Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal, by Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman comes out today.

It's an amazing account of the four-decades-old genre — more than 700 pages long, with hundreds of interviews, many of them with essential players.

It gets into everything from the murder of Pantera's Dimebag Darrell to the, um, cannibalism in the Norwegian death metal scene.

There's also plenty on L.A. metal, and a really fun chapter on the glam scene, part of which is excerpted below.

It focuses on the early days of Guns N' Roses, before they had a record deal. When they weren't being wined and dined by labels, they were causing absolute mayhem and, in the case of Axl Rose and drummer Steven Adler, beating the shit out of each other.


From Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal:

Early on, one of Guns N' Roses' favorite haunts was the weekly rock club Cathouse.

RIKI RACHTMAN (DJ, VJ, Cathouse nightclub founder): The very first live performance at Cathouse was Guns N' Roses, Jet Boy, LA Guns, and Faster Pussycat, all taking turns playing acoustic; nobody had record deals. We probably had five hundred people there. Nobody knew Guns N' Roses would become the biggest band in the world.

VICKY HAMILTON (ex-Geffen A&R, manager): [GN'R] ended up living with me because Slash called one day and said, “The police are looking for Axl [on rape charges]. Can he come sleep on your couch for a couple of days?” This was before I was their manager. Axl moved in, then a few days later they were, like, “The police are still coming around. Can we move in?” So the rest of Guns is living with me, with the exception of Duff, who always lived with his girlfriend. I felt like I was having a heart attack every day because there was always something going on–the cops were beating at my door, or whatever. At one point, Howie Hubberman, who backed me on Poison and Guns N' Roses financially, said, “Here's a few hundred dollars. You and [roommate and concert promoter] Jennifer [Perry] need to go check in a hotel. I think you're gonna have a nervous breakdown and die.” [The rape charges against Rose were ultimately dropped.]

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STEVEN ADLER: We lived there for three months; the five of us and Vicky and Jennifer. We destroyed this apartment. The last day we were there, Axl and I got into a fight and he pushed me into this fire extinguisher outside the front door. The glass broke and then I grabbed him in the living room, because he pushed me out the door. I pushed him on this coffee table; everything was destroyed.

VICKY HAMILTON: The building we lived in was the first apartment building on Clark Street, across from the Whisky. I wasn't present when that fight happened, but I did return to the broken window and my apartment being even more trashed than when I left. Once Steven was trying to help me pick up empty Jack Daniel's bottles and beer cans while Axl was sleeping on the couch. We woke him up and he was so mad he picked up the heavy wood coffee table (which I still have, complete with cigarette burns and water rings) and heaved it at Steven with everything on it. Then he started punching him. It was the day before a showcase and I said, “Great, you want to kill your drummer the day before an industry showcase. Perfect!”

SLASH: I hated Gazzarri's. I never would set foot in there. But I did actually play there with Guns N' Roses, once, right after we got a record deal, and Paul Stanley did sound for us, because he was courting us to produce us at that time. When [Geffen A&R man] Tom Zutaut was bending over backwards trying to find people to work with Guns N' Roses in '85, '86, no one really wanted to work with us; anybody that we met would disappear. They'd show up at a meeting and go to the bathroom and never come back.

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DUFF McKAGAN: Finally, at the end of April of 1986, we got signed. There was heavy interest by all the majors, five or six. We were personally dealing with them.

IZZY STRADLIN: We were staying at a place with a phone, and they'd call and leave messages. We'd say, “Yeah, we've been talking to Capitol, EMI, and Geffen, but we'll meet you down at, uh, yeah, Le Dome. Yeah, for dinner. We'll talk some more.” We went from eating fucking bean burritos to steak and lobster in a matter of a few days. That lasted about two weeks, and we got bored with that, so we said, “We'd better sign with somebody.” Geffen was very hip to what was going on. They know about rock and roll. There were labels we went to who wanted to sign us but they didn't know who Aerosmith was. We're in this office with big plants and desks and something came up about Steven Tyler, and the chick goes, “Who's that?”

VICKY HAMILTON: John Kalodner said to me after I went to work at Geffen, “Yeah, you brought me Stryper, you brought me Mötley Crüe, you brought me Poison–then of course the day you wanted to bring me Guns N' Roses at Columbia, I wasn't here.” I took 'em to Tom Zutaut at Geffen at that point.

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Dick Clark and Axl Rose; Credit: Nick Charles

Dick Clark and Axl Rose; Credit: Nick Charles

W. AXL ROSE: We got two firm, and a six-album deal. That's good, because they wanted a lot more, and we didn't want to be tied for that long. The deal is the best thing we could have fucking hoped for from any label, and we wouldn't have gotten any more support from another label.

SLASH: I know David [Geffen] from when I was a little kid. My dad used to work for Geffen & Roberts, a management company, and we lived next door to Joni Mitchell. Any time Guns did anything bad–I wrecked our apartment, I wrecked our van–I'd call David and go, “I'm not such a bad guy and the band really likes this company.”

W. AXL ROSE: I spent my advance on clothes. I took out everybody I'd known for the last few months. Every time we went out, I paid for it because everybody used to do that for me.

RIKI RACHTMAN: Axl was the guy; the key word is was. If there was an opportunity for him to help a friend, he would. Axl and [GN'R manager] Doug Goldstein called MTV to get me the audition for Headbangers Ball. For the audition, Axl came with me to New York. We flew together, he paid for the hotel–the Mayflower Hotel. When I walked into my audition, I walked in with Axl. I was horrible. Is it who you know? Yeah. Did I care? No.

VICKY HAMILTON: The last time I saw Axl was at Hamburger Hamlet and he acted like he didn't even know me, which was better than him screaming, “I'm gonna kill you, bitch!” He left [that message] on my answering machine. I took the tape out of my machine and said to [friend and journalist] Janiss Garza, “Put this somewhere. If I ever end up missing, take this to the police.” I think she still has it somewhere.

STEVEN ADLER: I love Vicky. We got signed because of her. She got us a record deal, and then Axl and the guys wanted to get rid of her. I was devastated because I loved her and she did everything for us, and they didn't want her working for us because she was a girl. It was the eighties and some people still thought women weren't as strong or powerful as men. It was bullshit. I was very disappointed in the band because she deserved to be with us.

VICKY HAMILTON: The day that Axl was screaming he was going to kill me was over something I said to Musician magazine. I believe the quote was, “Axl has two very distinctive personalities; one is a sweet, fun-loving boy, and the other is a demon

dog from hell.” But that wasn't what caused the break. The break happened when Tom Zutaut brought in Alan Niven to manage the band. The reason according to Tom was, “The band needs major management.” Funny how I was major enough to do A&R for a major label [Geffen] but not major enough to manage the band I brought in.

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