When it comes to Guns N' Roses guitarists, Slash's iconic top hat and curly hair-curtain will always be the first image that comes to mind. But in a Guns N' Roses lineup that has revolved around Axl Rose and a rotating cast of other musicians since the late '90s, that position has since been filled by such luminary axe men as Nine Inch Nails' Robin Finck, Buckethead and Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal. The most recent Guns' guitarist is DJ Ashba, whose previous credits include the BulletBoys, Beautiful Creatures and Sixx: A.M. with Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue. As Guns N' Roses return to Atlanta for the first time since 1987, Ashba talks about performing Guns hits, filling the role of those who have preceded him and the debauchery that still seems to follow the band to this day.
$39-$92.05. 7:30 p.m. Wed., Nov. 2. Philips Arena, 1 Philips Drive. 404-878-3000. www.philipsarena.com.
Guns N' Roses hasn't played in Atlanta since 1987. The venue the band played then has been razed, but Philips Arena was erected on the same site. An odd correlation for you is that Guns N' Roses was on tour with Motley Crue on that tour and it was only a few days before then that Nikki Sixx had his infamous heroin overdose. A lot has obviously changed since then, so how does it feel to be coming full circle in so many ways?
Ashba: Absolutely. There's still some debauchery and it's a lot of fun out here. We're all having a blast and the shows are definitely wild. I don't think that's changed too much. It definitely has a very dangerous element to it and the crowds have been going crazy. As far as the energy and excitement of the whole show, I think it's definitely still there. But, I don't know, I wasn't around during those times.
As the latest guitarist for Guns N' Roses, considering the people who have filled that role before you, including Slash, Buckethead and Robin Finck, how did you prepare yourself to fill such big shoes?
Ashba: I had just gotten off tour with Sixx A.M. and we had a number one hit song at the time. I got a phone call saying, "We've been looking for a guitarist for about a year and a half and we're trying to find the right guy. Would you be interested?" I said, "Yeah, absolutely." Axl caught wind that I was going to come down and he said I should get the gig. That's kind of how it all went down.
I don't think anything can prepare you for something like that. I never came into this to fill anybody's shoes. I just came as a songwriter/producer. I feel like I can bring something to the table and I'm no way trying to replace anybody. I'm just trying to do the gig justice. I have tons of respect for Slash's guitar playing and what he's done, so I just wanted to stay as true to his vision as I possibly could. As a fan, if I were to go see Guns play live, I would want to hear the songs I grew up on. You want to hear them sound as close to that as possible, so that's kind of how I present myself. I want to stay as true to that as I possibly can.
Based on the other bands you've played with, even prior to Sixx A.M., I'm guessing you were already pretty familiar with all the material.
Ashba: Yeah. I mean, the Beautiful Creatures was very influenced by Motley Crue, Guns N' Roses and those types of bands. So for me, this style of playing is kind of what I cut my teeth on. It was a very natural thing to fall into and coming to Guns N' Roses felt natural and felt fun. It's a lot of fun to play with these guys and Axl. The shows are just these insane, over-the-top, huge rock shows. It's just a massive production and definitely a show you want to see.
Prior to joining Guns N' Roses you were a songwriter in most of the other projects you've been involved with. Do you think you might start contributing in that way or have you already been collaborating with Axl at all?
Ashba: Yeah, we have. I've written quite a few songs and he has tons and tons of songs sitting around. Our main focus is writing for a new record, so that's what everybody's excited about.
How has the reception been so far between the classic Guns N' Roses hits and the newer stuff from Chinese Democracy?
Ashba: From old to new, it's Guns N' Roses. Every band progresses and I think we'd be really bored if Chinese sounded just like Appetite. Bands have to progress. Once you think you know it all you kind of stop progressing. I have a lot of fun playing the stuff off Chinese. I think there's a lot of great songs on that record and it's a very artistic album. There's a lot of beautiful, impactful songs on that record. And, of course the old stuff is tons of fun to play, too.
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