So is it happening? Where there’s smoke there is usually fire and reports have been fired off every which way in the past few weeks as rumours swirl of a Guns ‘N Roses reunion world tour, but with which members? The band has had more than twenty or so musicians pass through the band since their humble beginnings way back in 1985, when the band morphed into one via an L.A Guns and Hollywood Rose amalgamation. If this so-called reunion actually occurs, the rumour mill is strong that the band may be a mixture of the old and new. So where are these band members now, and who will likely be up for the challenge?
Wall of Sound has taken an in-depth look at who could be in the reunion band, what they’ve been doing with themselves, how they are a part of one of the greatest hard rock bands the world has known and more to the point, if it’s not going to be the Appetite for Destruction quintet of 1987 then who are the best musicians or combo to move Guns ‘N Roses forward?
We start off with the obvious, Slash and Axl Rose. The long time feud between the Guns ‘N Roses front man and Slash has apparently been healed, but it’ll take some serious cash and conversation we’d imagine between the two, for this reunion to become reality. Slash‘s time ended with the band in 1996 following an unusual contractual arrangement that Rose was seeking from the then band members of Guns ‘N Roses. During an interview with Piers Morgan Tonight in 2012, Slash told the host,
“It wasn’t even me necessarily leaving the band, it was not continuing on with the new band that Axl put together that he was now at the helm of, which was the new Guns N’ Roses. I was given a contract to basically join his new band, and it took about 24 hours before I decided, I think this is the end of the line.”
Just last year, Slash re-iterated in an interview with GuitarWorld.com, that a reunion was highly unlikely;
So it’s all guesswork whether this long standing rock feud has quelled, but in the meantime, the talk has escalated and continues to do so. So let’s play devil’s advocate and pretend that all is well and plant these two as the main men in the GNR re-evolving into a world tour. We’ll bookmark ourselves the first two band members of GNR circa 2015 and beyond…..
VOCALIST – AXL ROSE
LEAD GUITARIST – SLASH
Onto rhythm guitarists, and there has been a few. Izzy Stradlin recorded Appetite for Destruction, Lies and the Illusion records but his time was called in 1991 when a mix of wanting to remain sober and that ‘GNR life’ simply became to overwhelming for him to continue. Izzy went onto record a few albums under the name, Izzy Stadlin and the Ju-Ju Hounds before a solo career that has so far seen another ten albums. Known for his anonymity, Stradlin has played a handful of shows across the last 25 years with Guns ‘N Roses and was involved with Velvet Revolver in it’s beginnings but declined to take up a position with the band due to the ‘tour life’ and his unwillingness to work with a lead singer.
When Stadlin stepped aside, mid tour in 1991, Gilby Clarke was chosen to take his place, and he stayed with the band until 1994. His time included re-working Stradlin’s parts in the ill-advised covers album, The Spaghetti Incident, however after appearing on Slash’s Snakepit debut album, Clarke chose to resume his solo career, his last album, a self-titled record from 2007. He has remained relatively quiet ever since.
When Clarke was removed, (whether he knew about it or not is another thing), Axl Rose‘s childhood friend, Paul Tobias was next guitarist off the rank. Tobias was already known around the Gunners inner sanctum, having already landed credits on the B-side track, ‘Shadow of Your Love’, a Hollywood Rose (Axl’s previous band) track and also, ‘Back Off Bitch’ which found itself on Use Your Illusion 1. Tobias can be heard playing rythym and lead guitar on the cover of the Rolling Stones track, ‘Sympathy For the Devil’ which appeared on the soundtrack to the movie ‘Interview with the Vampire’. Tobias’ inclusion is known to have caused more friction between Rose and the band’s then-lead guitarist Slash, because of an overdub made by Tobias of Slash‘s solo on the song. Good times.
Tobias went into play with the band, albeit mainly in the on-going studio battles from 1994 to 2002 on the way to Chinese Democracy. He co-wrote the track, ‘Oh My God’, in 1999 which found it’s way onto the soundtrack for Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s film, ‘The End of Days’. Tobias’ time in GNR ended somewhere around 2001, though he was credited with several song writing claims and guitar parts on 2008’s eventual Chinese Democracy album.
Since 2001 the incumbant rhythym/lead guitarist has been Richard Fortus. Fortus was involved in several tracks on the Chinese Democracy album though did not contribute to any song writing for the record. Fortus is also a current member of the once-Jon Stevens led, The Dead Daisies, who recently toured Australia with KISS.
Another guitarist linked to the band is the well-known, Buckethead. Well-known for his KFC bucket he wears on top of his head with the words ‘FUNERAL’ stickered across the front. Also well-known because of his incredible 239 (at last count), studio albums he has released. This is not a typo, the guy has an incredible work ethic. Buckethead is as an unusual personality as you can imagine and his time with Guns N Roses was always going to be cut short by Rose’s inability to complete Chinese Democracy. Buckethead can be heard on several tracks on the album.
Robin Finck had been generating some noise with his efforts on guitar whilst on tour with Nine Inch Nails, so much so that in 1997 he was offered a two year contract to join Guns N Roses. From 1997 to 1999, Finck attempted to join in these long standing studio sessions with Axl Rose and co though left upon completion of his contract only to re-join GNR from late 2000 to 2008. He played ‘all’ guitars on Chinese Democracy, but has since assumed his position on the NIN roster as touring band member.
In 2006, Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal joined the band, completing numerous tours and the Chinese Democracy album with the band before departing under a veil of anonymity at the end of 2014. Bumblefoot is known for numerous solo albums, though not in the Buckethead league. He appears on the Appetite for Democracy 3D Bluray/Dvd.
In 2009, DJ Ashba, then lead guitarist for Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx’s project, Sixx A.M joined the band. Ashba assumed the position vacated by Robin Finck who had wandered back to Nine Inch Nails. Yes, it’s a vicious circle. Ashba played on several tours and like, Bumblefoot, played a leading part on the Appetite for Democracy 3D Bluray/Dvd release. Ashba left GNR ranks earlier this year stating,
“I have reached a point in my life where I feel it’s time to dedicate myself to my band Sixx:A.M., my adoring wife and family, and to the many new adventures that the future holds for me.”
(From Top Left Clockwise – Buckethead, Robin Finck, DJ Ashba, Bumblefoot, Paul Tobias)
So with just one spot available for Slash‘s deputy and with Izzy Stradlin, our #1 rhythm guitarist seemingly disinterested in tour life anymore, Wall of Sound will hand over the ‘VP’ badge on guitar’s to GNR incumbant, Richard Fortus.
RHYTHYM GUITARIST – RICHARD FORTUS
Onto the bass. Surprisingly, there has only ever been two bass players in the GNR timeline, not including the one show Ole Beich played prior to Duff McKagan taking over way back in 1985. McKagan played from 1985 to 1997 with GNR before Tommy Stinson took over the reigns and he has been there ever since.
But back to McKagan. He played his last show with the band prior to leaving GNR in 1993. It took another four years before he officially desolved his time in GNR though he has filled in for Stinson in a few shows including a run of five shows in 2014. McKagan released a solo album in 1993, Believe In Me and has since played in several bands, most notably Velvet Revolver, his own band, Loaded and Walking Papers, who recently played Australia’s Soundwave Festival in 2014. McKagan has also assisted in numerous session recordings for other artists, most recently Sebastian Bach‘s 2014 album Give ‘Em Hell. Sober, a changed man and incredibly gifted, McKagan would be a massive plus should he return to the fold.
So where does that leave Tommy Stinson? Having joined the band upon Duff’s removal/departure in 1998, Stinson has been there ever since, plucking out bass lines to all but one track on Chinese Democracy. Stinson joined GNR on the back of his work for alternative rock band, The Replacements. He has also released two solo albums where he has sung, contributing to a more pop-punk, hard rock collaboration, not unlike his GNR predecessor, Duff McKagan, although Loaded are perhaps a bit more harder-edge punk influence. Stinson also played and contributed to Soul Asylum on two albums including a few tours between 2005 to 2012.
We love both these bass players, they are so similar in delivery but Duff McKagan was around when Appetite for Destruction came out, an original GNR member (bar 1 show) and has got his life off and on the road in order. Sorry, Tommy, but the Duff must return to the fold.
BASS – DUFF MCKAGAN
Onto the drums, a position switched five times (not including original Rob Gardner, who played a handful of shows in 1985) starting with Steven Adler way back in 1985. Adler held the position for 5 years, until he was unceremoniously dumped following his long running battle with hard drugs.
Following Adler’s departure, The Cult‘s Matt Sorum joined the band. Sorum recorded the Illusion albums and the forgettable The Spaghetti Incident before leaving the band in 1997 following an argument with Axl Rose over Tobias’ inclusion in the band. In 2006, Sorum wrote on his blog that he had mended his feud with Rose. Sorum went onto play with Velvet Revolver, returned for a studio album with The Cult, released two solo albums, most recently his 2014 record, Stratosphere.
Josh Freese replaced Sorum, although his only claim to fame for GNR was the one off track ‘Oh My God’ from 1999, though he did co-write the title track to Chinese Democracy. Freese was in the band 1997 to 2000 and as a ‘gun-for-hire’, left in 2000 to continue assisting in numerous projects. He has appeared on a mix genre of albums, everything from Devo to Suicidal Tendencies to Kelly Clarkson and A Perfect Circle, and a heap in between. Freese was last seen down under with The Vandals on the 2015 Soundwave Festival.
Next up to the drummer’s chair was Bryan ‘Brain’ Mantia. Mantia was drummer number five in the GNR story from 2000 to 2006, notably for playing on all tracks bar the title track of Chinese Democracy. Of course, read the list for all involved of that album it is monstrous! Mantia was removed from GNR on a tour in 2006 and remained mainly behind the scenes in the music industry ever since, with a focus more on composing and producing.
Finally we have Frank Ferrer who has been the drummer with Guns ‘N Roses since 2006. Ferrer recorded a handful of tracks on Democracy and toured with the band ever since. He briefly played with The Dead Daisies in 2013.
(From left – Ferrer, Mantia, Freese)
So it seems a selection of Adler, Sorum and Ferrer for the drummer’s position and after seeing the impressive beast Ferrer destroy the skins on recent tours of Australia, we’re leaning towards maintaining the beard love and keeping Frank The Tank behind the kit should a GNR re-formation occur.
DRUMS – FRANK FERRER
The second longest serving member of GNR, having been a part of the family since 1990 is keyboardist and backing vocalist, Dizzy Reed. Reed plays percussion as well during live performances and assisted in the Illusion sessions which led to him becoming a band member and he’s been there ever since.
After seeing his elongated keyboard solo for The Dead Daisies on their recent tour, we’re not sure if Reed is a good fit for the next GNR phase, as we love the old down n dirty rock side of GNR prior to Illusion, but it’s hard not to remove a guy that’s stood the test of Axl and time.
He is the epitome of patience.
If one keyboardist wasn’t enough, then enter Chris Pittman. Pittman has played in the band since 1998 if you can believe that! He plays keyboard, assists with backing vocals and plays a second bass when required. The jack of all trades played on Chinese Democracy and like Reed has stood the test of time having been a band member of this crazy gang for nearly two decades.
So we’re saying ‘no’ to any keyboard involvement, but let’s be honest, they’ll both no doubt be involved. Axl loves depth to performances.
So there you have it. It will undoubtedly be a mix of old and new, should a reunion of sorts occur between Slash and Axl but despite the enormity of $$’s being bandied around and the mixture of members, anything with Slash, Axl and Duff involved is surely something to witness if/when it rolls into a town near you.
Anyway here’s hoping.