Velvet Revolver is an American hard rock supergroup consisting of former Guns N' Roses members Slash, Duff McKagan, and Matt Sorum, alongside Dave Kushner formerly of punk band Wasted Youth and Stone Temple Pilots vocalist Scott Weiland who left the band in 2008. In 2004, the band achieved commercial success with their debut album, Contraband. Despite positive reviews, some critics initially described Velvet Revolver as a mere combination of Stone Temple Pilots and Guns N' Roses, criticizing them for a "disconnection" between Scott Weiland and the rest of the band. With their single "Slither", they won the 2005 Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance.
The band released Libertad in 2007, driven by the release of the single "She Builds Quick Machines", and embarked on a tour with Alice in Chains. In April 2008, Weiland left Velvet Revolver and reunited with Stone Temple Pilots. Velvet Revolver was put on indefinite hiatus in April 2008, and in November of that year, the band was released by their record label RCA Records at their request to allow them "complete freedom to go through whatever process it would take to accomplish" replacing Weiland.
The release of Slash's self-titled debut solo album and Duff McKagan's addition to the Jane's Addiction lineup seemed to put the future of the band in doubt. However, McKagan left Jane's Addiction a few months after joining. Velvet Revolver then wrote new songs and briefly auditioned singers before once again resuming their hiatus, although reunited with Scott Weiland for a one-off reunion show on January 12, 2012 at a benefit concert.
Early years (1996–2001)
Slash, Duff McKagan, and Matt Sorum were members of hard rock band Guns N' Roses. Slash and McKagan had been members since 1985, while Sorum joined the band in 1990. Guns N' Roses toured and achieved international success following the release of the albums Appetite for Destruction, Use Your Illusion I, and Use Your Illusion II. However, a distancing relationship with singer Axl Rose resulted in Slash, in 1996, and McKagan, in 1997, leaving the band while Sorum was fired the same year. Following their departures, the trio focused on separate projects with Slash reforming Slash's Snakepit and McKagan reforming 10 Minute Warning, as well as recording his second solo album while Sorum rejoined The Cult.
Despite being involved with other projects, the trio occasionally collaborated. Slash guested on McKagan's unreleased second solo album Beautiful Disease, while the trio recorded original music for the independent film Soundman in 1998. They also performed together with Lanny Cordola, Chuck Wright, and Teddy Andreadis for a one-hour plus concert at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah to promote the film in 1999. Rumors quickly arose of a Guns N' Roses reunion, however, McKagan stated that they "[were] just [t]here to play. It's not that big of a deal, but [they] play good together."
By 2001, Slash's Snakepit had disbanded for the second time. Slash began working with The Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman and an unnamed bassist on a new project: writing the music for what would become "Fall to Pieces". McKagan reformed Loaded, previously his band for the tour in support of Beautiful Disease, with Geoff Reading. McKagan also added both Mike Squires and Jeff Rouse to the lineup. Following a tour of Japan in 2002, former Zilch, Wasted Youth, Electric Love Hogs, and Dave Navarro guitarist Dave Kushner joined Loaded in place of Mike Squires.
When musician Randy Castillo died from cancer in 2002, Slash, McKagan, and Sorum performed at a benefit concert to raise money and commemorate Castillo with Josh Todd and Keith Nelson of Buckcherry as well as B-Real and Sen Dog of Cypress Hill. Recognizing that their musical relationship was still intact, the trio began rehearsing with Todd and Nelson, working on material that would become "Dirty Little Thing", but eventually decided against forming a group with them. During a Loaded show at West Hollywood's Viper Room, McKagan introduced Kushner to Slash, who were previously friends in junior high and high school. Kushner was invited to jam with the group and was soon invited to join with Slash, stating that "Dave brought a cool vibe to what [they] were doing. There was no deliberation; that was it, it was a perfect fit." Their former Guns N' Roses band mate Izzy Stradlin also joined them for two weeks, eventually suggesting that "Duff and [Stradlin] will sing and [they] will just do a club tour in a van." Slash states in his autobiography that it was hard to tell if Stradlin was serious or kidding. After auditioning Kelly Shaefer of Atheist and Neurotica, Stradlin left the group.
While Shaefer's audition was unsuccessful, the quartet continued auditioning for a lead singer, with VH1 filming the recruitment process while being referred to as the temporary name "The Project". The resulting documentary was aired as VH1 Inside Out: The Rise of Velvet Revolver. A number of lead singers auditioned for the band, including Todd Kerns, formerly of Age of Electric, Sebastian Bach, formerly of Skid Row, Shawn Albro of U.P.O., and Travis Meeks of Days of the New. Myles Kennedy, formerly of The Mayfield Four, declined an invitation from Sorum to audition. Ian Astbury of The Cult and Mike Patton of Faith No More also declined audition offers. The band were also interested in auditioning Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland, who had become friends with McKagan after attending the same gym. Weiland once played on the same bill as Kushner, and was in rehab at the same time as Sorum. Weiland was sent two discs of material, and felt that the first disc "sounded like Bad Company gone wrong." When he was sent the second disc, Weiland was more positive, comparing it to Core-era Stone Temple Pilots, though he turned them down because Stone Temple Pilots were still together.
When Stone Temple Pilots disbanded in 2003, the band sent Weiland new music, which he took into his studio and added vocals. This music eventually becoming the song "Set Me Free". Weiland was still unsure whether or not he wanted to join, despite delivering the music to the band himself and performing at an industry showcase at Mates. They recorded two songs with producer Nick Raskulinecz, a recorded version of "Set Me Free" and a cover of Pink Floyd's "Money", for the soundtracks to the movies The Hulk and The Italian Job, respectively. Weiland joined the band soon after. "Set Me Free" managed to peak at number 17 on the Mainstream Rock Chart without any radio promotion or a record label. It was prior to a screening of The Hulk at Universal Studios that the band chose a name. After seeing a movie by Revolution Studios, Slash liked the beginning of the word, eventually thinking of Revolver because of its multiple meanings; the name of a gun, subtext of a revolving door which suited the band as well as the name of a Beatles album. When he suggested Revolver to the band, Weiland suggested back Black Velvet Revolver, liking the idea of "something intimate like velvet juxtaposed with something deadly like a gun." They eventually arrived at Velvet Revolver, announcing it at a press conference and performance showcase at the El Rey Theatre while also performing the songs "Set Me Free" and "Slither" as well as covers of Nirvana's "Negative Creep", Sex Pistols' "Pretty Vacant", and Guns N' Roses' "It's So Easy".
Contraband and mainstream success (2003–2005)
Prior to the recording of their debut album, Weiland took material that the band had previously written to his studio, Lavish, in Toluca Lake. With engineer Doug Grean, Weiland rearranged the music to fit his vocals, eventually coming out with the songs "Big Machine" and "Dirty Little Thing". The band worked on new material for songs such as "You Got No Right", "Slither", "Sucker Train Blues", and "Do It for the Kids", among others. It was during this time that Weiland was arrested at the parking lot of his studio for drug possession. Upon release from jail, he wrote lyrics to material he was given previously, writing the lyrics to the song "Fall to Pieces". Velvet Revolver soon began recording their debut album. Initially, they recorded "Slither" with producer Bob Ezrin at Henson Studios, but were dissatisfied with the result. After recording "Headspace" with Josh Abraham, the band liked the track enough to do the rest of the album with him.
Velvet Revolver soon gained major label attention with Warner Bros. and Chrysalis. RCA and Elektra were also interested in signing the band. They eventually signed with RCA Records. They recorded their album at NRG Recording Studios, while Slash recorded his guitar parts at a smaller studio on the southern corner between Highland Avenue and Sunset Boulevard. During recording, Weiland could only work for three hours a day due to a court order mentioning that he was to stay in a halfway house. The marketing campaign for Velvet Revolver in the run-up to the release of the first album was profiled as part of the Frontline program The Way the Music Died, which included interviews with the band members and producers.
The resulting album, titled Contraband, was released on June 8, 2004, and, helped by the success of the single "Slither", debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling over 250,000 copies in the first week. Contraband went on to sell four million copies worldwide, 2.9 million of which were sold in the United States, and was certified 2x platinum by the RIAA. Both "Slither" and "Fall to Pieces" managed to peak at number one on the Mainstream Rock Chart as well as number 56 and 67 on the Billboard Hot 100, respectively. "Slither" also peaked at number one on the Modern Rock Chart and number 35 on the UK Singles Chart. The album's third single, "Dirty Little Thing", peaked at number eight on the Mainstream Rock chart.
Critically, the album was generally well received. Despite being praised for its hedonism and maturity, critics noted a disconnection between "singer and band". Velvet Revolver won the Kerrang! Award for Best International Newcomer in 2004, and the following year they won the Best Hard Rock Performance Grammy Award for "Slither". They also received a nomination for Rock Artist of the Year at the Billboard Music Awards while "Fall to Pieces" was nominated for a Song of the Year/Rock Radio Radio Music Award. They recorded a new song entitled "Come On, Come In" for the movie Fantastic Four in 2005, which peaked at number 14 on the Mainstream Rock Chart. "Fall to Pieces" then re-entered the charts, peaking at number twenty-five on the Adult Top 40 the same year.
Velvet Revolver toured extensively for nineteen months in support of Contraband. They toured both the United States and Europe twice, while also performing in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. They performed at Live 8 and various festivals including Download Festival and Ozzfest. It was during the tour that the band members, with the exception of Kushner, began to relapse on alcohol and drugs. Though they managed to get clean in time for the recording of their new album, Slash felt that "[the band] lost [Weiland]" and "thought the overall spirit of everything was declining at that point."
Libertad and departure of Scott Weiland (2005–2008)
Weiland announced in 2005 that Velvet Revolver's next album would be titled Libertad and would be a concept album. When they started writing material, they decided against the concept idea. Initially, the band started working with producer Rick Rubin on the album. However, due to his methods, such as having a crew to do the work and engineering while only popping in occasionally, and due to the fact that he was also working with other bands at the same time, they decided against continuing with Rubin. At the suggestion of Weiland, Velvet Revolver began working with Brendan O'Brien. Slash stated that O' Brien "brought more than just discipline to the equation, he brought a musicality that stems from the fact that he plays guitar, bass and drums. At any given moment he could play along [the band] and it really helped the process." He also said that the "sessions were consistent, everyone was there, everyone contributed, and everyone appreciated what each player was doing" and that the "mutual participation surpassed the first Guns sessions." While writing for the album, Weiland believed that his band mates were going to reunite with Guns N' Roses when the band's manager was talking to Axl Rose about switching management companies, and were not going to record their second album. He was later convinced by the band that this was not the case.
Following the completion of the album, Velvet Revolver performed for and inducted Van Halen into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with Weiland and Slash speaking on the band's behalf, on March 12, 2007. The band played a medley of "Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love" and "Runaround". Shows in South America with Aerosmith followed in April. They released the EP Melody and the Tyranny on June 1 to serve as a precursor to the release of their new album, which featured two songs from Libertad, a cover of Talking Heads song "Psycho Killer" and a video documentary about the making of Libertad as well as a live video of the band performing "Do It for the Kids".
Libertad was released on July 3, 2007, peaking at number five on the Billboard 200. The album's first single "She Builds Quick Machines" peaked at 74 on the Hot Canadian Digital Singles. The second and third singles, "The Last Fight" and "Get Out the Door", both peaked at number 16 and 34 on the Mainstream Rock Chart, respectively. Critical reception to the album was mixed. Though some critics praised the album and felt that Libertad gave the band an identity of their own, outside of the Guns N' Roses and Stone Temple Pilots comparisons, others described the album as "bland" and noted that the band have still to gel with them "play[ing] to their strengths instead of finding a collective sound."
In support of Libertad, Velvet Revolver toured North America with Alice in Chains from August 2007 to October. They also performed at the Virgin Festival, Gods of Metal, and Download in 2007. A November tour of Japan was canceled after they were denied visas, and in 2008, a tour of Australia was postponed, due to health issues, and later canceled following Weiland's decision to voluntarily enter a rehab facility. On November 21, 2007, Weiland was arrested after crashing his car while driving on an L.A. highway. He was charged with driving under the influence of drugs with a prior conviction and later released on $40,000 bail. Velvet Revolver then toured both the US and the UK, as well as some European shows, on the Rock n' Roll as It Should Be tour from January 24 to April 1, 2008. They also played at the Dubai Desert Rock Festival on March 8 the same year. It was during the tour that Weiland "got back into his old ways", which started to take their toll on the rest of the band with the cancellation of the Australian tour seen as the "final blow".
On the UK tour, the band members never spoke with Weiland, with the exception of a few arguments around the stage. Tensions came to a head during Velvet Revolver's Glasgow show on March 20, 2008, where Weiland announced to the crowd that it was the band's last tour, unaware that the band were already planning on firing him. After Sorum posted a message about the show on his website, Weiland issued a statement through Blabbermouth.net in response, saying he "made many attempts to remain cordial with the members of [Velvet Revolver], but mainly, the likes of [Sorum]" and that "[the band] were a gang. But ego and jealousy can get the better of anyone." Slash later stated that it would not be Velvet Revolver's last tour. Weiland's departure was announced on April 1. Weiland also departed the cover band Camp Freddy, which also featured Sorum, and has since reunited with Stone Temple Pilots.
Search for a new singer and hiatus careers (2008–present)
After Weiland's departure, the band began recording and searching for a new singer. The search was sporadical with the band spending some time auditioning singers, then turning into solo projects, returning to the band, then abandoning it again. Several names were rumoured to be auditioning for the band through the years. Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge) was strongly rumoured due to his collaborations with Slash; Lenny Kravitz, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, Steve Isaacs formerly of Skycycle and The Panic Channel, Royston Langdon of Spacehog, Donovan Leitch of Camp Freddy, Ours singer Jimmy Gnecco and Scars on Broadway guitarist Franky Perez, as well as previous auditonee Sebastian Bach. Slipknot and Stone Sour singer Corey Taylor reportedly recorded an album with the band, which was shelved.
Slash, McKagan, and Sorum all contributed to the song "Kissed It" for the Macy Gray album The Sellout, which was released on June 22, 2011. Despite not featuring Kushner, the trio were credited as Velvet Revolver on the album. The band released their first concert DVD on November 16, entitled Live In Houston, which was filmed in 2005 while the band was touring in support of Contraband. Slash, McKagan and Sorum made a performance at the Road Recovery benefit concert on September 13 with a guest appearance from Kushner.
McKagan reunited with previous band Loaded in 2008, releasing an EP entitled Wasted Heart the same year McKagan also released the band's second album, entitled Sick, in 2009. They completed the recording of their third album with producer Terry Date in 2010, and began collaborating with filmmaker and documentarian Jamie Burton Chamberlin on a film based on the album the same year. McKagan joined Jane's Addiction in March 2010, replacing founding bassist Eric Avery. However, his tenure with the band lasted only five months, with his departure from the band announced on September 6 of the same year.
Kushner began composing music for film and television, including the theme song entitled "This Life" for FX series Sons of Anarchy, receiving an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Main Title Theme Music in 2009 and an ASCAP Award in 2010. In 2010, he and John O'Brien composed the music for the ABC drama series Detroit 1-8-7. He also contributed music to the films Four Christmases and Couples Retreat. Kushner also collaborated with Scars on Broadway guitarist Franky Perez, who had previously worked with Velvet Revolver, releasing songs under the pseudonym of DKFXP. In 2010, Kushner and Dave Navarro collaborated on a cover of The Kinks' "You Really Got Me" to be used in a Hyundai commercial.
Sorum continued work on cover band Camp Freddy's debut album before guesting on Sammy Hagar's solo album Cosmic Universal Fashion. He also produced two songs, entitled "Are You Blind" and "Coming For You", for Los Angeles-based band, Drive A, in 2008. In 2010, Sorum formed the cover band Carnival of Dogs with Franky Perez, L.A. Guns guitarist Tracii Guns, and former Ozzy Osbourne and Billy Idol bassist Phil Soussan before going on to tour with Motörhead, temporarily filling in for drummer Mikkey Dee. He also began working with Cherie Currie, formerly of The Runaways, on her new solo album.
Slash released his debut solo album Slash in March 2010, featured a number of guests such as Andrew Stockdale of Wolfmother, M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold, Kid Rock, Ozzy Osbourne, Myles Kennedy, Chris Cornell and Fergie, among others. His band for the tour in support of the album consisted of Myles Kennedy, guitarist Bobby Schneck, and drummer Brent Fitz as well as early Velvet Revolver audtionee Todd Kerns on bass. The band recorded Apocalyptic Love, a collaboration album between Kennedy and Slash which was released in May 22, 2012 with a corresponding tour covering America, in April and May, and Europe in June.
Instigated by Kushner's wife, Velvet Revolver reunited for a one-off performance with Scott Weiland at a benefit concert for the late John O'Brien, on January 12, 2012. Following a benefit show for the Road Recovery in 2011 with the other VR members, each one agreed to a one-off reunion before Kushner invited Weiland, who also agreed. Kushner also stated it is currently unknown what Velvet Revolver's plans are for the future after the reunion show; "I know everyone’s got other commitments, but I think everyone’s like, 'Let’s get this thing done and get through this and then we’ll see.'".
In April 2012, Scott Weiland remarked that he would like to reunite permanently with Velvet Revolver, saying that "if Maynard James Keenan can do it with A Perfect Circle and Tool, then there’s no reason why I shouldn’t go and do it with both bands". Further in May in an interview with ABC Radio Weiland said that he has reunited with the band permanently for a tour and an album, which however was denied a few days later by Slash in an interview with 93X.
On December 7, 2012, in response to a public declaration from Weiland that he was "completely open" to returning to Velvet Revolver and a radio DJ's questions about the state of that band, Slash told 93X that he had heard Weiland had been fired from Stone Temple Pilots, citing this as a possible reason for Weiland's eagerness to return to Velvet Revolver, an option that Slash quickly discounted. This statement was confirmed by Stone Temple Pilots on February 27, 2013.
Velvet Revolver's first album Contraband was described by Johnny Loftus of Allmusic as an "updated version of Guns N' Roses swagger behind Scott Weiland's glammy, elastic vocals." David Browne of Entertainment Weekly stated that "[a]nyone expecting Use Your Illusion III, though, will be in for a slight buzzkill" and that "[t]he songs suggest the pop grunge of Weiland's old band more than the careening overdrive of GN'R." A number of reviewers made some comparisons to the members previous bands with PopMatters reviewer David Powell stating that "Contraband is a pretty good record of unpretentious rock and roll that suffers from inevitable comparison with the best efforts of its parent bands." He went on to state that while Velvet Revolver's "heritage is evident on most of the songs", Contraband "improves with repeat listening, which is encouraging." Velvet Revolver's second album Libertad saw the band's style change with the presence of producer Brendan O'Brien, noted by Allmusic reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine. Erlewine also stated that "too often, there are concessions between Weiland and the others during the course of a song." Tom Sinclair of Entertainment Weekly stated that Libertad "feels both comfortingly familiar and vaguely exotic." Songs such as "Let it Roll" and "She Mine" have seen some comparisons to The Doors, The Rolling Stones and The Stooges, as noted by San Francisco Chronicle reviewer Jaan Uhelszki. The New York Post commented that "Slash's guitar riffs throughout this new record are as aggressive as a caged cat" and " singer Scott Weiland's vocals are crisp and controlled yet passionate."
- Contraband (2004)
- Libertad (2007)
Awards and nominations
Velvet Revolver have received one Grammy Award. The band won the Grammy when "Slither" was nominated for Best Hard Rock Performance in 2005. The song "Fall to Pieces" received a nomination for Song of the Year/Rock Radio Radio Music Award in 2005. The band won the Best International Newcomer Kerrang! Award in 2004 while they were nominated for a Rock Artist of the Year Billboard Music Award in 2005.
- Billboard Music Awards
The Billboard Music Awards were awarded annually by Billboard magazine.
- Grammy Awards
The Grammy Awards are awarded annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
- Kerrang! Awards
The Kerrang! Awards are awarded annually by Kerrang! Magazine.
- Radio Music Awards
The Radio Music Awards were awarded annually honoring the most successful songs on mainstream radio.
- Official website
- Velvet Revolver on Myspace
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Image from Discogs