No man's danced with “Mr. Brownstone” and dodged death as many times as original Guns n' Roses drummer Steven Adler, one of the architects of the greatest '80s hard rock album.
After surviving “twenty-eight ODs, three botched suicides, two heart attacks, a couple of jail stints, and a debilitating stroke,” Adler has a lot to get off his miraculously still-beating chest in his memoir, My Appetite for Destruction: Sex, and Drugs, and Guns N' Roses. We caught up with him and his current band, Adler's Appetite, who played the Whisky as part of the Sunset Strip Music Festival this past weekend and will be there again tonight, Monday August 30.
Talking to Adler is like the verbal equivalent of having your leg dog-humped. Seriously, the guy's dying to overshare, including memories of his buddy Slash, venereal diseases and “McLovin” life, all before we've asked our first question.
After countless books, including your buddy Marc Canter's Reckless Road and Slash's autobiography, it looks like you're finally having your say on Guns n' Roses.
A lot of stuff went down at Canter's. Marc was always generous whenever me, Slash and Ronnie Schneider [childhood friend and GNR tech guy] would come in. He'd always give me a meat knish with gravy and a coke. They had this big empty room in the restaurant, and one particular night, me, Marc, Ronnie and some girl went up there, and all three of us got VD from this girl. We're like 14-years-old. So there's a little history about Canter's for you.
And the first time we went to England, I met this bartender who lived above of the bar, and I'd hang with her and make out. It was there that I received the crabs and proceeded to pass it on to everybody else. I'm not proud of that. Then, I remember we were at this really great studio, an old studio, which every English band's played in, and I'm on the roof naked, rubbing that RID shampoo stuff all over my body trying to kill her crabs.
GNR, Jane's Addiction and the Red Hot Chili Peppers started out around the same time. And your relationship with Slash and Flea dates back to childhood. What are some of your fondest memories?
You mean Michael Balzary [laughs]? The last time I saw Flea was when I recorded “Baby Can't Drive” on Slash's solo album. We've known each other since Bancroft Junior High School. We also went to Fairfax High School. He used to play trumpet for my grandmother. We all went to same schools together, ditched eighth grade together, grew up in the same neighborhoods together, put our bands together. That was a really great time, the '70s and '80s. It was the end of the real rock 'n' roll lifestyle. Things changed, of course, in the '90s, when everybody decided to go on stage looking like a guy who worked at Burger King.
You're pretty candid about some unfortunate run-ins you had with older gay men when you were younger. Why did you decide to talk about the sexual abuse?
It was keeping me from moving on with my life. With the drugs and alcohol, I'd keep relapsing because I'd take care of one problem, but not the main problem. It's not an easy thing to say, and I thought if I said those words out loud, people would think bad of me. But it was the complete opposite. They understood and cared, and I felt relieved.
So much of the making of Appetite for Destruction is part of rock 'n' roll legend. Any interesting tidbits about the album, or the other records, you'd like to share?
Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide (1986 pre-Appetite EP) was recorded near Paramount Studios, and the audience was actually taken from Quiet Riot and Dio. The live part was us playing live in the studio. And Slash got all these fireworks and lit them up in metal buckets.
What about the story of Axl having sex with your girlfriend to create the moaning sounds on the song “Rocket Queen” ?
Adriana was one of the strippers we lived with. There were about five or six strippers that we lived with in this building. She was just the girl I was fucking for that month. She wasn't the only girl. Hey, I was 19 or 20, walking around with a hard-on and fucking anything that I possibly could. Plus, there's a lot of booze and drugs, and when you're in that state of mind, you'll put your pee-pee in anything.
You mention wanting to tour with Stryper early on in the band's career. Seems kind of odd considering they were a Christian band.
I finally got to mention Stryper! Those guys rule.
That would've been a great package: Satan and God together. They were getting pussy just like every other rock 'n' roller. Don't kid yourself. It was a gimmick. It's rock 'n' roll. Blackie Lawless had the raw meat. Stryper had the Bible.
How do you ultimately feel about being asked to leave GNR for your drug addiction considering the other members were also notorious addicts?
I'm sorry that it went the way it did. But I'm grateful for the experience we had. I'm glad the five of us are still alive. And I'm hoping those goofballs read my book, especially Axl. I'm hoping he'll see what a special thing we have. It takes time for all wounds to heal. And there's been enough time. We were five brothers, and all of Axl's managers and lawyers can never take away what he have.
Not surprisingly, you talk about your contentious relationship with Axl. How do you feel about what he's done with the band over the years? Any misconceptions about him you'd like clear up?
He's driving the name Guns n' Roses into the toilet. He should've called his band W. A. R: W. Axl Rose, which would've been perfect for him. But he's not an asshole. He's very bright, intelligent and loving. And he's a ginger, so he doesn't tan very well. He's gotten a bad rap. He's done a couple of goofy things. But compared to the millions of wonderful things that he's done, it doesn't compare. He's been marred for those one or two little things. Ok, they weren't little. Destroying a whole arena is pretty big.
How's your current relationship with Slash?
I'm just glad I have a relationship with Slash. We don't talk that often because he's Mr. Texter. I got to apologize for blaming him for getting kicked out of the band, and for all the downfalls that I had after that: the drugs, jail, institutions. But he didn't let me down. It was me. I wasn't there for them. My job is to play drums and the role of the drummer is to keep the hands clapping and the feet tapping.
What did you think of Use Your Illusion?
The last song I recorded with Guns 'n' Roses was “Civil War.” And when we're doing those demo tapes in the studio, we'd go into the board room with the producer, he'd play them back, we'd look at each other and say, 'This is gonna be ever better than fuckin' Appetite.' But after you hear “Civil War” on the album [Use Your Illusion II], it's a completely different band. Matt Sorum is a good drummer, but he's got no heart, no soul, no feel. He's got no swing. And I'm all about swing. Don't get me wrong. I like the guy. He likes dogs, and I like that, because I love my dogs.
Why did you decide to do the VH1 reality shows Celebrity Rehab and Sober House?
I knew by doing the whole TV thing I was gonna go on and either look like the biggest jackass in the world or I was gonna be the coolest motherfucker in the world. It was the best thing that I ever did for myself. I'm very thankful and proud, and I want him [Dr. Drew] to be proud of me. He took me under his wing. He's a mentor. I'm so thankful he's a part of my life.
So how's sobriety working out for you?
It's been two years. After 35 years of beating myself up, it takes time to heal. And I've relapsed five times. The last time was seven months ago. Of all the drugs I've done, I never did — what the hell do they call it ?– Oxycontin. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I immediately called up Slash and Dr. Drew. That was seven months ago. You know why they helped me? Because I made an effort. If I put the effort I put into doing drugs into something more positive, I'd have that Donald Trump guy working for me. I'd be telling that jackass, 'You're fired.'