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Guns N’ Roses Band Members — See the Rockers Then and Now

Don’t you cry: Their new video brings a glimmer of hope that a full album from the iconic rock act might be on the way.

Guns N’ Roses fans sure have “Patience.” They’ve been eagerly waiting for a new album from the Guns N’ Roses band members since 2008’s Chinese Democracy. Some say more music may be on the horizon soon, and that their 2023 single “The General” and its AI-generated video — which was just released in January — are signaling that Axl Rose and company are reloading and close to making fans’ hopes come true this year.

The “trippy” new video, as Billboard describes it, features live performance footage “mixed with swirling, candy-colored rotoscope-like images of a young boy navigating through a futuristic world.” In a statement, the band said that the high-tech clip “dives into the subconscious of a young boy who stares down the monsters of dark childhood memories, blurring worlds in the process.”

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The envelope-pushing video is just the latest missive from the band that exploded onto the LA music scene back in 1985 with their raw mix of heavy metal, classic rock and punk. What’s known as the classic five lineup of members — Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan, and Steven Adler — “became a brotherhood” almost instantly, McKagan’s stated, adding that “the chemistry was immediate, thunderous, and soulful.”

That certainly showed in their music: 1987’s Appetite for Destruction sold over 30 million copies and still stands as the highest-selling debut album of all time thanks to hits such as “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Paradise City,” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Later classic such as “November Rain” and “Don’t Cry” further cemented their status as rock gods.

The classic five — and the revolving door of Guns N’ Roses band members who’ve come and gone over the past 30-plus years — “left a deep, outrageous mark on rock & roll legend, with train-wreck behavior and nonstop warring with the outside world,” Rolling Stone’s David Fricke noted upon their induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. “The daily dramas at the height of the band’s commercial and confrontational power…included addiction, alcohol­ism, lawsuits, and chronically late shows that, on occasion, descended into full-scale riots. There was constant feuding with the record label, the rock press, and other bands, com­pounded by the hair-trigger tensions within GNR itself.”

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Guns N’ Roses band members
Guns N’ Roses at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction (2012) Mike Coppola / Staff / Getty

“Our attitude epitomizes what rock & roll is all about,” Slash once told Rolling Stone of the Guns N’ Roses band members’ explosive reputation. “We fu—in’ bleed and sweat for it, you know? We do a lot of things where other bands will be, like, ‘Get the stunt guys to do it.’”

And in late 2022, he hinted that in addition to sporadic singles and touring over the next couple of years, the release of a more complete recording might be expected. “I wanna go in and cut a whole brand new record at some point, probably sooner than later,” he revealed in a SiriusXM interview. “We have one more tour left to do next summer, and then that’ll free us up to be able to go in and work on a new record.”

In 2023 a six-month world tour did take place, wrapping up in November. For those shows, Rose, Slash, McKagan, and Reed were joined by keyboardist and snyth programmer Melissa Reese, drummer Frank Ferrer, and guitarist Richard Fortus, the latter two being former members of The Psychedelic Furs.

As we all wait for further announcements of potential 2024 tour dates or that long-awaited next album, let’s take a look at some Guns N’ Roses band members who have made the biggest impact.

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Axl Rose: Guns N’ Roses band members

Axl Rose
1980s/2023 KMazur / Contributor / Getty // ANGELA WEISS / Contributor / Getty

As one of the Guns N’ Roses band members who’s always front and center, Rose has received a large share of both fans’ praise and critics’ scorn. Raised in Indiana in a strict Pentecostal home, Rose claimed in the 90s that he suffered from both sexual and physical abuse during his childhood.

He had a long string of local arrests and spent some time in jail before he moved to LA in 1982. Odd jobs and stints in various local bands gave him the experience he needed to help start Guns N’ Roses in 1985 and release some EPs. His talents and allure were described by Rolling Stone’s David Fricke as “glamorous, erotic, moving, and feral—[he was] Freddie Mercury, Steven Tyler, Elton John, and Johnny Rotten, often in the same song.”

After the group hit it big, bad behavior and controversy seemed to follow him. “It’s a matter of trying to stay out of trouble and stay focused,” the notoriously press adverse rocker once told USA Today. “I don’t have a lot of bad habits until after the show. After the show, pulling those reins in gets a little tough.”

Though he was accused of racist and homophobic lyrics on 1988’s “One in a Million,” the longtime Rolling Stones fan was able to see a dream realized a year later when Guns N’ Roses opened for that legendary act for a few dates of their tour. When Guns N’ Roses started to grow apart in the late 90s, Rose stepped out of the spotlight and didn’t resurface until 2004, enlisting new members for touring and the 2008 album, Chinese Democracy.

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Axl Rose performing
Axl Rose (1992) Pete Still / Contributor / Getty

Off the stage, he’s had a tumultuous failed marriage to Erin Everly, the daughter of Don Everly of the Everly Brothers, and a tortured failed engagement to model Stephanie Seymour. He settled out of court with both of them amidst various legal battles and allegations of physical altercations.

In addition to doing some voicework for the cartoons New Looney Tunes and Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? in 2020 and 2021, respectively, the frontman, now 62, toured with the band’s current lineup in 2023 and released a few one-off singles.

Duff McKagan recently told the Life in the Stocks podcast that Rose’s tempestuous touring behavior and chronic tardiness has improved greatly over time. “He takes it very seriously. He warms up for an hour and a half, warms down for an hour and a half. And we go on on time,” McKagan said. “So, yeah, I’ve enjoyed watching his triumph over the last eight years…It’s been really, really quite wonderful.”

Izzy Stradlin

Izzy Stradlin
1987/2003 Paul Natkin / Contributor / Getty // Jon Kopaloff / Contributor / Getty

Another Indiana native from the same hometown as Axl Rose, guitarist Izzy Stradlin was one of the founding members of Guns N’ Roses. When the band’s hardcore rock ’n’ roll lifestyle got too much for a newly sobered-up Stradlin, however, he quit mid-tour in 1991 during their Use Your Illusion tour.

He also reportedly had friction with Slash and other bandmates, and he’d grown weary of Rose’s erratic leadership skills at the time. “When you’re f—ed up, you’re more likely to put up with things you wouldn’t normally put up with,” he’s said of that difficult time.

He left and went on to form his own band, Izzy and the Ju Ju Hounds in 1992 and to work on various solo projects. He did reunite with his fellow Guns N’ Roses band members, making sporadic guest appearances during their 2006 tour. His most recent solo effort is 2010’s Wave of Heat.

In 2018, the equally press shy Stradlin, now 61, told the Wall Street Journal, “Nowadays, I constantly write songs, travel a bit and make the most of each day. Life is impermanent. I try to keep this in mind as I make my way along.”

Duff McKagan: Guns N’ Roses band members

Duff McKagan
1987/2023 Paul Natkin / Contributor / Getty // Cindy Ord / Staff / Getty

Seattle’s Duff McKagan was taught bass by his older brother and he grew up idolizing the musical stylings of The Clash’s Paul Simonon and Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister. He joined a punk band in 1979 when still a teen, and played with various other groups, eventually moving to LA where he met Slash and Steven Adler. He briefly teamed up with them before joining Guns N’ Roses in 1985, when he replaced Ole Beich. 

Through the years, McKagan’s stretched his creative wings with side projects such as Neurotic Outsiders, with Matt Sorum. And when he officially left Guns N’ Roses in 1997, he helped formed Velvet Revolver with Slash, Sorum, and Stone Temple Pilots’ Scott Weiland. He then filled in for Tommy Stinson for GNR in 2014, and eventually once again became one of the Guns N’ Roses band members in 2016.

Duff McKagan playing guitar
Duff McKagan (2011) Christie Goodwin / Contributor / Getty

In 2011, he released an autobiography titled It’s So Easy (And Other Lies), a New York Times bestseller, following that up with 2015’s How to Be a Man (And Other Illusions). The former high-school dropout also went on to study business and economics at Seattle University in the early 2000s.

“I didn’t know how much we had made or lost on the tour,” he told Fortune of finding old band financials after his pancreas exploded in 1994 due to his high intake alcohol, which he eventually cut out from his life. “As a 30 year-old millionaire, how do I admit to somebody that I don’t know what the f— I’m doing?” After completing his studies, he even wrote a finance column for Playboy andwent on to co-found Meridian Rock, a wealth management fund for musicians. 

Now 60, McKagan and his third wife, Susan Holmes, live in Seattle with their two daughters.

Last year, he played on Iggy Pop’s latest record, Every Loser, as well as its tour. McKagan’s fourth solo album, Lighthouse, was also released in 2023, and he plays acoustic guitar, bass and drums on it. In May 2023, he also released a song about his longstanding battle with panic attacks in honor of Mental Health Awareness month. “I’ll have panic attacks and I’ll get up and go downstairs and start playing my acoustic guitar,” he told People about how he copes. “That’s my f—ing sword I can do this battle with.”


Slash: Guns N' Roses band members
1986/2023 Aaron Rapoport / Contributor / Getty // Kevin Mazur / Contributor / Getty

Born in London, Slash grew up around music. His mom was a clothing designer for David Bowie and his dad was an artist who created Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark cover. He had collaborated with Duff McKagan in the band Road Crew by the time they formed Guns N’ Roses in 1985. Like many other members, his history with GNR has been rocky, with him popping in and out of group throughout the years. During his wild ride with them, he’s worked on such supergroup side projects as Slash’s Snakepit and Velvet Revolver, as well as Blues Ball in the 90s. He officially rejoined GNR in 2016.

The musician released his self-titled Slash autobiography in 2007. “The only reason I wrote it is because a lot of the stuff I was reading and seeing about the band got pretty frustrating. I just had to straighten out some sh—,” he told E! “It was a hard book to make, because I was pretty fu—ed up from 1980 to 2000-something. I really had to dig deep to try and remember a lot of sh—.”

These days, at 58, he’s thinking a lot clearer. Not only did he perform Barbie’s “I’m Just Ken” with Ryan Gosling at the Oscars, but he’s got a new solo blues CD — his first since 2010 — titled Orgy of the Damned due in May. “I love blues music,” he said in a statement, “but I haven’t really done the blues thing because I was always so busy with something else. All these years later, I decided to finally do it.” Among his eclectic group of collaborators on the project are Demi Lovato, Chris Stapleton, Iggy Pop, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and The Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson, among others.

Next up in July 2024 is his S.E.R.P.E.N.T. Festival tour, which will have him welcoming a lineup of blues artists on various dates. The acronym stands for Solidarity, Engagement, Restore, Peace, Equality N’ Tolerance, and he promises the shows will be “a celebration of blues and rock ’n’ roll music, and a celebration of unity and togetherness in these uncertain and divisive times.”

Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to “support and uplift people and communities suffering from the injustices of racism and equal rights violations, as well as to support children adversely affected by war and poverty across the world,” he adds, all while providing an event “where folks can get together for a day of great music and hang out and have a good time.”

Steven Adler: Guns N’ Roses band members

Steven Adler: Guns N' Roses band members
1987/2019 Paul Natkin / Contributor / Getty // Michael Tullberg / Contributor / Getty

This Cleveland-born drummer — who replaced Rob Gardner in the newly formed Guns N’ Roses in 1985 — was asked to leave the group in 1990 due to his out-of-control drug use (which would later play a part in his 1996 stroke). He’d be replaced by Matt Sorum, formerly of The Cult.

Upon leaving GNR, Adler made return stints to a couple of his previous bands, Road Crew and BulletBoys. His history of addiction — detailed in his 2010 autobiography My Appetite for Destruction: Sex & Drugs & Guns N’ Roses — would later land him on two seasons of Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew, as well as on a season of Sober House in the 2000s. Two subsequent bands — Adler’s Appetite and Adler — kept him busy around the same time, and in 2016 he appeared during sporadic dates on Guns N’ Roses’ Not in This Lifetime… tour.

Adler’s Appetite regrouped in 2017, and the drummer has been performing with them again recently, announcing a bunch of new 2024 dates in March. “I practice all day every day. If I’m practicing, it’s ’cause I enjoy it so much; I get such a high off of it,” the now 59-year-old musician told the It’s Showtime With Rikki Lee podcast. “And playing live, it’s even a bigger high, especially when people are singing along to the songs.”

Matt Sorum

Matt Sorum: Guns N' Roses band members
1997/2024 Bob Berg / Contributor / Getty // Axelle/Bauer-Griffin / Contributor / Getty

The California native fell in love with music the second he saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. “I saw Ringo [Starr], and he was sort of like this cartoon character,” Sorum has shared. “I was just a little guy, but I remember going, ‘Oh man, that’s just the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!’ Some kids want to be a fireman or a train conductor. But for me, something clicked.”

By the mid 70s, he was in LA playing in a band he formed in high school, called Prophecy. After a brief stint with a then unknown Tori Amos, Sorum landed with The Cult in 1988 before being recruited by Slash in 1990 to replace Steven Adler in Guns N’ Roses. The band’s sky-high success led to some low days, however. “Some self-esteem issues popped up, and then I became a pretty bad alcoholic. A lot of drugs,” he’s admitted.

Matt Sorum playing drums
Matt Sorum (2016) Kevin Mazur / Contributor / Getty

He returned to The Cult for a stint after GNR cooled down, then he started releasing solo efforts in 2003. He also joined Slash and Duff McKagan in Velvet Revolver, and the group won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance in 2005 for “Slither.”

While continuing to release solo efforts and play in a slew of side projects (including Camp Freddy, Circus Diablo, Kings of Chaos, and Hollywood Vampires), Sorum, an entrepreneur, has launched six companies and is a member of the Global Blockchain Business Council at UCLA.

The musician, now 63, and his wife, designer Ace Harper, welcomed a baby girl named Lou in June 2021, the same year he released his autobiography Double Talkin’ Jive: True Rock ’n’ Roll Stories from the Drummer of Guns N’ Roses, The Cult, and Velvet Revolver. “It’s been a wild ride. Make of it what you will. It wasn’t perfect,” he’s shared, but “I’m ready to be a father now.”

Dizzy Reed: Guns N’ Roses band members

Dizzy Reed : Guns N' Roses band members
2005/2021 Gregg DeGuire / Contributor / Getty // Timothy Norris / Stringer / Getty

Other than Axl Rose, keyboardist (and sometimes percussionist) Dizzy Reed is officially the longest-tenured musician in the group, having joined them in 1990 during their Use Your Illusion era. “I just never really thought about doing anything else, you know, on sort of a permanent basis,” the Illinois-born, Colorado-raised musician told The Pulse of Radio about his commitment to the band. “You know, I kind of feel like I’m in Guns N’ Roses and that’s where I was meant to be.”

Though he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with his fellow Guns N’ Roses band members, he didn’t appear at the ceremony as he was out with his side project, The Dead Daisies, at the time. That group also included former Whitesnake and Motley Crue members, though he left it behind soon after to focus more on GNR’s projects.

In 2018, Reed released his solo CD Rock ’n Roll Ain’t Easy, and he’s most recently peforming in his popular side project, Hookers & Blow, which also features members of Quiet Riot, Danzig, and W.A.S.P., as well as his wife, Nadja. Reed, now 60, has four children from previous marriages and relationships, and has even posted on social media about welcoming one grandchild in 2017.

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