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2002.01.DD - Classic Rock - Inside The Lonely, Mixed-Up World Of W. Axl Rose

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Transcript:
----------------

THE BIG PICTURE

EDITED BY DAVE LING

Gunners in gig shocker!

Axl to play Las Vegas again, and Slash pulls the plug on Snakepit.

GUNS N' ROSES HAVE finally announced details of a pair of concerts - but the shows will be taking place in the US, and not the UK. The band will make rare appearances in Las Vegas, at The Joint on December 29 and the Hard Rock Cafe two days later. Readers will recall that the band saw in 2001 at the House Of Blues venue, also in Las Vegas.

A statement from vocalist W Axl Rose explained: “We've been cooped up in the studio for so long that we have to release some energy. Since we had so much fun playing Vegas last year, we’ve decided to do it again.”

At press time, there was no word of rescheduling the band’s twice-cancelled European tour, or of a release date for their ‘Chinese Democracy’ album. We can only hope that GN’R’s manager, the long-suffering Doug Goldstein, remembers to tell the band where they are committed to appear, instead of “jumping the gun” and neglecting to inform them about the rescheduled European shows that were due to have commenced on December 13.

Meanwhile, having completed a coast-to-coast club tour in support of 'Ain’t Life Grand’, his second post-GN’R record, former band guitarist Slash has announced the demise of his Snakepit project.

“It was more of a selfish thing to go back into doing dates in clubs,” reveals Slash, who also played a string of UK dates with Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood recently. “It was just something I had to get out of my system. If I tried to verbalise what that was, I don’t think I could. I was just seeing if this thing was the same as it was in my mind. It had been so long since I’d done it with a band - and I’d had all the jets and the stadiums and all that with Guns. It was about doing something raw, about keeping that feeling alive. And it was... it was all that. Then it was time to clean up some legalities that were hanging on and to put the band to rest. Making everything right on that score.”

The aforementioned legalities have involved concluding a fairly tangled series of record contracts, first with Geffen, then Interscope (from whom he’d bought back the rights to ‘Ain’t Life Grand’) and Koch (who issued the record), plus a change of management. It was almost certainly more stressful than he makes it sound, but now the decks are cleared.

“There’s no need to reinvent things any more. You can’t reinvent the start of Guns or Snakepit. This was my little thing, and it was a blast, seeing all these guys kind of doing it for the first time, but I was kind of carrying everybody [in Snakepit] through that.

“With the first album [1995’s ‘It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere’], I’ve got such a short attention span and I get so impatient, I just got it out there. It was never intended to be a new band with a new album. Then with the second one I got screwed up with the legalities. I left Guns, I left my management, I had record companies screwing me left and right... Geffen, Interscope... It has changed me. I’m more guarded now. It’s a learning experience. I wouldn't do it the same way again. I’m more defensive. When I pick up the phone now, if it’s someone I don’t know, I’m like: ‘Who the fuck are you?’"

Suitably chastened, Slash is now planning a first solo album proper, which will be recorded in the first half of the year.

“For the first time, I feel kind of equipped to move forward and do a record,” he explains.

“Put it all in place and do what I like to do. The other records, they were kind of put out on a whim. Like I say, I’m impatient, man. I’ve been jamming a lot and I’ve been writing a whole bunch of stuff... It’s going to be interesting. It’s going to be more like the stuff that I do when I play for other people, just a few different sides and shades, not necessarily what you’d find when you just put a little band together. Sometimes I do that because I get impatient.

“If I tried to describe it to you it would kind of be like cutting across the edges of it. It wouldn't be fair. It’s going to be interesting - lots of different styles, lots of different things. I didn’t want anything too permanent, anything that bought too much baggage. That’s what you get with bands.”

PERHAPS WARY OF THE BAGGAGE IT might bring, he only casually mentions that he’s spent the week before Thanksgiving in the studio with Izzy Stradlin, the first time that the pair have played together since Izzy finally quit GN’R in 1992.

“We were in the studio last week,” reveals Slash. “He called me up and asked me if I’d like to play on some stuff he’d written. And we really don’t know what we’re going to do with it. It’s the [Thanksgiving] holiday this weekend, and I guess we’ll meet next week and figure it out from there. It was good playing with him again. It was like that getting on a bicycle thing...”

“We’re all still friends. I mean, I don’t necessarily go public with all that stuff, I don't think it’s important, but, you know, we were together from what, '83-84 right through to '96. I see Izzy all the time, I speak to Duff [McKagan, bassist] all the time. You don’t go through that and then not have that common
ground. We talk all the time. Ax... Ax I haven’t spoken to for five years."

Yes, you read that right - Slash refers to his former lead vocalist as Ax! You can read Slash's thoughts on the current GN'R situation in the interview that begins on page 76. What was quite clear is that the guitarist is looking forwards and not backwards. He’s moved on, and he wants everyone else to do the same.

One event that defined the year for Slash and just about everybody else on the planet came, of course, in New York on September 11.

“I was in New York on the 11th," he says. “I'd done the Michael Jackson anniversary shows - there was one on the 8th and one on the 10th. I was in my hotel room, and another one of the musicians rang me. He said: ‘Man, you better put the TV on.’ And the first tower had been hit. Then I saw the second one hit, and we knew what we had then.

“It was a very strange time. I mean, what can I say? It was the most tumultuous time that just levelled everything. You re-evaluate everything, that’s for sure. It was hair-raising enough just getting back to California. You feel very different. All those small paranoias you had just kind of go.”

And to cap off the year 2001 Slash got married, for the second time. “That happened on October 15, so I was kinda busy with that.” he says. “She’s a good girl. She was my girlfriend - obviously, ha, ha! It's been great. You know,” he smiles, “it’s all good for me right now.”

As a postscript to this story, in addition to the appearances with Ron Wood's solo project, Slash recently joined Duff McKagan on stage at the House Of Blues in Hollywood for versions of the Gunners’ ‘It’s So Easy' and ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ by The Stooges. The reunion took place during bassist McKagan's appearance there with his new outfit, Loaded, and with fellow ex-GN'R member Gilby Clarke in the audience.

***

MAD BAD and dangerous to know?

Self-absorbed, prone to strange behaviour, W. Axl Rose, possessive keeper of the Guns N’ Roses flame, has by many accounts finally ‘lost it’. Jon Hotten charts the story of a brightly shining star that became a supernova and then imploded into a black hole, and asks whether Guns N' Roses is now just a case of virtual reality. On page 86 we reprint the singer’s last ever interview, which he gave to Classic Rock editor Mick Wall over the New Year holiday period in Los Angeles in 1990.

IN THE HILLS ABOVE MALIBU, THE DAYS ARE SWEET and sunny, but the occupant of the mansion just off Latigo Canyon Road rarely emerges from behind its walls and gates and its high-tech security system to sample them. Instead, they say, he sleeps them away, then rises in the twilight to begin his nocturnal existence. Like most of LA he takes a healthy breakfast of muesli and fruit and juice, and then begins to while away the hours. He might work out for a while; he enjoys kick-boxing, and has a couple of heavy bags swinging in his home gym. He may noodle around with some of the new-age paraphernalia that has caught his interest in the last few years. For some time now, it is alleged, he has made regular visits to Sedona, an enclave of psychics, UFOlogists and mystics two hours outside of Phoenix, where he meets Sharon Maynard, a woman who has become known derisively as ‘Yoda’ by those fighting for his attention.

Unusually for a resident of Los Angeles, the world’s most sprawling city, he doesn’t drive, so unless he summons a driver or asks his bodyguard Earl to take him out, he'll stay at home and hang around the house. If he has made one of his rare daylight forays into Malibu, maybe to the local shopping mall with his assistant and cook Beth Lebeis and one of her three children, or even occasionally to the beach, he may sleep for a while.

Some of the guys will probably drop by to shoot the shit with him for an hour or two; they’ll listen to some music or play pool, or if there are some musos hanging out maybe even strum guitars in the kitchen and knock a few songs around.

Downtown, the main suite at a particular Hollywood recording studio is booked around the clock. If he wants to work, he’ll have a car come and take him down there. He’ll walk through the reception and down the hallway where someone has planted some crude, hand-made wooden signs that say daft things like ‘ENTER AT YOUR PERIL’ and ‘YOU ARE IN THE DANGER ZONE’.

In the darkened luxury of the studio, he’ll start to tinker with a record that many people now think might never come out. It’s a vast and sprawling affair that encompasses many of the musical fads and ideas that have come and gone during the six years that he has been making it. It is said that for the past three months he has been working exclusively on one track, and one track alone. Producers have come and gone, as have musicians. The opinions of the few who have heard it vary: for some it is nothing short of the masterpiece that is expected; for others it is uneven, reflecting the uncertainties of its principal creator. But with this record there is only one opinion that counts. The tape rolls. W Axl Rose goes to work...

JUST AS ELVIS HAD THE MEMPHIS MAFIA, SO Axl has his coterie, too. First there are the musicians who have jumped in and out of the ‘Chinese Democracy’ project. The list is long, and it contains many names you might expect and many others that you might not. The man who has been described as “the Yoko Ono of Guns N’ Roses" - in the way that he has come between Axl and others - is Paul Tobias, formerly known as Paul Huge. He has been involved, although not in the central role occupied by the men he saw off: Gilby Clarke and Slash. Tobias and the curious Buckethead - now rumoured to have departed altogether - seem to have been more central to the live version of Guns N’ Roses, such as it is. Slash's stinging assessment of Tobias, however, is that he’s “a bedroom guitarist”.

Meanwhile, Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde, who wrote with Rose throughout 1998 and 1999, says this: “He's one fucking smart guy.” Other notables through the revolving door include Robin Finck from Nine Inch Nails and latterly the Cirque du Soleil house band, who arrived in 1997, left again, then came back; Circus Of Power guitarist Gary Sunshine, who played on some sessions in the mid-90s, as did Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro. Even Queen’s Brian May played on a week’s worth of sessions before catching a plane home.

Long-time keyboard player Darren ‘Dizzy’ Reed has been in the studio since 1993 with a “monstrous” set-up of Apple computers and sequencers. Chris Pittman, formerly of the Replicants, has also appeared. Since original bassist Duff McKagan’s departure in 1998, Tommy Stinson, who played with Paul Westerberg in the Replacements, has handled bass. Drummers have included Robin Finck's NIN colleague Chris Vrenna, Pearl Jam's Dave Abruzzese, Josh Freeze of the Vandals and Bryan ‘Brain’ Mantia of Godflesh.

Musicians, especially in Guns N' Roses, come and go. The rest of the Rose entourage - the part most important to the well-being of an insular man - is made up of long-standing friends: Del James broke into journalism through Rose’s insistence that he carry out interviews with him for the music press. He was also the man charged with editing boxes and boxes of live tapes by Axl for the retrospective ‘Live 1985-1995’ album two years ago. Robert John, another old pal, is Axl’s personal photographer, while the singer’s half-brother, Stuart Bailey, is another confidant. Perhaps Axl’s closest friend was West Arkeen, who was given co-writing credits on ‘It’s So Easy’, ‘Patience’ and ‘Yesterdays’. Arkeen’s premature death in June 1999, from an opiate overdose 10 days after he had been released from hospital for treatment to burns received after a barbecue exploded, was a bitter blow. As Rose’s manager Doug Goldstein noted: "Axl’s world is very insular. He doesn’t like many people."

Lafayette is a dot on the map in Tippencanoe County, Indiana, a small and anonymous city with a population of 43,764 (at the last count). The nearest international airport is at Indianapolis, an hour and a half's drive away. Lists of the city’s famous residents over the years are necessarily brief: the Mayo Brothers, who founded the Mayo Clinic; Nobel prize winners Dr Herbert C Brown, Edward M Purcell, Julian C Schwinger and Ben Roy Mottelson, none of whom are natives, all of whom graduated from the noted Purdue University; and, of course, Jeffrey Isabelle and William B Bailey.

The city enjoyed the American Dream - prosperity and growth through the 50s and 60s - before slumping. When Isabelle and Bailey left at the beginning of the 1980s, officials had been working to stop a negative population growth. Bailey’s parting shot, as he headed west and changed his name and his life, was to describe the place as “a modern-day concentration camp”.

Rose’s view is, of course, cankered by the dreadful experiences of his early life. Lafayette can offer the picture-postcard, picket-fence childhood, with its long summers and down-home atmosphere; but not if your natural father is “fucking you up the ass at the age of two”, as Axl later alleged his father William Rose was, and not if your stepfather is a Pentecostal preacher who talks in tongues and beats you for singing along to Barry Manilow’s ‘Mandy’ on the radio, as L Stephen Bailey is said to have done.

Unsurprisingly, Rose was a volatile kid. His rap sheet listed 20 arrests for drunken misdemeanors before he was out of his teens. At high school, he hung out with Jeff Isabelle (aka Izzy Stradlin), a like-minded proto-guitar player. “In high school, you know, Axl, he had long red hair, he was a little guy and he got a lot of shit,” Izzy told Mick Wall, the writer most objectively associated with the band. “I think he never got laid, too, in school. He never got no pussy in school, Axl.”

When Guns N’ Roses came together in 1985, they were a striking mix of small-town ingenues and big-city smart boys: Steven Adler and Slash were Angelinos, Duff McKagan was from Seattle, Axl and Izzy were the hayseeds.

A journalist who was staying with a friend of the band was boiling eggs for breakfast one morning. “Where are the egg cups?” he asked Stuart, AxI’s half-brother, who was also resident. “Egg cups?”

“Yeah, you know, to put the eggs in."

“Er...”

Stuart left the room. The journalist asked his host. She laughed: “Shit, they don’t have egg cups where they come from, they just peel ’em and shove ’em in...”

The pair wised up quickly. By the time of GN’R's first shows at London’s famous Marquee club in Wardour Street, they were prototypical Sunset Strip rockers. I first encountered them during that visit, when one morning they arrived at a building where several noted rock rags were produced. It was shortly after 10am. They stank - a rank mix of booze and sweat and ciggies. Their clothes hadn't come from any stylist; Slash wore trousers that could have walked away on their own; Adler appeared to have vomit on him; Axl’s hair was ratted into a fierce backcomb that he seemed to have been sleeping in for some time. They were already boorishly drunk, swigging from two bottles of Jack Daniel’s that they passed between them.

The reception area of the building was supervised by a sweet lady called Isabelle who wore Marks & Spencer's cardigans but who nonetheless was on nodding terms with Lemmy, Würzel, Crazyhead and other noted London lowlifes. But the sight of Guns N' Roses had sent her into a quick retreat behind her rubber plants. The band were all quite hideous.

But that night they played one of the greatest rock shows London had ever seen. There was not a whiff of small-town about them. This was rock’n’roll writ large. And they rarely looked back as they careered madly through the next five years.

Nonetheless, Lafayette remained a constant. However much he loathes the place, Axl’s time there is a reference point for him, and he seems drawn to people who share his background. When Izzy quit the band in 1991, sick of his school friend's erratic behaviour, he got on a motorbike and headed back East.

“The fucking idea of going back to Indiana!" Rose seethed. “I know how much Izzy hated it. It's pitiful.”

And yet Rose could never quite settle with Izzy's replacement, Gilby Clarke, or, once the gloss wore off, with Slash. Instead, Paul Huge/Tobias, the man who exerts such a sway on Rose, is another Lafayette boy.

Matt Sorum, the drummer who had replaced the addled Adler, offered an insight: “I guess there were times when Axl felt outside of the band, and Paul told him what he wanted to hear.” Sorum also noted that the rest of the band “didn’t feel that Paul was one of us”.

The loyalty of Huge/Tobias came without question. Rose sided with him over Slash, and Slash was gone.

“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.”

Duff McKagan has a similar take on the fracturing effect that Paul Huge had on the band and the resentments that grew and deepened quickly: “The music was going in a direction that was completely indulgent to his friend that he brought in. And another factor is this guy that Axl brought in, and told us: ‘This is our new guitar player.’ Boom! ‘No he’s not,’ I said. Because that would be like me bringing in my buddy and saying: ‘This is the new guy.’ There was no democracy there. And that’s when Slash really started going: ‘Fuck this. What, this is his band now or something?’ So there was this other guy there, and it was ridiculous. To me it was ridiculous. I'd go down there to start rehearsal at 10, and Axl would show up at four or five in the morning. That sort of thing was going on for a couple of years.”

Izzy Stradlin summarised Rose’s decision making, and his Lafayette state of mind: “The guy’s (suddenly] a big fucking rock star, he’s got the chicks lined up, he's got money and he’s got people... and the power went to this guy’s head. I mean, he was a fucking monster, nuts, crazy, and I never saw it coming. I mean, this is my side of it. He’ll probably say I'm completely fucking crazy, but I think he went power mad. Suddenly he was trying to control everything.

“The control issues just became worse and worse, and eventually it filtered down to the band. He was trying to draw up contracts for everybody! And this guy, he’s not a Harvard graduate, Axl. He's just a guy, just a little guy who sings, who’s talented. But man, he turned into this fucking maniac."

Or as Slash told Classic Rock last year: “I really never necessarily fuckin’ just quit because of musical differences. I quit because he is an asshole! I have other things to do and life is too short.” Axl’s response has been measured: “That was their choice to leave,” he said. “Everybody that's gone did it by choice.”

For a project that has been so lavishly funded - $9 million is the oft-repeated figure -and has enjoyed the attentions of so many, remarkably little is known about ‘Chinese Democracy’, the record that is a follow-up to ‘Use Your Illusion I’ and ‘II' (released together in 1991). Rose describes it loosely as “a lot of different sounds. There’s some really heavy songs, there are some really aggressive songs, but they’re all in different styles and different sounds. It is truly a melting pot.”

In Axl’s most publicised - but tellingly brief -interview of his exile, with MTV’s Kurt Loder in 1999, he directly contradicted Slash’s account of the band’s direction, in which the guitarist said he wanted to make a “simple, kick-ass hard rock record,” but which Rose “turned down flat".

Rose told Loder: “I originally wanted to make a traditional record or try to get back to an ‘Appetite...’ thing or something, because that would have been a lot easier for me to do. I was involved in a lot of lawsuits for Guns N’ Roses and in my own personal life, so I didn’t have a lot of time to try and develop a new style or reinvent myself. So I was hoping to write a traditional thing, but I was not really allowed to do that.”

The last split from the past came when Duff McKagan upped and went, resolute in his view that the band should feature as near as dammit the original line-up in order to continue.

“Axl and I were really close, and had some really great talks about it,” he remembered. “But there really wasn’t any doubt for me that the three of us could continue. Nothing was fuckin’ good at that point. As a matter of fact, we've never all got together and shook each other’s hands and said: ‘Look what we fuckin’ did!’ We never had that thing, and that's fucked up.”

According to Rose, the live album ‘1985-1995’ drew a line under the past. He was free to move in whichever direction he chose. And his choice of producers, which has included beat stylists such as Youth and Moby and ultra-traditionalists like Mike Clink (‘Appetite...’) and Roy Thomas Baker (Queen), reflects plenty of attempts to develop a new identity for the singer and his (new) band.

Moby found Rose’s methods hard to grasp. “I found it difficult to chart a linear development of a song they were working on,” he said. “It would be a sketch for a while, and then they would put it aside and go back to it a year, six months later. [Axl] became a little defensive about the vocals. He just said that he would get to them eventually. I wouldn’t be surprised if the record never came out, they’ve been working on it for so long.”

Moby reportedly told Rose that he had a finished album in the can, and that he should release it and move on.

Youth worked on the record in 1998 and 1999. Remarkably, at first he spent a not inconsiderable amount of time edging Rose away from rehearsals for the re-recording of ‘Appetite For Destruction’ - more of which later.

Youth: “I went to his house and we started writing, strumming some guitars in the kitchen. This was a major breakthrough, because it got him singing again, which he hadn’t done for a long time. 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, incredibly committed and passionate.” Among the 70 songs that have now been written, titles like ‘Catcher In The Rye', ‘Oklahoma’, ‘IRS’ and ‘There Was A Time' have been floated. At the Rio shows, the band debuted four songs: ‘Chinese Democracy’, ‘Madagascar’, ‘Silkworms’ and ‘The Blues'.

Few who have heard playbacks are prepared to go on the record with their opinions. However, one former Geffen Records A&R executive, Jim Barber, who worked on the project, did. He said: “The tracks reminded me of 70s Pink Floyd or later Led Zeppelin. There’s nothing out there right now that has that kind of scope. Axl hasn’t spent the last several years struggling to write ‘Use Your Illusion’ over again.”

Rose played Rolling Stone journalist David Wild 12 of the tracks and told him: “So many times I have come down [to the studio] and I had no idea what I was going to be able to. If you are working with issues that depressed the crap out of you, how do you know you can express it?"

All that the listening public has to go on is the song ‘Oh My God’, which featured on the soundtrack of the 1999 Arnold Schwarzenegger turkey End Of Days. While it appeared to have one ear on Nine Inch Nails, it was hardly revolutionary.

When Classic Rock spoke recently to Paul Whitehead, the artist who has been approached to work on a cover for 'Chinese Democracy’, he told us he was taken aback to learn that for the last three months Axl has been working on just one track. Slash, who I spoke to for this piece, was more to the point about Rose’s prevarication: “The more you hide from people, the more you can’t get off your ass.” And Slash should know...

Youth was more circumspect in speaking to the press last year: “It’s partly perfectionism. But the psychology is that if you have something out, you will be judged. So you want to stay in a place where you won’t get judged. Which is why it’s a good sign that he's playing live.”

For his part, Rose has promised: “We’ll be around. I’m not working on all this to keep it buried. We plan on getting out there and doing it right.”

OF COURSE, MANY ALBUMS - INCLUDING some great ones - have gone through a lengthy gestation period: Michael Jackson has only just followed up ‘Dangerous’, released in 1992; Boston waited eight years to release 'Third Stage’; Def Leppard released ‘Pyromania’ in 1983 and ‘Hysteria in 1987’; Peter Green and Scott Walker, two of rock’s more notable recluses, have each waited decades between records; Kate Bush plans a new record next year, her first since ‘The Red Shoes’ in 1993.

Far more curious is Rose’s decision to rehearse and re-record 'Appetite For Destruction’ - one of rock ’n’ roll’s greatest and most important albums - in its entirety. “Well, with the exception of two songs,” Rose told Kurt Loder. “We replaced those with ‘Patience’ and ‘You Could Be Mine’. Why did we do it? "Well, we had to rehearse them anyway to be able to play them live again, and there were a lot of recording techniques and subtle styles and drum fills and things like that that are kind of 80s signatures that subtly could use a little sprucing up... a little less reverb, a little less double bass. Things like that.”

Darker rumours have suggested that the move is a more calculated one: that the new version will be released to kill sales of the original and to deprive the original members of performance royalties. These claims seem outlandish though, and are certainly unrealistic. ‘Appetite...’ has sold 15 million copies in the US alone, and still sells 5-5,000 copies per week 12 years after its release.

Duff McKagan and Slash were unequivocal in their thinking last year.

Duff: “l have nothing to say about that. I just wouldn't have an idea on where to start.”

Slash: “Oh, you don't ask me that particular question. I have nothing but negative things to say about something like that.”

Most likely, re-recording the album that is most closely identified with the original line-up and spirit of Guns N’ Roses is not about financial gain, but rather another demonstration of Axl Rose’s overwhelming urge to control his own history, and of his driven perfectionism.

THE CAREERS OF GUNS N’ ROSES AND W Axl Rose divided in 1993. ‘The Spaghetti Incident', a mediocre album of covers, proved their swansong. It was as if all of the bad karma the band had built up suddenly visited itself upon them. Instead of fist fights, there came litigation - a far more damaging blow. In Los Angeles alone, thousands of documents filed with the courts, containing claims for millions of dollars, pertain to Axl, Slash, Duff, Izzy and Steven Adler. There are also papers in other states, even in other countries.

The tale of the band's dissolution doesn’t need retelling in detail here. Basically, Izzy packed up and went; Adler was fired from a band of heavy drug users for using heavy drugs; Slash hung on until 1996 and Paul Huge; Duff stuck it out for two further years; The band’s original manager, Alan Niven, was paid-off and superseded by his partner, Doug Goldstein.

Rose has taken legal action to secure the rights to the Guns N’ Roses name. Goldstein's company, Big FD Entertainment (it stands for Big Fuckin’ Deal), has sued Slash and Duff for monies owed under a management contract. Slash and Duff have countered.

Izzy Stradlin told Mick Wall about a contract Rose wanted him to sign: “This is right before I left - demoting me to some lower position. They were gonna cut my percentage of royalties down. I was like, fuck you. I've been there since day one, why should I do that? I’ll go and play the Whiskey.” Speaking last year, Slash shed a little light on Rose’s evaluations of each band member’s contributions: “The whole thing with Guns [is that] the five of us had its own weight percentage-wise and everybody is one fifth of the band. Together, all five of us were the band. Axl might not have seen it that way. I know he didn’t see it that way as far as Steven [Adler] was concerned. But he had measurements for Duff and he had measurements for Izzy and he had measurements for me. I don’t give a fuck about that shit... It didn't mean anything, because the sum of the parts is so much stronger than the individuals.”

Recently there have been stories circulating that previous members of the group may challenge Rose’s ownership of the name, which would throw the entire 'Chinese Democracy’ project into further confusion.

Speaking to Classic Rock from Los Angeles at the end of November, Slash moved to defuse the current rumours: “You know, all things considered, how did that [the stories] happen? I’m not really that concerned with that. It’s nothing we all get together and talk about. It’s kind of been blown out of proportion. It goes around. I mean, I see Izzy all the time, I talk to Duff all the time, it's not a concern at this point. Some of that Guns name stuff, it might have come from an interview I gave. They tell me I said something to that effect; I’m like: ‘I did?’”

Personally as well as professionally, Rose has been under siege. He has been divorced by Erin Everly, who accused him of beating her (as did another girlfriend, model Stephanie Seymour). Every sued Rose in 1994 and deposed that he had told her that she and Seymour were sisters in a past life and were trying to kill him.

In 1996 Rose lost his mother, Sharon Bailey, prematurely at the age of 51. His close friend West Arkeen passed away the following year. The insular, complex, sensitive Rose, for all of his controlling impulses, needed propping up. Who wouldn’t? Friends contend that he still feels like a victim, and that he is unfulfilled by all his wealth and success. “He seemed emotionally reserved and a little bit suspicious,” said Moby. “He seemed a little bit like a beaten dog."

Meanwhile, Rose’s interest in new-age philosophies has grown. He began to visit Sharon Maynard in Sedona, and became interested in past-life regression therapy. Erin Everly contends that he told her that they had been “Indians in a past life, and that I had killed my children”. Since then, Axl has admitted losing $72,000 to someone who claimed he would perform an exorcism on him. Many of the people who have been close to Axl and have fought with him are still understanding. For all of his bad points, there are many good ones, too.

“He had this power thing where he wanted complete control,” says Stradlin. “And you can say, well, it goes back to your fucked-up childhood where his dad used to smack him around, you know, and he had no control, so now he's getting it back.”

Erin Everly has said she feels “sorry” for him. For everyone with an ‘Axl is an ogre’ story, there are others with one about a friendly gesture or an invitation to the studio - like the time in 1999 when the frontman of the most Dangerous Band In The World dressed up as a dinosaur to entertain kids at a Halloween party he’d thrown. Even Slash, who has not spoken to Axl in over five years, was conciliatory when we spoke a few weeks ago.

“I hear all of this and... You know, I just wish he’d get the record out and go out and do his thing. Everybody is saying this stuff and... it’s five years since I quit and I’d be dead by now if I hadn’t put something out. You have to take this stuff and roll with the punches.

“You just take each day as it comes, and that’s what I've learned to do. You can't keep blaming people, and I think I’d just like him to get his record out and do his thing and we’ll all just do the same, and move on."

The return of Guns n' Roses at shows in Las Vegas and Rock In Rio in 2001 should have ended Axl Rose’s long exile; it should have helped him move on. Tours were booked. An album sleeve was to be commissioned. Amid generally excellent reviews, Rose even praised his new band from the Rio stage.

“I have no intention, and I never did, of denying you all something you enjoyed. And I thought it was only fair for you to see that this new band can play the fuck out of these songs,” he told the assembled masses. “It’s very hard to ask a musician to learn to play the part or parts played by other musicians before that. These guys here have worked very hard.”

The signs were good, and yet there are very few people who can say that they were surprised when a European tour was cancelled - apparently because Buckethead was ill - and then the rescheduled dates were pulled.

By way of an explanation for the cancellation, Doug Goldstein has issued a statement that might in time rival Motley Crüe’s infamous “snow on the roof" yarn to explain why they pulled out of a show: “Following the euphoria of Rock In Rio, I jumped the gun and arranged a European tour, as our plan was to have the new album out this year. Unfortunately, Buckethead’s illness not only stopped the tour, but it slowed down our progress on ‘Chinese Democracy’. I am very sorry to disappoint our fans, but I can assure them that this is not what Axl wanted, nor is it ‘Another page from the Howard Hughes of rock,’ as some media will no doubt portray it. I made a plan, and unfortunately it did not work out.”

Axl, as usual, is saying nothing at all.
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2002.01.DD - Classic Rock - Inside The Lonely, Mixed-Up World Of W. Axl Rose Empty Re: 2002.01.DD - Classic Rock - Inside The Lonely, Mixed-Up World Of W. Axl Rose

Post by Blackstar on Thu 14 May 2020 - 6:47

[Transcript cont.]
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EVE of Destruction

It was the last face-to-face interview W Axl Rose ever did before the shutters came down for good. Now Classic Rock revisits the original Mick Wall interview from 1990, an incendiary story that resulted in the author being pilloried in the song ‘Get In The Ring’.

THE FOLLOWING INTERVIEW WITH W AXL ROSE TOOK PLACE AT HIS HOME in Los Angeles exactly 12 years ago, during the first week of January 1990. Or, to put it into the context of the Guns N’ Roses story, almost two and a half years since their first album, ‘Appetite For Destruction’, had been released, and precisely 18 months before they would be ready to unleash its long agonised-over follow-up, the extravagant ‘Use Your Illusion I & I' sets; long before Axl had accused me, in ‘Get In The Ring’, from ‘Use Your Illusion II’, of ‘Rippin’ off the fuckin’ kids... printin’ lies, startin’ controversy...' ; back in the days when I was still considered “a friend”, and not, as I later became, the sort of person Axl would wish to 'suck my fuckin' ass!'.

What had I done to win myself such a prominent place in the rogue’s gallery of Axl’s mind? Well, I’ve answered that question before, of course. As I wrote hack in the very first issue of Classic Rock, in 1998: “So Guns N' Roses got some had write-ups in the press. So what? Name one hand anybody’s ever heard of that didn't at some point. The accusation that certain members of the press had made things up is a more serious one, perhaps, hut hardly new. Again, name one star that hasn't made that claim a million times over the years. Did I make things up, though? What for? The whole beauty of writing about Guns N’ Roses then was that there was always so much going on around them - the drugs, the fights, the riots, the hand break-ups and reunions, the models and brat-packers and all the other hangers-on - that you certainly didn’t have to make anything up. Controversy and headlines followed GN’R around like dogs snapping at their cowboy-hooted heels. You simply had to be there to write it all down..."

The reason my name ended up in ‘Get In The Ring' was simply this: I went ahead and published the interview reprinted below. Indeed, so badly did Axl react to the piece when it was first published, he vowed it would be the last ever face-to-face interview he would grant to an outside independent journalist. And it was. From this point on, any writers wishing to talk to the band would be forced to sign a restrictive contract that forbade them from printing anything about Guns N’ Roses that Axl had not already approved first. Needless to say, not one brand new, completely unfettered interview with Axl Rose has emerged in all the years since.

The full, unabridged version of this interview appears in the book I later published - a compilation of all my various Guns N’ Roses interviews between 1987-90, titled The Most Dangerous Band In The World (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1991). What follows is an edited version, zooming in first on the controversial comments about Motley Crüe singer Vince Neil that Axl later denied having made - accusing me, in effect, of making them up - and which earned me my place in his song. It then roves across a range of subjects that have grown strangely more pertinent as the years have crawled by, not least his belief that after the second GN’R album - the then as yet untitled ‘Use Your Illusion’, which was still supposed to be just one double album - there would he a break of “at least five years" before he could even think about working on the next one. Or his then new-found interest in synthesisers and rap music, and his determination to make the band’s music “jump into today"; his surprisingly perfectionist obsession with "getting everything exactly right'' in the recording studio. And last, but most hauntingly, in the light of all that has... not... happened since, his perpetual threat to walk away from it all.

“It doesn’t matter," he keeps telling me. “I could quit tomorrow [but] some band 10 years from now is gonna write a record and we’re gonna be one of their main influences." He certainly got that right.

One last thing before we get to the interview itself; a brief snapshot reminder of how things were at the time. Despite being off the road and effectively ’on ice’ since they’d finished touring with Aerosmith 15 months before, the multi-million sales success of 'Appetite For Destruction' had turned Guns N’ Roses into the biggest, most glamorous living rock hand in the world. But while on the surface it appeared as though all their dreams had come true, in reality the nightmare was just beginning to unravel.

A couple of months before, the band had opened two shows for the Rolling Stones at the massive L.A Coliseum. Their first live performances in over a year, it looked like they might also be their last when Axl announced from the stage on the first night that he was quitting unless “certain members" of the band didn’t stop “dancing with ’Mr Brownstone'" - a barely disguised reference to the increasing heroin problems of drummer Steven Adler and guitarists Slash and Izzy Stradlin. Axl only agreed to return for the second scheduled performance, friends would later confide, “after the others promised they would get their shit together right after the Stones shows..."

All very admirable. All very Axl. But the flame-haired singer was hardly a role model for clean, wholesome living, either. Three months after our interview took place, Axl married his long-standing girlfriend, Erin Everly (as seen in the ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine' video), at Cupid’s Inn in Las Vegas, he filed for divorce just 48 hours later. A month after that he instigated the sacking of Steven from the band.

Axl, it seemed, was having problems with just about everybody...

THE INTERVIEW

I HAD EXPECTED TO SEE HIM AT THE SAME New Year’s Eve party that 1 had been to with Slash and Duff. But Axl, as ever, had other plans. “I don’t think he’s doing anything special tonight,” shrugged Slash. “Axl doesn’t go out a whole lot now...” This was Los Angeles, December 31, 1989 - the very cusp of the 80s and the 90s. It didn’t feel right that the greatest rock star of his generation should be locked away somewhere, out of sight. But as I had already discovered, that was Axl: he was nothing if not contrary.

Then, a couple of nights later, around midnight, just as I was starting to think about bed, the phone rang. To my great surprise it was actually Axl. “Getcha ass over here," he said, or words to that effect. He had something to say, he said. Something that wouldn’t wait. Despite running into him often enough at predictable LA hangouts like the Cat Club and the Rainbow, and despite the numerous stories I had written on Slash and Duff, so far Axl had never managed to stop whatever he was doing long enough for me to catch him on tape. Now this. Suitably intrigued, I got my ass over there.

Axl was at the time living in a small two-bedroom apartment in West Hollywood. He met me at the door dressed simply in faded blue jeans and a baggy grey sweatshirt, the sleeves rolled-up revealing skinny, heavily tattooed arms. His wrists were smothered in silver bangles that clattered noisily every time he moved his hands, which he did a lot, counterpointing every utterance furiously.

He immediately began ranting and raving about Vince Neil, who he claimed had jumped Izzy from behind at the recent MTV awards show (where Axl and Izzy had guested with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers). The argument was over Vince's wife, a former mud-wrestler at The Tropicana, who’d claimed Izzy had hit her after she failed to respond to his advances.

“That’s a crock of shit," Axl scowled, holding a magazine aloft. He read one of Vince’s quotes from it, his voice heavy with sarcasm. “He says: T broke that dick’s nose!’ But Izzy never touched her. If anybody tried to hit on anything, it was her trying to hit on Izzy when Vince wasn’t around. Only Izzy didn’t buy it, so that’s what that’s all about...”

Axl ranted on: “I hate to give Vince Neil or Motley Crüe any credit, you know, but he’s going around saying a bunch of crap and I just want to call him on it. It’s like, he’s a liar and he’s a wimp. And if he wants to do somethin’ - any time, you know? At wherever. Name a place. Bring who you want. I don’t care. Just whenever you wanna do it, man. Let’s just do it. I think it’d be fun.”

He bared his teeth in a smile and looked me in the eye for the first time: “It's like, cos this way I can basically get away with it legally and everything, man. I can have a full-on brawl and get away with it.” He meant, presumably, without being sued for assault. “I don’t know, though, man,

I don't know if I wanna hit the guy with that plastic face," he sneered, referring to Neil’s much rumoured cosmetic surgery. “It’ll cave in...”

Axl sat with his back to the balcony window, an undraped glass wall, the lights of the city twinkling behind his head like some vast dark garden of fireflies. I sat opposite him, an impressive art-deco coffee table planted solidly between us.

“This is the third one I’ve had,” he said, running his hand lovingly across its glass top. What happened to the other two? “I got pissed [off] and smashed 'em," he replied matter-of-factly. Oh...

“I've got this little psycho-ball, it’s just the thing at times like this,” he said, his voice as deep as a well. “Where did it go?” He searched among the empty Coke cans, cigarette packets, magazines and ashtrays that littered the table, then found what he was looking for - a small, apparently harmless rubber ball. He squeezed it, and a loud, wheezing scream filled the room. Axl immediately cheered up. “It’s supposed to be for relieving tension." Another squeeze, another long, nerve-jangling wail. “I use it all the time...”

He didn’t seriously expect Vince to take him up on his offer though, did he? “I’ve no idea what he’ll do,” he muttered sombrely. "I mean, he could wait until I’m drunk in the Troubadour one night, get a phone call and come down and hit me with a beer bottle. But it’s like, I don’t care. Hit me with a beer bottle, dude! Do whatever you wanna do but I’m gonna take you out. I don’t care what he docs, unless he sniper shoots me - unless he gets me like that without me knowing it - I’m gonna take him with me."

What if Vince were to apologise, though? “That would be radical! Personally, I don't think he has the balls to admit he's been lying out of his ass. That would be great, though, if he did, and then I wouldn’t have to be such a dick from then on...”

I said I had heard David Bowie had apologised to him after the much-publicised fracas at a video shoot (for ‘It’s So Easy’) some months before. (Axl had reportedly aimed a punch at the ageing superstar after he appeared to be getting on just a little bit too well with Erin, before having him thrown off the set.)

“Bowie and I had our differences,” he said coolly. “And then we went out for dinner and talked and went to the China Club and stuff. When we left I was like: ‘I wanna thank you. You’re the first person that’s ever come up and said I’m sorry about a situation’.”

It was still strange, though, Axl said, to find himself rubbing shoulders with people he had once been a distant fan of. “When we opened for the Stones, Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton cornered me. And Jagger doesn’t really talk a lot, right? He’s just real serious about everything. And all of a sudden he was like...” (Axl assumed a theatrical Dick Van Dyke cockney) ‘“So you got into a fight with Bowie, didja?” I told him the story real quick and him and Clapton are going off about Bowie in their own little world, saying that when Bowie gets drunk he turns into the Devil from Bromley. I mean, I’m not even in this conversation. I was just sitting there going, wow...

“But Bowie was really cool. We went to this restaurant, Slash and me and Bowie and his girlfriend, and everybody’s getting wasted on wine and stuff. Then Bowie comes around and squats down next to me and starts talking. All of a sudden somebody hit the table and my elbow bumped his cheek, just real lightly. And he goes, ‘OH, FUCK!’ and grabs his eye and jumps up, and the whole restaurant spins round... ladies hiding behind their fuckin’ menus. Then Bowie goes: ‘Just kidding! Just fucking kidding!'

“He was really cool. We started talking about the business, and I never met anybody so cool and so into it and so whacked out and so sick in my life.

I looked over at Slash and went: ‘Man, we’re in fuckin’ deep trouble. I mean, I’m pretty sick but this guy’s just fuckin’ ill!’ And Bowie’s sitting there laughing. Then he starts talking about ‘One side of me is experimental, and one side of me wants to make something people can get into. AND I DON’T FUCKING KNOW WHY! WHY AM I LIKE THIS!?’ I’m, like, thinking to myself, I’ve got 20 more years of... that to look forward to? I’m already like that! Twenty more years? It was heavy, man...”

A XL TOOK A SWIG OF COKE, LIT ANOTHER cigarette and began reflecting on his role as ‘the dictator’ of the band. It was the same with all major bands, though, he said. Look at the Rolling Stones: "Mick is the one that makes it happen. You need somebody being the general, and he does it. He has to do it. Cos the frontman... you don't plan on that job. You don’t want that job. You don't want to be that guy to the [other] guys in the band. But somebody’s got to do it. And the guitar player can’t do it... he can hang his hair down in his face. The frontman has to be communicating with eye contact and hand movements and moving around, directing his energy to that entire audience...! mean, when we did the Stones shows I ran that track, and that was a blast!"

What about his little ’Mr Brownstone' retirement speech - had he really been ready to quit? “That was definite and that was serious... I’m not gonna be a part of watching them kill each other, just killing themselves off. Everybody was pissed at me, but afterwards Slash’s mom came and shook my hand and so did his brother.” But had it worked, though? He nodded his head vigorously: “It way worked, man! Slash is fuckin’ on like a motherfucker right now. And the songs are coming together real heavy. And I’ve written all these ballads, right? But Slash has written all these really heavy crunch rockers...”

Had it largely been the drugs, then, that had delayed the recording? “Partly. But another reason is, the first album was written off Axl coming up with maybe one line and maybe a melody, or how I’m gonna say it or yell it or whatever, OK? And then we’d build a song around it. Or someone came up with one line, OK? On this, Izzy’s brought in eight songs, Slash has brought in an album, I've brought in an album. Duff brought in one song. He said all his in one song. It’s called 'Why Do You Look At Me When You Hate Me?’ and it’s just bad-assed. And I wrote a bunch of words to that..." Which would be added to further, of course, when Axl later changed the title to ‘Get In The Ring'... But neither of us knew that then. Instead, the controversial GN’R song of the moment was still ‘One In A Million' (from 1988’s ‘GN'R Lies’ mini-album). I had listened first to Slash and then Duff struggle to defend that strangely compelling but profoundly unlovable song, with it’s ludicrously offensive lines about ‘Police and niggers’and ‘Immigrants and faggots' who were helping ‘Spread some fuckin’ disease...' What, I wondered, did Axl have to say about it?

He ran a jangling hand through his long, straight hair. ‘“One In A Million'...” He paused. “...There's a lot of things to think about and talk about in that, you know? I used a word [‘nigger’], it’s part of the English language. It’s a derogatory word, a negative word. It's not meant to the entire black race, but it was directed towards black people in those situations. And I wanted to see the effect of a racial joke. I wanted to see the effect that would have on the world. Slash was into it,” Axl added, but we both knew that was untrue. If anything, Slash had been too timid to speak up; unlike Izzy (see Classic Rock 28), who begged the singer not to record it.

“It wasn’t contrived so much as we were trying to grow with it - grow with our thoughts.

It says: ‘Don’t wanna buy none of your gold chains today.’ Now, a black person on Oprah Winfrey who goes ‘They’re putting down black people’ is going to fuckin’ take one of these guys at the bus stop home and feed him and take care of him and let him babysit their kids?” he asked, his face creased disdainfully.

“They ain’t gonna be near the guy, OK? I don’t think a black person is a nigger. I don’t care. I’m like, they’re whatever... I consider myself, like, green and from another planet or something. But it’s like... a black person has this 300 years of whatever on his shoulder. I don’t got nothin’ to do with that! It bores me, too.”

Vernon Reid had plainly not seen the funny side when he talked about it on stage during the Stones shows (where his group Living Colour had preceded GN’R on the bill).

“Vernon Reid was talking about how people make racial jokes, but that it was kind of sad, because you’ll laugh but when you think about it it is sad. But humour... Everybody makes fun of everybody and everything. It's kind of like you go: ‘Well, I can't find a way to be happy, maybe I can find something to laugh at for a moment and take my mind off things. Whether I mean it or not. Just something to laugh at.’ It’s like a double-edged sword a lot of times.”

Was that all ‘One In A Million' was, then - a joke? “The whole song coming together took me by surprise. I mean, yeah, I wrote the song as a joke. Wes [Arkeen, who co-wrote the lyrics for ‘It’s So Easy’] got robbed by two black guys on Christmas night a few years back. He went out [to busk] on Hollywood Boulevard [and] he gets robbed at knifepoint for 78 cents.

“A couple of days later we’re all sittin’ round, watching TV - there’s Duff and me and Wes and a couple of others - and we’re all bummed out, hungover. I'm sitting there pissed off with no money, no job, feeling guilty for being at Wes’s house, sucking up oxygen. And I got hold of this guitar - I can only play, like, the top two strings but I’d been fuckin' around with this little riff. It was the only thing I could play on guitar...”

He explained how they’d all just been watching a video of one of Sam Kinnison’s incendiary live shows. The comedian (who would later release a video of ‘Wild Thing' featuring a clearly wasted Slash) was principally known for his gloriously un-politically correct screaming vocal satire. It was with Kinnison’s deliberately over-the-top exhortations in mind that Axl began fooling with the words for what would become the original, ‘joke’ version of ‘One In A Million’.

“When I said: ‘Police and niggers/That's right', that was to fuck with Wes’s head. Cos he couldn’t believe I would write that, right? And it came out like that, OK? Later on, the chorus came about because I was getting, like, really far away, like ‘Rocket Man’ Elton John, you know? Like in my head. Getting really far away from all my friends and family in Indiana... I realised those people have no concept of who I am any more, even the ones I was close to.” He lingered over his cigarette.

“Since then I’ve flown people out here, had 'em hang out here with me. I’ve paid for everything. But there was no joy in it for them. I was smashing shit, going fuckin' nuts. And they were going: ‘Man, I don’t wanna be a rocker any more if you go through this.’" Axl’s thin scarecrow shoulders shuddered with mirth.

“Back there [in Indiana] I was a street kid with a skateboard and no money who talked about being in a rock band. And now all of a sudden I'm here, you know? And they’re kind of amused, freaked out and all kinds of stuff by their friends putting up Axl posters. It’s just weird to them. Like, they ask why don't I call? It’s like, well, come out here and watch how many times my phone rings.”

He paused again, trying to remember how we had strayed down this back alley. Then he remembered. “So anyway, I came up with ‘We tried to reach you but you were much too high'. I was picturing ’em trying to call me if, like, I disappeared or died or something. The chorus - ‘You're one in a
million’
- someone said that to me once real sarcastically. And it stuck with me. So I put the chorus together and then it fit this other thing. I couldn’t figure out why.

“And Slash plays it much more aggressively -I wanted it a bit rawer. And then Izzy... I was pushing him to come up with a cool tone, and all of a sudden he's coming up with this aggressive thing. It just happened. And suddenly it didn’t work to sing the whole song in a low, funny voice any more." He demonstrated by singing a couple of lines in the original ‘ironic’ country style: ‘“So I thumbed it/Down to Sixth/and LA...’ It just didn’t work, it didn’t sound right... I had to sing it like HURRHHH! Like I'm totally into this. But no, this is just one point of view out of hundreds that I have on the situation.

“A black chick came up to me once in Chicago and goes: ‘You know, I hated you cos of ‘One In A Million”. I’m standing at the bar and I'm like, oh great, another one... Then she goes: ‘But I ride the subway,’ and she got real serious. ‘And I looked around one day and I know what you’re talking about. So you’re all right’. I’ve got a lot of that..."

What about the ‘...spreading some disease’ line, though? I couldn’t imagine any gay people speaking up for that. Axl began to fidget distractedly, and talked vaguely about certain “damaging” experiences he’d had. (It was later alleged that he had suffered from child abuse.) It was clearly not a subject he wished to elaborate on tonight, though. “I don’t defend it,” he growled. “I just record it.”

Was that partly why he gave so few interviews any more? “We’re glad when we get offered different interviews and stuff. But at the same time, you know, we get a bit sick of it, too, seeing our faces all over the place all the time. You don't want so much over-exposure, and so you go, OK, I'm gonna do like one piece - which magazine am I gonna do that in? What audience do I want to hit with what I’m gonna say? Like, if I’m gonna do a Rolling Stone interview, I'm just gonna use a different facet of my personality, cos I figure I'm talking to different people - U2 fans, REM, you know, different crowds. So you do one interview rather than trying to keep on top of [everything]."

The conversation moved on to the subject of the next album. At this stage, the idea, Axl said, was to release “a double record but a single 76-minute CD.” He also talked of recording tracks that wouldn't be on the album, and made available as a succession of EPs, including five special B-sides for various singles, punk covers and the possibility of rerecording ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ as a rap-rock track featuring Ice T. “And then there’s the live record from the tour,” he said matter-of-factly.

Seeing as the band were having so much trouble simply making one album, though, weren’t all these plans a tad... ambitious?

He nodded and smiled: “Oh, yeah. But if we can pull this thing off, if we do this right, it’ll be five years before we have to make another album. And we can have five years to... Not so much like sit on our asses [but] to figure out what we’re gonna say next. After the people figure out how they’re gonna react to this [next] album, and the mental changes we will go through. This record will have seen us grown a lot. There’ll be some childish, arrogant, male, false bravado crap on there, but there’ll also be some really heavy, serious stuff, too.”

So long after ‘Appetite...’ had peaked, though, wasn’t he worried that by the time the next album appeared the backlash might already have begun? (I was wrong there, but only just. The backlash began in earnest exactly six months after the ‘Use Your Illusion' sets were finally released in July 1991 - when Nirvana's ‘Nevermind’ replaced ‘Use Your Illusion II' at the top of the US album chart.)

“But it doesn’t fuckin’ matter," Axl insisted. “This doesn't matter, man. This is too late! If we record the album the way we wanna record this album, it could bomb. But five years from now there’ll be a lot of kids into it. Ten years from now it’ll be an underground thing like early Aerosmith and Hanoi Rocks. Because the material has strong enough lyrical content and strong enough guitar parts, you’ll have no choice. It’ll permeate into people's brains one way or another. Some band 10 years from now is gonna write a record and we're gonna be one of their main influences," he added prophetically.

How conscious was he, then, of his role not just as leader of Guns N’ Roses but of the whole rock nation at that point? Very, he said: “It’s been... shown to me in a lot of ways,” he said, toying with the psycho-ball again. “I didn’t want to accept the responsibility, really. Now I’m kind of into it. Because it’s like, you have a choice, man. You can grow or die, you know? And that’s what we have to do. We have to grow, we can’t do the same sludge. I can't play sludge, man, for fuckin’ 20 years..."

So what was taking so long? “Because everybody got successful, OK? And everybody's had a dream that when they got successful they could do what they want. And so that ends up with Slash bringing in eight songs - and they're bad-assed songs! Meantime, I’m writing these ballads that I feel have really rich tapestries and stuff, and making sure each note is right... It has to be the right note and it has to be held in the right way and it has it have the right effect...”

What? Could the man who wrote the bitch-ass motherfucking songs on ‘Appetite For Destruction’ really be such a perfectionist?

“Sure. What people don’t understand is that there was a perfectionist attitude to ‘Appetite For Destruction’. There was a definite plan to that. We could have made it all smooth and polished with [original producer] Spencer Proffer, [but] it was too fuckin’ radio. That’s why we went with [eventual producer] Mike Clink. It just didn’t gel having it too tight and concise. We knew this. Cos Guns N‘ Roses on stage, man, can be out to lunch. You don’t know what to expect. But how do you get that on record? That’s why recording is my favourite thing, because it’s like painting a picture. You start with a shadow, or an idea, and you come up with something that’s a shadow of that. You might like it better. It’s still not exactly what you pictured in your head, though.”

Touring was a much more fraught proposition, he said. “Nine times out of 10, before the gig I’ll always not wanna do the fuckin' show and hate it. I mean, I love it when I'm psyched, you know, let’s go! But most of the time I’m, like, mad about something: something always happens and I react like a motherfucker to it. I don’t like this pot-smoking mentality.” He sucked in his cheeks. “Like, peace and love, motherfucker, or you're gonna die! I’m gonna kick your ass if you fuck with my garden, you know? I like that attitude more.”

Did the fame make it worse, though -knowing he could act up and (usually) get away with it? “No, I’ve always been that way. But now I'm in a position to just be myself more. The thing is, people allow me to do it, whether they like it or not.”

Did he take advantage of it, though? “No. No, usually I'm just an emotionally unbalanced person,” he chuckled darkly. “Maybe it’s chemical, I don’t know... I’m usually an emotional wreck before a show anyway, because of something else that’s going on in my life. Like, I finally found William Rose, OK?” he said, referring to the father Axl did not know about until he was a teenager named William Bailey (the surname was his stepdad’s). “Turns out he was murdered in '84 and buried in seven miles of strip mining in Illinois. I found that out, like, two days before a show, and I was whacked, right? It was fuckin’ gnarly...”

He paused, exhaled. “I was trying to uncover this mystery ever since I was a little kid, you know? Cos as a kid I was always told that it was the Devil that made me know what the inside of a house looked like that I supposedly never lived in. But I knew. I knew I’d lived in this house when I was a little kid... So I’ve been trying to track down this William Rose guy. Not like, I love this guy, he’s my father, I just wanted to know about my heritage - what my hereditary traits might be. You know, I wanted to know...”

I asked if he knew how his father had died. “No. But it was probably, like, at close range, man," he deadpanned. “Wonderful family, man. Just wonderful...”

Axl’s thoughts eventually returned to plans for the next album. He talked of “trying to find Jeff Lynne” of ELO to score some string arrangements for his new ballads. “I'm an old ELO fanatic,” he enthused. ‘“Out Of The Blue’ is an awesome record." One new song, in particular, Axl felt, called ‘November Rain', would be perfect for that sort of treatment: “I might be using a synthesiser, too,” he confided. “I’m not gonna say I'm using a synthesiser and what I programmed. I just want to... jump into today."

Talk of Jeff Lynne also prompted some reminiscences about the kind of music Axl had been influenced by as a teenager. Asked off the cuff to name three tracks that meant something deep to him back then, he surprised me by citing Elton John’s ‘Benny And The Jets’ (“Early Elton John is the baddest!’’), Led Zeppelin's ‘D’Yer Maker’ (“And that got me into heavy rock”), and, most unexpected of all, lOcc’s ‘I’m Not In Love’ (“So nonchalant, so cool...”).

IT WAS NOW VERY LATE AND THE conversation was winding down. Axl's mind was still working overtime, though, ready to pounce on anything that moved. Cheap Trick’s ‘In Color' album came wafting out of the speakers and his mood swung again. He was “pissed,” he said, because Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen had told Rolling Stone that he “decked Slash. He didn't deck Slash,” Axl snorted. Cue another long rant about wanting an apology in the press. It seemed like the conversation had come full circle...

In an effort to try to leave things on a better note, I mentioned the then recent news that US Marines had dug General Noriega out of his diplomatic hidey-hole in Panama by blasting Guns N' Roses tunes at him out of speakers assembled on the hoods of their tanks. “If I’d known he was gonna turn himself in, I would have been there!” he grinned. “I wanted to go down there and stand in one of the tanks with the troops.”

It still being that time of year, I enquired whether he'd had a good Christmas and New Year.

He brayed like a donkey: “I had the worst Christmas and New Year’s in my life, man! I’m in a good mood tonight cos it’s fuckin’ over and I fuckin’ lived through it. I fuckin’ hibernated, didn't see anybody. People say that’s wrong. But it wasn't wrong, it worked really good for me.

“Then last night I had, like, eight people here and I was in shock! Immediately, it was, like, all heavy talk - this happened with my family, this happened with my girlfriend, dah dah dah... It was just heavy. Heaviness all round.” He looked bemused. “So tonight I’m just, like, ready to sit back and relax. I'm happy because today everything's under control. Tomorrow it’s fuckin’ over. Something's gonna happen, you know?”

And when it did... He had often threatened to simply quit - not just the band, but the whole music business. Could Axl really leave all this behind now, though? Not just financially, but artistically, spiritually, emotionally, even? Could he really ever just... walk away?

“If I wanted to badly enough,” he nodded.

“This is all right, in bits and pieces, but whether it'll take up all the chapters in the book of my life I don’t know. But I’ll write in bits and pieces for the rest of my life. I'll always do that. But I would also like to record for a long time. And... I have to make this album. Then it doesn't matter. This album is the album I’ve been waiting on since before we got signed. I mean, we were planning out the second album before we started work on the first one...

“As much as it means to me, yeah, if it bombed or whatever I’m sure I’d be bummed business-wise, but at the same time it doesn’t matter. It’s like, I got it out there, you know? So what? That’s the artistic thing. And then I could walk away...”


Last edited by Blackstar on Thu 14 May 2020 - 18:56; edited 1 time in total
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2002.01.DD - Classic Rock - Inside The Lonely, Mixed-Up World Of W. Axl Rose Empty Re: 2002.01.DD - Classic Rock - Inside The Lonely, Mixed-Up World Of W. Axl Rose

Post by Blackstar on Thu 14 May 2020 - 6:48

There are so many problems with this feature.

The first article, titled "Gunners in gig shocker!", includes quotes from an interview with Slash, conducted for the magazine in late November 2001.

Other quotes from the same Slash interview are included in the piece on Axl, titled "Mad Bad And Dangerous To Know?" I find this piece to be poorly researched and written - a sloppy mash-up of other sources which, with the exception of  interviews that were published in the same magazine, are not referenced (a big part of it is apparently lifted from the "Axl Rose: The Lost Years" article in Rolling Stone). Apart from the new Slash interview, there are quotes from an earlier interview with Slash in Classic Rock that we don't have (I have ordered the magazine). There are also quotes from a Duff interview that I don't recognize.

Then there is another edition of Axl's interview with Mick Wall in 1990, with a new introduction by Wall, where he brags that he was the last "outside" journalist to ever interview Axl face-to-face (which isn't true).
The interview as was published in Kerrang, as well as the "unedited" version of it that was included in Mick Wall's 1991 book have been posted and discussed here:
https://www.a-4-d.com/t536-1990-04-21-28-kerrang-stick-to-your-guns-axl
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