“’Man, I don’t wanna’ get into some stupid cover band!’ I fought it for awhile and then one day, I thought about it and I was like, it’d be kind of fun…so I tried it out and we went to play the first show…and it sold out.” – CHAD ATKINS of Guns N’ Roses Tribute band “Appetite For Destruction”
Axl’s and Slash are not coming back. No matter how many gigs they play apart, Guns N’ Roses will never be what it was when they were together. Watching Youtube clips of the most dangerous band of my youth has replaced listening to ink-worn cassettes. I’ve watched Guns N’ Roses a thousand times, but I’ve never watched them live. From a T.V. screen, I’ve watched the solos, the outbursts, the riots, the magic.
As a kid, I never thought the Guns N’ Roses monster would ever die. It did, and in some ways, it didn’t. I was teased as were countless other fans who were wishing for a reunion.
As an adult, I accept the truth. I’ll never see the glory of Guns N’ Roses in the flesh. Never. I’ll bet a dollar to every wish that even if Axl, Slash, Duff, Izzy, Stephen and get it together, even for one last time, it will never match my dreams.
But I do know this. Chad Atkins and his tribute band “Appetite For Destruction” are probably the closest I’ll ever come to seeing the Guns N’ Roses of the past. In April of 2012, Atkins (also known as NotQuiteAxl) brought their tribute show to Vinyl Music Hall.
Opening for the Appetite were Lugosi. No stranger to intensity and metal, AJ Fratto lead the Pensacola group (Michael Lukers (drums), Chris “Oz” Osborne (guitars), and Chris Weaver (bass) through a set of heavy originals and covers that ranged from fiery-hot to funky.
Following Lugosi, “Appetite For Destruction” made their way to Vinyl Music Hall after a temporary delay fixing their vehicle. No worries. As soon as they kicked in and turned the crowd on, the place continued to rock.
*** Chad Atkins Interview ***
MS: How did Appetite for Destruction (NotQuiteGNR) begin?
CA: It’s been forever ago now. A buddy of mine was talking about trying to talk me into doing a Guns N’ Roses tribute band cause we’ve been buddies since 3rd grade and in high school everybody had me nicknamed Axl. He started bugging me about doing it and I’m like, “Man, I don’t wanna’ get into some stupid cover band.” I fought it for awhile and then one day, I thought about it and I was like, it’d be kind of fun and so I tried it out and we went to play the first show we had set up and sold out. What the hell, you know! Let’s do it again, we played the same place again and sold it out again. Then already at that point, people had gotten word. Fraternities started calling us and stuff. We started playing a couple colleges and it just went from there pretty fast. We had been working all the time, and about two years into that we went full-time with it because we were working so much. And that was that.
MS: I looked at your schedule and you guys are like road warriors. How many shows do you play in a year?
CA: It’s changed a lot. We used to play four nights a week and now, we’ve really, really settled down. We’ve been going since 2000. We’ve had a few changes in the band and stuff like that, but we’re presently, since maybe the turn of the year, we’ve really slowed down to doing maybe four to eight shows a month.
MS: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen at one of your concerts?
CA: Well, man. I don’t know. It seems like when somebody asks you a question, you always forget the perfect answer until afterwards. We had a riot one time. Which wasn’t necessarily the craziest thing I’ve ever seen, but it was definitely funny because of, you know, like Guns N’ Roses back in the days. We were in Mississippi and we stopped playing. And we stopped because we were supposed to stop. Security was giving us that cut it time. We cut and kids weren’t happy about that and next thing you know-I didn’t even see it happen, I just walked off the stage when we were done and I heard all the commotion and I ran out there and the band had already pulled gear back and stuff because bottles and cans were flying and then chairs. The kids were attacking the security, it was pretty wild. I don’t think anyone got seriously hurt or anything. It was more funny than anything else. But it was like, “Really?” That was a pretty fun moment.
MS: I know you’ve hung out with Slash, have you seen him since the entire Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame induction?
CA: We weren’t like buddies or nothing. With Slash, I just met him in LA and he was just really cool. He was so like not a rockstar. He talked my ear off for an hour and a half. He was just really cool. That’s the time I hung out with him. I don’t know him or anything. (Guns N’ Roses keyboardist) Dizzy (Reed) had played with the band a couple of times and his other band Hookers N’ Blow had played with us a couple occasions and he’d sit in and do a couple of songs. But no, I haven’t seen anything since the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame. I saw Guns N’ Roses when they came to Atlanta. That was a very good show too.
CA: It’s kind of a non-opinion in the sense that I don’t know exactly what all went on as far as them talking to him, and him talking to them and all that stuff, but I don’t think it’s anything that anyone should hold against him. It’s such a corporate entity, it’s the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame and people like Madonna and…it’s like going to Hard Rock Café’ and seeing Elton John on the wall. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be and it has nothing to do with fans. It has everything to do with corporate money and if he was going to play, if they were going to reunite, wouldn’t everybody rather see that in a different place.
MS: Yeah. Like an arena or concert.
CA: Right, I mean like, Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame it’s put on the air. You probably can’t cuss. That’s such a contrived organization that I just don’t think that it would really matter. Did he let the band down? I don’t know. They kind of went their own ways. Slash has said himself in interviews that he doesn’t…not that he’s not proud of Guns’ N’ Roses…that’s not all he wants to be known as. Because he’s continued working since then. So how much of a letdown is it to not get together about that. What about Velvet Revolver or Snakepit? His own album, Or his own personal input that he’s put into rock n’ roll throughout these years. Everyone wants to paint Axl Rose out to be the bad guy. It’s so easy to do when we sit at home and listen to the music, “Oh yeah! Here he is being an asshole again.” But it’s like, we don’t know what’s going on. We don’t know who has really fucked who over and, or if anybody has. I don’t know. All I know is, I went and I saw the new Guns N’ Roses band play and they did awesome. I was blown away.
MS: If Slash called you right now and said, “Chad, I want you to be my lead singer, would you put aside Appetite for Destruction and join him? What would you do?
CA: (pause) Would you? (laughs)
MS: I would.
CA: I mean, like, yeah! Because, number one it’s a gig, number two, it’s playing with Slash for God’s sake. But you know, I wouldn’t personally be doing a whole lot for myself in the sense that a lot people the whole time would be, “Ok, here’s an Axl copycat.” Even if I didn’t want to be, I’ve got long red hair, what are you going to do?
But yeah, man, I mean, Miles Kennedy, I’m not a huge fan (laughs), but I’m not putting him down. He’s got great control and everything, but I shouldn’t have said that. I’m technically not a fan, I don’t own any of Miles Kennedy’s albums or anything. But what I meant by that is, hearing him do Guns N’ Roses was like, “God!” you know? It just kind of makes you go, “Ah, man! Just do the songs you did with Slash. That’s not what they sounded like.”
MS: During your show, what song gets you off the most when you’re onstage?
CA: I don’t know. I have basic answers for that. It’s easy for me to answer that question. I’ve answered that question in the past. My favorite song to listen to has always been “It’s So Easy”. It’s rockin’, it’s cocky. It’s a cool song, but my favorite song to play had been “Rocket Queen” for quite awhile, because the end is real fun. It challenges a little bit vocally, it’s a fun song to sing and everything, but we’ve been playing the songs for so long now that we just recently a few songs to the list that we’ve never done. We added a couple of Chinese Democracy songs. We’re not doing a lot of that stuff, but we added a couple and just because it’s new and it’s different, fresh. Really enjoy doing those songs because it’s different. Of course it doesn’t take away from the other ones. “You Could Be Mine” is real cool.
MS: I know when you sing, you’ve got an awesome voice, I know people like Axl Rose’s voice, but I don’t think people appreciate how amazing his voice is. Did you take lessons or choir?
CA: Yeah, I appreciate it. I didn’t. I started out just being a novice. Just being a guy from a garage band singing original music and stuff and of course I was majorly influenced by Guns N’ Roses. They were my favorite band, I guess it probably goes without saying, but then after a couple of years of doing “Appetite” I blew my voice out. I didn’t have to get surgery or anything, but I had to get some steroids and I took lessons from a two different instructors for a little while to learn how to do it without ruining it.
I agree with you in a sense-I’m not talking about myself-but I’m talking about Axl. I never really remember growing up and people acting crazy about his voice. They kind of do now, but to hear an interview, he came into the studio and sang some songs with Pink, talking about how amazing and how he gets and his control. I don’t remember saying that back in their heyday. They talked about Sebastian Bach and they talked about Iron Maiden, but they never really said a lot about him. But now, I hear it a lot more. His range is incredible and how I’m going to try and immolate that, I guess I might notice that more than some might, I don’t know. He’s amazing. It’s humbling to see him live, it’s like “wow, man!”
MS: What’s the hardest part of the gig?
I love traveling. I love playing. I guess maybe…always being able to…I don’t, man. I don’t know. I really don’t mind it. The business side kind of suck. That’d be an easy answer and probably pretty accurate. Other than that, maybe if you’ve been on the road and you’re late and it’s been a hellacious drive, running in and throwing stuff up, but still that’s not even that bad because once you get onstage, it kind of washes you clean of all the bullshit that’s happen all day long. It kind of just refreshes you and it’s fun. It reminds you of what you’re there for. I don’t know. The hardest part is the business part, man. (laughs) I’m going to stick with that one.
MS: On the other side of that coin, what’s the best part for you?
CA: (immediately) Traveling. I love traveling man. I love going new places and meeting people. At this point, since we’ve already been to a lot of these places that we go to now, it’s traveling and seeing friends. I’ve made some of my closest friends doing this job. Turning them into long-lasting relationships. When you’re traveling to get a chance to see people again. When I got married, I’d have to say at least five to ten invitations were to people that I met doing this, like out of town, on the road. It really changes your life a lot; you get to meet so many people, see what other people are like in different places.
MS: It’s powerful stuff. Rock n’ roll brings people together.
MS: What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
CA: (Chuckles) I can’t say it’s proven to be good advice yet, or not. It’s advice that sounded like the best at least and the advice that I appreciated the most was…my dad is a lot older than he should be. My siblings are a generation above me, so my dad is pretty old and everything and they’ve always been supportive of music, as you can probably understand, when it comes to I want to play this is what I’m going to do for a living, like you wouldn’t necessarily see your parents being on the receptive end of that, you know. But my dad had been talking for quite a few years now, kind of like against the grain. If times got hard and you got a girlfriend whose saying you need to do this or that, my dad was the one that’s like, “You need to stick with it.” He’s not necessarily talking about “Appetite”, he talking about music. He’d be the one to say, “There’s so much out there. This is what you can do the best, this your talent.” He’s always kind of been there to say, “If times get hard, it’s cool.” It’s not always easy not matter what you’re doing. “Just stick with it.” And I would say I appreciate that quite a bit.
MS: Do you have time for your own original music?
CA: I have a lot more time now than I used to. It’s part of the reason that we did slow down because I’ve been looking for that time. I’m actually writing and recording a lot now. I have a new band, I’m doing some stuff solo. Some of it’s off the deep end. Some of it’s like old outlaw country, and then some of it sounds like Van Morrison or something. But I have a band…well, the best way for me to say it is, “If you’re into Guns N’ Roses you would be into this.” It’s called “Through Center’s Eyes.” You can check it out on i-tunes. We actually have a song, we haven’t finished the album yet, but we put a song on itunes. This is so brand new. Right now, we just finished the song in the studio and put it on i-tunes, to kind of see what the reaction was from fans we have already met through the bands we play and see what’s next.
MS: Do you prefer crunchy or creamy peanut butter?
CA: (laughs) That’s a deep question, man. As a child, it was definitely crunchy, but now that I’m in charge of buying my own, I see myself buying creamy every time. I guess I’m going to have to answer with creamy.
MS: Not necessarily because of the taste, but because of…I’ve never heard that answer before…
CA: Maybe it’s because I’m lazy and I don’t want to deal with spreading it out (laughs).
– Michael L. Smith