Lately, rock band lineups seem more fluid than ever. Where once many bands had infrequent lineup changes, these days bands pass around members faster than a joint at a Phish concert. I thought I’d give my take on two prominent changes that have created buzz in the music world of late.
Axl Rose Joins AC/DC
It’s been a big year for Axl Rose. First came the news that he will reunite with original Guns N’ Roses members Slash and Duff McKagan for the Coachella Music Festival (which happened last month) and a North American tour this summer. Then, AC/DC announced that their frontman, Brian Johnson, would be unable to complete their current Rock or Bust tour due to hearing issues. When members of the band were spotted leaving the same Atlanta studio with Rose, rumors swirled that he would replace Johnson on tour. Last month, these rumors were confirmed, with Rose taking over for Johnson for a series of European dates and a few American dates that had been postponed. His leg of the tour kicks off tonight (or may have already kicked off, depending on what time it is in Portugal).
The move was not without controversy. Many AC/DC fans were worried that Rose’s reputation as a head case would mess with the chemistry of the band. During Guns N’ Roses’ original run, Rose was accused by the other band members of refusing to go on stage, or going on late. Friction between him and the rest of the band over its direction and vision led most of them to quit in 1997. The reasons for Brian Johnson’s departure from AC/DC were also shrouded in uncertainty, with Johnson claiming he had been fired from the band at the first sign of trouble. One of Johnson’s friends said that he had claimed to have gotten a second opinion, and that his hearing issues weren’t as bad as originally thought. Johnson himself added that the hearing loss didn’t stem from having performed with AC/DC for over 30 years, but rather from his forgetting to put in ear plugs when he was attending an auto race, leaving him with a busted eardrum in his left ear.
Regardless of circumstances, I think the Axl Rose move makes a lot of sense. Johnson’s “permanent falsetto” has come to be a hallmark of AC/DC’s identity. Rose similarly sings in the upper register of his voice in most Guns N’ Roses songs, which I think will make him a good complement to the rest of the band and will help them come close to replicating their classic sound. Compare the two vocalists’ sounds in two of their iconic songs, and it’s easy to see the similarities:
AC/DC: “Back in Black”
Guns N’ Roses: “Welcome to the Jungle”
Scott Stapp Joins Art of Anarchy
When I saw Scott Stapp’s solo show in Macon, GA last week, he mentioned that he’d been working on something new with artists “you will have heard of,” but was coy on the details. Well, he’d said the same thing to a group of reporters, who took the news and ran with it. The rumor mill heated up, and many speculated that he was the new permanent lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots. STP later denied this, and Stapp went ahead and announced the project last week to clear up any confusion. He is in fact replacing the now-deceased Scott Weiland, but not in STP. Instead, he is joining supergroup Art of Anarchy. AoA features guitarist/producer Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (who was in Guns N’ Roses for a time), Disturbed bassist John Moyer, and brothers Jon and Vince Votta on guitar and drums, respectively. While they released an album with Weiland contributing vocals in his free time, this is the first time they’ve had a proper lead singer. Because of the lack of a singer, they’ve never been able to tour as far as I know, and now they should be able to.
At first, I wondered if Stapp would be a good stylistic fit to replace Weiland. Weiland’s immense talent stemmed not only from his huge vocal range, but also his ability to bend and shape the timbre of his voice to extreme degrees. Some of his songs in Stone Temple Pilots don’t even sound like the same guy is singing both of them (such as “Sex Type Thing” and “Between the Lines”). Stapp, on the other hand, can generate more power from his voice and add more growl to it, but doesn’t necessarily have the same vocal or timbre range that Weiland had. However, after listening to Art of Anarchy’s first two singles with Weiland, I can see Stapp fitting in with their sound. AoA’s songs have a melodic heaviness that is similar to Creed’s early recordings, and Stapp’s recent solo album Proof of Life. The band’s sound will be different with Stapp on lead vocals, but I don’t think it will suffer for the comparison. I will be interested to see if the lyrical content takes on the more spiritual bent that Stapp is known for writing, or if they’ll be much more of a straight-up rock band. Hopefully, Stapp can also keep his well-documented personal demons at bay, to prevent another occurrence of the drama surrounding Creed. The new-look AoA are supposed to release their first single in July, and have already shot their first music video. The album is expected in September. I’ll likely review that when it comes out, and if I have time, I may take a look at AoA’s original album, too. Below are links to their first two singles.
“’Til the Dust is Gone”
“Time Every Time”