Guitarist DJ Ashba Talks Guns N’ Roses Tour, New Album, and More [INTERVIEW]
We’re checking in with you on the road with Guns N’ Roses, how’s the tour going so far?
It couldn’t be better, every show has been just unbelievable. The crowds are just overwhelming — we got a really good warm welcome here in the States, it’s been amazing.
You’re relatively new to the band and Guns does everything on such a large scale, was it intimidating stepping into such a huge band?
I didn’t really think about it — it didn’t really hit me. I’ve played arenas and stadiums many times before in my life but I just didn’t realize…I think the thing that blew me away the most was how just incredible crazy the fans are. They’re so hardcore — they definitely make you win them over. Their definitely not the type of fans that are like “Okay, here’s the new guy. We love him,” which is cool, I love that.
GN’R have a pretty large back catalog with some big buckets and top hats to fill. What was the hardest guitar part to learn?
The hardest guitar part to learn, Umm…Geez…
I know some of the solos, on everything really, but especially on ‘Democracy’ some of the Buckethead stuff is incredibly complex.
Definitely as far as technically hard, those would be the most difficult stuff. I just have a lot of fun, every song we do…it’s been a lot of fun to do.
The guitarist in the band, you, Bumblefoot, and Fortus are all great players. How do you decide who plays which parts? Is there fighting involved, is it paper-rock-scissors, how do you settle it?
We kinda just sit back and say, “You wanna take this?” or “You take that?” It’s really actually — nobody fights over anything. I think we all have so much respect for each other as far as musicians and friends and what not. It’s really just kick back and lay back and we kinda all three know. We all three have very different styles of playing and I think it’s like, “Hey, you do this and I’ll do that.”
Do you ever swap parts night after night — like one night you’ll play the ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ solo and the next night someone else will or are your parts set?
No we all know each other’s parts, I mean we know these songs inside and out. But we don’t usually do that just because everybody’s in-ear mix is how it is and everybody goes off different cues. Whether it’s Chris Pitman (backing vocals) goes off of this cue in his in-ear, and if all that changes it could throw some guy off — so we try not to do that.
Guns N’ Roses is nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year and there is a lot of talk about an original lineup reunion. Usually Axl doesn’t address that topic out of respect for you guys because he is happy with the band he has now — but if a reunion did happen, would you be offended?
No, not at all. I get asked that a lot and my honest opinion is that I don’t ever foresee that happening, to be honest just from what I know. But I would be the first person in line to buy a ticket, that’s for sure. So I have no problem with it whatsoever.
There was a long period of downtime between ‘Use Your Illusion’ and ‘Chinese Democracy’ where Axl did a lot of recording and working with a ton of other musicians. Have you heard a lot of stuff from the lost period of Guns N’ Roses or does Axl keep it under lock and key?
After every show we usually end up throwing a party here or there and it always ends up being moved to somebody’s room — usually Axl’s room. He’ll sit down and play me stuff then, and it’s good man. He has a lot of really solid, solid songs that nobody has ever heard. I produce and write for a lot of artists and I can’t wait for people to hear some of the stuff he has up his sleeve.
Speaking of new material, when do you think the band will record or at least start getting something together? Is that a conversation the band has or is that a topic that never really comes up?
No, it definitely does — that’s our main focus. I’m obviously a writer — I write and demo around the clock. So I have quite a few songs already written and Axl has a bunch of stuff obviously recorded, so it’s just kind of getting together as a band and putting together what we feel would be the ultimate Guns N’ Roses record for the next release.
Why do you think people are making such a big deal about late set times, because GN’R has been doing that for years now…
They’ve done that since day one [laughs].
I saw them in 2006, we came in at 6:30p and I went right down, front row and stood there until 2:30 in the morning and I didn’t have a complaint because it was a great show. But a lot of people are bitching about the set times, what do you think is behind that?
This is no disrespect to anybody — I think in ’91 it wasn’t as big of a deal. Now everybody is 10, 15, 20 years older now too. Of course we have a lot of newer fans because they grew their kids up on them and it’s really cool to see how many young people are in the crowd. But I think it’s that — people work and people have jobs but it’s been like that since day one. So it is kind of what it is, and I don’t know — I’m the new guy [laughs].
You’re going to see GN’R you can take a night off or go to work hungover or whatever you gotta do the next day.
Yeah it’s like a once a year type thing, if that. It’s kinda been like that since day one so I just tell people, “Hey, if you come out, you’re gonna get two and a half to three and a half hours of high energy rock and roll that’s gonna blow peoples minds,” I mean the shows are just incredible so if we go on when we go on…when we do go on. just buckle up. It’s just a great fun night of rock and roll.
There’s not many other bands you can go see and get three hours of rock and know everything.
And that’s one thing, just me as a fan /outsider, I give a lot of props to Axl. Cause he takes a lot of heat for going on an hour late here or there or whatever but what people dont really point out is the guy goes on and sings his balls off for three hours solid…and not one Guns song is easy to sing. So I just think the world of the guy, I think he’s the real deal.
I follow you on Twitter and it seems like…you like to party is what I’m gathering from some of your posts.
I like to have a good time, I love laughing, I love having fun w/ my friends. Life is super short so I just make the best of it, but I definitely know the fine line between business and party your ass off.
Being in GN’R had to escalate things on the partying end a little bit, what’s the craziest thing that’s happened while you’ve been on tour?
I think just waking up in the closet…in my suitcase. That was a weird morning. [laughs]
Did you ever find out how that happened?
No, Axl just reminded me it happened. I had forgot all about that even happening, I was laughing about the other day [saying] “Oh, that’s right.”
You’ve worked with Motley Crue in the past, you’re in Sixx A.M. with Nikki so you know that crew pretty well — Is the Vince Neil – Axl Rose feud still on?
I dont believe so. That was many many years ago and I think everybody has just forgotten and just moved on. I’m not either one of them and I’m not gonna speak on anyone’s behalf — but I haven’t heard Nikki or anybody have a bad word to say about Axl and vice versa. Ive never heard Axl have anything bad to say about Motley. In fact he’ll bring up funny old stories about him and Motley. If there’s any bad blood, I’m not aware of it.
What’s up with Sixx A.M.? Are there plans to tour behind your latest album once the Guns thing is wrapped?
There isn’t any plans yet but you never know. We definitely have some really cool stuff up our sleeve — some cool plans, a lot of new music coming, and just some fun stuff we’re doing. I think Sixx A.M. — we’ll never do anything traditionally with that because it’s definitely a labor of love. We really like breaking the mold with that — doing what most bands would never do. That’s what makes it so fun and exciting. We all would love to do [a tour], I think it’s just a matter of lets build this up and do something great with it. You know, build a great catalog and maybe focus on doing something on a massive level.