guys." So we let them work out the logistics, and then it was done.
How do the Guns n' Roses songs change for you in this new dynamic?
I remember when we did our first public performance, where we first announced that we were a band named Velvet Revolver and all that. We did 'It's so Easy' without really a second thought because it was really that much of a part of Duff and I. So every time you do an old piece of material you're so close to that it's not something that you think about too much. I think more, when I go see Roger Waters doing the 'Dark Side of the Moon' album and he's got a guitar player that sounds identical to David Gilmour, every note, every f---ing nuance as far as guitar playing is concerned, I wonder what that's like. Then I see Pink Floyd doing all their stuff and it seems more normal to me, even though it's odd for Roger not to be there. So when we're doing our stuff, I think more people probably look into it a little deeper than we're actually looking at it. It's just fun and it's something that we have every right to play 'cause we wrote it.
What about how the songs change for you artistically? Not only does Scott have a different voice than Axl, he's a different personality.
What happens is, music is supposed to be simple, especially rock & roll, and either it sounds good or it doesn't. And if it sounds good you do it, and if something doesn't sound right about it you just put it down and move on. There are certain Guns songs that are such standards that you don't want to really go there. But at the same time, there are a couple of songs that we thought about maybe doing, and it just doesn't feel right or it's out of Scott's range or maybe the guitars don't sound like Izzy and my sound. So you just sort of let that go and see what else there is to do. There was a point there where we said we weren't going to do any more G N' R or [Stone Temple Pilots] songs at all just because we almost felt like we were obligated to play them because we did it at the beginning. So people were coming to gigs and [we were] going, "Well, hopefully they're into our record, but at the same time they're also going to get these sort of like retro pieces in there." And after we had two albums' worth of material we got really arrogant and said, "F--- it, we don't have to play that stuff." But then we sort of missed it and we thought, "Well, maybe we'll change it up a little bit and put some fresh blood in it." So that has worked out so far, and we'll see how long that lasts.
To you it's retro but obviously not to others. Then again, everybody is anniversary-obsessed right now.
I guess so, if you're gonna put Guns N' Roses on the cover of Rolling Stone based on the anniversary of an album that came out 20 years ago.
Does it surprise you how much people still hold on to that band?
It's flattering and at the same time surprising talking about Guns n' Roses, specifically only because as soon as that band became so fascinating to everybody, when I actually split the band it didn't seem to me like it was that big a deal, at least publicly. And nobody actually believed that I quit and a lot of people still to this day are not sure what they're seeing when they buy a Guns N' Roses ticket because it's never been marketed as a new Guns N' Roses or anything. So, I'm really amazed to meet people that are like, "Yeah, I went down to see Guns N' Roses the other day and you and Duff weren't there." It's funny, it's like the band is so sort of surreal -- it almost seems like the band physically in real time isn't really what they're really after. It's really bizarre. It's interesting to watch it all and actually be able to have a perspective to check out how things are.