15 Years Ago: Velvet Revolver Goes Full-Blast With Their Debut Album "Contraband"

June 7, 2019

There have been super groups off all kinds throughout the ages of rock. But there will always be one Velvet Revolver.

It was the early 21st century, Axl Rose was all that remained of the original Guns N' Roses as the rest of the original lineup had parted ways. Then in April 2002, at what should have been a fun little reunion between GNR alumni turned into something much, much different.

Mötley Crüe drummer Randy Castillo had fallen ill, so Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum agreed to perform together at a benefit concert for him. Joining them were Josh Todd and Keith Nelson of Buckcherry. From there they noticed that there was still a spark between them. Though Todd and Nelson did seem like they could cut it in whatever was cooking in Slash, Duff and Matt's minds, they decided to go in a different direction.

Come September the GNR alums had put out ads looking for a lead singer that combined the talent of Alice Cooper, Steven Tyler, Paul McCartney and John Lennon. That October they managed to rope in guitarist Dave Kushner, who played in McKagan's band, Loaded, but the search for a lead singer continued.

Months would go by as they would try out some very established names for their project: Travis Meeks of Days of the New, Kelly Shaefer of Neurotica, Sebastian Bach and many more were among the individuals that auditioned. While other names like Mike Patton of Faith No More, Myles Kennedy and Ian Astbury of The Cult were all rumored to have recieved invitations, but reportedly turned the gig down. Then by April 2003, Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots walked through the door and the rest is history.

They played their first show together at the El Ray in Los Angeles, CA which consisted mostly of Guns N' Roses and Stone Temple Pilots songs, though it would be the first time they played Velvet Revolver originals "Set Me Free" and "Slither" before a live audience. After signing a deal with RCA, it was time for the world to meet Velvet Revolver.

Said to have written over sixty songs with Scott Weiland, the band narrowed the list down to thirteen. "Set Me Free" became the first song to generate chatter about the band after it was first included in the soundtrack to the 2003 film The Hulk.

Now that "Set Me Free" served as the appetizer to their debut album Contraband, it was time for them to deliver the fans the big, meaty, handbanging entreé, "Slither." The song sailed high on the Billboard Rock Charts for weeks and they won the 2005 Grammy award for "Best Hard Rock Performance."

With two pulse-pounding hits under their belt, the next single to make it off of the album was the lovesick ballad "Fall To Pieces," which Weiland wrote about his heroin addiction and the amount of damange it did to his relationship with his wife Mary Forsberg (who also appears in the video).

The next single up to bat was "Dirty Little Thing," which summons the same energy they had when they were first a GNR/Buckcherry mashup. They even gave Keith Nelson a songwriting credit for the song, despite not being in the band. Just by listening, you know it's the kind of song that was best listened to live. 

What happened as a one-time GNR reunion morphed into something else much greater. Their debut album topped at No. 1, went double platinum, and granted them the chance to share the stage with more of the greats like Elton John and Stevie Wonder. As drama and clashing personalities would come to plague the band during the release of their second album, fans are ever-hopeful that in the wake of Scott Weiland's death, Velvet Revolver could still continue one day.