After surviving the temper tantrums of their previous lead singer, three former members of rock band Guns N’ Roses won’t let a mere drugs bust derail their fledgling supergroup.
As the new band, Velvet Revolver, generates early buzz with its first new song, the legal and health problems of frontman Scott Weiland have already cast doubt over its prospects.
But bassist Duff McKagan told reporters Thursday, an hour before the band played its first public performance, that Weiland’s woes were a fact of life.
“Rock ‘n’ roll is not a safe thing,” McKagan said. “It shouldn’t be a safe thing. There’s a lot of safe rock ‘n’ roll out there right now. We’re real. What happens is real… What happened to Scott Weiland a few weeks ago, it really could happen to any of us. It has happened to all of us.”
Weiland, 35, was charged last month with heroin and cocaine possession, and has said he would go into rehab to try to kick a habit that sent him to prison in 1999 and stalled his previous band, Stone Temple Pilots.
Velvet Revolver manager David Codikow told Reuters “everybody’s optimistic” that Weiland won’t go back to jail.
“Like everybody else, they’ve all had their problems in the past,” Codikow said. “They’ve all worked through it, there’s a real support group, and you never give up.”
Problem singers are nothing new to Weiland’s new colleagues. McKagan, guitarist Slash and drummer Matt Sorum previously played in Guns N’ Roses, which was fronted by Axl Rose, a highly volatile person capable of inciting concert riots.
Guns N’ Roses was the biggest group in the world by the early 1990s, thanks to such hits as “Paradise City” and “November Rain,” but Rose eventually fired or drove away his bandmates and is now working with a new version of the band.
McKagan, Slash and Sorum started playing together last spring, and recruited Weiland and former Suicidal Tendencies guitarist Dave Kushner. Another Guns refugee guitarist Izzy Stradlin, was also involved initially as a “writing tool.”
Velvet Revolver, so named by Weiland, wrote a new song, “Set Me Free,” for the soundtrack to “The Hulk,” which opens in North American movie theaters Friday. Codikow said 90 percent of the song was written in half an hour.
The song is getting major play on modern rock radio stations, and was among the top five downloads on Apple’s iTunes last week. It is also available on the “Hulk” CD soundtrack released this week by Universal Music.
The band played “Set Me Free” Thursday at the El Rey Theater, as well as another new composition, “Slither.” It also honored its heritage by performing Stone Temple Pilots’ “Sex Type Thing” and Guns N’ Roses’ “It’s So Easy,” and bookended the brief, sweaty set with covers of the Sex Pistols’ “Bodies” and Nirvana’s “Negative Creep.”
Velvet Revolver has five original songs in the can, and has about 50 tunes in various forms of completion. It hopes to do some touring in the summer and release an album by the end of the year. So far, it does not have a record contract, and is keeping its options open.
Codikow said he is in talks for a traditional label deal, but the group may decide to license its masters to a distributor or go the Internet route.