Guns N' Roses Guitarist Dj Ashba Channels Childhood Trauma Into a Good Cause With BullyVille.com
Eleven Seven Music
Dj Ashba is best known as the lead guitarist for both Guns N' Roses and Sixx:A.M., but he's also adding advocate to his impressive resume.
The rocker has recently become the celebrity spokesman for the website BullyVille.com. Ashba, 39, lived through and abusive childhood and now wants to help kids going through the same things he faced. BullyVille was founded by James A. McGibney.
Today, Noisecreep is proud to exclusively bring you Ashba's story of abuse and how he plans on helping others.
How did you get involved with BullyVille?
I just bought a house in Las Vegas, and my neighbor is the founder of BullyVille. And he started telling me about the website he was doing. I was born into a very abusive situation where my dad was an angry man. And so I kind of lived with this thing for my whole life. I've worked my whole life to kind of figure all these things out on my own, and try to make myself a better person along the way, and not really realizing why I have some of the issues like abandonment issues and different things. I felt this is a perfect vehicle to kind of come out, and do my part, and kind of bring awareness to the kids out there getting bullied, and letting them know that they're not alone out there.
I don't know if bullying among kids is worse now or if we just hear about it more. But I swear it's like its reached a critical mass or something.
Yeah, I think due to the Internet, I think cyber bullying is just massive right now, and I mean, I experience it everyday too. So it's one of those things where I think it's in our face a lot more. I don't really know. It seems like maybe due to the Internet and times are a little different that kids are acting out a little more it seems than when I was a kid.
So you were more bullied by your father than other kids? Is that correct?
The one thing people don't understand is if you're born into that situation, the one thing you don't really realize or the one thing you realize is you start seeing other kids with normal lives, and moms and dads that actually love them. And my mom loved me to death, but you know it kind of carries over, and you start feeling like a loner kind of and you can't really relate to anybody else. You have a very different outlook on life... it kind of carries onward into school. You kind of feel like this stranger, the kid that doesn't fit in. And I think because of that, the stronger kids in school look for the kids they can bully around, and I think that's why I got bullied somewhat. When I went to Indiana to junior high school, it was a situation where I was the new kid. And I definitely got bullied hardcore there.
And was it because you were the artistic kid too?
I think maybe. You know that, and definitely being the new kid. It just seems like new kids always, they never fit in, and tend to get bullied right off the bat.
As an adult, is it hard for you to talk about how thing were with your dad?
Yeah, it is. You know, it's something that I'm never going to be comfortable with, and I hate talking about it more than anything. And they way I look at it is I don't hate him. I don't think it was right, but I don't hate him whatsoever because you got to kind of stop yourself once you start figuring it out and you mature, and you get older, you start going, "Well you know he wasn't born that way, it had to come from somewhere else." I think the only thing you can do is being in my situation is kind of stop the cycle. And that's purposively why, and I think maybe even subconsciously why I don't have kids, and I just never want to be that person. I would never want to put my kid through what I had to do go through. And I think it takes somebody to finally go, "Okay, enough's enough." Because most cases, people that have been abused have been abused by somebody else. So that's all they know. So until somebody kind of goes, "Okay, wait a second this ain't right." I don't want to put somebody else through this. You know you just kind of stop the cycle. I think that's a really good first step.
So did your childhood then strain your relationship you have with your mom?
Absolutely. Yeah, because I didn't understand because the one thing about your dad, you know it's kind of like an abusive relationship. It's really no different to where you're sitting back going, "Well why doesn't that chick leave him? He's beating on her." And I think it's because I always felt like I could get my dad's attention or I never could do this quite good enough to impress him. So it's kind of that constant struggle of trying to impress somebody that you feel like no matter what you do, you feel like you're not good enough because that's the way they made you feel. I've always held my dad on this pedestal and I was afraid of him, I was petrified of him. So I didn't know any different though. I thought getting hit was normal until you grow up and you realize, hey this isn't normal at all and this isn't right. And when my dad left when I was really young, I kind of took it out on my mom. Like I thought it was her fault because I never had that opportunity to kind of redeem myself, and impress him, and gain acceptance in his eye. It's this really weird mind thing that you go through as a kid. I finally remember flying back home just to apologize to my mom.
What's that relationship like now?
My mom, we are beyond close. I could never say enough great things about my mom. She's been through hell and back too. And nobody gives you a hand book, and guidelines, and instructions on how to deal with something like that. And it's just one of those things where unfortunately you to go through and figure it out all out on your own. And so that's why I think BullyVille's so great because kids -- God if I had a site like that to go to when I was young, maybe things would have made a little more sense quicker to me.
What do you say to kids that are being bullied and tortured?
I just say don't keep it in; tell everybody around you that you can. Tell the police, tell your mom and dad. If it's your mom and dad, tell your aunt and uncle. Just talk about it, get it out, tell people. Make people aware because until you do that, it's probably not going to stop unless you stand up to the bully, and -- it's one of those things where you just power in numbers, the more people that are aware of it, there is help out there, and there are people that can confront of the bully whether it's your principal or you just got to use your voice.
I wonder if your drive to impress your dad help you succeed in one of the hardest careers in the world to make it as a professional musician.
Well 100%. I mean, that was the whole thing. In the beginning it started out where I would practice 17 hours a day, I was obsessed with it because it was my escape from reality, and it became my therapy in a weird way to where it absolutely did, and I now it definitely fueled the fire, and it took my mind off of things. And it was kind of my way of finally in a weird way to get him to finally notice me. But it's like me personally going, "You know what, I got to die with this name, and I'm going to go out, and make it a name that I can be proud of."
Have you ever gone to real therapy for your bullying past?
Yes, I have. Yeah.
Did it help?
It's one of those things where it's really hard for me because I never believed in it. And that's why I believe in talking to people. Don't keep it inside. Because the thing about it is is you got to get it out. I mean, the last thing you want to do is -- you know some of these kids getting bullied, they feel their only option is to turn in some cases to suicide or hurting other people or and I believe there's just so many -- you got to turn it into a positive. And I think the way to do that is going to a site like BullyVille, looking at everybody on there, reading stories.
Where do you hope to take BullyVille?
I don't really know where, you know my whole goal is I just think it's a brilliant site, it's a place to go where you know you're not alone, and because I know in that situation I always felt like it was like this big fear. Like I was afraid and embarrassed to tell anybody. And you can't be: this is a serious thing. I hope it just brings massive awareness out there to tons of kids. I'm planning on getting on the Gibson Tour bus, and hitting up a bunch of schools for BullyVille, and just doing whatever I can to bring awareness to it because I had to live with this just incredible amount of pain my whole life, and I had to figure it out on my own. I didn't have anybody that I looked up to or anything that had the same situations [as me]. That's kind of the point of BullyVille where you look up to this celebrity and you realize he has the same issues I do, but look where he made it. So it hopefully gives kids hope.
Would you say you're happy now?
I would say I'm content. You know I don't think I'll ever be happy with what I had to go through. But I definitely forgive my dad, and I'm not going to hold any grudges. I have a beautiful life, I'm very thankful for the life that I've created. But it wasn't an easy road for sure.
Let's pivot and talk about the Guns N' Roses residency that was just announced in Las Vegas, and you said you have a house in Vegas, so that's really convenient for you.
Yeah, it's perfect. I don't really have to drive anywhere, so it's nice.
That's kind of like a regular job for you. You just drive in, go to do a show.
I will be the first time in a long time that it actually feels like a regular job.
What do you have in store for the fans during this special residency?
We got a lot of stuff. You know we're planning on having a lot of cool surprises, hopefully a lot of fun special guests, and just all kinds of stuff. We're really excited about it, and it's called, Appetite for Democracy and we're going to be playing everything from Appetite for Destruction to Chinese Democracy and it's going to be a lot of fun for the fans, and a lot of hang time with the fans too. I'm sure we're going to be spending quite a bit of time in the casino hanging out. And it's just going to be a kick back, fun month in Vegas.
Get more information on bullying at www.BullyVille.com.