1998 - Hit Parader
"I really don't look back that much on my decision to leave Guns N' Roses," he now says. "It was a situation where I just needed to get out. There had been a riot in St. Louis, and when stuff like that happens you start wondering what you're doing. Plus, I'd gotten sober around the time the Use Your Illusion albums came out. The machinery was working, the planes were flying, the shows were happening just like always. But once I quit drugs, I couldn't help asking myself, 'Is this all there is?' I was just tired of it all."
Upon his departure from G N' R, Stradlin immediately split from the high-powered Hollywood scene and returned to the far-more sedate charms of Indiana. It was there that he started writing the material that would later appear on his Ju Ju Hounds release. But upon finishing a world tour with that unit, Stradlin realized that he was growing more and more desenchanted with the entire rock and roll lifestyle. He still kept up writing and recording (including laying down almost an album's worth of material in Lonson's famed Matrix Studios, where the Sex Pistols had recorded their historic debut disc), but the thrill of life on the road was fast fading. He moved to Europe for awhile, living in Spain in a home that didn't possess even a phone, but soon grew weary of the semi-hermit lifestyle as well.
"I started getting this uncontrollable urge to send a fax to someone," he said with a laugh. "It was the total opposite of the rock and roll thing--but it just got boring. I wanted to get back home, and get back to something I really cared about. That's when the racing bug hit me."
It turns out that racing cars had long been one of Stradlin's secret passions--not that surpising coming from an Indiana boy. He quickly purchased a few old cars--a BMW 2002s and an Alfa Romeo GTV--for about $1,500 each and started training for his entry onto the endurance race circuit.
While Izzy offers only a sly smile when asked whether he won or lost those races, he does confide that the time spent behind the wheel had the odd effect of renewing his musical passions. In late '95, Stradlin wandered back out to L.A. to check on some old friends--including former G N' R bandmate Duff McKagan. Almost before they knew it, the pair found themselves in a recording studio with some musical acquaintances, laying down the tracks that would later serve as the foundation for 117°
"We recorded ten songs in eight days," Stradlin said. "It really got me excited about playing music again. The sessions were so much fun and so painless that it showed me how easy the whole process could actually be. After those sessions, I hooked up with (drummer) Taz Bentley, who had just left the Reverend Horton Heat, and Rick Richards, with whom I had worked with in the Ju Ju Hounds. We recorded a few more songs in Santa Monica--real aggressive stuff. Then Duff came in and re-recorded all the bass parts. The songs sounded amazing! They aren't any big statement songs on this album--just tunes about things I've had happen to me over the years. It was a fun record to make--and I think it's a fun record to listen to."