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SoulMonster

2007.04.DD - Uncut - The Endless Wait For Chinese Democracy

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2007.04.DD - Uncut - The Endless Wait For Chinese Democracy

Post by Soulmonster on Sat Apr 14, 2018 5:43 am

It has been 5650 days since Guns N' Roses last released an album of original material. 24 musicians, 8 producers and 15 million dollars later… What on earth has Axl Rose been doing?
AT THE TIME OF WRITING, Guns N' Roses fourth studio album of original material, Chinese Democracy, was tentatively scheduled for release on March 6, 2007. It's a cautionary phrase, and one which has necessarily featured heavily in most things written about Guns N' Roses these past couple of decades. Should this blessed event actually occur — and readers would be ill advised to wager any especially beloved children on it — it will mean that 5,650 days have elapsed between its release, and that of the last original studio recordings produced by the group, the Use Your Illusion double set of September 1991. While the determination of Axl Rose — GN'R's sole surviving founder member — to attend to every detail of his vision is laudable, one can overthink these things. Various reports estimate the running production costs of Chinese Democracy at between $13 million and $15 million. It's known to have consumed the time, energy — and very likely the sanity — of at least eight producers and around two dozen musicians — including Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro, basketball star Shaquille O'Neal and, on one demo, Brian May.
To put Rose's fine-tuning of Chinese Democracy in perspective, it's worth recalling that America's egress to the Moon took 2,979 days, from John F Kennedy's announcement of his country's lunar ambitions on May 25, 1961, to Neil Armstrong reaching Tranquility Base on July 21, 1969. The complete defeat of European fascism was knocked off in a relatively leisurely 2,073 days, from Britain's declaration of war on Germany on September 3, 1939, to General Alfred Jodl's signing of the document of unconditional surrender on May 7, 1945. Even when measuring Chinese Democracy against other minutely wrought artworks, it feels reasonable to observe, as GN'R's bewildered paymasters must surely have more than once, that Michelangelo toiled but a trifling four years beneath the Sistine Chapel ceiling. It quite possibly takes Axl Rose that long to tune his guitar.
On December 14 last year, Rose posted on GN'R's website an open letter to his patient fans. "To say," he wrote, "the making of this album has been an unbearably long and incomprehensible journey would be an understatement."
This was at least proof that Rose hasn't entirely parted company with reality, but it did little to answer one irresistible question: what does this man do all day? The following chronology of — for want of a better word — "events" will hopefully go some small way to explaining why Guns N'Roses wandered so far off the reservation, and how the arrival of Chinese Democracy came to look as remote and unimaginable a prospect as the arrival of, well, Chinese democracy.
September 1991
Guns N'Roses release Use Tour Illusion: the twin albums occupy the top two spots on Billboard in their first week on sale. Two-year world tour ensues, noteworthy for riots in St Louis and Montreal, the departure of guitarist Izzy Stradlin, the recruiting of guitarist Gilby Clarke, and the brief reappearance of Stradlin after Clarke breaks his wrist in a motorbike accident.
July 1993
Use Your Illusion tour ends in Buenos Aires.
November 1993
Release of The Spaghetti Incident?, a not-terribly-good punk and glam covers LP, includingThe Damned's 'New Rose', The Dead Boys' 'Ain't It Fun', UK Subs' 'Down On The Farm' and — as an unlisted track, apparently included at the insistence of Rose over the objections of his bandmates — 'Look At Your Game, Girl', by Charles Manson, dingbat leader of murderous "love & terror cult", The Family.
1994-1995
The long wander in the wilderness commences. Gilby Clarke fired. Axl Rose's longtime friend and collaborator, Paul Tobias, recruited on guitar, to the apparent displeasure of other members, especially Slash. Matters worsen when Tobias' solo is featured, at Axl's insistence, on a version of The Rolling Stones' 'Sympathy For The Devil', recorded for the soundtrack of Interview With The Vampire. Rumours emerge of new recordings at LA studio The Complex, apparently reflecting Rose's burgeoning obsession with industrial music. Izzy Stradlin briefly replaced by Zakk Wylde, who's subsequently briefly replaced by Izzy Stradlin, who subsequently quits again. Suggestion that LA's rock fraternity is ceasing to take matters entirely seriously comes with the first performances of White Trash Wins Lotto, a satirical musical by former Wall Of Voodoo frontman Andy Prieboy, about a vaguely familiar-sounding heavy metal singer. The musical acquires a solid cult following, and tours sporadically for years.
March 1995
Slash's side project, Slash's Snakepit, release decentish debut album, It's Five O' Clock Somewhere. In ensuing interviews, Slash notably fails to enthuse about new GN'R material, or Rose's work rate (Axl will later claim that the Slash's Snakepit songs were material he rejected for GN'R).
1996-1997
Slash quits, as does original bassist Duff McKagan, and long-serving drummer Matt Sorum, leaving Rose the only pre-Use Your Illusion member of GN'R. Slash is eventually replaced by former Nine Inch Nails guitarist Robin Finck, McKagan by former Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson, Sorum by session player Josh Freese.
1997
Geffen exec Todd Sullivan, seeking to jolly things along, sends Rose some CD samplers of various producers. Rose drives his car over them.
1998
Rose arrested in Phoenix airport for threatening a security worker. GN'R relocate to Rumbo Recorders, where some of Appetite For Destruction was recorded. The set-up is said to include personalised tapestries, coloured lights, and at least 60 guitars. Geffen gives Rose $1 million to get on with it, and offers a bonus of another $1 million if the album is delivered by March 1999.
February 1999
Rose fined $500 for the Phoenix airport incident.
July 1999
According to a report in The LA Times, Chinese Democracy will be released in the summer of 2000.
August 1999
Finck takes sabbatical to tour with Nine Inch Nails.
November 1999
Guns N'Roses' first original material in eight years is released, a track called 'Oh My God', which features on the soundtrack of not-very-good Schwarzenegger movie End Of Days. It isn't very good. Contrary to rumour, the track is not named after catchphrase of Rose's accountant. The arguably sarcastically titled Live Era 87-93 is also released.
2000
Two others toiling on Chinese Democracy, engineer Billy Howerdel and drummer Josh Freese, form another band entirely, A Perfect Circle, and bash out an album, which sells nearly two million copies. Freese, not unreasonably, quits. Bryan Mantia, formerly of Primus, replaces him. Veteran avant-garde guitarist Buckethead joins. Noted for wearing a featureless mask and a KFC tub, he later demands that a chicken coop be built in a recording studio. Axl tells Rolling Stone that GN'R have, for reasons surpassing understanding, entirely re-recorded debut album Appetite For Destruction.
June 2000
Axl plays his first live gig in seven years with Gilby Clarke's The Starfuckers, at LA's Cat Club.
October 2000
Rose plays Rolling Stone about a dozen new tracks, including 'Catcher In The Rye', 'Oklahoma' and 'IRS'. Chinese Democracy is reported to be "loosely scheduled" for summer 2001.
January 2001
GN'R play a New Year's Eve set at LA's House Of Blues, followed with a show at the Rock In Rio festival. Summer European tour announced.
May 2001
Summer European tour cancelled, due to Buckethead's mystery stomach ailment. Tour rescheduled for winter.
November 2001
Rescheduled European winter tour cancelled, for fear that it would "slow progress" on Chinese Democracy. Then-manager Doug Goldstein insists that Rose has spent "every waking minute of every day during the last five years writing, recording and producing the record".
December 2001
GN'R play two shows in Las Vegas. Slash refused entry, dashing hopes of a Nigel Tufnel-style return.
2002
Paul Tobias leaves, replaced by Richard Fortus, ex-Psychedelic Furs.
August 2002
Chinese Democracy world tour begins, with album of the same name still, ironically, unfinished. Even more ironically, the tour begins in Hong Kong, possibly the only place where the notion of Chinese Democracy seems even more dysfunctional. Asian and European concerts follow, along with "surprise" appearance at MTV Awards.
November 2002
North American leg of Chinese Democracy tour begins. First show, in Vancouver, is cancelled when Rose fails to show up. Riot ensues.
December 2002
GN'R fail to show up at Philadelphia show. Riot ensues. Tour cancelled.
June 2003
Tommy Stinson tells Billboard that Chinese Democracy will be released before the end of the year.
February 2004
Universal Records inform Rose that paying for the Chinese Democracy's completion is now his problem.
March 2004
GN'R's Greatest Hits released, despite legal attempts to prevent it by Axl, Slash and Duff. Buckethead quits. A statement from GN'R describes Buckethead as "inconsistent and erratic in both his behaviour and his commitment", which is like being called "damp" by a fish.
August 2005
Slash and Duff launch legal proceedings against Axl Rose, accusing him of cheating them out of royalties.
February 2006
Three tracks from Chinese Democracy leaked online — 'There Was A Time', 'The Blues', 'IRS'. The latter becomes the first leaked MP3 ever to make US rock radio airplay charts. While celebrating his 44th birthday in New York, Axl throws an impromptu listening party for revellers, playing several tracks from Chinese Democracy.
March 2006
Axl responds to Slash and Duff's lawsuit by filing a counter-suit, and issuing a statement calling Slash an "opportunist and manipulator". Slash claims that Axl showed up at his home in October 2005, making disobliging remarks about the guitarist's bandmates in Velvet Revolver. Velvet Revolver frontman Scott Weiland retaliates with a website posting calling Axl a "fat, Botox-faced, wig-wearin' fuck", and "a frightened little man". So there.
April 2006
Spin magazine's April Fool's joke is a review of Chinese Democracy.
May 2006
GN'R play first shows in four years in New York before embarking on a 77-date, 23-country tour. Axl gets twatted by Tommy Hilfiger in a nightclub, for reasons that remain maddeningly opaque.
June 2006
Axl goes to the British Grand Prix, and gives minute-long interview on grid to ITV's Martin Brundle, an exercise in mutual bafflement comparable to two dogs attempting to teach each other mah jong. Mantia departs on paternity leave, replaced by Frank Ferrer. Axl arrested in Stockholm following an exchange of views with a hotel security guard, during which the guard is allegedly bitten on the leg. After a night in the cells, he pays a fine and compensation to the guard.
July 2006
Newcastle gig aborted after Axl objects to having things thrown at him. At Wembley, Axl departs show early owing to illness, replaced by former Skid Row singer, and opening act, Sebastian Bach.
January 2007
Axl reported to be working on "final vocals" for Chinese Democracy in a studio in Vegas. For what it's worth, tracks known, believed or rumoured to exist include 'Better', 'Catcher In The Rye', 'Chinese Democracy', 'IRS', 'If The World', 'Prostitute', 'Sorry', 'The Blues', 'Madagascar'. World declines, on balance, to hold breath.
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