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Interview – DJ Ashba, Guns n’ Roses – February 2013

| 6 March 2013 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

Shane’s interview with Guns n’ Roses guitarist DJ Ashba originally ran in Xpress Magazine’s 7th March issue – read that story HERE

DJ Ashba 01

Guns n’ Roses have always courted controversy.  From their early days as ‘The Most Dangerous Band On The Planet’, the band tore a swathe across the Western world in a blizzard of sex, drugs, rock n’ roll and chaos, before one after another original member was sacked or quit, or signed away their rights to the band.

With Axl Rose the last original man standing, drama escalated rather than exacerbated:  going onstage three hours late became the norm, Rose stormed offstage multiple times for the flimsiest of reasons, riots ensued.  Incredibly, Chinese Democracy took THIRTEEN years to complete and release, and it goes without saying that no new material has appeared in the four and a half years since then.

Guns n’ Roses continue to tour regularly and hit Australian shores for the third time in 5 years this March.  Guitarist DJ Ashba – the new boy of the group, having replaced Robin Finck in 2009 – got on the phone to talk up the tour and remained genial and good-humoured in the face of the tough questions…

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Hey DJ, how are you doing today?

DJ: I’m doing good, how are you?

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Very good mate. So where are you at right now?

DJ: I’m in Las Vegas, I just bought a house here, so I’m having a blast on my day off.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Oh wonderful, bit of a shame you have to do some interviews then.

DJ: Oh I don’t mind.

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100% ROCK MAGAZINE: So let’s talk business man, Guns n’ Roses are headed Down Under in March. What have the band got in store for Australian audiences?

DJ: We’re just gonna go over there and throw some massive, massive rock n’ roll parties! We’ve got ZZ Top, Rose Tattoo – it’s just an insane line up, and just expect about three hours of non-stop rock n’ roll, with rockets and bombs! You’re going to get everything from Appetite [For Destruction] to Chinese [Democracy], so it’s going to be a lot of fun.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Awesome, now as you said great line-up: I’ve read a bit about your background, you’re a bit of a rock fan obviously, so are you a big fan of ZZ Top and Rose Tattoo?

DJ: Yeah, I mean I grew up on ZZ Top, so I’m so excited to share a bill with them, and Rose Tattoo of course are amazing. So yeah, we’re going to have a lot of fun on this tour.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Fantastic. Now you mentioned you are doing stuff right through the entire back catalogue. How is it all gelling together? There is a lot of talk about Chinese Democracy being a very different sounding album from the earlier stuff.

DJ: Yeah I think Chinese is a very artistic album. Axl, to me, made an insanely artistic album. I mean if you listen to it there is some incredible stuff on that record, and yeah, it’s real exciting. [But] No matter which way you slice it or dice it, it’s still Gn’R you know, we’re out there swinging every day.

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100% ROCK MAGAZINE: You also mentioned playing these really long sets. How do you personally keep playing these songs night after night and keep it fresh, not only for audiences but also for yourself?

DJ: Alcohol! [laughs] No really, every crowd has a different energy and it all comes down to the crowds. You connect with the crowds through the songs, but when the lights go down and you hear the crowd, it doesn’t matter if you’re tired, if your hands hurt, if you’re cold or you’re hot, it doesn’t really matter, the energy from the crowd… that’s the most addictive drug I’ve ever had the opportunity to be addicted to. You hear them screaming and it’s just insane.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Fantastic. Now you’re considered something of a style icon in hard rock circles, were you a very fashion conscious kid?

DJ: You know what it was, is that I never… in my opinion they never made anything cool for guys. It just bummed me out, I remember when I was in Beautiful Creatures, when I was in that band, we couldn’t find any cool clothes for the stage. It was one of those things that would always bum me out, and we’d have to go shop at chick stores and find anything that was cool that would fit. It’s just something that always bothered me, so I just got tired of it one day and started thinking… like, what would the ultimate closet be in my head, and I just started putting together what I felt would be insane clothes, and that’s why we started [fashion label] Ashba Swag.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Going from Bulletboys to Beautiful Creatures, Sixx AM to Guns n’ Roses, your career has been a fantastic trajectory. Obviously it has been a lot of hard work on your part, but does it feel surreal at times to think you’re stepping in the shoes of Mick Mars or Slash, who you grew up going to see and whose songs you were playing in cover bands?

DJ: Absolutely! How weird. I always set my goals like three years ahead: I’m a hard worker, I’m an entrepreneur, I love creating things and watching them grow from nothing and for me I get a lot of pleasure out of that, every day. Once in a while I just stop myself and kind of pinch myself… but I’m not really one to sit back and pat myself on the back too much. I’m always kind of focused on the next goal, you know?

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100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Well you’re truly at the status now of being a worldwide rock star, which is fantastic man, congratulations.

DJ: Thank you so much.  That means a lot to me. When you said that I thought back to when I was sixteen, back in a little town in Indiana laying on the top of my car staring at the stars going ‘one day I will make it’ you know? It’s been a long, long journey, but it’s nice to see people appreciate how far I’ve come and how hard I’ve had to work to get here.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Absolutely. Now look, I’ve got a couple of tricky questions, so I hope you don’t hang up on me.

[Ashba laughs quietly]

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Your boss has a reputation of what some might call ‘awkward’ behaviour, so working with him do you see him as a bit of a diva, or some people have even said he might be bipolar.

DJ: No, he’s definitely not either. He’s a perfectionist. He is SO passionate about what he does, and that’s what people don’t really understand. When that guy sits down at a piano… I mean, I’ve worked, like you said, with some of the biggest artists, but he is… he is UNBELIEVABLY talented. He sits down to play his piano stuff and my jaw just drops. I’m like, ‘has anybody heard this stuff?’ And he’s like ‘nah, it’s just something off the top of my head’, and I’m diving for a tape recorder to hit record because the stuff is just THAT good.

He’s just super, super talented and the one thing that people misconceive is that he is actually one of the funniest people I know. When you think of Axl you don’t think ‘Oh, he’s a funny guy’, but this guy sends me jokes every day, [he] cracks me up. He is constantly pulling pranks. It’s funny stuff, and that’s the side people don’t see of him. He treats his band like gold and he’s always buying gifts for everybody. That’s the stuff nobody will ever see, because it’s all behind the scenes. But I, I’m very, very lucky that I met him, not just because I play in the band but I’m very proud to call him one of my friends.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: I read one interview where you had said he would make a great comedian, as you just said, and you mentioned you wished he would show people that side of him – so why do you think he doesn’t show that warm, more human side of himself to the public at large?

DJ: It’s hard to say, only he can answer that, I have no idea.  But you know, he is an artist by every means of that word, and I’m an artist and a lot of people think I’m weird too, but I think every artist has a – especially the really good ones – are kind of weird and different people. I know I am. I don’t feel like I fit in to normal society, I’ve never felt like I fit in, but when I’m on stage I feel right at home. So I was kind of put here to entertain people and that’s what I feel comfortable doing. So yeah, it’s hard when you go from playing to 100,000 people to coming off tour and you’re sitting in your house by yourself. It’s definitely a weird head trip to get used to. It’s the extreme one way and extreme the other.

DJ Ashba 05

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: For sure. You’ve mentioned in interviews that Axl’s got a lot of stuff already recorded that you’re hoping to lay your stuff on top of; Sebastian Bach has talked about Chinese Democracy and said there’s at least two other album’s worth of great stuff recorded. Why haven’t we heard any more new music?

DJ: Well we’ve been touring, ever since I’ve been in the band we’ve been on tour. We’ve been touring for well over four years and now we’re all itching to get in the studio and really put it together.  I mean… I’m writing a shit ton of songs, Axl has tons of stuff. Everybody…

I think it’s most important, before you record a record, especially when there’s line-up change, now we’ve been a solid unit for going on five years, the band is as tight as it can get, and that’s important. That’s going to come across on an album. So it would have been foolish, in my opinion, to jump in the studio eight months after I joined the band because it would be a totally different sounding band than it is now. Like we’ve all fallen into our own [places]… you know what I mean? So that is our main focus. We’re really excited to get in and put together what we feel is going to be the next, best Guns n’ Roses record.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: We’re really looking forward to hearing what you can add to the Gunner’s sound man, for sure.

DJ: Yeah, thank you so much.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: So the big question is; will Guns n’ Roses be on stage, on time in Australia?

DJ: Yeah – I mean, we’ve been doing really great the last two years that I’ve been with the band, especially the last year I’ve been in the band. We’ve been doing really well at getting out on time. The problem is getting OFF on time! Once we get up there – we don’t want it to stop! We’ll just go and go and go, that’s the thing that not many people talk about. ‘Oh they came on a little late’, yeah, but they played three hours! We’re excited to come over and give people a show that they’re never going to forget.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: So as a producer or a band member, would you have released another album already with what you’ve heard?

DJ: No because to me it can’t be one person’s decision. This is a band. More than ever this is absolutely a band and we do everything together as a whole, and this is going to be, you know, collectively together we’re going to sit in there and make what we feel is the best Guns n’ Roses record. This band is eight guys, and it’s going to be killer once we do put something out, we can promise you that.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Well that was going to be my next question, is it a band, or is it one guy and a whole lot of session players, so thanks for answering that.

DJ: Yeah, absolutely.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: Look man, thank you so much for your time, I know ten minutes is a bit quick but it’s been awesome and I appreciate you sticking with me through the tricky questions.

DJ: Thank you so much, and thanks for all the support too.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: We’re really looking forward to the show when you get to Perth.

DJ: We’ll have to have a drink when I do.

100% ROCK MAGAZINE: That would be good. Okay dude, enjoy the rest of your day off.

DJ: Take it easy, thank you.

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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