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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.


1993.06.22 - November Rain: Makin' F@*!ing Videos Part II

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1993.06.22 - November Rain: Makin' F@*!ing Videos Part II Empty 1993.06.22 - November Rain: Makin' F@*!ing Videos Part II

Post by Blackstar Mon May 27, 2019 4:14 am


Del James: I’m Del James and I’m the band’s authorized biographer. I’ve been involved with Guns N’ Roses for as long as I’ve been in California, which is seven years. I guess that would make it about ’85 that I initially hooked up with them. And when I moved out, I went to a building that said “For rent,” and that was a pad West Arkeen was living in, and Axl was crashing on his floor, and Duff was living next door. So while we were walking through this pad West came out and he asked me if I drank, and back then I did, so I spent, like, the weekend there, and those became my first and only friends in California.

Axl: Our friend Wes had passed out on Thorazines and I didn’t have a place to crash, and Del said I could crash at their place.

[Intro titles – Clip from the video]

Del James: The “Without You” story came about on a night where Axl called me, when he was still living with his girlfriend - who later on became his wife – Erin Everly, at about 4:00 in the morning and said, “Dude, you have to come over here.”

Axl: He started writing this story kind of based off my relationship and used that kind of for inspiration.

Del James: Essentially, the short story is about a rock star, who was inspired by Axl, who writes a song called “Without You” about the woman who he loves but he can’t really have.

Axl: A relationship of a singer and a woman, and a huge rock band.

[Footage from the filming of the video]

Duff: Well, Ax came up with a skeletal version of it when the band was just formed; he came up with the piano version of it, but there was never any band version of it.

Matt: Very little, maybe once or twice. It was such a long song and I was like, “Wow, this is really –“. It was kind of hard to put together really for Guns N’ Roses, cuz it was like, all of a sudden Axl playing piano and that was, like, totally new and different to Slash and Duff.    

Duff: It’s not an easy song to play as a rock ‘n’ roll band like heavy guitars, and the bass and drums, and all this loud shit, cuz it’s a real gentle song.

Axl: When I wanted to do the album, it was coming down between that and Sweet Child, and I knew November Rain wasn’t done. I didn’t really want anybody to help me write it; and, at the same time, I knew that it was gonna take a lot of work to do what I wanted to do, and I really didn’t feel capable and that the people around me were capable of understanding what I was trying to do, and that there was enough time to do it. So we decided to save it.

Matt: We’re just so much more of a band now. You know, when I came into the band, it was, like, we went right into the album. I mean, I think the next album is gonna be the fucking shit.

Dizzy: Right now, when we do it live, there is – Axl is playing the piano, of course, and then, other than myself, Teddy is playing keyboards too. I’m playing bass pedals too, so it’s, like, the equivalent of, like, four keyboard parts going.

Q: And in the studio you had how many?

Dizzy: I don’t remember offhand. It was, like, more than thirty. Let’s just put it that way (laughs).

[Clip from live performance]    

Matt: My role? I think I’m just, like, probably one of the ushers. Yeah, to the wedding. I don’t know, man. You have to ask Ax. This whole video is in his mind.

[Footage from the filming of the wedding scene in the church – Dialogues]

Duff: It was difficult, but I think we did a good job of bringing a certain subtleness to the song from the usual brashness of what Guns N’ Roses is.

Matt: It has a lot more drums, it has a lot more toms. I set up more tom toms, cuz Axl said to me – he kind of wanted to make this song like Nigel Olsson type drumming, right? And I went, “Yeah, Nigel Olsson,” from Elton John’s original band.

Axl: I knew the only reason I couldn’t get it right is if I couldn’t gather enough belief in the song in the people around me to take the time and put the effort into getting it right on tape.

Del James: It was frightening to be around them. There was so much insanity, you know, that was brought upon by their love and their insecurities that had inspired me to write this short story called “Without You.” This is before Appetite for Destruction was released.

Axl: One of the things about the story is that it was about this band that gets huge. And all of a sudden it dawned on me, and I just said, how could we ever really imitate that of afford to do it; you know, why don’t we just use our band.

Duff: I play with my course on the whole song. I play with a lot more, should I say, finesse.

Matt: It’s like Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, that type of thing: big fills, just huge tom fills.  

[Clip from the video]

Matt: One of Nigel’s trademarks back on those albums was the way he played the same fill a bunch of times. If you listen to November Rain, it’s, like, the same tom fill about 25 times - very slightly, but it’s pretty much a signature fill, you know what I mean? So that’s basically different than most of the things I did before. And it’s the only time that Axl ever said, “Play it sort of like this.”

Axl: Eventually, I wrote the theme song to the story.

Del James: It puts him on top of the rock ‘n’ roll world, but it also is his damnation.

Axl: I wrote it about my own life.

Del James: Listening to what he wrote about her - you know, I can’t live with you and I can’t live without you.

Axl: It’s actually the song Estranged.

Del James: I wrote the story after the night that I spent with Axl and kind of showed it to him, kind of uncomfortably – you know, “What do you think of this?”

Axl: It’s based around a song that this guy writes when it’s over in his relationship and what happens. And I wrote that song, you know? And I wasn’t even planning it - after I wrote it, I call Del and I go, “Del, I wrote the song for it.” And I had never planned on that. I never even thought of that. It just ended up fitting together, and I was on a different track, but the two came together.

Del James: After I showed the short story to Axl, it kind of helped him finish the song Estranged, especially the verses that say the words “without you.”

Axl: It’s the last words of the last verse in Estranged. It just came about, it just fit. You know, it was not planned; it just fit. And all of a sudden I was like, “No way!”

Do you know what we’re shooting tonight? What’s going on here tonight?

Duff: No (laughs). Yeah, some wedding scene, but I don’t know exactly what’s going on.

[Footage from the filming of the wedding scene – Dialogues]

Axl [about the “priest” in the video]: Yeah, that’s a friend of mine, Jean Antonio. Yeah, he’s great. He’s great and I just knew when I met him, the day I met him, that he should play this part if he wanted to. That was a really heavy story in itself. That was when we ended up shooting – the church we ended up shooting that, I had no idea that was one of the last places he ever – you know, eight years ago – done services.

[Footage from the filming of the wedding scene – Dialogues]

Axl: He just added such a sense of warmth and the right sense of spirit that we wanted to have present there. So it was very special for me and him.

Del James: It’s kind of sad that Izzy is no longer around; I miss him. But I’m glad Gilby is around now.  

Axl: Gilby is awesome (chuckles). Gilby is, like, so mellow. When Gilby joined the band and it was brought up, I wasn’t into it at all, because Gilby had kind of been, in the early days, considered – at least in my mind and in girls’ minds – as, like, Izzy’s rival (laughs).

Gilby: I was one of Izzy’s first friends when he came to L.A.

Axl: I didn’t know what Gilby was into or what Gilby was doing. I didn’t know Gilby personally, but it was just a name you always heard; and there was this other guy that I admit that I always thought was Gilby.  
Gilby: Izzy was a drummer back then. We hadn’t talked about that like – you know, me and Izzy had another friend called Chris. It was all part of the thing of doing a band together and stuff.

Axl: He was cool, but I didn’t want to work with him. And that wasn’t who Gilby was; I never knew that (chuckles).

Del James: If I have to cop to anything, I was kind of hesitant about replacing Izzy, because I just couldn’t see happening. And I was wrong.

Gilby: No, I never played with Izzy. He wasn’t a very good drummer (laughs). So him probably playing guitar was a better idea (laughs).

Del James: Gilby does a killer job and he’s just such a likeable sort.

Axl: We love Izzy, but there were certain things we weren’t getting from Izzy, that we really wanted. Everybody was, like, giving a certain amount, and we thought that everybody should give energy in a certain way to Guns N’ Roses; and we weren’t getting that.

Gilby: I mean, I like it. I really like it. I always liked their music from day one. And to be playing it now, it’s like, I almost feel as if – you know, when I’m playing, it’s not faking it. I enjoyed it and I liked it. It’s like, I wish I wrote that song.

Axl: Gilby came in and learnt all the songs. He got out there on stage, and liked performing for the crowd, and liked running around.

Gilby: I walk to the side of the stage and they go, “Izzy, yeah!” “Izzy, go!” And I go, “Fine” (laughs).  

Axl: When I went down to the studio, before we went on tour, to see this person play, knowing that we pretty much had to go with this person or we were fucked.

Gilby: They give me the records and they give me the list, so every day I had to learn different songs. But the funny thing is, as you go in, you’re like, I’ll go in to learn the songs; and I’d go, “Is this right?” and Slash would go, “I don’t know.”

Axl: I walked in, and he was playing Coma and rocking out. It was just like done deal; and all I can say, it’s perfect.

Q: What is your role in November Rain?

Gilby: I have no fuckin’ idea (laughs). I don’t know what time we’re starting, I don’t know what time we’re leaving, I don’t know what time we get here tomorrow. I don’t know. I like it that way, though: “I don’t know! I have no idea!”

[Footage from the filming of the wedding scene – Dialogues]

[Clip from the video]

Axl: Slash wanted to do a solo, and it was originally, like, in a field somewhere. But that time of year there were no cool fields in America to shoot in. We looked all over for churches and we couldn’t find a little church with a good view or a field. If we found the church, everything was dead around it because it was winter/early spring. We eventually found a church on wheels that they used in the movie Silverado, and we saw pictures and said, “Okay, that’s just good there;” and we went, and it ended up being perfect and really fitting well. It wasn’t planned, it just started that way. Andy [Morahan] saw it in a desert, we saw it in a field with long grass or flowers, and we ended up filming it in Mexico.

Del James: Although this character, whose name is Mane in the short story, has the rock ‘n’ roll world by the balls, the woman who he loves he can’t have. So his crown jewel, his song that everybody loves and respects, is also his damnation. The world might perceive a superstar having everything, all the luxuries; but it’s simple things like love and relationships that at times are the hardest to keep.

Axl: It freaks me out to be acting these parts out with Stephanie, when some of the situations are based off things that happened in another relationship.

[Clip from the filming of the wedding party scene and of the band jamming the Godfather theme]

Del James: When we were coming up with the treatments for the script, we had to cast the female character.

Axl: Del called me up on the phone about over three years ago now, and he goes, “Dude, I know who should play the part of Elizabeth” – that was the girl’s name in his story.  

Stephanie Seymour: I’d never done a video. I never wanted to do one, you know?

Del James: I picked up a magazine, I think it was, like, Cosmopolitan, cuz the girl on the cover had this hippie kind of flower shirt and she just looked really down to earth. Axl picked up another magazine.

Axl: I was like, “Who?” and he goes, “Stephanie Seymour. You know who she is?” And I was like – I’m on the phone going, “I’m looking at her picture right now.”

Del James: This beautiful woman should be what the imagery behind the story is about.

Axl: “Yeah, if we can get her, that would be great.”

Stephanie: I had people ask me to do videos and I’d never been interested, until Guns N’ Roses asked me to do it.

Axl: So we also had to figure out how to do that, how we’d make something incredible enough and good enough for somebody who wasn’t just gonna be in a “tits ‘n’ ass” video and just stand there and dance, you know? It had to be something that, like, excited her and something that she wanted to do.

Stephanie: I do like it a lot. I love visual things and film is very exciting to me.

Axl: We also wanted it to, like, be something that would help whoever played that character’s part, her career a bit, you know; and help show them to more people and give them – it’s not talking, but a bit of an acting role.

Stephanie: I wish I could speak, you know. I like the idea of that thing. I’m really into the – I’ve been studying acting for a while. It feels good to be able to do something. It’s not quick enough for me. There’s too much waiting.

Axl: We wanted the character to be somebody who was really cool and really strong; and somebody that somebody could definitely obsessed over. And we met, and it just happened.

Del James: And as you all know, Axl and Stephanie are more than a celluloid couple - they’re a real couple. So it’s little coincidences that kind of reaffirm that there’s more to life than the cut-and-dry, the black and white.

[Clip from the filming of the wedding scene – Dialogues:

Axl (to Stephanie): We did this video – when we did Jungle, and I really flipped out and I shot two guys on the dock crew. It was kind of random, I just started firing. I felt good (laughs).

Stephanie: I have a switch blade.


Andy Morahan (into the church the wedding scene was filmed): This is a church. A very expensive church. Many extras.]    

Del James: Throughout his self-destruction, he finally builds up the courage to try to sing the song to his beloved who is in heaven, knowing that she can hear it if he can get through it. But, as any good story, it has a twist. Now he has to make a choice and, hopefully, the videos will resolve that answer.

Stephanie: I was in the coffin for a while – awake.

Del James: Don’t Cry, which was a beautiful kind of segue into “Without You” –

Axl: Then if budget allows, we’ll film the next parts of the story.

[Footage from the filming of the funeral scene in the church – dialogues]

Axl: Stephanie fell asleep in the coffin.

Stephanie: But I was holding perfectly my position. I had to keep my neck up and I had to stay in line with the metal that was across my face.

Axl: I can’t tell you. But it’s just a horrible mess. If we would have not had this split casket, it would have been disgusting. We didn’t want to offend any child viewer’s eyes.

Stephanie: It’s strange because I woke up and it was over. And I realized that I was dreaming, that I had fallen asleep.

[Clips from the video]

Stephanie: As soon as they said “action,” I felt at peace. I just told myself I was dead.

Axl: It was pretty trippy to see that. That is just something I never want to see. You know, I mean, to make the video, yeah. But in reality it will be, like, the worst nightmare.

[Footage from the preparation of the filming – Waiting for Axl – Dialogues]

Axl: November Rain is a part of this story and shows different elements of this story. And I don’t really want to say where in line it falls, but it does show me going to bed and waking up on the nightmare at different points in the video.

[Footage from the filming of the scenes in Axl’s room – Dialogues]

Axl: Andy puts up with more shit and handles this organization of Guns N’ Roses, all the time changes and schedules and stuff so easily. He’s just so into the project. That’s just been great. I mean, we write together really well and really fast, and got the ideas out and go, “Boom, that’s it.” And if we have to change it last minute, we just do it.

[Footage from the filming of the scenes in Axl’s room – Dialogues]

Axl: Don’t Cry was Josh Richman and I working on it and then working with Andy. November Rain was more Andy and I working, and Andy just running with the ball putting everything together; and everything’s worked really, really well.

Del James: Every time I see my name at the end of that thing, I am gratified.

[Footage from the filming of the scenes in Axl’s room:

Axl (showing a bottle of some alcohol beverage): This was Del’s idea, original contribution, so it’s here.]

Del James: Anytime you face some celluloid on writing, it’s going to lose something. But also, on the flip side of this, there’s things I might necessarily not have written that people give me credit for. And it kind of makes me feel uncomfortable, you know? If someone sees the video, then reads my story and feels let down, I apologize.  

[Footage from the filming of the scenes in Axl’s room – Dialogues]

Axl: The big thing in Don’t Cry was showing going to thought and how we were gonna do that. In November Rain we don’t really do that; it’s not what we wanted to show in this particular video.

[Clips from the video]

[Footage from the filming of the band performing – Dialogues]

Gilby: You know what? They did something that was really interesting and I’d never thought about. It was playing live. We actually played live while we were doing the video. That was very cool, because you get into it a little bit more - cuz I’ve done lots of videos and I always, you know, pretended and posed. And that was cool. That gave you a little extra energy every time.

Duff: Like I said, we never approached it really until we were done touring with Appetite, and then it was time to approach all these new songs and all the old songs that we had not completed. One of those was November Rain.

Axl: Tommy Lee was major influence on the song. It was the first time I saw Home Sweet Home, and watching the part of doing the piano, it made me realize that I could take what I did know about piano and focus it into something simple, but very serious. Because I think the part that he does on Home Sweet Home is beautiful; it’s very simple, but it’s the right part. That’s the approach I took to November Rain. That’s what got me started. I saw that video, then shut off the TV and started on November Rain. What was really wild about it was being just overwhelmed by the sounds and working with all these new sounds. I mean, I’m in a rock band where you just work with – most of the time Guns N’ Roses just works with guitars, drums, vocals, bass. But working with the strings, and flugelhorns, and certain bells –and “is it the right bell?” It was almost like it was magical.

Duff: We didn’t, like, dive into it until we got back in line and got a new drummer.

Matt: And then when he played the piano and everything, I did get that hint of, like, his Elton John influence, cuz he was heavily influenced by Elton John to write that song.

Duff: Well, I don’t wanna compare it to anything but things we’re not used to.

Axl: I realized I only had one week, and I’m just no way I was gonna learn how to communicate with an orchestra. So we brought in, like, eight synthesizers.

Duff: I said, okay, now it’s time to attack November Rain.

Matt: That was towards the end, the live cut track, and then all the strings and stuff like that.

Axl: For eight hours I just sat there and played strings to November Rain over and over and over, and picked every single string sound to create my own 130 piece orchestra.

Duff: That’s when we started to experiment around how we were gonna do it.

Axl: We went through, like, three thousand sounds. We had to sit there and go, “Wait, is that one sound more real than that one?”

Matt: Compared to Appetite, Use Your Illusion was just the first record they really did that was, like, put together piece by piece and layered up. Jungle and all those tunes were fucking just made and thrown in the clubs two years before they did the record.  

Duff: It’s a real gentle song, so it took a while for us to adapt to that.  

[Footage from the filming of the band performing – Dialogues]

Duff: It’s a real subtle song and you can’t attack it like we attack most of our songs.

Gilby: I mean, it’s a really good song. It’s like, you know, when you’re doing a song ten times or whatever, sometimes you lose it. But every now and then, when you have your moments, you’re listening to the words, and that’s when special; you know, that’s when it’s really good.

Duff: There’s certain parts of the song that you do attack. I approached differently than I would the other songs.

Gilby: I mean, the words of the song are great. I heard it’s a song they wrote a long, long time ago and they brought it back, and there’s a reason why. It’s a great song.

Axl: So the video, it just all went very smoothly. Meanwhile I was telling Gilby that “we have a great shot of your arm.” And then the night we were recording the performance shot, there’s places where he would, like, come over to the piano and jam with me, “Here we are, we are together for the video.” And about five times that we did takes, I’m looking over at Gilby and I’m like, “Gilby, none of it is gonna be in this video, because this is where the solo is, where Slash is gonna be out in the middle of the desert or something. So it’s just not gonna work” (laughs). And he was like, “Yeah, yeah, alright.”  

Del James: The short story is included in my collection of short stories. It’s called “The Language of Fear Vol. 1” and it’s just a matter of time before that book comes out. And it’s horror.

Axl: Well, Del is a man who calls me up every now and then and says, “Dude, I’m going to hell” (laughs).

Gilby: It’s the same thing. Sometimes you’re really listening what he’s singing. And, of course, the good thing is we have those little things – you know, where the words go, so now I really know what he’s saying (laughs).

Axl: Elton John has always been one of my biggest influences, and if it wasn’t for Elton John, this song wouldn’t necessarily probably exist for Guns N’ Roses. And then John Connelly of MTV came up with the idea of having him play it with us in the MTV Awards. So that was a great honor, to have him play the song. I didn’t think that he really got his place in the song live, but just looking over and seeing him playing this song was just – I’ve never been that nervous but I felt that much under pressure and I was also blown away. You know, that’s Elton John sitting across playing the song, and he’s just into it, just doing it, whatever. And he kept teasing me and laughing, and I was, like, trying to keep concentrating cuz that was the longest version of November Rain, just mentally, to play ever. I was like, “When this song is gonna end so I can relax?” (laughs) That was pretty extreme, but that was kind of like taking the song to its highest peak for me.

[Clip from the performance at the MTV Awards]

Del James: Before the Illusions came out, there was talk of actually developing Without You into full length feature movie. Due to logistics, that hasn’t been able to be a reality. So what has happened is that there’s, like, kind of a condensed version of the story in the visuals. Don’t Cry segues into November Rain, which hopefully, if there’s time, will be Estranged – you know, the third part of it, and it’ll all kind of make sense and we’ll tell this pretty heavy tale.

Axl: One of the reasons for having an orchestra in the video [was that] it was one of the only ways to actually get to be around an orchestra and see what that was like; to see what was like to hear an orchestra actually play something I had written on keyboards, and see how well it worked and talk with the orchestra a bit about that. It’s not something I wanted to hide from the public and act like I used real strings. I wanted to say, “No, we did this on synthesizers.”

Matt: (?)

[Clip from the video]

Axl: For me, putting the orchestra in the video, I don’t think it was faking anything, because they were really playing when they were there. The sound you’re hearing when you see the video is what I play, but when we did the video they were actually playing; and it was a way for me to be around an orchestra and see that, because it’s not like I have time or cash to just go and set up an orchestra somewhere. It has to be for something productive and this definitely was.  

[Clip from the live performance of the orchestra]

Gilby: Every day, somebody different was coming up to my amp and just standing beside my amp. I’m sitting, like, learning the songs and playing, and there’s somebody different every day standing by my amp. So it’s like I always have this feeling that somebody is listening to everything I’m doing (laughs). All the time with the band I’m just waiting for when they’ll say, “You missed a note. We’re gonna have to send you home.”

Dizzy: Well, this is the same studio and it was after Guns moved out and I was still with The Wild. And Mary’s band moved in to the same little studio, and we’d been living there for a year-and-a-half, and there was no shower – there was, like, a faucet in the parking lot for a hose.

Matt: I’m filled with something, I’m fucking, like, pumped up with some shit, cuz I do look at myself and I go, “Whoa, this fucking guy is big, who’s that?” (laughs) People are coming to me and they go, “No, you’re not him. He wears a headband, man. He’s fucking much bigger than you” (laughs).

Duff: I believe it was some trip to New York. We played the Limelight, acoustically - or, like, semi-acoustically. Everyone was so fucking drunk. Slash fell off the stage I think, like, three times. Stevie fell off his drum set. Izzy just, like, fell all over. The only people left on the stage was Axl and myself.

[Footage from the filming of the funeral scene – Dialogues]

[Footage from the filming of the live performance

Axl (to the orchestra): Do you guys play Perfect Crime?


Axl: I’m thinking about it.]

Del James: He was in a lot of personal pain, which hurts me because he’s my friend. And we put this thing in and just we’re mind-fucked by it, man. It was beyond a rock video, if you know what I mean. And, although he was, like, hurting, the first question out of my mouth was, “Can we see that again?” (chuckles)

Stephanie: I didn’t wear a thing for them. They just made me feel high. They made me feel good. So, when they ask me if I wanted to do their video, it was really something that I felt excited about.

[Footage from the filming of the video – Dialogues – End titles]

Dizzy: We never thought about building a shower. She moved in and in, like, one day she sets up a shower. Like, she goes to the hardware store, comes back with all the stuff - the tools and everything - and sets up a shower; and she hooks it up to the faucet out in this parking lot and puts, like, a crate there to stand on. And I was like, “Woah, no way, I’ve got a shower! How could we never thought of that?” Like a year-and-a-half later, right? And so, I was so excited, man. I just stripped down naked and cruised over there. So it’s just in the middle, it’s out in the open, and I’m standing there naked taking a shower (laughs). This other girl (?) is around and I’m just like, “Hi, how you doing? Alright” (laughs). And then, like two minutes later, Mary pulled up the stuff and then she went to the store to build the curtain (laughs).

[Footage from the filming of the video – Dialogues – End titles]

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