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Welcome to Appetite for Discussion -- a Guns N' Roses fan forum!

Please feel free to look around the forum as a guest, I hope you will find something of interest. If you want to join the discussions or contribute in other ways then you need to become a member. We especially welcome anyone who wants to share documents for our archive or would be interested in translating or transcribing articles and interviews.

Registering is free and easy.


2001.07.DD - Q - Didn't You Used To Be Axl Rose?

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2001.07.DD - Q - Didn't You Used To Be Axl Rose? Empty 2001.07.DD - Q - Didn't You Used To Be Axl Rose?

Post by Soulmonster Sat Apr 14, 2018 6:37 pm

When the reclusive Guns 'N Roses star re-emerged last year, even old band mates didn't recognise him. After a decade of hiring and firing, an $8 million studio bill and the last minute cancellation of his European tour, is there a future for the Howard Hughes of rock? Phil Sutcliffe finds out…
THURSDAY IS a low-key night at The Cat on Sunset. Proprietor, Slim Jim Phantom, ex-Stray Cats drummer and current self-styled Prince Of The Strip, has fun "slaughtering the FM classics" with his bar band The Starfuckers, featuring ex-Guns N' Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke. But Thursday June 22 last year turned out to be something special: the night W. Axl Rose sang in public for the first time since the Use Your Illusion tour ended in 1993.
Phantom didn't spot him. Rose had become so reclusive nobody really knew what he looked like any more. But the bartender advised his boss that the fellow with the baseball cap and beard leaning on the bar was indeed the legendary hellion. "I wasn't sure," Phantom tells Q. "So I took Gilby over and tapped the guy on the shoulder. He turns round and Gilby says, 'That's not him!' But Axl grins and says, 'Hey, Gilby, how're you doin'?"
Long estranged - Rose fired Clarke in 1994 - they talked till 4am. At one point Rose got up with The Starfuckers for half an hour to scream the bejesus out of The Rolling Stones' 'Wild Horses', 'Dead Flowers' and other favourites.
Clarke hasn't heard a word from him since, but Phantom reckons that having "got his feet wet", Rose decided it was time to declare the silent years of the former noisiest man on the planet well and truly over. His label, Polydor, suggested that Chinese Democracy, the album Guns N' Roses' new line-up had been crafting since dinosaurs roamed the Earth, would be out this summer. UK concerts were announced for June. To prove it, they really did play live at the Las Vegas House Of Blues early on New Year's Day and again, to 200,000, at Rock In Rio on January 15.
However, while the tour is still on at the time of writing, Chinese Democracy has now been postponed for the umpteenth time pending adjustments by, possibly, its sixth producer, Queen veteran Roy Thomas Baker - until autumn? Well ...
So how could it be that a man who once stormed around like a rock'n'roll Viking could suddenly go to ground? How could the leader of a band whose debut album Appetite For Destruction (1987) sold millions, whose twin releases Use Your Illusion I and II (1991) sold many more millions, let his career slide into limbo? Axl who? That is, indeed, the question.
It would be silly to claim that there are any straight lines to be drawn through Rose's character. But all the enigmatic twists and turns that ultimately broke up the old Guns N' Roses and led their frontman into years of wilful obscurity probably started in Indiana.
Rose, aka Bill Bailey, grew up in the self-styled "all-American city" of Lafayette, pop. 43,764. It gave him picket-fence mid-West. It gave him a natural father, William Rose, who abused him as a two-year-old - "fucked me up the ass," Axl said in a 1992 interview. It gave him a Pentecostal preacher stepfather, L. Stephen Bailey, who talked in tongues and beat him for such transgressions as singing along to Barry Manilow's Mandy on the radio. It gave him 20 arrests for drunken misdemeanours when he ran wild as a teenager.
And ever since he left the town for LA in 1982 he has both hated Indiana and clung to it like a life-raft.
Guns N' Roses stumbled together in 1985 as an accidental combination of big city and Hicksville: Rose and his Lafayette high-school pal Izzy Stradlin (guitar), along with Angelenos Slash (lead guitar) and Steven Adler (drums), plus Duff McKagan (bass) from Seattle. Of course, they rampaged famously for a while. But when they began to fall apart, that Indiana thing was at the bitter heart of it.
Although Adler's sacking in 1990 because of heroin addiction was hardly seismic, when Stradlin quit the following year, Rose went ballistic. Stradlin, newly drug-free, criticised Rose for constantly keeping the fans waiting for two hours or more before he went on stage.
Rose just felt betrayed. "I feel like Izzy shit all over me," he howled. He was appalled that his smalltown compadre could fail to understand the agonies he went through nightly - the "living hell" of trying to get himself ready to face 50,000 fans. Significantly, he seemed even more upset that, after leaving the band, Stradlin hopped on his Harley and drove back home to Lafayette. "The fucking idea of going back to Indiana!" Rose raged to Rolling Stone as late as 1999. "I just know how much Izzy hated it. It's pitiful."
Clarke came in as immediate substitute, but Rose had a need to fill that Indiana-shaped void. In autumn 1994 Slash checked a mix of Guns N' Roses covering 'Sympathy For The Devil' (for Interview With The Vampire's soundtrack). He heard an unfamiliar guitar part and learned it was Paul Huge (it rhymes with "boogie"), late of Lafayette - and, it turned out, catalyst for the destruction of the old Guns N' Roses' and the creation of the new model unveiled this year in Las Vegas.
"I never liked that guy from day one," said Slash. "That's one of the biggest, most personal things that Axl and I have gone through - to bring in an outside guitar player without even telling me."
Matt Sorum, who replaced Adler, confirmed to Q that the band "didn't feel Paul was one of us", while allowing that "I guess there were times when Axl felt outside the band - and Paul told him what he wanted to hear".
Indiana in exile was taking over. Even before the Huge hooha, Rose "turned down flat" an album's worth of new songs Slash had written in hopes of hurrying along the successor to Use Your Illusion I and II (that's not counting 1993's interim covers venture The Spaghetti Incident?). This was where the Rose-v.-old-band genuine musical differences contributed to the conflagration. Slash said: "I just want to make a simple, kick-ass hard rock record". Rose said, "You just hate everything new that comes out," then eulogised Nine Inch Nails, The Prodigy, electronica, industrial and all the fresh influences he reckons to have explored with the new line-up.
Crucially, although the other four favoured "kick-ass" over modernisation every time, it was a debate the majority was never going to carry for the simple reason that, by then, Axl Rose effectively owned Guns N' Roses. During one of their regular post-multi-platinum power struggles, Rose had threatened to withdraw from - ie wreck - the Use Your Illusion tour unless they gave him full rights to the band's name. They waved the white flag and he secured what he once called "the power rewards of my vision".
By September 1996, Slash was so "miserable" that he swore, "I'm going to confront it. Either Paul goes, or ..." A month later, Rose announced that Slash had quit the band.
But Indiana wasn't done yet. A year on, Matt Sorum introduced Rose to former Nine Inch Nails guitarist Robin Finck, advising that he would make a great foil for Slash - who could then be restored to the line-up. Rose said, "No, he would be a great replacement for Slash".
"Then Paul Huge walked into the studio and made a bad comment about Slash," says Sorum. "I said, 'You don't say that when I'm in the room'. Then Axl laid in, I argued with him and it was over. Huge followed me out into the parking lot and said, 'Come back'. I said, 'I can't come back, he's fired me. Do you feel good about breaking up one of the greatest bands that ever lived?'"
By 1998, McKagan, the other remaining original, had drifted away to join the others in a loose fellowship of LA club bands and uncommercial solo albums. "Paul Huge is the Yoko Ono of GNR," Sorum concludes.
Conversely, in January, at Rock In Rio, Rose made a point of telling the crowd that "Without Paul Huge there probably wouldn't be a Guns N' Roses". It all depends on your point of view.
For the past eight years, Axl Rose's life has been the subject of gossip, speculation and "reported sightings". However, rumour and fact combine to sketch a life that's quiet, drug-free, very withdrawn, yet largely mundane - apart from the never-ending nocturnal studio sessions.
Although he's rarely seen in daylight, sometimes he goes to the beach, sometimes he goes to the pictures. Occasionally he attends concerts - Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, Tool (he has been observed struggling to get backstage because security didn't recognise him any more).
He lives in a mansion off Latigo Canyon Road in the hills above Malibu keeping fit via kick-boxing and home-gym work-outs. His domestic needs are attended to by his assistant/cook, a Brazilian called Beth Lebeis (recipient of another onstage thankyou in Rio) and he is sometimes spotted at a Malibu mall shopping for groceries with her and one of her three children.
Rather charmingly - not an adverb commonly associated with Rose - at his 1999 Halloween fancy-dress party, Dave Quakenbush, vocalist with LA punk band The Vandals, encountered him "wearing a dinosaur outfit. When some kids approached him and asked if he was Barney The Dinosaur, he said, 'Nah! Barney's a fag!' Then he stopped himself and said, 'Oh, uh, I mean Barney's a pussy'."
While further cuteness is not expected to crop up on the Rose agenda, his last known breach of public tranquillity occurred as long ago as 1998 when he was arrested at Phoenix airport for refusing to let security search his bags. He has also been involved in several cases against a worryingly persistent stalker called Karen McNeil, jailed last year for breaking into his property at least six times after travelling from Ohio in response to Rose's "psychic call", she claimed.
But there seems no doubt that his dominant preoccupation for the past six years at least has been that Guns N' Roses album. Most weekdays he's spent the hours between 9pm and 9am at a Los Angeles or San Fernando Valley studio with a shifting cast of expensive players. Together they have assembled more than 70 songs. In 1998 Moby did some production work with Rose and told him he had a finished album and should release it, but only one track has emerged as yet, the End Of Days soundtrack contribution 'Oh My God'. Even so, the rumour that the costs so far top $8 million boggles belief.
The line-up that made it to Las Vegas and Rio de Janeiro was Buckethead (elaborately eccentric guitarist who plays with a Kentucky Fried Chicken container strapped to his head; solo on Virgin), Robin Finck (he quit in 1999 because "we never finished a track", but returned), Paul Huge (now calling himself "Tobias"), Bryan "Brain" Mantia (drums, ex-Primus), Tim Stinson (bass, ex-Replacements), Chris Pittman (keyboard, ex-Replicants) and Dizzy Reed (keyboards, long-time Guns N' Roses sideman). But, should their contributions make the cut, Chinese Democracy might also feature Chris Vrenna (drum programming, ex-Nine Inch Nails), Josh Freese (drums, of The Vandals and A Perfect Circle), Shaquille O'Neal (part-time rapper and LA Lakers star), Gary Sunshine (bass/guitar, ex-Circus Of Power), Dave Navarro (guitar, ex-Jane's Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers, now solo) and Brian May (guitar, ex-Queen - Rose loved Freddie Mercury and the old line-up always described the Wembley tribute concert in 1992 as their collective happiest moment).
Unusually in the hush-hush environs of Guns N' Roses, Youth was willing to recount his experience of Chinese Democracy. He had "four or five" spells working with Rose in 1998-9. The first thing he did was temporarily distract the singer from interminable studio rehearsals of Appetite For Destruction - which, astonishingly, Rose did later re-record in its entirety (conspiracy theorists suggest it will be released to kill sales of the original and deprive the old line-up of royalties, but that's probably over-paranoid).
"I went to his house and we started writing songs, strumming guitars in the kitchen," says Youth. "That was a major breakthrough because it got him singing again which he hadn't done for a long time."
But when Youth ushered Rose and their new material back to the studio, progress ceased: "So I said, 'Next time I come over I want to record the songs', and he said, 'You're pushing me too fast'. I had to pull out. Sadly, because I think he's one of the last great showmen of rock, incredibly committed and passionate."
So why can't Axl Rose finish the record? Is it perfectionism? Is it fear - or as Slash once put it, "The more you hide from people the more you can't get off your fuckin' ass"?
"Partly perfectionism," says Youth. "But the psychology is that if you have something out you get judged so you want to stay in a place where you don't get judged. Which means it is a good sign that now he's playing live."
Yet, even as Axl Rose and his band creep towards the light of day, legal and other wrangles with his old cohorts continue. For one, the Live Era '87-'93 album released in 1999 caused another row between Rose and Matt Sorum. A few months before its release, Sorum was quoted expressing his concern that Rose was "being taken advantage of" by hippie healers he visited in Sedona, Arizona. Rose made no public reply, but when Sorum saw an album sleeve proof his heart sank: he was listed only as an "additional musician".
"That hurt," he says. "It was the biggest dig he ever took at me. But Axl said he wouldn't release the album if it was changed. That's how spiteful he got. I didn't mean what I said badly. I felt sorry for him."
Strange. People fight him for years, suffer the rough end of his power and money, and still come out empathising with his vulnerability and isolation. Ex-wife, Erin Everly, accusing him of all manner of nastiness during a court case, also said, "I felt sorry for him" and "I thought I could make it all better".
Slash, who hasn't spoken to his former partner for five years now, once reflected: "I feel sorry for him sometimes, if only because he's such a tough act to be - he's in such a funny place because Axl is Axl and no one will really understand him as much as he would probably like to be understood. He's really on his own in that respect. You know, I once asked him why he didn't do a solo album to get it off his chest. Well, he didn't see any reason why he should, because in Axl's mind, Guns is his solo project ..."
It is now. And still the hesitation continues.
Perhaps Axl Rose might consider the merits of Slim Jim Phantom's rough-hewn summing up: "He should just go out and play a couple of new songs then do the family favourites like The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd do. You can overthink these things ..."
Thanks: Mick Wall, Sylvie Simmons, Paul Reece and all at Kerrang!, Essi Berelian, Paul Elliott. Recommended reading: Guns N' Roses: The Most Dangerous Band In The World by Mick Wall (Sidgwick & Jackson). Additional information: Kerrang!, Rolling Stone, Spin, RIP.
Oddly enough, the other half of the name came from a guitarist called Tracii Guns, but by most accounts he'd left the band before Rose/Hollywood Rose/LA Guns decided they were really Guns N' Roses - possibly on June 6, 1985. Since then the line-up has gone through changes and these are all of them (apart from the backing singers and horn sections):
W. Axl Rose 1985-present. Singer/proprietor. Five foot nine of mayhem out of Lafayette, Indiana.
Slash (Saul Hudson). 1985-96. Guitar. Hampstead-born, Stoke-weaned, LA-bred, all-hair-and-ciggie. Now sessioneer to the stars and touring to promote second Slash's Snakepit album Ain't Life Grand.
Izzy Stradlin (Jeffrey Isabelle). 1985-91. Guitar. Rose's original Indiana oppo. Quit because he was clean. Independent soul, travelling the world by motorbike. Four solo albums.
Michael "Duff" McKagan. 1985-98. Bass. Seattle punk. Chief inspiration for The Spaghetti Incident. Stradlin band regular. Own album Mad For The Racket out last November.
Steven Adler. 1985-90. Drums. Slash's LA school pal. Sacked for heroin addiction. Struggled for years and jailed in 1998 for battery of a girlfriend. Seems all right now. Plays clubs occasionally. Said to be writing autobiography with his mum.
Matt Sorum. 1990-97. Drums. Filched from The Cult. Sporadic sideband The Neurotic Outsiders with McKagan, John Taylor (Duran Duran), Steve Jones (Sex Pistols). Since sacking has written four movie soundtracks, rejoined The Cult (UK gig soon) and recorded a solo.
Darren "Dizzy" Reed. 1990-present. Keyboards. Previously unemployed. Initially, "tour" member only. Still well liked by original band members. Since '93 in studio seeking "sounds" amid from "monstrous" set-up of "Macintoshes and sequencers".
Gilby Clarke. 1991-4. Guitar. Paycheques stopped after "outspoken criticism" of Rose in public. Sued and settled out of court. Four solos. Wife owns modish Frankie B(sp?) jeans co. Latest: Clarke/Slim Jim Phantom bar band The Starfuckers just signed by Mel Gibson's Icon label and changed name to Colonel Parker.
Paul Huge. 1994-present. Guitar. Rose's Indiana buddy who replaced Clarke. Dismissed by Slash as a "bedroom guitarist" because thought not to have played a gig until Guns N' Roses' comeback in Las Vegas on New Year's Day. Now calling himself Paul Tobias.
Zakk Wylde. 1996. Guitar. Ex-Ozzy Osbourne, Pride & Glory. Rose tried writing with him long enough for Osbourne to notice and sack him. Two weeks later Rose dropped him. Subsequently solo.
Shaquille O'Neal. 1996. Rapper/LA Lakers slam-dunkster. Recording in next room, stuck head round Rose's door, freestyled over a track. Might not make it to Chinese Democracy.
Chris Vrenna. 1996-7. Drum programming. Ex-Nine Inch Nails imported to help Rose with "industrial" sounds. Lost patience during endless Appetite For Destruction rehearsals, returned to Trent Reznor's side.
Dave Abruzzese. 1997. Drums. Ex-Pearl Jam, briefly tried out and rejected.
Robin Finck. 1997-9, 2000-present. Guitar. Ex-Nine Inch Nails actually picked up while playing for avant-garde circus Cirque Du Soleil. After two years with no tracks finished "because Axl hadn't done any vocals", went back to Nine Inch Nails . But returned for live shows so no hard feelings - a first.
Josh Freese. 1998-2000. Drums. Transferred from LA punks The Vandals for "obscene" wage. Lost patience with Welcome To The Jungle rehearsals, returned to Vandals, A Perfect Circle (side project of Maynard James Keenan from Tool), and solo album The Notorious One Man Orgy.
Tim Stinson. 1998-present. Bass. Formerly of Paul Westerberg's The Replacements (at 13!), own bands Bash And Pop, Perfect. .But long-term unemployed when Rose called. Bought a used copy of Appetite For Destruction and learned the basslines. Evidently surviving rumoured friction with Huge/Tobias.
Gary Sunshine. 1999. Guitar. Formerly bassist with grungy New Yorkers Circus Of Power. Played on End Of Days soundtrack song 'Oh My God' and probably not much else.
Dave Navarro. 1999. Guitar. Ex-Jane's Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers, now solo. In studio for 90 minutes replacing lead guitar on 'Oh My God' after Finck left and fell temporarily out of favour.
Brian May. 1999. Guitar. Ex-Queen, now solo. Some guest work likely to make the album. (Rose loved Freddie Mercury and the old Guns N' Roses line-up always described the Wembley tribute concert in 1992 as their collective happiest moment)
Buckethead. 2000-present. Guitar. Two solo albums on Virgin. Elaborate eccentric, plays with a Kentucky Fried Chicken container strapped to cranium. Solo spot with signature tune, 'Chicken Binge', in Guns N' Roses' Rio show involved karate demo.
Chris Pittman. 2000-present. Keyboards. Ex-Replicants. Wears plaid.
Bryan "Brain" Mantia. 2000-present. Drums. Formerly of Godflesh and San Franciscan weirdities Primus.
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