Call it luck, call it fate, call it whatever you wish but in the early eighties, a perfect storm of musical forces began to align in Hollywood, CA that would give birth to the world’s most notorious rock ‘n’ roll band. Boasting an amazing mix of larger than life personalities, an undeniably powerful sound and a heaping helping of attitude, Guns N’ Roses wasted no time carving their own niche into Los Angeles’ highly competitive music scene. When Guns N’ Roses released their legendary album, Appetite for Destruction, it would change the music scene for ever. It is one of the rare, iconic albums that would come along to a generation and serve as a benchmark for all albums to follow. Not only would the music effect people around the world, it would also take many who were at ground zero of the phenomenon on a roller coaster ride to superstardom. The members of this extraordinary band are living proof that some people merely listen to rock n’ roll and some have it coursing through their veins. Such is the case with drummer Steven Adler. As part of Guns N’ Roses, he provided the crushing backbeat to one of music’s landmark albums, rose to the heights that most people can only dream of and became the poster boy for rock ‘n’ roll excess. Today, after twenty-eight overdoses, three botched suicides, two heart attacks, a couple of jail stints, and a debilitating stroke, Steven Adler is sober, standing tall and ready to share his story with the world. Steve Johnson of Icon Vs. Icon sat down with the infamous drummer with the infectious smile to discuss his shocking new autobiography ‘My Appetite for Destruction: Sex, and Drugs, and Guns N’ Roses’, the future of Adler’s Appetite, his love for W. Axl Rose and much more!
How did music first come into your life?
I’ve been a fan of music since the age of 4 when I heard my first album, which was Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The song was “Working My Way Back to You.” There was something that clicked in my heart and in my soul. The sound of the guitar, and the groove of the drums, and Frankie’s voice. My grandma used to tell me that when we were driving around I would turn the radio up pretty loud and I’d just be dancing and singing in the back seat. How’s that for how times have changed! I wore no seat belt! I was 4 or 5 years old jumping around in the back seat of a car that was driving around! How’s that? Times have definitely changed! [laughs]
Your work has inspired so many. Who do you cite as some of your influences?
Musically … Roger Meddows-Taylor from Queen. Everyone from KISS. Boston. John Bonham. Keith Moon. A lot of English drummers. I was really attracted to the style of the English drummers. They were jazz schooled players, but went into rock. The drums weren’t just basic AC/DC. One, two, three, four … IIt had a shuffle. It had a groove. I like that!
How do you think you have evolved as an artist (drummer) since you first started out?
When I first started out … I hadn’t taken a lesson up until five months ago. Throughout my whole career in music I had never taken a drum lesson. So five months ago I started taking lessons. I started cleaning myself up and getting my life together, and I wanted to be a better player. So I started taking lessons. It’s the best thing I have ever done. It’s helped my show. It’s amazing how it has helped me. It’s made playing so much easier and so much more fun. Having a clue of what I am actually doing, instead of just doing it because it feels right. Now it feels right and I know what I am doing. It’s even a bigger high performing live and recording.
What has kept you inspired through the years?
I wasn’t inspired for the last 20 years. After two years of working with Dr. Drew I got satisfaction to be a part of my life again. I really wasn’t inspired by anything. I didn’t want to do anything. It took me 20 years to admit and realize that I blamed Slash, Duff, Izzy, and Axl for my downfall with the band and all the drug abuse I went through after that. I blamed them. When I started working with Dr. Drew … I realized that I thought they let me down, but it wasn’t them who let me down, it was me who let them down. Being able to face that … if you read my book “My Appetite for Destruction,” in the beginning of it I talk about the sexual abuse that I went through when I was a young teenager. That happened with an older teenager and an older man. At the time that it happened, how do you tell your grandparents or your friends? You can’t tell somebody that happened to you. When I was 12 years old … so with working with Dr. Drew I realized that if I don’t get this out of my system and keep stuffing it down, I am going to keep relapsing and I’m not going to be able to move forward in my life. I finally was able to have a discussion with people who understood and people I could relate to. I thought if I said those words out loud for other peoples’ ears to hear I would feel even worse and that they would batter me. It was the complete opposite. When I said it, it was like this big weight off my body and my chest. It was just like, WHEW! Doing this book has been mentally, spiritually, and emotionally healing for me. Dr. Drew has been a huge help and a mentor to me. I watched the show after I was on the show. The season before and the season after. Everybody has the same opportunity that I had to get the most out of it. I needed to get these feelings that I just described to you out. Before I started “Celebrity Rehab,” I told them I don’t think I could do it to the best of my ability and get the most out of it if I don’t get to talk to Slash. Like I said, I blamed them. I thought they let me down. So we had a meeting. No cameras. Nothing … I got to apologize to Slash and he apologized to me. I said, it was really me who let him down. Just being able to apologize … the next morning when I woke up my whole body was so sore. Like when you work out too much. I was so sore from the weight, pressure, and pain I let off my body by apologizing to him.
Speaking of your autobiography, “My Appetite For Destruction,” did you have any reservations about putting that together?
After the months I did in rehab and the two years I’ve been working with Dr. Drew, I felt that it was time for me to do it. For me, the purpose of the book was to write my answers to all of the people that I have wronged and to myself. When I get home off tour I am going to build myself a big bonfire and I’m going to throw that book right into the fire. I want to leave the past behind. I want to move forward. I don’t hate anybody. I don’t bash anybody in my book. I don’t put anybody down. I don’t talk bad about anybody. That’s not what it is about. I love all the people that were in my life and people that are a part of my life. No one is getting put down. I’m laying my heart on my sleeve with this book. It’s for all of my friends, colleagues, fans, and people that can benefit from my rough history. I’m here to show the underdogs that you can survive and you can succeed. My life has been a rollercoaster, I have accepted all of the consequences, and I can move on. I’m going to live my life one second at a time, one breath at a time. I’m finally starting to show myself and I’m finally getting recognition for the work that I have done on “Appetite,” “Lies,” and my work with GNR. I want those guys more than anybody to read my book. If they read my book, I know they’ll realize that what we have is so special and so rare for that to happen. They’ll realize that we’re all brothers. The five of us are brothers and what do goofy brothers do? They fight with each other! That’s what brothers do! It’s been 20 years of fighting. Enough is enough. Let’s move on. I know if I could get the five of us in a room together, not even with instruments, just a room … no chairs or even a table. All we would do is say hi to each other, shed a little tear, and we would start talking about moving on into the future and doing something new.
You are currently on tour with your band, Adler’s Appetite. How did the current lineup shape up?
I’ve been doing Adler’s Appetite for like the last eight years. There have been different people involved. Just like Guns ‘n’ Roses, we’ve played with other people throughout the years. This was a fun lineup that just clicked together. We have a new single out called “Alive.” “It’s Good To Be Alive” and it is good to be alive. If you buy the book, you can download the single for free. We debuted the single on The Howard Stern Show when we did the show. We play it live. Basically the live show … we open up with “Reckless Life” and we end with “Welcome to the Jungle.” So we do that and everything that’s in between.
As you mentioned, the band’s new single “Alive” is out now. Are there any plans for a full length release from Adler’s Appetite in the future?
Yes! We have some shows at The Whisky. We are going to do a video for this song first. We’re going to film it at The Whisky and at the Sunset Strip Music Festival, which is all right there. In the middle of September we are going to go back over to Anthony Focx’s studio, where we did the first single. We’ll have two weeks in L.A., so we’ll probably run through another five songs. We’ll put it out single by single. That’s the way the market is now. You put out a single, people will download a single. So we have this single that’s out. In about three or four weeks we’ll have a new single and we’ll go from there. We’re just belting them out and having a great time doing it. I love all of the fans I have been meeting at the book signings and at the shows. I love when they bring their GNR memorabilia. I love meeting everybody and signing stuff. Everybody has been so great. I appreciate all of their prayers and all of their wonderful thoughts. It’s a really wonderful trip.
You started your career in one of the biggest bands of all time and have a very well documented career. The public eye has been fixed on you from the time you were very young and continues to this day. What do you think is the biggest misconception about Steven Adler?
I’m going to tell you there is no misconception. If you read my book, nearly everything is right there. That’s all I have to tell you! There is no misconception! My heart and soul are on my sleeve! [laughs]
It seems, especially in the “rock media,” they tend to focus mainly on soundbites from you that paint Axl Rose in a negative light. Does this ever put you in a bad spot or become a bit of a burden?
No. Axl is one of the most wonderful people I have had in my life. He is an amazing singer. He’s up there as one of the top singers/entertainers. You have Freddie Mercury. You have Robert Plant. You have Steven Tyler. You have Axl Rose. It’s been a blessing being able to work with that guy. I want him to be a part of my life. He’s my brother. Like I said earlier, brothers fight. Enough with the fighting. Let’s move on … I want to finish what I started with him and the guys. I’m pretty sure they feel the same way. Axl has been nothing but a wonderful influence and a wonderful person to me. I love him and I want him to be a part of my life more. I’m thankful I have a history with him. No bad animosity. All love and respect.
What do you consider the defining moment of your career so far?
I have to say playing with The Rolling Stones at the L.A. Colosseum. That was the biggest! Oh yeah, and Donnington! I’ve had a few. We played with Aerosmith and Ozzy Osbourne. I have to say the main one was the Colosseum with The Rolling Stones. That was like a dream come true for all of us.
That’s one band I haven’t seen, I would love to go see.
Oh man! It’s amazing! And they’re still doing it! I love it! This is like the 10th time that they’ve said this is the last tour they are doing!
It sounds like KISS!
You’ve got to hand it to them! You’ve got to give it up!
Being in the music industry as long as you have, are there still surprises?
The surprise is that there is no record industry. I was lucky enough to catch the ending of what was the entertainment world, where you worked hard, you did shows, you played anywhere, and you sent your tapes in. You did everything you could and you were a rare breed. The rare few got signed and got to make a record. Nowadays everyone is making a record. They’re doing it in their bedrooms. Then again, if you look at these bands that are coming out … I don’t know … it used to be you could see someone walking down Sunset Boulevard and tell the difference between a blue collar guy and an entertainer. People cared about how they looked. I watch these videos of bands out nowadays and I swear they’re the same guys who I just got a burger from at Burger King. You know what I mean! They don’t care about how they look! Shave your face! Look good! Comb your hair! Do something! It’s entertainment! That’s just how I feel. I was lucky to catch it toward the ending of when it was real. It wasn’t a costume, it was a performance. Nowadays there are bands out there playing with tape! What the hell is that? [laughs]
As far as I am concerned progress peaked at “Appetite For Destruction!” That album is phenomenal!
It was live! That was live and that’s the truth! At the end of the song there was none of this, “Let’s take this part of the song … that sounded better than this part of the song … let’s put it there … ” We went one, two, three, four. We played the friggin’ song and how it came out, that’s how it came to be. After we played every song, we’d go back in the listening booth and we’d listen back to the song we just played. We just looked at each other and said, “We just made the greatest record ever!” We achieved what our goal was. I just want to finish what I started with them.
Lightening up a bit …you have played tons of shows. Ever have a “Spinal Tap Moment” where something totally unexpected happened?
Well, we were playing with The Cult and it was our last show with them. They came out and started taking my drums away piece by piece. There have been a couple of those, “Hello Cleveland! Where’s the fucking stage? Oh! It’s right over here! Hello Cleveland!” There have been a few of those! That and the Motley Crue guys poured flour all over us like it was cocaine falling from the sky. Trust me, flour and sweat don’t mix well with hair. I was pulling dough out of my hair for weeks. [laughs]
What is the best piece of advice you could give to those who are just starting out and considering making a career in the music industry?
Practice as many hours a day as you can. Play with every other performer/musician. Everyone you can play with … get yourself out there. Play the bars. Play the clubs. Get yourself known. That’s what we did. We hung out on the strip. We played everywhere. We made sure people knew who we were. We practiced! You want to go out there and you want to be great. We would go into rehearsal two hours before the other guys would get in just so the bass and drums, which is the rhythm section, was good as we could be.
After this tour, what’s next for you?
We are going to do some recording and some videos. We’re going to Europe. Iceland, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Australia … we’ve got a world tour ahead of us until this time next year.
Anything that you would like to add or say to the dedicated GNR fans around the world?
Thank you for all of the wonderful prayers and thoughts. The e-mails, texts, and tweets. I love meeting all of you. More than anything I love giving hugs to everybody. Be prepared, if you meet me, you’re going to get hugged! I even hugged a big, stinky, hairy guy in Canada! [laughs] He had no business wearing a tank top! [laughs] None! The store who sold him the tank top had no business selling this guy a tank top! That’s how hairy this guy was!
Exactly! [laughs] Be sure to check out our website at www.adlersappetiteonline.com. You can check out if we’re coming to your city in the next couple of weeks. We still have a month of touring in the states. You check out pictures, videos from the shows, and the book. Log on and say hi!
Thanks for your time Steven and best of luck!
Thank you for your time!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.