1992 - Music Express
Then again, well before Izzy left that band and returned to the Midwest, Axl Rose had dubbed his old Indiana buddy "Mr. Invisible"; it seemed the only time the other Gunners ever really saw him was on stageNnot because Izzy's a loner so much as he was uncomfortable with G N' R's ego-ridden volatility. "Believe me, I felt relieved when I stepped out [of G N' R]," says Izzy, seated at a small table, virtually the only piece of furniture in the room save for a coupl of pinball machines. "It was like a big weight off my back. With this band I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but With G N' R every day was just a question mark: Are we gonna make the gig; is there gonna be a riot? I'll tell ya, that stuff wears you out in a negative way."
But the clincher came last November, as the *Use Your Illusion* tour was hitting full stride. "I went out there and I was trying to work it out with those guys," he recalls. "And it was put to me by the singer how things were gonna be. There was an agreement I was supposed to sign and when I heard the figures I said, 'There's no way I can go along with this.' I just didn't think it was fair, so l said, 'Well, screw it. Gotta go."'
After a two-week road trip (during which he taught himseff to surf in Florida), Izzy headed home to Lafayette, Indiana, wrote some songs and called up his friend Jimmy Ashhurst (ex-Broken Homes) in L.A. The two of them wrote some more songs together and assembled the Ju Ju Hounds, a four-piece with Izzy on vocals and rhythm gtutar, Ashhurst on bass, ex-Georgia Satellite Rick Richards on lead guitar and Charlie Qtuntana, once of The Plugz, Cruzados, Havalinas and Bob Dylan's touring band, on drums.
Simply entitled *Izzy Stradlin And The Ju Ju Hounds*, the band's debut album mirrors Izzy's sense of emanicipation in the loose-limbed, Stones/Faces-influenced abandon of its songs. "Shuffle It All," the album's first single, is a direct descendant of "Tumbling Dice," while "Cutting The Rug" is flat-out rock 'n' roll along the lines of "Shattered." "Take A Look At The Guy," a cover of a song from an early-'70s Ron Wood solo LP, features a guest appearance by none other than Woody himself. Where GN'R's music radiates L.A.-glitz, Aero-sleaze star power, the Hounds rock more humbly, if no less hard.
"Yeah, it's a lot rougher and looser, not so...*tight*," concurs Izzy. "Obviously it's not Slash. With GN'R, I'd take a song to 'em and by the time it made it to record it was always a little different than I'd imagined itNsometimes better, sometimes worse. With this thing, we just rehearsed it, got it to where it was comfortable and tracked it."
As Izzy's dreads suggest, he's become a big reggae fan, a taste that's more overtly attested to by the album's rocked-up cover of Toots and the Maytals' "Pressure Drop" and "Can't Hear 'Em," an original reggae number from the CD5 that was issued shortly before the album's release.
"It's something that I must've stumbled onto from Stones records like Black And Blue," recalls Izzy. "And some of the early Clash stuffNI didn't really realize that it was reggae until I started Lstening to Marley, Peter Tosh, Toots and the Maytals, Jimmy Cliff. And when we were puttin' this thing togetherNand with GN'RNI'd always be jammin' around on reggae stuff."
Reggae's laid-back grooves also seem well-suited to Izzy's new musical venture and his general outlook on life these days. Says the head Hound: "I have no expectations or preconceived ideas of how it's gonna be. There's a part of me that wonders how the record's gonna go, but then I figure, 'Aw, fuck it.' If we can get into a club and at least get enough people there, it should take care of itself."