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Exclusive! Interview With Velvet Revolver Guitarist Dave Kushner

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Wednesday, July 14, 2004 @ 2:00 PM

VR's Mystery Shredder Sheds Li

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Velvet Revolver is inarguably the most talked about band in 2004. This superstar band consists of heavyweights including former Stone Temple Pilots vocalist Scott Weiland, as well as Guns N’ Roses luminaries Slash (guitar), Duff McKagan (bass) and Matt Sorum (drums). But who the hell is guitarist Dave Kushner?! This mystery axeman has actually been around for a long time, and has finally reached his overdue limelight. A longtime high school buddy of Slash and Duff’s, this guitarist has played with Infectious Grooves, Sugartooth and Dave Navarro. We’ll let Mr. Kushner fill you in on the rest…


KNAC.COM: Hello, Dave Kushner; you’re talkin’ to KNAC.COM…
KUSHNER: Oh, yeah!

KNAC.COM: I want to get started by asking you about your memories of KNAC -- when it was on the air, 105.5…
KUSHNER: Totally, dude. I remember the first song I ever heard on KNAC was “The Last In Line” by DIO. And I remember hearing it on the radio in my car, and thinking, “Who’s playing this on the radio?” And, like, it was when KNAC first started. I remember that… ever since then, I was really bummed when KNAC stopped being a radio station.

KNAC.COM: But online now. When you’re at home…
KUSHNER: Yeah. But not in my car.

KNAC.COM: [Laughs] Maybe one day. So… Dave Kushner. I have to admit that I had to do some, well, a little, research on you after I got the press kit. Because, and I don’t mean this in any disrespectful way, certainly to a lot of the public, you’re “the new guy”… or at least you are somewhat overshadowed by the other members of the band.
KUSHNER: I’m way under the radar.

KNAC.COM: Well, I took some time to check you out, apart from the press kit… I started off with a Google search, and I found a Dr. Dave Kushner from the University Of Iowa, who is an Associate Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, and his specialty is “Infectious Diseases”…
KUSHNER: [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: And if I’m not mistaken… you played in the band, Infectious Grooves.
KUSHNER: I did! I did!

KNAC.COM: Did you play on that song, “You Lie And Yo Breath Stink”?
KUSHNER: [Laughs] No, I did not play on that one. I think the only one that I did play on, actually, on the records, was “Punk It Up,” the first single. I did the solo. The ripping lead in the middle of the song… [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: Nice! Well, I thought we could start off there. Could you just talk a little bit about some of the bands you’ve been in? Just so that people who might not be familiar with you can learn a little bit about you.
KUSHNER: Uh… let’s see. Around when Guns ‘N Roses was first starting to blow up, that’s when I was playing in Waysted Youth. And then, I just went on from there to play in various bands. I was in a band called The Electric Love Hogs. We did a record that Tommy Lee produced. I was on Geffen with a band called Sugartooth. And then, uh… I was playing on the first Infectious record, and then played in the band for a little while, not that long. Probably about six months. I just did a ton of other stuff since then: I played in Danzig for like a year. Played in-- when Dave Navarro did his solo record, I was the musical director for his band. Played with him… and I just kinda knew everyone already from playing around.

KNAC.COM: So, you’ve been in “the circle”? And, when you came on board… you guys were already good friends?
KUSHNER: Well, it was funny because I was actually playing in a band with Duff.

KNAC.COM: Was that the Loaded band?
KUSHNER: Yeah… right before this thing started. So, we were in Loaded. And, yeah… That was the connection about how I got brought in.

KNAC.COM: How is it for you coming into the band and playing with Slash, who is sort of an enigma?
KUSHNER: Yeah… well, actually, Slash I’ve know the longest cause Slash and I went to Junior High and High School together. We knew each other in Junior High and High School and we were acquaintances… and later friends.

KNAC.COM: Did you guys get into trouble together?
KUSHNER: Hmm… nothing much.

KNAC.COM: Were you good students?
KUSHNER: NO! [Laughs] We got into trouble, but not, like, together. I think maybe we smoked pot once together… but we were just around each other a lot. We were friends, you know, but he was doing his thing and I was… doing mine. I don’t think I was…I had just started playing guitar right before High School when he was already ripping.

KNAC.COM: Wow. So now you’re playing guitar with Velvet Revolver. Slash is still playing his Les Paul. What are you playing and how do you complement each other? Is it as simple as playing different guitars; or is it about style? I saw the cover of Guitar World, recently, and you had something that looked very much like a Les Paul…
KUSHNER: I have had a longstanding, ten-year endorsement with Fernandes Guitars. So that guitar on Guitar World, that bastard-Les Paul-lookin’ thing… that’s a Fernandes. So, yeah. They’re great guitars, and they’ve been really good to me. And I just kinda came into this thing just kinda payin’ attention to what Slash was doing and trying to make sure I wasn’t doing the same thing. You know? I think that’s what was cool about the Appetite record, listening to that, as a model for how to play with Slash.

KNAC.COM: There is some kind of… “give and take”?
KUSHNER: Exactly, yeah. You know? When I first started playing in the band and we just started writing songs like, five days a week. It was kind of, a way to try and understand how… obviously, when you hear the record, I play nothing like Izzy. But, you know, to understand, how they played together… and obviously… and Slash even said that he’d never really been able to play with anyone except Izzy. So… for the second guitar player to be really comfortable with him… it’s just a matter of playing open chords when he’s playing bar chords, you know? Or, if he’s playing a riff, trying to come up with something good underneath it instead of doubling the riff. It’s about trying to find the right balance of not doubling him, but yet, adding something to it or trying to play off of him rhythmically… and just trying to pay attention to what he’s doing, you know?

KNAC.COM: Given the diversity of music you played in various bands, what kind of musical influences are you bringing into Velvet Revolver?
KUSHNER: Uh… I guess that’s what I bring in. I played with all these different bands, you know? And we’re all around the same age, so we have a lot of similar influences too. I grew up listening to, and being really into, punk rock; and at the same time, and listening to KNAC. And Sabbath, and The Who and Led Zeppelin. And I think that’s what I brought in… it’s not like my playing is so eclectic or anything. It’s just that I have a good foundation of a lot of different things, you know? I guess I can… I don’t know. I just think of myself as kind of a meat-n-potatoes kind of player. I don’t know if what I do is so extraordinarily original. I’ve listened to everything from bands like Orgy and Nine Inch Nails, to Bill Withers and Ohio Players. So, you know? That was my earliest recollection of listening to music. It’s just everything and everything in between. And, fortunately, the chemistry was right with these guys and what I was doing.

KNAC.COM: Well, the record is fantastic. “Suckertrain Blues” is definitely a favorite of mine.
KUSHNER: Oh, thanks! Yeah, mine too.

KNAC.COM: There’s a lot of great rock on there. And there is that one -- the ballad, “Fall To Pieces” -- it has a little bit of an old school flavor. Very ‘80s-esque.
KUSHNER: Yeah, I think because it’s got that whole, bridge-pickup-melody… ala “Sweet Child” kinda… and that’s his sound, Slash. The Les Paul and the Marshalls. And it’s kind of a melodic line that just goes over something like that… that style of melody is… that’s Slash. You know? I think that’s what’s cool is that, I think, we brought this band together and brought out all the best elements of, again, what I think everyone has as an individual. Which also came out in GNR and STP. And I think we have all the best elements to move forward, but haven’t been embarrassed about where any of us are from, and we haven’t tried to ignore who the players are in the band.

KNAC.COM: What are some of your other favorite songs from the record?
KUSHNER: Uh… “Suckertrain” I think is my favorite to play, cause it makes you wanna drive a hot rod or get in a fight or that kind of vibe. I really like-- I can’t even think of the name of the song…

KNAC.COM: Let’s see…“Slither,” “Set Me Free,” “Got No Right,” “Loving the Alien,” “Superhuman,” “Headspace,” “Fall To Pieces”…
KUSHNER: Oh! “Superhuman”… yeah. You got all the titles…

KNAC.COM: I get around. I have a press kit.
KUSHNER: [Laughs] Yeah… “Superhuman,” that’s definitely a favorite. I think… there’s some songs that I got to use a little more effects than others, where it was warranted. I like, too, “Illegal”… the vibe of it. I would say those. And “Got No Right”. That one, too. I remember when Scott was writing it. He brought the demo of it… it was at his son’s birthday party, which was right around the corner from where I live. We had given him the song, just the music, so he could come up with some lyrics. And he was like, “I think this is the best thing I’ve ever done!” Me and him and Duff listening to the demo version, which is pretty much what’s on the record. But, that’s just really-- I got the chills! It was so awesome.

KNAC.COM: Early on, VH1 was doing some documentary about you guys… is that still coming out? Did it even happen?
KUSHNER: I have no idea, to be honest with you. I don’t know if it’s going to come out, I know they filmed a ton of stuff… but, you know, I don’t really know what, now that Clive Davis is involved. I’m not really sure about that. I don’t have much to do with it. We haven’t really thought about it much. We did it because they really documented the whole process of us finding a singer, which, now we’ve kinda just moved on from. Once we got Scott, we were like, “All right. Now we’re a band.” And they didn’t seem to get so much of that. They seemed more interested in the whole process of us finding a singer. Which was cool, but it doesn’t seem as relevant to us now.

KNAC.COM: That was, of course, big news for a time. I was worried it might end up being Gina Gershon.
KUSHNER: Yeah… I was in the band for about almost a year or ten months writing songs and looking for singers when all that was going on.

KNAC.COM: Now, help me out here. I’m not in a band, and I’m not one of those journalists who’s a frustrated musician…
KUSHNER: [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: Can you explain it, or dumb it down for me maybe a little bit? You get together with these guys -- you mentioned writing songs and you’re like, what? Do you say, “Let’s jam!?” How do you begin? Does it start with, “Does anybody know ‘Roadrunner’?” or whatever…
KUSHNER: Nah… it’s not that hard. Especially for me. It’s more like… I had already been playing with Duff, so he knew I could play. And Slash had seen one of our shows, so he knew I could play. And Matt… I just knew from around, so he knew I could play. So it was like, we didn’t just start playing a bunch of cover songs. At that point, it was more like, they had written about 8 songs. So basically I learned three or four of the songs they had written. Duff had given me a CD and I came in and played those songs with those guys. Just to see if I was the right fit at first… and from then on, we just started writing songs. Someone comes in and says, “Hey, I got this part!” We just play it and everyone learns it and we try to move on from there. And make a song out of it. So, that’s really how it started…

KNAC.COM: I read something in the press kit: as far as the band goes, it was agreed that everyone gets a vote as to whether a song stays or goes. Is that correct?
KUSHNER: Yeah. We really wrote… we wrote about 60 songs with Scott. Of course we had been writing songs for about a year. Once we found Scott, he listened to all the songs, and he picked out about 6 or 7 that he thought he could really do his thing on. Once we did those, then we wrote six or seven more songs together, with all five of us in the room, as a band. And that was it. That was the record.

KNAC.COM: About Scott… you’ve worked with some really different and interesting singers. You already mentioned that you played with Danzig for a year… Mike from Infectious… Dave Navarro… how is it working with Scott? What do you see in him, now that the search is over; what is it for you that was the appeal?
KUSHNER: He was just the guy, you know? It was so undeniable. It was him. When he came into the room, and we gave him the CD-- I’ve known Scott for a long time. He’s an amazing singer, just the complete package. The look, the attitude, you know… the stage presence, the performance… and especially the vocals, you know? It’s like he came in and we gave him a demo of one song, and he came back a day and a half later and it was “Set Me Free,” you know, it was from The Hulk soundtrack. And it sounds exactly like the version that’s on the soundtrack, and now on the record. And once we listened to that, it was like, “All right. This is the guy.” And then, we did like, a six-song show with him around, like, when The Hulk came out… and then it was really, “Ok. That’s the guy for sure now!”

KNAC.COM: And you did the cover of Pink Floyd’s “Money” for The Italian Job… which hasn’t been released and isn’t on the record.
KUSHNER: I think it might be on… I’ve heard rumors that it’s going to be on, like, a B-Side for Japan, maybe, for the single.

KNAC.COM: Lame. Japan gets all the B-Sides. They get everything, and we can’t get them here unless we pay through the nose for a damn import…
KUSHNER: Yeah, it’s weird, because they sell singles. It’s a big thing in Japan. You know, I’ve been there and I’ve been in bands that did records in Japan, and it was like, the single market is way different. They sell singles; and the singles always have like, three songs on them and they cost about six bucks. That’s just how they do it over there, that’s their process.

KNAC.COM: Okay. So why the cover of “Money”? What made you guys choose a Pink Floyd song to do? Just for the movie?
KUSHNER: That was actually just a suggestion from Kathy Nelson, the musical director for… who hooked us up with the director of The Italian Job. They had actually wanted to use “Money” for their movie, and the version, the original version, was too fast. And they, in a perfect world, wanted a slower version of “Money” for the movie. She came to us and said so, and asked if we’d be interested in doing it. So we just played it together, learned it and played it, you know, in a day. And we thought, we can do something cool with this. So we did it.

KNAC.COM: Were you satisfied with that?
KUSHNER: Yeah, absolutely. And it was a good way of testing out the chemistry between us, in that it was the first week of really working with Scott. You know? So it was a good way to test the chemistry and get the ball rolling.

KNAC.COM: You’ve now had songs on two soundtracks before you’ve even released a record. I’m a little curious here… what did you think of the films? What did you think of The Hulk?
KUSHNER: (pauses) Uhh… I liked it actually. The more times I saw it, the more times I liked it. But I’m a huge comic book fan, so you know?

KNAC.COM: Did you ever follow “The Hulk” as a comic?
KUSHNER: Oh, absolutely. I’m an only child, like I was super-into action figures, comic books… “The Hulk,” “Daredevil” and “Spiderman”… even later with “Spawn” and all that stuff. But I thought it was cool that they did him (The Hulk) fully animated and that it looked that cool, you know? And the story… it was a little twist on the story. And we got to meet-- we met Ang Lee and there’s some-- we saw the first version of the movie and his passion for the subject definitely swayed us to be more open-minded and not be more judgmental about it. He kinda rewrote the story a little and he made it into this, you know, this heavy story about the father and son. The guilt of the father and all that stuff…

KNAC.COM: And what about The Italian Job?
KUSHNER: I love that movie! I just thought it was cool, you know? It made me want to go buy a Mini, that’s for sure! I actually went and test-drove one with my wife; yeah, I called the producer and asked, “Can you get me a deal on that?”

KNAC.COM: [Laughs] It seemed like a big ad for the Mini, but it was a fun film. So you’re going to be going out on tour… what can we look forward to on the tour? Any surprises?
KUSHNER: Uh… I don’t know. You know… uh… explosions…

KNAC.COM: [Laughs]
KUSHNER: You know, this first tour is really like, a very down-in-the-trenches kind of tour. The band. Just us playing our record, and maybe a few… a couple of old GNR tunes, a couple of old STP tunes… and, you know, you could do the whole Audioslave thing or whatever, but it’s like being in the coolest cover band in the world, you know? You go play an STP song with the singer from STP, or an old GNR song with those guys… it’s just… it sounds amazing. And we just wanted to do it because it’s fun. It wasn’t like, aww let’s be really politically correct and not play covers… not that I’m saying that Audioslave did that, ‘cause I think that a Rage song with Chris Cornell singing on it wouldn’t sound awkward…it was just… but we’re going to play pretty much the whole record, get down and get sweaty and just play.

KNAC.COM: Well I’m sure it’ll be great! Take care, Dave. And thanks for talking to KNAC…
KUSHNER: Hey, no problem man! Hope to see everyone out there soon! Bye!

(Photos from slashsnakepit.chez.tiscali.fr)

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