Welcome to the series introduction of The First 50 Gigs: Guns N' Roses and the Making of Appetite for Destruction, a video podcast series that unearths one of the most comprehensive archives of rock n' roll history and puts you in the front row to experience the rise of one of the most iconic bands to launch out of Los Angeles in the late 1980s.
Welcome to the series introduction of The First 50 Gigs: Guns N' Roses and the Making of Appetite for Destruction, a video podcast series that unearths one of the most comprehensive archives of rock n' roll history, brought to life by the people who lived it and puts you in the front row to experience the rise of one of the most iconic bands to launch out of Los Angeles in the late 1980s.
When teenager and amateur photographer Marc Canter set out to document his best friend Saul Hudson’s rise as a rock guitarist in 1982, he never imagined that he was documenting the genesis of the next great rock n’ roll band of an era. His friend became the legendary guitarist Slash and Marc found himself front and center, witnessing the creation of Guns N’ Roses and the making of their legendary album “Appetite for Destruction". Marc Canter, with help from Jack Lue, photographed every gig the band played from their first show on June 6th, 1985 at the Troubadour to their last performance on the Sunset Strip before their international tour as a newly signed act for Geffen Records. The candid shots in Reckless Road capture Guns N’ Roses, both their blood-sweat-and-tears performances, as well as their intimated moments off stage.
In this first episode, you'll meet Marc Canter, third-generation owner of the legendary Canter's Deli in Los Angeles and hear how he found his calling with a camera and focused his lens on his best friend, Saul Hudson.
Marc Canter and Slash
"There isn't a better person to release any material having to do with the coming together of Guns N' Roses, where it went and what was going on behind the scenes." -- Slash
Marc's hobby became an obsession and after documenting a few of Slash's garage bands, he found himself chronicling Guns N' Roses and witness to the rise of the most important band to come out of the Sunset Strip in the mid-1980s.
In Episode One, we pull back the curtain to reveal the man behind the story, Marc Canter, and discuss his history, past and present relationship with Guns N' Roses, and what led to this passion project.
Photo session for the back cover of Appetite for Destruction. Photo by Robert John.
"Marc was like the sixth member of the band. He was always there, from the beginning and he documented the whole thing, tirelessly." --Duff McKagen
You'll also meet Jason Porath, co-author of Reckless Road and host of The First 50 Gigs. An author, filmmaker, and tech entrepreneur, Porath has been helping Marc unpack his vast archive and deliver the origin story of Guns N' Roses for fans around the world.
1:25: Learn how this series traces the threads that led to the Guns N’ Roses Appetite for Destruction lineup and their first show at the Troubadour on June 6th, 1985.
2:28: Why was Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles dubbed as a “haven” for residents and musicians since the 1960s? Pop in at any point during that period and you may have found Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix enjoying a Pastrami Rueben after a gig.
7:07: How did Marc and Slash meet? Someone tried to steal a minibike in 6th grade!
8:33: Hear the first-ever live recordings of Slash playing at Fairfax High School in 1982.
11:20: How did Marc’s relationship change with the band members when they blew up and took over the world?
21:40: Will fans ever see the recordings from the early club days? Find out the factors and key players involved in releasing these recordings.
23:26: Find out how this series will become the definitive history of Guns N’ Roses and the making of Appetite for Destruction and what's next in the series.
To access the full video versions of these episodes head over to our Patreon page and subscribe. In addition to bonus episodes, exclusive photo galleries, live streams, merch and more, you'll be supporting the production of future seasons for fans around the world.
For access to full-length videos, bonus episodes, exclusive galleries and recordings, merch and more subscribe to our Patreon page
Jason Porath, Marc Canter, Slash
Jason Porath 00:02
Were you conscious that you were documenting history?
Marc Canter 00:06
You know, I have a lot of stories and little tidbits of information that if I don't get them out there they die with me.
Jason Porath 00:20
Welcome to the First 50 Gigs, Guns and Roses and the making of Appetite for Destruction, a first hand account of the origin story of Guns and Roses, their rise on the Sunset Strip, and the making of Appetite for Destruction. I'm Jason Porath; I'm your host and I'm also the co-author of Reckless Road. And, I've been working with Marc Canter to help bring his archive to life for fans around the world. As many of you know, Marc Canter was Slash's best friend and was known as the sixth member of the band during the early days. He was there, and he witnessed it all. And he documented the entire thing starting with Slash's garage bands in 1981, and eventually following the original Appetite lineup from 1985 to 1987, photographing and recording every single gig GNR played as they dominated the Sunset Strip, wrote Appetite for Destruction, and became the most successful rock band of the late 1980s.
Axl Rose 01:18
"I want to thank everybody for coming down."
Jason Porath 01:23
So let's get to it. Season One, will trace the individual threads that led to the first Troubadour show of the Appetite lineup. This includes Slash's garage bands, Tidus Sloan and Roadcrew, as well as Hollywood Rose, L.A. Guns and the original Guns N' Roses. So it's going to be a packed season, and because we've chosen this video, podcast format, we're going to have the time to explore every aspect of the story and not leave any stones unturned. Marc, we're going to start at the beginning here. People know that you supported the band, you know, you've done enough interviews and, of course, we published Reckless Road, so they know who you are. We have this opportunity on this podcast to go a little deeper. Let's talk a little bit about you and your family background and what Canter's is to Los Angeles, as one of the icons, and also a place that is critical to the to the music scene in Los Angeles, especially during that time.
Marc Canter 02:28
I'm Marc Canter. I'm third generation of the Canter family. Been around since 1924 from Jersey City, New Jersey. There were two locations there. My grandfather moved to Los Angeles with a couple of his brothers and started Canter Brothers in in Boyle Heights. In the mid 60s, it really became like a countercultural place for the hippies and to make a long story short, everybody from A to Z was there hanging out eating: the Mamas and the Papas, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Doors, especially after they'd play a gig on the Sunset Strip.
Jason Porath 03:14
I'm going to assume that at that time, that area was already a place where the arts was happening in Los Angeles. So it wasn't necessarily a big leap, that a lot of musicians would start frequenting the deli. You know, Slash mentioned that he played many late nights at Canter's in the Kibitz Room. So can you tell us what the Kibitz Room is?
Marc Canter 03:40
The Kibitz Room was actually a candy store. That was part of the building that we bought in 1959. It was adjacent to the restaurant and in the late 80s we started up music again in the Kibitz Room. It had that living room atmosphere of just a fun party. You had everybody, Anthony Kiedis from the Chili Peppers and Jackson Browne came in and was playing with Melissa Etheridge, the Spin Doctors had some time there, but Elliot Easton from The Cars. I'm going to go name people forever, but Fiona Apple...they just keep popping in my head. But, what happened was Slash in 1992; it was right around the time of the MTV Music Awards. Slash walks in and picks up this green Strat, that's like a $200 Strat that one of the musicians was playing, plugged it into a cheap crappy amp and they played a couple covers. He had fun and he was really happy. He said he needed that, because at that time, they only played stadiums and it was like a good reality check that brought him back to Earth. So he played there another time a couple of months later and did it again. So I believe there's only really two times he played there.
Jason Porath 04:53
Right, but Canter's was still central to the GNR origin story. So, you fed them, you gave them jobs, they met each other there. There's a great story of how a few of them met there. So I think Canter's seems to be this place that they always returned to during that time. You're listening to the First 50 Gigs. In this 2007 interview for Reckless Road, Slash talks about his history with Marc.
Duff came out from Seattle and answered an ad I had the paper and again, in relationship to Marc, I met Duff here at Canter's and Steven and that was our first meeting. It was here at Canter's.
Jason Porath 05:43
How did you go from being Slash's friend, who you recognized that he had talent, that was unusual talent, and you wanted to document that, to the sixth member, or the honorary sixth member of the band?
Marc Canter 05:58
I met Slash during the fifth grade. And we became friends pretty quickly. I just noticed a lot of special things about him and his artwork. Later on in his motocross bike racing, he was already playing guitar. And we were both into the same bands. And I just knew instinctively knew that he was going to be good on that guitar. He had a little Sun amp and he was playing a BC Rich Mockingbird. And right away, I noticed that he had a controlled feedback and a thick sound. And, you know, you got chills down your spine when he would improvise a solo or play blues and just go at it. I sort of made it my goal to document what he was doing and make sure he got to the next level. And that's pretty much what you're going to find where we're talking about now how it all came together.
Marc Canter and I have known each other since the fifth grade at Third Street Elementary School. How we got to be friends back then, I can't really remember
Marc Canter 07:08
(Marc interupts the interview, reminding Slash that he tried to steal his mini bike).
I tried to steal his mini bike. (Marc and Slash laugh, a bit of banter). We did fifth grade, sixth grade, and seventh grade in junior high school and all that stuff. But we were just really good friends throughout, all the way up until now. But back then it was definitely a lot of like hanging out and going to school, ditching a lot of school. He alwasys had a camera around. So now it all makes sense.
Jason Porath 07:23
Let's dive a little deeper into your role in the story. You gave us the background on your friendship was Slash? Were you conscious that you were documenting history or were you just following your passion?
Marc Canter 07:54
I was passionate about collecting and I understood what that meant. I started collecting Slash before he played, literally, because I was saving his artwork. And when we were into mini bikes, I would lay down on the grass and let him fly over me and grab pictures and stuff like that. But once he started playing guitar, everything shifted because I'm still gonna document it because it's good and it's special. But also at the same time I understood the importance of -- he is going to make it one way or the other and somebody is going to want to know about this. June 4, 1982 was the first time I shot Slash playing guitar and that was at Fairfax High School. I shot one roll of film and I blew the roll off before they finished the first song. It was outdoors. So it's not like you had to fight the lighting or wait for the lighting to change. It was very easy. I just wish I brought more film. In fact, he used my guitar. He had it onstage for backup and, of course, he broke a string and they used it for the last song, but I ran out of film so I didn't get to capture it.
Jason Porath 09:09
At some point. You started following Axl as well. Did you start following Axl, before Slash played in Hollywood Rose?
Marc Canter 09:19
I met Axl at the same time Slash did. Steven and Slash we're looking for a band to join or have other musicians join their band as a singer. They were looking for a singer and a bass player at the time. And Rose was playing -- I don't know if they were Rose or Hollywood Rose at the time, I think they were Hollywood Rose -- and they had a gig at Gazzarri's. It was like a Battle of the Bands. It was $1 to get in and they only played three songs. I literally went there with Slash and Steven and Axl and Izzy were on stage too, at the time. We saw them perform and it was just -- Axl was mesmerizing as he was running around and it was just really good rock n' roll After the gig we met Axl and Axl and Slash spoke and Axl and Slash jammed a little bit in his mother's basement. And the next day Slash was in the band. That's when I met Axl and we hung out a lot. We would go to movies, we'd go to dinne, I went to rehearsals. That band lasted a few months and then it fell apart. But when Axl joined L.A. Guns, he called me to see if I would shoot them at the Troubadour a couple of times, because he liked the work that I did with Hollywood Rose.
Jason Porath 10:34
And I remember you had to hide that fact from Slash, right?
Marc Canter 10:38
I did because Axl was now in Tracii Guns band and Tracii and Slash were sort of rivals in junior high and in high school. I mean, they were friends, but rivals at the same time. So you know, if I'm helping Axl and Tracii, then I'm kind of betraying Slash a little bit.
Jason Porath 11:01
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Jason Porath 11:15
How did your relationship with them change when they became international stars?
Marc Canter 11:24
Well, the relationship didn't change at all. They knew that there's a very small handful of people that when things just got too much they can always go back and ask Canter. "What does he think?" Because they knew I would give an answer. I cut through the bullshit. I'm going to tell them and I have nothing to lose, nothing to gain. I wouldn't yes, them to death, "Oh, this is great. Blah, blah, blah." I told them what it was.
Jason Porath 11:54
It's well documented that friction started building between the band members into the early 90s. And there was a tug-of-war of the direction that they wanted to go in. What role did you play during that time? Did you feel like you were in the middle of a family that was breaking up?
Marc Canter 12:14
I did. When that whole thing happened in the mid-90s -- it really was like, '94, '95, when that started to fall apart in '96 -- and I was or may have been one of two people that still communicated with both sides. I was always very neutral.
Jason Porath 12:38
But, were you trying to mend the fences? Were you trying to be the person in the middle trying to get them back?
Marc Canter 12:50
I didn't do too much. But later on, I tried a huge intervention. But at that time, I would hear what one said and what the other would have said. And I would tell them both what the other one said, but they still wouldn't agree.
Jason Porath 13:07
After the band finally broke up in the mid-90s, it sounds like you maintained a relationship individually with Slash and Axl and maybe Steven and Duff and Izzy as well. Tell me about that period from the mid-90s, maybe into the early 2000s.
Marc Canter 13:24
Nothing really changed for me at all. I was going to see Axl and the musicians that he was playing with and I went to Rio to see that. I flew to Vegas a couple of times to see them on New Year's Eve to see him play with the new Guns N' Roses band. My relationship with Axl got put on hold in 2007. And a lot of it was communication, trying to get Axl to realize that Slash and him could work together. They just need to work it out through like a family therapist or something like that, because I definitely knew they needed to take a break. But there was a certain amount of time when the break ended and it was time to say hello, again, or work together in some kind of fashion or at least not be enemies. That's where that still stays.
Jason Porath 14:20
You mentioned 2007. That was around the time that we were producing Reckless Road and I don't know if it was Axl, or it was Slash, but somebody said that they just wanted to bury Appetite. They don't want to live their life through that one album. They want to bury it and do something new. Was there conflict in releasing this tome of your archive that brought their brand back to the Appetite days.?
Marc Canter 14:55
There was and it wasn't with Slash. It was with Axl. At that time Axl was trying to get his "Chinese Democracy" record out. He wanted to focus on the new band. But, I don't think he quite understood that there is no new band without the history of the old band. I didn't document "Use Your Illusions" other than a few gigs I went to. Appetite for Destruction, I documented pretty much every gig they went to, at least 50 gigs in Los Angeles. So at the time, Axl wasn't thrilled with Slash, and he wasn't thrilled with anything that Slash was involved in, which would be the old material. So naturally, I knew he wouldn't be patting me on the back saying, "Oh, good job." I mean, he knew I put the book together. In 1993 or 1994 I even asked [Axl's] permission for it. He said yes and when I was done, he looked at it. I put everything on artboards. I blew the photos up, real photos not computer, to the size I wanted them and even shrunk fliers down and kind of rearranged it on artboards and pasted it down. I was very meticulous about it, incorporating what they said in between the songs because most people might think that's useless. But a lot of people want to know what they said between the songs or the first time they ever played the phrase their favorite song. For instance, in Rocket Queen, [Axl] says, "So this is a new one. This is for Barbie. It isn't much but it's the best I can do. This song's called Rocket Queen." It gives you goosebumps knowing that's what was said the first time it was played.
Axl Rose 16:53
(Outtake from the show)
Marc Canter 16:57
How I shot the show; you'd see them come out with jackets on and then the next song, they take their jackets off because getting hot on stage. Towards the end of the show, they have no shirts on. So I even laid the photos out in that order. So, as you turn the pages, the show is moving forward. Axl was really happy with the end product in 1994. The only issue was that I didn't get the book put out, which then went through a whole nother set of editing and your involvement and the cast of characters and everything else that took place in 2006, 2007. But at that time, when I put it together, I was just trying to give all the detail. I figured once the publisher gets it, I'll go back in and I'll give this extra content that needs...the little putting the flower on top of the cake by giving that little more information that wasn't in the gigs.
Jason Porath 18:01
I was working for Enhanced Books. And you're right, it was the system whereby you would get a page-for-page companion copy of a photography, fixed-layout based book. And on each page online, in this Flash player, you would be able to kind of see extras; whether it was audio or video and it really enhanced that book. Soon after the book came out, Enhanced Books fell apart. And we had a real problem at that time because we didn't know what to do. Should we make a documentary? What do we do with all these hours of interview footage? We still wanted to somehow move forward with this multimedia version of the book and that's when I had the idea to create an app. And at that time, the app environment was just beginning. It was 2010 and we partnered with a company called Vook. And we retold the story in app form. And it actually defined storytelling on the apps at that time. It was it was something new, and we had all this great material and it did very well. It was a very exciting moment in the history of the project. And then that kind of faded away and we had the app and we had the book and you know things pretty much went quiet for a long time. But, you and I always talked about that we never really realized the vision that we had for this project with all of your content, with the great stories that we have. And recently, when you know Coronavirus hit and we all had some more time to think about things, we came up with this idea to create this limited series podcast and videocast that unpacks all the moments that you captured during that time and allow those guests to come back and talk about their experiences; to really open up your archives even more than the book did and to expose a lot of things that weren't seen, episode by episode. So, what people can expect from this series moving forward is really a play-by-play story of this entire origin story of GNR and the making of Appetite. You're going to have the ability to watch it on video, listen to it on your favorite podcast player. But also, when you go to our web posts, you're going to find all of the archived stuff that you've provided, that that fits in with the story that we're telling in that episode. So this is going to be, I think, the definitive history. It's going to be the most comprehensive collection of material and stories. And this is something that will live on as that lightning-in-a-bottle period that you captured for GNR. (Interstitial) To preview the full experience of the First 50 Gigs video podcast that includes exclusive photos and videos from Marc's archive, check out the First 50 Gigs YouTube channel. You'll find the link right here in our episode show notes.
Marc Canter 21:10
Well, you know, I have a lot of stories and little tidbits of information that if I don't get them out there, they die with me.
Jason Porath 21:17
And it's not only you. We're going to have many of the guests on this show that appeared in the book that are going to have the breathing room to tell some of the deeper stories that people may not know. And that's the beauty of this new format, is that we're able to tell this story in a way where it's more accessible to people, you know. They don't have to buy a book, they can just tune in and hear the entirety of the story. I do want to talk about the recordings, Marc. A lot of the fans so far have asked us that they just want to see what you captured; they just want to hear the original recordings. You recorded about 40 hours of audio and about 20 hours of video. You captured numerous gigs on the Sunset Strip, even before and during and while they were discovered, that nobody's ever seen. These things have never seen the light of day. A lot of fans are like, "Just open up your archive Marc. We just want to see everything, you know, what are you holding back on?" And I think it's important for people to understand what's involved with copyright law and what the band has to say about releasing this material. So there are certain rights; there's current law that protects music. And the band has a say whether this music comes out or not. I would imagine Universal Music Group has a say. And even though you did the recordings, it doesn't mean that you have the right to play them in any way that you want. And I think the fans need to understand that there's music law in place to protect the artists and we just can't do anything we want with it. And we're going to respect the wishes of the band and the wishes of Universal Music Group. That said, we will be able to surface a lot of the videos that you took. It just won't be with the music. But fans can expect to see a lot of these early video clips alongside of our stories. And I think that's something that they're absolutely going to love and appreciate. And it's things that they've never seen before.
Marc Canter 23:35
Reckless Road is a treasure trove for any Guns N' Roses fan. What we're doing now is more than a treasure trove; It's an encyclopedia. It gives you all the details, not just a glimpse at it. What's really exciting about what we're doing now with these podcasts is a lot of cool stories have come up that I remember. A lot of cool stories have come up from people that we've talked to that are going to be guests on the podcast; stories that I didn't even know about. I'm really excited to get these stories out to the fans.
Jason Porath 24:06
Great Marc. Well, thank you very much, and we look forward to the next episode with you. This was a great kickoff to the journey we're about to take for the fans.
Jason Porath 24:45
We hope you've enjoyed this episode of the First 50 Gigs, Guns N' Roses and the Making of Appetite for Destruction. To watch the video podcast, access bonus episodes, and galleries and buy show merchandise, join our growing community on Patreon and subscribe.