At the end of May, Brooke Ellis came forward with an open letter accusing former GNR drummer Steven Adler and his associates of essentially screwing him out
of a book deal. Ellis is professional writer, avid music fan, and was the founder/administrator of Adler’s site for nearly a decade. His work has been
featured in publications such as Classic Rock Magazine, Skinnie Magazine, Culture Magazine and for music merch retailer, Hot Topic. Ellis’s allegations
leave very little to the imagination: A deal was made in which he would write Steven’s autobiography, and after submitting the initial draft, team Adler
washed their hands of him and took credit for the work. The book, “My Appetite For Destruction, Sex, Drugs and Guns N’ Roses” went on to
become a New York Times best seller with credit to Steven Adler and Lawrence Spagnola.
Unfortunately Steven Adler’s management has declined a follow up interview in regards to this matter, or offer an official statement. They did however
inform me to “be careful”of what I print, a veiled threat of sorts, and pointed out that there was no pending lawsuit as a means to validate his
innocence and dismissed Mr. Ellis’s claims. In turn I remind our readers that a lawsuit is not necessarily an indication of guilt, no more than a lack
of one attests to a person’s innocence. While Adler’s management group claims this is merely a frivolous matter, I feel Mr. Ellis is entitled to his
story and have provided him a platform to do so through this interview. To be clear, both sides were given equal opportunity to provide their version of
events and only Mr. Ellis stepped forward. I still welcome an interview with Steven Adler to address this if he becomes willing and ready at a later date.
The GnR Syndicate: How did you transfer from fan to friend and then eventually admin of Adler’s website?
Brooke Ellis: Well, I was at a NAMM event in 1999 at the Whiskey in Hollywood. Adler made an appearance there, and when I saw him outside, I told him
I was a big fan, and he was totally gracious and happy to talk with my friends and I. When he heard me say I had all these GNR bootlegs, he was like,
“Dude, give me your number!” I made him copies of everything with custom covers, brought them to him, and he said, “this is the coolest thing
anyone has ever done for me.” After that, I was pretty assertive about getting him out of the house and we were friends ever since. Plus he kept losing
the videos, so he always wanted me to bring new copies. I met him in January of that year, and he didn’t have a website at the time, so in July I
The GnR Syndicate: Whose idea was the website?
Brooke Ellis: I asked him if he wanted me to do one, and he said, “yeah.”
The GnR Syndicate: During the years you ran the site, did Adler ever contribute to the financial requirements of maintaining his site or compensate
you in anyway?
Brooke Ellis: No it wasn’t entirely necessary. Hell, I gave him money. But I used free software. It was never hi-tech, I’m not a techie,
but I always maintained the content professionally and it became the primary source of Adler news for years. But I put a LOT of time into it, and I’d
pay a guy here and there to help me realize my concepts for the site. One of my designs Adler used as his band logo for years. Plus back then, you know, gas,
film etc., costs like that. Then nine years later, after he regained control of his money, he started paying me $600 a month. Y’know, as much to
reciprocate for the years of work I gave him as it was to help me out. I eventually hired a web designer and started making the site look pretty much high-
end. We had some animation, some really cool copy and paste banners, I got paid for three months before the book crap began.
The GnR Syndicate: You’ve stated that Adler would request “outrageous things” such as selling his nail clippings or autographed DVRs
at hefty mark ups. Can you provide more examples of these types of requests? Did he explain the reasoning behind this? Was he desperate for money?
Brooke Ellis: Well, yeah, he definitely had grand ideas of the kind of money he could earn off of his name. I don’t want to get into personal
stuff, or anything that doesn’t relate to the book fiasco. There’s so much I could say. Steven gravitates toward people with ideas on how to make
money off him. That’s why so many of them have come and gone, almost always ending badly. Many of the people that gave me such a hard time with the book
are already gone! He didn’t have control of his own money for a long time, so he had some lean times there. He was even on an allowance for years. Heck,
I think his brother Jamie benefited from Steve’s earnings more than he did. Nice cars, lavish lifestyle, he might even have more GNR platinum awards
The GnR Syndicate: How did you originally come to write his autobiography? Was this his idea? Your idea? Something that came up over drinks one
Brooke Ellis: Yeah, very early on he talked about the book. On my own accord, I wrote a few pages about his OD in San Francisco. He read it and said,
“This is exactly what I would say if I could write like this.” But his mom was in the driver’s seat and it was another year or so before she
hired me officially. They had, like, maybe three other writers take a crack at it. Nobody could make it happen. Even one of his best friends took a shot at
it and didn’t get it done. I think this is why that particular person held such an angry, adamant sense of entitlement to it and self appointed
authority over me. It was rude. This guy waits on him hand and foot. I think his relationship with Steven is more investment than friendship. It’s
paying off, he’s got a cut of the book and has probably made more off of it than me.
The GnR Syndicate: Who was that?
Brooke Ellis: I prefer not to say his name.
The GnR Syndicate: When did you begin writing on the book?
Brooke Ellis: That would be November 2001, I believe.
The GnR Syndicate: Can you explain the process?
Brooke Ellis: Yeah. I knew that band like no other, or few others. You know how there are people out there who really know their stuff about Elvis
and the Beatles? That’s how I was about GNR. So, unlike the previous would-be authors, I was able to ask the necessary obscure questions, “How did
Vicki Hamilton come into the picture?” “How did West Arkeen start writing with the band?” “How did you feel about tripping on the drum
riser on live TV at Farm Aid?” - you get the idea. And I knew something was wrong was in his past, and I treated it sensitively. I worked up slowly to
asking if he ever suffered any kind of abuse as a child, and he confided in me. Always after that, he wanted that part taken out. I said, “Dude, it
explains a lot. It needs to stay in.” I promised I’d treat it with care. I don’t think he’d ever tell a guy like Larry, a relative
stranger, such personal things. So, it’s a surprise to see him open up with that disclosure in nearly every book interview he does now. I think
it’s more just like, “OK, just get this out of the way first,” but kudos to him for addressing it head on.
The GnR Syndicate: You claimed you tried to create a “sympathetic portrait” of Steven, did you feel he had gotten a raw deal in general?
Brooke Ellis: Well, sure, I mean, he had me convinced! Hearing it straight from him, it sounded like he got fucked over. He backtracks now, accepting
responsibility, but I think that’s more to appease the other GNR guys. You know? To let them know he holds no grudge and he’s ready for a reunion.
The GnR Syndicate: Was this something he has not let go of? Did he hold out hopes of reuniting with the band one day?
Brooke Ellis: I think that’s pretty much on public record.
The GnR Syndicate: You said you left “real dirt” out of the memoir, can you elaborate on that? What was left out and why?
Brooke Ellis: What I meant was, they took out some of the real dirt I had in there. It was probably due to legal reasons, so it would be best not to
relay those stories right now. But there was a lot on Axl.
The GnR Syndicate: Was the book solely your work? Who else contributed and what parts?
Brooke Ellis: Yeah, it was mine, and here’s the thing, it was never completed to my satisfaction. I wasn’t getting paid except for $100 per
day when I was actually interviewing Steven, which amounted to roughly $1,500. Sometimes when I’d go to interview him, I couldn’t get anything out
of him. Plus, I was working a full-time job, and I had my life. So it took over a year for that initial draft, and when I handed it in, they considered it
done. No one cared about the quality of the book. It had been essentially five years since they announced a book was coming, now it’s finally getting
written, they can’t wait any longer? I was even encouraged to “Just make it up!” In fact, my entire last chapter is all me. Not a word from
Steven’s mouth, and it’s still in there. They wanted it wrapped up! So it pisses me off when Jamie tells me “We couldn’t get a deal
without Larry attached to it!” To which I replied, “Based on what?” The bottom line was that Larry had the industry resources to make a deal
happen. So, give him a broker’s fee, right? No, they happily intended to give him my authorship regardless of how I felt. They were also shopping my
manuscript and Deanna’s autobiography. They had a condition that the two be woven together. In my opinion Jamie was clueless. I told him, “dude,
you get an advance, they assign an editor, and it’s a process!” But he was always arrogant, always had to be the big man on campus. Steven once
told me, “Slash never liked Jamie.” If that’s true, I’m in good company.
But yeah, they just wanted the money. Nobody cared about any integrity for the project. So, what happens? Larry spends a year with an editor, dressing up my
initial rough draft, and it’s still my work, nearly verbatim. Larry edited it and added some goofy shit; blatantly made up. For instance he wrote about
Steven talking in-depth about reading the Mott the Hoople book. Ask Steven the name of that book, he never read it! Thats’s Larry. When I was still
onboard, I valued our friendship, and didn’t want to make waves. So, when Steven asked me go over Larry’s pages for accuracy, I did, and I
immediately got pissed off, “All he’s doing is editing this poorly!” Larry added some goofy made-up shit, like Steven telling Slash about a
sexual encounter (with a girl) and Slash saying “I just remembered I have to go” and he runs off to jack off! Are you kidding me, Larry?!
That’s what you bring to the table?! I have the pages! I told him,“dude, the last thing Steven needs is to piss Slash off with a made-up
story.” The bottom line was that nobody cared about producing a good or true book.
If I had some advance money, and that extra year, with a Harper Collins editor, no less, the book would have been one of the greats. No doubt. These days, I
make my living as a writer. I’ve contributed quite often to Classic Rock Magazine, it doesn’t get bigger than that for rock journalism. Mick Wall
once contacted me and asked me to contribute two stories to the Slash Special Edition. I did and that was awesome. Strangely enough, I haven’t been able
to find anything Larry has published. He just took the book further away from Steven’s personality
Brooke with Adler.
The GnR Syndicate: When you say the last chapter was “All you” do you mean, you simply made shit up? Everything in that last chapter is
Brooke Ellis: Well, it’s not the last chapter in the book as it is now, but all the content is there. It was stuff that had happened while I had
known him. That addict neighbor of his, meeting his wife, obviously the stories with “Chuck”, who is me. I mean, I was well-informed enough to
write it. I didnt’ make it up out of thin air, but it’s me telling it as if I was Steven. A lot of the book is like that.
The GnR Syndicate: When did you complete it?
Brooke Ellis: April 2003.
The GnR Syndicate: So you originally signed in 2002? What were the conditions of that contract?
Brooke Ellis: It was really short, not drafted by a lawyer. Basically, it said I get $10,000 upon publishing, and the credit, “with Brooke
The GnR Syndicate: Subsequently as it turned out, his mother was acting illegally as power of attorney and this eventually fell apart correct?
Brooke Ellis: I cover that in my open letter. Basically, Steven got out of the deals Jamie was putting together, and he and his mom and their agent
were no longer a part of it.
The GnR Syndicate: You say you hold nothing against Deanna Adler. But surely she had a role in this?
Brooke Ellis: Jamie took the ball and ran with it. I don’t think she felt good about it. She was always kind to me. She acts tough, but really
she’s vulnerable and sweet. I’m looking forward to her book, “Sweet Child of Mine.”
The GnR Syndicate: What happened after that?
Brooke Ellis: Steven gets a new team of money-hungry scumbags, and Larry holds the key to the big prize. They gave me the same contract, now
stipulating that I’d be paid “after expenses.” I just couldn’t believe it and refused to sign. After months of arguing, they say
“Oh, we'll just rely on Jamie's contract you signed in 2007” even though they legally got Steve out of other contracts in that group, now
they’re going to cherry pick which ones they want to keep and which ones they do not.
The GnR Syndicate: It seems like your original lawyer really fucked up here. How could she have been so stupid as to forward details of your fiscal
health to Steven’s lawyers?
Brooke Ellis: My head was spinning!
The GnR Syndicate: Once that fell apart, where did that leave you?
Brooke Ellis: Alone. Alone to contact Adler’s lawyers. They were impossible and you wouldn’t believe how rude. All they had to do was play
fair. All of ’em, just play fair! But they saw me as a punk with no money and figured they could get away with screwing me. Perhaps they still might,
but after coming out with this, I feel a lot better than I have for the past two years. I can’t believe the support I’ve gotten. I figured people
would bash me in favor of Steven, but it’s been the opposite. I get messages telling me about similar things they’ve been through. Crazy stuff. One
person wrote me and said something to the effect of “For Steven to betray someone who was so publicly loyal to him for so long is a new low, I lost all
respect for him.” Lots of stuff like that, it encourages me.
The GnR Syndicate: You claimed that Adler seemed dismayed at the news, and promised he would not let them screw you over. Did you expect him to
change his number and cut you off like that? Were you in denial at first when this happened?
Brooke Ellis: Well, when his people learned that he told me to “make my own contract”, they must have saw his talking to me as a liability,
because they orchestrated a blackout. I believed, or wanted to believe, that Adler was in the dark about this. But when I saw him at NAMM in 2010, I waved,
“Stevie!” and I could see he wasn’t happy to see me. I was devastated. How lame, huh? I just turned and walked away and right into Matt Sorum,
of all people. I had just interviewed Matt over the phone a few weeks prior, so I smiled and introduced myself. But how weird, huh? Anyway, Steven goes
promoting the book with lies, telling suicidegirls.com he wrote the book with Larry “over lunch” or that Slash helped him write it, then I knew he
was onboard with betraying me.
The GnR Syndicate: Did you feel you had a sincere friendship with Adler?
Brooke Ellis: He once told me I was his best friend. That was important to me and I never wanted to let him down. I was actually tired of being a fan
for a band of guys I pretty much didn’t like, but I did it anyway. Getting in the crowd to take live shots, maintaining the site, it was my hobby too.
But now I realize it was time to move on anyway.
The GnR Syndicate: You didn’t like most of the guys in the band? Were they dicks or what?
Brooke Ellis: Um, there have been some good people in there.
The GnR Syndicate: Explain Lawrence Spagnola’s role in all this. How did he end up with a contract that protected him, and gave him credit for
authoring this book, while you did not?
Brooke Ellis: He got the deal, that’s all. I mentioned my conversation with him in my open letter. He was so stressed and angry, saying,
“You know, I put a lot of work into making this deal!” as if that entitled him to steal my work.
The GnR Syndicate: Why would Steven allow him to fuck you like this? What could Spagnola offer Steven that you could not?
Brooke Ellis: Again, the deal! There was the money just ahead, and there was a bunch of smiling people with knives in each other’s backs. They
all had agendas, and they all had his ear. Me out of the picture meant more money for them. It’s no surprise many of those people are already out of
The GnR Syndicate: Did Adler rob you? Or did his inner circle rob you? Who pulled the trigger here?
Brooke Ellis: His actions since have indicated that he and his people robbed me. I left voicemails with his wife, who I was once close to, pleading
her to intervene on my behalf. I spoke to Chip. Nobody saw fit to stand up for me. Here we are.
The GnR Syndicate: Chip Z’Nuff turned his back on you as well as the rest of the band?
Brooke Ellis: Chip’s pretty damn cool. He always tried to be neutral. But he was my last resort. I told him, “Dude, I gotta sue if Steven
doesn’t work this out with me” and nothing came of that, so...
The GnR Syndicate: This book went to the NY Times best seller list? How did this make you feel?
Brooke Ellis: Like shit. It’s my book, and it could have been great, especially for fans. I know what they want to know! Larry’s like in
his fifties, he doesn’t get GNR. People have said it’s poorly written. Well, you take a first draft and treat it like a final product, what do you
expect? No one cared; they were motivated solely by money, while I wanted it to be great. You know, when I picked up that book for the first time, my
attitude was, “if this is practically unrecognizable, if Larry did a bang-up job and added tons of new content, I'm letting this go, and good
riddance.” That wasn't the case.
The GnR Syndicate: What would you say to Steven Adler if you could talk to him right now?
Brooke Ellis: Profanities. Maybe years from now, when this is over and done, we’ll have a shot of Jaegar and forget about it. I hope it ends
well, so I can listen to GNR again without cringing.
The GnR Syndicate: So you could possibly forgive Steve for this one day?
Brooke Ellis: I never actually hated someone or thought I had a real enemy until this. It’s not Steven. It’s not Larry. He knows who he is.
As far as Adler is concerned, he’s a dumbass who had people influencing him with their agenda. I mean, ultimately he has the last word, but he’s in
his own world. I’m going to sue him, but somehow with him, it’s hard to hold a grudge. He simply doesn’t get it. I think his attitude is
it’s his life I wrote about, so why am I owed anything? He just wants to smoke weed and watch TV, y’know? He just wants others to take care of his
business which gives them plenty opportunity to exploit matters.
The GnR Syndicate: Why should readers believe you? Who is to say you aren’t trying to cash in here?
Brooke Ellis: Well, I’m past that concern and I’ll have my day in court. I have all the proof I need. I’m going public like this
because what they did was just wrong, plain and simple. When Adler’s people start chiming in, I’m surprised they haven’t, maybe they just hope
this will go away. I hope your readers will analyze the content of what is being said and weigh my credibility against it.
The GnR Syndicate: How far are you going to take this? Are you ready to fight?
Brooke Ellis: Yeah, I’m willing to risk everything. I’ve got the truth on my side, bottom line.
The GnR Syndicate: What is your end game? What do you want out of all of this?
Brooke Ellis: Justice! A public apology. I would love for someone to call Adler and Spagnola out on this. Maybe on Amazon reviews or at a book
signing, that would be awesome. It’s sad, I am very aware of the problems in the world and I believe we are in serious trouble. The global economy could
collapse. This book thing is petty, but since it’s a part of my life, I have to do something!
The GnR Syndicate: What has this episode taught you?
Brooke Ellis: Basically what has already been said about meeting your heroes. I also learned a lot about mixing friendship with business. It’s
The GnR Syndicate: Do you believe you will eventually win?
Brooke Ellis: I think so. I hope so. Either way the word is out, and it tarnishes the integrity of that book. All they had to do was play fair.
The GnR Syndicate: Tell us about your latest project, what is it and what does it mean to you?
Brooke Ellis: Oh, it means the world to me, thanks! Vintage Quixotic, “New Music for Old Hollywood.” It’s about yearning for a bygone
era, y’know? The legends, the scandals of the old movie days, cool songs about everyone from Bela Lugosi to Audrey Hepburn. I’ve got an amazing
vocalist Lorenz, and I write the songs and produce the videos. If one person checks ’em out on YouTube from this, then for me, something good came from
The GnR Syndicate: When did you start playing piano? What age?
Vika: I started to play when I was 4 years old.
The GnR Syndicate: Do you play any other instruments?
Vika: I have a left handed bass guitar and I’m hoping to be able to call it “Playing” one day.
The GnR Syndicate: Who did you study under?
Vika: Lipatova Irina when I was 6 - 17 years old, Igor Rjabov - when I was in a conservatory in Kiev. Professor Peter Waas in Weimar, and professor
Aquilles Delle Vigne in Rotterdam.
Also Lazar Berman - I was taking his classes between 1998 - 2004.
The GnR Syndicate: How did you first become interested in piano?
Vika: I don’t really remember.
I think, someone found out that I have a good ear. But I do remember myself very excited waiting for my very first piano to be delivered home.
The GnR Syndicate: Do you exclusively play rock songs, or do you work with other genres?
Vika: I’m a classical pianist, so I played classical music my entire life. I also improvise, and I love jazz - but I still have really a lot to
And I play metal of course.
The GnR Syndicate: What is your favorite song to play?
Vika: I don’t have one, I love different songs - Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Chopin -- Nine Inch Nails - Tool - Metallica - Slayer. too many to
mention. What fits my mood best.
The GnR Syndicate: Favorite Guns n’ Roses song to play?
Vika: November Rain.
The GnR Syndicate: Your versions of these songs are very moving, are you getting any proposals yet?
Vika: Thank you very much.
If you are talking about marriage proposals - yep, every day.
The GnR Syndicate: Yes marriage.
Vika: Some professional proposals as well.
The GnR Syndicate:Which song is the most difficult to play for you technically?
Vika: Technically Well, some left hand stuff in some metal songs is tricky sometimes (Metallica, for example), it needs time to get used to it.
Fast Iron Maiden songs are tiring to play. But nothing is really impossible.
The GnR Syndicate: What keeps you busy when you're not playing piano?
Vika: I knit sweaters and make necklaces and, of course, I love watching movies with friends. And I love dancing!
The GnR Syndicate: Any projects you are currently working on?
Vika: I just met for the first time with amazing drummer Brian Viglione, we played a concert in Reykjavik. I had a really great time. We’ ll
see how it goes.
The GnR Syndicate: Do you have a website that may showcase more of these songs? Where can we find you?
HEAVY LEATHER NYC has rocked the shoulders of Lemmy Kilmister/Motorhead, Slash, Judas Priest, Jesse/Eagles of Death
Metal, Uli Jon Roth, Testament members Eric Peterson and Greg Christian, Kim Mcauliffe of Girlschool to name a few.
The guitar straps have been featured in publications such as Cosmopolitan Magazine, Hails and Horns Magazine and
Mass Appeal Magazine.(Taken from Heavy Leather NYC .)
The GnR Syndicate talks with Rachael Becker, owner and operator of Heavy Leather NYC.
The GnR Syndicate: How did you develop this skill set? How did you get started? And how did that morph into
the business that you have today?
Rachael: I started my company after working with a leather smith for a while making custom accessories. I
worked in his shop in Williamsburg Brooklyn. He was a a 38 year old rock n roll dude and we listened to Howard
Stern every day and played with leather. I’ve always wanted to work with music but never had any interest in
the industry...I worked in fashion for a while but I simply enjoy designing and had no interest in the industry or
runway shows, etc. And I was always into leather- so I combined my love of all 3 and when I was no longer needed
at the accessory shop I started my own business.
The GnR Syndicate: You opened your store in 2008, what were you doing before this?
Rachael: I’ve worked various fashion jobs for large companies... I traveled around the world and was
in charge of design and production in NY and China. I’ve overseen production overseas and I’ve hand made
goods in Brooklyn. And in the end I want to support local business, the local economy and America in general.
Times are tough right now and I want to actively participate in it’s re-growth, bring prosperity back to the
The GnR Syndicate: How did you tap into the rock industry, turning some of the upper echelon of rock into
Rachael: The first dudes I strapped were Greg and Eric from Testament...I was backstage at a show at Jones
Beach and Motorhead, Testament and Heaven & Hell were playing. I found out the night before that I had backstage
passes so I made a strap for Lemmy... he is the ultimate Rock God and there was no way I would show up empty
handed. So I hung around his dressing room and met his tour manager and told the dude about the strap I made for
Lemmy. When they finished playing he let me in to the dressing room... I was speechless, tossed the strap at Lemmy
and told him he was rad. He offered me a Jack n coke, told me to sit down and chill out. And it is history from
there on, we hung out all night and still remain friends. At the next show in NYC he dedicated Iron Fist to me...
and in NJ he dedicated Ace of Spades to me. RAD! And somehow it always works out like that...
The GnR Syndicate: What is the purpose of your upcoming road trip? You had done one of these prior right?
How did that one work out for your business?
Rachael: The road trip will be for winter NAMM in California. But I want to extend that trip and either
try to sell north or south... still trying to figure it out. My Kick starter project is at $1,055.00 now and I
need $1,500.00 in 20 more days. If I don't reach my goal I get nothing, so please contribute!!!!!
My last road trip was from NYC to Nashville to Texas, down to New Orleans and back. It was amazing- I now sell in
Nashville and Austin and hopefully soon in Houston.
The GnR Syndicate: Do you work directly with musicians to create exactly what they want, or do they just
give you a range of ideas and let you surprise them?
Rachael: I work in a ton of different ways to get musicians strapped- some buy directly off of my website,
but if they need a minor adjustment on the length or width they will contact me through email. Or for custom work
they either send me photos of guitars they want strapped and I’ll send them a bunch of ideas, or they will
send me inspiration photos as well. Local bands I can work with in person. I recently made a custom strap for
Toni Iommi and he picked one out from my website and then I added some custom detailing. I also made one for
Geezer Butler, but this one was ultra custom- he is a vegan so I made a ‘faux heavy leather’ strap. His
guitar tech sent me a strap he likes so I used the basic template and feel and created a custom strap to his specs.
But the design was brand new, my unique design.
The GnR Syndicate: Any good stories you’d like to share with us in terms of artists you’ve worked
Rachael: I’ll give you an abbreviated story .... I have so many...
I was headed to Europe to Sweden Rocks Festival, going alone and meeting some friends from Spain at the airport in
Copenhagen. It is a monster festival with all types of music ranging from super heavy metal to hard rock to
country and glam. Headlining were Motorhead, Heaven& Hell, Poison, Uriah Heap, ZZ Top, Journey, Dream Theater,
Foreigner, Blackfoot, UFO, Lita Ford, The Outlaws..... you get the idea.
So I was at JFK at the ungodly hour of the morning waiting for my flight at the bar and I run into Twisted Sister.
Just me and them waiting for the flight. Unreal. So by the time we arrive at Copenhagen I’m friends with
them. And I realize my cell phone isn’t working internationally and I don't know how to meet my friends from
Spain (they were driving me to Sweden, many hours away). The Twisted Sister dudes tell me I’m going with them
and throw my stuff on their tour bus. But I pulled it off- I had to remain loyal to my friends. I met up with them
eventually and made my way to the festival. Got to Sweden, threw my stuff down at the campsite and ran for the
stage. Snuck my way backstage (and you bet security was tight!) and ran into Marc from Twisted. He was so
surprised that not only had I made it to the festival but I was backstage that he gave me a backstage pass. I then
went with Twisted Sister backstage to watch ZZ Top play... and before I left for the trip I made a bunch of guitar
straps, 2 custom ones specifically for ZZ Top. So I’m backstage watching them and I look to my right and
Lemmy was standing right there! After the show I went back to the Motorhead trailer (they were playing the 2nd
day) and drank a bit with them. But I had to get the straps to ZZ Top so I ran off and bumped into Marc again. I
told him my plans and he told me the ZZ Top dudes were gone but I screamed there was NO WAY they had left without
meeting me, the Gods of Rock would not let that happen. So I invited Marc to go on the hunt with me and a second
later Dusty Hill rolls through with his manager. So I pulled him aside and gave him the straps and drank beers
with him while Marc reminisced about touring with them years ago. Crazy! I ended up staying at a hotel with the
Motorhead crew that night.
The next day I told my friends the story... no one believed me and one of my friends got sick because it was
raining all night. Motorhead played and Lemmy wore my straps... Epic. It was still raining and the Motorhead crew
offered me and extra hotel room. So I brought all of my friends back to the hotel and was about to hop in the
shower when my friend bursts in screaming... I gotta head to the downstairs bar. I get down there and a bunch of
bands including the Motorhead crew and Heaven & Hell dudes were there drinking. And I ended up drinking with Phil
(Motorhead) and Dio all night. PARTY ON! A most excellent and successful trip! (and that was just the
The GnR Syndicate: Where can we find out more about your work?
Rachael: You can visit my website or
check out my blog (you will find a ton of roadtrip stories there too.) Or on Facebook, tons of custom work added all the time.
The GnR Syndicate talks to Tony West of Blacklist Union
Posted: 2010-08-26 12:18:04
The GnR Syndicate: What’s the back story to your band? How did you guys form?
Tony West: I formed the band in 2004. The name was born from being politically incorrect in this kiss ass
“scene” we have here in Hollywood. I take no bullshit, have been in Hollywood since I ran away here in
1989 and have developed quite the reputation (you could say) over the years.
The GnR Syndicate: Where is your (band’s) home town? Where did you get your start?
Tony West: I am originally from The Bronx: 204th street and the Grand Concourse. I was 13 when I ran away
here to (LA) and used to hang at Tommy’s burgers on Wilcox and Hollywood.
The GnR Syndicate: Why did you run away? Just pissed? Or did you go to L.A. to make music? Were you already
playing at that age or learned once you got out there?
Tony West: I grew up in an extremely hostile environment and was abused like many other children around the
world. I ran for my life at age 13 and joined my first band as a drummer. We were called Uncommon Grudge.
I’ve always known I wanted to play music; I was that little kid you would see at all the punk shows. I saw
AC/DC at age 5, GNR at 11 and the Ramones at 8 years old.
The GnR Syndicate: What is the motivation for your lyrics? Who does the writing?
Tony West: I love writing tongue twisters that I wouldn’t be able to speak but have no problem singing.
Also a huge motivation is all our songs are based on events, feelings and my life; both tragic and joyous.
It’s actually my salvation, keeps me sane and is therapeutic in all kinds of ways.
The GnR Syndicate: This is simply some of the most driven, in your face rock n’ roll I’ve heard in
years, I can’t say that enough. What’s your creative process like as a group?
Tony West: Our creative process comes from all different directions. Sometimes I will write on bass or we
can come up with a song together in rehearsal, it all depends on the moment.
The GnR Syndicate: Your sound is absolutely unique yet there is no mistaking the vast array of musical
influences that a listener can pick up on when you play. Who were some of the bands that had a direct impact on you
Tony West: Bands that had a direct impact on me personally would be mother Love bone,Jane’s Addiction,
The Cult, INXS, GBH, The Cro-Mags,all kinds of stuff.
The GnR Syndicate: 65 steps away, how did you end up closing that song out with a children’s choir? It
sounds awesome, who had that idea?
Tony West: That song I hold very close to my heart. It’s about how many steps away my ex wife’s
grave is from my ex girlfriend’s. I love the video for the song: It’s about walking through the fire when
you see no light at the end of the tunnel. You just instinctively know to go forward and it will all be ok.
I was very influenced by Andrew Wood as a kid and the children’s choir comes from the idea of how all the
adults in the world are attempting to get back to their childlike innocence when it’s never left in the first
The GnR Syndicate: Since I’ve got you here, any good rock n’ roll stories you’d like to
share with the readers?
Tony West: We were doing South by Southwest (music festival) in Texas with Rockets To Ruin (from Atlanta)
and Broken Teeth (From Austin) and we found out our new bass player was hiding the fact that he had TITS. Yes tits!
I laughed for three days and of course he was immediately fired.
The GnR Syndicate: What (music) might we find in your car stereo? Right now in my stereo I’ve got
Madball, new Alice in Chains, West Arkeen’s band The Outpatience, new Ozzy and NWA.
The GnR Syndicate: When should we expect to see your new album “Til Death Do Us Part” released
and how would you describe it?
Tony West: ’Til Death will be released the beginning of 2011. It is definitely an evolution of the
band and personally as an artist. We really pushed the envelope on this one. New fans as well as old fans will be
very pleased, and as always we will deliver a kick ass, in your face rock n’ roll cd that will make you wanna
fight, fuck, and drink.
The GnR Syndicate: Will you have an accompanying tour with this release?
Tony West: We look forward to hitting the road hard in 2011 and 2012 and hitting places we haven’t been
yet like Europe, Japan, and South America.
The GnR Syndicate: Where can readers find out more about Blacklist Union?
The GnR Syndicate talks with Todd Kerns about touring with Slash and his current band the Sin City Sinners.
The GnR Syndicate: How has the tour been going so far?
Todd Kerns: The tour has been amazing, mostly because we all get along so well. It can’t be underestimated how important that is. Of course, the shows themselves have been overwhelming. The festivals have been the biggest audiences I’ve played in front of by a long shot. Getting to see places I never thought I’d get to is wonderful.
The GnR Syndicate: How long can we anticipate this tour to continue?
Todd Kerns: When I joined this thing I assumed Slash would be going out on weekends and casually playing. Not so. Slash is a machine. If it were up to him we’d be on the road forever-haha. We just learned of an awesome tour we may be a part of in the New Year. So who knows? Maybe Slash will get his way after all!
The GnR Syndicate: Any stand out gigs?
Todd Kerns: Well, they’ve all been amazing but Bataclan in Paris stands out because Alice Cooper got onstage with us. That was a dream come true. Lemmy got up with us for a second time at Download. That is always a pleasure, he’s a God. We got to play with KISS twice: Once at Rock Am Ring and again in Vitoria Spain. Michael Monroe will be joining us onstage in Finland and he’s another hero of mine. It has been quite a ride.
The GnR Syndicate: Had you worked with Slash before? Was it true you auditioned for Velvet Revolver?
Todd Kerns: No I hadn’t worked with Slash before. Obviously I’m a fan. The man is the best guitar player on the planet, hands down. I think me and every other singer threw our hats in the ring as far as VR goes.
The GnR Syndicate: I really enjoy the Sin City Sinners. Do they play exclusively in Vegas?
Todd Kerns: Predominantly yes. People don’t understand that Vegas is a hot bed of activity and can keep an artist so busy there isn’t time to go anywhere else. That said, the Sinners have been to L.A. a handful of times and have spoken many times about touring. You never know.
The GnR Syndicate: What is the back story with the formation of Sin City Sinners? How did it become a magnet for guest appearances?
Todd Kerns: I originally came to Vegas to help work on a cd for Brent Muscat’s band at the time. I was doing a lot of producing at the time. Brent reformed three fifths of Faster Pussycat for a European run and asked me to play guitar. I said sure as I had not been to Europe before. Upon returning to the U.S. we formed the Sinners as a fun Tuesday night at our favorite Dive Bar to jam with our friends. The guests had been a part of it since the beginning. Phil Lewis from L.A. Guns was the guest at our very first show.
The GnR Syndicate: You’ve had a wide variety of performers take the stage with the Sin City Sinners, are there any that stick out in particular? The shows really sound like a lot of fun, you’ve got to be having a blast up there.
Todd Kerns: The Sinners always have a blast. It started that way and sustained itself by not really caring about anything but having fun. I think that’s the contagious quality. If you see a band that’s truly enjoying itself you have fun too. I have made a lot of great friends out of those guests. Sylvain Sylvain from the New York Dolls was a big one for me as was Sami Yaffa from the Dolls and Hanoi Rocks. Slim Jim Phantom from Stray Cats, Bruce Kulick from KISS, George Lynch from Dokken and Lynch Mob, Even Tiffany! My good friend, Eric Dover, and I met through the Sinners. He was in Jellyfisth, Slash’s Snakepit, Alice Cooper, Imperial Drag etc. I even appear on his forthcoming Sextus cd.
The GnR Syndicate: It’s always interesting to know what other bands musicians are into. Who got you pumped up when you were starting out and who gets you pumped up today?
Todd Kerns : My favorite 3 bands as a kid are the same top 3 today: KISS, The Ramones and Guns N Roses. Not in any particular order. Don’t tell my boss that though-just kidding.
The GnR Syndicate: I happen to love “Ah! Leah! ”, how did that end up on Exile On Fremont Street ? Was this an old favorite of yours? Although I’m not sure you could match that old video though, unless you’ve got a yellow tux lying around.
Todd Kerns: ha-ha. Can’t say that I do! I saw Donnie Iris on Solid Gold when I was a kid and immediately fell in love with that song. I have played it in every band I was in. When the Sinners decided to record, that song reared its head yet again. I think our version is pretty bad-ass if I do say so myself.
The GnR Syndicate: “Blow Up Doll” is incredibly catchy, what is that song about? Is this metaphorical or just as straight forward as it seems?
Todd Kerns: Well, my brother and I wrote that together for our band Static In Stereo. There is a film called The River’s Edge with Keanu Reeves, Crispin Glover and Dennis Hopper where Hopper’s character has a blow up doll as a girlfriend and everyone refers to her by name as if she’s a real person. No one ever makes note that this is a strange or unusual thing. I have always been fascinated by that relationship. If you listen to the song it’s me that is the blow up doll:
“I’m wasted, I’m always the one to complain, my rubber soul and an alien brain, always alone, bubble wrap, styrofoam like the real thing. ”Aren’t we all to someone?
The GnR Syndicate: I really like “Goin To Vegas” but I like the video even more. How in the world did Ron Jeremy end up in that thing? He’s actually very funny. Where were the desert scenes shot? Out in Pahrump?
Todd Kerns: Ron has been a good friend of the Sinners for a long time. He was the MC at our very first show. He always gets up and plays harmonica with us. He’s actually very musical. He, Carrot Top, Sunny Leone, Bobby Blotzer and Eric Dover all appear in the video. Jason Green, our manager directed the video and did a great job. The humor in it somewhat mirrors the lyrics but he took it a step further. The desert scenes aren’t as far out as Pahrump but you don’t have to drive far outside of Vegas to find desert.
The GnR Syndicate: When you aren’t performing you are also producing and song writing with other artists?
Todd Kerns: Well, I used to do a lot more of that, especially when I was still in Canada. I had my own studio and everything. My partner is still up there recording bands in it. It was great fun but the Sinners kept me far too busy to entertain doing anything else. Slash keeps me even busier!!!
The GnR Syndicate: What’s next for you after the tour wraps up?
Todd Kerns: The Sinners have an acoustic cd coming very soon. I’m not really the type to make big plans. Life seems to make them for me. All I know is that 2011 is going to even busier than 2010. If that’s even possible!
The GnR Syndicate: Where can we find out more about you, Sin City Sinners, and your music?
GnR's Bumblefoot gives the lowdown on the creative process, fans, and of course Chinese Democracy.
Posted: 2009-02-17 11:35:33
The GnR Syndicate: Is it Ron or Bumblefoot? Is there any deciding factor on which one we get?
Ron: Either is fine. I guess Ron. "Bumblefoot" is more of the solo band name, the solo artist quirky music thang, but you can call me whatever, all good. Call me Shank, haha. (Axl nicknamed me that in the last two weeks of the European tour in '06, haha...)
The GnR Syndicate: You've always seemed very approachable and open. Do you find it difficult to stay centered after playing all these shows and being on the receiving end of endless accolades from fans? What keeps your ego in check?
Ron: We're all human, and as far as I'm concerned, the only thing that matters is how you treat others and what you contribute to this world. If you do good things, you matter, you deserve respect. If not, you're just wasting food and air, the world will probably be better off without ya. I'm glad there are people that enjoy what I'm doing, what I'm part of, and am grateful to be able to bring some pleasure to people. But what makes a man is how they live when they're not on stage. I don't make music for the attention and adoration. I do it because if I don't I'll turn into 'Shank'.
The GnR Syndicate: Has music been a form of escape, a way of dealing with inner turmoil, a form of expression or a little of all? What happens inside when you strap that guitar on? Or maybe even, what proceeds or follows it?
Ron: A little of all. I always had this imagery in my head of a big meat grinder where shit goes in, and beautiful things come out - that's how it is, making music sometimes. You take all the bad stuff in the world, you internalize it, roll it around, and spit it out as a song that people enjoy. Music de-toxifies things, it's medicinal, therapeutic, energizing, it intensifies the spirit, and brings you to a better place. For me, what happens on stage is all a blur - you're just a tunnel that everything races through. Afterwards, I usually can't remember exactly what happened on stage, and don't want to. It's one moment, and when it's over, it's over, you're now living the next moment.
The GnR Syndicate: What is the most satisfying aspect of playing guitar or creating music? Are there any particular moments that may stick out? Or is it the sum of all parts, i.e. the end of a concert or listening to a finished CD?
Ron: I love the studio. Unlimited creativity, anything is possible, for me that's the place where I do want to capture a moment forever. Whether I'm making my own music, collaborating, or producing a band and bringing out their best, I love it. It feeds the civilized side of things. On stage, it's all about the primal uncivilized side, I'm volatile, come near me and I'll kiss you or bite you, or both. Together, creating in the studio and playing on stage satisfy the two sides and keep things balanced. No 20 particular moments stick out, it's the entire state of being when you're fully immersed that satisfies.
The GnR Syndicate: Are you excited that Chinese Democracy has finally arrived? Are there any late night TV shows we may want to pay particular attention to by chance? Are there any plans for 2009?
Ron: I'm just real happy for the GNR fans that finally got the legitimate release in their hands. Plans for '09? There are always plans, but all the pieces need to be in place in the right way at the right time with the right people to make things happen. All it takes is any one person in the chain to not do what they should and the whole thing can unravel. I can only hope for the best.
"I love the studio. Unlimited creativity, anything is possible, for me that's the place where I do want to capture a moment forever."
The GnR Syndicate: It seems that fan interaction is important to you. Is it a two way street in that regard? Are you getting just as much out of it as they are?
Ron: Yes, I always felt that a band and their fans are a team, they're connected. Would always like finishing a show and then 20 of us would hit a diner at 4am, band, friends, audience, and hang out for hours. I get something out of it just like anyone else, when we're all just being 'normal', whatever that is.
The GnR Syndicate: You've played all around the world, while this may seem rather broad, what have been some of your most memorable shows? Fan experiences?
Ron: I usually remember everything that surrounds the show. The food mostly, haha. Playing Madison Square Garden meant something extra personal, growing up in NYC, seeing my first concert there, and finally getting to be on that stage. Fan experiences...in England, going back to a fans house after a show and just hangin' out drinking tea. In Mexico, a group of people that ran for a half-hour following our van to the hotel, hangin' with them and just talking, taking photos and signing stuff. Such a cool bunch. Times of enthusiasm, times of calm, and lots of crazy stuff in between.
The GnR Syndicate: It's just a hunch, but I'd guess that you have a rather eclectic taste when it comes to music. What music might your fans be surprised that you are into?
Ron: The Partridge Family.
The GnR Syndicate: If you weren't playing guitar, what would you be doing?
Ron: Playing bass.
The GnR Syndicate: Was there an authority figure growing up that encouraged you to play guitar? What initially sparked your interest in music?
Ron: It was my idea. I was 5 years old, and all the old kids in the neighborhood got the new KISS album that just came out, 'Alive!' I heard it and knew immediately what I wanted to do.
The GnR Syndicate: On the front page of my website I have a charity set up for my friend to assist with her cancer treatment and living expenses. I can relate to her, and am driven to help, as I recall my Mother's ovarian cancer as a young boy. What charities are you currently a part of and what inspired you to do so? How important is helping others to you?
Ron: The main one is the MS Research Foundation, MSRF.org. It was started by my friend Ralph Rosa, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1997. Everyone involved volunteers their time for free, and everything goes directly to research. When people buy autographed CDs and merch from my site, $5 of each item is donated to MSRF. I've been involved with other fundraising organizations and events, charities to help with disaster relief, but MSRF is the one I'm most involved with.
The GnR Syndicate: Despite our economic woes, you sure can't say it's a boring time to be alive can you?
Ron: Definitely not. Never is...
The GnR Syndicate: Was there a time in your life when you realized being anonymous may be a thing of the past?
Ron: I'm reminded pretty often, haha. When ya see your name in a Doonesbury cartoon, things like that.
The GnR Syndicate: Without being too cliche: What guitarists revolutionized rock and roll to you?
Ron: For me it's Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen. My two favorites, two biggest inspirations, both were so creative and innovative.
The GnR Syndicate: Any young/new bands out there you really are into?
Ron: Have new albums from The Binges and Chelsea Smiles in my car right now...
The GnR Syndicate: Are there any artists that you would like to work with one day?
Ron:Yes, there are.
I'd like to thank Ron again for taking the time for this interview. A link to his official website can be found on the right side of this webpage.
Newbie animator Lena Boone brings a much needed dose of humor to a fan community that is sorely lacking a lighter side. This stuff just ain‘t for anybody either, it‘s specifically for Guns n Roses fans. We talked to Lena earlier this week and got the skinny.
Lena Boone hard at work
The GnR Syndicate: How long have you been creating animations?
Lena Boone: I just learned to animate last September, so it has been about seven months now. Toon Boom rules!
The GnR Syndicate: How much work goes into this? How long does it take to create a 2-3 minute video?
Lena Boone: It varies. For example, that Karaoke Slash video took about forty minutes in total to create. The Jarmo video took a couple of days of hard work. If there is more detail in the backgrounds, if you‘re switching from one scene to another, if you have to create a character from scratch it takes a lot longer. All my GNR characters are cut-out characters that I keep in my library, so any time I want to use them I can just pop them in there. That saves a lot of time.
The GnR Syndicate: The dialogue is hilarious, who writes all the material?
Lena Boone: Aww, you‘re too kind. The material is either written by me alone, or with my sister Hannah Yester, and sometimes by my friends Dave Ellis or Jeff Shane. Those guys like to get a little more controversial than I do.
The GnR Syndicate: Who performs the voices?
Lena Boone: I do all the voices except for Duff and Izzy in “Fart Tennis” and Duff in the “Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame Finale”, which were all done by my sister Hannah. People wonder how I can get my voice so deep. Ladies, beware the side-effects of certain hormone therapies. ‘Nuff said.
The GnR Syndicate: Online Guns fans can be overly dramatic when it comes to this band. Have you met any resistance to your infusion of humor into such a Trekkie-like community? What kind of feedback do you get from fans? Website owners?
Lena Boone: This is the weird part. I have received virtually zero negative feedback. The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, which is strange for YouTube. I‘ve been expecting hate messages from the beginning, and have yet to receive them. I‘m not complaining! I haven‘t heard from website owners yet. I may after the latest toon, though. I would not be shocked.
The GnR Syndicate: Have you ever heard from anybody in the band about your work?
Lena Boone: No. Not yet, anyway. I hope if any of the guys have seen it, they can find the humor in it and don‘t think I‘m a total dick.
The GnR Syndicate: I notice all of these are based on the original lineup; do you have any plans for the new band one day?
Lena Boone: The new band doesn‘t inspire me. I adore the original lineup and that‘s who I‘ll keep working with.
The GnR Syndicate: Where can we see more of your videos?
Rob Carlyle of The Compulsions talks to The GnR Syndicate
Posted: 2009-04-22 00:57:36
Photo by Bob Scofield
Describing The Compulsions’ sound may quickly become a subjective process; everybody seems to identify their own particular nuances.
What am I hearing right now? Tom Petty? The bluesy swagger of early Guns n Roses? Eric Clapton? The Stones?
Rob Carlyle isn’t one to delve into some grandiose, exhaustive narrative chock full of ego and cliches. His answer, much like the band’s music, is straight forward and to the point, “Rock ‘n‘ roll.”
Mind you, The Compulsions aren’t attempting to repackage a retro sound, they’re merely expanding on something that has been MIA for years now: An organic, no frills approach to kick ass rock n roll.
Their latest release “Been Through Hell” has been receiving stellar feedback and Rob Carlyle was nice enough to talk to the Syndicate about the new release.
The GnR Syndicate: How did the “Been Through Hell” launch party go at The Mercury Lounge?
Rob Carlyle: It was great. The Mercury Lounge was packed. A lot people have told me it was the best show they’ve seen in a long time.
The GnR Syndicate: Were there any standout moments of the evening?
Rob Carlyle: Usually when it’s a good night, I don’t remember too many details. So it’s all pretty much a blur. But after the show, someone in the audience said I was The Second Coming Of Keith Richards. And a few minutes later, someone else said I was The Second Coming Of Izzy Stradlin. So as far as I’m concerned, those are both two huge compliments.
Photo by Bob Scofield
The GnR Syndicate: Who is in your band?
Rob Carlyle: Brian Gabriel on guitar, Joe Merrigan on bass, Frank Ferrer on drums and me on vocals and guitar.
The GnR Syndicate: How did you assemble this group?
Rob Carlyle: I saw Frank and Joe playing in other local bands. Joe recommended Brian, who was playing drums with another group at the time.
The GnR Syndicate: When did you hook up with Frank?
Rob Carlyle: About six years ago.
The GnR Syndicate: I do not hear any current bands that have this sound. How would you describe your music?
Rob Carlyle: Rock n Roll.
The GnR Syndicate: What was the writing process like for “Been Through Hell?” Was this a collective effort? Was it something you had been working on for a while?
Rob Carlyle: I wrote “Davy Jones’ Locker” with Brian and “Desperation” with Hugh (Pool, co-producer.) The rest of the songs I wrote by myself. Some of the songs were written and recorded a few years ago and some are brand new.
The GnR Syndicate: This album has a real flow to it and transitions quite nicely. Can you describe the recording process a little bit?
Rob Carlyle: That’s an awesome compliment. Thank you so much! The recording process changes from song to song. For example, we recorded some songs live as a four piece and we recorded some one track at a time. We don’t have a formula. We do what each song calls for. We do whatever it takes.
The GnR Syndicate: Was your vision of the finished product what you ended up with?
Rob Carlyle: Actually, it’s way beyond my original vision.
Photo by Bob Scofield
The GnR Syndicate: My ear picks up a lot of blues with this CD. Who were your musical influences growing up?
Rob Carlyle: I started out listening to bands like The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin and that led me to the blues. I’m a big fan of John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, Bukka White... the list goes on and on.
The GnR Syndicate: What plans do you have for touring right now? Will you be playing in the city before then?
Rob Carlyle: We’re talking with a bunch of different bands about hitting the road together but that’s all the tour plans I can reveal right now.
We have a big show coming up in New York City on Wednesday, April 29 at The Gramercy Theatre (formerly The Blender Theater). It’s sponsored and promoted by Pabst Blue Ribbon, The Village Voice, Live Nation and WRXP. There’s also going to be a huge after-party across the street. This should be another really fun night.
The GnR Syndicate: Any bands you would like to tour with?
Rob Carlyle: Only the best.
The GnR Syndicate: Whats’ the band’s next move? Could we see a video on MTV perhaps?
Rob Carlyle: Some incredible directors have been pitching ideas to us, so there might be a Compulsions video very soon. We’ve also been talking with The Bowery Presents about doing some more shows with them.
The GnR Syndicate: The Compulsions were recently described by Classic Rock Magazine as “The Coolest Band In The World. ” Do you feel any new pressure to live up to that title?
Rob Carlyle: That was a tremendous compliment from Classic Rock and we really appreciate the kind words. But no, we don’t feel any pressure to live up to it. We just always try to do our best.
The GnR Syndicate: If anybody wants to learn more about your band where should they go?
Rob Carlyle: Our website is being redesigned so the best place to go is our MySpace Page . We will be posting some big announcements very soon so keep checking back for updates. You can also hit me up on Facebook . I love hearing from fans and friends!
The Compulsions from left to right: Joseph Merrigan, Brian Gabriel, Rob Carlyle, and Frank Ferrer. Their new album “Been Through Hell” will be coming soon to all major online music stores.
We all know the story by now. Last year Kevin “Skwerl ” Cogill (Antiquiet.com) was arrested for uploading a handful of tracks from the highly anticipated and unreleased Chinese Democracy album. Most recently he received probation, and agreed to make a public service announcement for the Recording Industry Association of America. Skwerl has given interviews before, but never of this caliber, depth and detail. Regardless how you may feel about his actions he has laid it all out (almost) for you to read, the good, the bad and the ugly.
The GnR Syndicate: How much did this event consume your life over the last year? Are you glad it’s finally over?
Skwerl: I’m still waiting on some bills to come in, but all told, tens of thousands of dollars. More than I’ve ever possessed, let alone spent, in my entire life. My family is pretty poor; I’m not some trust fund kid. So I had to work my fucking ass off to make it happen. Even after the bulk of the legal fees were taken care of, I continued to work my ass off to make sure that there’d be money in the bank for my girl and kid if the judge decided to throw the ol’ book at me and send me to jail.
I’m not crying about it or asking for sympathy or anything; I saw it as paying the price for what I did. But you asked, and the answer is: a whole shitload of money.
But hey, I’d rather give that money to a lawyer than pay it to RIAA in fines or restitution or as part of some settlement. I’m not saying that out of any kind of hatred for RIAA or anything. I just don’t play that game. I completely respect their right to prosecute me for what I did, and I always admit it when I’ve made a mistake. But I also respect my own right to fight fucking tooth and nail and make them prove everything they claim in a court of law; especially when they make it a criminal case. It’s nothing personal. That’s just how this country’s justice system is supposed to work.
If it’s indeed over, then yeah, I’m thrilled, of course. But we’ll see how things go. While I cooperated, my prosecutors didn’t exactly get what they wanted- my butt in jail, my sources’ names on a silver platter, a big tarred and feathered spectacle to scare the pants off of everyone with a Demonoid account. So who knows? Let’s just say I’m not celebrating anytime soon.
The GnR Syndicate: Besides money, what has this cost you?
Time. This has been a massive project. I had to be ready to go into court at the drop of a hat- more times than the media caught wind of- not to mention countless meetings and phone conferences with a small team we put together; not only to defend the charges, but to really investigate what the prosecution was presenting as the facts. It was on my mind at all times. It was all consuming.
Again, not crying about it or asking for sympathy. You asked, the answer is: A shitload of time.
The GnR Syndicate: Were the authorities interested in where the songs came from, or just that you posted them online? What did they want to know? Did their actions (i.e. providing you with the tracks) result in any adverse consequences? How did they get the songs?
Skwerl: The authorities wanted to know who the source was, but I didn’t know. I had a story, but I didn’t necessarily believe it. We (and whenever I say “we”, I mean my legal team) had to conduct our own investigation to get to the bottom of all of it. This meant that we could question my leads & contacts privately, rather than having the FBI do it and cause a big crazy shit storm. I can’t get into details of who led us where, but we were able to protect my friends’ identities.
The GnR Syndicate: I guess the biggie is: How did you come across these leaks? Was it somebody close to the band?
Skwerl: Ah, the big one. The one I won’t answer just yet. The decision not to talk about this is not an easy one for me to make, but I can say that it is my decision entirely. There’s no secret gag order, and I’m not involved in any sort of ongoing investigation. What I can also say is that we completed our investigation, and figured out exactly where the songs came from, and how they wound up in my hands. I could go public with this information, but for now, I’m saving it for a rainy day.
The GnR Syndicate: What were the events leading up to the arrest? The FBI originally only questioned you, correct?
Skwerl: Yeah, well that’s how it goes. They let you run your mouth for as long as they can get you to while they build a case up. I was kind of naive in the beginning- I knew I was in some trouble, but I guess I figured it couldn’t possibly be that big of a deal to them.
I was working at a company in Ladera heights last year when all of this went down. I came back from lunch one afternoon, and Mulder and Scully were there in the lobby waiting for me. They called my name as soon as the elevator doors opened. They were professional, polite and discreet. I was quoted as calling it “an ambush, ” by some reporter, and that made me laugh- it felt more like a business meeting. (Though I’m sure I’ve described certain business meetings as "ambushes" on occasion, so whatever.)
The three of us went outside where I told them exactly what I did. They wanted to borrow my computer, and make a copy of the hard drive. I didn’t want to have to leave work, so they agreed to come by my apartment in the morning for it- the first of a few visits to my apartment, none of which I would describe as particularly intimidating. They were investigating, and I wasn’t trying to hide what I did.
The GnR Syndicate: The Feds: A little too heavy handed in all this or no? Guns (pardon the pun) were pulled correct? Can you tell us what happened?
Skwerl: Well at the time, my main priority was just keeping my life together- the last thing I wanted was some big scene that would freak out my employer or landlord or anyone that could fuck my shit up if they suddenly saw me as a liability. I wanted things to be over and done with as soon as possible, even if it meant I’d have to put the handcuffs on myself. So there were several times that I told Mulder that if he needed to arrest me, all he’d have to do is call me. I didn’t know the legal terms, but I made it clear that a summons would be more than enough to get me in front of a judge.
At some point it became obvious that an arrest was coming. I had been talking with Mulder regularly, you know, running my mouth like a dumbass. I insisted that my source was anonymous and that I did not know their identity, but I kept breaking down the timeline, the traffic, the crash, how exactly the files were encoded, how they were uploaded, how they were accessed, and all of those technical details. At some point, I asked Mulder a question (I don’t even remember what it was), and he claimed to not be able to discuss something that would be going to a grand jury. Those are two big words, and that’s when I started looking for lawyers.
When I finally found David, the first thing he told me to do was to shut my fucking mouth (of course), and just tell the FBI that I was retaining counsel before going further. He told me that as soon as I did that, things might get ugly that they might get angry. When I told Mulder, he simply said he understood, said good bye, and hung up the phone. He didn’t even have to think about what to do next, which was scary. It didn’t really register- I didn’t walk around the whole rest of the day waiting to be arrested or anything, but it was in my head somewhere, because that night I dreamt about some spooks kicking in my door and hauling me the fuck out. I was awoken from that dream by the feds banging on my front door, yelling, and while that was pretty freaky for a moment, I immediately knew what was going on. When I opened the door, there were five or six (I remember five, my girlfriend counted six) federal agents, all with guns aimed directly at me, except for the one that was handcuffing me. I looked down the hall, and there was my buddy Mulder, with his gun pointed right at me, and all I said to him was that it was “totally unnecessary. ” He didn’t respond, and I didn’t say anything else until I was in court. We weren’t friends anymore.
They drove me downtown to the federal lockup. The place was crawling with U.S. Marshals. There was this insane poster in the little booking area that portrayed some famous crazy U.S. Marshal from the 1860s, with some metal-ass ridiculous nickname like “The Butcher, ” like something out of a movie, with this wild handlebar mustache, and he’s standing on top of a scaffold with a row of nooses. I forget exactly what it said below in hardcore old English text, but the gist was that their job description included enthusiastically killing the shit out of criminals. It was clear that people are sent there to be executed. It was intense.
I was in there with some no-bullshit-motherfuckers. This one dude had pistol whipped a cop (allegedly!) after illegally sneaking back into the country after his fifth deportation. Ironically enough, he was a friendly dude. Same as the local drunk tank, people just love to talk shit and trade stories, to distract themselves from the fact that they’re pretty much totally fucked. I was more scared outside of the cell than in it. That’s reality for you.
Eventually, I met with the judge who had signed the arrest warrant, and right there in the courtroom in front of everyone, he said “I don’t even understand why this wasn’t a summons case, like I recommended. ” He let me go on a signature bond (a friend vouches to keep an eye on you, but pays a massive fine if you skip town), despite the government pushing to keep me locked up.
You know, I gotta admit, one of our posters on Antiquiet raised a good point- I didn’t slip these tracks onto some underground IRC channel in the middle of the night, quietly, anonymously- we did it right in our front yard, with a marching band and cheerleaders, in broad daylight. In a way, the crime was a complete overkill, and so I can’t get too mad about the arrest being a complete overkill. I probably would have done the same exact thing if I were them. Sometimes inappropriate behavior is the best way to make a point.
The GnR Syndicate: How quickly were you notified after putting the songs up, to take them down?
Skwerl: Well one thing a lot of reports- perhaps all of them- have gotten wrong is the fact that the songs were long gone before anyone contacted me. My server crashed from the traffic. The only way I could get my site back up was to remove the songs. They had only been up for about fifteen minutes before that happened, and then maybe an hour after I got the site back up with the songs (and a bunch of features) completely disabled, I started getting calls.
The GnR Syndicate: Who initiated the prosecution? The band? The label? The government?
Skwerl: RIAA did the initial investigation, and packaged the case up for the government.
The GnR Syndicate: The prosecutor wanted jail time, do you feel that this would have been appropriate in a case such as yours?
Skwerl: Well no, of course not. Do you?
Nah, but seriously, even the prosecutor conceded that it wasn’t necessarily appropriate for me on an individual level, but that doing so might deter others from committing more harmful cases of the crime. I knew ahead of time that was the situation I would probably be in. We had put up a great fight, but it would come down to whether or not the judge felt it was time to make an example out of someone. That’s a scary side of justice; sometimes what you deserve isn’t the only factor the court considers when deciding your fate. Luckily, the honorable judge Abrams is a fair dude.
The GnR Syndicate: Do you feel that your actions sabotaged Guns n’ Roses or harmed them in anyway? The record label? The RIAA?
Skwerl: I don’t feel that my actions harmed the band or label in any way whatsoever. The finished version of Chinese Democracy went up for streaming in its entirety on Myspace before the album was released. The label paid money for this. They called it promotion.
The GnR Syndicate: In many ways the RIAA appears to be both the dinosaur as well as comet hurling towards earth. Is dragging people into criminal court for this type of offense going to solve their problem? If not, then what would solve it in your opinion?
Skwerl: I’m going to reserve judgment on RIAA... for now.
The GnR Syndicate: Do you regret what you have done? If so, were you able to convey your apologies to the band through legal counsel or other means?
Skwerl: I don’t regret what I did, but I won’t ever do it again. I’ll let someone else take the next one, and I’ll find another boat to rock. One that isn’t so illegal maybe. As I said the other day, my actions disrespected Axl’s right to control how his work is presented to the world. For that I humbly apologize. But that’s as far as it goes.
The GnR Syndicate: Did anybody from the band ever contact you?
Skwerl: Nope. No one truly authorized to represent the band, besides Axl’s lawyer, who sent a cease & desist.
I’m sure you guys know about Beta’s kid Fernando. He was actually the first to call me, identifying himself as a member of the “Guns n’ Roses camp. ” Like I said, the songs were long gone, but he wanted to know if I was going to put them back up. I told him I would not. He asked where I got them, and I told them that I didn’t know the identity of my source. The cease and desist came via email shortly after.
Apparently the FBI questioned Fernando (before me), and he had given them a very different story. He told them that I said I got the tracks from a source at the record label, and he told them that the songs were still online when he called, suggesting that he had something to do with my taking them down. Initially we thought that he had something to do with the leaks (why else would he make so much shit up to the freaking FBI), but when we investigated, he was a dead end. He’s been responsible for past leaks, but not mine. So I don’t know. He may have been trying to play hero to redeem himself, or he may have mistakenly thought he was somehow responsible. I don’t know.
The GnR Syndicate: What was the mindset behind putting the unreleased tracks up for people to download? What motivated you to do this? Considering the time and money put into the album weren’t you a bit apprehensive?
Skwerl: Honestly, I didn’t think much before doing it. It was automatic. Let me answer those questions along with this one:
The GnR Syndicate: There has always seemed to be a conflicting view in regards to these leaks. Few, if any, of the people I knew were strong enough to refrain from downloading them. On the other hand many of the fansites were vehemently against even discussing them (All while downloading for themselves or actively seeking them out). What kind of feedback were you getting in your mail box? Thanks? Fuck you?
Skwerl: Well that’s two-faced bullshit. If you’re running a fansite, you’ve gotta ask yourself who you’re doing it for. Are you doing it to get closer to the band? Or are you doing it to serve the fans? Johnny Firecloud [Antiquiet co-founder] and I ran a big fansite back in the day for A Perfect Circle. We pissed that band off so much, posting shit we weren’t supposed to, refusing to take said shit down until we got a substantial statement in return for the fans to chew on. But once you start censoring yourself, then you start becoming little more than an extension of the band’s cocktease “official ” site, only you’re not getting paid. You know what? No matter how close you may get to the band, you’re still going to be the fanboy (or girl)... unless you sell drugs too, I guess. The relationship you build with the fans is way more valuable in every single way. They’ll be there for you at the end of the day.
Sometimes you’ve gotta make real tough choices between the band’s wishes and the fans’ wishes, and I’m not saying the fans have to win every time. But sometimes you’ve gotta stand up for them, you know? You’ve gotta say, “Look, this shit is out there, I’m a journalist, it is my job to report this. Take me to court if you have to, but I’ve got rights. ” Or else I’ve gotta wonder why you still bother.
One thing that was really interesting to me was how the feedback I was getting would change with the weather; with each turning point in the story. Initially, everyone was like “Fuck yeah! Thanks! ” But when I did a couple interviews and the FBI got involved, haters came out of the woodwork, and then it was split evenly between “thanks” and “fuck you. ” It fluctuated at various points as the whole thing went up and down, but when someone reported the government’s recommendation that I do jail time, the needle swung so hard in my favor, it broke. It was more comments than ever before, and all but a few were “Fuck RIAA! Fuck the man! Free Skwerl! ” and that kinda shit.
I read the comments and emails and shit, but I never let any of it get to me. These people don’t know shit about me, so how can I take any of it personally? Besides, most of the people ranting about how I’m a scumbag piece of shit asshole don’t even have the story straight, and few of them know the first thing about how the record industry really works these days.
The GnR Syndicate: Were there any donations towards your legal fund?
Skwerl: I hadn’t done the math (accurately), so I’m going to sit down and do it for you now.
Less than 2% of my legal fees came from donations, not including bills I’m still waiting for. It was a few hundred dollars over the past year, most during the first two days of me having a donation button available. Twenty-five people donated, including my girlfriend. Most of the donations were in the ballpark of $5, and a couple people shocked the hell out of me with their generosity. I definitely, sincerely appreciate the support. It meant a lot to me. I’m trying to figure out something really cool I can do for those twenty-five people to let them know how much I appreciate it.
I’m happy to lay this out for you though. Once upon a time I had a site that ran up astronomical hosting bills, yet was home to a really cool, supportive community. I opened the donation jar, and it was pretty much the same deal; I got less than 2% of what I owed the hosting company. So in the end, we got shut down. That was eons ago, but to this day, every once in a while, someone will bring it up, and ask where “all that donation money went” like I’m Bernie fucking Madoff. If there’s ever any backlash with this case, if some troll goes on a tirade someday about how I avoided a costly trial just so I could pocket donated legal fees, or how thousands of pro-piracy communist hippies rallied together to buy my freedom or some shit, you can direct them here.
The GnR Syndicate: So did you finally buy Chinese Democracy? What did you think?
Skwerl: Damn right I did. How could I not? I had been waiting for it longer than I’ve had hair on my balls.
For me the bottom line was that it was a great album, but it had just been cooking too long, plain
and simple. When we think back to 2008, we might remember it as the year Chinese Democracy finally came out, but you’re not going to hear it playing during the flashback scenes in movies 20 years from now. It’s going to be fucking Katy Perry, or Linkin Park. Say what you want about their shitty albums, but at least they claimed their moment.
I still listen to it. There are some songs that I like even more now than I did when I wrote the review, like “Sorry. ” That’s a great song, it grew on me big time.
At least two people on my legal team purchased the album, which definitely wouldn’t have otherwise. I’m pretty sure they hated it.
The GnR Syndicate: Many people felt that giving into the temptation of the leaks ultimately tainted the album once they listened to it in its entirety. Did the leaks spoil the final product for you?
Skwerl: Some people are like that. The listening experience is a sacred ritual for them. Some of these people are the same kinda people that have albums they can’t listen to because some girl or boy that broke their heart liked it or got them into it. I was never one of those people. If an album is good, nothing I do or avoid doing is going to change that.
If you’re the type of person that feels the listening experience can be spoiled by leaks... don’t listen to leaks.
The GnR Syndicate: Anything else you’d like to readers to know? Guns n’ Roses?
Skwerl: Yeah, if anyone gets their hands on the new Dr. Dre album, I’d like to check it out.