Interviews Navigation
Guitar Center On-Stage Winners: The Last Vegas On Living The Rock n' Roll Dream
February 2009: Guitar Center interviews On-Stage winners The Last Vegas on living the Rock n' Roll dream.

» TLV discusses winning Guitar Center On-Stage
» TLV on recording the "I'm Bad" single
» Up close with TLV drummer Nate Arling

Nearly 8,000 bands duked it out in the first edition of Guitar Center: On-Stage. After the finals on November 10, 2008 at Hollywood's Whisky A Go-Go, only one band was left standing – The Last Vegas. Hand-selected by the members of Mötley Crüe, The Last Vegas won the greatest prize in rock history, which included a $20,000 Gibson guitar shopping spree, $25,000 cash, a management deal with 10th Street Entertainment, a recording deal with Eleven Seven Music, and the opening slot on Mötley Crüe's 2009 tour.

"Every band kicked ass on stage that night," says The Last Vegas guitarist John Wator. "Everybody wanted to win really bad. We just came out and played like we always do -like there are 20,000 people in front of us – although with Mötley Crüe sitting right in front of us on the balcony, there was a lot more adrenaline than usual."

"That was the first time that most of us even set foot in the Whisky," says guitarist Adam Arling. "The energy in that place was unreal. They've got a bunch of cool old photos of people like Jim Morrison and Iggy Pop on the walls. It was great that our band has now become part of the history there."

"This is the big break we've been working for since the band began," says singer Chad Cherry. "This is more than getting a foot in the door-we're kicking it wide open! Now is the time to open the floodgates and let the kids know that it's rock and roll time."

The Last Vegas didn't even have time to catch their breath before enjoying the spoils of their newfound success. The very next day after the finals, they visited Guitar Center's Hollywood store to pick out the Gibson guitars of their dreams. Then they went into the studio for two days with producers DJ Ashba, Marti Frederiksen and Crüe bassist/songwriter Nikki Sixx to record the single "I'm Bad," which they unleashed on the public on November 24th. A mere four nights after winning the contest, The Last Vegas were on stage at the Hollywood Palladium opening a sold-out Mötley Crüe show.

"Being able to walk into the Hollywood Guitar Center and pick out a bunch of Gibson guitars was the most amazing experience. All of our dream guitars were there." – Adam Arling, Guitarist

"The Last Vegas have the blood and spirit of bands like Guns N' Roses, AC/DC, Iggy Pop, and Mötley Crüe," says Nikki Sixx. "They're great songwriters and performers, and we're excited to show them to the world."

In addition to Adam, Chad, and John, The Last Vegas features bassist Danny Smash and drummer Nate Arling (Adam's brother). The band formed in the Chicago area in 2002 when Wator and the Arling brothers first joined forces. Over the years, The Last Vegas quickly established themselves as one of the Midwest's top up-and-coming bands by independently releasing their own albums and EPs, and touring the US, Canada, Mexico, and Europe several times. In 2006, the band won the "Be a Guitar Hero" competition, which earned their song "Raw Dog" a spot on the Guitar Hero II video game, and in 2008, Spin magazine Chief Editor Doug Brod named the band the "best new discovery" of that year's South By Southwest conference.

The sensitive side of guitarists Adam Arling and former GC Chicago team member John Wator.

"You don't have to live in New York or L.A. to make your career happen," says John. "Bands like Cheap Trick and us come from small cities and towns in Illinois. Our band has been through a lot of ups and downs and made a few lineup changes, but as long as you keep going and never quit, you never know what can happen in the future. Here we are, playing in L.A. and touring the U.S. with Mötley Crüe, playing shows at places like Madison Square Garden and the Joint in Las Vegas."

"Our music comes across best on big stages," says Adam. "When the dates were announced we were looking at all of them in amazement. Not only do we get to play in New York City and Las Vegas, we also get to play the biggest venues in our own hometowns. And doing it with a band like Mötley Crüe is a dream come true. Our band was ready for something like this to happen. We've slept on a lot of other people's floors and paid our dues. That's going to make this tour all the sweeter."

The Last Vegas' gear has endured a lot of hard knocks from years of non-stop touring, so the band was thrilled to win the $20,000 Gibson shopping spree and $25,000 cash from Guitar Center. The band's winnings gave them the chance to load up on some new instruments before hitting the road for the most important gigs of their career so far.

"Anyone who has ever toured in a band before knows how most of your equipment can get heavily abused and ends up being held together with duct tape," says John. "Now we've finally had the chance to go grab stuff that we've wanted forever, stuff we saw our heroes play when we were kids. Being able to do that was unreal. It took a few days before it sunk in. We got all these new toys to take on stage and record with. It's one less thing for the band to think about."

John and Adam both played Gibson guitars since before they formed the band, so being able to choose any Gibson they wanted was a dream come true. "I always wanted a goldtop Les Paul, so that was the first guitar I picked out," says John. "I also grabbed a couple of SGs, because I used to play an SG and I got a couple of other Les Pauls to have different guitars to choose from."

Guitarist Adam Arling picks out a Les Paul to take on tour.

"Being able to walk into the Hollywood Guitar Center and pick out a bunch of Gibson guitars was the most amazing experience," says Adam. "All of our dream guitars were there. We got a couple of real nice Les Pauls, a Junior, a Special, a goldtop, a black Les Paul Standard, and a limeburst Les Paul with a really fat neck that sounds huge. We also got a Flying V, a cool RD reissue, and a little Epiphone Valve Junior amp head and cabinet. Danny picked out an SG bass and a Thunderbird bass. We got enough guitars to make the sickest tone record out there."

The band's singer and drummer took part in the shopping spree as well, picking out some acoustic guitars for songwriting. "I let the boys pick the guitars they wanted first because they're the guitar heroes," says Chad. "It was like letting wild dogs off their leashes. Because I write a lot of songs on acoustic guitar, all I really wanted was a nice Gibson acoustic with a spruce top. The one I found turned out to be way too expensive, but I got it anyway! I saw it in a corner and a spotlight was shining on it like a beam from heaven. I picked it up, strummed a chord, and it sounded like a million bucks. I also got myself a white Epiphone Studio Les Paul to play on the bus."

Because the guitars were all packed up for shipment back home to Chicago, the band was unable to use any of their new toys to record the single "I'm Bad." Fortunately, DJ Ashba's home studio, where The Last Vegas recorded their guitar parts, was well stocked with more than 40 guitars hanging from the walls and ready to go at a moment's notice.

"I brought in a really nice old Les Paul for the band to play," says DJ Ashba. "Nikki has a really cool Les Paul that Bob Rock gave him, which was used on Metallica's black album. We didn't use any acoustic guitars, but I had some old Gibsons and some Ovations ready for the guys if they wanted them."

Ashba, Frederiksen, Sixx, and the band completed the single in only two days. Ashba says that Digidesign's Eleven guitar amp emulation plug-in software for Pro Tools was a big help in finishing the single ahead of schedule, because he didn't have to spend time setting up amps and positioning microphones.

"I love Eleven," says Ashba. "I use in on pretty much everything. I sat the band down and told them that I had no problem setting up mics for 10 different stacks if they wanted me to do that, but as soon as I pulled up the tones that I get with Eleven they all got it. We used a lot of different guitar sounds and layered them. It's important to get a really good tone, but it's even more important to get a really good performance. Since we didn't have to spend all of our time getting tones, we were able to concentrate totally on the performance.

"The Last Vegas is a really good band," continues Ashba. "I had a lot of fun working with them. They're super nice guys, and they've got a lot of really good ideas and cool songs. I think they have a really good future."

Get the new single "I'm Bad" on iTunes now.

Check out more exclusive GC interviews

Specific Click Fast Click