© Photo courtesy of Guns N' Roses
Dizzy Reed wasn't on the Guns N' Roses train when it first left the station, but he's sure been on board for most of its wild ride.
After learning piano as a child and then ultimately founding the band The Wild in the late '80's, Dizzy met Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose when the two were rehearsing in neighboring studios. Axl had ideas of adding a keyboardist to his hard rock band; and in 1990, he invited Dizzy to join the existing lineup. Dizzy Reed was catapulted to stardom within a year, persevered through the band's turbulent evolution, and has now been a member of Guns N' Roses longer than anyone else with the exception of Axl himself.
Dizzy spoke with The Flash List about the accomplishments he's most proud of, how he challenges himself, what he considers to be the key to having a good life, and what you might not know about him.
TFL: What was it like making the transition from performing in your band The Wild to being on a world tour with Guns N' Roses?
DR: It was one of those things that could only happen in Hollywood really, you know? But it was real. Literally one day I was playing clubs in L.A.; and then the next day, it seemed like, I was on stage with Guns N' Roses in front of 100,000 people. Rock in Rio was my first show down in Brazil, and it was quite the whirlwind. The band was pretty much at the top of the world at that point, and we were flying on a chartered jet everywhere. When I'd been in the band for three years, one day we were sitting around with some of the crew guys that had been with the band for a long time and had been doing that for a long time; and everyone was telling bus stories about being on a tour bus. And it got around to me,
How 'bout you Diz, you got any good bus stories? And I just kinda said,
I've never been on a tour bus before. [Laughs.]
I was sent flying around on a jet, and I haven't even been on a tour bus. But that's changed; I've been on many, many, many tour buses since then. But that sums it up as a reflection of how big the band was when I joined and what I'd come from, literally sleeping on people's couches and trying to make it to that with nothing in between. It was pretty intense and it was fun. Looking back, I don't know how many people have actually been through that, you know? I'm just really grateful and thankful that I still get to do this every day, and I'm really looking forward to the shows coming up too.
TFL: What are you most proud of?
DR: I guess that I'm still doing it, that I never really fell off the deep end like so many people have. I don't know if that's something to be proud of; I've certainly done my share of partying and what not, but I guess just being able to keep it under control. Maybe because I had kids and stuff when I was really young, that probably had something to do with it. But I think as far as musical accomplishments, I'm very proud of Chinese Democracy and all the contributions I made on that record. And I think just being able to stick it out. There were times, even early on, when I maybe felt like I didn't belong where I was at and what I was doing. But it's being able to see things objectively, being able to check your ego at the door. Axl and Duff and some of the other guys definitely helped me out with a lot of that. Just how to see things and how to approach things, even though sometimes some of the other guys made it more difficult for me since they didn't have the same ideas that Axl had as far as having a keyboard player in the band. But I stuck it out, I'm still doing this, and I'm proud of everything I've been able to contribute to Guns N' Roses and where I've been able to go with my career.
TFL: What do you think makes a great song?
DR: There's probably a different answer from everybody you ask really. But for me, if it sticks out in your mind, if it's something that you end up singing along to or humming to after you've heard it. Although, you might find a lot of people that have that experience where they find that something they don't like gets stuck in their head. But just because they don't like it doesn't mean it's not a good song. But I think the most important thing is (especially today when we have so many little production elements at our fingertips in our houses and in our homes as well as in the recording studios), if you can sit down with a piano or acoustic guitar and play a song from beginning to end and it's still a strong, catchy song with great hooks and melodies (hooks, of course, are very important). If you can do that, then I think that makes it a strong song.
TFL: How do you challenge yourself?
DR: The other thing too about rock 'n' roll music is that you can honestly say that pretty much everything has been done. For whatever reason, there are [only] so many notes on the Western scale that we use. Without getting too deep, there are only so many ways you can play the same hooks and riffs. I think the challenge is finding new and different ways to present that and dictate and create the mood of the song without ruining it or changing it or making it go in the wrong direction. You know, one little thing can make it too happy, one little thing can make it too heavy, one little thing can make it too sad. So you just have to find the right little places. And for me, a lot of times when there are songs (whether I was part of the writing or not) it doesn't matter; but because I play in a guitar-based band and I'm a keyboard player, when you come into the studio, it would be easy to just lay down a bunch of piano or some organ or some synth parts or whatever. But it has be right, it has to be the right frosting on the cake, it has to be the right seasoning, it has to be the right part and the right talent. I don't know if that's challenging myself, but that is the challenge that comes with doing what I do.
TFL: What do you wish more people knew about you?
DR: Oh boy; I thought they knew everything about me. [Laughs.] Hmmm ... I've never been asked that before. Uh, I like to have a good time, and I really, really enjoy what I do. And I'm really, really thankful and grateful that I get to do it every day. And, I like a lot of heavy music. I'm a keyboard player, but I dig the heavy guitars. I like Slayer; I like Pantera. I like some of the heavier stuff, and it doesn't have to have keyboards in it for me to like it. I think a lot of times people just assume that since I'm a keyboard player, I'm some sort of a classically trained nerd; and that's furthest from the truth. I'm rock 'n' roll through and through. I like to pick up a guitar once in a while; I like to write songs on the guitar because I know that that's the only way some ideas are going to translate. I think that might be the one thing for a lot of people, especially for music fans, to know.
TFL: Now that you're approaching 50, what is the most important lesson you've learned in life so far?
DR: I would say that you just can't predict the future and you can't take anything for granted. Always expect the unexpected. You can't be prepared for everything; you just gotta roll with the changes. I think the most important thing is bouncing back when you've been kicked down and when you think you've hit the bottom. You've just gotta bounce back. Look forward to the future. Enjoy life. Don't worry about sh*t, you know? Things aren't going to take care of themselves, but worrying about it is just going to make it worse. I think bouncing back is the key to having a good life. Nothing is ever going to be perfect.
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