ADLER – Back With An Appetite
Adler (l-r): Lonny Paul, Steven Adler, Jacob Bunton and Johnny Martin
Adler’s Appetite bandmates Steven Adler (drums, formerly of Guns N’ Roses) and Lonny Paul (guitars) met Lynam vocalist Jacob Bunton through mutual friend Jay Ruston at the Key Club in Los Angeles, California on August 29th, 2011, the event in question held to memorialise former Warrant vocalist Jani Lane. Jani had passed away earlier that month, succumbing to acute alcohol poisoning on the 11th at the age of 47. The meeting led to the formation of hard rock outfit Adler.
“I’ve had this desire to finish what I started,” shares Steven, who lends his surname to the quintet. “I’m just really picking up 25 years later after Appetite (Appetite For Destruction, July 1987) ; this is what I would’ve done and how I would’ve done it if I had recorded an album after Appetite.”
“After we got Jacob involved, we went into the studio right away with Jeff Pilson and recorded the record,” Lonny supplements. “After the record, we then got Johnny Martin. He’s been a longtime friend of mine, so basically we met Johnny over at my place. Johnny picked up a bass and started playing, so that was our bass player. That’s the fast version of how we all got together.”
“Literally with Johnny Martin, that’s how he came to be in the band,” augments Steven. “He picked up a bass, and started playing some Rush and Iron Maiden – bass stuff. He then says ‘I’m left-handed,’ so he usually plays left-handed. He was playing it right-handed, and I was like ‘This is the guy, right here’ (laughs).”
Jacob wasn’t subject to an audition process. “As soon as we saw him and heard some recordings of his – we just heard one song of his that he recorded – we said ‘You’re the guy’,” Lonny recalls.
“There was that kind of feeling I guess that Paul Stanley (Kiss vocalist / rhythm guitarist) and Gene Simmons (Kiss bassist / vocalist) got,” observes Steven. “When Ace Frehley (guitars) came into the studio, he plugged in his guitar, started playing, and they instantly said ‘This is the guy.’ When Jacob finally got involved with the band, then everything started coming together. Every day it just got more and more put together, and got closer and closer and more and more fun, and more and more exciting. Life has been so exciting. It’s so great to be part of a rock band, to be part of a gang, a group of guys. We actually hang out together, we work out together, we go out to eat together, we play music together, and we enjoy each other’s company. We actually can sit in a room and not say a word to each other, and be okay with that (laughs).”
The formation of Adler signals the demise of Adler’s Appetite. “That’s no longer. That was just something… the whole G N’ R just happened and ended too soon for me, and I just had it in me to keep playing those songs,” Steven reflects. “Those songs are very important to me, and they mean so much to me. I wanted to just play them out of my system, and plus, I got an opportunity to travel around the world. Believe it or not, I played every foreign village around the world. I figured that after ten years of doing that, if I wanted to still be a part of the whole rock ’n’ roll game then this is gonna prove it, and it has proved it. Lonny came into my life right when I was done doing this Adler’s Appetite thing. Lonny came into my life, and he was like Thomas Edison. He brought a spark back into my life, and it’s just been very exciting.
“Plus, I don’t like talking about the whole drug thing anymore. It’s kind of old and everybody already knows. but once I took responsibility for my life and started making amends to people everything became very easy. Like I said, Lonny Paul came into my life, and Jacob and Jeff, and all of these wonderful people. Doing the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame (on April 14th, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio) was the best way and the perfect way for me to end that chapter of my life. If anything with G N’ R would’ve happened again it would’ve happened that night, and it didn’t. Now I’m okay with that, and now I’m starting the second chapter of my life. It’s been very exciting. We finally did our first show on the Kiss II Kruise. People reading this can go on Adlerrocks.com, and videos and photos of that are there. Like I was saying, there couldn’t be a better way to start the second chapter of my life. I couldn’t be more thankful.”
Even all these years later, Steven’s musical influences remain the same. “My influences have always been the Sex Pistols, and rock ’n’ roll like Queen,” he cites. “Roger Taylor (Queen drummer) is my biggest influence. Lonny, who are your influences?”
“There are even Journey influences in there, and obviously Guns N’ Roses because we’ve got the backing of it,” responds Lonny.
“I took my drum sound from Appetite, and used it on this record (Back From The Dead),” Steven confesses. “I feel that that’s my sound, my God-given sound. I figure if John Bonham (deceased Led Zeppelin drummer) had played on another band’s record, he would’ve taken his sound with him too, and Roger Taylor, so that’s on the record (laughs). There’s every influence, from Journey to Bryan Adams. We stole from the greatest. You tell me of a band who doesn’t steal from their influences, and I’ll tell you about a rock band who doesn’t have a record.”
The Adler band doesn’t sport heavy metal influences though, Steven insists. “There’s no metal. This is a hard rock band. People think that Motörhead is a heavy metal band, but Lemmy (Motörhead frontman) himself will tell you that they’re a rock ’n’ roll band. That’s all we are.”
Erstwhile Dokken / Dio musician Jeff Pilson (T&N) handled bass and production duties on November 2012’s Back From The Dead, the Adler band’s debut full-length. “We actually look at him as being like a fifth member of the band,” imparts Lonny. “He came with on Kiss Kruise II, actually. In fact, we had Thanksgiving with him. Some of the best compliments that we got were people coming up to us after the show, saying ‘We came out here not knowing what to expect, expecting to see some Guns N’ Roses songs. By the end of the set though we couldn’t care less about Guns N’ Roses.’ That’s not me saying that; that’s what some of the people were saying to us. We couldn’t have asked for a better compliment.”
“He is the fifth member of the band,” Steven confirms. “I will bet anybody 25¢ that by this time in 2013, he’s gonna be winning all kinds of awards for bass playing on this record. I am so proud of him; I am honoured to play with him. I am honoured to have him on this record.”
The customary ProTools route was resisted. “Lonny, he knows more about this than I do,” admits Steven. “With the rhythm tracks – with everything – it was just ‘One.. two.. three.. four.. Go’.”
“That was a bit of a discussion, as far as nowadays,” Lonny remembers. “Especially with the drums in particular; they’re all beat-perfected to death, and it just pulls the life right out of it. Jeff in particular was very adamant about not beat-perfecting the drums. Those takes are Steven’s takes and they fluctuate a little bit in time, but that’s exactly how you get that feel.”
“You definitely cannot use a measure at home to this record,” critiques Steven. “It’s all feel.”
Feel is something arguably missed in music nowadays. “Damn right,” Steven agrees. “The world needs a new rock ’n’ roll band and new rock ’n’ roll heroes, and we’re just the guys to do it. Besides all of the crap that I’ve been through personally and the other guys, and all the dues that we’ve paid, there are other musicians who are older and have time under their belts, or success under their belts. We’re not successful yet; we’re fuckin’ hungry, so we’ve got that going for us.”
It’s always good to be hungry. “Yeah, and angry dammit,” laughs Steven.
Title cut ‘Back From The Dead’ is a not too subtle reference to Steven’s life and times. “I’m back from the dead baby, and literally,” he chuckles. “I had this big G N’ R poster from the first time that we went to England, one of those really big ones that they put on wooden boards. I’ve walked by it for the last 20 years – it is right on the way as you walk to my bathroom, so I have to walk by it. I would look at it, and say ‘One day we’re gonna do this again. It was too great.’ After the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, now I walk by it and say ‘I’m so glad I was a part of that, and it was an exciting time in my life. I’m very thankful to have known and worked with those guys’.”
Debut single ‘The One That You Hated’ had been issued on April 10th via iTunes. “We were still kind of recording the record,” discloses Lonny. “That was around the time of (G N’ R’s induction into) the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, and he just simply wanted something out there. It was a bit random-ish. We were excited about it because it was probably one of the last songs that we had recorded around that time. There was no particular reason behind releasing that track first.”
“It’s not too heavy, and it’s not too soft,” Steven critiques. “It’s something for everybody; it’s relatable to everybody.”
‘Just Don’t Ask’ features a guest guitar solo from Steven’s former Guns N’ Roses’ bandmate Slash. “Jacob brought that in, so he could actually tell you more about the lyrics because he wrote the lyrics to that song,” cautions Lonny. “He told me just as recent as the other day that he actually wrote those lyrics about a friend of his that he met on the road. His friend was cheating on his wife or something. Basically when he got back home, his wife asked him about this, that and the other. His line was ‘If you don’t wanna know the truth, then don’t ask.’ That’s basically the origin behind that.”
“To have Slash come down, that was something that meant so much to me,” Steven confides. “We’ve known each other for so many decades, even before we were teenagers. We’ve done so much together; we started our rock ’n’ roll life together, and the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame was just so great. Of course I wanted everybody in G N’ R to be there, but Slash is the most important one to me. Having him finally be proud of me, and believe in me because of my experiences with drugs… He saw me making a change in my life and come to think of it, the fact that he wanted to be a part of something I was doing means so much to me. He wouldn’t let me even watch; he made me leave the studio – he made everybody leave the studio. I was hiding in the laundry room right next to the studio. He didn’t realise that, but to have him come down and be a part of it was so wonderful. He means so much to me. I’m thankful that he’s proud of me enough for me to be a part of his life.”
‘Waterfall’ completes Back From The Dead’s duo of ballads (the other being ‘Just Don’t Ask’). “‘Waterfall’ was actually one of the first songs that I played Steven,” Lonny tells. “He said ‘This is a great song. We’ve gotta do something with this.’ Of course we brought it to the table, and our method as far as writing and recording is one person brings a song to the table, everybody else jumps on it, and adds their two cents. ‘Waterfall’ was of course about many, many heartbreaks, and overcoming them.”
Rob Zombie axeman John 5 (ex-Marilyn Manson) supplies a guest solo to ‘Good To Be Bad’. “John 5’s wife and Steven’s wife knew each other, and Steven basically just reached out to him,” divulges Lonny. “He said ‘Hey, we’re recording a record. Do you wanna come down and play on something?’ He heard the track ‘Good To Be Bad’, and he said ‘I’m in.’ He came down, and practically the first take that he did we kept. There were some other things he did on the song too. We couldn’t be happier with what he did.”
Back From The Dead’s lyrical content was authored as a group effort. “The formula for all of the songs were somebody would bring an idea, and we would all jump over it,” Lonny details. “In fact, even if there was a song where I wrote all of the lyrics Jacob would still change a word here and there. It was always whatever made the song better. From day one, we all sat in a room and said ‘Look, we’ve gotta be brutally honest with each other.’ When we bring stuff to the table, we wanna leave with a hit song. We don’t wanna leave with our egos. We’ve gotta be really open to changes, and we stuck to that. That’s why I think the record turned out so well, because we were brutally honest with each other and listened to one another’s criticisms.
“Honestly, I think Bon Jovi said it best. He said that it’s easier to write songs for movies because you’ve got a subject matter. Now clearly the subject matter is Steven’s life; it’s a story that just wants to be told. You can just be around him, and I’ve never had an easier time writing lyrics. Whether he knows it or not, he’s just full of stories.”
“I’m full of more than stories,” laughs Steven. “The record is basically about the three of ours’ lives. Lyrically and musically, it’s just our lives. We made it past 25, so we’re old people now.”
“I think obviously songs like ‘Habit’ and ‘Back From The Dead’, and all those kinds of lyrics would be about Steven because we had a subject matter,” Lonny offers.
Handling distribution for Back From The Dead is New Ocean Media. “We chose New Ocean Media instead of a record company, because they gave us the freedom to do what we wanted,” compliments Lonny. “As far as distribution though, they assured us that it was gonna be available in every record store just like any other record company, and obviously iTunes. Jacob had a history with New Ocean Media, so he brought them onboard. We all love everybody over there.”
“Once me and Lonny started playing in Adler together, we got rid of everybody from the past and started afresh,” Steven explains. “We’ve had people who we thought we had liked, but it turned out that we didn’t like. Everybody who we’ve kept and is onboard with us we’re very happy with. This is like a new family. It’s very exciting.”
“They really believe in the record, and that’s the number one thing,” stresses Lonny. “We have to have people excited about our record, and our project. Otherwise, we don’t want them around. New Ocean is right onboard with us.”
“They like the record just like you do,” Steven summarises. “It does help when the people you’re working with love what you’re doing too. Everybody’s excited about it, and I’m proud to get it out there and play it for people. It’s very exciting, very exciting. We couldn’t be happier. We had such a wonderful time, and such a fun, exciting time recording and working with Jeff Pilson. I hope that everybody can hear that in the music, in the recordings. It’s liver than live; it’s liver than (Peter) Frampton Comes Alive! (February 1976) (laughs).”
Further Adler material exists. “We’re saving songs, because there are other countries like Japan and continents like Europe and South America,” reveals Steven. “Sometimes they want B-sides, so we’ve saved a few. Plus, we have new ones that we’re going to record in December. I think we’ve got like three new ones that we’re very excited about. We’re a band, and we’re a band that plays music. Like I said, it’s so cool being a part of a group of guys. I know it might sound weird, but I was alone for so long. It’s nice to be part of a group of guys where we all enjoy doing the same thing, and enjoy each other’s company. Anybody who’s old enough to have either done drugs, or to have never done drugs… Of course I have to include myself. Every mistake any of us has made in the past, we’ve survived. We’ve moved on, and now we’re doing the things we wanted to do which we didn’t know were right or wrong. Now we’re doing them right. It’s so much more fun.”
Pressed to supply further information regarding these three new tracks, Steven jokes, “It’s a surprise. Like I said, this is hard rock ’n’ roll with a great story – a cool, great, interesting story. That’s what rock ’n’ roll was. That’s what I grew up to, and what I still hear today. We’re gonna hear for the next 100 years the music that I grew up with. They had great rhythms, a great groove, and it was a cool, fun, great story. It wasn’t just talking about sex and this and that – it was a good story.
“Our goal here is the goal I had with G N’ R. What I wanted was to be together like The Rolling Stones or Aerosmith, for 40 to 50 years, and of course go into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. That didn’t happen with G N’ R. With this band though I just want to be together for the next 40 years, and 25 years from now be inducted in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame again. Like Ronnie Wood; he’s been in there twice (in 1989 and 2012, for being a member of The Rolling Stones and The Faces respectively). I wanna be in there again.”
Adler’s touring ambitions are global in scale. “The world. Some musicians were built to just stay at home and record, and some of us were built to travel around the world and play live,” recognises Steven. “That’s what we enjoy. I love meeting people, new, interesting people. The Kiss Kruise was great; we met people from all around the world on one boat. I hugged so many people, and it was so exciting. We’re addicted to cruising now.”
Adler’s live setlist will inevitably include Guns N’ Roses material. “Out of respect for the greatness of the songs, we’ll play one or two of them,” Steven acknowledges. “This is all about a new band though. This is new music. In certain countries we’ll go to promoters will probably want us to play a couple of more tunes than one or two G N’ R songs, so we’ll of course do that. Like I said, those songs mean so much to me in the first place. These new songs bring a new excitement though, and a new chapter in my life (laughs). A new chapter of rock ’n’ roll.”
On March 7th and 8th 2013 Adler will perform at at Duo Music Exchange in Shibuya, Japan alongside Duff McKagan’s Loaded. Steven and erstwhile Guns N’ Roses bandmate Duff (bass) will likely perform Guns N’ Roses alongside one another. “I’m sure,” admits Steven. “I’m waiting for the right moment, but I wanna see if Slash will come with us. We could have Slash’s band, Duff’s band, and Adler all perform on one show. We could go to Japan together, and call ourselves The Three Kamikazes (laughs). For now it’s just me and Duff though.”
Back From The Dead was released on November 26th, 2012 via New Ocean Media.
Interview published in November 2012. All promotional photographs by Liz Taylor / Smackdab Media.