By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Velvet Revolver's first song was "Set Me Free," written for the Hulk movie soundtrack. The contract offers came soon after, and the band signed on with RCA, whose boss Clive Davis courted them personally.
Feeling again like underdogs needing to stake their turf in the rock scene, they set out to make an aggressive record that reflects their energy and abrasiveness. The result was Contraband, a record laden with radio hits that betray GNR and STP undertones.
"This is the most punk rock major label record I've been involved with," McKagan says. "I think since I left GNR, music has come full circle. People are really hungry for pure, unadulterated rock 'n' roll."
Slash is a fan of the album title because he believes VR is smuggling a new sound into the music industry. "It's a rarity that a rock 'n' roll band does what we do," he says. "There's nobody else I can play with to get a sicker sound."
Slash might be wrong about the band's originality--arena rock has certainly been done before--but give him credit for VR's gusto. Contraband has the energy and raw power of Appetite for Destruction, and it's matched with a take-no-prisoners live show headed by a charismatic frontman and a leather-clad guitar god.
"These songs are meant to be played live," Sorum says. "It's really manic. The vibe is good, and the reaction is very positive and overwhelming to us."
The reaction has definitely been good on the road, where the band plays mostly songs off their new record but doesn't forget to tip its hat to the past, doing a few GNR and STP songs. Weiland still uses a megaphone and Slash still wears his trademark top hat, at least for the encores.
"We're not trying to recreate Appetite, but we're coming out very energized and very youthful and powerful," Sorum says. "This is a new band. We're out playing a lot of new material. We don't try to rest on our laurels and play a bunch of old stuff. There isn't gonna be anybody that can touch us--I guarantee it."