Guns N’ Roses Guitarist Discusses the Highs and Lows of the Band’s Various Line-Ups

  • Axl Rosenberg

Richard Fortus holds a unique position in Guns N’ Roses. He joined the band in 2002, as a replacement for Axl Rose’s childhood friend and Slash’s arch-nemesis, Paul Tobias (f.k.a. Paul Huge), and as a result of his long tenure with the band, he has seen a lot of members come and go. This includes three lead guitarists besides Slash: Robin Finck (Nine Inch Nails), Buckethead, and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal.

Now, in a new interview with The Radical With Nick Terzo podcast, Fortus has opened up about the various challenges of playing with all those different musicians:

“I love Robin. I loved his playing. I loved working with him. And, obviously, Tommy [Stinson, bass] is like my brother. We were all very tight. And then there was Bucket, who was just sort of out on his own. But it was very musical, and it was exciting to be a part of. He’s a phenomenal talent. Man, he’s pretty out there. And he definitely can be difficult to work with. I enjoyed working with him, ’cause he’s very musical.

“It was a difficult dynamic to make three guitars work. [Buckethead] did an excellent job, because he understood the dynamics of it and how the puzzle pieces have to fit together, and Bucket really understood that. Everything sort of has to have its place.

“When [Buckethead] left and Ron Thal came in, it was a different dynamic, because I think Ron had been used to sort of doing his own thing, with his own band, so he didn’t really get how that worked, or how to make it work. So it was difficult at that time.”

What Fortus didn’t mention is that Thal was hired to replace Buckethead literally days before the band played a quartet of shows at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom in 2006. The rush rehearsal period almost certainly didn’t help any difficulties they had integrating Thal into the band.

In any case, as we all know, Slash and bassist Duff McKagan eventually returned to the fold, and the band finally stepped back down from having three guitarists to having two guitarists. Fortus maintains that he had no problem with the old members coming back, calling McKagan one of his “favorite” people and asserting that he and Slash “really came together very naturally and in a really easy way.” Still, he also admitted that things weren’t quite as easy for drummer Frank Ferrer, who also joined GN’R in 2006:

“I think that was the toughest fit, when those guys came back. For Duff — well, for both of them — sort of adapting to Frank and trying to get him to adapt to them. It wasn’t as natural. But it has ended up working out well.”

Fortus also confirmed a long-standing GN’R fan myth that Chinese Democracy-era bassist Tommy Stinson was the “ultimate musical director” or the “band leader” during rehearsals for his stint with the group, with Rose, naturally, being “always the final arbiter.”

You can listen to the entire interview below.

GN’R have said that they’re currently working on a new album, which would be their first since Chinese Democracy in ’08 and their first with Slash and Duff since the Use Your Illusion collection in ’91 (not counting the 1993 covers record, “The Spaghetti Incident?”).

Like every other band in the world, Guns N’ Roses were forced to postpone their summer 2020 stadium tour due to the coronavirus. The dates were rescheduled for 2021, although no one should be shocked if they end up getting moved again, this time to 2022.

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