Interview: Vicky Hamilton

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Photograph: Lawren

Now you may not have heard of Vicky Hamilton but I’m guessing that you have heard of Guns ‘n’ Roses and potentially a few others such as Poison and Mötley Crue. What do these bands have in common? At one point in their careers they were all managed by the one and only Vicky Hamilton. She’s raced around the Sunset Strip with Lemmy, she’s snogged original AC/DC singer Bon Scott and she even had the balls to let Axl Rose live in her flat. Vicky is part of a rock ‘n’ roll legacy forged by the bands and characters surrounding the music scene in the 80’s. She has recently released her autobiography ‘Appetite for Dysfunction’ (Get it?) where she recounts her tales of music business success alongside some of the more sordid details behind your favourite hair metal bands. After a brief book reading, some Pimms and a cheeky bit of lobster, I got the chance to talk with Vicky face to face.

 

Describe ‘Appetite for Dysfunction’ for me in a few sentences.

So it’s Appetite for Dysfunction: A cautionary tale and it is the memoir of my life where I have worked with a lot of hair metal bands and June Carter Cash etc.  It’s also my trip of getting sober so you know I think there’s something for everyone in there.

The book deals with a lot of personal stuff, which part did you find hardest to write about?

You know I had some pretty tumultuous experiences and those were kind of hard to re-live. A couple of times I’d been fired by bands for unjust reasons, ‘Poison’ comes to mind, that was a very hard chapter for me to write because when you’re writing a memoir you’re re-living your life over and over again. It’s the best therapy ever [laughs].

Based on your experiences with living with various members of Guns ‘n’ Roses, would you have any advice or tips for students with terrible housemates?

Don’t do it comes to mind [laughs]. I mean actually, when I lived with Guns ‘n’ Roses it was only supposed to be a couple of days and it ended up being six months. So yeah I haven’t lived with the band since and I’m definitely not going to ever again!

 

(As a side note, just to give you readers an idea of just how bad the GNR guys where to live with, Vicky recalled during her book reading that her couch eventually became known as the ‘crab-couch’ due to the high probability of catching crabs should you ever sit or sleep on it)

 

You’ve detailed your work with June Carter Cash, how come you never ended up working with Johnny Cash himself?

Actually, Johnny sang a duet with her called ‘press on’ on the record and it won a Grammy.

Fair enough.

I basically made the record because I fell in love with her you know, she was just a beautiful spirit and the two of them together were soulmates and you know I kind of wanted what they had. It had a big impact on me and kind of set me on my path to sobriety, and I was eventually dragged to my first AA meeting.

How did it feel when Slash and Steven Adler mentioned your name at the GNR Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction?

They’ve always been very sweet and said nice things about me in the press you know, I’ve always been very grateful for my relationship with Steven and with Slash. It was nice 25 years later to hear that [laughs].

You’ve been in the music industry for some time now…

You mean I’m not 18?

You’ve got lots of ‘experience’

[laughs] No I’m 58 and I’ve been doing this since I was 18, that’s the reality.

What would you say has changed for the better in the music industry and what has changed for the worse?

I think that the business of music was a lot bigger in the 80’s and you know it also got kind of weird with the laws and internet and stuff but I’m an optimist and I think it’s changing back for the good now. I’m interested to see where it’ll go from here.

So you’ve met your fair share of musical legends, you mentioned Tom Petty, Bon Scott and Lemmy etc. What’s the most star-struck you’ve ever been?

Let’s see…well I had an opportunity to meet David Bowie and I declined because I was too nervous and now I can kick myself right? He’s like my all-time favourite rock star and I don’t know if there will ever be another one quite like him. I kind of liken Alex Turner to him, as an almost modern day Bowie though. I like the Arctic Monkeys and Last Shadow puppets and I’m curious to see where all that goes too.

What’s the hardest thing about band management?

I think the hardest thing, and it’s a saying, is that managers are blamed for everything and credited with nothing. When it comes to band management it’s usually four or five against one so you’re a little outnumbered [laughs].

A lot of your experiences are set around the Sunset Strip, which has become mythologised in rock ‘n’ roll folklore, how would you describe your experience of it in three words?

Three words?! Oh man…I guess it would be hairspray, glam-rock and drugs I think [laughs]. I think that describes it pretty well!

If you could choose any band or artist from history to manage, who would you pick?

Wow, that’s a tough one. I think I would have to go with David Bowie, I think there would have been a lot to learn there.

Finally, if you describe your career as a cocktail, what do you think it would be?

I guess it would have to be a Jack Daniels and Coke!

 

If you want to learn more about Vicki, her life and career, you can purchase her autobiography online.