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Inside Track: GNR Tribute

with Jake Brown

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For this edition of Inside track we speak with Versailles Records President Jake Brown about their latest release: It's So Easy: A Millennium Tribute to Guns N' Roses

Inside Track: Tell us about the concept behind this tribute album?

Jake: Well, taking on such an epic band- that at least in the sense of my generation of music listeners- defined rock n' roll musically and visually at its most purest in terms of derivatives like the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, and AC/DC, and bands like this- who we haven't DARED to touch yet with a tribute- we felt maybe Guns N' Roses was a good testing ground for that ambition in terms of future releases. To me, it's another level to try to pay homage to bands like that, so we're starting out kind of in reverse in terms of Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Motley Crue (our first double-album tribute which is due in early 07), and groups like that. I guess in a way it's kind of working in reverse, but rock royalty to me kind of works like this: the biggest legends sit highest up on the bleachers, in terms of seniority. So we're somewhere along the middle of the Mountain climb with GnR, and hopefully fans will dig what we've put together here. We also have a second volume to this tribute set coming out in the fall called 'Double Talkin' Jive: A Hard Rock Tribute to Guns N' Roses.' As a HUGE Izzy Stradlin fan, I also made sure both of these records were very IZZY heavy in terms of the songwriting, and that we didn't just do like a Greatest Hits tribute record. I think that is reflected in the track listing- plus on the second record, we have cuts like 'Bad Obsession', 'Dust N' Bones', '14 Years', 'Double Talkin' Jive', 'Out Ta Get Me', and 'Move to the City', but we also have hits like 'November Rain', 'Don't Cry', and 'Welcome to the Jungle.' Anyway, not to plug the forthcoming album, but its illustrative of the balance we tried to strike on both records in that respect, in terms of giving fans- especially second-generation Guns N' Roses listeners who will develop out of their forthcoming new album, as well as the Velvet Revolver success- the broadest possible sampling of what the band's best songs are- in terms of not strictly being limited to the hits. Anyway, below is the Inside Track of the latter, and kind of a behind-the-scenes on how a tribute album is made and how this first collection of songs came together:

You Could Be Mine - Richard Kendrick With certain songs, Richard is the only one I trust to pull off in terms of the technical exactness of each instrument as it should be played, but also the spirit of authenticity that the song should carry for listeners, which he's better at than I think anyone working on these kinds of projects today. He also takes a lot of pride I think in making sure that each track in those instances is as important as the other- so a bass track holds the same weight as a vocal, and a harmony holds the same importance as a rhythm guitar lick, which in terms of how fantastic Duff McKagen and Izzy Stradlin are as players, is the only way to go if you're truly paying tribute to a band that bad ass. What was kind of funny in terms of how precise Richard and I when producing these songs like every part to be- especially for instance the drum part on this song- wasn't exactly popping off right the first time we tried to record it. It was the first song we were tracking that day, and the drummer- who is phenomenal- wasn't exactly finding his groove, and it became quickly obvious that he hadn't had his 'coffee' yet. So I suggested he and I run out to the car for a little 'home grown' Java, and when he came back in a joint later, he did the track in ONE take. It was amazing to watch, obviously visually, but also in terms of the talent we got on tape to match Richard's. Anyway, it was maybe thinking outside the box for some people, but one man's poison is another's pleasure I guess in terms of what works best for different players. It was just an awesome thing to watch come together, and I think the result speaks for itself.

It's So Easy- RadioVipers: this band was- in my opinion anyway- born to cover this song. It embodies everything that the RadioVipers are about, and everyone says this, but truly: A LOT of what is MISSING in rock bands today, who try to pull off derivative influences maybe from a look or a type of guitar or amp they play through, but there's no heart in the product that results. I won't name names, but given that few of the rock bands that have come out in the last ten years have stuck past an album or two is the best example. Because the European rock scene is so alive in terms of really reflecting and respecting the roots of bands like AC/DC, Aerosmith, Guns N' Roses, etc in the roots of the sound they produce for rock in today's market, they almost create a new niche because those two worlds truly are bridged with bands like the RadioVipers. There is nothing contrived about the way they nail this song, or about their broader original sound as a band, and (PLUG) their debut album, 'The Morning Sunburst' includes 'Its So Easy' as well for that reason- because they're as proud of the song as I am. The energy of this performance will wow any GnR fan!

Rocketqueen - Derrick LeFevre: This song is my favorite on the album, but was also arguably the biggest MESS of the whole record. Richard Kendrick once again threw on the cape and saved this classic from disaster. The performances were great instrumentally to begin with, but we got the drums from one corner of the Universe, and the guitar from another, and everything was being sent over the internet to Richard in Belgium, where he had to sound replace the entire drum section, and ghost the guitars, and redo leads, and find a bass player at the last minute to do the part because the original cat hurt his hand, so it was just a nightmare, and we had like a week to get it finished. Then Derrick LeFevre, lead singer from Lillian Axe, stepped up the plate and just hit the vocal out of the park. The one thing I had asked Derrick to do when he was singing it was to try to make it sound as much like a vocal would have in 1986 when the album was recorded, more almost like you'd have heard on an Iron Maiden or WASP record, and he nailed it. There's a haunting quality to the vocal, and it just soars too like Blackie Lawless and Bruce Dickenson used to. It has so much soul. I think most fans will find this to be their favorite 'era-friendly' track on the album. The mix is also very reminiscent of the feel of the sound of those times, its just a really beautiful result…

Sweet Child O Mine - Jizzy Pearl/Tracii Guns/Gilby Clarke/Randy Castillo: This track Brian Perrera graciously allowed us to license for this album, and I wanted it mainly for the players and history it incorporates as it directly relates to Guns N' Roses- namely in Tracii Guns, who co-founded the band, and Gilby Clarke, who replaced Izzy. On top of that, one of my favorite drummers in the world, Randy Castillo did the drums, and Jizzy- who is a fantastic singer, nailed the vocal. Just nailed it. It's a very tight track, and we're lucky to have it. I wouldn't have tried to do another version of this cover; it can't be topped by what Cleopatra originally did.

Patience - Jasy Andrews: I wanted Jasy to do this song from like the first night I ever heard her play in this tiny little bar in Nashville in 2003, and we recorded it for her debut album, 'Little Girl' because she totally made it her own. We recorded it at Studio 19 in Nashville, which was originally Patsy Cline's first house when she moved to town in the 50s, so that was cool in a nostalgic kind of way. The song the way Jasy does it is as haunting and beautifully simple as Izzy's original acoustic demo. It was a review favorite from her debut LP, so we hope it gains a broader listening audience for her through this record, but also is a kind of perfect bridge for the album between the first and second half of the record. It's also to my knowledge the first hard rock tribute with an acoustic-Rhodes organ track with an operatically-trained female singer on it, so maybe in some small, silly way we broke some new ground here. It's a beautiful rendition.

Night Train - Phil Lewis/Erik Turner/Keri Kelly/Marko Pukkila/Chad Stewart: well, this one was another of those situations where all the players on the track belong to the era that GnR dominated- so you have players from Ratt, Warrant, L.A. Guns, Faster Pussycat, Every Mother's Nightmare, Pretty Boy Floyd, and others rockin' out like they did back on the Sunset Strip at the height of 80s hard rock, and you can just feel that vibe in the result. The track more or less speaks for itself.

Mr. Brownstone - Valerian: This really cool rock band Finland, who came straight out of the Michael Monroe-Axl Rose mold stylistically in terms of their front man contacted me about being on the record, and hit my soft spot for up and coming bands, so they then went about nailing 'Mr. Brownstone', and to my ears, it just scorches. We hope fans dig it. 

Think About You - Drama Queen Die: This really cool, well-kept secret from Chicago, 'Drama Queen Die', who were actually championed by Chip Z'nuff of all people in the start of their career, and who first turned me onto them, did this really gorgeous acoustic version of 'Never Say Goodbye' for our Bon Jovi Tribute, which was our best seller of 2005, and so I thought we'd try and see if a little of that karma could rub off on this album, but in a kind of unusual way in that 'Think About You' is traditionally a hard rocking love ballad. When I suggested the song to the band done acoustically, they really channeled the energy the way we felt fans would have wanted, and I think we got a rocking result. 

Civil War - One Bad Son: Aside from discovering and managing this singer for the past 3 years, and how proud it personally makes me that his band, One Bad Son, came together, wrote, recorded, and released their first album, 'This Aggression Will Not Stand', in one year, I will refer all other commentary on this track to a recent review of the tribute from JukeBox.ca, which wrote the following about the band's cover of 'Civil War': "Brilliantly delicate in the right moments, and then when the song explodes in true rock style, this version does it with a much heavier guitar tone than the original, marking this track out as one of the best GN'R covers there's ever been. The performance is superb and vocalist Shane Volk is only one this album that retains his own vocal style and doesn't try to sing exactly like Axl. Lewis and Pearl are distinctive enough because we're all familiar with their voices by now, but the others really do try to stay as true to the original vocal lines as possible. Volk does this as well, but in his own voice, which is much grittier than Axl's."

Paradise City - Joetown featuring Jimi Bell: This is for all intents and purposes the flagship Guns N' Roses anthem, and we wanted this to be a special rendition of this song. Whether we achieved that or not I'll leave to listeners to decide, but it has some unique musical contributions- including the lead rhythm guitar done acoustically, a Bag Pipe and Jimi Bell on lead guitar, so that's a good start. Hopefully fans dig it!

Pretty Tied Up - The Slashtones featuring Joe Lynn Turner: A longtime friend and collaborator of mine, Harry Slash, who is also a staple of the New York rock scene got this huge crew of rockers together, had a cow-bell themed party over a weekend, and knocked out this Izzy classic. The song features Tony Moore from Riot, Roderick Kohn from the Buddy Miles Express, Joe Lynn Turner from Deep Purple/Rainbow fame, Steve 'Budgie' Werner from Ace Frehley's band, and Arno Hecht from the Uptown Horns. Most importantly, as Harry would say, it features 'LOTS OF COWBELL!!'

Anyway, that's the record, it's in stores everywhere now across the U.S., and we hope you go out and buy a copy to support the legacy of GnR, the greatest rock n' roll band of the past 30 years!! Check out www.versaillesrecords.com to learn more about the label and our other releases. 


CD Info and Links

Label:Versailles

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