Steven Adler

An interview with former Guns N' Roses drummer
by Tommy Rage
April 2019

former Guns n' Roses drummer Steven Adler

former Guns n' Roses drummer Steven Adler

Certain decades in music are defined by albums which stand out as the true essentials of their time. Appetite for Destruction is undoubtedly, the quintessential rock album of the 80’s. The debut album from Guns N’ Roses, released in 1987, captured the attention of rock fans across the globe. Selling more than 28 million copies, the critically acclaimed album set the tone for the raunchy L.A. rock scene, and is considered the benchmark for 80’s rock albums. The dual-pitched tones of Axl Rose, with the distinct and dirty guitar licks from Izzy Stradlin and Slash, were bolstered by Duff McKagan’s bass and distinct drums from Steven Adler.

In 1985, the “classic” Guns N’ Roses line-up was made official when Slash and Steven Adler were welcomed into the group, just one year prior to the band signing with Geffen Records. Rampant drug usage throughout the band, including that of Adler, led to his brief firing in 1990. Adler was reinstated after he signed a contract in which he vowed to stop taking drugs. When the band entered the studio to record the song “Civil War”, Adler’s heroin addiction had become so bad, that it delayed the recording of Use Your Illusion I & II, and Adler was again fired from the band. 

Adler continued to struggle with alcohol and drug addiction throughout the 90’s. Suffering a stroke in 1996, he was briefly comatose after taking a potent intravenous cocktail of heroin and cocaine. Adler was left with a temporary paralysis of the left side of his face, resulting in a speech impediment. In 2008, Adler participated in the second season of the reality TV show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, and later appeared in the first season of the Celebrity Rehab spin-off Sober House. Although Alder continued to struggle with alcohol and drugs, he never lost his love for playing drums or performing live.

The formation of Adler’s Appetite in 2003 and reformation in 2018, allowed Adler to create his own music; and to play Brat Fest on Saturday May 26th. Playing songs from his album Back From The Dead (released in 2012) along with a full slate of Guns N’ Roses songs, Adler still loves playing live. “It’s basically the show we used to do back in ‘85 & ‘86 [with GNR]. I’ve got an amazing singer named Ariel Kamin. Michael Thomas is on guitar with Alistair James and Tanya O’Callaghan on bass. We play three or four songs from my older band ‘Adler’, songs that I did with Slash and my friend John 5, like “Back From The Dead”. I’m not under the influence of alcohol or drugs or stuff like that; and I get to remember [shows] too [laughter]. We start with ‘Reckless Life’ and end with ‘Paradise City’ and play everything in between. It’s a lot of fun now!”

Needing to share his experiences in one of the world’s most notorious bands Adler penned his autobiography in 2011, My Appetite for Destruction: Sex, and Drugs, and Guns N’ Roses. “It was necessary for me to get those things out of my system. I needed to get rid of that garbage. I just wish I was more sober when I wrote the book, I wasn’t sober. Between then and now, I’ve heard so many stories about my past. Things have just gotten so much better, and the book was a great way to just move forward. Simple and very effective.”

The Guns N’ Roses induction into the Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame in 2012 was a special moment for Adler. “It was an amazing experience. I love those guys, Slash and Axl, Izzy, Duff. I am so proud that I got to work and create music with them and experience life with them. They are the greatest guys I got to play with, and get to know; and to be there was just amazing. To look down and see Bette Midler, and John Cougar Mellencamp, it was amazing. We got inducted with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Slash, me and Flea all grew up together, and I’ve known Flea since we were 13. It was like a family reunion. It would have been nice if Izzy and Axl were there, but it was amazing!”

Never one to shy away from his struggles with alcohol and drugs, Adler noted how much he appreciated how Nikki Sixx shared his overdose experience in the movie Dirt. “That was an amazing movie, I’ve seen it three times. The part about Nikki O.D’ing was honest, and it was real, and Nikki told it the way he remembered it. I know Robin Crosby (Ratt) and I reminded him of how it went. It’s funny, in the movie, they show the Franklin (Plaza Hotel) having a really nice looking room, but it was a total crap-hole, it wasn’t really that nice [laughter]. In the movie, you can see two characters in the corner, that’s Slash and me [laughter]!” 
 
Happy with where his life is at this point, Adler enjoys being able to relax and look forward to new goals and aspirations. “There were thousands of times that I thought I wasn’t going to make it. There was a thousand and one times, that I didn’t WANT to make it, but God had something planned. Two months ago, I got to go down to a table reading for Family Guy. It was one of the coolest things I got to do. John 5 and I went down to check it out, and Steve Lukather from Toto was there, he is going to be on an episode. That’s my goal, to be on the Family Guy, I’m going to be on it [laughter]. 

Looking forward to new goals, as well as looking back to his time spent with Guns N’ Roses, Adler recalls what it felt like to be part of one of rock’s most famous bands. “It was really just being with four great guys who had one goal and one thing to achieve, and we got to do it. I think back to the studio, recording Appetite for Destruction, we were just so happy. I remember the first time we heard our song on the radio. We were in a parking lot, and we just started dancing around the car. It was a dream come true!”

As we closed out the interview, Adler shared a few more Guns N’ Roses stories and how truly happy he is in being able to bring the GNR songs to fans everywhere. “I’m just really enjoying doing these shows now, I have a beautiful house, a beautiful wife, and a beautiful life. I have everything I want in life, and I’m a very happy guy, and I’m enjoying life. I’m excited to play Madison. This is going to be the best festival of the summer. Look at all the bands, this is going to be so much fun. Even though I’m 99% vegan, I may have to have a brat [laughter]!

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