Guns ‘N Roses’ (GNR) keyboardist Darren “Dizzy” Reed certainly has many things to be proud of, having been a rock musician for over three decades.
Born in Illinois, then growing up in Colorado and moving to Los Angeles at 20, Reed started out on the club circuit with his own band The Wild in the ‘80s. It was in 1985 when he met GNR while recording at a nearby studio, joining five years later.
27 years on, and Reed is now well-known for his work on classics including ‘Live and Let Die’, ‘Pretty Tied Up’ and ‘Civil War’. He’s also been busy – if that’s possible – elsewhere, co-founding side project Hookers & Blow in 2004 with Quiet Riot guitarist Alex Grossi, and working on upcoming solo record Rock ‘N Roll Ain’t That Easy, releasing on Friday.
Having recently arrived in Sydney for a one-off album launch show at Frankie’s Pizza, Reed sat down at Golden Robot Records for an in-depth interview.
Here were some of the interesting insights from the chat, one that sheds light not only on the keyboardist, but the band whose records Use Your Illusion II (1991) and Chinese Democracy (2008) sit in my vinyl collection – the first two I ever got.
Some of the best things come when his back’s against the wall
For Reed, Rock ‘N Roll Ain’t Easy marks a time when the musician was pushing through constant touring with GNR, along with work on Hookers & Blow. He admitted, “There were a lot of obstacles and barriers that I had to overcome. Guns N’ Roses is my priority, and with Hookers & Blow there was a sudden demand for us… There were times where I just wanted to give up with this record, but I persevered.“
Reed revisited his work on a movie soundtrack with ‘Fragile Water’
The record’s fourth song is a personal favourite, with the songwriter’s vocals and piano coming together to create a powerful track. Of the train of thought behind that song, Reed explained, “It’s actually a remake of a song called ‘The Air’, on a movie soundtrack called The Still Life, and Adrian (Young) from No Doubt came in and played drums to it after we recorded it. He said, ‘If you ever record this song again for real, I want to play drums on it’. So we called him up, and he had a game of golf but he showed up (laughs). He nailed it and shot his round. But yeah, we ended up changing the lyrics a little bit and re-titling it”.
The musician has plenty of praise for fellow keyboardist Melissa Reese
Melissa Reese, widely known for her work with Bryan “Brains” Mantia, first joined GNR as the second keyboardist and backing vocalist in 2016. Her first performance with the band was during the Not in This Lifetime… Tour, and since then she’s been ripping it up, letting her anger at having to (still) break gender stereotypes fuel her live energy.
“She’s just got a phenomenal voice, and also got classical training on keyboards and piano. Having her on the other side of the stage, knowing she’s making us sound better, is a pleasure. She gets along with everybody great, and when you’re on tour with somebody, you’re around each other all the time… So you have to have the right personality to fit in, and it’s not an easy thing. People who can’t do that don’t last long in the business, and she does. She’s incredible, fun to be around and just so talented. She adds to the overall scheme of everything, and she’s got a modern take on things too,” Reese concluded, smiling.
His favourite American football team is the Denver Broncos
The late part of our chat turned to the places the musician loves to visit while touring, leading him to bring up some recent experiences. “We played Mile High Stadium in Denver last year… My favourite football team The Broncos play there. It’s a new stadium now, but I grew up following them, so to play there was pretty cool. It was a homecoming of sorts. I also just played Herman’s Hideaway with Hookers & Blow last month in Denver – a little club on Broadway – and the first time I played there I was 17 years old. 40 years later it was exactly how it was back then. It was pretty trippy.”
Grab your copy of Rock ‘N Roll Ain’t Easy here and check out the rest of our interview:
Dizzy Reed’s debut solo record launch is a must-catch show this weekend, details below!
DIZZY F’N REED – ALBUM LAUNCH 2018
Supports: The Velvet Addiction, The Kids, The Desert Sea, Two Headed Dog, Junior Danger and A Basket of Mammoths
Sunday, 18th February – Frankie’s Pizza – Sydney
Doors 4pm | Free Entry