Gary James' Interview With Chad Atkins Of
The Ultimate Tribute To Guns 'n' Roses
Appetite For Destruction
They're billed as The Ultimate Tribute To Guns 'n' Roses. They travel around the U.S. delivering what many believe to be the most authentic tribute to Guns 'n' Roses fans will ever see. They are Appetite For Destruction.
Chad Atkins, who portrays Axl Rose in the band, spoke with us.
Q - Chad, I take it there are only a handful of Guns 'n' Roses Tribute Bands and Appetite For Destruction is one of them.
A - Yeah. There are a couple out there. From what I understand, we're the only ones that do it full-time. There are a couple more out there and some of 'em are pretty good. But I think the majority of 'em kind of do it for fun every once in awhile. I haven't seen anybody hit it full-time like we have.
Q - You base yourselves out of where?
A - We're based out of Raleigh, North Carolina. We're kind of spread out. I live in Atlanta and the guy who plays Slash, Mike Eddington, lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which is a couple of hours away from Raleigh.
Q - That must make rehearsals kind of tough.
A - We don't rehearse. (laughs) If we got something we need to get down, then we do it at sound check or something like that.
Q - How are you traveling?
A - We use a big van and a trailer.
Q - Is there a lot of demand for a Guns 'n' Roses Tribute band?
A - There is. There's a lot of demand for tribute acts. It got watered down for awhile 'cause there was a tribute out there for pretty much everything. When we came out, there wasn't a whole lot. There was some Kiss. There was some Zeppelin. It kind of went crazy for awhile and so it got watered down. Not all of 'em were really good, or taking it seriously. You can only take yourself seriously if you're in a tribute band, but you know what I mean, really trying to do the job right. On varying levels there are Beatles and sublime tribute acts that can fill an arena within the U.S. Outside the U.S. it gets a little easier to fill places like that. I consider ourselves one of the more successful acts. We're not as big as some of those Beatles ones. There's a really big sublime act called Bad Fish, and they're really, really successful. But yeah, there's a whole lot of demand for that stuff.
Q - And you're averaging what...200 gigs a year?
A - It varies like crazy. 200 is kind of pushing it. I don't know if that's on a bio or something like that.
Q - I believe it's on your website.
A - OK. Back in the day, it might have been that much. But we've kind of whittled it down to the more important, bigger shows and shows that really pay off more. We go between two to five shows a week. Our goal is that. The economy has seen us struggle a little bit with that. But generally, it's two to five shows a week, fifty-two weeks a year. We haven't taken a break yet. I'd say between a hundred and a hundred and fifty shows minimum.
Q - If you're doing a hundred and fifty shows a year, you're really doing well.
A - You understand that's just an estimate. I'm not looking at numbers right now. It's definitely at least a hundred.
Q - What were you doing before you put Appetite For Destruction together? You are the guy who put it together, aren't you?
A - Well, it was actually a brainchild of a friend of mine who was the original bassist for the band. His name is Miles. He came up with the idea because; all my life, high school and beyond, I was a singer with long, red hair. People I knew nick-named me Axl in high school. I loved Guns 'n' Roses, so I'm not gonna lie and say I didn't cop some of his style. Back in high school, I said "I want to be myself." The truth is, I really got a lot from him. He influenced me greatly. Miles was like, years after high school, I guess we were about 23, 24, he said "Man, we need to do a Guns 'n' Roses tribute!" I didn't want to do it. I didn't want to be in some silly tribute band. I kind of fought the idea for awhile. But I got to thinking about it and I thought it might be alright. It might be kind of fun. We put it together under that idea and after selling the first two shows out, we were like "Wow! This is alright! This is pretty successful." We started getting calls, college frats and just branched out from there. We ended up two or three years later going full-time with it.
Q - What other bands were you in?
A - I played in several original bands back when I was a kid. At the time of putting this together, I guess I'd been out of a band for, I don't know, about a year or two at that point. My son was being born. You just try to stay close to home. When this opportunity came up, it presented a great opportunity to make extra money, so I went back to it. Not a whole lot of original stuff since then. It's been mainly this. We did a band called Sick FM that was based on a lot of guys that were actually in the Appetite For Destruction, but we didn't really have a whole lot of time for it.
Q - That you know of, have any of the guys in Guns 'n' Roses come out to see your band?
A - Dizzy Reed, the keyboardist for Guns 'n' Roses, he's played with us a couple of times. He's real cool. A nice guy. As far as that goes, that's the only one I know of. I know that others have heard about it. There was a Velvet Revolver interview in Atlanta on the radio and they asked them about it. I don't know what they said 'cause I wasn't listening. I didn't know it was happening. But I don't know that some of the other guys know about it. Well, actually we had Axl Rose's attorney out recently, which is kind of funny, one of his old attorneys.
Q - Just a fan? He wasn't looking around for a lawsuit, was he?
A - No. He's actually a former attorney. He was part of the litigation process when Steven Adler was suing. We just did a Kid Rock cruise where Kid Rock kind of headlined this four day cruise and there's a bunch of other acts on there. There was a lot of high level music people on there because of the other acts. He was one of them and it was pretty funny to meet him. I met one of Eminem's old managers on like the first or second night. He told me the lawyer guy was on there. Then I ended up meeting him a couple days later.
Q - How is it for a Rock group to do a cruise?
A - It's amazing. You've got yourself a Rock 'n' Roll crowd that's contained. They're there. They're not going anywhere. So, you have a great opportunity to spread your name. It really worked. It was awesome. I still have a hard time getting my head back from that cruise. I'm stuck on that it was so much fun.
Q - You'll probably go back.
A - I hope so.
Q - Was it hard to find guys for this group?
A - Well, actually Miles played bass originally. It wasn't hard to find a Slash because my best friend grew up with me and loved Guns 'n' Roses too. For him to play Slash was just a no-brainer. Then the other two guys, the drummer I was jamming with at the time, he was the guy for the drums. He's a great drummer. There was no question in that. He just filled in to Izzy's spot. As time went on, we've had a few changes in the order of the band. It can be a little rough to find some of the members. Slash is probably the hardest. The demand is pretty good. If you start advertising you need someone, a lot of people kind of jump on board and you gotta weed through and find the best one for the act. Of course you want them to be able to look the part and you can use things to make that happen, like wigs. You don't want cheesy wigs. You want to get really expensive wigs. You'd rather it be real hair. It's a little bit of a battle, but it's not too bad.
Q - You can probably continue on with this band for the longest of time. What would make you stop? If it wasn't fun anymore?
A - There's a saying, you gotta know when to leave the party. When you start playing VFWs for $500, (laughs) and there's no one there, you've already missed that opportunity to leave the party. I'd like to go out on a high note. We've been doing it for ten years and I told myself in the beginning and told everybody, we're not gonna do this forever. And we now have been doing it forever. It's hard to leave. You do want to look ahead and make sure the shows are coming in, they're good quality shows. Your hope is really to leave on top. You want people to have good things to remember.