“When the right group of guys get together, magic happens; and that’s what happened.”
Steven Adler could barely contain his excitement when he called in last month to talk about his new reconfigured band, simply called Adler, and the release of their first album, Back From The Dead. Full of catchy, rocking tunes, the former GNR drummer feels like he has finally found the band he has been looking for since his departure from the original Guns in 1990. “It came very easily and very naturally, the way it’s supposed to come,” Steven explained about the album’s recording, and the band’s almost instant camaraderie. “I can only say that with Appetite, with the GNR guys, it was the same thing. I feel like I got the same thing twenty-five years later with the same love for the guys in the band and the same respect and we don’t even have to try. We just enjoy being with each other.”
It wasn’t that long ago that Steven was backboning Adler’s Appetite, a band featuring Chip Z’nuff on bass and current Adler guitar player Lonny Paul. So why basically start over from scratch when he had a band already in place? “Well, I joined Adler’s Appetite on the last US club tour that they did; joined literally two weeks before they went out,” Paul explained.“And as we were out on the road,Steven and I obviously became real tight and best friends. Steven at that time told me that he was really tired of playing in clubs and he wanted to get back in the big shows and play arenas and this kind of thing. And I said, ‘It’s all up to you but the only way to do that, though, is if you break away from the Guns N Roses songs,’ which is what we were mostly doing. I said, ‘You got to break away from that and you’ve got to redefine yourself as an individual artist.’ So we got back into town and he basically fired everybody but me and we started the band Adler.”
To handle the vocals, Paul suggested Jacob Bunton from the Alabama-based band Lynam. “We had met Jacob through a mutual friend of ours, Jay Ruston, who ended up mixing our record. He did the last Anthrax record and that was a big one,” continued Paul. “I was actually at Jani Lane’s memorial after he passed away. They did a big special event at the Key Club and I went there because Chip Z’nuff was playing so as soon as I walked through the door, I ran into my friend Jay Ruston and we started hanging out and he asked me about the project with Steven. I said, ‘Well, we’re starting over, we started a new band and we’re looking for a singer.’ So he said, ‘I know the perfect guy, his name is Jacob Bunton.’ And he introduced him to me that same night. The next day, I introduced Steven to Jacob and we fell in love with him.” “That kid is a powerhouse and a rock star,” reiterated new bass player Johnny Martin, who came into Adler after the album was finished.
With Paul and Bunton in place, Steven was ready to lay down some tracks. While Paul was at a Christmas party at Jeff Pilson’s house, “Literally as I’m walking out the door, saying good-bye, giving him a hug,” Paul recalled, “I said, ‘Hey, Steven and I are starting a new project.’ We didn’t have a bass player at the time so I just asked him, ‘Would you be interested in playing bass on a couple of tracks?’” Not only was the current Foreigner bass player interested in playing, he suggested they do the actual recording at his home studio. “We recorded the first two songs at Jeff’s house with him producing and we just loved him so much, not only as the bass player but as a producer, he’s just amazing. He made us feel very, very comfortable and obviously that led to him producing the whole record.”
“I don’t think a band was ever in the recording studio recording a record and high-fived each other as many times as we did. Or slapped each other’s butts and said, ‘That was fucking magic',’’ Steven said with a laugh that verified the fun they had recording Back From The Dead. “You know what, Darling, making a great record it takes a team,” Steven continued. "I always loved being part of a team. That’s why I loved playing sports when I was younger and then once I got into music, a band is a gang, it’s a team. It’s been very exciting and a lot of work and a lot of believing. The richness in your life is not based on how much you have but how little you need.”
“The actual recording time was only a few weeks,” Paul added. “I know there was a lot of scheduling conflicts because Jeff was real busy and so was Jacob at the time. So we got in there for a couple of days the first time, then we had off a couple of days, then we were on for about a week and then Jacob had to fly out - he’s from Alabama so he was flying back and forth. But the actual time spent in the studio was only maybe three weeks.”
A few days prior to speaking with Steven, I talked with Lonny Paul, one of Adler’s main songwriters, about a few of the songs that ended up on Back From The Dead. So why did you pick “The One That You Hated” as the first song to introduce the new band?
That’s a great question. At the time, Steven was just getting ready to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame and he wanted to release a song before he was inducted because he wanted something out there. We were still in the process of mixing the record. In fact, I don’t know if the record was even completely finished being recorded. In a nutshell, it was just the random song that we picked off the record. It was actually the first one that Jacob and I wrote together but that really didn’t have much to do with choosing that particular song. It was more random than anything.
What about the title track?
Well, “Back From The Dead” was one of the last songs that we wrote. If you listen to the whole record, there aren’t a lot of really up-tempo, fast, quote-unquote barnburners, and we realized after we recorded the record we needed something to just kick ass from the get-go. That was kind of a compilation of a few different songs that we had at that tempo and that vibe and we just kind of threw it together and the title just kind of spoke for itself, kind of summed up the whole experience. The thinking was that Steven’s been gone for so long in the major spotlight that this was his comeback and he’s back from the dead.
And is that why you picked it as the title?
Exactly. After we wrote all the lyrics and put it all together, we thought it was appropriate. And Steven loved it. He was like, “We got to call the record that.” So that’s precisely why we did.
You wrote “Habit” by yourself, whereas your other songs on the album were written with Jacob.
Believe it or not, I wrote that song after Jani Lane had passed away. That particular one was just about all the cliché rock stars that just let the habits get the better of them and it doesn’t end up being a good story in the end, you know. That was one of the very first songs that I had sent to Jacob, 'cause when we first met, Jacob and I were sending songs back and forth and that was one of the first songs that he liked that I had sent to him.
How was Jeff Pilson as a producer? Was he hard on you guys or was he pretty laid back?
You couldn’t have asked for a nicer producer. Well, nice isn’t the right word. You couldn’t have asked for a more talented producer and the talents went beyond just engineering, just putting the songs together, but the way he treats the talent. He made us all feel extremely comfortable and in my opinion, that’s the most important thing about recording a record. You have to feel comfortable cause otherwise you’re not concentrating on the creativity. You’re nervous and just uncomfortable. We’ve all been in the big studios and to be honest, for the most part, they are uncomfortable and stale. But with Jeff, we would take breaks, we would go to lunch, we would laugh, we’d try crazy ideas. At one time we were looking for this brass, abrasive percussion sound and Jeff suggested that we go in the backyard and grab the shovel and a crowbar. So that is precisely what we did so there’s pictures of Steven banging on this shovel with a crowbar. Jeff was willing to try anything, even if it was outrageous, to get through the record and make it a very fun, happy experience.
So where can we hear this shovel sound?
To be honest, in the end, we didn’t end up using it. We were going to use it in the breakdown of “Hated,” after the solo it breaks down and we wanted this slamming percussion sound so we tried a bunch of different things and nothing really ended up working so we left it blank. But you got to try stuff, you know, and Jeff was all about experimentation and trying different sounds and arrangements. He was excellent on all that stuff. I would highly recommend him to produce anybody’s record. He would make anybody feel incredibly comfortable and getting the best out of them.
And how would you describe Steven?
He is extremely professional, extremely dedicated. We rehearse every single day, even if there are no shows coming up. He’s a sweetheart. He would literally give you the shirt off his back. He would do anything for anybody. Every time we stop at a stoplight when we’re out driving around and there’s somebody there asking for money, he always, always give a couple dollars if not more. He’s always the first one to give a handout. The sweetest guy I’ve ever met.
Back From The Dead not only features Pilson handling bass duties but Slash and John 5 adding their talents to “Just Don’t Ask” and “Good To Be Bad,” respectively. “Besides, of course, having Slash play on it, because we grew up together, I think the biggest and most exciting honor in my life was being at Jeff Pilson’s studio [with John 5],” said Steven. “It was like if I was in the studio with Eddie Van Halen or Jimi Hendrix while they were doing a solo on one of their records, one of their songs that is so memorable. I wish sex was as good as it was watching him play.” (laughs)
Once the album was complete, and Pilson had to go back to his other projects, Adler was in need of a bass player. Enter Johnny Martin. “Johnny is an old friend of mine,” Paul explained. “We knew that we needed a bass player for the live situation so after the record was done, I had a party over here at my house and I knew that Steven was coming. And my plan all along was to introduce the two so I invited Johnny. I said, ‘You need to come over. I want you to meet Steven and hopefully you guys hit it off cause I want you to play bass.’ So that’s precisely what happened. Johnny came over to the house, Steven came over to the house, we broke away from the party and came into my little studio/office and there is a bunch of guitars and basses on the wall. So Johnny picked up the bass, which is what I was hoping he would do (laughs). And he just started playing and immediately Steven turned to me and goes, ‘That’s our bass player.’”
“I’ve known Lonny now for well over ten years. We used to play the LA club circuit with our own respective bands and we used to play the same shows together and we’ve been really good friends through the years and kept in touch,” Martin informed me. “Then when it came time for them to look for a bass player, Lonny invited me over to his house for a get-together and I got to meet Steven and we hit it off right away. The funny thing was, we were sitting in Lonny’s office, his music room, just having a conversation. I pulled a bass guitar off the wall and during the conversation I inadvertently played a Rush riff and Steven’s eyes sparked up and he was like, ‘You can play Rush? You’re in.’” (laughs)
With their first real live performances as a band on the KISS Kruise II in October, they are itching to get out on the road to share their music with their fans. “Our bags are packed. We’re just waiting for the bus to pull up,” said Steven with a big laugh.“I guess the bus is farther away than we thought … We’re coming, though. We’re playing for every soul, every beautiful soul, we’re playing for them. And I personally want to give every one of those beautiful souls a hug.”
With his natural enthusiasm, Steven believes the band will be a hit with not only GNR fans but rock & roll fans overall:“We had so much fun recording it and we’re really hoping that everybody that listens to it can feel and hear the fun and excitement that we had making [the record] … If you listen to the lyrics, it’s been so long since a rock & roll song had a good, interesting story, and I think we captured it. And the reason we captured it, I believe, is because we’re hungry and angry (laughs) You put your heart out on your sleeve and you put it into music and, like I was saying, when you got a good team, you’re going to the Super Bowl.”