Aaron West Arkeen was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France and grew up in San Diego. He was the grandson of Russian-Jewish immigrants to America and the son of a career U. S. Army Master Sergeant, Morris Arkeen. He was born in France while his father was serving overseas. He started playing guitar at the age of 14. He was self-taught after having only a single guitar lesson. He spent hundreds of hours practicing with a metronome at home and entertaining his first audience, his older brother Abe. Growing up his musical influences and inspirations included the works of John Lennon, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Elton John, and Ted Nugent. After briefly working in the oil industry in northeast Texas and training as a slot machine repairman in Las Vegas Arkeen moved to Los Angeles at the age of 21 to pursue a career in the music industry. When he quit his job at a Texas oil refinery he told the refinery general manager that he “was going to be a massively successful songwriter.”
After several years of struggling, he had befriended a group of fellow musicians, later to be known as Guns N’ Roses. Arkeen co-wrote “It’s So Easy,” “Crash Diet”, “Bad Obsession”, “The Garden” and “Yesterdays” for Guns N’ Roses. Arkeen also penned “Make Your Play” and “Pressure” for Brother Cane, as well as co-wrote “My Misery” for Phantom Blue. After working on other songs with the band for their double set Use Your Illusion I and II, Arkeen started his own project in 1995, The Outpatience, with vocalist Mike Shotton, bassist James Hunting, guitarist Joey Hunting, drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. and keyboardist Gregg Buchwalter. The band released their debut album, Anxious Disease (1996), in Japan and were shopping the record to labels in the United States. The album has strong connections to Guns N’ Roses: Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan appear as guests and Izzy Stradlin co-wrote one of the songs. Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan are most closely associated with Arkeen. The trio played in the The Drunkfuxs side project together and Arkeen co-wrote two of the songs on McKagan’s debut solo record, Believe in Me.
On May 30, 1997, West was found dead in his Los Angeles home. His management company said that Arkeen had been at home recovering from severe burns, and that his death was the result of an “accidental opiate overdose.” West had returned to his home from a hospital intensive care unit where he was being treated for burns over much of his body after his indoor barbecue exploded 11 days before his death. He was 36 years old. The Guns N’ Roses record Live Era: ’87-’93 was dedicated, in part, to his memory.
- June, 18, 1960
- Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
- May, 30, 1997
- Los Angeles, California
Cause of Death
- accidental opiate overdose