By Caroline Fontein
One of the most controversial and iconic rock bands, Guns N’ Roses are taking the stage in Vegas for two incredible shows at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel on Dec. 30 – 31. The Vegas shows are part of GNR’s first U.S. tour in five years.
The group formed during the peak of Los Angeles’ famed Sunset Strip metal scene in the mid-1980s. Despite massive line-up changes and an extended absence from the music scene, GNR continues to be one of the most popular rock ‘n’ roll bands of the last 25 years. The current line-up consists of Axl Rose, DJ Ashba (guitar), Dizzy Reed (keyboards), Tommy Stinson (bass), Richard Fortus (guitar), Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (guitar), Chris Pitman (keyboards) and Frank Ferrer (drums).
GNR’s most recent album, “Chinese Democracy,” was released in 2008 after more than 10 years in the making. Although not a initial success in the United States, the album debuted at No. 1 in 13 countries. It was certified platinum in the United States in 2009.
VEGAS.com had a chance to talk to Reed about GNR’s upcoming show in Vegas and what it’s like playing with one of rock’s most notorious frontmen.
Rose invited Reed to join the group in 1990. After a rocky start, Reed soon became an accepted member of the band, playing on both Use Your Illusion I and II. He contributed to a majority of the songs on the album including “Dust N Bones,” “Live and Let Die,” “Novemeber Rain,” “Garden of Eden,” “Civil War” and “Yesterdays.” Aside from Axl, he’s the only remaining band member from the “Use Your Illusion” era.
Q. What can fans expect to hear from the group at your upcoming shows in Vegas?
A. “Lots of kick ass rock ‘n’ roll music from the past, the present and maybe even the future.”
Are you guys planning on doing anything special for your New Year’s Eve show?
“I would say drinking a lot, but since we have to perform, probably not as much as I would like to drink on New Year’s Eve. We’ve played Vegas on New Year’s a couple of times, and it’s usually quite festive. So, I expect it to be equally as or more so this year.”
Aside from Axl, you’re the only remaining band member from the Use Your Illusion era. What was it like for you back in 1990 when you joined Guns N’ Roses?
“It was kind of like my dreams came true, finally. Back then, myself and all the other musicians I knew, it’s what we were trying to do. I knew the guys in Guns N’ Roses from before they had their success and everything. When I got asked to join the band is was very gratifying and very cool. The next thing I knew, I was on a plane flying all over the world for the next three years playing huge rock concerts. It was pretty awesome.”
Was it at all intimidating for you to start playing with probably the biggest group in the world at that time?
“Not really. I think when you make up your mind that you want to do this for a living, you can’t be intimidated or you won’t make it. I think maybe a couple of the guys in the band at the time, at first, didn’t really agree with having a keyboard player, but I’m very, very determined. I think they saw that, and they saw that I could add a lot to the band. After a few shows everyone sort of realized it was going to be pretty cool having me around.”
The band has obviously had a lot of line-up changes, but what’s continued to inspire you to keep playing all these years?
“I think I’m just really determined. I just wanted to be in the band when ‘Chinese Democracy’ came out. I wanted to start presenting it to everybody and play it live. Axl gave me a shot a long time ago, and I’m a loyal person.”
Why was being a part of ‘Chinese Democracy’ important to you?
“I guess just a sense of fulfillment. I don’t like to quit. If I’m part of something when it starts, I really like to see it through to the end.”
How do you think the group’s musical focus has changed over time?
“I think if anything, it’s expanded like every band needs to do at some point. You can only beat the same three chords the same way so many times before people just go, ‘whatever’… Eventually, you have to expand your horizons, which I think had a lot to do with why I joined the band in the first place.”
GNR has so many hit songs. What do you think it is about your music that continues to resonate with fans today?
“I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that it’s real music. It’s not contrived. It’s real rock ‘n’ roll.”
How has performing those songs changed for you over the years or has it changed?
“It’s definitely different. It has to be. You can’t play the same way over and over again. When new guys come in the band I always try to tell them or we always try to tell each other, we can make this more of our own even if it’s just flip the beat around a little bit here or there, anything just to make it fresh and keep it fun and cool.”
There’s still a lot of controversy surrounding the group and Axl. What do you want fans to know about the band and your music?
“If you get to know us, we’re a bunch of funny mother f****** man. That’s what I always want people to know. It’s hard when you sing songs that sound serious. We can have intellectual discussions about music and politics and we do occasionally, but we have a good time. We laugh our asses off at a lot of stuff.”