|The never-ending drama of Guns n' Roses
By Gil Kaufman
When police in Burbank, California, pulled Scott Weiland's car over on May 18th and allegedly found cocaine and heroin, it was the latest sad chapter in two different rock tragedies: Weiland's ongoing struggle with drug addiction and the strange curse of Guns n' Roses. Weiland had claimed he signed on to front the G n' R offshoot band the Project, featuring original Gunners Slash and Duff McKagan along with longtime cohort Matt Sorum. And like anyone connected with the band and its various spinoffs, Weiland became trapped in a dream of G n' R's imminent return to glory. Yet, tantalizingly, tomorrow never comes.
Before hooking up with Weiland, Slash and Company had been on a yearlong search for a singer. They listened to more than 600 demo tapes and auditioned more than twenty people, including Buckcherry's Josh Todd, Skid Row's Sebastian Bach, Neurotica's Kelly Shaefer and others.
As for Axl Rose, after last year's aborted comeback tour he's holed up at work on the real Guns n' Roses' six-years-in-the-making Chinese Democracy album. It still does not have a release date.
So who will be the first to follow up the eleven-year-old Use Your Illusion albums? Who knows, because with riots, drugs, disses and more hollow boasts than Mike Tyson, the Gunners seem unable to shake their past and equally unable to create any sort of future.
The story so far:
April 29th, 2002 Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum are joined by former Buckcherry singer Josh Todd at a tribute to former Ozzy Osbourne drummer Randy Castillo in L.A. Billed as Buck n' Roses (later changed to Cherry Roses), they tackle "It's So Easy" and "Paradise City." "It was awesome," Sorum told Rolling Stone. "We said, 'Let's try to make something work.' "
Spring Former G n' R drummer Steven Adler posts on his Web site that he wants to reconnect with Slash, Izzy Stradlin and McKagan: "I would love to do a record with those guys."
Late June Slash, McKagan and Sorum film cameos for the Roman Coppola-directed video for the Strokes' "Someday."
July McKagan announces on his Web site that Todd is out, saying the singer does not fit the band's style.
August 14th Rose and his Guns gang perform in Hong Kong, launching the first Guns n' Roses tour in nine years.
August 29th A braided Axl performs a medley of Guns songs at the MTV Video Music Awards, including a new track called "Madagascar." His ear monitor fails and, unable to hear himself, he is frequently off-key.
September Slash announces that his new band will release an album in 2003. "We got the baddest fucking be-all, end-all rock & roll band," he tells Rolling Stone. But he is already frustrated by the lack of singing prospects. "There are no rock & roll singers out there right now . . . except Billy Idol."
September 9th The Project place ads in British publications and later in Rolling Stone and L.A. newspapers: "Unnamed artist looking for singer-songwriter somewhere in the realm of early Alice Cooper/Steve Tyler, the harder-edged side of McCartney and Lennon."
October Former Neurotica singer Shaefer auditions on new songs "Tomorrow and Today," "Eye for an Eye," "Room 169" and "End of the Line." Slash warns Shaefer to use earplugs "because we play really fuckin' loud." The singer leaves with the guitarist's assurance that he's "the best guy they'd heard." Shaefer hasn't heard from him since.
October 30th Slash sits in at the L.A. club Ivar with Camp Freddy, an all-star band featuring Sorum and Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro. Ex-Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach grabs the microphone for the Rocky Horror Picture Show classic "Time Warp" as well as a version of G n' R's "Paradise City," featuring the Rolling Stones' Ron Wood. "The place went nuts," says Bach. Later, Slash gives Bach a tape of five instrumentals and asks him to "do his thing" over them.
November After a riot in Vancouver, seventeen completed dates and one admittedly triumphant show at New York's Madison Square Garden, G n' R abort their U.S. tour in Philadelphia, where Rose is a no-show. A small-scale riot ensues.
December Slash, McKagan and Sorum audition Days of the New vocalist Travis Meeks. Lesser-known singers Beth Hart, Todd Kearns and Shawn Albro also take cuts.
January 2003 Slash invites former Faith No More singer Mike Patton to audition. "Did they expect him to come in and sing 'Welcome to the Jungle'?" says Patton's representative. "C'mon!"
January VH1 crews begin following Slash and the boys around for a documentary, now known by the code name the Project. "I thought it would be fucking cool to show a band as it goes through all this bullshit," Slash told Rolling Stone. Buckcherry's Todd is unimpressed: "How gay is that? It's like American Idol with the G n' R band."
January 20th Slash, McKagan and Sorum celebrate the premiere of Gina Gershon's rock flick Prey for Rock & Roll at the Sundance Film Festival by hooking up with her for a blast through the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog."
April Scott Weiland begins jamming with the Project. They record Pink Floyd's "Money" for the movie The Italian Job and an original called "Set Me Free" for the Hulk soundtrack.
May 12th At a Marilyn Manson show in Hollywood, Weiland tells Rolling Stone that he is officially the singer for the Project. "We signed the contract," he says. Weiland also reveals the band's new name: Reloaded.
May 13th The band's publicist denies that Weiland is officially in the group, adding that Reloaded is still a working name.
May 18th Weiland is arrested and charged with heroin and cocaine possession in Burbank after police observe a car he was driving with its headlights off. He is scheduled to be arraigned two weeks later.
Late May Rose still at work on Chinese Democracy.
Additional reporting by Steve Baltin, Carrie Borzillo-Vrenna, Colin Devinish, Andrew Strickman and Neal Weiss