(PCM) We are truly excited for this year’s Rock On The Range and even more excited that the iconic Guns N’ Roses will be headlining on Friday night! We were recently able to catch up with Guns N’ Roses and Sixx:A.M. lead guitarist DJ Ashba to give us the scoop about what is in-store for the band’s Rock On The Range performance, new music from both Guns N’ Roses and Sixx:A.M., and just how he remains so grounded.
We expressed to DJ just how excited we were about Guns N’ Roses’ upcoming Rock On The Range performance and we were curious what to expect. DJ replied “We are excited too! You can expect a lot of rockets, bombs, and more! Just expect a high energy, fun, unpredictable rock show. If you have never seen this band live it is an amazing experience and we are going to come out, no pun intended, guns blazing for sure.”
When he is not rocking out on stage with Guns N’ Roses or sitting in the producers chair, DJ is also a wicked graphic designer. His company Ashba Media Inc. has claimed the design accounts for both Cirque du Soleil, as well as, Virgin Megastores. DJ comments “I just get inspired by different things, I never sit down to design any specific thing. I’ve been a graphic designer all my life, it’s just a passion of mine.”
He goes on to say “It’s always been a labor of love, art and music in my world have always kind of gone hand in hand.”
We mentioned being thrilled to check out his clothing designs at the Ashba Swag Slumber Party happening at Rock On The Range. DJ tells us “I’m taking the Jager machine and I’ll have Jager and Monster Energy to hand out, which will probably be gone in about 10 minutes. It’s the first time I have had the clothing line out there and it is the first time that I have ever had clothing to sell at any concert I’ve ever played, so it’s all me!”
You can check out DJ’s clothing at Ashbaswag.com and of course at the tent at Rock On The Range if you are attending. DJ says “it’s just really cool rock looking designs. You know it’s not so much merch as it is about just really f**king cool and comfy shirts and baggy beanies, real cozy more than anything. Real cool designs and real cool t-shirts.”
Throughout our brief 15 minute conversation, during which DJ pulled through the Wendy’s drive-thru, ordered lunch, ate lunch and explained to me that he was on his way to Nikki’s (Sixx) house to finish up the last track for the new Sixx:A.M. and partake in a photo shoot proves that this man never stops working, however without a doubt remains one of the very nicest and most down-to-earth artists we have had the pleasure of speaking.
I bring this up with DJ and he replies ” I love the work, you know, I love working. It’s one of those things, you know it’s funny, I was just having the conversation last night about and somebody asked me that same thing. We grew up watching you here, on TV, internet, etc and when we talk to you, you are so open. I take it as a huge compliment. I think people throughout my life have left huge impressions. People who were exactly like who you wished they were and then I’ve met people who have really bummed me out, so I figured I never want to make a fan feel the way that this guy just made me feel. I think that stuck with me and I know that this could all be taken away tomorrow. I think the minute that you aren’t grateful in life, you know, I am very thankful and I know without the fans I wouldn’t be able to do what I love doing for a living”
I then share with him a personal story about how back when he was a member of the band Beautiful Creatures, he was one of the first artists to take the time and stop to talk with me. It was then I got bit with the bug and decided that I wanted a career in music journalism. DJ replied “Aww…I love that!”
Now being part of a legendary band like Guns N’ Roses, we could only imagine that at times it must be surreal. DJ reveals “Everything about it is still surreal to me. Every once in awhile I have to pinch myself, it is usually not until someone asks me that question do I stop to think about it, as I am so caught up in work. Yeah, It is surreal, especially looking over when I go up to sing “Paradise City” and Duff is there singing with me, it’s like woah! Then I look over at Axl and yeah, it’s very surreal and very cool and an amazing time.”
Of course we had to ask how Axl was doing to which DJ told us Axl is in great spirits and very much looking forward to both the band’s upcoming residency at The Joint at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas, as well as, Rock On The Range. We were also curious about any upcoming new music on the way from GNR and DJ revealed “When I joined the band five years ago they had three albums worth of material recorded. There is a ton of stuff that nobody has heard that is really, really good. Of course I am a songwriter, producer and so are a lot of the other guys, so everyone has their pile of songs. It is to the point where we don’t have a lack of material, we have an abundance and we have to really sit down and sift through it and make the best sense of it all.”
Speaking of new music, we have been all curious about how work is coming along on the new Sixx:A.M. album. DJ tells us “We are shooting for our first single to be released by the end of this year and then the brand new album will hit at the beginning of 2015, at least that is what we are shooting for. ”
Fans, myself included, have been dying to see Sixx:A.M. out on the road! DJ says, “We are working on getting it out there live. We know the fans have been dying to see the band and we’ve been dying to get out there and play too, but you know Nikki has Motley and I have Gun’s and I’m producing a lot of other bands.”
DJ jokingly goes on to say, “When Sixx: AM started out, everyone forgets that, we were never really a band per say, we weren’t like hey let’s start a band! It just became this monster and we kind of just got together as three best friends who were writers and producers and wrote an album together for fun and had no idea that it was going to have the impact it did so we weren’t really all prepared to say ‘hey, let’s go tour”. I mean we do not even have a drummer to this day!
He also adds, “We are excited to get out there though!”
I told DJ that I felt “Skin” by Sixx:A.M. is perhaps one of the most beautiful songs every written and he replied “It really is! Just wait to the day that we get to play it live, it will be fun!”
I am always fascinated by the songwriter’s ability to tell a whole story and evoke an emotion within a listener within the very short three to four minute time span of a song. DJ tells me “It’s one of those things at that point every lyric has to count. You can’t just right and throw out bullsh*t because you literally have three and half minutes to make your point and touch people. I think if you are not writing from the heart then it’s really tough to write a really good song, but if you are writing from the heart then it’s the same scenario where there’s too much you want to say and too little of a time.”
He jokingly adds “It’s easy when you have OCD. You pick and choose wisely and best one wins”.
DJ spoke about his guitar playing style and mastering the Guns N’ Roses catalog giving the songs his own flair, while still remaining true to the originals He told me “I think that somebody’s style comes from how they are playing not what they are playing, so I think my style pops through, but the thing is I realize how important this job is and how important it is to the fans to hear those songs, just like it is for me. Don’t forget I was a fan of Guns N’ Roses and I love the band and I love the songs. I grew up listening to Gun N’ Roses just like everybody else, so I kind of approach it like how would I want someone else to approach it is the question I ask myself. If I saw this new guy one stage would I want him to stay as true to those songs as possible. It’s kind of easy once you take those shoes off and look at it that way. I try to stay as true to the songs as I possibly can and I look at the future as to where I can really put my stamp on the band. ”
Digging a bit deeper I asked DJ what, if anything, was the most misunderstood thing about him. At first he jokingly said “My balls!”, but then quickly answered seriously “I don’t really read a whole lot about myself other than what is on my social media stuff. People seem to know more about me than I know about me! I think people confuse me joining Guns N’ Roses, I mean I saw a few comments that said ‘hey, he’s trying to be Slash’, well that’s not true in any way. I think he is his own person and I have a lot of respect for what he’s done for the band as far as his guitar work and stuff.”
He adds, “I grew up loving the band and that whole thing is kind of weird to me. I am obviously my own person and would do what anyone would do in my position and just keep the music alive, do whatever you can do to stay as true to that music as you possibly can and I think that is the respectful thing to do. In my mind that is where I’m coming from”.
Being a huge fan of Elvis, DJ told me that the death of Elvis probably had one of the biggest effects on him in the changing musical landscape. He also revealed that when he first saw Motley Crue in concert it was a life changing experience. Attending the concert was a present from his father for his sixteenth birthday. DJ comments “Growing up in a house without TV’s and a very religious home going to see Motley Crue was like “Holy Sh*t” and I knew immediately when I said to myself ‘I don’t care how hard I have to work one day I will be on that stage’ and I didn’t realize it was going to be in a band with that guy on the stage or producing and writing Motley Crue albums, but I just remember that night kind of changed my life. It almost made it seem tangible, like if they’re doing it, it can be done. I looked at it as there is no reason I can’t be on that stage.”
Finally, we were curious to know how much of a whirlwind things have been with Guns N’ Roses lately. DJ told us “It’s been amazing. We just got back from South America and played the Golden Gods. I’m in town now in L.A. and doing a photo shoot with Sixx:A.M, finishing up that album and then I head out to Bethlehem, PA with GNR, we play that show, Rock On The Range and then Vegas.”
He jokingly closes with “Somewhere among all that I will find a bed to sleep in…hopefully!” We hope so too DJ and absolutely can’t wait to rock out with Guns N’ Roses at Rock On The Range.