Sunset Strip

Interview: Vicky Hamilton

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One of my favorite sayings is “Life is short, but a band’s life is shorter”

Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with Vicky Hamilton. You might recognize her name as being Guns N Roses’ first manager and for her work with other bands such as Faster Pussycat, Poison, and countless others during the 80’s. In the next couple months, Vicky will be releasing her autobiography entitled Appetite For Dysfunction. We talked about her career and what she sees for the future of music. See what she had to say below.

B. Thank you for doing this Vicky. Let’s begin… You got your start at Licorice Pizza years ago working there?

V. Actually I worked at a record store in Indiana and managed 3 bands in Indiana as well. But made my move out here.

B. While you were in LA you worked at Licorice Pizza, you wound up meeting Nikki Sixx

V. Yeah at Licorice Pizza, yes

B.  I know you helped them out early.  What was your role early on with them?

V.  I was a management consultant.

B.  Did you have a hand in their Leather Records organization at all?

V.  They had made that record and that’s when I came on board, right when they were putting the package together for that.  I didn’t have a hand in songs or anything like that, but I did marketing for them and display, merchandising all over town, especially in all of the Licorice Pizza stores.

B.  I also know you worked with Stryper for a little while and had some differences in your beliefs and things like that. Of all the bands in the world to work with, how did you wind up working with Stryper?

V. I knew them when they were Roxx Regime and they played at Gazarri’s and I was a cocktail waitress at Gazarri’s when I first met them and then they like disappeared and I didn’t really know what happened to them.  I called Robbie Sweet when I went to work at Silver Lining Entertainment as an agent.  He said yeah we’d love to have you work with us and …… He didn’t tell me anything about their religious thing.  I went down to La Mirada to their rehearsal and I saw the Isaiah 15:35 thing and I knew that was like a religious connotation, but I didn’t really think it had anything to do with the band.  Not until I already agreed to work with them that I figured out they were like …………  Nobody did that, you would never question that.

B. What was your role with Poison and what was it genuinely like to be around them?

V.  I was their manager.  They were pretty wild and zany, charismatic, hustlers, probably the best promoters I’ve ever worked with. Self-professed glam-slam kings of noise.

V.  But I didn’t manage them with CC.  There was a different guitar player when I managed them named Matt Smith

B. I remember reading about that actually

V.  He was really good. We actually auditioned Slash and he had the job for about 10 minutes.

B.  You were the one who introduced Axl to Slash

V.  Well theoretically.  They had jammed before, but I didn’t know that. I had booked Black Sheep, which Slash was in for about 10 minutes.  When I started booking Hollywood Rose, previous to Guns N Roses, I introduced Slash to Axl that night at the… and they shook hands and acted like they were just meeting for the first time, but apparently had jammed before.

B.  As their management consultant, what was it like with them in there…. I know Axl lived at your place and was hiding from the police for a while and they all moved in, except for Duff.  I remember you mentioning a long time ago, you and your roommate locked yourselves in your room, because they had basically taken over the whole place.

V.  They were like stealing our t-shirts and things too.  Yeah, Jennifer Perry and me had to live in the bedroom, barricaded the bedroom door. The guys all lived in the living room, Axl slept on the couch.  The other guys slept in sleeping bags on the floor usually with a groupie or two.  They would double up sleeping bags and zip them together.

B.  One of the things I’ve always wanted to ask you about, everybody always asks about Axl and Slash and all that.  But what was Izzy really like?

V.  Quiet, sarcastic.  He had a really dry sense of humor but I appreciated it, you know?  He was kind of a musical genius too, but he’s just really quiet. Somber looking.

B.   A lot of people always think it was Slash behind all the music and everything like that.  Everything I always randomly heard about was that Izzy was more of less the brain and Axl of everything.

V.  Slash was the business mind, but in the creative zone it was easily the three of them.

B.  You worked with them all the way up to them getting signed to Geffen……………. When did your relationship end with them exactly?

V.  I took an A&R at Geffen and Geffen decided the band needed major management. We tried to work out a co-management deal like I had with Death Sailor, but they already had Motley Crue and they didn’t want another band that was strung out so that didn’t really come together.

B.  Besides Slash do you have a relationship with anybody still?

V.  Mmmhmmm, Steven.  When I see Duff, he’s friendly.  I haven’t seen Izzy in like say 7 years or so, but when I see him, he’s fine.  The only one I’ve never talked to again is Axl.  I would speak to him if he called me.

B.  You mentioned you worked at Geffen as an A&R rep.  While you were there, I know you worked with like Faster Pussycat.  Was that more of a managerial thing? Or did you help them get signed as well?

V.  My deal with Geffen was set up so that I could. They had first writer refusal to sign a band, but after they passed I could do whatever I wanted with the band. I managed Faster Pussycat while I was there, Darling Cruel, Lost Boys who I also got signed with the other label.  It was great.

B. With Faster Pussycat circle and things like that were you ever a frequent guest at the Cathouse? 

V.  I was, it was the best club in Hollywood when you got to that time period.  The best bands played there.  And I managed Faster Pussycat and Riki (Rachtman) and Tamie Downe (Singer of Faster Pussycat) were best friends so it was kind of hard to avoid.

B.  Later on after Geffen, you started your own label at some point and wound up releasing June Carter Cash’s album that won a Grammy.  What was it like with June Carter and did you ever get a chance to meet Johnny and have a conversation?

V.  He sang a duet on the record.  I hung out in Nashville for like a month.  I was at their house and everything.  Johnny always came. Super nice. He sang a duet on Far side Things…on June’s record.   It was probably the highlight of my career.  Two of the nicest people I’ve ever met. ……….  I have a band now called Talk Like June that recorded at the cabin where I made the record with June and turned it into a real studio they have a tracking room there now and an iso room which is twice as big as it was when I made June’s record.  John Carter (June’s son) has become sort of a major force in Nashville as a producer and I gave him his first producing job.

B. That’s amazing

V.  He co-produced June’s record with a guy named JJ Bolero, that was like the first thing they really put out. Now he has worked with Loretta Lynn and all sorts of others.

B.  Since you’ve been around the Sunset strip for so long, how do you feel about the venues closing and the fact that there’s no scene anymore?

V.  I would say there’s no Sunset Strip scene, but there is a scene in Echo Park.  Sunset Strip has become very touristy; bands don’t want to come west of Vine or Vermont even.  The Echo, The Echoplex, and some others are out there – there’s about 3 or 4 other blocks in Echo Park.  They do a thing at the Echo, called Funky Soul.  It’s off the hook.  It’s like a sort of mash-up of soul and rock.  It’s like computer nerds and like hip-hop people, indie people…. I was amazed.  I was like “wow” this is different.  New.  A lot of it doesn’t have lyrics, it’s mostly just around dance beats but it was very interesting to watch.  This has been going on a couple of years. …

B.  I never really ventured out there; I was always on Sunset and going over there always felt weird to me, like I didn’t fit there. In my teenage years, early 20’s I was always out at the Key Club, Whisky, and Roxy

V.  My early years were at the strip too, but it’s changed.  Honestly it pisses me off that they’re building all these hotels and things.  It’s like if they take down the venues, who’s going to stay in these hotels?  They’re there for the entertainment, you know?  That’s it.

B.  You also were a booker for a very long time at Bar Sinister, the club that is very predominantly more Goth type of vibe. 

V.  Then I booked at Malibu Inn, which is like the surfers; it was like such a different scene.  It’s fun.  I had fun doing Bar Sinister.  I met a lot of great bands.  One of the guys I’m working with right now was in a band called Vegas In Space that I managed that I met at Bar Sinister.

B.  I have two more questions for you.  What are your thoughts on the future of music itself seeing as thought he physical copy has dwindled out of the picture?

V. Although album sales are up.  I think it’s changing.  It will be a better music world soon because the laws are slowly changing.  We only have baby bands, dinosaur bands.  This week we lost Bowie; we lost Lemmy, Scott Weiland.  The established artists are starting to die off.  If we don’t start changing the laws, there will be no new bands because baby bands can’t afford to make a living at this business the way it is so things have got to change.  I think it will be a more Internet savvy business with bands. It has to be.  Because that’s the way everything is done now.  My hope is that the laws will change and will favor artists.

B.  The older guys are slowly dying off and the baby bands aren’t getting anywhere where they need to be.  What’s your advice for any new and up and coming band that is really just trying to get out there and do it? 

V.  Play as many gigs as you can.  Get outside of your box and play other cities.  Have a super savvy Internet person be the 5th member of the band. Go to things at the YouTube space, the creator things, meet creators, network, tour, make really cool merchandise.  We used to give away t-shirts to sell records, now we give away records to sell t-shirts.  The cooler the merchandise the better off you’re going to be.  Develop your own mailing list, you want to control your own ball in this.  Don’t do it through and other company, you want to control your own stuff.

Why The Whisky A Go Go needs to GO GO AWAY!

The “Sunset Strip” is one of the most legendary places in Los Angeles. The musical history that surrounds the area is rich and full of greatness. Everyone knows the stories of The Doors, Motley Crue, Guns n Roses, etc. Everyone has dreams of playing at the venues up and down the strip. The sad thing is that today in 2014, there isn’t much left of the greatness that once was such a legendary place. There is no scene anymore, and venues are closing down. The Key Club and The Roxy are no longer open. All that is left is the Whisky and The Viper Room, and the little bit of nostalgia that you get from walking around the area.

I recently attended a show at the Whisky to see Fear Factory. In my mind I thought this will be great to see them again and at the Whisky of all places. I remember seeing them there back when their album Obsolete came out. Boy was I wrong. First off they were horrible live and Burton C. Bell couldn’t hit the notes. They seemed like a second rate version of what they used to be, holding on to what they once were thinking that they still had “it”

The main reason for this piece is to detail how downhill the Whisky has become. Nevermind the history of the place, plain and simple this place is a hole in the wall now. The exterior alone needs a drastic update. The people working the ticket booth are some of the laziest rude people ever. It’s 2014 people, it’s about time to start taking credit cards to buy tickets. Security wise, I understand the need to pat people down, but don’t grab my ass. If I wanted to get felt up I’d stay home with my lady. Once inside the stench of mold, sweat, and filth fills the room. The carpet has got to be so old they are afraid to rip it up and see what lies beneath. The layout downstairs doesn’t make any sense. Why have booths downstairs in an area that takes away from the standing room? The Roxy had a different area for that, same with the Key Club. They understood the need for continuity in the building. The bathrooms, are a travesty to all ends. The upstairs area is where the booths should be. Thus providing the “VIP” experience. Instead there are plastic chairs that you would find at your local Home Depot. Another aspect of the place is the crappy sound system. It looked like they updated the board, but not the speakers or the direction of how the sound travels.

One of the worst parts about the Whisky is the way they stack the lineup for the night. It makes no sense to have 6 bands on a bill before the main band of the night. Not to mention have them sell tickets at an outrageous amount just to cover their own cost. Pay to play is one of the biggest scams ever. The sad reality is that most of the bands that do this really aren’t that good at all. During the night that I was there, not one of the bands that opened for Fear Factory were good. They were so bad in fact that my friend and I left and went to a bar next door to wait out the time till Fear Factory went on (thank goodness for the rule of in’s and outs for those 21 and over). One of the other main things that is wrong about the venue is their lack of crowd control. First of all there was way too many people inside. It’s almost like they oversold the event. The way they handle the “pit” is non existent. Not everyone wants to be involved in it. While my friend and I were leaving mid set (due to Fear Factory being horrible) we had to walk through the pit instead of a clear walk way. Perhaps they should get someone in there and prevent the large people from hurting the other people in attendance.

Times they are a changing, and the Whisky needs to do the same or follow in the footsteps of the other venues that closed down. There is no need for any of what I just mentioned to happen. For a place that once was a spot that bands dreamed of playing at, they really let it go. How about really taking the time and care about your place and make it that way again. Otherwise shut your doors and walk away.


Since I wrote this article, I’ve been back to the Whisky for countless shows and they really have stepped up and worked to make this venue better. The sound system seems new(er) and the rate of speed between bands seems to be tighter. Sure there is still room for improvement but, they are getting their act together. This venue is historic and special and needs to be treated that way. A coat of paint inside and good pressure wash could do wonders for the place.