When Darren "Dizzy" Reed calls the current incarnation of Guns N' Roses "the best version of (the band) that I've ever been in," some might consider those fightin' words.
The keyboardist certainly has the track record and perspective to make that claim. He's been with GNR since 1990 -- the second-longest run next to founding frontman Axl Rose. And he's well aware of the regard for the initial version of the iconic but tempestuous hard rock group, which was responsible for the multi-platinum albums "Appetite For Destruction" and the two-volume "Use Your Illusion" set and has been nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's class of 2012.
But Reed holds to the position that this lineup, most of which was on board for 2008's "Chinese Democracy" album, does indeed better all its predecessors.
"It's really hard to put my finger on it," Reed, 48, notes. "I think everyone is just real super-talented, obviously, and it's just a great chemistry. It's started to jell really great. Everyone is a lot of fun to be around and a lot of fun to play with. Everyone is doing their own thing, but it all works really, really well together." Tommy Stinson -- the onetime Replacements bassist who's been with GNR since 1998, adds that "everyone is getting along great. We're having more fun than we've ever had."
Even the famously mercurial Rose, whose late show arrivals and fiercely non-conformist attitude have become both legendary and notorious throughout the music industry, professes satisfaction with GNR's world these days. "I feel great with the line-up and the chemistry and stuff," Rose, 49, recently told VH1's "That Metal Show." "The band's starting to fire on the right cylinders. We're having fun together as a band...The right people are playing that want to be here."
The original GNR, however, will always cast a shadow over anything that comes in its wake, of course.
The group formed in the highly competitive Los Angeles club scene in 1985 and made its mark with 1987's "Appetite...," which hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, went 18-times platinum and launched the hits "Welcome to the Jungle," "Sweet Child O' Mine" and "Paradise City." It also became one of rock's rolling soap operas, marked by tales of bad boy debauchery, drug abuse, internal dissension and erratic behavior -- much of which has been chronicled in memoirs by guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagen and first drummer Steven Adler, who was replaced by Matt Sorum in 1990.
That only enhanced the group's appeal, however. The two "...Illusion" albums debuted at No. 1 and 2 in 1991, and the lion's share of GNR's 100 million worldwide record sales can be attributed to the group's founders, who parted ways acrimoniously by the mid-90s. ("Chinese Democracy," GNR's first new album in 15 years, has sold less than three million copies worldwide.)
So bring on the Hall of Fame, as far as Slash is concerned. "It's become very prestigious over the years, and it's become a huge honor for anybody to be inducted into it -- or even nominated, for that matter," says the guitarist (real name Saul Hudson), who is currently leading is own band and also plays with McKagan and Sorum in the on-hiatus Velvet Revolver. "It's a cool accolade. Obviously we're in really, really great company."
The possibility of the induction, of course, brings up the specter of some sort of reunion for the ceremony on April 14 in Cleveland. GNR fans in Italy have even started an online campaign calling for it. "Well, first let's get in," says Slash, 46. "Of course you have those thoughts of how it might work in case it does happen. With Guns 'N Roses, there's really no guessing exactly how it will go. I suppose if it happens, everybody will get some sort of ducks in order."
For his part, Rose said on VH1 that, "I don't know what it means in terms of me with the old band and the old lineup. If we were to be invited, I don't know what they would ask of me. It's up in the air."
In the meantime, the current GNR -- which also includes guitarists DJ Ashba, Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal and Richard Fortus, keyboardist Chris Pitman and drummer Frank Ferrer -- is busy playing shows on its first full North American tour in five years. It's even been going on stage closer to on time than it ever has before.
"We get on stage earlier," Stinson, 45, notes, "but we play longer."
And now there's even increased discussion about the next GNR album -- and not taking the 17 years (and reported $13 million) that it took for "Chinese Democracy." Rose said that the group and its new management are "trying to figure it out...as we are going throughout the country," while Reed claims that the group members "haven't really talked a lot about that." But he notes that "there's a lot we've recorded, a lot of material back when we started working on 'Chinese Democracy,' so there's quite a bit of unreleased stuff that would be really cool to finish off." Among those are reported titles such as "Ides of March," "Soul Monster," "The General," "Atlas Shrugged" and "Berlin."
"All of it is great," Reed says, "so any selection of another 12, 15 songs would be awesome. I'm not just giving you an easy answer; I truly believe all of it's pretty amazing."
Stinson, meanwhile, predicts that "we'll probably get into writing mode some time early in the new year, seeing what we come up with, and if it's meant to be it'll happen. That's the way it works with this group. I think we have a good band, so I really hope we do another album...sooner rather than later, but that's for (Rose) to decide more than anyone else."
Guns N' Roses and D Generation perform at 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, at the Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $75, $49.50 and $49.50. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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