Steven Adler has finally found it. With Adler, his new self-named band, the former Guns N' Roses drummer has surrounded himself with a group of musicians who not only understand the delicate art of songwriting and composition but who have viselike grips on playing guitars in the modern world of rock. Singer/guitarist Jacob Bunton, guitarist Lonny Paul and bassist Johnny Martin bring the fire on "The One That You Hated," the first song released from the upcoming album. The song has melody, drama, stinging guitar riffs and a stunning solo by Bunton. Produced by Jeff Pilson who also played bass the album [still untitled at this date] is due out sometime in the next several months.
Adler is justifiably proud of the upcoming record. He's gone through several band incarnations since leaving GN'R but this is the one he's been waiting for. He is surrounded by passionate and gifted young players bassist Martin did not play on the album and in this conversation those feelings came across. Adler, Bunton, Paul and Martin were all on the phone for this conversation about the record. The band were readying themselves to head over to the Revolver Golden Gods Awards but they carved out a chunk of time to talk about the music.
Just minutes before the interview began, the Internet posted Axl Rose's letter about not attending nor accepting Guns N' Roses' induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Steven Adler hadn't seen the letter and when our conversation began, I just happened to mention this to him.
UG: Have you heard about Axl's letter?
Steven Adler: No, I did not. Please inform me.
I haven't read the entire letter but this is part of what he said: I won't be attending The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction 2012 Ceremony and I respectfully decline my induction as a member of Guns N' Roses to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
Adler: That he didn't want to be inducted? No, if these are words he said f-ck that guy. Obviously he's a f-ckin' idiot. He's hailed and loved by everybody in the whole f-ckin' world and he has the gall to say that? I can't wait until this whole f-ckin' day is over with. I feel blessed that I'm being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He should too. You know what? I just can't wait until this whole Rock and Roll Hall of Fame thing is over with. I want to say my thank yous to the people who helped me get there, which is the f-ckin' world, and then it's over. I want to move onto my new life; not my new life but my new career and my new band. I'm so sick of hearing this stuff. I'm sorry guys [Steven apologizes to the other Adler bandmembers on the phone]. You don't understand. I'm done with it. You know what? You know who Jacon Bunton is? Who Lonny Paul is? Who Johnny Martin is? Well I want you to say hi to these guys.
Let's start with how this version of Adler came together? Lonny, you had already played in Adler's Appetite?
Lonny Paul: Like you said, I was in the band Adler's Appetite and we were out this summer on tour and Steven and I spent a lot of time on the bus. I was playing him some of my tunes that I had written in other projects and he said, Dude, this is great stuff. Let's form a band when we get back home. So as soon as we get back home, yeah, he wanted to start fresh with me. Basically we started looking for members and one night I happened to be out at the Key Club and ran into our friend Jay Ruston.
Jay Ruston produced the album?
Paul: Yeah, Jay mixed our record and was also a producer and produced Anthrax, the Donnas and all sorts of projects. Jay turned us onto Jacob Bunton, our singer. In fact he was there that night as well. So as soon as I met Jacob I just knew this was the guy that we need. I called Steven on my way home and I'm like, Dude, I found our singer. He's great. So Steven met him the very next day and we went to his hotel room cause he's from Alabama so he was staying at The London in Hollywood. Steven and I showed up at The London and as soon as we met him Steven said the same thing. He's like, Yep, he's the superstar we're looking for. So we got him onboard.
You still needed a bass player?
Paul: I knew Jeff Pilson and we got him onboard. I actually asked Jeff if he'd play bass on a couple songs and he ended up producing the whole record and that's how Jeff came into play. Jeff was real busy with the Foreigner stuff so he says, I'm not gonna be able to do the live stuff so you're gonna have to find a bass player. I called an old friend of mine, Johnny Martin, who plays bass so he got in on the picture.
Did you think about how Adler was going to compared to Guns N'Roses? How you'd be compared to Slash?
Adler: Dude, dude, dude listen to me. Listen to me! Stop talkin' about me and Guns N' Roses and Axl. Guns N' Roses was a great experience for me and I feel blessed to be a part of it but this is a new band. This is a new singer and a way better singer and a way better character than f-ckin' Axl. And I got Lonny Paul and Johnny Martin here. Let's talk about the new band and let's talk about what we're doing now.
Jacob Bunton: Hey Steven to answer your question though about the comparison and everything, I think when people hear the new music they'll absolutely see this is an entirely new entity and something completely different. And of course you're absolutely right, there's always gonna be those comparisons no matter what these guys do. For instance Slash, no matter who sings for him is gonna get the comparisons and the same thing with Stevenno matter who sings for him or plays guitar there's gonna be the comparisons.
That's really all I was asking about.
Bunton: As far as people comparing me and stuff like that, it doesn't stress me out or weird me out or whatever because he's Axl and he does his thing and I do my thing. Actually he's one of my biggest influences ever. Obviously I can't sit there and say, Oh, I'm Axl or anything like that nor would I ever. He's a freakin' vocal hero to me. Guns N' Roses is one of the reasons I ever even did this. Not to speak for Lonny or anything but he feels the same way. Slash is a huge inspiration to guitar players everywhere and all we can do is what we do cause we feel we have our own unique styles and everything. Like I said I think fans of rock music are truly gonna get what we're doing. It's such a real rock and roll record the way we recorded itwe didn't rely on computers and Auto Tune and recording things a section at a time like so many people do today.
You really wanted to try and make the record old school style?
Bunton: With Steven it was very important to him to record a real rock and roll record because all the records he grew up with like Queen, Led Zeppelin and Boston and all that stuff, they would go into a room and they would all look at each other the same way Appetite was recorded. They would just play all in a room and everything so we approached making our record the same way. You can hear kick pedal squeaks and you can hear intonation off some places on the guitar and maybe my voice cracks here and there or whatever. But it's real and so far the response has been great on the first single and the first single by the way isn't necessarily the first single. We didn't pick that song because it's the best song; we were just excited for everyone to hear what the band Adler is about and we believe there's even better songs on the record. We were just in a hurry and, Hey, let's just eenie meenie miney moe a song. You know what I mean? Just flip a coin and pick one and let everybody hear it because we're so proud of it. So by no means is that the best song on the record; it's just an introduction to the band. And so far the response has been absolutely overwhelming. It seems like people legitimately are really liking the stuff and I really feel like fans of rock musicwhether you're a fan of Foo Fighters-type rock or if you're a fan of Queen and 70s-type rock or you're a fan of Guns N' Roses-type rockwill totally get what we're doing. And we're all so proud of it.
The One That You Hated was a great mix of more classic rock with newer stuff as well. That acoustic riff on the verse was very cool.
Paul: Yeah, believe it or not we demo'd the songs here at my house and that was the first song Jacob and I played together and we wrote together. I picked him up from the airport the very first day we were gonna start the record. We came into the house and after Jacob put down his luggage he picked up my guitar and he goes, Hey, I've got this song I'm working on. It needs a chorus and let's work on it. So really in 20 minutes we had that song written and he picked up my guitar and started playing it and I recorded it. And believe it or not those exact tracks made the record. Jeff Pilson said, Let's just use those opening guitars you recorded at your house and put it on the record. So we actually used the very notes that he picked up and played.
Bunton: So actually that wasn't even rerecorded from the demo. That's just me and Lonny sitting in a room playing that opening part.
Where does your vocal style come from?
Bunton: My favorite singers of all time are Axl, Sebastian Bach, Steve Perry and Tom Kiefer. I love those guys and then on the pop end I love George Michael. Faith is one of my favorite records and just his sense of melody and everything. So that's where I draw my inspiration from.
What was the lyric idea behind The One That You Hated?
Bunton: Lyrically The One That You Hated are about two people that are no good for each other but for whatever reason they won't break up. Maybe you've been in one of those relationships but I've seen it a million times over the years. Maybe it's the sex, maybe it's the convenience or maybe they're just scared to move on and start over but a lot of people seem to be attracted to people that they hate. I was reading a science blog and it was talkin' about how it's been proved that love and hate are intimately linked within the human brain so that's the whole lyrical concept of that song. As far as melody lines and stuff like that, yeah, all of those guys I named were such huge inspirations and everything to me so I definitely draw a lot from that. As those guys had their influences and drew from that. That's the great thing about musicit just goes on and on and you have your influences and you take from it and you create your own style from it.
Your drums sounded great on The One That You Hated. Could you talk about the drums sounds?
Adler: Listenlet me just apologize to you. Obviously of course I'm not upset with you. It's just hearing something like that is disrespectful not just to Slash and Duff and Izzy and myself but to our fans. I always hoped that Axl had a little piece of a heart, a little soul left in him to at least show the fans who got him to be able to live the way we live to show some appreciation. Because I'm thankful.
I completely understand why you said that to me and what you were feeling. I know how hurt you must be.
Adler: Don't you feel disrespected?
Adler: OK. Jesus Christ. Enough of this. I don't want any part of it.
Tell me about the drum sounds.
Adler: I have my sound and if you listen closely to it I literally took my snare drum sound from Appetite. I told Jeff Pilson who played bass and produced it, I want that sound. I'm just stealing from myself. I know when I went into record Appetite I told Mike Clink, I want my snare drum to sound like a machine gun and my bass drum to sound like a cannon and he did it. If John Bonham did another record with somebody else he would have his sound. So I took that with me but the feel of it is just how I feel and how playing with Jacob, Lonny and Jeff felt. It just felt good. Plus I've been sick for 20 years cause of the drugs so it feels so good to wake up in the morning and go play with some great people and great musicians.
Slash came down and played on a song?
Adler: Yes, Slash played and came down and John 5. And let me tell youthose two guys they just don't go play with anybody. So having them come down made me feel great and I know it made the guys feel great. It made me feel really special because it made me feel like Slash is believing in me and respecting what I'm doing and respecting me. So that just felt great. Cause for some godforsaken reason it matters so much to me what Slash thinks of me [laughs.] I don't know why but I just love him so much that it means so much to and having him come down was wonderful.
Slash played on a rocker?
Bunton: Just Don't Ask.
Adler: Just don't ask me and I won't tell ya [everybody laughs.]
Bunton: It's a ballad and it's just another one of those songs that is a relationship song where like maybe the guy feels bad for doing things he shouldn't have been doing.
Paul: Back earlier when you asked if I was worried about being compared to Slash and all this kind of stuff, well once Slash played on the songbefore he played on the songhe turned to me and he said, Why don't you put a solo on this thing? Any response to him was, 'Cause my name isn't Slash. I said that I would never be compared to him because he plays the way he plays and I play the way I play.
Adler: And to be compared to Slash? If anybody does compare him to him, which I don't think they will because he's got his own original sound and his own original style, but if they did compare him to Slash that's not a bad thing.
What was it like when John 5 came down?
Adler: Magic. Ho ho ho f-cking magic.
Bunton: Yeah, both of those guys are incredible.
Adler: Slash we already know because he's a guitar hero and we already know he's great but John 5 was just incredible. He is my kind of guitar player; a guitar player who knows show to use his effects.
Bunton: Just so you know when John came into the studio to record the very first solo he did, he walked in and wasn't familiar with the song. He listened to the song one time, plugged in the amp and the very first solo, the very first take he did is what's on the record. Yeah, he's that incredible. Not only is he an incredible musician but he's also an amazing guy.
Adler: Wonderful; wonderful. We still owe him and his wife dinner.
"I always hoped that Axl had a little piece of a heart, a little soul left in him to at least show the fans who got him to be able to live the way we live to show some appreciation."
You mentioned Jay Ruston earlier co-producing and mixing the album. What was he like?
Bunton: He's brought so much to the table as far as the sound of the mix.
Adler: Jay Ruston is amazing.
Bunton: He was absolutely amazing. He's one of my favorite mixers out there and one of my favorite people. He was so instrumental in this band getting together since he introduced all of us and of course the sound of the mix is all Jay. He's just so amazing.
Jacob, you played guitar in your earlier bands like Mars Electric and Lynam. Are you playing guitar on the Adler album?
Bunton: Live I'm going to be primarily fronting the band.
Adler: He plays on the record.
Bunton: Yeah, I'm all over the record.
Adler: Yeah, that's Lonny and Jacob. Jacob is a master at the guitar. Did you think we weren't gonna use him? Lonny would even say, Here you do this part.
Bunton: But yeah live I'll be primarily fronting the band but I will be playing guitar on a lot of stuff as well. Me and Lonny it's so cool with our guitar styles and everything. His influences are one area of the spectrum and my influences are like Steve Vai is my favorite guitar player.
People wouldn't typically peg you for a Steve Vai fan.
Bunton: Steve Vai and John Petrucci. When I was a kid I got Images and Words from Dream Theater and sat there and learned every song on it just cause I was blown away. But Steve Vai is hands down my favorite guitar player of all time. I'm more of a technician type of dude that's all into that stuff and Lonny is a total feel dude that comes from a different place. So the styles just work so magically together and it's so cool.
During preproduction for the album would you two sit down and actively work out guitar parts for the songs?
Bunton: We never had to talk about it; it's like the chemistry was just so good. If Lonny brought a song to the table and started playing something then I would just start playing another part and vice versa. If I started playing something Lonny would just start something.
Adler: And Steven would start playing something.
Bunton: Then Steven would start playing something.
Adler: And then all of a sudden we had a song. Don't leave me out of this, Jacob [laughs.]
Bunton: But we never had to have a conversation on, I'll play this and you play that.
Adler: No, we never did. We just went in and it just happened. It was just very special; it was a very special time.
Johnny, can you talk about what it's been like playing with Steven Adler in the rhythm section?
Johnny Martin: Oh, it's great. Usually it takes me a while to kinda get used to locking with a drummer and stuff and usually that's one of my most important things when joining a band. But as soon as Steven and I started playing together it was right away magic. We had the same kind of groove and we just kinda looked at each other and knew where each other were going at the same time. So it was pretty easy in this instance.
Adler: It is cool. Of course a band is about the singer and guitar player but without the rhythm section there's no hands clapping and no feet tapping and no tushies movin' and groovin'.
Lonny: Steven and Johnny actually met at one of the parties that we had out over here at the house. Johnny came into the office where I had my musical equipment and me and Steven were in there hanging out and Johnny started playing some thrash tunes. And Steven goes, I want that guy in the band. That's the guy right there.
You'll listen to Jeff Pilson's bass parts on the record and interpret them for the road?
Martin: Yeah, it hasn't been a problem plus Jeff and I speak as well. Just if I have a question about some little nuance that I'm possibly missing or that I hear that's slightly inaudible. And he's generous enough to say, Yeah, I was kinda doing this here and it was kinda the same thing I was thinking. So Jeff and I are even on the same page with this. What he's playing on the record is primarily what I would have done as well or pretty close to it.
Adler: Or at least I would have had you do [laughs.] You know what? I've never felt like I had God's favor more than I do now cause I got a great new little family and we're all on the same page together. We all want to make each other better and stronger and faster sort of like the Six-Million Dollar Man. It just feels good. We were just doing this little acoustic thing at Lonny's house and it just feels so good. It reminds me of how I must have felt when I would watch videos of older bands when I was growing up and they were hanging out together and doing stuff. It's just like they all were on the same page and they all had love for each other and they all respected each other.
You will be touring soon?
Adler: That's what it's all about. That's the whole idea of having a rock and roll band is playing it for the people.
Bunton: Yeah, we want to play in front of as many people as possible. By the way, I'm a huge huge fan of Ultimate-Guitar and I watch those rig rundowns all the time and anything to do with Def Leppard and everything else. I didn't know if you wanted to hear a little bit about the stuff that we used?
Definitely. You're doing my gig for me.
Adler: I'm going to get off the phoneI'm sick of all of this! Thank you very much, Steve. I'm going home because I've got to get dressed for the Golden God Awards. Thank you so much, Steve, for your time [Steven gets off the phone.]
So tell me about the gear you use.
Bunton: A little bit about our rigs is I used live Diezel amps: a Diezel Herbert and a Diezel VH4 and I run those through Mesa Boogie cabinets. I have four cabinets that I run and I run both heads at the same time in the clean Channel 1 on both of them. If I want a tone just slightly dirty, I use Channel 2 on the VH4 just by itself. Then my main rhythm tracks live that I play is Channel 3 of the VH4 and Channel 2 of the Herbert mixed together at the same time. For leads I have Channel 4 on the VH4 and Channel 3 on the Herbert. I have a T.C. Electronics G System that I use and then of course an Audio Technica wireless and all that. And Lonny?
Paul: That's way more complicated than me. I just run into a JCM900 Marshall.
What types of guitars do you play?
Bunton: I use Charvel guitars, Telecasters and James Trussart; those are the three guitars I use. When I say I play a Telecaster, it's not really a Telecaster. It's just a Broadcaster from 1950 and that's one of my main guitars. Only a handful of em are out there. It was cool because John 5 plays Telecasters. I used that on a lot of the record too and that's my main guitar for studio and live. The Charvels that I use are So. Cals; the ones that look like Strats with an Evolution pickup and a Tone Zone
Paul: I just use the Les Paul Epiphone and I like the cheaper ones because I'm kind of rough on them live. So if I drop them and stuff like who gives a sh-t? It's a $600 guitar.
"It's such a real rock and roll record the way we recorded itwe didn't rely on computers and Auto Tune and recording things a section at a time like so many people do today."
Is that basically the gear you used in the studio?
Bunton: We were using all kind of crazy sh-t in the studio. Jeff Pilson is in the band Foreigner so he has Mick Jones' guitars and some of his equipment and some of the stuff that he used on those Foreigner records on Hot Blooded and all that stuff. We used his 1950 something Gibson acoustic guitar and I don't remember what kind of Gibson acoustic it was. But we used his guitar that he played on all of those songs and then Jeff has a 1955 Les Paul with real '59 pickups. He spent a fortune on those pickups so we used that on a lot of the record. We used some vintage Marshall stuff and we used an amp called Naked and just all kind of stuff on the record. It's all over the place.
You both have very cool guitar sounds. Was that a difficult process finding the right guitars and amps to suit the way each of you plays?
Bunton: Oh absolutely.
Paul: I was going to say Jeff Pilson was real instrumental in a lot of that stuff. When we plugged in and as soon as we started playing, he'd say, OK, that's right for this song or It's wrong and let's try this. He was running around plugging in different stuff and going, OK this is right now let's tweak it here. I mean he was very instrumental in most of the sounds we got.
Bunton: And over the years I've done exactly what you've said. I've gone through every kind of amp and guitar and everything that you can think of just trying to find the right sound. You see bands out there that use a certain guitar and amp combo and you think you'll just grab that amp and guitar and you're gonna have that tone and it doesn't work like that. Being a unique guitar player is so much of your own style of playing and in your hands. For instance when I plugged in with Jeff Pilson's '55 Les Paul through the old Marshall, it still sounded like me playing and we didn't change anything. Slash walked in and picked up the same guitar and it sounded like Slash. It was his sound and his tone and everything. That's the thing I guess a lot of people don't understand is if you go down to the Staples Center when Van Halen is playing and after soundcheck you walk up and you play Eddie Van Halen's guitar through his rig, well, you're not gonna sound like Eddie Van Halen. Even the tone isn't gonna sound like what just came out because it's all in your hands. So yeah, the Diezels, Charvels, James Trussart and the Broadcaster are guitars I've come to rely on over the years. They sound the best for what I do in my style of playing.
Could you talk a little about some of the other tracks on the album?
Bunton: Sure, there's a track called Your Diamonds and it's very 70s feeling. Think like Gregg Rolie-era Journey. Believe it or not there's so many different flavors on this record. Your Diamonds sounds like a modern-day version of that; it's a piano tune with lots of guitars and lots of harmonies with kind of an Elton John thing.
Who plays keyboards?
Bunton: I play piano and wrote it on piano back home and then Jeff Pilson is playing piano as well on the record.
Paul: Then we have a complete opposite song that's almost AC/DC style called Dead Wrong that's a little bit like Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. Real raw rock and real stripped down guitars. And everything in-between.
Bunton: Then the song John 5 did his thing on. He's a creepy guitar player and I mean that in the most affectionate way. It's just with all those effects that he uses and those eerie notes. He plays in-between notes a lot with the way that he bends the strings it creates this eerie tone because he'll play somewhere between G and G#. You know what I mean? He'll do little lines like that that are just so creepy and they create this amazing vibe. Our record is just so many different flavors.
Paul: It's Hard To Be Good (When It's So Easy To Be Bad) is the whole title.
Bunton: Good To Be Bad. Steven just said it.
Paul: Very hooky.
Greg Tribbett and Tom Maxwell were talking about how there aren't a lot of guitar heroes around anymore. You're both obviously lovers of all things guitardo you think about the guitar hero thing?
Paul: In recent years it was almost a bad thing to have a solo on songs and that was a damn shame. Hopefully this record will be one of those records that kinda starts to turn things around. Not saying we're gonna be completely 100 percent responsible for bringing back the guitar solo but hopefully it's records like ours that will start bringing the solo backand the art and the craft of great guitar playing.
Interview by Steven Rosen
"Guns N' Roses is one of the reasons I ever even did this. Actually Axl is one of my biggest influences ever."