Guns N’ Roses occupies a special place in the hearts of many rock music fans. With their 1987 debut, they arrived with all of the subtlety of a punch to the face, instantly adding a much-needed dose of sneering, leather-clad danger to the world of hair metal.
When the band bitterly dissolved in the mid-90’s — with Axl retreating into seclusion to record his opus Chinese Democracy, and Slash and the others moving on to a variety of new projects — it was seemingly the end of an era.
Thankfully, the loud, brash Guns N’ Roses experience from yesteryear lives on in the form of Appetite for Destruction, a pitch-perfect tribute band based out of Raleigh, North Carolina. Helmed by Chad Atkins, Appetite for Destruction is the only full-time touring Guns N’ Roses tribute band and, since 2001, they’ve been providing fans the opportunity to relive the GNR phenomenon.
In December 2012, Chad Atkins and Scott Seville, the lead singer of Poison’d and Red White & Crüe, decided to merge bands to create a multi-act show, creating the rock-themed extravaganza they now dub Kings of Hollywood. Consisting of Bill Spears (guitar), Dee Williams (drums), Chris Clark (guitar, bass), along with Atkins (vocals) and Seville (vocals, bass), the group tours nationwide, keeping the energy and spirit of 1980s metal alive.
I’ve always played in original bands. I always loved Guns N’ Roses since I was a child. I originally didn’t think it was cool to be in a “cover” band, but my friend and original Not Quite Duff McKagan, Miles Partridge, talked me into it.
Do you recall where you were when you first heard Guns N’ Roses’s Appetite for Destruction album?
I heard a dubbed cassette of it before I ever bought it. It was brand-new at the time. But the first marked Guns N’ Roses event in my life was when I read an article about them in Thrasher magazine, before Appetite was ever released. I thought, “This has got to be the coolest band that will ever be.” They were so rebellious, so apathetic. They seemed so gritty and dangerous, a feeling that their album, luckily, ended up successfully emitting.
How did your band, Appetite for Destruction, come about? How did you meet one another and what made you decide to start a Guns N’ Roses cover band?
My longtime friend and I were constantly badgered and aggressively pursued by our friend Miles Partridge* to create a Guns N’ Roses tribute band, thinking that it would be highly successful. I was sort of nicknamed Axl throughout high school and the immediate years following, because I was a scrawny, redheaded singer who also copped Rose’s style… though I would hardly admit it. That made the idea seemingly a no-brainer to Partridge, who eventually got us to budge… creating this >decade-long career.
*(Miles now stars in a rock/hip hop mashup act called Hipslack)
Aside from sounding like Guns N’ Roses, you guys also do a great job of mimicking the look and stage presence of the band. How much thought and effort went into that? Did you watch old concert footage and break it down like a football coach might study game film?
Thanks! Sort of… depends on the band member. I already knew what Axl Rose did/does live… let alone every other Guns N’ Roses member! Said longtime friend and I would coach the other guys, along with them studying on their own time, like doing what you said with videos, pictures, books, albums, interviews… Some of the guys went really far in figuring out what their character’s personality was.
Since the original inception of the band, several other members have joined, and it became more of a streamlined process, with them doing their studying individually, before meeting us for their first shows. The original lineup actually studied and rehearsed for several months before we played our first performance.
What has been your most memorable live show?
There have been so many, different memories come from different places. Probably the first thing that comes to mind for me, our Las Vegas New Year’s Eve show, in which we played to a 30,000+ headcount on Fremont Street. I met my wife at a show in Milledgeville, GA. And every time we play House of Blues, though that’s quite often, it’s a humbling (popular misuse of the word) experience.
You recently returned from a bit of a hiatus. What did you do during your time off, and what brought you back together?
I didn’t do much, haha! Well, I worked on my original writing much more, and worked on other ventures within the music business. The hiatus didn’t really last that long. Appetite played New Orleans about three months after it ended with an improvised lineup, which started a chain reaction of occasional shows with similar lineups.
What made you and Scott Seville decide to merge groups, and what can fans expect at a typical Kings of Hollywood show?
We wanted to boost business. We wanted to work together again. We wanted to get into something a little different, shake things up a bit, for ourselves. I still envision more of a Vegas type of act, where all of it could flow more seamlessly together in one big show, as opposed to three separate acts. Still, there’s something cool about pulling off three different bands with five people.
In your opinion, what is the most underrated Guns N’ Roses song? Perhaps along those same lines, what is your favorite song to perform?
I would say the best answer encompasses a whole album. I believe Chinese Democracy is highly underrated, mainly due to criticism of the fact that most of the founding members aren’t involved, and to how long it’s been since a full-fledged LP had been released. The transformation GNR’s style took on wasn’t easily swallowed, when Appetite and Use Your Illusion are still very relevant and remembered.
Skeptical GNR fans couldn’t accept the new sound — though if an album was released at that time, mirrored under the style of AFD, I believe it would seem very dated. I’m not saying AFD can’t be enjoyed today, or even that sound. Hell, it’d be refreshing to hear something like that now. But the same band doing the same thing two decades later would seem really lazy. Nobody who’s lasted that long sounds the way they did when they began.
Haha! The answer to the second part to the question’s much less long-winded: “Rocket Queen” is a fun song to sing.
Aside from Guns N’ Roses, what music do you generally listen to? Is there anyone out there now that you find particularly interesting or exciting?
I listen to a handful of everything. I grew up playing my best rebel by listening to punk. But my biggest appreciation, nowadays, lies within outlaw country, indy acoustic kinda stuff, and lots of the “grunge” stuff like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. I’ve always absolutely loved Corrosion of Conformity. I like some industrial music.
I’ve found an appreciation for lots of different things through recording and writing, myself. I have a gig recording covers of different styles — and I mean all different styles — from Rihanna to Foo Fighters to contemporary Christian rock. That’s taught me a lot, and has shown me what goes into even the seemingly simplest of pop music, etc. I also write original rock with a friend of mine who’s living out in LA, Stephen Chesney, and original country with Scott [Seville] under the pseudonym of The Highway Brothers. Even though those songs are original, I still learn respect of modern music, because there’s a lot of studying new and relevant artists in doing that.
What do you enjoy most about an Appetite for Destruction tour?
I love traveling. I love hanging out with the guys. I love visiting new places and meeting new people… or going back to regular spots and seeing old friends. I’ve seen places I’d have never seen, otherwise. I’ve sang with who’s now Steel Panther, been backstage at The Key Club and The Roxy, walked the back halls of major casinos, performed several times with Dizzy Reed. Poison’d and Crüe went to Alaska! I’ve gotten free or reduced lodging on vacation because of a local club’s hookup. So many things are awesome about being involved in this. But the really cool thing about it all: we’ve made significant friends… good friends, throughout the years, by traveling. We keep up with guys like Jimmy Reidy in Boston, Sammy Cusimano in New Orleans. We made bushels of longtime friends when we performed on Kid Rock’s Chillin’ the Most cruise.
What sort of response does Appetite for Destruction get from guys like Dizzy Reed and Kid Rock?
I dunno. Dizzy told someone, backstage, it was freaky how close I was to Axl. He said we did real well at emulating the band. This situation was so long ago, it’s kind of hard to remember, exactly. We hung out a decent amount over the two times he was in Raleigh. His band, Hookers and Blow, opened for Appetite on two occasions (crazy, right??), and he played a few songs with us. The second time he came around, he had a week-long gig at a piano bar, just playing covers and things, and he had me come and do a lot of the singing.
When we met Kid Rock on the cruise, he was cool and laid back. We had a few conversations about random stuff, and he said we do a good job. He shared a story about singing with GNR and how it felt to be onstage with them.
It’s hard to know what people really think about your band, when you’re face to face with them. Those guys, and other professional musicians we’ve met, have had kind words for us. But back in the beginning, I wouldn’t be surprised if it looked a little creepy to guys, seeing people dressed up and mimicking people they know. And nowadays, when we’re sharing the stage with original bands of a similar variety, I believe on some occasions, there may have been some resentment toward us. But there can also be guys who just enjoy it, befriend you, give compliments… Kid Rock and Dizzy were stand up guys when we met them. That’s all I really know.