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SoulMonster

1992-09/10/11-DD - Interview with Axl

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1992-09/10/11-DD - Interview with Axl

Post by Soulmonster on Wed Jun 15, 2011 7:54 am

The first installment of RIP's exclusive three-part interview with Guns N' Roses' Axl Rose.

I, AXL Part One by Del James

The phone rang. It was Blake, W. Axl Rose's personal assistant, asking if I'd be up for doing an interview with the elusive and controversial GN'R vocalist. Even though I was deep into other projects, I was neither busy nor foolish enough to pass this gig up. Then Blake made an unusual request: Instead of chatting face to face, Axl wanted to do the interview over the phone. Unusual, but not a problem. A date and a time were set.

What follows is our marathon talk. Instead of a formal interview, it's more like you, the reader, are being invited to listen in on a private conversation. I know Axl as well as anyone can know him. I proudly consider him a friend, but I'm not afraid to tell him what I feel or when I think he's being a jerk. No, I won't give you his number, but if you want to play along, sit by your phone for awhile tapping your foot (yes, he called late; love him or hate him, the man is consistent), imagine a ring and pick up the receiver....

RIP: This is kind of awkward, doing an interview on the phone.

AXL: You know one reason why I want to do it this way? Sometimes you and I say a lot heavier things on the phone than we do in person. So I thought this would be cool, especially because I'm trying to be private right now. I can do this in my own space and just talk.

RIP: I've got five 100-minute tapes, so we can go till we burn.

AXL: Alright.

RIP: Even as well as I know you, I still pick up magazines to see what is said about Guns N' Roses and in particular, you. The last interview of any substance were Kim Neely's pieces in Rolling Stone, but you're still in every single magazine. I'll be reading something that has absolutely nothing to do with GN'R, and you'll be compared to Adolf Hitler or some other evil just to add fire to the writer's article.

AXL: I think there's a great fear of the unknown, and my new thing is, "I am the unknown."

RIP: Sounds like something Stephen King would say. Why are you the unknown, and have you purposely made yourself that way?

AXL: Partially, yeah, trying not to be overexposed. Negativity sells, and the media knows that. "Axl Rose is rock 'n' roll's bad guy." There were a lot of people who felt that the Rolling Stones shouldn't exist, who talked crap about them. Now we're huge, and it seems the people who are most vocal are the ones who don't like us. They'll pick up any rock to throw at us. When I read that Guns N' Roses could be David Duke's house band, that's wrong, and it hurts me. I'm not for David Duke. I don't know anything about the guy except that he was in the Klan, and that's f?!ked. There's a lot of people who have chosen to use that song ["One in a million"]. However that song makes them feel, they think that must be what the song means. If they hate blacks, and they hear my lines and hate blacks even more, I'm sorry, but that's not how I meant it. Our songs affect people, and that scares a lot of people. I think that song, more than any other song in a long time, brought certain issues to the surface and brought up discussion as to how f!?ked things really are. But when I read somewhere that I said something last night before we performed "One in a million," it pisses me off. We don't perform "One in a million." Another reason I've been laying low is that I've been trying to take the time to survive our success and assume responsibility for where we're at. I didn't have enough energy to stay in contact with the media. Instead of dealing with the media, I was trying to grow in my own space. I've needed to do that for the last couple of years. It took me years to rise above the success of Appetite and the people who liked it. I was like, "Why are they liking it?" These are the same people who hated me?" There are a lot of people who are afraid of what they think I could be. They see the power in the music and the words, they see the reactions of people to our music, and the natural reaction is to lay everything on the people performing the music. I'm not necessarily responsible for the reaction. I write, and the band plays, from the heart. In our songs we show instances that are really f!?ked, but we've risen above those situations, and people get a real sense of surviving obstacles from us. I was watching this thing today about de-metalizing kids. All a parent knows is they see their kid listening to Ozzy Osbourne. The kid is doing acid and painting upside-down crosses on his wall, and they don't know what happened to him or her, so it's Ozzy's fault.

RIP: So you're to blame for the next generation of f!?k-ups?

AXL: According to parents or whoever. There's a lot of people who don't understand or know how to handle their children's rebellion.

RIP: Yeah. Taking responsibility for your own actions and, if you have a kid, responsibility for their actions, is really heavy.

AXL: Especially responsibility that a part of us never really wanted, but now have.

RIP: Why does the world have this misconception about you, especially about you being a drug addict?

AXL: Didn't Presidential candidate Bill Clinton catch a lot of shit for admitting that he tried pot once? that's bullshit. How many cool people do you know who survived and lived during the '60s? GN'R got to the top of a mountain by using every pile of shit that ever happened to us. We were living that way, living our songs, and it started killing us. It was either die or change. Certain people who see that we're gotten control over ourselves, control over our physical shapes and our lives, write that we're sedate and predictable. They say we don't live on the edge anymore. Actually, I'm living on the edge and learning how to ride it instead of being dragged down by it.

RIP: I see what you're saying, but that doesn't answer my question about you.

AXL: Okay, first off, I'm on very specific, high-tuned vitamins. My body needs these vitamins. I'm also involved in extensive emotional work to reach certain heights with myself that doing hard drugs would interfere with. I'm doing several detoxing programs to release trapped toxins that are there because of trauma. Doing a lot of coke would get in the way of my work. Doing dope would definitely get in the way of what I'm trying to accomplish. Some pot doesn't really get in the way too much. It gets in the way of the work for, like, the next day, but sometimes it's a grounding thing. If I'm flipping out in the middle of Idaho, then a little bit of pot helps me be sedate. Also, coming off stage, going from such high energy into a very sedate world, is heavy - I don't care how many strippers you have. It's like going off a cliff in a car, and that's when I can use some smoke.

RIP: You don't even smoke that much anymore.

AXL: I know. About a year ago, while we were recording the records, I smoked a lot of pot. I was in a lot of pain, and that was the only way I could keep myself together enough to work. It was the the only thing that could take my mind off my problems, so I could stay focused and record. It helped keep me together. Now it would interfere with things.

RIP: Remember when you actually moved into The Record Plant and set up camp?

AXL: There was no heat in that room. It was a cold, lonely place, but it was the only place I could stay to keep myself in the work. It was cool-looking, but it was dark, cold and weird! It got to the point that certain people could tell just by the way I was talking, the tone of my voice, that I wasn't right. A friend brought by some Christmas presents. Another flew out unannounced and stayed with me Christmas Day, because they were very worried that I wasn't going to make it through. I couldn't leave the studio, but I couldn't go back to my condo because of my neighbor. That was a nightmare. It was also wild, because these people didn't know anything about the Christmas before, when I was driving to your house, trying to find someone with dope on the way because I wanted to OD. I could always relate to the Hanoi Rocks song "Dead by Christmas." It's been two Christmases since then, though, and this past one was probably the nicest I've had in 29 years.

RIP: Did Robert [John, Guns' photographer] ever take any photos of you there?

AXL: No.

RIP: That's a drag.

AXL: Yeah, it's a shame.

RIP: That would've been a great photo. That, and the time you threw your piano out the sliding-glass windows of your house.

AXL: Those were two major things that didn't get on film that should've. John Lennon wasn't nearly as selfconscious as I am. He could keep a camera rolling at all times.

RIP: I remember being backstage at San Diego, and you were late. People were seriously tense. Half of the concern in the job itself, but the other half is concern for you. It's not a case of, "Oh my god, my check's going out the window," it's, "Is Axl alright?"

AXL: I've never been in a position before where I've been responsible for the income and livelihood of at least 60 people., like our road crew and such. That's hard for me to deal with. If we didn't have an album out right now, I wouldn't be on tour, I wouldn't have chosen to take on that particular responsibility at this time. But I didn't really have a choice, especially if I want to keep my career going. I would've liked to be more together emotionally and mentally before this tour. Part of the job of being in Guns N' Roses is coming onstage and being superhuman. We've supposed to rise above the energy in the crowd, rise above whatever bad may have happened that day, rise above whatever is in your head, while at the same time trying to rise above the damage in your own life. When I say GN'R are striving to rise above, I mean we're doing our best to survive, not like, "Hey look at us, we're better than you." I don't mean rising by being power-hungry and vicious to people. We're just trying to rise above and be healthy and secure with ourselves, and trying to spread some of that around. That's what I'm working on.

RIP: Everyone seems to be harping on your tardiness to gigs.

AXL: I addressed the crowd in Phoenix and explained, "Maybe I was just too f!?kin' bummed out to get my ass up here any quicker." They loved that. Maybe I couldn't move any faster than I was because it was a bitch. I don't mean to inconvenience the crowd by beeing late. Maybe by reading this interview they can understand a little of what I go through regularly. Sometime it's really hard getting onstage, because I feel like I just can't rise above and win. I don't want to get onstage unless I know I can win and give the people their money's worth. I'm fighting for my own mental health, survival and peace. I'm doing a lot of self-help work and, fortunately, I can afford the people I work with. People say that I'm just spoiled. Yeah, I am. but the work I'm doing is so I can do my job. I've learned that when certain traumas happen to you, your brain releases chemicals that get trapped in the muscles where the trauma occured. They stay there for your whole life. Then, when you're 50 years old, you've got bad legs or a bent back. When you're old, it's too hard to carry the weight of the world that you've kept trapped inside your body. I've been working on releasing this stuff, but as soon as we release one thing and that damage is gone, some new muscle hurts. That's not a new injury, it's very old injury that, in order to survive, I've buried. When I get a massage, it's not a relaxing thing; it's like a football player getting worked on. I've had work done on me - muscle therapy, kinesiology, acupuncture - almost every day that we've been on the road.

RIP: It always seems like a crapshoot as to which Axl is going to show up at the gig. Why is that?

AXL: Part of it is because GN'R is like a living organism. It's not an act. Even if I'm doing the same jump during the same part of a particular song, it's not an act. That's the best way for me to express myself at that point. I get there, and I let it out. Certain ways I move, like during "Brownstone," is the way to get the best out of myself. It's like, how can I give the most at that without giving up my life? We don't go onstage like Guns N' Roses used to, or like a punk band - and I'm not knocking punk bands - thinking that if we don't make it to tomorrow, that's okay. Now there's a lot of things depending on tomorrow and GN'R. It's like, how can we give the most and turn around tomorrow and give that much again? It takes a lot of work, a lot of effort and a lot of maintenance. When I went onstage in San Diego, I got on thanks to Nirvana. I used their music to inspire me. I took their attitude and got up in jeans and a T-shirt - I never do that. I got out there and told Slash that I didn't know what was going to happen. I thought I was going to go out there and quit. If I go out there and can't do it because I have no energy, the I have to walk away. When I got out there, the crowd was very giving with their energy towards us, and it actually fueled me. There's energy in the crowd that, unless you've seen and felt it, there's no way to describe. It's f!?kin scary. Darby Crash [lead singer of the L.A. punk band the Germs] was scared to death of that energy, and his only way of rising above it was by getting wasted, acting like it didn't exist and showing that he could do more damage to himself than the crowd could. That's how he rose above it, but it finally killed him.

RIP: That's so weird you brought him up. Yesterday we were talking about how great the Germs record is.

AXL: Today I was watching The Decline Of Western Civilization. I really liked this guy, and I felt bad.

RIP: You know, someone's gonna read this, see you say "living in the edge," and assume you mean drugs and rowdiness and all the other Hollywood clichés.

AXL: Well, that used to be. A lot of those were ways of dealing with pain. It was a survival mechanism. When I see someone famous saying, "The road to success was not the drugs, blah, blah, blah," I'm like, "Hey, they kept you alive during that time, didn't they? If you didn't have those things, you might not have made it." There's a lot of things that none of us were taught when we were kids. There is a lot of pain built up over the years. You're taught to believe that it's normal to get smacked in the head if you don't eat your food. By the time you're in your teens, you're like, "Gimme a beer. Life's a bitch." I could never see myself trying to take away anyone else's emotional suppressants, especially if that's what helps keep them going and surviving. I would like to show people that you can get past these things and not need the anymore. I'm not about escaping through drugs and sex anymore, because I've reached a point where I can't escape. There is no escape. I have to deal with and face my life. I was one of many people that didn't think I was gonna live to see next week, let alone 21. I felt that the world was so f!?ked up and that I was so underneath it all just getting successful was not rising above it. That was rising above a couple of things, like financial things, but then you had to learn how to handle the money, or you could get buried by it all over again and be even more depressed.

RIP: I know what you mean.

AXL: If you're operating out of fear that you're not going to live past a certain point anyway, then the attitude is, "F?!k it." In certain respects we've gotten lucky, those of us who are still alive, that we did get past that. There's a lot of people involved in rock 'n' roll who were running from something. They got involved with drugs and alcohol to help ease their pain. A large portion - probably the majority - of rockers and metal fans are damaged people who are trying to find some way to express themselves. They can relate to the anger, the pain, the frustration of the band that's performing... Can I call you back in, like, half an hour?

RIP: Yeah. What's up?

AXL: I just want to get something to eat.

The second installment of RIP's exclusive three-part interview with Guns N' Roses' Axl Rose.

I, AXL Part Two by Del James

You can't have a music conversation without W. Axl Rose's name popping up. Rock 'n' roll's favorite enigma, he conjures many images - everything from Damien Thorn [you know, the antichrist kid from the Omen] in a kilt to a mixed-up misogynist come to mind. He has certain qualities women love to mother, but if you rub him the wrong way, he can be a real motherf?!ker. If there's one thing I'd like the world to know about Axl, it's that he truly cares about his people. What few understand, however, is that we are all his people. That's why he shares his pain in his songs; that's why he performs when he feels like shit. On the days regular folks call in sick, he has to entertain 20,000 fans. If he didn't care about them, he'd shine them. When the riots were going down in L.A., Axl invited me and my family, as well as many of his other friends, up to the safer environs of his house. He was in constant communication with us throughout the crisis, when he could just as easily have kept himself locked in or split the scene entirely - but that's not his style. Even though his manners seem unorthodox at times, he does care. Maybe that's one of the reasons he's such an easy target for detractors. Cynics can't deal with sincerity.

This issue we pick up where we left off last time, Axl has just phoned me back after a short break.

DEL: At the beginning of the tour - with Skid Row, then Soundgarden - the show seemed Illusion-heavy. The majority of the songs, were off the new records. Then, towards the end of the tour, it seemed quite Appetite-heavy. Why?

AXL: That was just the mood for those nights. It was just what we felt like playing and what came out. I mean, in San Diego we opened with "It's So Easy," and we never do that anymore.

DEL: I hear you, but there are certain songs, especially newer ones, that should be in the set. If I go see GN'R, and "Estranged" or "November Rain" aren't in the set, I'm gonna be slightly bummed.

AXL: I'll remember that the night we don't play them. I'll say, "Del would be bummed," and 20,000 people in Iowa will be going, "What?"

DEL: It's just that those two songs are classics. You could put them next to "Bohemian Rhapsody" or "Layla" on a cassette.

AXL: I think, musically, "November Rain" could possibly stand there. Vocally, I purposely wanted the sound I have on that. I'm very happy with it, even though it's very abrasive.

DEL: The same could be said about Steven Tyler's singing on "Dream On," and very few songs come close to that intensity.

AXL: One of the things I like about the vocal roughness in "November Rain" is that anyone can think that they can sing it as good or better. They can feel like a part of it.

DEL: You really haven't yet addressed why Izzy Stradlin left GN'R. If you would, explain what happened and, more importantly, how you feel about Izzy.

AXL: I feel like shit all over me, and I wiped it off and ain't too happy that it happened. I think for a long period of time Izzy wanted to be more independent, but Guns N' Roses took off fast, and he was such a part of it, it was hard to take that step. That's my opinion. There are certain responsibilities to Guns N' Roses that Izzy didn't want to face. He basically didn't want to work as hard at certain things as we did. He pretty much just showed up before we went onstage, would get upset that I wasn't on time, played, then split. There were times when we'd get off stage, and five minutes later he was gone. He didn't socialize with the band on any level, and he had a real problem being sober and being around us. Izzy's always been very compulsive and impulsive, and although he's quit abusing various substances, he still hasn't gotten to the base of the reason why he was abusive. He hasn't solved that, so instead of doing drugs, drinking and womanizing, he was keeping himself busy traveling, bicycling and buying lots of toys. There's nothing wrong with any of that, except that he wasn't able to do the things required of him in Guns N' Roses. Getting Izzy to work hard on the album was like pulling f?!kin teeth. Everybody dreaded it. Nobody would go by the studio while he was there, because no one wanted to deal with it. He's play something out of key, and we'd ask him to do it again, and he'd be like, "Why? I just did it." Izzy was very unsupportive of me in general. He was very concerned about his free time, and he didn't have a whole lot of understanding of what to takes me to do my job. As far as I'm concerned, he was a lazy, selfish user. There are ways that I miss him and wish it could've gone on, but he was a real f?!king asshole to me. I was always a massive Izzy fan and supporter, but now that he's working with Alan Niven [former GN'R manager], f?!k him - and you can print this. Even if we work things out between us, I won't regret what's coming out in this interview, because it's how I feel. I'm glad we got the songs out of him that we did, and I'm glad he's gone.

DEL: He really hurt you, huh?

AXL: You wanna know how he really hurt me? When he came up here to my f?!king house and acted like, "What's wrong, man?" It's really weird; I knew he was coming. I could literally feel his car driving up as I was getting dressed. I went outside and sat down, because Izzy couldn't come into my house. I couldn't act like he was my friend after what he'd done to me. He came up and acted like he hadn't done anything, but he let us down at a weird time. It wasn't like someone leaving the band because they couldn't take it anymore; he left in a shitty way. Izzy called up members of the band and tried to turn them against me by saying that I pushed him out, and that's not how it went down. He said a lot of shit behind my back. He tried to make a power play and damage us on his way out, and that's real f?!ked up.

DEL: Want to talk about another former member of Guns, drummer Steven Adler?

AXL: The misconception is that we kicked him out for the hell of it, and that I was the dictator behind it. The truth is, I probably fought a little harder to keep him in the band, because I wasn't working with him on a daily basis like the other guys were. They grew tired of not being able to get their work done because Steven wasn't capable of it. I've read interviews where he's saying that he's straight. Most of the time he isn't. He's the type of person who wants everything handed to him, and he did get it handed to him. He got it handed to him from me. At one point, in order to keep this band together, it was necessary for me to give him a portion of my publishing rights. That was one of the biggest mistakes I've made in my life, but he threw such a fit, saying he wasn't going to stay in the band. We were worried about not being able to record our first album, so I did what I felt I had to do. In the long run I paid very extensively for keeping Steven in Guns N' Roses. I paid $1.5 million by giving him 15% of my publishing off of Appetite For Destruction. He didn't write one goddamn note, but he calls me a selfish dick! He's been able to live off of that money, buy a shitload of drugs and hire lawyers to sue me. If and when he loses the lawsuit he has against us, and he has to pay those lawyers, if he has any money left, it'll be the money that came from Guns N' Roses and myself. At this point I really don't care what happens to Steven Adler, because he's taken himself out of my life, out of my care and concern. I feel bad for him in ways, because he's a real damaged person, but he's making choices to keep himself in that damage. There's nothing we can do at this point. We took him to rehabs, we threatened his drug dealers, we helped him when he slashed his wrists. I even forgave him after he nearly killed my wife. I had to spend a night with her in an intensive-care unit because her heart had stopped thanks to Steven. She was hysterical, and he shot her up with a speedball. She had never done jack shit as far as drugs go, and he shoots her up with a mixture of heroin and cocaine? I kept myself from doing anything to him. I kept the man from being killed by members of her family. I saved him from having to go to court, because her mother wanted him held responsible for his actions. And the sonofabitch turns on me? I mean, yeah, I'm a difficult person to deal with, and I'm a pain in the ass to understand, and I've had my share of problems, but Steven benefited greatly from his involvement with me - more than I did from knowing him. Steven had a lot of fans, but he was a real pain in the ass. I need to keep him in my life for you? F?!k you!

DEL: Now that we've taken care of that, what about the flipside of the coin: the new guys, especially guitarist Gilby Clarke?

AXL: Gilby is awesome, and a pleasure to be around. He works the stage and the crowd really well. Also, he helps give us a sense of rock 'n' roll normalcy - if there is such thing. Gilby has a way of understanding and dealing with situations that makes the whole trip more tolerable. His insights from being on the outside of GN'R helps us. He has his opinions of what's going on with us, and it helps us get a different perspective, ' cause Slash, Duff and myself have been in GN'R for so long and are so close to it that sometimes we don't see things like other people would. Every now and then he'll say something to me, and I'll go, "Wow, I didn't see it that way." He's been putting himself through his own rock-and-roll education with his other groups for years. Now he's a part of Guns N' Roses.

DEL: Is he a "member" of Guns N' Roses?

AXL: This "member" thing is quite interesting, I read in an interview where Matt [Sorum, drummer] said that if he didn't get made a member, he wasn't going to be in Guns N' Roses. The truth of the matter is, Matt's a member of GN'R, but it doesn't really mean anything. It's kind of like a clubhouse/gang thing. We're all members of this gang. What it boils down to is, whose yard is the tree house in? Matt's a member of GN'R, and his opinions are taken into consideration. As far as that's concerned, Gilby is a member too, Dizzy is a member of the band. With all the background singers, horn players, keyboardists - we look at it like we're all Guns N' Roses. But the bottom line is, the business is basically run by Slash and myself. Then we run whatever it is we're discussing by Duff and see if he's cool with it. Guns N' Roses is basically Slash, Duff, Doug Goldstein and myself, but there's a lot of other people involved that are a part of our lives and a part of our family.

DEL: Do you think Matt's gonna be pissed when he reads this?

AXL: It would be nice if he wasn't. I love everybody in this band. It's kicking ass and feels really warm and really cool onstage. At this point it's the 12 of us that get onstage and f?!king go all out.

DEL: There's 12 of you?

AXL: There's Teddy, there's Dizzy, there's Roberta, Tracy, Lisa, CeCe, Anne, Gilby, Matt, Duff, Slash and me. Slash put this new band together, did all of the groundwork. He did such an amazing job that I just can't believe it really happened. I'm glad to be a part of it. It's a pretty huge thing, and we might even add some dancers, like we used to have back in the old Troubadour days. It's something we've considered.

DEL: When you and Slash aren't at each other's throats, you're really a force to be reckoned with.

AXL: Let me say something about us being at each other's throats: We haven't really been that way in the past year and a half. I love the guy. We're like opposite poles of energy, and we balance each other out. We push each other to work harder and complement each other that way. We had a run-in in Dayton [Ohio], because both myself and Dougie thought he said something shitty to me onstage. That was the night I cut my hand to the bone. Backstage we have monitors much like the ones onstage, and while I was back there dealing with my hand, I thought I heard him take a potshot at me. I wrapped my hand up in a towel and was like, "Let's get it taken care of, so I can finish the show." I came back onstage and was a dick to him and told him I'd kick his f?!king ass in front of 20,000 people. That was f?!ked up. I was wrong, and I apologized the second I realized I was mistaken. Someone who is supporting me as strongly as he does is a hand I never want to bite.

DEL: The tribute to Freddie Mercury was very cool. What was it like jamming with legends like Queen and Elton John?

AXL: The Queen gig was the most humbling experience of my life. It was f?!king intense. When we first met Brian May last summer, it was wild. None of us would let him out of the room. He's oneof the nicest people I've met. When we did "Bohemian Rhapsody," that was unrehearsed. Brian asked me to do it that day, and it felt right. I spoke to Elton before the show, and he was kind of uneasy about meeting me - you know, I'm supposed to be the most homophobic guy on Earth. When we talked, I was excited, but serious, telling him how much his music meant to me. By the end he was like "Whoa." Onstage I was trying to be as respectful to him as I could. I was purposely vibing out, and if you look close, you can see it at times, how much I love and respect I have for Elton. There was some heavy eye contact going down. It was amazing. MTV's John Norris kept saying, "This could be the last time you'll ever see Elton John and Axl Rose together onstage." Not if I have anything to do with it.

DEL: When speaking of Queen, one must speak of AIDS. How has this disease affected you?

AXL: I wan to learn more and start helping people. Freddie Mercury's death is a marker in my life that says there's no turning back, and I'm going to do whatever I can to inform the public about certain things. We can't sit idly and hope someone will change things and hope things will be alright. There are alternative forms of medicine that are having high success rates in treating AIDS victims. There's things like vibrational medicine, oxygen-ozone therapy, there's homeopathic medicines, there are Chinese medicines and different forms of vitamins. The government is denying the public this information. That's because the government, the FDA and the pharmaceutical companies are making billions of dollars off of people dying. The FDA invests money in companies they've supposed to be regulating - that makes no sense. Over the last 50 years there have been different cures for different illnesses that have been kept from us. Freddie Mercury's death made me want to fight for people to have the right to know about these alternative treatments. Everyone has got a God-given right to health, and it's being denied by power-hungry, greedy people who want control.

DEL: I take it you're not very big on the way things are being run?

AXL: Our government talks about freedom and liberty while they exercise and maintain and enforce and strive for and fight for all the control they can have over the people. Since day one we've been taught to support our own oppression, and I think it's time for things to change.

DEL: Well put.

AXL: How's this interview going?

DEL: Really cool.

AXL: To put all of this in an interview would've taken weeks a couple of years ago.

DEL: Yeah, but two years ago we were less skilled at this.

AXL: And on dope. Also, with a lot of these issues I have the support of Guns N' Roses, but I'm not necessarily speaking for the other members here. I'm speaking for myself and where I'm coming from.

The final installment of RIP's exclusive three-part interview with Guns N' Roses' Axl Rose.

I, AXL by Del James

Even in the earliest days of Guns N' Roses - I'm talking Tuesday night gigs at the Troubadour - it was apparent that W. Axl Rose had "it," the unexplainable force that draws people to him. It's a double-edged sword, this personal magnetism, because while one side of Axl needs the attention, needs to share his art, and needs to bring people closer to him, the other side wonders why those who didn't embraze him early on want to know him now. Anyone who has been able to get close to Axl understands that his needs run deeper than your average Joe's. The reason people are willing to go out of their way to accommodate him is that if the situation were reversed and one of his friends needed something from him, whether it was shelter from a storm (or, more close to home, a riot) or an understanding ear, Axl would be there as soon as the call for help was raised.

The enigmatic superstar has always had the ability to cause a stir, but it should be said here that even when Axl would rather curl up into a ball and die than step onstage, 99% of all GN'R concerts go off without a hitch. Controversy seems to follow Axl everywhere, but before judging him, one has to ask just where the controversy is really coming from. It's usually created by people (i.e., yellow journalists spicing up their stories, media selling you product and hype, overly ambitious prosecutors who see Axl as their opportunity for 15 minutes of fame, or lonely people desperate for attention) trying to get close to Axl by any means available. That's the dark side of having "it."

This third and final installment of my conversation with Axl gets quite heavy towards the end. In my many hours of interviews with him (this summer I'll begin writing an authorized Guns N' Roses biography, which will come out when the time is right) he's often revealed things that left me feeling kind of awkward. "Are you sure you want me to print this?" I'd ask, and the answer was always yes. I'm starting to understand why. Although it hasn't always gone as smoothly as he might have wished, by publicly sharing the truth about himself and Guns N' Roses, Axl is shedding layers of buried pain as well as growing spiritually. He readily faces the chaos and agony most of us hide from as he frees himself from the shackles of old conditioning. What some people haven't noticed is that he's been trying to get at the hard truth about himself and the world around him, failing sometimes, succeeding more often, but always trying, since he first stepped onto a stage. And, I've got to say, that's what makes him one of the bravest souls I know.

RIP: Let's talk about music.

AXL: Alright. One of my favorite bands is U2. They used to not be, but they are now. I used not to get it. I didn't see the world they were singing about. Love and pain and caring? Only in a few instances, like "With or Without You," could I relate or understand. That was the song I saw right before I OD'd because my relationship [with his ex-wife] was so f?!ked up. I could barely see the things they were singing about in a few of my friends, and I could believe it in theory, but my true expression didn't see it at all. I can see a different thing in U2's music now, and it has nothing to do with how it's performed or what the people are wearing. There's just a different feel in the music. I think their song "One" is one of the greatest songs ever written. Now I can see and understand why people were into U2 years ago.

RIP: U2 never had a song like "One in a Million."

AXL: My opinion is, the majority of the public can't be trusted with that song. It inspires thoughts and reactions that cause people to have to deal with their own feelings on racism, prejudice and sexuality.

RIP: But Axl Rose said "faggots" and "niggers."

AXL: So have a lot of other people.

RIP: Yeah, but it's real easy to feel self-righteous and point the finger at you.

AXL: I wrote a song that was very simple and vague. That was the type of painting I was painting for myself, because that's how I write songs. Try going to a museum and not seeing paintings that depict pain and suffering and confusion. I think I showed that quite well from where I was at. The song most definitely was a survival mechanism. It was a way for me to express my anger at how vulnerable I felt in certain situations that had gone down in my life. It's not a song I would write now. The song is very generic and generalized, and I apologized for that on the cover of the record. Going back and reading it, it wasn't the best apology but, at the time, it was the best apology I could make.

RIP: Given all of the static that's come out of "One in a Million," do you ever regret having shared it with the world.

AXL: I'm on a fence with that song. It's a very powerful song. I feel, as far as artistic freedom and my responsibility to those beliefs, that the song should exist. That's the only reason I haven't pulled it off the shelves. Freedom and creativity should never be stifled. Had I known that people were going to get hurt because of this song, then I would have been wrong in thinking that the public could handle it.

RIP: Have you written any new songs?

AXL: Yeah, I've written one, but it doesn't have a title yet. Why?

RIP: Because in the time that's been allotted GN'R, you certainly have released a lot of important music. One has to wonder what's next.

AXL: What's next is, I would like to have a cleaner, more focused expression. We've pretty much stayed within the parameters of rock 'n' roll music as we know it. I'd like to see if we could add anything to GN'R, possibly bring in a new element that hasn't been there before. Guns N' Roses is not just me. There are other members in this band, and everyone's growing. There was a certain focus we all wanted to keep for Illusion I and II, but when I did "My World," everyone dug it and wanted it on the record. By the next record I think we can branch out a lot further. I would like to move in a direction where I'm more in touch with life and love but still remain as strong in terms of exposing ourselves as GN'R has always been. I don't feel now like I did when I wrote "Estranged." I'm not as bummed out as I was then. I've grown past that.

RIP: Most bands tend to shy away from the honesty and pain that come out in your songs, especially the ones dealing with your relationships. It's not very macho to be hurt.

AXL: It's about facing your pain, and not too many people want to do that. That's pretty normal, I resist and fight endlessly to avoid having to expose certain parts of myself to myself.

RIP: When people read that you're in therapy and working on your problems, those terms are pretty vague. Do you want to explain them?

AXL: I'm continuously learning that when I get depressed there may be a reason for it that I'm not aware of. It could be something that happened a long time ago, and I've carried a base thought ever since. That base thought hasn't been exposed since it happened, and it's never been healed. I've buried it so deep that I don't even know it's there. I can talk about life and love and happiness, but beneath that there's some ugly thought. Or hatred. Or fear. Or hurt. Something I'm still acting on. By going back slowly -

RIP: How?

AXL: There's all kinds of methods, but it's basically figuring out how you feel and what really bothers you, getting more focused. Then, with my therapist, I work on releasing my unconscious mind. Unless your true self is in pain, why would you want to be detached from it? Yet most people are detached. Who knows how to go back and heal their own pain? Having help and being able to accept it is a lot stronger and sometimes easier. Sometimes it's harder though. I mean, who wants to need help? I found someone I trust and can work with. The methods aren't necessarily important; what's important is the getting there and the healing. A therapist could talk about it better than I could; and if I do, it may throw certain people off. It probably sounds very weird, but the important thing is that it's working. I have certain emotional, mental and physical problems that I don't want to have to live with any longer than I have to, so I'm obsessed with getting over them. The only way a person can tell if they need help is if underneath however happy you think you are, you know that you're miserable. I've been miserable for a long f?!king time, and now I'm not so miserable.

RIP: There's definitely been a noticeable change - for the better - in the way you carry yourself.

AXL: I still carry certain "punk" elements, but if I lived like that now, I would be going backward. People need to go through their different stages. Some band made up of 19- or 20-year-olds who say, "Everything sucks," has a right to feel that way, and they have a right to express themselves. But there is life after 21, if you can get to it - which is a bitch for all of us. Who knows, I could get really depressed and OD next week, but I don't think so, and I'm hoping not to.

RIP: Do you take your therapist out on tour?

AXL: Sometimes, when I feel I'm going to be needing to do some work. If we weren't on tour, I would've concentrated harder on getting this work finished and then gone out, but that was impossible. The albums needed to be worked. It's not so much because I wrote them, but I feel "November Rain" and "Estranged" have a chance at getting embedded in music culture, so I'm gonna fight for them and seed them with as many people as possible. I get bummed when I hear a great track off a record and the artist says, "Yeah, but the public wasn't into it." I'm like, what do you mean? The public wasn't into "Jungle," either.

RIP: The public was into "Welcome to the Jungle."

AXL: Not necessarily, dude. We released it three times.

RIP: I remember when I was living with Duff, having to wait until 3:00 a.m. to see the video because MTV wasn't really pushing it. Then it fought its way to being the most-requested video; so it's pretty hard to remember it not being successful.

AXL: Well, it wasn't.

RIP: Check it out, Fear is playing on the 13th.

AXL: I was watching them in The Decline of Western Civilization. And people think I'm homophobic. I was going, "Man, if they were out now, and the world knew about 'em, they'd be destroyed."

RIP: Yeah, but bands like Fear, the Germs, and the Pistols could say just about anything, and the media really wouldn't have cared, because the bands were labeled punks.

AXL: When I was living in Indiana, I was labeled a punk, a punk rocker. When I moved to L.A., the punks called me a hippy and didn't want anything to do with me. The Hollywood rock scene was a war zone back then. I tried out for a punk band and didn't make it because they said I sounded like Robert Plant. I was bummed because I thought I had a gig and really liked the music. Dude, I'm building a robot.

RIP: What?

AXL: I'm building a robot. It's about 7" inches tall, and it's called a TXR002. It's remote-controlled and kind of looks like the robot that fought Robocop in Robocop 2. It's got these lights, and it's totally radio remote. It's got a motor in each leg and walks around.

RIP: You should get two and make 'em fight.

AXL: That's cool! I haven't put a model together sinceI was a kid and I'd smash 'em. Today I was watching my Decline movies and doing business on the phone while I was building a model, and I was thinking, I'm turning into Slash.

RIP: You recently went public in Rolling Stone about your childhood abuse.

AXL: I definitely get my share of sticks and stones and rocks and stabs from people trying to bait me into something for whatever reasons. I would like to be more "actionary" than "reactionary." I have a lot of damage and I'm not saying that like "Oh, pity me," or anything. Instead of being myself, I was definitely a product of my environment, and that was something GN'R has thrown back in the world's face. "You don't like us? F?!k you! You helped create us! Your ways of doing things helped make sure we exist the way we are. We didn't have a choice to exist any other way." When you feed someone shit, and they have the balls to tell you what it tastes like, most people have a problem with that. As a child I was beaten a lot. People can't handle a troubled child who doesn't know how to accept help.

RIP: What do you mean by that?

AXL: If a kid's being beaten, and someone offers help,and the kid goes off, a lot of the time the punishment is just compounded. Instead of helping him and trying to break through to him, it's like, "No, you're going to work on your problems right now! Do you understand me?" That doesn't work. "Shut up, sit down" commands are outdated if you're trying to help someone heal. I was brainwashed in a Pentecostal church. I'm not against churches or religion, but I do believe, like I said in "Garden of Eden," that most organized religions make a mockery of humanity. My particular church was filled with self-righteous hypocrites who were child abusers and child molesters. These were people who'd been damaged in their own childhoods and in their lives. These were people who were finding God but still living with their damage and inflicting it upon their children. I had to go to church anywhere from three to eight times a week. I even taught Bible school while I was being beaten and my sister was being molested. We'd have televisions one week, then my stepdad would throw them out because they were satanic. I wasn't allowed to listen to music. Women were evil. Everything was evil. I had a really distorted view of sexuality and women. I remember the first time I got smacked for looking at a woman. I didn't know what I was looking at, and I don't remember how old I was, but it was a cigarette advertisement with two girls coming out of the water in bikinis. I was just staring at the TV - not thinking, just watching - and my dad smacked me in the mouth, and I went flying across the floor. Someone can say, "Dude, just get over it." Yeah? F?!k you! Whether I wanted it there or not, that incident was locked into my unconscious mind. Whenever there was any form of sex, like a kissing scene, on TV, we weren't allowed to look. Whenever anything like that happened, we had to turn our heads. Dad had us so brainwashed that we started turning our heads on our own. We scolded each other. My mom allowed all of this to happen because she was too insecure to be without my stepfather. She assisted in me being damaged on a consistent basis by not being there for me or my sister or my brother. I've always felt this great urge to go back and help my mom. I felt obligated to, but I don't anymore. She fed me and put clothes on my back, but she wasn't there for me. I'm still experiencing anger over this situation, but I'm trying to get over it. Burying it doesn't work for me anymore. I buried it for too long. That's why there's a gravestone at the end of the "Don't Cry" video. I watched almost everyone in this church's lives go to shit because their own hypocrisy finally consumed them.

RIP: What effect did this have on the kids?

AXL: Well, it gave us a real high opinion of God. It really confused things. The Bible was shoved down my throat, and it really distorted my point of view. Dad's bringing home the fatted calf, but I was just hoping for two hamburgers from McDonald's. We were taught "You must fear God." I don't think that's healthy at all. I'll tell you, I don't know what God is or isn't, but I don't fear him or it. I feel a helluva lot better about that. I'm not afraid of it anymore, and I don't feel like I'm being punished by it with the obstacles that occur in my life. If I sound a bit self-righteous, I'm not. I'm just pissed off for, not at, people. I don't like seeing people miserable, and I don't like watching people killing themselves while they're telling me they're happy. With the help of regression therapy I uncovered that my real dad, not my stepdad, sexually abused me. The most powerful anger was this two-year-old child's anger because it was hurt. Nothing could really scare me, because I'd already seen hell. I'd been killed at two and lived through it, and I was miserable because I'd lived through it. I was miserable for 28 years. My stepdad came into my life when I was three or four, and I didn't even know my real father existed until I was 17. I was separated from myself at an early age, and my stepfather made sure I never put myself back together, with his confusing mixed messages of love and brutality. He'd love me one minute, then beat me the next. I've had to learn how to shed both of these men's personalities. I'll take two steps forward, then one step back, but I'm into it. A lot of things are new to me now, but I won't let my fears stop me from progressing.

RIP: How do you think your childhood traumas affected your adult sexuality?

AXL: I couldn't be with someone sexually in a nice way, because I was made to feel like I was doing something wrong - even if it was someone I liked. The only way I could enjoy sex was if I got into being the "bad guy." Finally I grew tired of being the bad guy. I love this person I'm with. Why do I have to always maintain a low level of self-esteem in order to feel alright? I don't feel alright feeling like a piece of shit, and I don't want to be a f?!king piece of shit. Even though it was put into my head years ago, by reading up on abuse and doing the work I'm doing, I've found out that's how it works. It's a real weird thing to have to deal with. You know, I'm grown up now. That was a long time ago. I'm supposed to have gotten past that. Yeah, maybe.
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