Hailing from a musical family in Connecticut, Alex Grossi picked up a guitar at the age of thirteen and never looked back. Almost two decades later, all of his hard work and determination have paid off in spades. At 32 years old, the rock guitarist has accomplished more in his career than many guitarists will accomplish in a lifetime. His musical prowess launched him into the limelight, and along the way he would take the stage with some of the hard rock genre’s biggest names and his boyhood idols. Grossi has kept his musical momentum building through the years by working with Quiet Riot’s Kevin DuBrow, Guns N’ Roses’ Dizzy Reed and most recently, served as a driving force in Adler’s Appetite as he travels the land alongside legendary Guns N’ Roses drummer Steven Adler. Alex Grossi shows no signs of slowing down as he makes his mark on the music scene. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently had a chance to sit down with Alex Grossi to discuss his current tour with Adler’s Appetite, his upcoming summer trek with the Paul Reed Smith Road Show and all of his upcoming projects.
How did music first come into your life?
I was born into a musical family. My dad was a musician for the Hartford Symphony Orchestra where he was a conductor and my mom owns a dance studio in Connecticut, which is still open for business. It is called the Grossi Dance Academy. Through those things, I was kinda born into it and I started out playing french horn when I was in second grade. It started from there and then I started seeing Motley Crue videos and that seemed like a lot more fun than playing in the Symphony, so I got a guitar and here we are! [laughs]
What drove you to make music your career?
My Mom dances for a living. She is 60 years old and in better shape than anyone in the band! It keeps her young and she really loves dancing. A wise man once said that “If you love what you do, then you never have to go to work.” I really love playing guitar and I really don’t like going to work. [laughs] I figured that if I could find a way to make a living doing it, move to the right city, meet the right people and be a pro about it, then it would happen. There is a lot of risk involved and there are a lot of people who want to do it professionally. I just thought, “How cool would it be to get paid for doing something that you love?” Thankfully, I have been able to do something that I love as a career!
You mentioned Motley Crue. Who were some of the influences that have helped shape you, the musician, that we know today?
Growing up, it was Guns N’ Roses. ‘Appetite for Destruction’ was my first record. I am a big fan of KISS, Aerosmith and all the bands of that genre. I never really got into the whole guitar virtuoso, shredder thing. I liked bands that had attitude, image and were a little bit dangerous. I also liked the fact that a lot of bands had their own sound. For example, Slash (of Guns N’ Roses). You can hear a solo on a Guns N’ Roses song or him guesting somebody else’s song and you can tell that it is him. Anyone like that has been a big influence on me. I have literally gotten a chance to play with a lot of the guys that I grew up listening to so far in my short professional career. Well, actually I guess it is not so short as I am 32 now, I am starting to get up there! [laughs] It has really been great!
I know you have done some songwriting in the past. Is there a typical songwriting process that you employ or does it vary depending on who you are working with?
Ya know, it is really contingent on what type of band that you are in. If you are hired just to come in and play lead guitar or chord guitar or whatever. In that case you just come in, they hand you the song and you just play over it. For example, I just recently worked on Dizzy Reed’s (Guns N’ Roses) solo album. I went in there and he pretty much had all of the guitar parts mapped out and I would just put my own sorta thing on it, contributing a little bit here and there. With a band like Beautiful Creatures, where I came in as the guitar player, replacing DJ Ashba the main songwriter, I literally had to write from scratch with four other guys, what became ‘Deuce,’ our second record. It really depends on the situation, Adler’s Appetite is planning on going into the studio in late July and we have already started working on some stuff. Chip Z’Nuff, Steven Adler, Michael Thomas and myself will get in a room and just start banging out ideas and roll tape. Hopefully by the end of the year, you will have a new record from us.
Great news! For those how might not know, how did you get involved with Steven Adler and Adler’s Appetite?
I have been working with Steven on and off for about five years now. I initially got contacted by Kevin DuBrow of Quiet Riot, to do some solo show before Quiet Riot reformed in 2004, that turned into the ‘Bad Boys of Metal’ tour. It was a summer package that featured Joe Lesté of Bang Tango, Jani Lane of Warrant, Steven Adler of Guns N’ Roses and Kevin DuBrow, with me playing guitar for all four bands. I was literally on stage for four hours a night. During that time, Steven and I became really good friends and after the tour we kept in touch. I did some solo shows with him and after his stint on ‘Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew’, he decided to reform the band and called me. The rest is history!
Adler’s Appetite parted ways with one singer and now you have brought Rick Stitch in to handle the vocals. What does Rick bring to the table?
It is really, really difficult when you are trying to emulate something that people are so familiar with. ‘Appetite for Destruction’ sold well over 30 million copies worldwide and people know every note from that album. We just played over in Argentina. They don’t speak English but they can even sing the guitar solos! So, we needed someone who can be true to the music but we also don’t want to be a tribute band. The drummer in this band, Steven, wrote a fifth of the music playing on that album. When we made the singer change, a lot of people would contact me or Steven through Myspace. They were wearing the bandanna and one even went so far as to have the fake Axl Rose tattoos put on. That wasn’t what we wanted. We wanted a guy who can hit the notes and do the stuff but at the same time is not a clone. We’re not Steel Dragon, ya know! [laughs] Rick has been great. It is nice to have a guy who is on the same page off stage as he is on stage. What people don’t realize about a touring band that works as hard as we do is that you have to live with these people twenty four hours a day. You may have two straight days off in the middle of God knows where or Iowa and you have to be friends. Certain people get along, certain people don’t but that is the nature of the beast. Instead of being married to one person, try being married to five or six! That’s basically what it is like.
This summer you will be taking part in the Paul Reed Smith Road Show, how did you first join up with Paul Reed Smith and what has that experience been like for you?
I got my first Paul Reed Smith when I was fifteen years old. I started playing when I was thirteen and I progressed pretty quickly to the point where I got a job at a music store that sold Paul Reed Smith, and as soon as I had fifteen hundred dollars in my pocket, I bought one! I have been playing them since then. When I was nineteen years old, I joined a band called Angry Sal while I was attending Berklee College of Music in Boston. We got a record deal and the first thing that I though was “Well shit, I want to get an endorsement.” So, I wrote a letter to Paul Reed Smith and said “Can I play your guitar exclusively?” and they invited me out to the factory. I went down there and I have been with them ever since. Every band that I have been in, they have always hooked me up with the right guitar for it and Paul has been great. The thing about Paul is that he is probably the only guitar manufacturer that puts out a really good product that you can get anywhere, that is consistent. I could have all my gear stolen, walk into a Guitar Center wherever I may be in the world and have it sound like the one that I have been playing on stage. I really mean that. As a company, they have always taken care of me at the NAMM shows. They are not like Gibson or Fender that are these huge corporate conglomerations, they are still very much a family run business. I am really looking forward to doing the clinics with him. I believe that it is July 14th in Manchester, Connecticut at their Guitar Center location. It’s funny because Paul will be taking about all these different types of exotic woods and my job is to show up and tell stories about playing with all of these crazy rock stars! It should be really cool! I am really happy to have been with them through the years and I really don’t ever see myself playing another guitar.
You mentioned recording guitars for Dizzy Reed’s solo debut and I know Del James is serving as producer on that release. What can you tell us about this project and any idea on when it may hit stores?
I have no idea about it’s release date. I know that they are mixing it right now. Once ‘Chinese Democracy’ came out, I am sure it took a little bit of a back burner. Working with Del was great. For a guy who doesn’t really play an instrument he has a really great ear. He will walk into the room and say “No, no! Do it more like…” and then throw out some crazy analogy that ends up making perfect sense at the end of the day! It was really great working with those guys. As a Guns N’ Roses fan, and I am sure not too many people will be a fan of me saying this, but it is cool to work on every end of the spectrum. By that I mean, I am working with a guy who was there at the very beginning, Steven Adler, all the way up to the guys who are in the band now. Whether that ties the two things together, I can tell you 100% that it does not, but it is really cool to hear the stories and the history of the band. If you think about it, as far as I am concerned, they are the band of my generation. You had The Who, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles for previous generations. As far as rock bands and anyone that is in their early thirties to forties, our band is Guns N’ Roses or Nirvana but definitely one of the two.
You have worked with so many icons from the industry in your career. What is the best piece of advice someone has given you along the way?
The best piece of advice was given to me by Kevin DuBrow, and it was to always go out and play your show as if it were your last. He didn’t say it in exactly in those words but I have seen Kevin play in front of forty thousand people and I have seen him play in front of forty people. He would go out there because he genuinely enjoyed doing it. The day it stops being fun for you is the same day that it stops being fun for the audience. When you are up there, no matter how big the crowd is, no matter how good the sound is, no matter how bad the sound is, if you are having fun it is infectious. It goes back to the audience and right back to you and everyone has a good time. People pay their hard earned money to get in to see you. I won’t mention any names but there are guys in that particular genre that just show up and are only doing it for a paycheck, not because they love playing. You can tell when people care and when they don’t. That was the thing about Kevin, he always cared. I will never forget that. Even right up until our last show. It was November 4th, 2007 at a small club and he still played it as if he would have been playing Madison Square Garden. He still brought it every night! A lot of guys from that genre don’t do that anymore.
Have you had a ‘Spinal Tap Moment’ on stage?
[laughs] This entire tour has been a ‘Spinal Tap Moment’! [laughs] The most recent one was about a week and a half ago. We played a show called ‘Cornstock’. It was held in a huge corn field. Big, big show! Tons of people, great show! However, when we got there the promoter came onto the bus and said “Fellas we have a little bit of a problem here. See that there inflatable beer can?” because it was sponsored by Budweiser and they had one of those giant fifty foot beer cans. They had to tear down the entire stage and move it around this beer can. All I could think about was Stonehenge! It was what Stonehenge should have been if it were a can of beer! We had to wait four hours in the sun due to a giant inflatable beer can, so that was very Spinal Tap. Whoever wrote that movie must have been in a band or followed a band around because they were dead on. They actually predicted the future in a lot of ways. They always say watch ‘Spinal Tap’ and then go on tour for ten years and then watch it again, you will be laughing so hard your ribs hurt! [laughs]
What should we be on the lookout for from you in the coming months?
Definitely the new Adler’s Appetite record! Right now, I have a song out in the new Sandra Bullock movie ‘The Proposal’, so if you feel like hearing a song by Beautiful Creatures in a Walt Disney picture, a family movie, that was written by a very un-family band, check that out! [laughs] It is pretty cool! Also look out for possibly some more Paul Reed Smith Road Show dates and a ton more of Adler’s Appetite dates, that’s for sure!
We will be on the lookout for you!
Want more of Alex Grossi and Adler’s Appetite?
Check out the official Myspace page for Adler’s Appetite at www.myspace.com/stevenadlersite.