Steven, Lonny & Jacob Q&As
Steven Adler was the first casualty of drugs and excess for 80s hard rockers Guns n’ Roses. This week we caught up with Steven as well as his new band mates, Jacob Bunton and Lonny Paul to discuss the new band and the debut album. In part one of our two part interview we will talk with Steven about his journey “Back From the Dead”.
In an ironic twist, the powerhouse drummer who set the tone and foundation for seminal 1987 rock and roll masterpiece, “Appetite for Destruction” would become a victim of his own appetite for heroin. He would be booted from the band in 1990 before the group’s second studio album could be recorded.
Today, a quarter century after that iconic Guns n’ Roses album was released, Steven Adler returns with his new band, simply named Adler, and a new album “Back From the Dead”. A title as fitting now as “Appetite for Destruction” was back then.
In the interim years Steven has waged war with his body and tormented his soul over the hope of a Guns n’ Roses reunion. He spent time on the reality TV show “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew”, and also formed the band Adler’s Appetite which featured numerous Sunset Strip luminaries. Still, he remained at battle within.
After yet another 2011 rehab stint the drummer finally found peace enough to move past the Guns n’ Roses era. I talked to him about reaching that point, his hall of fame induction and his earliest influences.
“I think it was a combination of the right time and opportunity for both.”
You are a part of perhaps the last truly seminal rock ‘n roll album that we have seen in “Appetite for Destruction”. You were part of perhaps the last era of the “rock star”, and now you have been inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. How do you put that all in perspective and was the induction perhaps the final piece that allowed you to move onto the next chapter in your career and your life?
“One can never really ‘put things in perspective’ when it comes to something as big as being inducted into the RNR Hall of Fame. But when Axl and Izzy didn’t show up for something as big as this, I knew there was no chance of ever reuniting the original GNR line up. Besides, I had already been working on my record with my new band at the time of the induction, and was already moving on.”
You recently shared a story of taking Slash to your house when you are a teenager and teaching him his first two chords on the guitar by playing a Kiss record. Coming full circle, Adler sort of had its coming out party on the recent Kiss Kruise, and Slash laid down some guitar on one of the new Adler songs. What was that experience like for you, performing on the Kiss Kruise? And working in the studio again with their old friend?
I was honored to have Slash come down and play on one of our songs. Even though we’ve been friends since we were kids, I’ve always looked up to him and respected him. The “KISS Kruise” was a blast! Not only did we get to perform with one of my favorite bands, but the cruise itself was a great time. I feel very blessed to have all these opportunities that most people don’t see in a life time.
I know it’s a cliche’, but honestly, I was just sick of being sick all the time. You can have all the riches and success in the world, but if you don’t have your health, you have nothing. I wake up at 7 am every morning and work out with my guitar player Lonny, who has been an incredible inspiration to me. I have a second chance for greatness, and this time, I’m not going to let it go.”
It seems you found a new kindred spirit and Lonny Paul. How did that relationship come about, and how has it inspired it reinvigorated you musically and personally?
“I met Lonny a couple weeks before my last Adler’s Appetite tour. We immediately became best friends. He always seems so positive and clear headed. He doesn’t drink or do drugs to have a great time, it’s all about 100% rock n roll with him. Even on the bus, I would see him exercising with dumbbells in the hallway while everyone else was sleeping. I just thought, “this guy has his shit together and is focused”. It’s something to be admired, and it was so different from what I had been used to.”
Do you recall that moment of epiphany, whether it be a song, a concert, or whatever, where that light bulb went off and you knew that music was the path you wanted to follow?
I originally wanted to go into sports, but my first concert was KISS at the shooting of “KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park”. The minute I saw Gene and Paul… it was all over. I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
“Back From the Dead” was recorded in Los Angeles with producer Jeff Pilson (Dokken, Foreigner) and was mixed by Jay Ruston (Anthrax, Stone Sour). The album features guest appearances by Slash and John 5 (Rob Zombie, ex-Marilyn Manson).
The same day we chatted with Steven, Lonny Paul and Jacob Bunton got on the phone with us to give us their perspective. In part two of our Adler interview we talk to the band’s guitarist Lonnie Paul, and vocalist Jacob Bunton, who are the band’s primary songwriters.
Lonnie Paul first connected with Steven Adler for the Adler’s Appetite project. Having played in nearly two dozen local L.A. bands, he made a real connection with Steven, something the drummer reciprocates, as Paul was the only member of the band held over when he formed what would become Adler.
Jacob Bunton spent time in Mars Electric and Birmingham’s, Lynam, before producer Jay Ruston (Anthrax, Metallica, Stone Sour) turned Paul and Adler on to him. Offered Paul on that initial introduction by Ruston:
“He introduced me to Jacob one night at The Key Club—Jani Lane’s memorial show. When Jay was bragging about him and I saw what he looked like, and he’s a nice dude—I was like ‘fuck, I’m sold’. I instantly loved Jacob and introduced him to Steven a day or two later. We all hit it off. We hooked up with Jeff Pilson [Dokken, Foreigner] who ended up not only playing bass on the record, but produced the record. And of course, Jay Ruston mixed it.”
One of the goals that Bunton and Paul, along with Adler and Pilson, set about to do on “Back From the Dead” was to get back to the magic of making a big rock record that was packed with the nuances and intangible moments that make for a lasting work. Paul offered that building the record began with the foundation:
“From the get go, with the drums specifically which is of course the foundation of all the songs, Jeff was real adamant. He said, ‘I’m not going to beat detect this.’ Jeff was very particular. He said, ‘No, the magic in Steven’s drums is the swaying back and forth within the time of the song.’ So once we laid the drums down where that magic was there—and you knew it was there because Jeff stood up out of his chair and turned to us and said ‘yes, that’s it. He’s in the zone.’ Once we had that down we just laid things on top of it.”
“Myself personally, I’ve been recording in the new era of Pro Tools and Logic, pretty much my whole career. I’m a young guy that didn’t make records in the 80s. But when you’re doing records with Jeff Pilson, and you’ve got Steven Adler, and you’ve got Slash playing on it: Those guys were making records back way before Pro Tools, way before computers. When everybody would just get in a room and jam. If you listen to the Zeppelin records, the Van Halen records, the Guns N’ Roses records it’s the little nuances that are the things that people fall in love with. But sometimes those little nuances are mistakes, and it makes the song breathe. It gets the human factor in there, and a lot of music now is disconnected because it’s so mechanical, so perfect and everything else.”
If the band didn’t have enough talent roaming the recording studio to begin with, Steven’s former band mate, Slash, and Rob Zombie guitarist John 5 both made appearances for the record. I asked the guys if the songs they each worked on chose them or if they chose the song. Bunton offered the lowdown:
“With Slash, Steven approached Slash before we even started recording the record and asked him if he’s like to be on the record and he said he really wanted him on. We all absolutely love Slash’s playing but we all agreed that it’s those ballads, it’s ‘November Rain’, ‘Sweet Child ‘O Mine’, it’s the slower songs that his solos are just really magical and memorable. He creates some of the most memorable melodies in music on the ballads, so once we started record ‘Just Don’t Ask’, that’s the song we felt would be perfect for him. With John 5, Lonnie had the song ‘Good To Be bad’ and it just sounded so creepy. And because of John 5’s background with Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, and because of the chorus effects that he uses and stuff like that it just made all the sense in the world. It also kind of had that shuffle beat, like a Marilyn Manson ‘Beautiful People’ kind of vibe. So it just made sense to bring him in on that particular song.”
Listen to the full interview below as Paul and Bunton talk about their influences and background, their favorite female performers, and some of the songs on “Back From the Dead”.