Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, SC
September 7th 1992

- Michael Miller, 9.4.92

Pardon us. We're sorry about the delay.

Before being rudely interrupted by Axl Rose and his crusty vocal chords, we were talking to Billy Gould of Faith No More, Jason Newsted of Metallica and Gilby Clarke of Guns N' Roses about their triple-bill, mega-metal summer stadium tour that was supposed to visit Columbia Aug. 2.

Axl's voice went south, but unfortunately none of the rock bands followed.

So what about this mercurial rock 'n' roll front man who claims to be one of the most misunderstood pop culture icons of the '90s? Does Axl have all his tires on the pavement?

"I really don't talk about other band members, but I can say that Axl is a very charismatic person, a very talented person," said Clarke, rhythm guitarist and newest Gunner. "If he wasn't like the way he is the band wouldn't be where it is right now.

"You'd think that by now he'd be some art collector with all his money, but he's not. He's a rock 'n' roll guy. He buys all the new records that come out because he likes to keep up with the music."

That clears the air. Axl is just a down-to-earth rock dude, and Gilby gets to keep his job.

But there's no denying that a certain amount of charisma surrounds the camps of both Guns N' Roses and Metallica, two of rock's best-selling acts. Clarke and Newsted attribute their bands' massive popularity to the fact that they've never tried to be anyone or anything they're not.

"We're just being ourselves," Clarke said, "playing what we want to play."

"Metallica hasn't strayed from its grip on reality, you know, keeping your feet on the ground and being who you are and all that," Newsted said. "We just stuck to what we knew the best and worked off that. We didn't change with the wind in order to sell a few records."

Guns N' Roses and Metallica may be proven rock warriors of the '90s, but what about this upstart band Faith No More who came out of nowhere in 1990 with a hit song ("Epic") and album ("The Real Thing")? Guess what? They're just being themselves, doing what comes naturally.

"We're doing what we want to do, we've got a cool band, it's a really good atmosphere," bassist Gould said. "But sometimes when we open for bands that we don't like that much or have bands open up for us that we're not too happy with, it kind of feels like work. You're a bit compromised, but you've got to do it."

No such problems on this tour, since the members of Faith No More and Metallica are good buddies. Both bands call San Francisco home.

"Those guys (FNM) are all from the Bay Area as well," Newsted said. "Jim Martin, their guitar player, and I are good friends. We get together and play quite a bit when we're not on the road. We do a lot of jamming, a lot of acoustic music, banjos, mandolins and stuff.

"They came out with us for 12 dates on the 'Justice' tour (1989), and it gave them a good boost then."

"Metallica? They're cool," Gould said, echoing the buddy-system sentiment. "They totally helped us out when nobody knew who we were. It's cool that they invited us to do this tour, but the bottom line is we're doing this for ourselves, to give ourselves more freedom."

Gould hopes that touring stadiums with two of rock's heavyweights will help his band graduate from club to theater-size venues for headlining tours of their own.

"We have a little bit of power now, but we don't have the power to really do what we want," Gould said. "We're somewhere between clubs and theaters, and if we go on to the theater thing, we want to make sure we can draw enough people to make it worth the promoter's time."

Word from the road says that Metallica is performing the most powerful set of the three bands, although Guns N' Roses has turned in some solid work. Metallica front man James Hefield suffered severe burns on his arms Aug. 8 in a flash pot accident in Montreal, and Metal Church guitarist John Marshall has been recruited to handle the rhythm duties for the remainder of the tour.

But Clarke's not worried about things escalating into a rock feud.

"This isn't a boxing ring," he said. "This isn't Guns N' Roses against Metallica. This is all together, the fans are getting a diverse show."

Faith No More, Metallica and Guns N' Roses are scheduled to appear at Williams-Brice Stadium Monday. Gates open at 4:30 p.m. and the concert will begin at 6:30. Tickets are $27.50 (plus service charge), and all seats are reserved. The concert is expected to last until about 2 a.m.