It’s hard to believe this, but while not an original member of Guns N’ Roses, keyboardist Dizzy Reed has been in the band for nearly a quarter century. Joining the band in 1990 for the Use Your Illusion albums, Reed is the longest-running member of the band that isn’t Axl Rose. Following their performance at Rock on the Range, Metal Insider contributor Sean Matthews caught up with Reed to talk about the band’s plans after their residency, their (lack of) touring plans, and the unfounded rumor that the band would be calling it quits.
Guns N’ Roses have been around for so long that generic questions go out the window. You guys have played a million festivals in your time. How did Rock on the Range compare to what you guys are already used to?
It was a great night. It was a little chilly, but luckily it didn’t rain when we played. We had a blast and it was just really good to see a lot of the other bands that were there. Some friends that we hadn’t seen in a while and that was very cool. We had a great time and hope we can do it again.
You come from a different generation than me, so, who would you say were your biggest musical influences were?
The great bands that from the 60’s and the 70’s, like the Beatles, Stones and The Who, as song writers and as entertainers, and as guys that sort of laid the groundwork for the way rock and roll is today and what’s it’s become. You know, Elvis and Ray Charles and Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry. I listened to a lot of Stones, early 70’s stones and then started getting into Deep Purple a lot. When I was a kid I used to listen to Booker T & the MGs, because he played the organ and I could play the organ, so that was cool. Elton John, all the glam rock, David Bowie, all that stuff man. I mean the 70’s to me when I was growing up was just, it was magic. There was so much to discover. It was a big deal, it wasn’t easy to get your hands on. You had to either borrow it from somebody or go buy it. That’s how you listened to music. So the more stuff I discovered it was kind of a snowball. You just want to keep finding more and more stuff to listen to. I bought the first Led Zeppelin record and within a year I had them all. I was just trying to figure out how they wrote those songs and how they played that. Then I tried to figure out what the hell they were singing about, and that’s a whole different story.
Is there anybody that you’re listening to now?
If I hear about an artist or a band, I’ll have a listen to it. I’m not really opinionated by anything anymore, but just to see why it’s working and what makes it cool. I’ve stopped trying to discover bands to turn other people on to. And that’s not saying anything bad against these bands, there’s a lot of great bands out there. I’m just kind of at the point where I just want to keep writing and keep forging on and piquing interest and inspiring other bands and that’s great.
You’ve been part of Guns & Roses since almost the beginning. Is there any kind of added pressure with being in a band that big?
Sure. I mean, we’re not trying to win the Super Bowl or anything. A lot of it comes from within. That being said, to get to a certain level and stay at that level, you have to demand quite a bit out of yourself. What goes along with that [is not wanting to] disappoint people. At the same time, in this business you can give 1000% and there’s still going to be people that are dissatisfied. We’re going to keep doing what we do and we’re going to do it fucking great and if you don’t like it, then that’s your choice.
Guns N’ Roses is definitely an influential band. How does it feel knowing that you’re helping to mold the new generation?
I’m not surprised. I say that as a fan of the band before I joined the band. We were friends. I would go see them play and I was like ‘man I want to be in that band.’ Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for. At the same time, thank you to all those fans for listening to us, for discovering us and supporting us. I think that’s great. It’s just that its sort of a natural progression of things, I suppose. Although you never know with the way the industry is now with everything so accessible, I don’t know if there is one big band or artist that stands out as such an influence. Hopefully, but that can happen at any level. It can happen in your hometown and you can go see a band that you like and they can influence you. You can also discover many bands that aren’t even around anymore, that’s easier than ever now. Until MTV existed, the only time you could see a band was when they came to your town for a concert. Maybe the midnight movie would be showing Led Zeppelin or even one of The Stones movies but other than that you’d have to go see them live.
You’ve been through almost all of it – the tape, the CD and mp3s…
My brother had an 8-track player. Most people don’t even know what those are. It was an amazing invention. The first thing you could actually play safely in your car was the 8-track. I guess cassette player technology hadn’t evolved enough and someone came up with the 8-Track. I remember my dad telling me about one of his buddies who had this really nice car. He’d like to go ride in his car but the dude would also get a lot of chicks because he had a record player in his glove box. I guess he couldn’t hit bumps. So yea, I guess I have seen it all. Who knows what’s around the corner?
With so many talented members in Guns N’ Roses, the group’s evolved. What do you think is one thing about the current lineup that you feel gets overlooked?
First of all, thank you for telling me that I’m talented. I appreciate that. I’m not sure; I try to avoid reading reviews. If there was something being overlooked, I guess it would be how hard everybody works. That happens a lot with any profession, because people make it look easy. You get to that point because you work so hard. With this band especially, it’s not easy having three lead guitar players in a band. Three guys who could play lead guitar for almost any band they wanted to. The way they’ve been able, over the years, to sit down and sort of dole out who’s going to do what and do it respectively and do it objectively, with my, Tommy and Axl’s help, of course. I think that’s what probably what gets overlooked the most, some people probably might take that for granted. We have a good time together, we really do.
I have no idea. I got an email and had to Google it. I don’t know, I think they should have to name our sources, then we’d all know how that came about, wouldn’t we? If anyone is going to publish or print anything out of the blue, I think they should have to reveal their sources. So, I don’t know how that came about, and haven’t heard that that’s true. We didn’t talk about it last night but I will say this, if he’s retiring, then I’m fucking retiring too.
That’s fair. In recent conversations with a lot of publications you guys have insinuated new music is coming. How likely do you think we’ll get to hear a new GNR album or song in the foreseeable future?
Ah, insinuation. I really hope that it happens this year and there’s still a lot of time left, so let’s just shoot for that.
When it does come time to release new music, do you think GNR will go back to the record label model or do you think you will try a more do it yourself approach?
I stay out of the business stuff but if I were in charge, I would go with the do it yourself approach. To me, that just works better these days. Eliminate the middle man. That would work for me, but as far as Guns N’ Roses goes. I can’t say. I know there’s so much more I just don’t even know about, that I don’t even want to know about, or need to know about. I’m sure that whoever is in charge of that will make the correct decision and whoever they decide to work with that the label or the labels, or whatever, I’m sure they will work hand in hand to make the best product possible for everybody.
Concert Hotels recently claimed that Axl has the greatest vocal range in music today. What are your thoughts on that?
I can’t argue with that. I’ve made similar comments before. I think if everyone had a chance to really sit down and dissect what he has done over the years on certain songs and CDs, his voice is his instrument. It’s mind blowing and yes, his range in incredible. I have mad respect for him as a singer, songwriter and as an artist and a friend. He’s amazing.
What’s in the works after your residency?
I think Guns N’ Roses are going to shut down the touring aspect for a little bit. I’m sure that time will be spent hopefully fine tuning what songs will be coming out this year, according to what Wikipedia says, anyway. I’ve got a few things happening so I’ll be out touring around. It’s going to be awesome.
You do keyboards and drums and other stuff in another band on the side, do you not?
I’ve been touring and recording off and on with a band called the Dead Daisies, which Richard Fortus does as well, great great band. I have one of my bands called Hookers and Blow. We’ll be doing some touring this summer. It’s always fun to get Hookers and Blow out on the road again. Those are the other main two things I do. I’m also starting to mix some tracks that I recorded and sang on a few years ago. I was playing those songs for a while but, I had to put the whole thing on hold. So, if I get that all squared away I’ll let Wikipedia know when it’s going to come out and then I’ll be touring to support those songs, as well.
So Wikipedia is okay for some things.
No I get it. I think it was saying I was born in Cleveland for the longest time and it still might even say that, but that’s really not even true.
It’s saying that you are born in Hinsdale, IL.
Ok, good they changed it. That is correct.
Guns N’ Roses have gone through some very public lineup changes while you’ve been in the band. What would you say is the biggest difficulty going through a personnel change in the public?
It does make it a lot more difficult, being in that fish bowl, being under the scrutiny. The hardest part is things are misreported or when someone tries to get the scoop and it screws things up for everybody and that’s a bummer. I know people want to know and need to know and that’s fine, people have a job to do. But there’s a way of going about things that sometimes people don’t stick to the protocol, and it can get to be a drag sometimes. With that success, you can’t complain about it. What are you going to do when you’re a very popular band all over the world? Things like that are going to happen and there’s nothing you can really do about it. You can go hide forever but you can’t do anything you can’t get anything done. You just learn how to deal with it and that’s it.
What was being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 like? I don’t think you attended the ceremony, but it’s a huge honor for some people.
I never knew who was behind all of that or what it’s all about, what the criteria is and the achievements are to get to that point. With that said, when the people called me and said that I was going to be part of the whole thing, obviously I was very humbled. I know who, at that point, had been inducted, and just to be mentioned in the same sentence was very flattering. If they were going to induct Guns & Roses into the Hall of Fame, they were trying to figure out who was going to be at the ceremony, and basically most of the guys in the band now weren’t invited. To me that was just kind of not cool. Bottom line is Axl wasn’t going to go and there’s no way in hell I was going to go either.
Last question I always ask everybody. You come out after the show and the tour bus is gone and there is an iPod on the ground with one album on it you get to listen to while you walk to the next city. What would you pick?
I hope it doesn’t sound cliche in that situation, especially, I would say Exile on Main Street. It’s got a little bit of everything. It’s got the ups and downs. By the time you’re 4 miles into it, you’re getting some really sad stuff. Definitely one the greatest records ever made.