Music News

Velvet Revolver rockers enjoy success, soberly

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - When a band sells 3 million copies of its first album, its members might expect to celebrate with a few drinks.

In the case of Velvet Revolver, which comprises three well-heeled veterans of rock ‘n’ roll bad boys Guns N’ Roses, the contents of a medium-sized distillery should suffice.

But alas, most of the members of Velvet Revolver are now family men who no longer touch alcohol. The eerily lucid quintet has just released its second album, “Libertad,” a follow-up to 2004’s Grammy-winning “Contraband.”

“I haven’t had a drink in 11 months,” says guitarist Slash, a star graduate of the Keith Richards school of bad behavior.

“Or anything else for that matter,” he added in a recent interview with Reuters, puffing on an endless string of Gitanes. “Yeah, it’s pretty much cigarettes at this point. Cigarettes and sex.”

Sex with his wife, mind you. Groupies are old news. “I just ended up with one girl who was exciting enough to make me give all that up.”

For bassist Duff McKagan, who played alongside Slash in Guns N’ Roses, the idea of perfect happiness is playing Monopoly with his wife and their two preteen daughters. He gave up booze after his pancreas burst in 1994.


Singer Scott Weiland, who rose to fame at the helm of Stone Temple Pilots, proudly adheres to the kind of white-bread lifestyle portrayed in the 1950s TV show “Leave it to Beaver.”

“We get our kids to bed at 8 o’clock, we tuck ‘em in, we lay down with ‘em at night,” said Weiland, whose drug-related brushes with the law placed him on office death-pool lists. He has been straight for 3 1/2 years.

Journeyman guitarist Dave Kushner, who was unemployed before he joined Velvet Revolver, has been sober for 17 years. He got married in 2003, and kids are next on the list.

That leaves drummer Matt Sorum to fly the flag for rock ‘n’ roll excess. The Guns N’ Roses veteran’s penchant for groupies has upset Weiland in the past.

That’s not to say that Velvet Revolver has gone completely Dullsville. Slash went into rehab during the making of the latest album. And Weiland made headlines when his wife, Mary, incinerated $50,000 worth of vintage suits he had collected over the years. He says all is fine on the home front, and that he and Mary are “just a little bit nuts.”

Back at the office, McKagan said the band operates in a complex working environment. “There’s big egos in this band. It could implode at any time.”

McKagan is fairly relaxed by rock-star standards, but he was a tad saddened that his backing vocals and songwriting expertise were not required by Weiland, who prefers to handle all those things himself.

In Guns N’ Roses, McKagan and guitarist Izzy Stradlin wrote the melodies and lyrics for such songs as “Paradise City” and “It’s So Easy.” He even sang lead on one song, “So Fine.”

“It’s a weird thing for me to really talk about because it’s not like I’m bummed out about it, really,” McKagan says of the new arrangement. “We had to make compromises.”


All the songs are credited to all five members, but some were largely individual creations. McKagan originated “She Mine,” the last song Velvet Revolver recorded. The band wanted it to be the first single but was overruled by its RCA Records label, which opted for “She Builds Quick Machines” instead.

That song is about a woman who gets out of prison, pays off all her debts, but has to run off to another state to find her personal freedom, Weiland said. While his lyrics on other songs are deeply autobiographical, he stretched out into a more narrative approach this time.

On past albums, “I was so self-consumed with my own narcotic misery that there wasn’t much room for telling any stories,” he said.

Slash says “Libertad” offers a better representation of the band’s abilities than its first album.

“Contraband” was recorded while Weiland was dealing with another drugs bust, and amid massive skepticism that the group would amount to anything. The frequent “supergroup” references annoy Weiland, noting that such combos rarely fulfill their potential.

Both Slash and McKagan are looking forward to making a third album, and McKagan also has plenty of material for a solo release. But before that, there is the little matter of a tour. A two-month North American trek will begin August 5 at the Virgin Festival in Baltimore.