EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH MARC CANTER, AUTHOR OF RECKLESS ROAD: GUNS N’ ROSES AND THE MAKING OF APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION
As heir to the legendary Canter’s Deli in LA, Marc Canter is practically Hollywood royalty; as a friend of the guitar legend the world knows as Slash, he also found himself in the unique position of being able to watch – and document – Guns N’ Roses ascent from gutter punks on the Strip to the biggest band in the world.
Now Canter has released a book, Reckless Road: Guns N’ Roses and the Making of Appetite for Destruction. Compiling countless interviews and never-before-seen photos, the book chronicles the band’s first fifty shows and their path to the creation of one of the most successful hard rock albums of all time – there’s even a component whereby you can listen to bootleg recordings of those shows and watch some video on the net by utilizing a code that comes with the book. It is, simply put, a must own for any GN’R fanatic (such as yours truly).
I recently had the chance to conduct an interview with Canter via e-mail. After the jump, read Marc’s thoughts on the creation of such a book, what GN’R were like in the old days, Chinese Democracy, Velvet Revovler, and more. Then head over to RecklessRoad.com to order the book.
You’ve obviously known the guys in GN’R for a long time. Why did you
decide to do the book now?
In 1993 I told Axl that I wanted to put out a Guns N’ Roses book about the club days and he was like “Yeah, that would be a great idea.” So I worked 5 hours a day for 15 months putting together the manuscript with all the photos laid out so that it would look real attractive to the publishers. When it was done the band was sort of breaking up and there was no record in site and my agent wanted too much money from the publishers. I just wanted to get this out to the fans to share with them what I was lucky enough to witness. So after a year and a half my agent sent me back the book and said “If the band ever puts out a record, call me.” So it sat in my closet for years.
Two things happened in 2006. Axl played me Chinese Democracy in August and he told me it should be out by November and just by chance I found Jason Porath in September. He was working for enhanced books and he was calling me to see if Canter’s Deli wanted to place an ad on their site because Canter’s was in a book called American Great Delis that had been enhanced, meaning there are audio and video extras for the online part of the book. I asked Jason to tell me more about Enhanced Books and then I told him that I had put together a GN’R book and that I recorded all the shows and this would be a perfect project when I get ready to put out my book someday. A date was set for Chinese Democracy to come out for March 2007. Jason said he wanted to see what I had put together and that maybe he could help me get it out.
Six weeks later Jason was in town with Steven Slomkowski the guy who ended up doing the design for Reckless Road. They looked at my stuff and liked what they saw. I knew these were the right people to work with and now has to be the time to get this project rolling again. We put together a deal for the book to come out in the fall of 2007. I felt that would be a good time for the book to be out, 6 months after Axl puts out his new record.
There’s an incredible amount of rare, never before seen photos in your
book. Did you have to go around collecting those? Have you just been sitting on this huge stash of pics for so long?
I took photos at all the shows starting with Slash in 1982. I always tape recorded all the shows. When video recorders came out I started video taping and my friend Jack Lue took photos while I was doing video. I would keep everything that meant something from the gigs like the tickets and flyers and ads and clippings from the local papers. Sometimes a set list or some drawings that were laying around. Some of the videos made it out there as a bootleg. I did manage to keep the audio shows to myself.
There’s also a large multi-media component to the book that allows
readers to follow-along with audio and video to the shows being discussed. Can you discuss the thought process behind putting together such an all-encompassing experience?
After finding out what Enhanced Books was doing with books, I started working on fitting song segments to the page spreads to give the reader the [documentary filmmaker] Ken Burns effect. The online part to the book will blow you away. You can hear small parts from the shows the first time they played their songs live and what they said to crowd before they played a song live for the first time. You will feel like you were right there back in 1985. It’s going to change the way we read books.
This is a very special project and nothing like this has ever been done for any band. This is the birth of the band. The first 50 gigs that Guns N Roses did on the Sunset Strip have been well documented in this book. Also you can see and hear audio and video interviews form the cast of characters. There were like 24 people interviewed
for the book. My goal was to have all the band members look at the book and see what they might remember from the shows. Jason my co author wanted to interview the band to add more story to the project. Then I started thinking that everyone who was around and had something to do with the band should have something interesting to say. So I made a list of people that had ex-girlfriends, roadies, stripers, record company people, the producers and mixers that worked on the record, friends and old band members from all the bands before GN’R. Jason interviewed them and threaded their stories throughout the book where they would best fit.
GN’R have a reputation for being a band that was different from all the
glam bands on the Strip that were considered their contemporaries (e.g.,
Poison). But the book has lots of photos where the band actually looks
pretty glammed out. Can you discuss their evolution a little bit, from the
band in those photos to the band that got a reputation for being the
anti-Poison, so to speak?
They were experimenting with different looks for a while. Hanoi Rocks was a glam band that was one of Izzy and Axl’s influences. Guns N’ Roses sound was rock
n’ roll all the way and the image they gave off on stage was all raw power in the way they moved on stage. They may have put on some make up and shit but the real image that came from those shows was not glam.
Did you meet any resistance from any band members about releasing the book? Did anyone feel that their past was just “too embarrassing” for print?
When Axl first saw my manuscript he was very impressed with the work I did,
and while looking at it he remembered some things about the shows that got incorporated into the next draft of the book. Even though Reckless Road documents the birth of as special as the birth of Guns N’ Roses, which is very important to all the fans, Axl is now focusing on Chinese Democracy so this old stuff doesn’t mean that much to him right now. Slash said “Reckless Road is the best rock-n-roll book I have ever seen. I am amazed that Marc turned these casual, candid photos into this book. I’m really impressed.” Duff and Steven also helped out for the book and thought it was great that I was doing this. When I called Izzy and told him what I was doing and he thought it was a cool project,but never made it over to look at it. I did see Izzy at a event a few months later and he asked me
“How did it all work out with the book?”
Having been so close to the band right from the start, how do you feel
about they way evolved over the years into the Use Your Illusion albums? Do you have any thoughts about Velvet Revolver? Do you have any thoughts about Axl’s “new”‘ Guns N’ Roses?
The Use Your Illusion albums were a big change from Appetite For Destruction. The songs were put together a lot different. The guys no longer were living together and some of them had studios in their homes. Sometimes a song would be brought to the band already recorded and then lyrics would later be written. Also Slash was able to put some magic to songs that Axl came up this time like “November Rain” and “Estranged.” Now they had some money in their pockets and had a nice place to live,so the tension from living on the streets was gone. They were 5 years older. The songs for Appetite were put together in 1985. When Izzy left I knew there were going to be some problems in the way that the band was going to write songs. Izzy was a great song starter. I was disappointed when that lineup fell apart but now years later Axl has like 50 songs with the new band. I’ve heard Chinese Democracy and it’s great. Axl has toured around the world and always gives his best show live. Slash, Duff, and Matt put out 2 great records with Velvet Revolver and are touring the world. So there all doing well.
Any plans to do a sequel documenting the making of the Illusions albums?
No, the only person who would be able to do that would be Del James. He is also a friend of the band and still works with them now. He was the one documenting where I left off.
Finally, can you tell us your best GN’R story?
The whole experience was great for me. I do remember seeing their first show at the Troubadour on June 6, 1985 and knowing that I was witnessing something very special. I knew right there if they could stay together long enough that they would get signed and at least have a gold record.
September 28,1985 was also very special because they were opening up for Social Distortion and the whole show was running a few hours late. The punks were getting restless and the last thing they wanted to see was a bunch of guys on stage wearing make up and playing Stones songs. Guns N’ Roses were able to maintain the stage while being spit on and won over the crowd and handled the stage like a stadium band.
Also seeing 10 of the 12 songs from Appetite for Destruction performed for the first time at these gigs was great because most of them were album ready the first time they played them. So it was great to see them creating those special songs one after another.
Reckless Road: Guns N’ Roses and the Making of Appetite for Destruction is available now at RecklessRoad.com, or at a bookstore near you.