Imagine growing up as a rock and roll fanatic, thrashing around in your childhood bedroom with a tennis racket and plastic microphone, screeching out the chorus to Guns N’ Roses‘ “Welcome to the Jungle” until your mom bangs on your floor with a broom begging you to keep it down. Now flash-forward 30 years and picture yourself doing the same thing, only now GNR’s original drummer, Steven Adler, is sitting behind you bashing out the familiar strains of all your Appetite for Destruction favorites.
“Of course, Guns N’ Roses was the soundtrack to my youth,” Constantine Maroulis, 42, of American Idol and Rock of Ages fame tells Billboard about how unbelievably psyched he is to be playing in the newly formed Adler’s Appetite Featuring Constantine Maroulis. “To play with Steven has been the highlight of my career. He’s a lovely guy, and his playing on Appetite was second to none, and that sound he made on it defined that whole generation’s sound.”
The pair met up after their managers suggested they try playing together, and to hear Maroulis tell it, they became fast friends, which has led to an upcoming live debut at the famed Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles on May 10 and then a 10-date tour of Australia in late May and plans for summer festival appearances and a longer fall tour. “It quickly reminded me that I was playing in a room with someone from GN’R, which was humbling, for sure,” Maroulis says about the pair’s first sessions together.
After coming in sixth place on the fourth season of Idol in 2005 and going on to Broadway fame in the metal-themed Rock of Ages and Jekyll and Hyde, Maroulis has emerged as a true rock renaissance man, capable of interpreting a wide range of rock classics with a variety of interpretive acts, from Postmodern Jukebox to ’80s cover band Jessie’s Girl.
Or, as Adler terms it, when he belatedly dials in to a conference call to discuss the group and is loudly handed the phone by his mother: “Let me just fucking tell you something… this guy Constantine, who I call ‘Casanova’… he came up to New York and I’m like ‘oh my God, I got this great rock and roll singer!'” Adler, 53, begins gushing about a video that Maroulis sent him recently (which appears to be something of a hush-hush project that is not yet ready for public consumption), saying that his new frontman is a legitimate “superstar” that he’s proud to be touring with.
“I’m finally working with a real superstar again,” says Adler, who was famously booted from GN’R in 1990 due to his addiction issues, which plagued him for years; Maroulis says Adler has been clean for five years. “I call him ‘Casanova” because he’s so goddamn sexy,” Adler shouts in his signature excited, slightly slurred voice over an incessant beeping on his phone that he can’t figure out how to mute. “Because he dresses so nice. I wish I was his size so I could double my wardrobe! … He flew up to New York and within five minutes I wanted to kick his fuckin’ ass! And within 10 minutes I fell in love with him!”
The bromance clearly goes both ways, as Maroulis patiently suggests Adler hang up and try calling back in again while explaining that he’s looking forward to interpreting the classic GN’R catalog in his unique style, tossing in some cool covers, some songs from the drummer’s Adler’s Appetite side project and maybe trying out some new songs.
“The crux of it will be celebrating the Guns N’ Roses catalog with a new take. … They’re out there playing stadiums, and really Steven should be in the band,” Maroulis says about the reunited GN’R, who’ve been hitting arenas and stadiums around the globe for the smash Not in This Lifetime tour since 2015 with original bassist Duff McKagan, guitarist Slash and keyboard player Dizzy Reed and a handful of other new members, but, pointedly, not Adler. “We’re out to prove we sound great and his presence is sorely missed in the big band as well.” Adler did sit in with GN’R for a few songs in July 2016 but has otherwise not been invited to rejoin the band.
Back on the line (but still beeping out of control), Adler adds, “Guns N’ Roses are the biggest rock band in the fuckin’ world now, and since the guys don’t want me to play with them and I love these songs and I’m so proud of them … now I finally have a singer who can compete with the young Axl Rose.” Only Adler, known for his easy laughter and irreverent nature, can’t help interjecting a good-natured dig at his former frontman. “Axl is Axl and Casanova is fuckin’ Casanova. … You do the greatest job at being yourself [to Maroulis]. That’s all I want. Also, his name isn’t ‘asshole’ it’s Axl. It sounds like you’re saying ‘asshole,’ but it’s Axl.”
Asked what he sees in his mind when he closes his eyes and listens to Maroulis singing those iconic hits, Adler jokes, “I don’t close my eyes because he’s standing right in front of me and I get to stare at his sexy fuckin’ ass!” (At this point Adler notes that his mother had just flipped him the middle finger, with no explanation offered.)
And with that, after teasing that all he can say about the rest of the band is that they are “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” Adler loses patience with the faulty phone and says he’s hanging up. “Even if 10 people come to the show, those 10 people will be happier than fuck!” Maroulis says he’s looking at this new gig as a kind of acting job, taking on the role in order to celebrate the “spirit” of what Rose did in the early days, but not at all aiming to do an imitation of the man he calls a “rock god.”
“It definitely celebrates that era, and the shows will be a party that will definitely bring you back to the fun of the Sunset Strip in the mid- to late ’80s,” he says, adding that the clean-and-sober drummer is “playing the shit” out of his instrument these days. “It’s a great story of redemption to tell, and I’m excited to be part of it. I know he wants to play with his friends again and I feel like I can help him get there by having them see how great he sounds and how great we sound.”
Plus, he teases, you just never know who might show up at one of the gigs, with Slash and long-lost GN’R guitarist Izzy Stradlin on his wish list. “We put together an incredible band and we want to play shows, be on the Transformers soundtrack, do some big, rock and roll anthem epic shit.”