|A new bloom from GNR veterans
By Steve Hochman, Special to The Times
The Thorns? No Roses?
What would you call a new band featuring Guns N' Roses founders Slash, Duff McKagan and Izzy Stradlin along with longtime drummer Matt Sorum?
That's a question the four are pondering as they rehearse together, writing new material and auditioning potential singers.
GNR singer Axl Rose kept the Guns N' Roses name for the new lineup he's assembled. Though starting a North American concert tour on Thursday, his new GNR remains in limbo, with its "Chinese Democracy" album chronically unfinished.
The four ex-Gunners, though, are raring to go. They rehearsed a few months ago with former Buckcherry singer Joshua Todd but now seem set to tab Neurotica's Kelly Shaefer as their frontman. John Kalodner, a veteran music executive who was key in Aerosmith's '80s and '90s resurrection and has worked with many other classic hard-rock acts, has been advising the ensemble.
Plans are for an album of new material and a tour, presumably featuring some of the same GNR songs that Rose and crew are doing in their shows.
The rift recalls David Lee Roth's exit from Van Halen in the late '80s. At the time, most pundits predicted that Roth would fare better, given his charisma, a prediction that proved dramatically incorrect.
But the circumstances are so different here that predictions are hard to make.
"The difference with Van Halen was that there was more continuity between the time Roth left the band and they brought in Sammy Hagar," says Geoff Mayfield, director of charts for Billboard magazine. "This is almost a decade we're talking about since the last Guns N' Roses album."
Mayfield notes that for all its legendary stature, GNR has not been among the top acts in continued sales impact. Only the 1987 debut, "Appetite for Destruction," has been even close to a regular presence on Billboard's catalog chart, and neither of the twin 1991 "Use Your Illusion" albums, huge sellers at the time, has even appeared on the catalog chart.
Meanwhile, Slash, McKagan and Stradlin all have pursued solo projects with little commercial success.
"They'll have a leg up on other new bands in terms of getting publicity right off the bat," Mayfield says. "But after that, as always, it depends on the music they release."