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March, 2004
Velvet Underground (Velvet Revolver)
Metal Hammer, March 2004

Velvet Revolver - the ‘90s rock super-group/rehab reunion teaming Stone Temple Pilots' vocalist Scott Weiland, former Guns N' Roses heroes Slash, Duff McKagan, Matt Sorum and ex-Suicidal Tendencies/Loaded guitarist Dave Kushner - have completed their debut album, 'Contraband,' which is slated for an April release.

With the potentially volatile combination of personnel and their respective substance abuse records involved, Velvet Revolver may be a truly great band in the making or a train wreck waiting to happen - or both.

"The only thing I can compare it to is being on the edge of a cliff," says Slash, "I don't want to go down there, but at the same time we're itching to jump off that ledge anyway, 'cos that’s what we do!"

While it's no 'Appetite For Destruction' or 'Purple,' 'Contraband' will please fans of both classic GNR and STP. In an unlikely democracy all five musicians have retained their sonic signatures: Weiland’s slinky, Bowie-flavoured vocals, Slash's succulent solos, Duff's clanking tone and mobile counter-melodies, and Matt Sorum's propulsive motor all set-off by Kushner's more contemporary style approach.

First single 'Slither' is an obvious standout, with ominous verses and lingering, harmony-drenched choruses. Other memorable tracks include the driving, ‘Mr Brownstone’-flavoured ‘Suckertrain Blues,’ and ‘Big Machine,’ with a verse hinting at Alice In Chains’ menace and an irreverent chorus recalling 70s titans Marc Bolan and The Sweet. On the down side 'Falling To Pieces' is also tipped as a single and it's a wistful, acoustic guitar centred weepy in the epic tradition of Bon Jovi's overly sincere ballads.

Velvet Revolver see 'Contraband' as a vehicle to tour behind and they're chomping at the bit to hit the road. However, although live shows are scheduled to begin in Toronto, Canada in March, Weiland was ordered into lockdown rehab for six months on January 23rd after going walkabout from a similar term in December. This latest chapter in Weiland's long history of drug and legal woes stems from an incident in October '03 when after an all-nighter celebrating his 36th birthday, he crashed his BMW into a row of cars in Hollywood whilst under the influence.

Yet Weiland's new bandmates - who're not unfamiliar with addiction issues themselves - remain nothing but supportive. "There's a big difference between having a guy in the band who's nuts and doesn't want to be there," stresses Slash, presumably referring to one W. Axl Rose, "and having a guy who's nuts but does want to be there."

In short, they feel Weiland's talent and persona are worth the risk: "Everything I've experienced in our career, everyone I've ever looked up to - heroes or whatever - have some shit so I've accepted that that's how it is," Slash explains. "Up until now, even though there's been all the press and this shit going on, Scott hasn't had any serious problems - just one continuous thing with the law. I think they turned it upside down... people talk, but I was in court - I know what happened with the judge."

There's considerable anticipation around 'Contraband' Stateside, where Velvet Revolver's record label RCA has pulled out all the stops even during these tough times for the music industry. The names involved alone should sell a few hundred thousand albums but don't expect some comfortable, bloated dinosaur of a band to roll into town: these guys are fit, focused and have plenty to prove. For all the wealth and success, a punk rock, fuck you fire still burns in the VR ranks.

"Anything could happen," says dyed-in-the-wool punker Duff. "That's just the way we're built. There's an element of danger in this band. It's not going to be safe to be in the front row when we're on stage, especially if you're doing something untoward in our direction - 'cos someone will jump off the stage and beat the shit out of you!"

While some may view 'Contraband' as a stylistic throwback, Velvet Revolver believe they've achieved a timeless result: "This record we've made can be played on the radio now, in 10 or 20 years from now - or 10 years ago!" announces Duff.

"Between the times Guns broke up and now there's been such a hotchpotch of music going on and the great thing about this band is that we've stayed true to our roots," claims Slash. "It's like sticking our fingers up and basically not giving a shit. We fought tooth and nail to be ourselves and that's a hard thing to do in this business..."

With internet downloading rampant and the musical climate very different from GNR and STP's golden years, it's anyone's guess how 'Contraband' will sell but Velvet Revolver is all about the live spectacle and that - if Weiland's troubles don't interfere - is where this'll start making sense.

Thanks to Gypsy


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