grew in the small Midwestern town of Lafayette, Indiana. "It was cool growing up there. There's a courthouse and a college, a river and railroad tracks. It's a small town, so there wasn't much to do. We rode bikes, smoked pot, got into trouble - it was pretty 'Beavis and Butt-Head,' actually."1
Izzy's first musical favourites included Alice Cooper
and Led Zeppelin
, but the biggest influence was his grandmother who had a band together with her friends. So Izzy talked his parents into buying a drum kit. He would stay with the drums until 1983, when he switched over to guitar since it was easier to write songs on guitar, and since songwriters made more money. In high school Izzy started playing in a band with some friends. One of them was William Bailey
, better known under the name of W. Axl Rose
. "We were long-haired guys in high school. You were either a jock or a stoner. We weren't jocks, so we ended up hanging out together. We'd play covers in the garage. There were no clubs to play at, so we never made it out of the garage. Axl was really shy about singing back then. But I always knew he was a singer."2
After his graduation Izzy decided that Indiana wasn't enough if you wanted to pursue a musical career. He packed his drum kit into his car and headed for Los Angeles. He tried his luck as drummer with a couple of bands, then switching to bass for a short while. After a few years in LA Izzy was joined by Axl and they ended up playing together in Rose, which actually was the first band Izzy played guitar in.
Rose became Hollywood Rose and then broke up, before re-uniting and morphing into Guns N' Roses
. The early history of the band is confusing, but what's for sure is that in June of 1985 the classical line up of Guns N' Roses embarked on their first tour. The infamous "Hell Tour" that took them up along the US east coast to Seattle, hometown of bass player Duff McKagan
When the Appetite tour had ended, Izzy, like Slash
, Duff and Steven
, went into a period with heavy drinking and a lot of drugs. Unlike the other three, Izzy managed to clean up. He's said that touring with Aerosmith
in 1988 was a big source of inspiration: "It was like, thank God we got to meet some people that weren't fucked up! /../ I'd go out to watch and they'd sound fucking amazing! I thought, we're gonna have to really pull this shit together to keep up. Cos they were right, you know? And with us, even then, it was like the music was already taking a back seat to all the other shit..."3
What finally made him take the decision to give up drugs was the infamous flight incident. Izzy was arrested for urinating in an aisle and was after this subjected to random urine tests for drugs. 4
Izzy was often seen as the silent one in the "most dangerous band in the world"5
, and this became a lot more noticeable during the 1991 Get In The Ring Motherfucker tour. Izzy didn't travel with the band anymore. He and his wife had a private bus that took them from show to show. Maybe this had to do with having a hard time keeping being sober while being around people still using, and maybe it was inevitable that he would eventually leave the band...
"After the first leg of the UYI tour, Axl wanted to make me sign a contract which meant that I was less involved and less paid. I couldn't believe it. This contract was coming from someone I grew up with for fuck's sake. We always considered GNR as a best friend band, and now Axl was telling me: "Now we are doing business." Why should I carry on? Where was the fun? That was the last drop. But other things happen before like in Donnington where two kids died during the show. What the fuck is that? Is that rock n' roll? To read in an airport newspaper that kid died during one of your gig? What the fun to play in stadium every night and to start a riot in Saint-Louis because your singer is fucked up? You come to a point when none of all this is funny anymore. Axl wasn't doing his front man job anymore. As for the others, they were all stoned and wasted, I wasn't even able to make them learn covers; we could have play covers while Axl was away waiting for him to come back, entertaining the kids. No. We came up with drum solo. What's more boring than a drum solo?"6
Izzy left the band in November of 1991. He went back to Indiana and started recording the songs that ended up on his first solo album with his band the Ju Ju Hounds
, "Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds
". The music was more laid back and simpler than the Illusions albums
, which a lot of people consider being way too overproduced. They got pretty good reviews and went out on a world tour.
In 1993 Izzy replacement in GN'R, Gilby Clarke
, hurt his wrist in a motorcycle accident and the upcoming European tour was in jeopardy. A quick solution was needed, and was found in Izzy. "I was back in Indiana, living quietly when Axl rang me. He asked me if I could help them out for a few shows. I asked where were those shows and he said Istanbul, London, Paris, Athens... You think I would have hesitated. I like to travel and see new countries. Meanwhile, Alan Niven
, my manager, who was GNR manager at a time, told me that the band was still owing me money. I told me to accept if they were give me my money. /../ I did those shows and didn't have a lot of fun because Slash and Duff were still stoned. I don't want to call myself a saint, I did it all myself, but when you are not stoned there is nothing funny in seeing your friends like that."7
Izzy then took a few years off when he travelled a lot and dedicated a lot of time to his biggest interest. Motors and racing. He even built a track close to his house. In 1998 Izzy returned to the music scene with his second solo album, "117o
". As before, he had little interest in promoting the album, he only did a few interviews, and playing live. It turned out that it would be Izzy's last release on Geffen
. In the big merge, he, along with among others Duff McKagan, was dropped. In 1999 his third solo album "Ride On", a Japan-only album, was released on the Universal Victor label. This time Izzy actually did a small tour in Japan as promotion. A fourth album called "River" came out in 2001.