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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.



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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 6:57 am


- 1996-2001: AXL AND SLASH

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 7:01 am


With the release of 'Oh My God' media was asking if this song would represent the new style of Guns N' Roses, and Doug Goldstein would comment:

It’s not entirely indicative of what the album’s going to be. It’s a song that seemed to fit the movie. You know how diverse Axl’s always been.

Goldstein would further state that the record should be out in 2000 and that it would be called 'Chinese Democracy" [Los Angeles Times, November 7, 1999]. According to Goldstein, the name had been clear for "at least six weeks" [Rolling Stone, November 9, 1999].

Axl would explain the title:

Well, there's a lot of Chinese democracy movements, and it's something that there's a lot of talk about, and it's something that will be nice to see. It could also just be like an ironic statement. I don't know, I just like the sound of it..

Discussing the process and material:

We've been working on, I don't know, 70 songs.

The record will be about, anywhere from 16 to 18 songs, but we recorded at least two albums' worth of material that is solidly recorded. But we are working on a lot more songs than that at the same time... in that way, what we're doing is exploring so, you know, you get a good idea, you save it, and then maybe you come back to it later, or maybe you get a good idea and you go, "That's really cool, but that's not what we're looking for. Okay, let's try something new." You know, basically taking the advance money for the record and actually spending it on the record. […] and I don't want to be in a situation again where I have to depend on other people and have [to] start all over. So we have material that we think is too advanced for old Guns fans to hear right now and they would completely hate, because we were exploring the use of computers [along with] everybody really playing their ass off and combining that, but trying to push the envelope a bit. It's like, "Hmm, I have to push the envelope a little too far. We'll wait on that." So we got a list of things.

It's a lot of different sounds. There's some other really heavy songs, there's a lot of aggressive songs, but they're all in different styles and different sounds. It is truly a melting pot.

I go back to listening to Queen -- you know, we're still hoping to have Brian May come in and do some tracks, and I got a fax today that he's coming in -- Queen had all kinds of different-style songs on their records, and that's something that I like. 'Cause I do listen to a lot of things, and I really don't like being pigeonholed to that degree, and it's something that Guns N' Roses seem to share [with Queen] a bit. With "Appetite," even though it seems to have the same sound, if you really go back, you can pull all the little parts from different influences. That's not really the case by the time we're on "Use Your Illusion." People are kind of set in their ways. ["Chinese Democracy"] is coming from all over the place.

With Robin recently having left the band to rejoin Nine Inch Nails, they were again working with different guitarists:

What we're doing is we're rehearsing with different guitar players, and we're still recording.

Because of this, media would speculate the release date would again be postponed because Robin's guitar tracks had to be replaced [Metal Hammer, September 1999]. Although Axl would seem to deny this in November:

[…] we will be continuing to look for and or decide who the official new guitar player will be, but it's not that important to the band at this time, as that person's not really needed. There's not a whole lot for them to do at this time in regards to recording, as we've recorded [a] majority of material.

Axl was also in the process of adding vocals, and would say this was challenging:

I'm doing the vocals. I'm about three-quarters of the way through, and it's a very difficult process for me.

I write the vocals last, because I wanted to invent the music first and push the music to the level that I had to compete against it. That's kind of tough. It's like you got to go in against these new guys who kicked ass. You finally got the song musically where you wanted to, and then you have to figure out how to go in and kick its ass and be one person competing against this wall of sound.

Why I chose to do it that way is that, you know, I can sit and write poetry 'til hell freezes over, and getting attached to any particular set of words... I felt that I would write to those words in a dated fashion, and we really wouldn't get the best music. "Oh My God" is a perfect example. When we finally got "Oh My God" where it needed to be, then I got the right words to it. With "Appetite," I wrote a lot of the words first, but in, like, "Oh My God," I wrote the words second, but the music was written like "Appetite." We kept developing it until it we got it right. [With] "Appetite," everything had been worked on, and worked on, and worked on. That was not the case with "Use Your Illusion"

And talking about his guitar playing:

It's all right. I just wanted to be good enough to be able to contribute what was needed to this main album.

As for when the album could be out:

We're hoping [early next year]. Yes, definitely, everything seems to be going well. Robin's departure was abrupt, sudden, you know, not expected....

As for having some hip hop guys work with the music:

No, we haven't done anything like that. It's been thought of, but it's kind of [like] we would really be wasting somebody else's time, as we're trying to figure out how to develop this ourselves. Maybe if it were to get closer to, say, mastering or mixing, maybe there could be something someone else could add to it.

And as for touring or doing single shows in the near future:

Nah. […] Nah! […] Na-nah-na-nah! [Laughs].

As for future recording and overall plans:

I'm not working on all this to keep it buried. We plan on getting out there and doing it right. The new guys are a lot of fun, and like I say, we will be continuing to look for and or decide who the official new guitar player will be, but it's not that important to the band at this time, as that person's not really needed. There's not a whole lot for them to do at this time in regards to recording, as we've recorded [a] majority of material.

In November 1999, Axl would also do an interview with Rolling Stone magazine who asked if the next record would come out sometime in the twenty-first century:

Yes, I think that would definitely be the right time.
Rolling Stone, February 3, 2000; interview from November 1999

And explaining one of the reasons why it is taking so long was that Axl had to "educate [himself" on new technologies:

It's like from scratch, learning how to work with something and not wanting it just to be something you did on a computer.
Rolling Stone, February 3, 2000; interview from November 1999

Doug Goldstein would answer with a little more detail:

As far as I can tell, we are now 99% musically done and 80% vocals done. I see the record being done Feb or March for a summer release.
Rolling Stone, February 3, 2000; interview from November 1999

After years and years of trying to work with his old band mates, it's taken [Axl] quite some time to get the unit he now has together. Along the time we were trying to put it together with the other fellas, I certainly had my doubts. But now he has a group of guys that he appears to be friends with, and it's a very cohesive unit, which wasn't necessarily the case in the past. Everything I've heard is spectacular. It's exciting and diverse and - I think - absolutely well worth the wait.
Rolling Stone, February 3, 2000; interview from November 1999

Rolling Stone got to listen to almost a dozen new songs, although Axl wasn't entirely finished with all of them. The magazine would also list some of the song titles:

Song after song combines the edgy hard rock force and pop smarts of vintage Guns N Roses with surprisingly modern and ambitious music textures. In addition to the album's almost grungy title track, tentative song titles include ''Catcher in the Rye,'' ''I.R.S,'' ''The Blues'' and ''TWAT,'' which [Axl] says stands for ''there was a time.''
Rolling Stone, February 3, 2000; interview from November 1999

Axl also played for them a song called 'Oklahoma' which was in an instrumental form and had been inspired by Axl's litigation with Stephanie Seymour:

I was sitting in my litigation with my ex-wife, and it was the day after the bombing. We had a break, and I'm sitting with my attorneys with a sort of smile on my face, more like a nervous thing - it was like, 'Forgive me, people, I'm having trouble taking this seriously.' It's just ironic that we're sitting there and this person is spewing all kinds of things and 168 people just got killed. And this person I'm sitting there with, she don't care. Obliterating me is their goal.
Rolling Stone, February 3, 2000; interview from November 1999

This means that by the end of 1999, the following song titles had been mentioned in various articles: Prostitute, Cock-a-roach Soup, This I Love, Suckerpunched, No Love Remains, Friend Or Foe, Zip It, Something Always, Hearts Get Killed, Closing In On You, Catcher in the Rye, I.R.S., Oklahoma, and There Was A Time.

In 2005, Craig Duswalt, Axl's former personal assistant, would discuss having heard most of Chinese Democracy, in its current state, while on a dinner party with Axl and Brian May:

I heard most of the tracks back in 1999 at a dinner at Axl's house with Brian May of Queen - he was adding some guitar tracks. The songs were phenomenal.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 7:02 am


In late 1999 a tribute record to Appetite for Destruction would be released:

While KISSonline issued a track listing for the Guns N' Roses remix album Appetite for Reconstruction indicating songs covered by a variety of bands including Union, Quiet Riot, Bang Tango, L.A. Guns, and Bulletboys in fact these tracks were recorded by the singers of these bands, not the bands themselves. Tracii Guns laid down all the guitar tracks, and vocalists including John Corabi ("Rocket Queen"), Kevin DuBrow ("Welcome to the Jungle"), Joe LeSté ("Nighttrain"), Jizzy Pearl ("Sweet Child O' Mine"), Phil Lewis ("My Michelle"), Marq Torien ("Out ta Get Me"), Taime Downe ("It's So Easy"), Kelly Hansen ("Anything Goes"), Steve Summers ("Think About You"), and Kory Clarke ("Paradise City") contributed the vox, and then the tracks were handed over to various remixers including Pigface, KMFDM, and Die Krupps. The album will be out October 12.
Metal Edge, Sept. 24, 1999

The track list would be:

1. Welcome To The Jungle - Quiet Riot (Pigface remix)
2. Rocket Queen - Union (Sigue Sigue Sputnik remix)
3. It's So Easy - Faster Pussycat
4. Nightrain - Bang Tango (Astralasia remix)
5. My Michelle - LA Guns (KMFDM remix)
6. Think About You - Pretty Boy Floyd (Die Krupps remix)
7. Out Ta Get Me - The Bulletboys (Meeks remix)
8. You're Crazy - Love/Hate (Spahn Ranch remix)
9. Paradise City - Warrior Soul (Sheep On Drugs remix)
10. Mr. Brownstone - Bang Tango (Rosetta Stone remix)
11. Anything Goes - Hurricane (Electric Hellfire Club remix)
12. Sweet Child O' Mine - Warrior Soul (Ex-Voto remix)
13. Welcome To The Jungle - Quiet Riot (Interface remix)

Appetite for Reconstruction
October 1999

Slash would later tell a story about the album:

I have an interesting anecdote to tell you on this topic: one day, a barman in New-York told me how much he loved Guns N’ Roses and asked a friend to buy Appetite For Destruction for him so I could autograph it. When the friend came back, he handed me this Appetite For Reconstruction that you mentioned. I hallucinated when I took a look at the credits and realised that all the washed-up has-beens of the West Coast, the losers, the ex-somebodys were all gathered on this shitty record! (laughs) Even Tracii Guns plays on most of the tracks. Fuck, this album is basically the record all these guys dreamed of making one day! So I didn’t even bother listening to these covers. It can only be crap anyway. It’s really fucked up. I don’t feel honored or flattered whatsoever. It’s all about money.
Hard Rock (France), October 2000; translated from French


In 2002 another tribute album would be released, with a very similar track list and artists as the one from 1999:

Here are the full track listing and vocalist credit details for the forthcoming Guns N Roses tribute album, due for release from Deadline Records on April 30.
You're Crazy - Stevie Rachelle
It's So Easy - Fred Coury
Welcome To The Jungle - Kevin DuBrow
My Michelle - Phil Lewis
Sweet Child O Mine - Jizzy Pearl
Paradise City - Kory Clarke
Mr. Brownstone - Joe Leste
You Could Me Mine - Mitch Malloy
Used To Love Her - John Corabi
Don't Cry - Spike
Patience - John Corabi
Civil War - Christina Kartsonakis
Melodic Rock, March 29, 2002


In 2005, yet another tribute album was in the works:

Versailles Records is presently completing work on a forthcoming millennium tribute to GUNS N' ROSES, which will feature current and former members of MÖTLEY CRÜE, GUNS N' ROSES, FASTER PUSSYCAT, RATT, SCORPIONS, LOVE/HATE, L.A. GUNS, BRIDES OF DESTRUCTION, THE SCREAM, UNION, ADLER'S APPETITE and THRILLS FOR KILLS, as well as Jasy Andrews, Richard Kendrick, THE ISSUES, Ross Stevens of STRAITJACKET SMILE, Andrew Walker of DRAMA QUEEN DIE, John Spinner, and Corey Craven. Release is set for late summer 2005 in the U.S., and a licensing deal has been secured with Netherlands-based Mascot-Provogue Records.
Blabbermouth, January 27, 2005

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 7:04 am

LATE 1999

To tell the truth, [Izzy] visited Axl's house about two weeks ago. […] Yes, he did visit there. But somebody told him that Axl is not home, answering over the interphone at the gate. First he said "Wait a minute" and he came back and said "He is gone." Izzy said "OK" and went back. There is always emotional thing with GN'R. At least the old GN'R.
Burrn! Magazine, December 1999; translated from Japanese

Axl would likely reference this episode in an interview he did with Rolling Stone magazine in November 1999:

[Axl] casually mentions that a while back his security camera caught an unannounced visit by Izzy Stradlin to his front gate, but quickly adds that he had no interest in getting together with the old school buddy and former collaborator, whom he originally followed to Los Angeles from Indiana.
Rolling Stone, February 3, 2000; interview from November 1999

Izzy himself would say he did this regularly but after they had had a fall out over the phone in 1995 [see previous section], Axl would not see him again:

Since then, regularly, I go to his house to have a laugh: I ring his doorbell and there's always someone to tell me that he's not there!

I was traveling on my motorcycle and I passed by his house, so I thought about knocking and seeing him. No one answered. I don’t know if he was home or not.
Popular 1 (Spain), July 2001; translated from Spanish

Dizzy would also comment on this:

Yea... he's always doing that- he'd done it a few times actually.

And on whether he does it because he wants to rejoin Guns N' Roses:

No... I mean I'm not sure... the guy sort of just does his own thing... he did join us back during the Use Your Illusion tour briefly... Gilby had hurt himself and so he stepped in for a couple of dates... I mean, the guy's really weird is the best way to describe it... in '91, we were playing some shows in England... like one day we were having the times of our lives playing a sold-out Wembley and the next day... I talk to Izzy and he's like: "I'm leaving the band" and I'm like "what!?" and he's like: "Dizzy... I'm leaving the band." I personally don't understand him to any extent.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 7:31 am

LATE 1999

GN'R's management company, Big F D Entertainment (headed up by Doug Goldstein) is suing former bandmembers Slash (Saul Hudson) and Duff McKagan (Michael McKagan) for what Big F D says are monies owed, according to papers dated December 14 and filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. The suit claims that the pair is in debt to the company to the tune of at least $400,000.

Slash's lawyer, Zia Modabber, told MTV News that the guitarist's contract with Goldstein ended some time ago and that the manager isn't owed anything. The lawyer added that Slash intends to vigorously defend himself in court.

The filed documents include a copy of Goldstein's contract, which covers not only the bandmembers' work with GN'R, but also the individual members' solo projects. The contract appears to be valid for either a term of three-years or until the last day of the next GN'R tour cycle, which ever comes last. The three-year period appears to have started in October of 1992 and ended in October of 1995.

GN'R released its last original product, the "Use Your Illusion" album set, in 1991, and the group last toured in 1993.

The key issue apparently lies with the definition and timeline of the term "tour cycle." Big F D legal counsel Bert Deixler told MTV News there's a new Guns N' Roses record on the way (presumably "Chinese Democracy," the project Axl Rose first mentioned to MTV News' Kurt Loder in November of last year) that will give rise to a GN'R tour, and that when that tour is over, the contract will expire.

Slash left the group in 1996 and was followed by McKagan in 1998. Rose retained the rights to the Guns N' Roses name and has assembled a new band that will be using that moniker. According to the documents filed last month, the band is expected to finish recording this spring and will start touring in the summer or fall.

McKagan is also accused of breaching the management contract by hiring independent managers in 1997 and again in 1999, although Slash's manager, Tom Maher, is not referenced in the documents. Maher declined to comment for this story, and McKagan's current manager, Katrina Sirdofsky, was not immediately available.

Slash commented on the lawsuit and took a dig at Axl:

[Axl] hasn't changed. His management company, Big FD Entertainment, just filed a lawsuit against Duff and me. They claim we should have paid them for the work they did on releasing Live Era, even though they didn't do much. They supposedly took care of the promotion, but their press campaign was in fact non-existent, at least for the period of time where we hired personal managers without going through them.
hard Rock (France), 2000; translated from French

In 2015, Doug Goldstein would claim he couldn't remember this lawsuit and say it was a shameful thing to do:

Well, you know what, I absolutely have zero knowledge of that. If I did that shame on me. [...] You know, it's I mean, it's sad to say I actually have zero knowledge of that. [...] You know Mitch, in all fairness, I think I would have had to know. I mean [?] is not gonna just do that without my knowledge. I just don't recall doing that. I mean, and again, shame on me, those guys were my family. I love them. So I can only say that I must have been hurt over something. And I get to that end, Mitch, you know what, I mean, I would love, absolutely love, to sit with Slash and Duff at some point, and Axl - in a different meeting obviously - but I would love to sit with those guys and dispel some of the shit that they think about me. Again, they were and continue to be my family. I love those guys and there's nothing in the world that I wouldn't have done for them.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 7:32 am


In February 2000, Rolling Stone magazine would write about the various musicians that had been connected to Guns N' Roses in recent years, and mention "cult hero Buckethead" [Rolling Stone, February 3, 2000] and in March, it would be reported that Buckethead, real name Brian Carrol, had indeed recorded with the band but that he wasn't necessarily the band's new lead guitarist [MTV News, March 15, 2000].

It was Josh who set Buckethead up with GN'R after Axl had mentioned his name in the studio:

I sat Guns N' Roses up with Buckethead. I introduced Buckethead to them. [...] When I finally re-tracked him down -- I hadn't talked to him for five years -- the joke I had with Axl is that no matter who you mentioned, I knew. It became an ongoing joke, he'd go, "Yes, so my first girlfriend, Linda, that I met back in Indiana when I was 14", and I'd go, "Oh yeah, I know Linda!" It got that weird almost, so he, "Yeah, sure kid, you know everybody". When Robin Finck had left to rejoin Nine Inch Nails, we were looking for a guitar player and we had auditioned a few people, and we weren't really sure what we would do, and one day I walked into the studio and Axl goes, "Buckethead! Do you know him?" And I go, "I've known him since '91, man!"

Bucket was playing with us in Primus, and I think this was like maybe the fifth or sixth year of Primus, and Bucket came in towards the end, and I think we kind of knew it was the end. I mean, it was kind of the elephant in the room type thing. It was just like... Okay, we're in Australia, we're gonna finish this tour, and then that's probably it. It was that kind of a feel. And Bucket had just done the Oz Fest with us. That's where he met Ozzy and Sharon and Jack or whatever. And then around that time, we're like, we gotta go to Australia, but we weren't gonna take Bucket. I think it was just financially, it wasn't gonna work out. So Bucket was like at home, and I think Josh, within Guns N' Roses at that point, Josh Freese, and Josh new Bucket because of the whole Disneyland connection and I think in his dad was the musical director, Josh's dad was the musical director at Disneyland, and then um... Bucket was always a huge, you know, Disneyland fan and all that so they had known each other and he was like, "Hey," you know, "we're looking for a guitar player for Guns N' Roses" [...].

Josh then tracked Buckethead down:

And [Axl]'s like, "I knew you'd know him! How do we get hold of him?" "I haven't talked to him in a while but last I heard he was hanging up in San Francisco with the Primus crew. Let me call my buddy Dave, the manager of Primus, Dave Lefkowitz." So I called Dave and "Yeah, I've seen him around," so I got his phone number. The first thing I asked was, "Do you think Buckethead would even be into this, he's such a quirky, weird, artiste?" And Dave goes, "Yeah, I think he is tired of the starving artist routine, I think he is ready to make a living."

Josh would then call Buckethead:

It's funny, but when I talked to Buckethead on the phone the first time I was, "Oh yeah, man, they were asking about you the other day and I was going, 'Shit yeah man, I know Brian, I've known Brian for since like '90, man, I've known Brian for a long time,'" and he goes, "Hey, when you talk about me, you don't say like 'Brian this and Brian that' do you?" I'm like, "No, no, no. What did I say? Did I say that? No, no, no, I said Buckethead." I'm like, " Holy shit! He is freaking out on me for for humanizing him too much!" Because I kind of knew him as Brian, too, like when I first met him I used to call him Brian-

Buckethead came to audition:

He kinda jammed with Guns N' Roses two or three times before he kinda got the job. He played and had a call back and came back again.

According to Brain, Axl had liked Buckethead's eccentricities:

Axl were on the other side [to Ozzy who couldn't accept Buckethead's mask and bucket], Axl was into it, you know. Axl wanted him to wear that thing and wanted it to be around the band.

Before one of his auditions, Buckethead, who was a huge Disneyland fan and wanted to get hired to play there [see next chapter], had been nervous:

A long story short: [Buckethead] was really nervous one night, and I told my dad, like, "Dad, you should really come up and meet some of the guys tonight, meet Axl and..." My dad had got in a car accident a few months prior to that, and Axl sent this really nice...kinda as a nice gesture and as a joke -- 'cause he is a funny dude -- he sent this nice, like giant, expensive skateboard and signed it, and made some joke about, "Hey, maybe you should try riding this for a while," or, you know, something... some joke about the car or whatever. It was a nice skateboard. So I was like, "Dad, you should come up and meet Axl... and meet Buckethead, he is such a huge Disney freak." And Bucket knew my dad was Mr. Disney Entertainment guy. So that night, Buckethead was up there, and he was, we were going to do some more playing, "Man, I am really nervous, I'm really nervous about playing tonight," and I said to him, I go, "Dude, you are all good, you practically got the gig already. You wouldn't be asked to come down a fourth time." "No, no, not so much that! You're dad's there and he hires the music artists at Disney [?]!" [...] It was funny. "Oh, you're worried about my old man? That hires people out of the park? Okay."

Brain would later recall Buckethead's reaction upon being asked to join Guns N' Roses:

[...] I think, we were just doing a random tour with Primus, it was, like, for the Rhinoplasty album or something, and Josh had called Bucket and said, "Hey dude," you know, "I think you should try," you know, "try out for Guns," and Bucket was like, "Oh, okay," you know. And then I guess he had met, you know, like, he went and met with Axl, hung out, did some stuff with them and Axl was, you know, like, saying he wanted to change the sound more like, you know, like a different sound and do some different shit and Bucket was super into it. And Bucket was just like, "Man, this is rad!" you know, "it's like so crazy," like, you know, "he's so rad!" and this is, like, all this... you know, like, "It could be really cool." And I was like, "Oh, that's awesome!" you know, "Josh is a great drummer, it's going to be good for you," type of thing.

In April 2000, Buckethead would call Brain and ask him to audition for Guns N' Roses too, and mention that he was at the time auditioning for the band himself, suggesting that Buckethead wasn't a full member at this time [Vic Firth Spotlight, May 2006; and see later chapter about Brain becoming a member of the band].

Buckethead's involvement with the band would finally be confirmed in October 2000 [MTV News, October 27, 2000].

Later it would be revealed that Axl's original idea had been to get Richard Fortus to join the band, but changed his mind after watching Buckethead perform:

Actually, I first got a call like three years ago, but before that audition happened, Axl saw Buckethead play, and he decided to go with him instead.

It's funny because 2 years before [I joined the band], I had gotten a call to come in and audition for them. This was before I knew Tommy. I had gotten a call to audition, but then Buckethead got the gig before I came out. I was scheduled to come out and audition. They called and said, Yeah, we want to fly you out this week. I was going to be there anyway doing sessions, so I could do it at that time. They said, Perfect. I didn't hear back from them, so I just figured, Well, it must not be happening. I got out to do the session, and Tommy Stinson and Josh Freese were on the session that I was doing for Yoshiki, ironically enough. So I said, Hey, I was supposed to come and audition for you guys this week. They were like, Yeah! You're the guy! Well, Axl found this guy Buckethead and we just stopped doing auditions. Axl was convinced with Buckethead, so it was no problem. No big deal. A few years later another guitar player left, so that's when I got the call.

In December Buckethead would talk about how he ended up in the band:

There was this Leatherface doll that Spencers-type stores put out, it's pretty large and puffy, it was on the top of the list. Didn't receive it from the family. Got invited to Axl's on Christmas night; never met him before. Sad about not getting the doll but it is ok, but still sad. Get to Axl's, he presents this box wrapped up. The Michael Myers version has been out for a while, knew it was the same box. Figured it was Michael Myers and opened it up. There was Leatherface. In the brain joined that second.

[Axl] must understand me somehow.

Brain would say he had heard that Bckethead signed the contract with Axl at Disneyland, while they were doing the Haunted Mansion ride:

You know,  [Buckethead] loved Disneyland. He signed his contract with Axl at Disneyland. [...] I think Axl went to Disneyland and they signed on the Haunted Mansion, I think as he was on the ride he signed the contract.

Buckethead in concert
July 1999, Ozzfest

Later there would be rumours that Buckets was really Slash in disguise, and Axl would comment on these rumours:

Yeah, many people have thought that [=Buckethead is Slash]. And I guess on the Internet sometimes, you know, there are polls or questionnaires, and one of the bets has always been that it’s really Slash. I think that’s funny. And that was before I knew Buckethead, people guessed that he might be Slash because of the hair and the look.

Matt would also tell a story about Slash being upset people thought he was Buckethead:

But you know, Slash is so passive of a guy that most of the time I ever saw him upset was when he came to rehersal one day [with Velvet Revolver] and said, "Someone thought I had changed my hat and now I'm wearin' a bucket on my head... [laughter] Someone thought that you were wearing a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket on your head. [laughter]  "Hey man! That's a cool hat!" It was like, dude, that's not me.

Duff and Slash would later discuss Buckethead:

Buckethead is great for like prog rock, he's a pretty amazing guitar player, but kind of a circus you know?

I’ve heard he’s a really accomplished guitar player. Very technically, you know, fluent. [...] He’s not a rock guy, you know. [...]  I have heard a couple of pieces of music from Buckethead, and it’s technically proficient but doesn’t have any heart, you know? [...] You know, it’s like, if somebody picks up the guitar, and has the balls to really come from the heart and expose himself emotionally on the instrument, you can tell, you can feel it.

An interviewer would mention to Slash that Dave Mustaine had once stated that "Buckethead is probably twice as good a guitar player as me and Slash combined, and can stand having fried chicken rubbed up against his face all night for a couple of hours", to which Slash responded:

Well, that is actually true. Anybody who knows me knows that technically I couldn't play my way out of a paper bag. [Laughs] Or a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket, for that matter. I manage to do what it is I do based on a certain kind of feel and sound. I'm getting better at it but I've never been what you'd call a technical guitar player so he's totally right [laughs].

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 7:34 am


Of course there are all kinds of aspiring guitar wizards out there (although probably none within pick-flicking distance of this guy). But what sets Carroll decisively apart from the pack is the outré "Buckethead" persona he's so painstakingly created. This character, with its vaguely sinister mask, soberly upended KFC bucket, and absurdly detailed chicken fetish, is pure American surrealism. Buckethead is a star of a strange new kind: not the projection of a preening personality, as is usually the case, but a mirror, a screen, a somehow lovable cipher. As a stage presence, he seems almost (one of Carroll's favorite words) disembodied.

Although most people are probably experiencing Buckethead for the first time in his current stint with the new Guns N' Roses, the man has been putting out solo albums for the last 10 years. Some, like the 1999 Monsters and Robots, are pure "post-metal psycho-shred," as one writer put it. Others, like the just-released Electric Tears, are serenely ambient. Buckethead also records under the name Death Cube K (an anagram); the 1994 Dreamatorium is a good one.

In addition to this solo output, Buckethead has also recorded and performed with a wild array of other musicians, from P-Funk all-stars Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell to Iggy Pop, Primus, avant-fusion bassist Bill Laswell and the late Miles Davis Quintet drummer Tony Williams. He's played on three albums by "The Lord of the Rings" star Viggo Mortensen, one by the painter Julian Schnabel, and some movie soundtracks and scores, too ("The Last Action Hero," "Mortal Kombat," "Beverly Hills Ninja"). He longs to do an all-Disney album. ("When You Wish Upon a Star" is one of his favorite tunes.)

About his famous appearance:

I was eating [take-out fried chicken], and I put the mask on and then the bucket on my head. I went to the mirror. I just said, 'Buckethead. That's Buckethead right there'. It was just one of those things. After that, I wanted to be that thing all the time.
MTV News, November 21, 2002; from earlier interview in Guitar Player Magazine

[Talking through his hand puppet, Herbie]: He put the bucket on his head because he thought he could help all those dead chickens come back to life. So when he plays, it’s like the sounds of those dead chickens is coming through his hands.

It sort of happened... It wasn't something I really thought about. I was eating - it was actually a different chicken company, I don't really know what it was - I was eating it and I thought... I had that mask, kind of like Michael Myers [from 'Halloween'], it had a similar quality, but it wasn't exactly the same size. I just put it on my head and I looked in the mirror. And I was like 'That's Buckethead.' [Laughs] And then my friend went to school, he was going to college and he had video class and he filmed me. And I knew this guitar player, his name is Jim Gore. He really is the one I feel I owe a lot to. He encouraged me to do it, 'You should just go be Buckethead, go play!' Because I was always super scared to play, and I didn't really link that together, I just thought 'This is weird.' Like a horror movie guy. And when he saw it he was like 'You should just go for it!' I was like 'That would be cool.' Because I could do everything I liked doing as this character that I'm totally scared to death to do otherwise. And it applied to all the stuff I like, like Disneyland and martial arts and dancing, all that stuff I liked. I was like, 'I can't do it just like me.' It was a great way to get all the stuff out.

Brain would talk about how Buckethead always wore the costumer, or at least a mask:

Oh, the first day I met him, he came in with a bucket. And he was wearing it. Yeah, it was his costume that he lives by it. He lives and dies by it. [...] whether it's good or bad, he's the real deal. What you see is what you get. He really lives that whole costume his... it's not a costume, it's really his existence, you know, more people have seen in that than, you know. He's got like three people he talks to and it's a lonely existence I think for him, you know, but there's always a price to pay for what you do [...]. You know, he truly lives and dies by his craft.

Brain being asked how he had originally met Buckethead before both joined Guns N' Roses:

I met Bucket Thru Joe Gore who was the editor of Guitar Player Magazine at the time.

Brain would then introduce Buckethead to Bill Laswell and together they would form Praxis [see chapter on Brain before Guns N' Roses for more information]. Through Brain, Buckethead was also introduced to Les Claypool which invited Buckethead to tour with Primus at Ozzfest resulting in Ozzy Osbourne trying to recruit Buckethead for his own band:

Since I was friends with Bucket, Les had met Bucket and was like, "We should take Bucket on tour with us and just kind of come out as a solo guest on the Ozzfest." And then that's when Ozzy wanted Bucket because he saw Bucket play with us and was like, "Shit, this is my new guy!" you know, but that didn't work out because I guess something to do with he wanted Bucket to take off his bucket and Bucket was like, "This is my look," you know, "I'm not gonna just... This is what I do," type of thing. And so that didn't kind of work out, I guess.

Buckethead was disappointed about not getting the Ozzy gig:

[...] so I remember I was with him around that time with the Ozzy the thing and it was kind of like, "Well, this is who I am, I mean, if I take this off and I'm not this, if it draws attention that's the, you know, cuz it's my insecurities of not wanting to show my face," or whatever his things are, you know, why he started that whole wearing a bucket and a mask. And so I think that, you know, he was I mean Randy Rhodes is one of his heroes and I think he would have loved to have been in Ozzy's band but, you know...

Josh would also talk about meeting Buckethead for the first time that reveals Buckethead's obsession with Disneyland;

First time I met [Buckethead] in the studio alone, my friend Warren, the guitar player in the Vandals, was producing him like in 1990 or '91. They were in a studio in Orange County in 1990 or '91. My friend Warren calls me, "Dude you have to come own and meet this guy, he's a freak, he's incredible, lightning fast, weird funk-slap style, he's like completely outshining Flea or any guy who does that sort..." I'm 18 so "Flea's the greatest funk slap bass player!" So I'm freaking out. "You've got to check this dude out man, he moonwalks and he does martial arts and break dance shit." And I'm like, "What?" I'm up in LA at the time, I think he's up in Dweezil [Zappa]'s house at the time. [...] [?] Dweezil's house which is way up at the top of the Lauren Canyon. And I was like, "Oh, man, I gotta come down and check this out." And Warren also tells me, he goes, "This guy's really excited, Buckethead's really excited - He calls himself Buckethead, right - he's really excited to meet you, he is really impressed that you used to play drums at Disneyland, so he's really excited about meeting you." Because he is a Disneyland freak. He's a Disneyland freak. So forget that you're the dude who plays in the Vandals or plays with Frank Zappa, he doesn't care about the Zappa connection. [...] My dad conducted the Disneyland Band when I was a kid and then for years, since I was about 10, he still does this gig which is he hires... He's one of the guys who hires the music out there. Most musicians you see out there, he hires and fires. From the Latin bands, the Big Bands, the Top 40 bands, The Dapper Dan Barbershop Quartet, you know. Anyways, so Buckhead is like, "Oh my god!" Because when I was a kid I played my first gig for three years in a cover band every weekend, at Disneyland, when I was 12 till I was 15, so Buckethead knew that - or Warren had told him that - and he was like, "Oh my god, my dream is to work at Disneyland, play guitar at Disneyland."

When I first met [Buckethead], 20-some years ago, I go, "So Warren says you like Disneyland, you go there often?" "Yeah", "When was the last time you went there?", "I went there on Monday." It was, like, two days ago. "Okay, shit, man, you do love it." "You know what I do there sometimes, man, I have recorded my own versions of the soundtracks to certain rides with me playing guitar and I go in there with my Walkman," pre-iPod, or whatever, "and when I am on the Haunted Mansion I listen to me play the Haunted Mansion and when I am on the Pirates of Caribbean I listen to me playing Pirates of the Caribbean." I'm like, "Shit man!" I am sitting there, trying not to crack up, "That's cool!" And I go, "What do you do on Space Mountain, man? There's-" you know, I was trying to, like, trip him up- [...] Stump the Bucket, man. "What do you do on Space Mountain?" He goes, "Oh, they don't have any... There's no theme song for that. So it's just me going off, man. It's just me soloing. I just listen to me soloing."

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 7:35 am


As discussed in previous chapters, Guns N' Roses had a lot of respect for Brian May. In 1994, Axl would discuss wanting to work with May:

We may work with Brian May on a project upcoming… We don't know… And we're hoping to pull that one off. We get along with Brian really well. […] And Slash and Brian did a pretty amazing job on… When we did "Heaven's Door" live somewhere in Europe. And I've never seen two guitarists get along like that, the way they played together, complementing each other, in my life. It was pretty magical. But the rest… The whole band, we were all kinda waiting: 'When is the solo gonna end?' […] After five minutes we're all running around and we're getting tired and these guys are still soloing. […] It was pretty wild. It was great.

[May is] one of the most unpretentious rock stars of his caliber that I've ever met and… You put the two of us together onstage playing guitar, and it basically free rain [laughs].

May would also describe his respect and fondness for the band:

I have a lot of history with those guys as you know, because, well, I was on tour with them for a while - you know, my own band supported them - which was great fun. They also did the Freddie Tribute with us, and I think I regard them as great friends, Axl in particular.

(laughs) I tell ya, Axl is a very persuasive guy. He's magic. Really he is, and I think he's not always easy, as, you know, genius very often isn't. You know, Fred was not the easiest person in the world to get on with, but someone who has that amount of passion and gives a million percent of themselves, you'll take any amount of stuff from, and I would from Axl. I think he's that good, you know.

And in August 1999, it was rumoured that Brian May would join Guns N' Roses in an unknown capacity [Rolling Stone, August 25, 1999]. The rumours were shot down by a spokesperson for Brian May who described the rumours as "highly improbable" [Rolling Stone, August 25, 1999]. In addition, Doug Goldstein would say:

There haven't been any conversations like that.

Queen's UK publicist, Brian Symes, would concur and deny any rumours that May might join Guns N' Roses on tour:

I was just with Brian last week, so I think we would know. I think he very much enjoys what he does, doing his own music and working with other members of [Queen].

But in November 1999, Axl would reveal that he might indeed collaborate with May on the new music:

I go back to listening to Queen -- you know, we're still hoping to have Brian May come in and do some tracks, and I got a fax today that he's coming in -- Queen had all kinds of different-style songs on their records, and that's something that I like. 'Cause I do listen to a lot of things, and I really don't like being pigeonholed to that degree, and it's something that Guns N' Roses seem to share [with Queen] a bit. With "Appetite," even though it seems to have the same sound, if you really go back, you can pull all the little parts from different influences. That's not really the case by the time we're on "Use Your Illusion." People are kind of set in their ways. ["Chinese Democracy"] is coming from all over the place.

And in February 2000, May had indeed recorded with the band:

So, like, last week, I was in Los Angeles to play on the Guns N' Roses record. It's very interesting. […] Something very nice and different. But, hum... I just went on the plane. And I took my guitar with me. And  they met me the other end. And they said "Why you brought your original guitar?" And I said "yeah" [when I] play some[thing] important, I always wanna play on [this] guitar.

May would explain that the reason Axl invited May over was to replace at least some of Robin's guitar parts:

And they just said, "Come over and do some stuff." It's a long story to be honest and I won't bore you with all the details, but Axl was feeling that he was in a difficult place because the guitarist that he'd been working with on this new album had sort of replaced Slash, because they fell out, sadly. I think that is sad actually, 'cos they're both, well you know, brilliant talents and great with each other, but the guitarist that had done most of the tracks had departed and Axl had a real emotional attachment to what he'd done, and yet he didn't want him on the album - and I hope I'm not saying too much here - he didn't really want him to stay on the album because he'd disappeared, you know - so he's feeling a kind of divided loyalty and he said: "Brian, can you come and do stuff which I WILL LIKE, (laughing) and I won't feel too bad about ditching this other stuff?"

And talking about the new Guns N' Roses:

So I did, I went over there, and I think I played on three tracks, and messed around on various other things, but it worked out pretty well as far as I can tell. And its very strange cos most of the Guns'n'Roses people are not there cos Axl sacked 'em all, you know, so you're talking about Axl and the new Guns'n'Roses, but BOY is there a lot of energy there, you know, and his singing is outrageous. There's some great tracks on it.

[The music] sounds great, and Axl sounds wonderful.
Sonic Net, March 19, 2001

Axl would ask May about the music they had created so far:

Axl actually sat down and MADE ME listen to everything (laughing) and there's some wonderful stuff there.

When asked if it is possible to be genuinely criticize someone as allegedly mercurial as Axl:

Well (sigh), Axl sort of holds Queen and, and our whole thing in a great deal of respect so I always figure as long as I tell my truth, he's fine - and its always held out so far. He's always been very good, you know, to me. He will tell you if he doesn't agree with what you say. I mean, I went in and immediately, you know, Brian May opens his mouth and "Blab, blab, blab" - and I told exactly what I thought of the stuff as it was and some of it he went "Yeah", and some of it he went "I couldn't do that" - you know, like some of the suggestions, and that's it. And Axl's a very emotionally kind of 'connected' person, I mean, to the point where he's so intense about EVERY single note that's on there, and the solos that I played, he was totally into it VERY much in the way that Freddie used to be. You know, Freddie used to go through my solos and, and say "You know there's this particular note here and I think if you did this and this and this". You know, and I thought I would just go in there... I'd forgotten what Axl was like, and I thought I would just go in there and he'd like it. He did like it, but he wanted to get into EVERY single take of every single note, and sort of string, you know ... I would go in there and he - from one day to another Axl would have been in there like from 5 o'clock in the morning to 7 o'clock in the morning, comping little bits of my solos and saying, "Can you get Brian to try this?" You know, he's UTTERLY meticulous.

And how May felt about being micro-managed by Axl:

Oh, I'm fine. I don't care, because I'm there to deliver, you know. And in this context, I'm a session player, and people can take what they want, it doesn't bother me. I'll give my best and if someone will make a comment, generally it will be - you know if someone makes a comment to you about your playing, and it's someone who cares, and then its probably gonna do you some good whether you like it or not. So I'm always open to that stuff - always.

May would also comment on being willing to tour with Guns N' Roses as one of their guitarists:

I don't know if I would be up for those long tours anymore. I did that for twenty years of my life, nine months a year and I'm not in that position anymore in my life, you know. I don't feel like I wanna have that kind of chaotic lack of balance in my life any more. I dealt with it, and I loved it, but I'm just not in that place anymore. I don't think I could do that. If it was a short tour, its possible, but...

May would also get to hear much of the recorded material when he flew over to Los Angeles to add guitar parts to the music. He would then shoot down the rumour that except for 'Oh My God', Axl hadn't added vocal parts to any of the tracks:

Oh yeah, there's a whole album of vocal parts - in fact there's two albums' worth that they've got there, at least. They played me EVERYTHING. Axl actually sat down and MADE ME listen to everything (laughing) and there's some wonderful stuff there.

[…] it's a long time project. They'd been really..., from the inception I think it's 5 years  since they started making the record. But they made many many many tracks. And now they've chosen just a few they want to be on the first new record. And I think it's very good stuff. I was very impressed, Axl is singing fantastically. I mean, actually such a unique sound and style. I don't know if you know his work very much. But... […]  it's very passionate and very... very exciting, you know. And I was happy to play some stuff on that. I think it will be out on...they talked about spring, I think, you know, late spring probably and maybe they can tour in the summer.

A spokesperson for the band would comment on the collaboration between May and Axl:

Brian spent a week with the singer. They recorded several songs worth of material, but we have no idea what's going to end up on the end product.

In 2001, Beta Lebeis would say that May's guitar work would be featured on the upcoming record:

[…] [Axl is] still friends with Brian May. He played guitar on one of Axl's songs on the new album.
Bolsa de Mulher, January 22, 2001; translated from Portuguese

In 2002 May would talk about the collaboration:

That was years ago! Literally two years ago. I was working in Capitol Studios in LA and met our old producer Roy Baker. He told me he was off to produce Guns N' Roses. […] [The music was] fantastic. I was shocked that they didn't put it out straight away. Maybe it's perfection on Axl's part - the desire to make it the album of all time. I played on three tracks , but I don't know if they'll be used. I don't wanna ask! […] It has to be the best in Axl's own mind and an expression of his personal feelings. He's very passionate about it - every single word and note is very personal.

In October 2003, Classic Rock would write about the collaboration between Brian May and Guns N' Roses, and claim May had declined Axl's invitation to join the band:

QUEEN GUITARIST BRIAN MAY RECENTLY revealed that he turned down an offer from Axl Rose to join Guns N’ Roses.

“Ha-ha. Yes, it’s true. How did you know that?” May responded to an interviewer from Live magazine. “I worked with Axl a couple of years back on some new songs, and during that period he did ask me if I wanted to become a guitarist in Guns N’ Roses.”

May declined the singer’s offer, but not due to his notorious ‘difficult’ streak: “Axl’s actually a really nice, down-toearth guy,” ha says. “He gets a bad deal from the press, but that’s mainly because he likes his privacy. He’s a really genuine person, and a good friend.

“Axl is a very good songwriter,” May added. “He writes good, complex songs that are a pleasure to listen to. Some of his new songs, like ‘Madagascar’, ‘Catcher In The Rye’ and ‘Once Upon A Time’, are very complex yet catchy, and it’s hooks that sell songs. Queen’s songs all had hooks, which is why we were so popular. Axl does the same thing.”

In response, May would anrgily write about it on his official webpage:

I snubbed AXL??? WHAT ?!!!

This is complete Horse-Poo - a deliberate mis-quote as far as I can tell, to make a cheap headline.

Who makes this stuff up??

I was NEVER, NEVER asked to join Guns n Roses. The truth is I was invited by Axl to play on 3 tracks a while ago, no an album which they were making in L.A. I had a great time playing, and interacting with the guys, and I was hugely impressed with the material they'd already put down. To me Axl is one of the great untamed talents of our age. Since the album is still not released I have no idea if the tracks I played on are still in consideration. But I'm damn sure it will be worth waiting for!

P.S. I also NEVER would have given away the titles of songs I had heard - I regarded the whole experience as confidential. I am VERY upset that this writer has made it look like I blabbed.

God, I HATE journalists. Fabrications like this can destroy friendships.

LIES in a glossy Magazine

I'm pretty sad and disappointed to see yet another music magzine be sullied by ignoranace and schoolboy-level journalism.

Classic Rock seemed such a refreshing change when it first came out - devoted to the enjoyment of the music it discussed.

Now they have some jerk writing for them called Tommy Udo, tellling us that our musical 'We Will Rock You' has "soiled the legend" of Queen. Ha Ha! Well, there's exactly one MILLION people ready to tell you that you, young man, are talking outta your ASS. Try actually seeing it, Mr. Udo, and see if you can still say that, after seeing so many people having such a huge good time! Trying to make a name for yourself, Tommy? Better raise your game.

But much worse is the nasty little tapestry of lies woven in the same magazine, which makes it look as if I gave Axl Rose "The Finger". They even have the temerity to print a picture of me holding up a finger, purportedly "The very one he gave Axl." Now, number one, you idiots, IT'S the wrong FINGER - have you haver been outside Peckham, you simpletons?!! Number two, you have painted a picture of me insulting one of the greatest Rock Stars of our age, and one of my most valued friends. That's not funny. I am taking advice as to whether I have grounds for suing you and the writer responsible. This is deliberate mischief. How would you like it if I tried to lose you a friend by lying about what you had said about him? Why should I have to put up with this crap just because the music we made became famous, making it possible for people like you to parasitically live off it?

What a shame about Classic Rock. You seemed to be so full of promise. Going down the same road as the NME???

I hope I'm wrong.

The offending picture from Classic Rock

In 2010, May would again talk about his relationship with Axl and playing on Chinese Democracy songs:

[...] my solo band supported GN’R on tour [in 1993] and we got on very well. People think of Axl as difficult, but he was always very attentive to me. When they were making that album, after God-knows-how-many years, he was talking to [Queen’s old producer] Roy Thomas Baker, who was doing some production for them at the time, and they came up with the idea of contacting me to help them work out a direction. I flew out to meet him and he played me pretty much the whole album. We had a long night, talking, thinking, figuring out potential directions, and then I had a couple of days just trying things out. I think I played on two-and-a-half tracks, but they didn’t end up using my parts. They used about 10 guitarists subsequent to that! I have rough mixes of these tracks somewhere in my archive, but I’m not going to let anyone listen to them, out of loyalty to Axl! It was fun, to throw something in there to help out a friend.
Uncut Magazine, April 2011


In 2006, Axl would be asked if Brian May would be featured on Chinese Democracy:

I don't know if he'll actually be on the album. This hasn't been completely decided.

And in 2008, just before the release of Chinese Democracy, Chris would get the same question:

That was one of the biggest joys of my life. He’s the greatest guitarist in the world to me. To meet him and see what a sweet fellow he is was great. He came in and just played these solos that just ripped up everything we were doing – you would expect nothing else from him. That was quite a while ago now, that was around 2000, 2001. So I’m not really sure what ended up on the record or on this record that we might have done, but he is amazing.

For more information on May's contribution to the song Catcher In The Rye and why they were replaced, see later chapter.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 8:52 am


To celebrate KNAC-FM radio station's website, Guns N' Roses allowed the station to offer a live version of 'Coma' to their web users.

KNAC was the only station in the country playing us back when we were in the clubs in Los Angeles, and the fact that they have gone online with the same people working who were around before is amazing. Giving rock fans a technology-based alternative to some of the crap radio...and doing it internationally, I feel very strongly about supporting their efforts. It was also a way to give the fans a cool live version of "Coma," and I felt this was the best way to get it to the fans.

The live version of 'Coma' had been mixed by Andy Wallace and was to be found on the Japanese version of 'Live Era '87-'93' [, January 19, 2000].
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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 8:53 am

MARCH 2000

In March 2000, it would be reported that Josh had quit the band to focus on his other project, A Perfect Circle [Allstarmag, March 14, 2000]. According to sources "close to Josh", his contract had run out and he was no longer willing to remain available for the band [MTV News, March 15, 2000]. Goldstein would remark that his drum parts were done and since they wouldn't be touring anytime soon, the door would be open to Josh in the future [MTV News, March 15, 2000]. That Josh's future with the band was uncertain would be emphasized in other press reports, and it would be speculated that he had quit the band for good or that he was just taking a break from the band to focus on other projects [VH-1, March 18, 2000].

I'm hearing these rumors, and nobody has officially told me anything....[Freese] hasn't had an attorney or manager tell me he's out of the band.

Later in March, Josh himself would comment upon the situation:

The only thing I can say about that is for the time being is that I'm not working with them. When they finish the record and when it comes time to tour we've kind of left the door open, where if they feel like calling me, and if they still want me involved, I'm going to do it with them.

[On whether he had learnt anything from playing in Guns N' Roses]: Yeah, I learn something from everyone I work with. I've worked with a billion different artists. I've played on almost a hundred records. Depending on the situation, you can learn from every experience -- whether it's a good experience, a bad experience, or I might work with somebody that I could pick up some engineering skills from, or just learn to communicate better with people or just...No comment.

But as we started working together, things began taking such a long time—way too long for my taste. I got impatient and started thinking I wanted to do something else.

I spent two years in the studio with Axl, from '98 to '99, and when it became apparent to me that they weren't going to leave the studio, that's when I had to go. The whole time I was with Axl I never played a show with him.

We were in our own little bubble. For a time, we were in the studio five nights a week for 12 hours at a time. Then it became a time where we weren't so busy. It was an interesting period for me.

I mean, I quit before the record was done because I spent two years in the studio with them.

Josh would also confirm it was a case of not extending his contract with the band and leaving after his two-year contract expired:

So my two-year contract was coming up and I just... I didn't see it leaving that room anytime soon, so I had to make that decision: Am I gonna sign up another two years? And am I okay with sitting in this room for another two years? [...] And once again, it was nothing personal. I liked everyone involved in it. But I just, like, I just didn't see it picking up any momentum anytime in the near future.

I did it, and I don’t regret it. I was on a two-year contract with them, and by the end of the second year, I realized they weren’t going to leave that studio or that room anytime too soon. [...] And I felt bad when my two years was up and I decided I was going to go start A Perfect Circle, because it seemed like a more tangible thing that was really going to happen. These guys aren’t spending a million in the studio. They seem like they want to start a regular band. They want to write and record a record and go on tour six weeks from now. It all seemed very realistic. When I put in my notice, I didn’t want him to take it personally, which I know he probably has with other guys who have left his band or been fired or whatever, because I really do personally like him and always got along with him. When anybody ends a relationship, even if it’s business, some people go, “Don’t take it personally; it’s business.” People still take it personally. You get bummed out. I felt bad about leaving, but I had to do it. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about Axl. [Laughs]

And mention that he was "frustrated and discouraged" with the record not being completed:

I left because we were ending year two of sitting in studio and this record still wasn't gonna... didn't look like it would be done anytime soon. So I'm sitting going, "Okay, I've sat here for two years, I like everyone down here, I don't have a problem with anyone in this room, I like Axl, I like some of the record we've been making, do I think it'll be out a year from now? I don't know." You know what I mean? I've been here for two years. I'd be surprised it was out in the next year. So I was getting discouraged. I was getting frustrated and discouraged, like a lot of people, and I think like a lot of people would be if they were in that position.

Apparently, Josh had been thinking about renewing his contract already back at the end of 1999 when Buckethead joined the band:

I introduced [Buckethead] to the Axl but then when he was going to audition I took him to the side and said, "You have to know that I might not be here in six months." You know, my contract was coming up. And I said, "I don't want you to take this gig... I don't want me to be your connection to this whole thing, to me be your buddy in the organization. You sign on and then three weeks later me go, 'Later, dude!' [...] I wanted to be real honest with him about it, you know, and so I said, "Listen, this is a cool thing. And if you wanna do it, do it. But I don't want you to be angry if I'm not here in a month. You gotta do it not just because I'm here, but because you like everyone else."

According to Joe Escalante, a band mate of Josh from the Vandals, Josh sent in his resignation over email:

He e-mailed his resignation because he didn't want to sit around waiting another year, so he joined A Perfect Circle with a couple of his bald friends. That guy has to rock. He's a road dog.

Josh would also be asked to talk about Axl, but would always express nothing but admiration and respect:

[Axl's] great. People always want to hear stories and I can give stories about other people but really it's amazing what a good guy he is, but he just has a bad reputation through press and stuff. Maybe in the past, but I didn't know him ten years ago.

I enjoyed the time in the studio with [Axl] — he was a pleasure to work with. But I had to make a decision and I decided I wanted to do A Perfect Circle and get out on tour.

I had fun playing with Axl. He’s a cool guy, but it got really frustrating just reporting to a studio and not playing out live... I was in the studio with Axl for two years and I had to get out.

Axl was always nice to me and always generous. People want to hear horror stories, but I personally don’t have any.
Las Vegas Review Journal, via, March 24, 2004

Everyone always baits me to give them a crazy Axl story. I don't really have any. I spent two years in a studio with him [and] I never saw any mood swings. He was never not cool to me. So, I am always quick to defend the guy, even though I know his reality is different than mine. Then again, everyone has a different reality.

And Axl was cool. I'd say, "Hey man, you know, the Vandals want to go to Europe in November for, like, two weeks. Are you cool with that?" He'd be like, "No problem. Go do it." "Hey man, Devo is gonna go to New York at the end of January for three gigs. Gonna go to New York." "Cool. No problem."

You know, it wasn't [a pain in the ass working for Axl]. It wasn't for me. You might talk to other people who will say it was. Everybody's always looking for a good Axl story from me, or a crazy Axl story from me, but I don't really have any, man, I know they are out there, but my personal experience, and experiences with him...he was always cool to me. I don't have anything bad to say about the guy. His reality is different than yours and mine, and most everybody's. He's had a weird run, from what I know about him, you know, as a kid or a teenager up to becoming really famous and having all that power and money and shit, it's gotta be weird, especially when you are a kid. [...] and you kind of, it's just the way it worked out, you can't even blame him for it. Even when I do hear stories about him, I don't go, "Oh, man," this or that I go, I feel bad for him, you know, sometimes, you know. But anyways, I like the dude. Never had any issues with him.

But going back to Axl, everyone wants to hear a crazy Axl story. Obviously, there’s been a lot documented about him. But me, personally, I never had a bad experience with him. I never saw him blow up. I never saw him do anything unfair. He was nothing but cool to me, and I saw a guy that wanted to have fun and wanted to come down to the studio with the guys and write music and stuff. You hear the other stories—just like me or you or anyone on the street that’s looked at the internet and said, “Oh my God, he did what to so-and-so? He trashed this? He wouldn’t show up to the show?” You hear crazy stories. Maybe if I was around that shit, I’d tell you a different story. I personally never witnessed any of that stuff. I was also in our personal, private bubble. I wasn’t out playing gigs and sitting backstage hearing, “He’s not even in New York yet. And the opening band’s off stage and he’s still in Philly, refusing to come here.” Then I might go, “Fuck, man,” and it would drive me crazy. But we were on our own schedule in a studio out in The Valley. There was no real big consequence if we were late or if he didn’t show up one night. It didn’t matter. I really liked him.

Later Josh would explain how his other band, A Perfect Circle, took more and more focus:

Maynard [James Keenan] said to me, ‘Billy [Howerdel] doesn’t want to say anything because he’s a shy guy, but he’s written some awesome songs. Billy is too insecure to play them for anyone, so don’t even listen to what he says about them. I’m going to write some lyrics and I would love it if you would play drums. […] But then it became obvious that we were working on something special here. We realized we shouldn’t treat this as a side project. This was much cooler than much of what we were working on.

About a year later I started working with Guns & Roses & this guy named Billy Howerdel, told me that he was roommates with Maynard. So we started hanging out and Billy was kind of quiet about the music he was writing, but Maynard pulled me aside one day and said, "Man, you know Billy writes these great songs and we should try to record some of them.
Full Throttle Music, November 2003

In ’97, when I was playing with Devo on the Lollapalooza tour, I had met Maynard [James Keenan] from Tool, and we became friends. One of the guys who was working with Axl on Pro Tools was Billy Howerdel. One day Billy said to me, “My roommate says he knows you.” It turned out to be Maynard, and we started saying “hi” to each other through Billy. One day Maynard said, “Josh writes good music—heavy music meets The Cocteau Twins or The Cure. It’s pretty linear and experimental to a degree while still staying in a pop realm. You should check it out.” That was the beginning of A Perfect Circle.

Maynard was busy with Tool, Billy and I were busy with Guns N’ Roses, but Billy ended up leaving, and I really liked the music we were doing together. And Maynard found the time as well. We were working at a friend’s home studio on spec, doing drum tracks there. Billy had a Pro Tools rig at his house and would do the overdubs there, so we were making a record without having a deal or even a name for the band. It started as a weekend project, but before we knew it, we said, “We’ve got a record.”

I really thought what we had were just demos, but that may be half the reason the drum tracks turned out so great. There was no pressure in a big studio with a producer or an A&R person. We were just hanging out at our friend’s house, and we’d have a few hours to do it. I’d say, “I really want to redo those drums someday,” and Billy would say, “Oh no, I love the fact that there’s a big huge fill after the first line of the first verse, where it’s not supposed to be. It’s pretty cool. I want to leave it that way.”

Well, we got a record deal with Virgin and a great mixer to mix what we recorded mostly in Billy’s garage, our friend’s house, and Sound City, where we did some of the drums. We figured out a name for the band, and all of a sudden we were on tour with Nine Inch Nails, doing arenas, a month before the album was to come out. When the album did come out, “Judith” became a hit, and we were all wondering how it happened. It was amazing. We had the highest-charting album by a debuting band ever. Our record entered the charts at number 4, and we sold something like 180,000 copies in the first week.

So A Perfect Circle was really what was behind my leaving Guns N’ Roses. I had to get out and play. I had been in the studio for a couple of years, and to Axl’s credit, he knows what he wants to hear, and he doesn’t want to put out anything less than incredible. In March of 2000, when I left, I knew the record was still far away from coming out. And since I had the opportunity to do something with friends I liked and music I loved, I had to leave. And frankly, I’m really proud of A Perfect Circle.

So in the meantime, I had on the weekends been messing around with Billy Howerdel and Maynard. I met Maynard James Keenan on the Lollapalooza tour of '97. Devo and Tool toured together on that and the Tool guys were big Devo fans and so they would sit on the side of the stage and ask for our hats and clothes at the end of the shows that were ripped apart, the yellow plastic hazmat kind of things we wear. So they're always super cool and I kind of became friends with Maynard and with Danny Carey in '97. And Maynard and Billy Howerdel lived together in LA, Maynard had just bought a house in Arizona but he kept a room, he rented a room from Billy. Billy Howerdel, who I was working with in Guns N' Roses, used to be a guitar tech for Tool so he was friends with those guys. I'd met Maynard separately from Billy, but then when I started working with Billy in the studio like one day Billy goes, "Ohh, you know who my roommate is?" I said, "No, who?" "I live with Maynard," or "He rents a room from me," you know, "and when he's in LA, he stays at my house in Studio City," and I said, "Oh, cool, man. Yeah, he's cool. I [?] last summer. I like that guy." And then it ended up being Maynard calling me going, "Hey, Billy will never tell you because he's too shy," or, you know, "nice" or whatever, "but he writes really great music. and I'm gonna do a band with him and you should play drums," and I think, "Gosh, yeah, okay. Like a band? Like, we're gonna go make a record and put it out and go on tour like normal people do?" Because, you know, the GN'R thing just became frustrating for me. I didn't see it. It wasn't really a light at the end of the tunnel yet. And so I was like, "Oh my God," once again, like everyone here, I don't know if I want to sit around here. I don't know how much more time is going to be wasted down here.

Last edited by Soulmonster on Sun Dec 25, 2022 1:09 pm; edited 17 times in total
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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 8:54 am


After leaving Guns N' Roses, Josh continued his career as a prolific session musician [Modern Drummer, March 2003].


The band that made Josh leave Guns N' Roses was A Perfect Circle [see previous chapter]:

During that time [=while Maynard was touring with Tool] Billy has built a great home studio, we’ve got a ton of tracks done, and Maynard sends us lyrics to the songs. We send stuff out to him and he’ll write to it, so he’s been working on it while he’s been on tour. Once again, we’re making a record without really knowing we’re making a record. We’re shooting for our album to come out in the next few months. Then we’ll go on the road this summer.

And as an offshoot of A Perfect Circle, Maynard and I did another project called Tapeworm, which is a collaboration between Maynard, me, and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. We went down to Southern Tracks in Atlanta to cut the drums, and now Trent is finishing everything at his studio in New Orleans.

In July 2009 the band was on hiatus:

Perfect Circle is on a hiatus right now. There's no plans right now; it's kind of a 'whatever happens happens' vibe. At the same time, we could get back together real soon.


In April 2002, the band Moth would release their record Provisions, Fiction and Gear which featured Josh on drums and Tommy on bass.

Well, [the sessions] were a lot of fun. It was me and Josh (studio drummer Josh Freese), and those guys, the guitar player (Bob Gayol) and the singer kid (Brad Stenz). It was a blast. I (expletive) love that record (2002’s “Provisions, Fiction and Gear”). And they made one right after too, which I thought was pretty good as well (“Drop Deaf”). They were a good band.


I often get called to play on a track or two of a band where I don’t get credited, or sometimes it might say “additional percussion by Josh Freese,” but I really played on the three singles on the record. Sometimes it’s a band without a drummer, or they’ve fired the drummer in the middle of the record. I’ve been in every situation—the drummer is there and he’s pissed off, or the drummer is there and he’s excited that I’m going to help out, or the drummer isn’t there and the rest of the band is trying to keep him away from the studio.... It’s always some sort of weird political thing, and it’s egos, friendships, and business.


But back to my recent experience: I showed up at a studio to do four songs for a band making their first record on a major label. In the parking lot, I saw the drum tech, who I hadn’t seen for a while, and asked him what the scene in the studio was. He said, “The funny thing is, the drummer is a really good drummer, but he just isn’t working out on these songs.” I don’t want to say the drummer’s name, but he was used to playing speed metal and he’s amazing, and they were recording midtempo, slow songs. When I heard the tracks, I understood the problem right away, and the drummer was really open-minded and cool about the whole thing.


They needed more space and choices of discretional fills. They needed someone who could do the “less is more” thing, which this other guy wasn’t used to. He was always pushed to play as fast as he could with as many fills as possible.

I remember when I was younger going to a studio in Orange County and hearing that a legendary punk rock drummer from the Midwest had been there the night before, and they wanted him to play this simple groove and he couldn’t do it. When you’re a kid, you think, “Oh, that’s easy, the hard stuff is playing fast and tricky.” But it’s that space in between the snare drum and where it lands that makes it feel the way it does.

My dad went to see Willie Nelson recently and came back exclaiming, “You won’t believe what the drummer [Paul English] played—just a snare drum!” He stood there with a snare drum and a stand, playing brushes 80% of the time, playing the train feel, and on the ballads he took a stick and did a sidestick on beat 4. My dad said it grooved like crazy. That’s hard to do. It’s so exposed. Any discrepancy is obvious.

Explaining his success as a studio musician:

I think it’s a combination of being into a lot of different kinds of music and understanding a lot of different kinds of music, and being open to things. I still feel that I have a hunger and a fire inside of me. I’m not jaded. I mean, I’ve been touring since I was fifteen, so sometimes I roll my eyes about something. But I always catch myself. If I’m complaining about something, I’ll laugh and go, “Why am I complaining about the food backstage? Who cares? I’m in New York City tonight, playing music for a living.”

I think the fact that I still love playing music makes a difference. A lot of it, I think, has to do with the fact that I got less into the circus tricks and more into people like Keltner, Jordan, and Porcaro. I think what also was important for me was playing other instruments and songwriting. I’m just as inspired by songwriters as I am by drummers, which can’t help but come out in my drumming.

It’s important to draw inspiration from whatever you’re inspired by. And it’s important to understand what’s going on around you, as far as what the bass player is doing, what the lyrics are saying, and what the guitarist is playing. Listening is all-important—listening to music in the car, going out and hearing people play, and then when you’re in the studio, listening to what’s going on around you and being supportive of that, being a team player rather than a hot dog. Get into country music, punk rock music, everything—Willie Nelson, The Ramones, Elvis Costello, Tom Petty. It’s so important to be open.

To me, there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do what I want to do. Sometimes I feel narrow-minded; I’m not into sports or other things. Music is my hobby, my livelihood, my love. And there’s a lot of stuff out there that I haven’t even tapped yet that I know I will one day, like second-line drumming, New Orleans music, authentic jazz, and bebop.

As far as my style goes, it's all under the 'pop music' umbrella. Verse-chorus-verse-chorus. I'm not playing be-bop jazz or anything.

I'm just a fan of rock and pop music, and I think I bring an enthusiasm to what I do. I don't try to change the basic way I play with any particular artist. For instance, with Sting, I didn't do a traditional grip like Stewart Copeland. I figure, Sting is hiring me because he likes what I do, you know?

Being asked if he changes his kit much from situation to situation:

Not really. I might change a drum here and there, but nothing too radical. For the most part, I stick to a basic five-piece rock 'n' roll setup. I don't get crazy like other drummers: 'Somebody changed the height of my seat, I can't play!' [laughs] A drummer should be able to sit down at a kit and make it happen.

2003: WEEN

Then he got to play with Ween:

The circumstances as to why I had to play with them were unfortunate. Their drummer, Claude Coleman, got into an awful car wreck a few months ago. He’s going to be okay, but he has no medical insurance. I had become friends with some of the guys in Ween over the last couple of years by going to their shows. They ended up calling me to fill in for two shows at the Bowery Ballroom in New York, which were sold out, with the proceeds going to Claude.

I had a blast playing with Ween. They play forty songs a night that are completely mixed—one song is a legit-sounding country/Waylon Jennings-type tune, the next is a mock speed metal song, then Dixieland, Zeppelin, reggae, and even Captain Beefheart. The styles are all over the place, and the guys are really out approach-wise and lyrically.

I’m really happy about where I’m at and where I’ve been. Working with people like Devo and Paul Westerberg from The Replacements, people I’ve been a fan of, is much more important than working with whatever big names in music you can mention. I just recently got to play with a band I’m a huge fan of, Ween. I made less money on that record than I have on any other record I’ve done this year. But artistically and creatively it meant more to me than anything else.

In 1993 I was twenty and on tour with Paul Westerberg. He’s still probably my favorite songwriter on the planet. I remember coming home from that tour and one of my buddies from The Vandals, the punk/rock band I’ve played in since I was sixteen, said, “You’ve got to hear this tape.” It was Ween. They had already put out two records before, but this third record was the first one on a major label. And even when they had the budget on a major label, they recorded on a four-track cassette. Here were these two young guys from the woods of Pennsylvania making this crazy modern-day Captain Beefheart/Frank Zappa music, but with even more of a smart-ass, punk-rock twist.

When I heard that record, I got so jealous that someone else was making that music, that these guys beat me to what I wanted to do as a songwriter and composer. A lot of their stuff is really out, and then they’ve also gone to Nashville and hired all the old-school musicians and made the most legit-sounding country record. They’re very eclectic.


Josh would also continue playing in The Vandals:

The Vandals are like home to me. I recently had an opportunity to join a new band for a ton of money—more money than I’ve ever made, times two. But I wasn’t in love with the material. To stop everything that I love doing and put my reputation on the line by saying, “This is what I’m about, 110%,” well, I couldn’t do it. A friend of mine said to me, “Even though you’re not making nearly that amount of money, you’re doing well doing exactly what you want to do. Why go make more money doing something you don’t want to do?” That was a great point.

The Vandals are like my social time, too. It’s a business and it’s music, but socially it’s really rewarding too. They are three of my closest friends on the planet. We go to Australia twice a year and Europe three times a year. We don’t sell millions of records, but it’s been an underground band that has toured the world, put out a bunch of records, and been successful on a decent level. As my dad recently put it, “The Vandals are so good for your head. Some guys play poker, some guys go fishing with their friends on the weekend, and you play in The Vandals.” That’s the truth.

The Vandals aren't a full-time job; we play gigs here and there. It's more of a labor of love that I do for fun. A lot of times there's fill-in drummers that can take my place.

You know, if I get a call to do a festival with Devo or a one-off with Sting and he's paying me really well, hey, I have to tell them, 'Look, I'd love to do it, but I can't say no to these situations.' You know what I mean? And they're cool with that.

Devo's sort of the same thing as The Vandals. There's times where the band is really busy, but a lot of the time there's big gaps in-between. I just try to hope that the gigs don't land on top of one another.

2005-2008: NINE INCH NAILS

Josh would be the drummer in Nine Inch Nails from 2005 till 2008.

Talking about leaving the band:

That was tough. I toured with them for three years and it was awesome. But I just had my third child and it became important for me to be home more. I bowed out gracefully. It had nothing to do with Trent, but I had to tell him, 'Look, this is where I am. I love you, I love the band, but I have to make a life decision.' I mean, we toured a lot!

MARCH 2009: SINCE 1972

In March 2009, Josh would release his second solo album, Since 1972.

Since 1972
March 2009

To market the album, Josh came up with a creative marketing stunt:

I thought, OK, I could let the music to do the talking. Or I could do something fun and weird. So I came up with all these crazy ideas.

Actually, there's another way this started: A while back, with my last record, a friend called me up and said, 'You know how many records you sold last week? One copy! And the week before that, you sold two.'

And I started thinking, I should just call up these people and thank them for buying my record. Then I thought, What if I took them to the mall or to lunch? The idea developed into these nutty package deals, some of which are cheap and some are ridiculously - and purposely - expensive. But that's the whole fun of it. Who will buy these things. What kind of fans do I have?

Music Radar would explain the idea:

Those ideas range in price from $7 for a copy of Freese's CD all the way up to a super-deluxe package of $75,000, for which the powerhouse drummer will join your band for a month. Not only that, but he'll give you one of his drumsets, party with you and record an EP about your life story.

If you don't have a band but have $75,000, hey, no problem - Josh will be your personal assistant for a month. So far, this package is still up for grabs (shocking!), but the $250 lunches at PF Chang's and The Cheesecake Factory are long gone.

People like lunch.

Explaining that it started off as a joke, but now he had to make good on the offers:

Problem is, it's taking up all my time. This whole thing started out as kind of a joke, but now I have to make good on these offers, and it really cuts into my time.

One 19-year old man bought the $20,000 package:

That's right. I was on the Queen Mary with this kid from Florida who bought the $20,000 package. Can you believe that? [...] I think he blew his inheritance or something. He flew in from Florida, and I've been hanging out with him. He was only supposed to get one day, but we're stretching it out into a couple of days. He's coming over my house in a little bit and I'll let him go through my closet. I'll give him this really great snare that I used on the last Nine Inch Nails tour. [...] I took him to meet [Devo's] Mark Mothersbaugh, and earlier today, Maynard from Tool was nice enough to come and play miniature golf with us. I was a little nervous about that, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. Then we'll hang out and do some other things. [pauses] I have to play on Slash's album later today…maybe I'll take him to that.

By July, no one had bought his Volvo for $10,000:

And I'm a little surprised by that. I'm patient, though...and hopeful.

Talking about the record:

You know, I love pop music. I'm all over the place. I like pretty stuff, I like hard stuff, I like sad stuff and I like super-punk stuff. I tried to put it all on this record.

And in 2014, Josh would talk about a new solo record:

My solo stuff goes unnoticed, like a tree falling in the woods, which is fine. I don’t expect anyone to pay attention, buy it or care. Who’s got the time, right? Shit, I hardly do. But it’s in my blood and something I will always do, regardless of it making money or not. I love writing conventional rock ‘n’ roll songs, but I’m going to release something soon that is far from conventional. It’s been in the works for awhile and is pretty abstract and weird, but still fun and hopefully not alienating—more of a nod to influences like the Residents and prank phone calls.

Last edited by Soulmonster on Fri Dec 29, 2023 9:18 am; edited 19 times in total
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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 8:54 am


Bryan "Brain" Mantia would first be announced as the band's when drummer October 2000, when the lineup for 2001's Rock in Rio was discussed in the media [MTV News, October 25, 2000].

According to this quote from Buckethead, Brain actually joined the band much earlier, around the same time Buckethead joined:

Got invited to Axl's on Christmas night; never met him before. […] In the brain joined that second.

But is it not clear what Buckethead means with "in the brain" here. Regardless of when Brain joined, he got the job because Buckethead recommended him [Unknown publication, 2001].

Brain would describe how it happened:

I think we [=Primus] were touring Australia, and Bucket called me and said, “Hey, I’m auditioning for Guns N’ Roses, and I think the drummer just quit. Do you want to come and check it out?” I thought, “Wow, that’s pretty weird.” I never really liked to play Guns N’ Roses or really was into the band. But I’d heard about them, of course, and knew about them, because they were, like, the biggest band in the world at one point, and I thought, “I’ll check it out.” I’d heard that Axl guy was a total freaky, crazy – you know, just rips on stage and all those crazy stuff. I thought it’d be kind of a cool thing to try. So he actually got me in the Guns N’ Roses gig.

The Guns album was in the works for fifteen years. Matt Sorum started it, then Josh Freese did it for four or five years, and then Josh quit. Then [guitarist] Buckethead got in there, and he and I have been friends forever. He told me that Josh had quit and said, “Axl’s an awesome dude. You should come check it out.” So I went in there, and I didn’t hear back from them for a while. And then one day I remember Axl calling me and saying, “You know, if you want the gig you can have it, and you can still be on other stuff. You can still do Primus or whatever you want to do.”

You know, I had heard the stories that Josh was sitting around for like three years and someone like him who's, you know, one of the greatest drummers and could play anything with anybody, that would probably kill someone who has that kind of talent to be sitting around for three years, not touring or doing something. So Bucket was just like, "I don't think Josh is gonna make it," you know, "I don't think he's gonna like, keep going off this thing." And I was kind of at the end of Primus, it was kind of getting to where Les wanted to break off into doing some other things in the jam band scene. [...] And then Bucket had called and said, "Hey, Josh is leaving. Do you wanna come and play?"

[...] and then I went on tour with Primus in Australia, we were doing a little Australian tour, and I had called Bucket just to see how he was doing and he was like, "Dude, you know, Josh just quit," you know, "you should play in this," and I was like, "Meaning Guns?" you know, and he was like, "Yeah," and I was like, "Oh, that's kind of heavy, okay," you know. So it was kind of like he was trying to push me into that thing and I guess telling Axl, and he gave Axl some tapes or something or whatever because I think Axl had already seen me play. And new Primus was kind of like a musician's bands, like I think he knew I could play the drums. So he was kind of interested in it. So I was like, "Okay, well, when I get off this tour," you know, "yeah," you know, "maybe I'll check it out."

[...] and so Bucket went and he was like, "Oh man, I just went to Axl's house, he's such a cool dude," and, "man, it's crazy," and, you know, "you should play in this thing," and I'm like, "Well, they have a drummer, it's Josh," and he's like, "Well, I don't know," you know. So I don't know, maybe Bucket knew something that Josh was about to leave or something because I think Josh was in it now for like two or three years and literally just sitting around in the studio and I guess he had a non-disclosure type thing where he couldn't play with anybody else so he was kind of feeling suffocated. So he left and then Bucket was like, "Well, I told Axl about you and he," you know, "and I sent him one of your videos or he saw your drum video and yeah I think he's into it," you know and so I was like, "Oh okay," you know and I was like, "Yeah, I guess I'll check it out, I'm really not..."

[...] I was in Primus and at that point it had been six years in Primus. I think Les, he kind of just realized that Primus is really him and Tim, you know, I think in a way and he was kind of going - and Ler - and he was kind of going like, you know, "I want to kind of get into his jam band scene." It was just picking up, he usually does anyways. He usually does Primus and then takes time off while he's doing the Lenin[?] thing. I think he was just like, "Look, I'm going to take some time off. I'm going to go do this thing." And, you know, Bucket was playing in Primus, I mean, on tour with Primus, and then we couldn't take him to this one tour, and it was in Australia, and I think, I remember Bucket calling me and going, "Hey, you know, Josh is in the band, Josh Freese, but I don't think he's gonna stay in the band, and I've been jamming with Guns," and he recommended me to play with Guns, and I was like, "Wow, that's cool." You know, that's pretty heavy, because there were still... those Metallica and Guns N' Roses at that point were still the two biggest rock bands in the world. He's like, "Yeah, Axl's cool, I want to go do this, I want to play." And I'm just like, "Would you want to play if Josh left?" Because he didn't know if Josh was going to stay. Because Josh is the kind of drummer that's one of the best drummers that I know and could play on anybody's- [...] He's like, "I think he's getting a little antsy, you know, wants to get out of here, you know, he's just like, they're not touring, they're not doing anything, and Josh just wants to move on and play [?]". His resume is probably 30 times bigger than mine and his discography is, you know, ridiculous. So he was like, if he left, would you want to come and check it out? And I was just like, "Yeah, whatever." I didn't even think about it. Yeah, because I think Bucket was going to try to recommend me or something. And then when we got off the road, Les kind of said, "Hey," you know, "we've had our fun." You know, he kind of let me go in a sense. You know, he was like, "How are you feeling about this?" And I was like, "Oh, I get it." You know, he's like, "Yeah," you know, "I just feel like, you know, the band's always like-" [...] I felt like he was wanting to get the old band back together. And so I was like, "Okay, I get it." And then, you know, like three weeks later, Bucket calls and he's like, "Hey man, I think Josh quit." That's when I started getting the calls from Guns.

Brain was not particularly interested in Guns N' Roses but he did find Axl cool:

That period of time, you know, of music I kind of missed, which was the... What was that like? Motley Crue...not that Guns is part of that, the Poison and the glam rock thing but yeah, I always thought they were cooler and different than that, like, I would have never joined Poison but um... I kinda missed that period. In that period I was really into I think fusion and in miles[?] [talking about the eclectic music he was into at the time]. So anyways, so when Buckethead called about it, I was like, "Yeah," you know, "whatever," you know, "I mean, I guess," I mean, I always thought it was cool because I had heard stories about the tour, Mike Patton would tell me stories about that Monsters of Rock tour because Faith No More was on it. And then they were opening for Metallica and Guns N' Roses. And then I saw on MTV him wearing like the feather boa, Axl, and like flipping out, diving into the audience, picking out one person, yelling at that person. I was like, "Oh, this guy is pretty cool," and he's, you know, wearing an NWA and I thought, "Well, this guy's a freak!" So I liked that part of it but I didn't really understand the music or even listen to it.

I was like, "Well, I don't know, that sounds kind of cool, I guess. I mean, you know, I don't really know. I mean, it's probably crazy." But I'm not trying to sound like a heavy but in my mind, I was like, "I don't know if I wanna play rock." I mean, I thought Axl was cool when he was throwing the mic around and going crazy with his ascots and be a freak. And you know, I thought that was cool, but I don't really listen to their music. I don't really know anything, I was really into, you know, like beat music and hip-hop and that's when like computers and music was just taking off. So getting into Logic, getting into Pro Tools, getting into Cubase and all the loop based type and recording in the computer stuff was was popping up. So I was like, "You know, I don't know, I don't know if I want to do that."

It was funny because when I joined Guns I didn't, you know, I mean, of course I heard the album and I knew about Appetite, I, you know, just saw it was huge. I think at that time, you know, they were doing the Monsters Of Rock with like... I kind of knew Kirk Hammett a little bit because I was in this band Godflesh and he was a huge Godflesh fan so he was hanging around. And then Mike Patton, so Mike was on that tour with Faith No More he's... Yeah, crazy it was, just what was going on. And so, you know, I was just always intrigued and kind of a just a fan of just Axl his vibe, you know. I'd look at his N.W.A. hat with his, you know, the crazy outfits and shit and I'd be like, "What?" you know, cuz I was always into hip-hop also. You know, at that point I was getting into hip-hop. But so I was into like hip-hop and fusion and it's funny because when I joined Guns I thought it was gonna be easy. You know, like, I thought, "It's just rock, man," you know it's just easy, you know.

I was like, "I don't know. I don't know if I wanna do this." And they were just like, "What? What do you mean you don't wanna do this?" And I was like, "Well, I don't know. I've never really played this style of music. I don't really get it. I'm not sure." And they're like, "Whoa, what do you mean? This is Guns N' Roses. Everybody wants this gig. And what do you mean you don't want it?" That alone kind of pushed them into, "Well, just come down and check it out," type thing, you know, or whatever. And I think also pushing for me probably helped. But so, you know, then I got the like, you know, limo service to this studio type thing, you know, to like go there.

Then Axl called him and later band management and invited him to come and play with the band:

But then Axl, they were like, "Well, why don't you just come down and meet everyone?" you know, "because everybody wants this gig." You know, "Kenny Aronoff's knocking on the door and all these people want this gig and they're saying, 'I'm the drummer for you,'" and I'm kinda out of just being like, not really interested. I'm thinking maybe that made Axl a little like, "Wait, no one says they don't want to play with me. This is Guns N' Roses." So I think there was a thing like, "We're gonna fly you out to meet everyone." So they get me a first class ticket from San Francisco to LA, like a a ridiculous, like, 550SL something something something Mercedes, black, all tinted windows, comes and gets me, they drive me to the studio, you know.

So when I first got on the phone I remember - I think it was Axl - and I remember talking to him and he was just like, "Well, you want to come and audition?" you know, "every, you know, drummer wants this gig, Kenny Aronoff's knocking on our door right now," like, you know, "because he's right...", you know, like that kind of stuff. And I was like, "I don't know, I guess," you know, and he was pretty intimidating so I didn't really, you know, I was just a, "Yes," going like, "Okay, yeah, sure, sounds great." But then when the management called, I kind of pulled the heavy and was like, "I don't know, I'm not really, you know, I don't want to come and learn songs and just audition." And they were like, "What? This is Guns N' Roses!" You know, that's how everything around it was, you know. So I was just like, "Eh, whatever." And so then uh...

I didn't even think about how big it was. Until then I got the call again from the management just saying, "Well, look, you don't have to come and audition, but we're at the studio. Why don't you just come and meet everybody and then maybe play on a couple songs so we can see how you play?" or whatever type thing. So I was like, "Okay, I'll do that." So that's when like the 550SSS something Mercedes shows up, you know, all blacked out, picks me up. You know, I take a first-class flight from here to LA, you know, another S50 million car picks me up.

In a later interview, Brain would explain that it was Tommy who tried to convince him to come to LA and audition, and that this happened about three months after the end of the Primus tour:

And three months goes by, and you know Tommy Stinson, the bass player, calls and says, "Dude," you know, after three months, like, "Hey man," you know, "we need a drummer, so what's going on? I mean, you wanna do this or what?" And I remember sitting in a cafe in San Francisco while I picked up the phone, I was like, "Yeah, I don't know. I mean, it sounds kind of cool." And he's like, "Well, you should come down and jam," like, you know, like "learn some songs and do whatever."

And then I got home and then like I don't know like three or four months went by, didn't hear anything. And then, you know, I got a call - I think it was from Tommy Stinson or whatever - and he was like, "Hey man, we need a drummer, what are you doing?" and I was like, "Um," you know and he, you know, was just like, "You know, everybody wants this gig, you know, Kenny Aronoff's knocking on the door but, you know, Buckethead says we should check you out, like who the fuck are you?" you know, because Tommy was that kind of punk rock, you know, attitude thing. And then he found out I played with Tom Waits and he loves Tom Waits so then he started being cooler to me, you know, he was kind of like... and, you know, since then we're friends and everything, I love Tommy and whatever. But I remember at first he was like, "Okay," you know, "who the fuck are you? You gonna come down and check this out?" you know, "What are you doing?" like that kind of a thing. And so I was like, "Well, yeah, I'll come and check it out but I don't know if I want to jam on Sweet Child O' Mine, you know, and those kind of things, I'm not going to come down and audition." And, you know, they were kind of taken back and they're like, "What do you mean? Like, this is like, you know, like Guns N' Roses, dude," you know, and I was like, "Well, that's cool and everything but I don't know, I just don't...I mean, you know, what, I'm gonna come and just jam on these songs? I know them, whatever, who cares?" you know. I wasn't trying to be a dick but I was really like, "Well, I could go either way," I mean, you know, I didn't really care at that point, I was getting kind of burned out on playing anyway, I had just been on tour and I was just... I thought maybe I was better than I was or something, I don't know, so I just kind of blew it off in a way. And then they called and said, "Why don't you come down to the studio and just play on some tracks, you know, some of the tracks that we have? Will just check you out." So, you know, I got a call from the manager and they gave me like a first-class ticket from San Francisco to LA [...].

Talking about what met him at the studio:

We go to the, you know, the studio, you know, I get in there, it's like every keyboard, every drum set, every thing you'd ever want, you're walking through the hall, you just, it's laying around. You know, you're just like, "Wait, there's like fifteen blah blah blah about that," you know, "or ten thousand dollar keyboards," and there's like four of them laying there. You know and you're just like, "What?" you know like that kind of shit. [...]  It's at the recording studio, Rumble. Just everything you'd ever want is just kind of laying around, you know what I mean? "Oh, there's a 70s Gretch something kit!" You know, you're just like, "Jesus!" like, you know. Then I started going, "Oh shit, okay, this is the real deal," like, "these guys, this is big," you know.

And which guys were there:

[...] it was mainly, you know, Tommy, Robin... Bucket wasn't even there yet. I think Bucket was already... they just wanted the other people. So it was like first person I met was Robin and then Tommy and then Mother Goose - who was Chris Pitman - and then the producer, Sean Bevan, and then the engineers, Caram Costanzo and Eric Caudieux, who is the Pro Tools master, dude. And that was who was at the studio. And then I jammed for a little bit on some songs that they had recorded.

It is interesting that Brain says that Tobin was there. Robin left the band months prior to Brain joining, and would only return to the band a few months later. This could be due to Brain misremembering or mean that out dates are wrong and that Robin left the band later, rejoined earlier, or that Brain joined the band earlier.

Still, Brain did not want to learn the songs:

I met Axl and they were like, "Well, you have to learn these songs," you know, like, "We wanna jam," you know, "You have to learn Sweet Child O' Mine, this, this, this and this". And I was just like, "I don't really know those songs and I don't really want to learn them because I don't really care," you know? I'm not saying like I'm a heavy, I'm just saying that through the my attitude of "Just, whatever," it was just kind of like, "No one says whatever," you know? "This is Guns," so "Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait!"

Talking about that first audition and meeting the band and Axl:

So I went down and met everybody, and everybody seemed cool. Axl actually showed up. He was super cool, you know?

[...] they called me up, you know, the management calls me up, is like, "You know, dude, this is Guns N' Roses and, you know, we're going to get you first-class ticket from here to LA," you know, they they got like a car to pick me up, like one of those S550 something, you know, Mercedes, and, you know, black car, and, you know, drove me to the airport, they picked me up from the LAX... No, I think we flew from Burbank because we were ar Rumbo at that point and that was in the Valley. Yeah, I remember, so, you know, they picked me up, you know, I go to the studio, you know, there's Robin, you know, who I'd never met, you know, for Nine Inch Nails, you know, he's sitting there and Bucket wasn't there yet, I don't think. And so the first person I met, I remember meeting Robin with his crazy hair and I'd seen him in Nine Inch Nails but I didn't, you know, he just had like his whole head was shaved except his sideburns, he had these long, like, you know, Amish eyeburn [?] type eyes. I was like, "Oh shit, this is getting weird," you know, "this is kind of crazy." And then I met the producer Sean Beaven who was really cool and then Roy Thomas Baker... Roy Thomas Baker wasn't there yet, I don't think. Yeah, I think it was still Sean Beavan. And so, you know, I go into Rumbo and, you know, they asked me to join, you know. They had some track set up and they were playing, you know, I was playing, you know, and doing my thing and Chris Pitman was there, then he showed up and then I think Tommy showed up, you know, because they all came to say like, "Okay, who is this Brain guy that Bucket keeps talking about?" So I was kind of put on the spot. And then it got heavy because all of a sudden I'm like playing on one of the tracks, I look over and it's fucking Axl sitting in the control room and I was like, "Oh shit!" like, "There's Axl!" like, "this is real now," you know, "Holy shit!" I kind of froze up, you know, and I was like I didn't know what to do and then they're like, "Hey man," you know, "come in," I was like, "Okay," and I knew that it was because Axl wanted to meet me. And, you know, he was super cool but that's when I knew the shit was real because, you know, he kind of had the presence of, like, you know, you're just like, "Oh shit, now it's real," like I was talking shit before because, you know, I wasn't really talking to the man but now I'm talking to the man, like, here he is, you know?

So, you know, I jammed that night, Axl came to the studio and I met him for the first time. He seemed really cool. That's when I was playing with Bill a lot and stuff. So he was asking me what I was doing. So I was just saying, "Oh, I'm doing sessions with Bill Laswell, just got back from Europe and did this and I went to New York and did this album and that kind of stuff." He's like, "Oh, okay, that's cool."

And then they're like, "OK, cool. You know, hey, man, Axl's going to come by." I was like, "What? Oh, no." You know, like that kind of thing. And then, you know, Axl shows up. Super cool. just chill, you know, and I was like, "Wow, this is kind of cool," you know, just like, "everybody seems cool." You know, little did I know how crazy it gets, you know, but I was just like, "Oh, okay." And I think that's the same with Bucket. You know, I both think when we got in it, it was just like, "Oh, this is going to be a cool thing."

Talking to Axl during that first audition for Guns N' Roses:

And [Axl] just was asking me what I've been doing and and stuff and he was super cool. He even said to me - I'll never forget - he goes, "Yeah dude," you know, "Hey, if you want this gig you can have it and you can still play in Primus or Tom Waits or whatever you want to do, is just, you know, you got to let us know and we're first." I was like, "This is the fucking coolest guy ever!" Like, you know, I get that if I can do that and then, you know, and then I was like, "Alright, let's do this," you know. And then we started rehearsing for that first Rock In Rio gig.

Brain returned to the Bay Area and Axl called him and offered him the job:

And about three weeks later, I got a call. Axl was just like, "Yeah, man, you know, if you want this gig you can have it, you just can't..." Uh, I mean, "Just let us know if you're gonna play with other people, you can still play with other people, just let us know first," and I was like, "Oh, that's rad," and I was like, "Okay, I guess I got the gig, I guess I'll do it," you know but-

Then Tommy called him about two months later and convinced him to return to Los Angeles and start rehearsing for the upcoming shows:

And you know, our first gig is Rock in Rio. And you know, and I didn't get it. I was just like, "Eh, whatever, I'm just skateboarding, having fun, doing my thing." And then what happens was, like two months goes by with nothing. And I'm just like, "Oh, maybe I didn't get the gig. I don't know". And then Tommy Stinson calls me from The Replacements. And I had met Tommy briefly at the studio that night, but that's the only other conversation I had with him. But he was a huge Tom Waits fan. So he had known I played with Tom Waits. So he was a like, I kind of had an in with Tommy because he was like, "Well, if Brain's played with Tom Waits, then he must be cool and good," and that kind of a thing. And so Tommy called and said, "Dude, we need a drummer. Where are you? What are you doing?" And I remember I was sitting in a cafe in San Francisco, Cafe Greco, and, you know, and I was like, "Well, what do you mean you need a drummer? Yeah, I don't know. I hadn't heard from you guys in two months. I'm just kicking it. I'm not doing anything." And he's like, "Well, you got to get your ass down here." "Okay, I'll start [?]," "We got to rehearse for the show." And so I was like, "Okay." So, you know, finally they get it together. You know, I remember, you know, packing my suitcase. I'm headed to Center Staging to rehearse for three months before we do our first gig at Rock In Rio.

But Brain came unprepared:

So it finally hit me then because they flew me out, we went to a ridiculous rehearsal studio, I think it was at Center Staging or something and it was like the biggest room, and my drums are on like a 6 foot riser and all these things are said, you know, I'm just thinking like, "Whoa, this is kind of cool. This is like, you know when you go to like the 10th floor, this is 11th." This is like it!" you know, "shit man, maybe I made it if I take this gig. This is getting serious now." So I go in and Tommy Stinson shows up, you know, with his Replacements punk rock attitude, you know, and I had a boom stand. He comes, he fucking takes off his coat, sets it on my boom stand. I'm thinking like, "This motherfucker!" like, "Okay, they want to play here." So we're, you know, playing the songs and I am sucking cock. I mean, I didn't know any of them because I didn't. And Tommy's going like, "I thought you were a good drummer, like what the fuck's going on?" you know? And I'm like, "Dude, I didn't learn any of the songs. I don't know any of them." He's going, "Dude," and then like, the phone rings and I hear him talking to like, Axl, it's like, "So how's Brain's working out?" I just know this is what they're saying. And he's going, "Well, it's kind of cool but he doesn't know any of the songs." And I hear Tommy and him kind of going back and forth, and at that point I thought, "Oh-uh", like now I'm turning out to look like a fucking douche.

I think because it was so big I just didn't let it sink in, like, I didn't, like I said, these were the steps building up to, like, when I saw Axl then I thought, "Oh shit! That's the dude that I watch on TV with a feather boa and screaming and throwing the mic down." You know, that's why I was into him. I was into that he's [?] that, and the shit was crazy, because I was always into the, you know, chaos killer [?], chaos never dies vibe, you know, [?]. I was just always, like, into the whole thing, you know, the mystique of it and everything. So when I saw him I was like, "Oh shit!" you know, with his rings and shit, I was like, "Okay, the heavy's here," like, "Okay, this is where it gets deep." It started catching up then. So no, dude, I didn't have any preparation, I just kind of showed up like, "Oh, whatever!" you know, didn't rehearse, didn't know one Guns song, nothing.

So that's when the shit started going, "Okay, now it's like talking to management, okay, we're rehearsing at Centre Staging," you know, "Get all your gear here, we're starting this," you know, "three months of rehearsing before we go play our first show in Rock In Rio," and that kind of shit. And that's when I started going, "Oh shit!" So I call my tech to bring this drum set, and it's kind of my Primus fusion kit, and, you know, we're setting up - I'll never forget - I go to the first rehearsal, Tommy Stinson walks in and I have my mic stand and it's like - not my mics stand, I mean my cymbal stand - and it's kind of set up kind of like Neal Perthish with like, you know, like a giraffe it's got the boom stand and it's kind of sticking out, and Tommy walks in and he takes off his coat he just puts it on the boom stand, you know, like, "Oh, okay, you fucking dick!" So we started playing and we were just jamming, more jams, I didn't really know the songs yet and, you know, we started playing the songs and doing the shit, and then I remember - I'll never forget it - all of a sudden it's like the bat phone rings and it's kind of like, "Tommy," you know, "there's a phone call for you," and I knew it was Axl. And I can kind of see Tommy looking over whatever and talking, you know, was kind of like it was... I couldn't hear what he was saying but I can, you know, I was just kind of like vibing the whole thing and basically [?], "He's here but he doesn't know any of the songs and I don't know what the fuck's going on, dude, who is this guy?" But Tommy was like, he's like, "Dude," like, you know, "What [?] like your setup [?]," like, you know, and, "you don't know any of the songs, like, dude, you got to get your shit together or I'm just going to tell him, you know, you can't pull this," or whatever.

And I show up, I set up, you know, my tech sets up everything and Tommy is looking at me and he goes, "Okay here we go," and I'm like, "Wait, we're gonna start what?" He goes, "You don't know any of the songs?" "I don't know, dude, I just showed up, I haven't haven't learned - what are we playing? I don't know what is supposed to happen." And I remember him going, "What the...!" and then the phone rings and it's Axl, and Tommy's just like, "Dude, I don't know what's going on," you know, like, "What the fuck," like, "Brain doesn't know any of the songs," and that kind of thing. Then Tommy comes back and he's just like, "Dude, you got to get your shit together." At that point, right then, I went, "Oh shit, okay, I get it." "I got to learn some song, yeah, I gotta get my shit together."

Brain then asked for another chance:

So I said, "Tommy, give me a day, just give me a fucking day and we'll come back." I came back, I reset my drums totally different. At that point I had kind of the Primus fusion set so it didn't really work with Guns anyways, right? You know, just having all these little small toms and fucking splash symbols and shit. I told the drum tech, "Dude, set up a bottom kit," you know, 26 inch kick drum, 13, 16, 18, fucking, I'm going in with just power, sat up all night, learned, you know, the five or six songs and went, "If fucking Tommy comes in one more time and puts his fucking jacket on my... I'm gonna go..." and went in and just played. I kicked over... by playing so hard I'd say four or five drums fell off the risers. And then Tommy was like,  "Yeah, he's our guy, that's it. Let's do this." So I knew I had to kick do it at that point, because now I am going have like, "That guy sucks!" You know, so I said, "Okay, this is it. I gotta kick some ass and get my shit together." And then I felt like this is the real deal. I mean, these guys, you know, this is as big as it gets.

And I was like, "Oh shit, okay," I go, "Dude, give me fucking, give me two days, I'll be back in two days, just give me fucking two days." So I tell my tech, "Look I want a bottom type setup, I get this now, no fucking boom stands, no..." And that's when I started doing, Art, what you're asking, you know, I started to get my shit together.

So I said, "Dude, give me two days, just give me two days and I'll come back" And at that point I had brought like my Primus kit and it was all just wrong for it. So I told my tech, "Look dude, bring the Bonham kit, I just want a 26 inch bass drum, 13, 16, 18, three cymbals. Just bring that kit. I'll see you in two days." I told Tommy to give me two days.

Brain also started to listen to the band's back catalogue and during the next audition Tommy was convinced:

And so I was like, "This is when I gotta step up now." And then it was like, "Oh, this is cool," you know. I started actually listening to fucking... I owe it a lot to like that first Guns album and whatever. And really listening to and going, "This is a well crafted album. The parts are orchestrated." You know, I was just like in fusion and playing, you know, Primus was like jamming a lot and it was good and there's a certain side that you have to be able to do that. But I had learned by studying that album and listening to parts and like how Adler played and the feel and just the whole thing, I'm thinking, "This is a well crafted album. This is like good rock'n'roll," in that sense or whatever. Because I mean, I would always listen to Zeppelin and all that kind of stuff of course, and learn that, but it was more just like, "Oh shit! Trying to get Bonham's kick drum, trying to get..." you know, what the parts he's playing. This was actually kind of going like, "Wow!" listening to the parts and seeing how it works with the guitar and seeing how it moves with everything [...].

And that's when I started [...] to get my shit together. I learned every fucking song that they wanted me to learn, I sat there for night and day with headphones and a pad at the fucking hotel and learnt every break, every thing, had my tech set [?] a whole different kit. We showed up, this time Tommy couldn't put his fucking coat on my cymbals down because it was smooth like bottom, straight [?]. I fucking just, you know, first song I just went as hard as I could, just went cra... you know, I knocked over like two cymbals, I just hit every drum like I was going to kill somebody and Tommy just looked at me and was like, "You got the gig, let's go get a drink!"

And I just went in my hotel room for like, you know, 12 hours a day or more, and just sat there, learned the songs the best I could. And I came back and I just remember just having like the first three down to a T, like I was just like, "Let's play these three songs," I knew I had the best, and I just killed it and Tommy goes, "All right, let's go get a beer," and we just got a beer and I was in the band and that was it.

So according to the quote above, Brain doesn't seem to have been in the band until Tommy approved, either suggesting Tommy had the right to veto Axl's decision, the right to decided on the drummer, or exaggerated his own importance.

And which songs he played during those first auditions:

Oh shit, I don't know if it ever made it on Chinese. I'm kind of embarrassed that I can't even remember if it was on Chinese. But it was a song Mother Goose had written and it was kind of a punk rock song. I forgot what the title of it at that point was. I don't think it was the working title, it was just the one that they... what they were calling it while we were doing it, but it was definitely something that was supposed to be on Chinese. [...] It wasn't The Blues. It was kind of a fast punk rock kind of feel. It might have been Prostitute. [...] I remember the name Prostitute was up. And I did a couple. I did like three. But the one that I kind of choked on when Axl walked in was the fast punk rock one.

Primus was touring Australia in April 2000, so if Brain's recollection is correct, he joined Guns N' Roses after this leg of Primus' tour. Josh had quit the band the month before [see previous chapter].

Josh would later say it was a given that Brain would join:

And that's how Brian got the gig. Because Brain and Buckethead are super, super good friends. Brain knows him a lot better than I know him. And so when I left I could have told you Brain was gonna come play because they had already auditioned a bunch of guys in LA and didn't like any of the ones that they found. I was the one that they'd settled on and it's now two years later- [...] What are they gonna do? Just audition the same 10 guys they already auditioned? I don't know. And Brain's a great drummer and wasn't doing a whole lot so it only made sense. But, I mean, he's like one of Buckethead's best friends.

Brain would confirm he was a permanent member of the band in January 2001 [Último Segundo (Brazil), January 14, 2001].

Discussing how he differed from Josh:

I’ve always been a fan of Mitch Mitchell and John Bonham. Then there’s Bernard Purdie; I’d listen to a lot of R&B, a lot of Stax recordings. My dad was heavy into Curtis Mayfield and Shuggie Otis when I was growing up, and he’d play those records all the time. He took me to the Keystone Korner to see Tony Williams when I was really young, and I think I gravitated toward that kind of swing and groove. I think Josh [Freese] is the precise, technically proficient, perfect kind of punk drummer – I saw him with Nine Inch Nails recently and it was incredible. He was killing it. But my style is a little looser, and I’ve always had that kind of swing to my feel, even if it’s rock. I just hear music that way. I think that’s what Axl heard and thought, Okay, Brain puts the pocket in a different slot, a different place.

Last edited by Soulmonster on Sun Feb 25, 2024 11:16 am; edited 18 times in total
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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 8:55 am


Bryan Kei "Brain" Mantia was born on February 4, 1963, in Cupertino, CA, USA.

Explaining being called "Brain":

I got it because I was going to PIT. [...] But I was going there and I was playing, practicing a lot. I was so into Terry Bozzio and Vinny. I was into portraits [?] and rhythm. I wanted to learn everything about that book, you know, Anthony Cerrone, I wanted to like just be a master at that book because I heard Terry Bozzio knew how to play it. So I would just have a snare drum in that book. And the kids there were into partying, you know, going out into Hollywood, going over the West side here and going to the beach and doing all this partying. And I would be like, "No, dude, I'm on page 17 and I got to learn these 32 note triplets and all this," you know, five tuplets with a triplet within this, you know, all this crazy shit. And they were like, "What are you, some kind of brain?" You know, they just kept saying, like, "You'd rather do this? Come on, we're gonna go check out chicks and stuff." And I'm just like, "No, dude, I gotta get this. I gotta get this down," I mean, you know, "Because I heard Terry Bozzio learn this." I was all into it. Then it kind of stuck. They would just call me 'Brain' there and it'll just be like "Brain!" It just kind of stuck. And my mom calls me Brain.

[...] the nickname that was given to me when I was in going to PIT, that Percussion Institute of Technology, you know, MIT or whatever, in Hollywood, and I was always just, you know, I really wanted to practice like all the crazy Terry Bozzio stuff, was a huge fan of Terry Bozzio because of Frank Zappa, and then his Missing Person stuff and all that stuff so you know I was just learning, I was trying to learn this Portraits [?] and Rhythm book and it was a very, it's a classical snare drum book that Anthony Cerrone [?] wrote and it's just, you know, it looks like someone just thew, you know, shit on fly papers, you know, just it's black, basically, and how many notes are crammed into each bar. And so, you know, everybody kept saying, "What are you? Some kind of brain?", cuz, you know, I wanted to sit there and learn this because I kept thinking, "[?] as good as Terry Bozzio," or something, you know some stupid shit like that. So that's just where the nickname came from and then since then, you know, it just kind of stuck, all my friends started calling me it, and then it became a thing and I thought, "Ah," you know, "might as well keep it, sounds kind of cool, a little different," so.

Eventually, everyone would call him 'Brain':

I mean my mom calls me 'Brain' at this point so you know I figured, yeah, everybody calls me that so. My daughter even says 'Brain' so I'm just like, "Oh-oh, shit!"

Like Richard, Brain started off playing the violin:

The first instrument I picked up was violin. I had an affinity for Paganini, which quickly turned into a hatred.

And would also "toy around" with guitars and other instruments before getting into drums:

At that time I was toying with guitar, I was trying to do everything, you know, I was taking guitar lessons, bass lessons, piano lessons, at first before I even started drums. [...] I wanted to be in music, you know, I was hanging around a bunch of fools [?] in school that played instruments so, you know, and one group of people I hung around with they needed a bass player so I was like, "Okay, shit, I'll get a bass and learn how to play some bass." And then it was like, "Oh, you know, we need a guitar player," so I was like, "Okay." I was taking lessons trying to learn guitar and then piano was something I was doing, you know, because my parents were just like, "Hey, take some piano lessons." But keyboards were kind of uncool, you know, like it was like in Ted Nugent - I don't know if you've ever seen that video - it's like one of my favorite videos where he's in the woods and you've got like his guns and shit and he's like searching for the enemy and then he finds the enemy and it's a keyboard.

Brain talking about getting into drums:

So I got into the drums because my mom, actually, took me to the mall and I saw Buddy Rich absolutely shredding the drums to pieces, and I thought, “Man...” – you know, I knew right away that’s what I wanted to do.

So when I got into drums, I was in high school and I was pretty much like... either I was gonna pick the drums or skateboarding. Then I went to the park one day and I broke my foot skating; and I thought, “Oh man! Maybe I’ll just practice the snare drum.” So I bought Anthony Cirone’s “Portraits in Rhythm.” I just practiced, like, all day, every day, and I’d just, like, go around school and say, “Hey man, you play...” - you know, “I heard that you play guitar,” “I heard you played bass” - and we just gathered these guys together. And once my foot healed, I just started jamming with them.

It was weird, because when I first started playing with them, I had just only practiced on the snare drum for, like, six months. We were playing AC/DC and I could barely keep a 2/4 beat [...] and everybody’s just looking at me like, “Dude, man, that’s AC/DC! Come on, man, keep the beat, man! What the hell is wrong with you?” So I’d just sit there and put AC/DC Back in Black on all day and just, like, play to it and stuff.

But anyway, so, you know, it was kind of like, "Okay, so it's going to be either guitar bass or drums," and then a friend of mine, you know, who was playing in school, you know, during like recess and shit, you know, be like, "Hey, today in the squad [?]," you know, "Mirv's going to be playing with his band," and, you know, he was playing Led Zeppelin, he was playing like Black Sabbath, he was playing all this rock shit and I just was like, "Oh my god," you know, I want to play with this guy and [?] guitar player. And, you know, he had in his band he had also a bass player so they were really tight. But it was a drummer who was the kind of the loose cannon and then at that time my sister was like, "Hey, I know Mark, and," you know, "they kind of are looking for a drummer, "and I was like, "Fuck! Okay, I want to be in this band, I'm gonna learn drums." So, you know, I started listening to like Rock Candy [?], Ronnie Montrose, all that kind of shit that was, you know, was kind of big at that point. Even Journey, old Journey, you know, [?] Neil Sean [?] with that whole tuhoe tech [?], I think it was, it was one of the first shows I saw was Journey at some, you know, like Civic Center show or something. And then so I was like, "I'm going to play drums." Then I got into AC/DC. I remember I was into skating really heavily and this dude, Blackheart, that was his name, he had the coolest name in town, and, you know, it was like, "Oh, Blackheart's here to skate this pool," because we'd be just cruising around trying to find pools to skate because that's when it was like popular to like find empty pools around town and I was kind of living in suburbia so it was like, you know, empty pools were like things that you can find very easily if you just cruise around and just like went in the neighborhoods, rich neighborhoods, and just looked over the fence, you know. So there was this one pool and the guy was cranked that we were skating and the guy had a ghetto blaster was cranking AC/DC and I was like, "Oh-oh," like, "this is the shit, right here," like, "I want to play this shit on drums." And so, you know, I found a teacher, you know, brought an AC/DC and he was like, "Oh yeah," you know, "this is great stuff," and he showed me it and I just played the songs. Then my sister said, "Hey, you know this Mirv guy need a drummer and he wants to jam with you," because, you know, she's like two years younger than me and so was this guy. And I started kind of late because I was really into skateboarding more than anything, so I was trying to become a professional skateboarder but then I broke my foot and I kind of had to stop skateboarding and so I got into just practicing on a pad and, you know, learning stuff and my foot got better but I really dove into drums. But to make a long story short, I joined his band and it was like, "Well, you're going to be a drummer." And then since then I swear to you I just haven't stopped, the phone kept ringing, one thing led to another, you know, I didn't go after it like, "Oh my god, I have to be a drummer," I could have went bass or I could have went guitar, depending on what situation happened. So that's sort of how I got into the drums and then I just basically started meeting people, you know, just hanging out playing and people offered me gigs and I just kept going and going. And I swear to you I never thought about it since then.

As for music interests, Brain grew up on rock:

And, I mean, I, you know, I grew up with rock, like, you know, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Rush, you know, cuz I was kind of gravitating towards drums at that point so, you know-

But would gradually move into fusion when he started learning music theory [also see the quotes about earning the nickname 'Brain' above]:

[...] Keith Moon, John Bonham, Neil Peart, all that kind of stuff I was really into it. Or Pat Travers, Tommy Aldridge, you know, I was just a huge fan of Tommy and just that whole thing. And then when I started studying music, I started learning how to read, taking lessons, doing all that stuff, I started getting into fusion. And, you know, with fusion it's more like, you know, it's like beaten off [?] or, whatever, it's, you know, you're just like getting, you know, you're like tons of notes, different odd time signatures. "I got high on my own supply" type of thing.

Discussing his versatility as a dummer:

I’ve always been a chameleon. Even in school – I’m half-Japanese and half-Italian – I could hang with pretty much any situation. I would hang out with the brothers and listen to funk music, and then with my white friends and listen to Van Halen. It always seemed like I was a chameleon, and the way I play is kind of an extension of my personality. Like when I’m with CCBOBB [=Colonel Claypool’s Bucket Of Bernie Brains], I’ve got this big Neil Peart-ish kit with ten cymbals, an Octapad, Roto-Toms, and it’s all about improvising. The more notes, the more people go crazy. Then with Tom [Waitz], I’m using fewer drums; a 26” kick drum, a floor tom, and a snare. No cymbals, four congas, and all this percussion – stuff you couldn’t even find in a junkyard. I’m going from more hi-hat notes than Stewart Copeland ever played, to no hi-hat. It is weird, but I’m able to adapt.

And discuss playing with many different bands and why being a drummer in the Bay area was good for him:

I mean, I think it was really the area, like, I think, you know how like, it's like being the big fish in a little pond work for me here. You know, it never worked in LA for me. You know, it's like there's just so many great drummers and so much talent there. Or New York. You know, I happen to just be lucky and be in the Bay Area where I think it was just, you know... and I work my ass off. I'd play with anybody, I was playing three or four shows, you know, a week, somewhere in San Francisco, with three or four different bands, you know. In every club, any popular, two gigs a night type shit, you know. Like, I'd go from the Kennel Club over to the Nightbreak, over to the EyeBe [?], like in one night, playing with three different groups. So I just became like the drummer of like, "Oh yeah, Brain's [?] play a punk rock thing," so I'd play with, like you know, I think they were called the Frontier Wives [?] at that time and they were like a punk type of band. It was like, "Oh, Brain could also play," you know, like, "weird, moody, you know, Depeche Mode type stuff," and there was some electronic, you know, band coming up trying to do that shit. I'd play with them and then I'd go, you know. And I'd literally put my change in the car and put it on different outfits for the gig.

1984-1992 [?] - THE LIMBOMANIACS

The Limbomaniacs was likely the first proper band Brain drummed in. With Kelly Smith (vocals), Mark "M.I.R.V." Haggard (vocals, guitar), Tony "Butthouse" Chaba (bass, vocals), Pete Scaturro (machines, organ) and Greg Thompson (saxaphone) [Primus family tree,]. They released their only album, Stinky Grooves, in 1990.

And at that point [=when Brain met Buckethead] I had already made an album with this band called the Limbomaniacs - that was a childhood friend band from that guy that I saw playing the Quad, Mirv [=Marc Haggard], who was playing Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and Ted Nugent and all that shit, Robin Trower [?]. And he was in this... we got a childhood band, we got signed, we called it the Limbomaniacs and we got signed on Relativity Records.

The Limbomanics with Brain
Unknown date

1985-1987 [?] BIG CITY

With Pete Scaturro (machines, organ) and Joe Gore (guitars) [Primus family tree,].

I met some guys, jammed around town, then I just... the biggest man at that time, there was this World Deep Movement [?] they called it in San Francisco and I think David Rubenstein or something was the, who was like Herbie Hancock's manager at the time, was like, you know, heading this whole huge movement of like three of the, three bands are blowing up, it was like The Freaky Executives, Big City and then The Looters, and I think he was managing all of that at that point. I'm not sure, though, he might not, but he was definitely managing Big City and they saw me play with this band I was playing around locally in town and then they asked me to join their band.

[...] we were supposed to get signed, become his next huge band, or whatever, but we kind of just... it just never really worked out, we had, I don't know, bad management, just bad ever, you know, just didn't work out.

World Beat Festival poster

1987-? [?]: MCM

Together with MCM/Miles (vocals), Hector (guitars), Gary (guitars), Danny (bass) and Pause (turntables) [Primus family tree,].

1990-1992: BUCKETHEAD

Brain would be introduced to Buckethead through John Gore, the editor of Guitar Magazine and bandmate in Big City:

Before I was in Primus, I was noodling around this, like, world beat scene - it was, like, afro beat, Zulu jive and that kind of rhythms - and they would influence it with rock. One of the guitar players was the editor of Guitar Player magazine, and he turned me on to this cat, Buckethead. He said, “Oh, Brain, dude, you and Bucket should get together, man, cuz you guys are both gone;” like, you know, we talked about weird stuff, and Bucket was in real weird horror movies and all this crazy stuff. So he introduced me to him and we became good friends, and he ended up playing with us on the Ozzfest; he came on tour and would sit in, like, on three songs. Then, from there, we were, like, playing and stuck.

[...] I had met Buckethead through Joe Gore, who was the editor of Guitar Player, said, "Dude, this guy sent me a video cassette of him just saying he can take out Paul Schaefer and his band." [laughing] So it's a video where he's just in his bedroom soloing, and he had some, Maximum Bob was his name, just yelling into the camera going, "Paul, you need to get Buckethead to play guitar!" Buckethead was just going [imitates squealing guitar sound]. So he had turned me on to Bucket [...] And, you know, he was just this freaky dude who, you know, he showed up in a mask and did his whole schtick the whole time and and then we hit it off.

So Joe Gore at that time was like a, you know, musicologist or whatever, I think he was teaching at Berkeley at the time, but he just, you know, he was kind of like my mentor as far as like different ethnic styles of music and that band sorta was a hybrid of of African beats with rock. And he basically just, you know, knew everything. So at that point he became the editor of Guitar Player. So he called me one day, it was just like, "You have to meet this guitar player because I got a tape of him and his friend sitting in his, like, bedroom on a videotape just shredding and soloing and just they sent it to I think Paul Shaffer saying, you know, 'Hey, you should get this guy in your band,'" you know- [...] It was like Bucket was sitting there with his bucket on and his mask and he was just shredding, I mean, just like really like crazy [imitating high-pitched shredding]. And, you know, Joe Gore was like, "Hey man, I think you would be perfect to play with this guy, I really think you guys would get along. You want to meet him?" And so, you know, I was like, "Yeah, that sounds cool." So Bucket, you know, I think he was living in Claremont at that time or somewhere in down south, so he came up and, you know, he was just this really shy, really sweet dude that was just a shredder, and right away he was into like, we talked about basketball, Jordan, he was into Bruce Lee, and, you know, and we just kind of got along, we just kind of hit it off, and we kind of became friends. And we didn't really do too much, you know, playing at that point, we would just kind of hang out.

Well, I met Bucket through this guy named Joe Gore, who I was in a band with after the Limbo's broke up, I ended up getting in this band. There was this world beat scene happening in San Francisco, which was like made up of like, I think a core of, I think three or four bands, the Looters, Big City, The Freaky Executives... And I think there was one more, I can't remember. But I joined this band called Big City and the guitar player was this guy named Joe Gore, and Joe became the editor of Guitar Player magazine. And we were living in the city, still in the Limbos kind of, but it was kind of flailing and breaking up and Joe was like, "Hey, this guy sent a tape, you know, and his name is Buckethead and this guy named Maximum Bob sent it. And it's like a pretty funny video. But this guy's shredding, Brain, you got to check this guy out." And I was like, "What do you mean?" He's like, "Here, let's plop it in." And it was VHS. He puts it in, and it's Maximum Bob yelling to Paul Schaefer going, "Paul, you're going to have to get this guy to play in your band. He's something. He's like, you got to check him out." And there was this dude playing guitar like I had never seen anybody play it, yeah, pretty much like, you know, the shredding quickness and the athleticism of like an Yngwie, the scales and stuff of like computer music like Star Wars, you know, weird- [...] Yeah, like game machines meets metal meets, you know, Disneyland. And I was just like, "Whoa! I've never heard that sound before." You know, like it's like, you know, when you know exactly where you're sitting every time when you hear an amazing piece of music or an album. The first time I remember when I first heard Eddie Van Halen, where exactly where I was, when I heard Fishbone, some of my favorite bands, the Chili Peppers, you know, when I was growing up. And yeah, I remember I was sitting there in the house and he played that tape, you know, on 23rd and Mission in San Francisco. And I was like, "Oh my God," and he's like, "Yeah, well, you know, he really doesn't get out that much and stuff, but he's coming to San Francisco to meet me. You gotta meet him. I'll bring him by the house." And so Joe Gore brought him by the house. I think Les was even there. You know, we kind of had the rock and roll house right there above Scott's Comics on 23rd and Mission. You know, it was literally like four houses down from, you know, Mission Street and stuff in between Mission and Valencia. And so we had the party house. So it's like everybody was hanging out and Les was there. And Joe Gore brings this guy Buckethead and, you know, we're just like, "Oh," and he's playing the bass and Les was like, "Wow, you're pretty good on that thing." And Les like standoffish at first or whatever, because Buckethead was doing all slapping.

Brain and Buckethead bonded over different interests:

And it was interesting because out of everyone, I think for some reason, you know, him and I just hit it off the best, you know. He was just talking about basketball, talking about all this crazy stuff and I was talking about, and you know, and martial arts and Bruce Lee and Jordan, you know, all the things that you know, as a Buckethead fan. [...] And I think that, you know, he's talking about all the horror stuff and I was really never into horror. So I think he and I just hit it off because the stuff I was into, he didn't really know about it, but I was more into fashion stuff and all that kind of stuff. He was into all the horror stuff, so I think we had a good juxtaposition. For some reason we just kind of hit it off.

Being asked if Buckethead was in "full gear" the first time they met:

Yeah, he was always in, he's pretty much always in full gear, you know, doing his thing. [...] I mean, that's his vibe. I mean, he lives and dies by it, you know, that's his thing. He's like, that's his gig.

Talking about how Buckethead would communicate with a puppet:

I mean, he kind of [talked], he was talking with a puppet. And then we just hit it off. [...] he has this puppet that he talks through.

And hiding behind a mask:

He doesn't let too many people get behind the mask. I would have to say, you know, me and about three other people have been the only ones that have probably ever got behind the mask.

Talking about hanging out with Buckethead, doing nunchucks on graves and watching movies:

Bucket and I now at this point we're hanging out like, you know, we were really close friends and you know, he'd come here from LA because I was based in the Bay and I had a studio in Berkeley and you know, he'd come and we'd go to the cemetery every day for like, you know, five hours. That was his thing and he'd do nunchucks on all the graves. And we were having a ball together, you know, just doing stuff. We would just go down to the wharf and just trip out on people. We'd love watching people. We just love to go to malls, not because of we like to buy clothes there or stuff. It was more just tripping out on people and going, "Oh man, check that guy's vibe." And we'd watch movies all day. We'd just sit in the studio and watch movies for like, you know, 12 hours and then go get pizza, you know, and then come back, you know, basically just binging.

1992-? [?]: CACA

Together with Ray White (guitar, vocals (ex-Zappa band)), Marc "MIRV" Haggard (guitar), Tony  "Butthouse" Chaba (bass), Larry LaLonde (guitar), Pete Scaturro (keyboards), Matt Wheeler (Zappa vocals), Zoe Ellis (backing vocals) and Brian Kehoe (The Devil on Titties n Beer) [Primus family tree,].

1993-1996 [?]: M.I.R.V.

Together with Mark Haggard (vocals, guitars), Les Claypool (vocals, bass, drums), House (bass, machines) and Pete Scaturro (machines, organ) [Primus family tree,].

1992-1995 [?]: PRAXIS

Together with Buckethead (guitar, toys), Bill Laswell (composer), Bernie Worrell (synthesiser, clavinet, and vital organ), AF Next Man Flip (turntable, mixer) and Bootsy Collins (space bass, vocals) [Primus family tree,].

Brain would introduce Buckethead to his friend Bill Laswell who then formed the band Praxis together with Bootsy Collins and featuring Brain and Buckethead on the album Transmutations:

You know, so I was doing the Limbo Maniacs then and I gave Bill Laswell this tape, right? And he gave it to Bootsy Collins. And Bootsy just flipped out. So Bill made a band called Praxis, which was Bernie Worrell, Bootsy Collins, me, AF Next Man Flip from The Jungle Brothers, and this guy Torture. I mean, and we made that album. [...] [Laswell] said, "This guy's amazing and he's out of his mind." You know, and the first time Bill met him was, he had the mask on and the puppet, because he would talk to the puppet.

First time Bootsy met him [Buckethead] had the mask on. I'll never forget it. We're at Greenpoint Studios in Brooklyn, NY, and, like, at that point there was like a building on fire next door and we all pulled up and it was just chaos, and, you know, Bill's totally in that 'chaos never dies' William bro stuff [?]. So it it was just crazy. Bucket's sitting there in his mask, like, with the puppet talking to Bootsy who was just going, "Yeah, man! Yeah, yeah, I get it. I got it. I got it!"

So we really wanted this guy [=Laswell] to produce us and so he did, so we became kind of friends and he had called and said, "Hey, I want to put a band together with, you know, some of the Funkadelic guys," and I said, "Well, you got to see this guitar player," and I gave him the tape, the videotape of him [=Buckethead] playing and his friend going, "Hey Paul [Shaffer], you got to get this guy in your band! That guy you have sucks!" and he's talking while he shreds, you know. [?] So that's sort of how Bucket and I made Praxis with Bill Laswell. And that was, you know, with Bernie Worrell, Bootsy Collins, it was me, and then from the Jungle Brothers it was AF Next man Flip and this guy named Torture. And he put this band called Praxis together and we went to New York, went to Brooklyn, we recorded it there.

Well, that was what I think I was started to lead up to also earlier when I was saying that. After the Limbo, after we hung out at the Limbo house, and Bucket came by. He came into town, I think it was only the second time or something. Well, wait, no, let me get the timeline right. Because I think what happened is after we met Bucket, I got the tape, that Maximum Bob tape, to Bill and Bill saw it and I said, "Not only is this guy, you know, a crazy guitar player thing, he also loves Bootsy," and Bill was like, "Wow, okay, cool." Bill would never say, "Wow," but yeah you know it's just like he was like, "Cool," you know. [...] and out of nowhere we're just sitting you know Bucket came to visit again and we're sitting - I remember this because we're sitting at my mom's in Cupertino I was visiting - and I said, "You got to come and meet my mom and hang out for a couple days," or whatever. I think he slept over for a couple days and you know this was one before there were cell phones and the phone rings and my mom's like, "Hey, it's for you," and I get on the phone and it's you know I think it was like one of Bill's assistants, maybe John Brown or something, I don't know if John was then or there then, but they were just like, "Hey, I got Bill on the phone for you," and I'm like, "Oh, okay." Bill's there and he's like, "Hey, how's it going?" I'm like, "Oh, cool," and he goes, "So, hey, I want to do this project." And I'm like, "Well, that's funny, Bucket's here. You want to talk to Bucket?" And he's like, "Yeah, sure." And Bucket's all, "Oh, geez, oh yeah." He talks to Bill and he gets off the phone, gives it back to me. He's all like his eyes are all lit up and I'm like, "What?" you know and get back on the phone with Bill, he's like, "Hey, so, you know, I just talked to Bucket and seems like we're a go for this, I'm going to do this band called Praxis. It's going to be you, Bucket, AF Man Flip from the Jungle Brothers, Bootsy Collins and Bernie Warrell." And I'm like- [...] "Sign me up." [?] Yeah, you know and before you knew it there was plane flights and we flew out to New York and we set up and Bucket's doing his whole shtick and his whole outfit. I'm practicing drums and we're at Greenpoint Studios at this point, Bill's old studio, what was like a converted church or something that he built. He made in a warehouse type space and there was like church chairs in there. Maybe it wasn't a church. It was just that he had bought all those long rows of church seating for people in this area. It was just a crazy place.

1996-2000: PRIMUS

Talking about getting into Primus:

So, you know, after I figured out how to play AC/DC and play in time, I was just playing around town and there was this band called Primus. And this bass player, Les Claypool, goes “Oh man, hey dude, I play bass. Come and play with me.” So I was just like, “Oh okay. Yeah, I’ll check it out” - you know, and he called it Primus. So I started jamming with him. Then, at that point, I was still skateboarding, and he booked a show at the Berkeley Square, and I think something happened when I was, like, in a competition skateboarding, and I couldn’t play the show. So he got Tim Alexander to play the show, and he actually took over the gig, and I went to this other band called The Limbo Maniacs, which was friends of mine from high school. So we started that, and then Tim decided to leave at one point – I think it was in, like, ’99 – oh wait, no, ’97 or ’98 – and so they asked me to rejoin. But I was actually in Primus before Tim, and then I went back in and, you know, just did the Primus thing for, like, five years.

[...] and then when Tim [= "Herb" Alexander; drummer in Primus] left, you know, I remember one day I was here in L.A. doing studio work and I got a call, I was living in Silver Lake, and, you know, it was Les [=Claypool; bassist in Primus] and he was just like, "Hey Brainer, what's going on?" I just be like, "Oh nothing, dude just, why? I don't know, what's happening?" He's like, "What if Jane's Addiction called you right now and said they need a drummer?" And I was like, "I don't know, that'd be cool. I'm kind of hurting, you know? I'm just kind of sitting here doing things," like "What if the Chili Peppers called you right now and said they needed a drummer?" And I was like, "Wow, I mean, that would be great." "What if Primus called you right now, said they needed a drummer?" And I was like, "That's that sounds cool, too." He goes, "Well, I'm calling you, why don't you get over here and do some jamming," you know. So I went, did some stuff, and I think at that point he was trying Jay Lane out and me, we were the last two going. And Ler [=Larry LaLonde] and I we had this like Frank Zappa cover band called Caca together and, you know, we do all Frank Zappa covers and stuff. So I think Ler and I had this connection that was pretty tight and I think Les just saw that and just thought... .You know, because Jay is a great drummer and he went off to play with Primus. He was Primus', I think, original drummer, before even Tim. I think he was doing some stuff with them. Yeah, I think it Jay Lane and Tim came in. Yeah, I think so, I think that's how it went. But anyways, Lest was just like, you know, "So what do you think, you want to do this?" And I was like, "Well, I know everybody, this would be great, yeah." So I went and did Primus.

[...] it was really funny because the way I got in the band [=Primus] was, it was like I joined that band Big City and there was just dude loading my drums in and it was actually Les and Les was like, "Hey man! I play bass," and you know the guitar player- [...]And he[?] was like, "Hey man, you gotta like go see this band, it's a killer," like it was one of those things. And then, you know, I think they were opening for the Chili Peppers at the Berkeley Square in Berkeley, it was kind of this cool, you know, club where all those bands kind of came through, Fishbone, Chili Peppers, all that kind of punk, trash, group of people. You know, we're playing at this place and Primus opened and I went and saw them and I was just floored, you know. I was like, "Oh shit, this guy's sick!" You know, it's like, "He's the real deal." And so it was just like I met Les that way and then I was supposed to be in the band and then that's when I like I think something came up where I was like supposed to play and somebody else was asking me to play or whatever. So it was just kind of this thing where I was in the band but then I kind of just bailed, and then Les got Tim. And then Tim and Les and Ler, it blew up, you know. All of a sudden it became big because it got picked up by Interscope. You know, they were one of the first bands on Interscope. And then they started getting big and big and, you know, and then they got bigger where there's like playing headlining at Lollapalooza, you know, with Alice In Chains, doing all this crazy shit. And, you know, and they became their own thing kind of like the new Rush to me or something, you know what I mean? With the way Tim played and all that kind of stuff. And then I was just kind of... At that point I think that was, I think that was my lowest point in drums where I was kind of like... it wasn't like the phone wasn't ringing for like a while, I was just kind of going, "Huh? Is this really what I want to do?" you know, it's like, "Hmmm?" Now I'm starting to see like, "Oh-uh", like I had I had like a year of where I was like just trying to hustle gigs, you know, or something and I was like, "Oh shit." And that's when Les and Tim kind of had a falling out and he was like, "Hey man," you know, I think I remember I was just sitting there and I was just like kinda just like not sure what I was doing, I was like buying some electronic gear at that point, I was trying to figure out how to do some, like, I guess, pseudo beat making or composing at that point, and I remember the phone rang and it was Les. And he's like, "Hey Brain, what are you doing?" I'm like, "I don't know, just kind of sitting here, just fucking around with some gear," or something like and he's all, "Huh. Well, what if the Red Hot Chili Peppers called you right now and asked you to be the drummer?" and I was like, "Wow, that would be kind of cool I guess, I'm not really doing anything." He go, "What about if Jane's Addiction called you right now and said, 'You want to be the drummer'?" "I guess, you know, whatever." And then he was like, "What if Primus called you?" "What are you trying to say, dude?" And he's like, "I don't know, come up here, let's do some jamming, you know, I think Tim's out." And I was like, "Okay." So, you know, I went up there and I jammed and Les was like, "Well, you want to play?" You know, because I didn't know at first, I just was like, "Huh!" you know, I didn't know what I wanted to do and I think it was that kind of a looseness that - and I'll get into that with even Axl when I was dealing with their camp and stuff, it was kind of a funny story -  but with Les I was kind of like, "I don't know," and he's like, "What do you mean, you don't know? Dude, we make a lot of money," and I was just like, "Okay, that's kind of cool," you know and I just kind of.. he was like, "Alright, well you're in the band," you know and I was like, "Okay, cool." So yeah at that point I was like, "Uh-oh," because I remember he was like, "Okay! So I'll see you at rehearsal on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and the next week Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday," you know, and I was like, "Oh shit, these guys are serious!" Like, we got to record an album and we go on tour for 18 months and I was like...

While touring with Primus, Buckethead was asked to join them for Ozzfest:

So yeah, we were doing Ozzfest and Les had known Bucket around, you know, because he knew us and the Limbo Maniacs and that kind of stuff and we had introduced him to Buckethead and, you know, he was like, "Hey, we should get Bucket to come out and sit in on a couple songs." So Bucket was out with us and I think Ozzy wanted him at that point, you know, because it was the Ozzfest and Ozzy was like, you know, I think Sharon was like, "Shit, Bucket would be great." But I think they had kind of a falling out with like, they didn't want to wear the mask or something like that. I don't really know what happened. [...] So that didn't really workout.

While in Primus, Brain got burnt out on touring:

[...] and we're on tour with Slayer, and the cases started coming down the ramp, you know, they were loading in, you know, because we were like getting to the... sometimes we get from the venues and we'd have to bike in the bus and we didn't get a hotel so we would stay there and I would get catering in the morning or something. And I got up early one day and they were loading out the anvil cases and the drum cases started coming out and they were just beat up to like a nub, they had every sticker from every country on there, they had just... they were just torn up and I was like, "Holy shit! Is this like what happens if you just stay on the road for the rest of your life," you know, "and do this?" So in that moment I thought, "Okay, I want to go doing composing," like, "I'm gonna start getting into," you know, "like taking piano lessons again, theory lessons, classical," you know, like I was taking chamber music lessons from someone, you know, like that kind of shit. I was just doing everything I could on the side while still doing shows with like Ozzy and, you know, we're on the Black Sabbath tour, I think we're on that Ozzfest at that point. And, you know, and all my off hours I was just trying to get into computers and music because that was where it was going, and that kind of stuff. But I always thought, "Oh no, I'm gonna end this," at one point and get into composing, that was like my main goal after I saw like what the road can do to you.

Despite wanting to stop touring and get into composing, Brain would play drums with Primus until he left for Guns N' Roses in 2000.


Brain was also in a cover band called Ted Zeppelin at some time:

Brain was in a band called Ted Zeppelin. [...] Our drummer. Yeah he had a band called Ted Zeppelin. It was a Zeppelin/Nugent band.


Talking about how he got involved with Tom Waits:

Les Claypool is a neighbor of his, and he said Tom was asking around about drummers. Les said, “Oh, you should get old Brainer, he can play some stuff.” I kept hearing that Tom was going to call, and I was like, “Yeah, okay, whatever, dude.” And then I remember the phone ringing one night at 11:30. I didn’t recognize the number. It was Tom, and the session was the next day. He goes, “Can you come tomorrow?” I’m like, “Yeah, I guess.” “Okay, I’ll just see you there. Do you know the area?”
I had to be there at ten in the morning. That’s pretty good. Never heard from him, never talked to him on the phone, never met with him, never talked with management, didn’t know what I was getting paid – nothing. I just showed up. He’s like, “Just bring some stuff.” But he’s usually there three hours before you, loading in stuff – just tons of percussion, weird crap, stuff he’ gathered throughout the years.

Well, that was a good story because I didn't really even know who Tom Waits.... I'm kind of embarrassed. But I had heard of him. But I didn't really know. That's all I want to really say. I guess he needed a drummer and he was up, where Les is, Sebastopol area, and I think he's in Valley Ford Tom or whatever, you know that area or whatever. And it's kind of all close together up north in, you know, past Marin, San Francisco Bay area, about probably an hour and a half outside of the bay, north. He needed a drummer. This was before I was in Primus and he just said, you know, Les was just like, "Oh man, you gotta get Brain, try out this Brain guy!" you know, because I was around town playing, doing some stuff. And then Les calls me and says, "Dude, Tom Waits is looking for someone and I recommend you do." And the idiot that I was, because I was into fusion, like, I was into like Zappa, you know, Terry Bozzio, Vinny Caliuta. [...] So when he said that, I didn't know about, oh shit, songwriting and just fucking, just vibe and feel, and making you know, a pot chick cry or something, you know what I mean? I was a music dork. Just, drumming nerd. So Les calls and says, "Dude, Tom Waits," I'm just like, "OK, yeah, I mean, sounds good," you know, I'm just thinking in my head like, "Well, you know, shit, I want to get this new Joe Montanari snare drum or this pork pie kick drum so maybe he'll pay me enough so I can get the," you know, something cool, you know, or something, you know, like that. I'm living at my parents at that point because I'm flat broke and Les says he's going to call and I'm just like, "OK, great." Heard nothing. Then it was probably 11:30-12:00 at night, I get a call and my mom literally is like, you know- [...] And so it's like, I get on and it's literally like, "Right, this is Tom," I'm just like, "Oh, hey, what's going on?" He's like, "Hey, man, I need you to come down tomorrow." And I'm just like, "OK, cool." You know, I'm just like, "Yeah, that sounds good. Like where, where are we going?" And it was.... It was where the tubes.... I forgot the name of the studio. [...] I can't remember the name of the studio but it was up north and he said, you know, "Here's where we're gonna meet this is what we're gonna do." But, "What kind of drum set do I bring? Like what do I do?" "Just don't bring anything that you can buy in a store." And that's all I remember. And I'm just like, "Oh, OK," you know, so and I'm just like, that was it.

And then Les was like, "Hey man, this guy Tom Waits is looking for a drummer," like, you know, "Oh, okay, that sounds cool," you know what I mean?

Talking about bringing gear for that first recording with Waits:

Well, now I started panicking. So I woke up in the morning, I called a friend who knew about Tom. And he goes, "Oh, you know, bring some cool stuff, bring some cool weird percussion, just bring some, like, whatever you can find, like a garbage can lid as a cymbal, stuff like that." It was Joe Gore, I think, who was telling me about him. And Joe Gore was the editor of Guitar Player at that time. He's a great guitar player, plays with PJ Harvey and actually was playing with Tom Waits also, I think a little later Joe Gore got in because I think that was another Les hook up. But anyways, let me finish the story because it didn't end then. It went from 'don't bring anything that you can buy in a store' to calling back and literally just going - he didn't even really even say like, "Hey Brain, what's going on? It's Tom again," it was literally just, I answered the phone and it was like, "Can you bring some shoes that have wooden soles on them or wooden like, like heels or something?" I'm like, "What?" He goes, "Yeah, we're just gonna pound on some stuff with our feet." And I was like, "OK," and he was like, "OK, I'll see you tomorrow." And then that was it. So I'm like, now I gotta find some, like, clogs with like, you know, so the next day I gathered a bunch of junk, threw it into my old beat up like Honda Civic, drove out there and I think we were recording for Bone Machine. That was the album. The one snare I brought because I thought he would get a kick out of it was a Joe Montanari metal snare that was made out of a bullet shell. [...] it was a bad-ass snare drum. And I don't know where that snare drum is to this day. I think I lost it somewhere on the road or something because, you know, I had so much shit. But yeah, I remember that. So I brought that. And after I told him the story, he was really into it, you know, he thought, "This is bad-ass," you know, like, "Yeah, let's use this." I use that on the album [...]

[...] but for, I think, two or three of the songs we literally, he just set up a bunch of wood and I literally put these like clogs on that I had found that had kind of like wooden soles, and we tapped out rhythms together. Like the song would just start and I never heard the songs before and he would just say, "Roll!" and it would just... There's one song on there I think - I forgot what song it was - where I had never heard it and he just said, "Roll!" and I had my headphones on and I had a snare drum and like a piece of metal in my hand that I was like hitting another piece of metal and we had like an old 26 inch like marching band drum that didn't have any [?] so every time I kicked it, it just kind of wobbled away. And he rolled the tape and because it was 24 track at that point, and he rolled tape and I'd never heard the song and I'm missing breaks, just never knew what the feel was, I just kind of heard and just started going through it, and at the end he like pressed the button, he was like, "That's awesome! Sounding like it was recorded in jail," like I was in another cell or something and he was... and he left it and it's actually on Bone Machine. And it's like, that's the track, I can hear myself missing breaks, like I played this like a snare fill the wrong time and then it goes into the next break and he just thought it was cool. Like it just sounded gone and so.

Brain would play on Tom Waits' Real Gone album from 2004:

Yeah, it was Mark Ribot, me, Larry Taylor, and Tom. We recorded in this old…it was kind of a cross between a church and a barn. Tom says, “Show up at this place, this is where we’re going to do it.” I’m like, “Okay, is there a studio there? Should I call the studio owner?” He says, “Aw, no, nobody’s really there, there’s no phone service.” “Okay, is there a bathroom? A kitchen? Anything?”

Basically he just brought the studio in there. The producer kind of set it all up and made it pretty comfortable. We sat around and just started jamming. He’d come in with an idea and go, “Okay, so maybe it goes like….” He basically told me, “Don’t bring a drumset, don’t bring anything that you can buy at Guitar Center.” So I went to some pawnshops and some junkyards, grabbed whatever sounded cool, and brought it. And he has his own stuff. We’d make a drumkit out of, like, a manhole, a carburetor, maybe a traditional cymbal that was broken, a 1930s Ludwig 26: kick drum…. The snares were old, vintage, whatever was lying around.

The other thing was, Tom asked me to bring hard leather-sole shoes. There was a bathroom that had a really nice-sounding ambience, and the tile on the floor sounded really good when you stomped on it. Most of the backbeats on that album were done by stomping on the bathroom floor.

Real Gone was a pleasure because it made me realize that you can make it happen pretty much anywhere, and actually doing it in that kind of environment and using the ambience was so much hipper than going into one of those posh studios built by experts to make it sound “pro,” whatever that means. In that sense it’s a great experience every time I work with Tom.

Discussing the drums on Real Gone:

Tom had given me a cassette of him making all of these percussion sounds in his bathroom at like four in the morning. I took the cassette, blew it into Peak, which is a two-track editor, chopped it all up, and exported the WAV files. I have this program called MPC Maker, which allows you to create the programs on your Mac to put onto your MPC 3000. And so I just grabbed them, dragged and dropped them, threw them on the Zip drive, and put them in my MPC. So when you hear [makes beatbox sounds] and all those weird vocal sounds, that was Tom.

Next to the kit – which could have been me playing a log with a piece of metal in one hand and a mallet in the other – I also had the MPC 3000 with all those sounds set up. So that hip-hop-based beat stuff was me playing the MPC live – no programming – just live on the pads with Tom’s voice cut up from the cassette. All those whistle sounds or cowbells, those are all samples I made of him. We did the same thing live. We did a tour of Europe and some dates in the States, and on half the songs I just played his samples on the MPC, next to my hi-hat. So the jamming was done like that. It was kind of just like, Make the weirdest, most “gone” setup you can think of, and then just start.

Tom has an interesting way of working. I was sitting there one time and I asked Marc Ribot about a song that he and Tom had worked on the day before. And he was saying, “Well, it goes like this, with this kind of feel….” Then Tom walks in and goes, “Hi, what are you guys doing?” Ribot goes, “Oh I’m showing Brain the song,” and Tom goes, “Aw, don’t ruin it.”

That’s the whole album in a nutshell. He doesn’t want you to know it. He wants it to just be whatever it is at that moment. “The tape’s always rolling” type of thing. It’s pretty interesting. Totally opposite from Guns N’ Roses, you know. [laughs]

After Real Gone was released in October 2004, Brain would tour with Waits in Europe [see later chapter for more information].

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 8:55 am

FEBRUARY 2000-2002

Ray Thomas Baker is supposed to be just kind of a psycho. I am really looking forward to meeting him just because of that.


Apparently, the quest for producers for the new record was not over because in April 2000 media would report that Axl had been in talks with Roy Thomas Baker, who is best known for his work with Queen [MTV News, April 28, 2000].

Baker had been suggested by Tom Whalley, Interscope Geffen A&M president:

[Former Interscope Geffen A&M president] Tom Whalley brought in Roy Thomas Baker to produce [...]

So this was a case of Interscope, after the merger with Geffen, getting more involved in the making of Chinese Democracy by introducing people.

A spokesperson for the band would confirm that Baker was in the studio with Axl but that he at this stage was only supplying additional production which may or may not make it onto the next GN'R album [MTV News, April 28, 2000]. Doug Goldstein would confirm that Sean Beaven was still a producer for the project [MTV News, April 28, 2000]. Brian May would later state that Baker had been in the studio with Guns N' Roses around the same time May laid down tracks for three songs, which was in late January or early February 2000.

Still, in April 2000 it was not clear what Baker would do, or at least it would not be disclosed to the public:

[Beavan has] been the only producer. The others were people we met with or tried out on some tracks [with].

Then in May 2001 media would again report that Baker was intended to help producing the record, and that he had been charged to sift through 72 tracks that the band had recorded [Metal Hammer, May 11, 2001]. According to a New York Times article in 2005, Baker had decided that "much of what the band had needed to be re-recorded — and painstakingly so, as he sometimes spent as long as eight hours on a few bars of music" [The New York Times, March 6, 2005].

Baker would later talk about working with Guns N' Roses:

This is not like the old band. This is a major progression from the old band. I loved the old band; I've always been a fan of Axl and Guns N' Roses. When I think of 'November Rain' off the second set of albums, and 'Welcome to the Jungle' and stuff on the first album, these are tracks that go down in history. These are tracks that you remember exactly where you were when you first heard them. That's very, very rare that you ever get into that situation where you can actually remember what you were doing the first time you heard something.

Chris Vrenna would comment on what Baker would bring:

I can't imagine Roy Thomas Baker's making an industrial record, so I have to somehow believe it's going to have a more classic sound to it.

Baker's involvement with Guns N' Roses seemed to have been short-lived, because already in early 2002 rumours were spreading that he had been fired [CDNow/Allstar, February 11, 2002].

When looking back at this period, Tommy was negative to Interscope having brought in Baker and Baker's approach:

I think everything changed when Geffen merged with Interscope. When that happened, Axl was told that [A&R executive] Jimmy Iovine would play more of a role in making the album happen. What Jimmy did instead was throw other people into the mix who weren’t very capable.

[RTB] wanted to re-record everything, because he felt he could get better tones. In my opinion, he wasted many years and many millions of dollars trying to get us better sounds that we could have addressed in the mixing stage. I’m not a proponent of his style of producing. I think Iovine put Roy Thomas Baker in the producer seat because he didn’t think the raw sounds were good enough. Then Roy came in and would try every Marshall guitar amp in a five-state area to find just the right guitar tone. And he wanted to do that for every single part on the album.

[...] in hindsight, a lot of what happened with Chinese Democracy, we could get around now. Mostly what happened with that record, why it took so long, was we just had no help from the record company whatsoever. [Axl] got zero fucking help from anyone outside the band to fucking do it. You know, it just got stupider and stupider as the record company kept throwing bad A&R guys [at us], or producers like Roy Thomas Baker who, you know, he made things sound better, but that wasn't' what we needed. We needed someone to help us fucking sow it up, and he came in fucking re-recorded everything five fucking times with every amp in the country. I just don't think that was something that was really important to making a record, that could have been taken care of in the mix.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 8:56 am


After Slash left Guns N' Roses a public spat between the two former friends would develop.

In Axl's first interview since Slash left in October 1996, Axl would criticize Slash:

I never said that I was bitter. Hurt, yeah. Disappointed. I mean, with Slash, I remember crying about all kinds of things in my life, but I had never felt hot, burning, burning tears of anger. Basically, to me, it was because I am watching this guy and I don't understand it. Playing with everyone from Space Ghost to Michael Jackson. I don't get it. I wanted the world to love and respect him. I just watched him throw it away.
Rolling Stone, January 2000; interview from November 1999

Slash would follow with by pointing out that they never had much of a personal relationship:

I haven’t spoken to Axl in almost five years, and I have no interest in talking to him. He wouldn’t talk to me. No big deal, it just would be a waste of time. ... If Axl and I hadn’t been in a band together., we'd never have been friends. ... With Axl — even though we looked like the two frontmen — we really didn’t have that much of a personal relationship.

[Being asked who he would eject from a Bond car]: There is one guy I'd like to eject. I can't tell you his name, but I think you know who it is.

Me and Axl never got along, but I never really disliked him. It was always the camaraderie of the band as a whole that kept us together.

And that Axl held sole responsibility for the dismantling of previous lineups:

[Axl would] systematically eliminate or alienate everyone so Guns N’ Roses wasn’t fun anymore. […] I’m a huge Axl Rose fan. I’d love to hear what it is that he decimated a band of that stature for. ... There has to be some sort of method to the madness.

What was the point? Realistically, you have a situation where it was all centered around one person, you're like going, 'What is it you want to do so bad that you forced everybody out like that?'

It’s disappointing. It’s a little bit… One of the few regrets I have in life is having a band get to a certain point and then having a fall apart. But it wasn’t necessarily my fault, you know? (laughs).

The most important thing to me are the fans that we’ve screwed over. And it’s not because of us, and we sort of go along with – you know, they look at all of us. When one guy screws everything up, it’s a whole band, you know? So I felt really bad leaving, because of the fans.

Being asked when thing fell apart between him and Axl:

It was before Guns even started! I mean, he’s a brilliant man. I’m a huge Axl fan, but he’s got one way of doing things which I just don’t understand.

Slash would also repeatedly take swipes at Axl when talking about his new bands:

The guys in the band are great—there are no rock stars. Everyone’s very levelheaded, we have the same aspirations. Everyone’s just so enthusiastic and moving in the same direction, including our singer, which I’m not used to.

Yet Slash would consistently compliment Axl as a musician:

You know what? Alright, okay, okay, okay. We’re not at war. It’s not like – I’m not, you know -. I’m the hugest Axl fan in the world, because the guy’s great. We don’t see eye-to-eye on stuff, but – […] he is great. He can sing and he’s a great performer.

Axl's brilliant. He's one of the overall best performer/singer/writer guys, in my book.

I think there are a lot of complicated issues with Axl. Axl is a fucking awesome guy -- awesome personality and talent. My big problem is I just wanna fucking jam, man. I wanna fuck around. I can't handle all this drama. And I don't want to go into all this really intricate stuff and spend six years doing it.

And defend Axl against other people:

It’s like, ‘Don’t talk [badly] about Guns or about Axel [sic] or about any of that stuff, because that’s where I come from.

I don't like people talking shit about Axl behind his back. He's still a brother. I stick up for him.

By the year 2000 it would be five years since Slash last talked to Axl [The Howard Stern Show, June 7, 2000]:

I just haven’t talked to Axel [sic]. I think the split-up between [us] was a little more bitter. But it wasn’t so much personal as it was a disassociation from what I thought he was doing and consequently what it was that I wanted to do. So we just parted ways and I haven’t talked to him since.

Slash would also continue to put the blame for the break-up squarely on Axl, and indicate that it was Axl who didn't want to continue with the band:

The only reason the band broke up was because it was not what (vocalist Axl Rose) wanted to do.

And he would put the blame on the riot in Montreal on Axl's shoulders:

It’s really one of the only regrets I have: any time fans have been disappointed. It’s not my fault, and it wasn’t a lot of other people’s fault.

I'm not going to name names, but there’s definitely somebody responsible for that.

All you have to do is walk up there and do your thing. It’s what you’re supposed to love more than anything else in the world, and it’s got to have a hitch in it.

At the time of these last two quotes, Slash allegedly was not allowed to name Axl in interviews:

Because of pending litigation in the Guns N’ Roses camp, Slash has been instructed not to make specific references to Rose during interviews.

Talking about whether he is at peace with Axl now:

I guess so. I haven't spoken to him since (laughs). I see Izzy and Duff and Steve Adler and Matt, those guys. I haven't talked to Axl for a long time. Five years ago.

In October 2000, NME would ask Slash about his "heroes and villains", and Slash would list Axl as a "villain":

He’s the closest person I’ve ever worked with that was as villainesque as they get. You know, in a sort of harmless kind of way, but not totally. All that is sort of self-explanatory as well. I definitely gotta put him on the list cos as much as I love the guy he’s definitely way up there. I don’t know how familiar you are with Guns history, but I quit the band five years ago and haven’t looked back since. Axl’s probably still in them, but I haven’t seen him. He’s just a really fucking huge mindfuck. He has a sweet side to him and a nasty side to him, if memory serves. He would be very, very violent and have very wicked thoughts and sore points.

A bit later he would discuss bumping into Axl at a club like the Cat Club:

When I got up [to play at the Cat Club] last Thursday, Gilby was there and I got up and played with him and Tracii Guns, Matt Sorum, Johnny, and Jim [Phantom] from the Stray Cats. I mean, Gilby sued us, it wasn’t as deep as what went down with Axl, but it was, like, a noted thing. But I still got up...

Had I been there the night Axl showed up though, I don’t know. It would have been interesting. One of us would have walked out or the heavens gates would have opened up.

Talking about singers in general:

Everybody is different. You have to have a disorder to sell your soul to rock ’n’ roll in the first place. To really be a dedicated entertainer 24-7, you’re already f- up. You have an ego problem or something. When you go out in front of an audience and want people to buy your records, something must be going on in your head. Singers have to go out there without having to hide behind the top hat and guitar, and they have to talk about s-they’re feeling. You couldn’t even get me to write a letter, let alone go out there and do that. Everyone has got their own dysfunctional reality, so it comes out in their public appearance. Hence, you’ve got a lot of whacked-out singers, but they’re all very sweet people. They’re just a little complicated.

In November he would say the fans got fucked over by the band's break-up and indicate that he was carrying the torch and playing the type of music that GN'R should be playing:

I think the only issue having to do with GN'R fans is all the fans that got fucked over because the band broke up -- and they didn't deserve all that. Under the circumstances, well, someone is out there fucking rocking. We do, more or less, what Guns... It's a sensitive issue. What Guns was best at -- hard rock and guitar playing -- that's what I do now. I don't wanna say anything bad about the other guys; they're doing their own thing. But as far as going out as hard rock band and doing it, we're the only ones that are doing it.

In December he would recount a warning he had received from his father when things got crazy in Guns N' Roses:

The other thing was my dad telling me, during the Guns crazy days, “Watch out, don’t let that guy take you down.”

At another time in 2000, Slash would call this the best advice he ever got:

"Don't go down with the ship". My dad gave me that.

In early 2001, Axl would claim that Slash had been fighting with Izzy over control of the band:

Everybody hated each other in the band, with the exception of me. Slash was fighting for power with (the guitarist) Izzy (Stradlin) because he wanted to take control of the band and destroy it.
O Globo, January 16, 2001; translated from Portuguese, possible paraphrased

And that Slash was all about negativity:

Nothing about happiness and love made sense to him. That was the reason why he hated "Sweet Child O' Mine". He only wanted to write songs about drugs and sadness.
O Globo, January 16, 2001; translated from Portuguese, possible paraphrased

Slash, on his side, would say that his problems with Axl started with the 'Sympathy for the Devil' recording in 1994:

It really started when we covered "Sympathy for the Devil" for the "Interview With a Vampire" movie. […] at least it'll bring the band back together, because we were going through another one of those periods when we weren't hanging out or talking. Sometimes it takes a particular vehicle to put a band back together. But then when we were recording that song, he never showed up! (laughs).

Beta Lebeis would say it started when Slash wanted the band to release the music he had written [and which ended up on the first Snakepit album] and that Slash didn't go to rehearsals:

The problem was that Slash, at that time, said he already had the new Guns N’ Roses album ready, which would be the next one, right? That "next" album was the one he would then release, which was terrible. Slash's last two records were terrible. Axl wanted to do something more advanced for the new generation. You can't stay on the same thing, like the same kind of music that he played 15 years ago. […] Slash wanted to keep doing the same thing. And then drugs was another reason. Axl could never count on Slash. For example, Slash didn’t go to the rehearsals, it wasn’t going well. The drummer was drunk. It didn't work.
Bolsa de Mulher, January 22, 2001; translated from Portuguese

Beta is likely pointing to the period 1994-1996 when she says that Slash didn't go to rehearsals, this was a time when Slash was more focused on Snakepit [see previous sections]. Whether she is conflating Steven's drug problems here or are suggesting Matt was always drunk, is unclear. It is also interesting that she claims Slash was suffering from a drug problem in this period, this is not likely and she could be thinking about the drug problems earlier in the band's history which caused a rift between Axl and Slash [see previous sections].

Being asked what he would say to Axl if they got trapped in an elevator:

We've been trapped in a room before and we really didn't have much to say to each other. But if it were to happen right now, I don't know what we would say. I would be pretty relaxed and just say, "hi" and just see what his reaction would be. Everything from there on would be up in the air. I don't know how it would go to be honest. […] My guess is the elevator would be very quiet. Then you would find us three or four hours later, sitting across from each other playing jacks.

In 2001 Slash would again talk more about his relationship with Axl:

I haven't talked to him since I left. So it's probably been 5 or 6 years. […] it's not [any ill feelings]. It's just, once that decision was made - where I finally decided that I was going to leave - I don't think either one of us really had much to talk about. It wasn't the most amicably split, but then again it wasn't fire and brimstone, either.

And in July 2001, Fernando Lebeis would discuss the relationship:

They haven't talked to each other for years. But it's a relationship in which people see Axl as the villain. If something went wrong, whose fault is it? If Slash does something, nobody even gets to know, like Snakepit, and what's so special about this album? It's not on any MTV charts, nobody buys it, but "Slash is the key of GNR," "GNR is Slash and Axl"... He was a good guitarist, but it's not like that, Axl doesn't have to be blamed for everything. Slash has used drugs and has been in the hospital because of an overdose, and that's no big deal, but if it was Axl... For example, one of these days I was home when I saw someone running in the garden. Axl's room is above mine, so I thought the person might have jumped through Axl's window and run. I went to his room and knocked the door but Axl was in the shower and didn't hear it, and I called the police. When they arrived, the paramedics came along and said they were here to help someone who OD'd. I never mentioned anything about an overdose, they just assumed the emergency was an overdose because it was Axl's house. Slash wanted to end Guns, take the band to clubs. Axl told him it wasn't possible, they couldn't play for 1000 people when they attracted crowds of 200,000. But if Axl had agreed with Slash, people would blame him for the failure of the idea.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 8:57 am


As late as in May 2000, some press sources would suggest that Guns N' Roses were considering to tour with Testament and Dio [TotalRock! Radio, May 30, 2000; Edmonton Journal, June 11, 2000] and that it was Del James, who was doing songwriting with Testament's vocalist Chuck Billy, who had "put in a good word" about Testament to Axl [RockReport mailing list, May 30, 2000].

Eventually nothing came out of this and it is unclear how correct these rumours were. Rumours about Guns N' Roses planning to tour would be frequent over the next years.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 8:58 am

MAY 2000

In an interview published in January 2000, Slash would talk fondly of his old band mates and mention he had met with Izzy and Duff "some months ago":

Guns is still close to my heart. I'm loyal to the day I die, I suppose. We weren't out to change the world. We were just doing what we liked to do. But the success put a lot of pressure on us. Now that the pressure is off of us, we're probably getting along better than ever. I still have a great amount of respect for everyone and their individual talents. […] Izzy and Duff came by my studio a few months ago, and it was weird. They looked all grown up. I was the only one with a cigarette and a drink in my hand.

And in May 2000, there would be rumours that Slash, Izzy, Duff and Steven were rehearsing in a secret location in Phoenix, Arizona [NME, May 18, 2000].

In September, he would again talk about being in contact with all except Axl:

I saw Izzy [Stradlin] on my birthday last Sunday, and I Saw Duff [McKagan] about three months ago, and I see Steven [Adler] from time to time.

At some time in 2000, Slash was asked why he hadn't put Izzy, Duff and Matt in Snakepit:

[…] the new lineup in Snakepit 99 is the result of wanting to start fresh, put together a permanent band, and record and tour as a new band. Ex-Guns guys and ex-Snakepit guys in the group wouldn't feel as new for any of us.

It is highly unlikely that Steven was part of any jamming with the rest of the AFD lineup in this period.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 8:59 am

JUNE 22, 2000

On June 22, 2000, Gilby did a concert at the Hollywood spot the Slim Jim Phantom's Cat Club with his side-band Starfuckers [MTV News, June 23, 2000].

Slim Jim Phantom would describe the meeting:

I wasn't sure [it was really Axl]. So I took Gilby over and tapped the guy on the shoulder. He turns round and Gilby says, 'That's not him!' But Axl grins and says, 'Hey, Gilby, how're you doin'?

Axl, who had attended a Roger Waters concert earlier in the night, joined Gilby onstage to sing vocals on the Rolling Stones songs 'Dead Flowers' and 'Wild Horses' [MTV News, June 23, 2000; Q, July 2001] and allegedly other songs [Q, July 2001]..

I guess he ran into some friends of mine at the Roger Waters show at Universal Amphitheater, and they told him that we were playing down there and he came by. Maybe he just wanted to have some fun.

Axl, Gilby and Richard Hayhurst, June 22, 2000

After the show, Gilby and Axl allegedly talked for hours, mostly about Axl's new band and album:

He was really excited about it. He was explaining it to me. We didn't rehash anything. We had a good time.

When everything went down, him and I never got into any arguments, any fights or anything. It's kind of strange 'cause like I never quit. I never got fired. People always put you up like everybody hates each other, but . . . we never got in a fight. […] [Axl is] very, very excited about his new record and the new [GNR] band.

That was really strange, because that night was one of those rare nights that there were no people at all in the club. And someone from the band came and said, “Gilby, it’s Axl over there at the bar.” “No, it isn’t. What would he be doing in the Cat Club?” I hadn’t seen the guy in five-six years. So I walked towards the bar and he pulled my sleeve. We started talking, and the funny thing is that we began the discussion right from the point we had left it five-six years ago. What people should know is that Axl and I never had any differences. We always got along well; we have a lot in common. We've had a good relationship. We just have a big disagreement about the band. I think Guns N’ Roses was one of the greatest hard rock bands of all time. I think that Izzy and Steven are awesome. They made one of the most classic rock albums. But then things changed. When Izzy left, I thought that I fit in the band. I played my parts very well, the chemistry was good. I just didn’t agree with where he wanted to go musically. Plain and simple.

So that night at the Cat Club we talked about many things, but at one point I told him, “I gotta go play.” And while I was playing, I saw him standing in front and having a good time, and I said, “Would you like to come up?” So he came up and we played a couple of songs. I’d have let him play all night, if he wanted to. It was great. Very few people were there and it was one of the best nights at the Cat Club. Then we talked until late. He told me a lot of stuff about the new album, what was going on with that.

Johnny Griparic, bassist in Slash's second incarnation of Snakepit, would also be playing with Axl and Gilby this evening, and Slash would comment:

I heard Axl was at the Cat Club the other night, and I was almost going to go. We'd gotten done rehearsing and I thought, "What are we going to do tonight?' It was a short drive from my house. And I said, "Ah, fuck it, I'll get some sleep."

About a month before doing AC/DC [Snakepit opened for AC/DC in 2000], I didn’t go down there [to the Cat Club] and the next day I got a call from Johnny our bass player and he said ‘Guess who got up at the Cat last night?’ I said, who? And he goes, ‘Axl’. I asked how was it and he goes, ‘You know what, I’ve played with him more than you have in the last five years!’”


[Axl's] whole thing, as communicated to me, is that it was really nice to get up in front of an audience again, because he hasn’t done it in such a long time.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 9:00 am


In an article in Star Tribune in February 1999, Tommy said he couldn't talk about the new Guns N' Roses album that was in development, and this was one of the first indications that band members from the new Guns era would not be free to publicly discuss every aspect of their tenure in Guns N' Roses [Star Tribune, February 26, 1999]. This indicates that the band, or label, wanted to keep, at the very least, aspects of the forthcoming music secret to the public. That band members were reluctant to talk about the music-in-making could also be gleamed from other later article and interviews [, March 28, 2000].

In 2000, Josh would say it explicitly:

I’m not really able to talk about [the new record].

I can't really answer questions about them.

[When asked, 'On the advice of lawyers?']: Not necessarily.

But Josh would also explain that "a friendly agreement is in place" [Calgary Herald, September 2, 2000]. This would indicate a verbal agreement between Josh and Guns N' Roses, more than signed non-disclosure agreements, although he could be referring to an NDA as a friendly agreement, too.

Not only band members would be subjects to such NDAs, as Joey Quackenbush, a friend of Josh from the Vandals, would realize when he met Axl in this period:

Beside, I got to go to Axl's house, where I was made to sign a contract of confidentiality. So now I can't talk about the fact that I saw Axl in a dinosaur suit on Halloween or that I saw him push his piano into his swimming pool.

In 2003 when Tommy talked to the press about his upcoming solo record, media would report on the gag order he had which prevented him from talking about Guns N' Roses:

A confidentiality clause in his Guns contract has led to a gag order from his publicist in terms of discussing anything related to that project [...]

If so, there weren't stand-alone NDAs but simply broad confidentiality clauses in band members' employment contracts with the band. Such confidentiality clauses are common in employment contracts and it is possible that in this case they specifically contained words against any disclosure of details surrounding the new music.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 9:06 am


In May 2000, Rolling Stone would publish an article where Jim Barber, "a former Geffen A&R executive who worked on the project", described the music he had heard:

The tracks reminded me of the best moments of Seventies 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.

In August 2000 Josh would be asked about how the music sounded and whether it was "better than the old stuff"

It's Guns and Roses.

In December 2000, Chuck Klosterman writing for The Akron Beacon Journal, would write an article where he claimed to have heard two new songs from Guns N' Roses, 'Strip Bar', but more likely to be called 'Just Another Sunday', and 'Livin' Loud' [The Akron Beacon Journal, December 14, 2000]. 'Just Another Sunday' was a West Arkeen song dating back to the 80s. It could very well be that 'Livin' Loud' was also not a new GN'R song.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 9:12 am


In October 2000, the news would break that Guns N' Roses would return to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, to again play at Rock in Rio [MTV News, October 25, 2000]. The festival was scheduled for January 12 to 21, 2001, and Guns N' Roses was said to end the day on January 14, 2001  [MTV News, October 25, 2000; Rolling Stone, October 27, 2000]. The lineup was expected to consist of Axl, Paul, Buckethead, Tommy, Dizzy and Brain, and it was rumoured that Robin would return to the band for the show, too [MTV News, October 25, 2000]. A few days after the rumours started to spread in the media, Doug Goldstein, from Big FD Entertainment, would confirm that Guns N' Roses would play at Rock in Rio in 2001, and that Robin would be part of the lineup [MTV News, October 30, 2000]. A few days later, the festival promotor, Robert Medina, would confirm that Guns N' Roses were to play on January 14 [E! Online, November 1, 2000].

Talking about the decision to play at Rock In Rio:

Well, South America has always had a place in my heart since I first came here, and it’s very emotional for the people, and myself, and my management to play here.

From the following quote it is clear Axl wanted the Rock In Rio date to be part of a larger series of shows, including two shows in Argentina:

The idea was, I wanted to play Buenos Aires and Santiago. And for us. For some reasons that did not work out right now.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 9:13 am


In addition to confirming that Guns N' Roses would play on Rock in Rio in January 2000, and that this show would be followed by a US summer tour, a press release from Doug Goldstein at Big FD Entertainment would also confirm that Robin would be back in the band for these shows [MTV News, October 30, 2000].

From the quote below it is obvious it was not Axl's original intention to have three guitar players in the band but that he was happy it happened:

And even now, this band has only fully played together for six weeks before Rio. So it’s still very new for them all playing together as a band, you know, with Robin and Bucket. That was a surprise and that was, obviously, to me, the right decision to make, but it was not something originally planned having three guitar players.

Robin would talk about joining again:

I think especially with Guns, I was more of a soul player than a soundscape artist. Playing the original catalog songs kind of directed me to what I thought I wanted to hear Axl sing over and so I probably wasn't alone in that. So that kind of directed me to present the material I did. [...] [The other guitar players] came in waves and all those names were not present all at the same time. We did so much writing, rehearsing and recording before we ever played live as a group. It was like, hah hah hah, a bit of a circus. I sometimes had to just really let go of what it is I would have hoped this song or this presentation of a batch of songs would be. And just really get in the flow of what was happening because there was something bigger going on than anything I was going to direct. They're all great players though. [...] the summation of so many guitar players happened through so many years that each kind of phase had its own organic necessity that had arisen. Maybe that was a bit wordy to say. Guys came and went (laughs). Originally it was gonna be a two-guitar player group. I split forever so I thought and went back to Nine Inch Nails. In my absence they were looking to replace me and Josh Freese, the drummer at the time, had brought Buckethead in to essentially fill the slot I had left. They really liked him but he's kind of a stunt guitar player. He does a very specific thing and he has a real genius sensibility about him. But he rarely plays the same thing twice ever and when you're trying to cruise through "Nightrain" that just makes it a little (laughs) too different. So they needed someone to anchor the songs. They kept Buckethead to do what Buckethead does and they needed someone else to play alongside.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 9:14 am


In October 2000, a statement from Doug Goldstein at Big FD Entertainment, would announce that the show at Rock in Rio 3, in January 2001, would be followed by a summer tour [MTV News, October 30, 2000]. And in January 2001, it would be reported that the first of these shows would be at the German Rock Am Ring festival on June 1-3 [NME, January 7, 2001]. Further European dates would be confirmed and rumoured: two shows in the UK, a show in the Netherlands, one more show in Germany [NME, January 10, 2001;, January 22, 2001].

Later the following shows would be confirmed [MTV News, February 9, 2001; NME, February 27, 2001; NME, March 1, 2001; Allstar News, March 7, 2001]:

6/1 - Nuremberg, Germany @ Rock IM Park, 6/3 - Nurburgring, Germany @ Rock Am Ring, 6/5 - Berlin, Germany @ Waldbuhne, 6/9 - London, Italy @ London Docklands Arena, 6/10 - London, Italy @ London Docklands Arena, 6/12 - Glasgow, Scotland @ SECC, 6/13 - Manchester, England @ Manchester Arena, 6/14 - Birmingham, England @ Birmingham NEC, 6/17 - Imola, Italy @ Jammin Fest, 6/23 - Arnhem, Holland @ Gelredome, 6/25 - Stockholm, Sweden @ Globen, 6/26 - Oslo, Norway @ Spektrum, 6/28 - Roskilde, Denmark @ Roskilde Festival.

When asked if the touring lineup for the summer and fall tours would be the same as for Rock In Rio in January:

It’s difficult to say, but I believe so.

Apparently some of the uncertainty was in regards to whether Robin would be back also for the entire tour and not only Rock in Rio in January:

Well, I don't know yet, we just got together to do this show [=Rock in Rio].

Brain, on the other hand, would say he was not playing in Primus anymore and when asked if he was a permanent member of Guns N' Roses:

In early January Axl would also discuss the possibility of touring South America after the European summer tour:

Yes, it's very possible. It's very possible that we will play in November or January. Um, you know, November this year or January of next year. Um, I'm very excited to play here. I want to come back and play Rio again. And play, you know, Buenos Aires and Santiago and hopefully other South American countries, you know. As soon as we can.

A show in Argentina at the Buenos Aires Hot Festival in November would later be confirmed by local media [Clarin (Argentina), February 2001].

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 9:16 am


In 2001, Izzy would say that around the time when Guns N' Roses was planning the Rock in Rio show, Axl called Izzy and asked him to return:

Axl called me when he had the plan to play Rock In Rio. I don't believe that he hoped to reform the group as a whole because I am the only one that he called, but, in any event, I declined the offer. Maybe he estimated that his group was not good enough […]. […] Axl is really a special type, he's too hard to manage. […] I already had this album in preparation and I prefer to leave on the road with my group, I find everything I need there without problems that occur when you're with Axl...
Guitar & Bass (France), June 2001; translated from French

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 9:18 am


In addition to all the other news announced in late October 2000, it would also be stated that producer Bob Ezrin was involved as an A&R person to help Guns N' Roses complete Chinese Democracy [MTV News, October 30, 2000].

Slash would likely allude to Ezrin's entrance, or Roy Thomas Baker working with the band:

There’s just been a lot of, like, so-called Guns N’ Roses shows that were supposed to happen, even when I was in the band (laughs). And it never did, so it’s just like, we’ll wait to see when it happens [regarding the planned shows in 2001]. You know, I hope it does and I hope it goes on. I hope he gets a record out and – you know. And there’s some pretty heavy people at the helm right now working on the Guns record, so I don’t think anybody’s fuckin’ around, because I think too much money and time has been spent, you know, so they have to do it (chuckles).

Alice Cooper would shed light on Ezrin working with Guns N' Roses:

[Talking about working with Ezrin]: Bob Ezrin came in, listened to it, and goes, ‘Clarinet.' I said, `What do you mean?' He says, ‘A clarinet's gonna give it this 1890s kind of feel. A clarinet's got a real lonely sound to it.' We tried it and I said, ‘Oh, that's good.' It's almost Dixieland. It had that New Orleans vampire kind of thing to it.

But that's exactly why I run things by Bob Ezrin. He and I think so much alike that I'll go, ‘I know I'm missing something here, Bob. What is it?' We came up at the same time together. He was a classically trained kid from Toronto, and we were this sick, theatrical garage band... Somehow, the two met, and we found he was as warped as we were. But then he could take all that classical training and plug it into what we were doing...

I'm not the only one. To this day, really good songwriters that are ready to finish an album call me up and go, ‘Do you have Bob Ezrin's number?' He did it with Jane's Addiction. He did it with The Darkness. He did it with Guns 'n' Roses. I know Axl called him up and said, ‘I want you to listen to (the still-unfinished CD) ‘Chinese Democracy’' and tell me what I've got (that's good).' Bob listened to it and said, ‘Three songs.' This is after seven years (of songwriting). Bob's not going to be a yes man. He's going to go in there and tell you how many (decent) songs you actually have... He's basically taught me everything about how to write a song.'
King County Journal, Oct. 15, 2004

So from the quote above it is suggested that Axl contacted Ezrin but that Ezrin only thought the band had three good songs at the time.

In December 2000 it would be reported that according to an industry source Ezrin had only had one meeting with the band and had not committed to anything [Rolling Stone, December 12, 2000].

In 2011, Ezrin would explain what had happened:

It started off when Jimmy Iovine (ed: producer, chairman of Interscope/ Geffen) asked me for a big favour. They were stuck, they were stuck in a studio in North Hollywood for years with Roy Thomas Baker (ed: Queen’s producer), and nothing was happening. They were paying enormous rental bills and they were paying people to sit around the studio waiting for Axl to show up and it was just a disaster.

I agreed to go there immediately and listen to a bunch of stuff. What I heard was – I don’t know how to say this without be insulting, I don’t want to be insulting because he worked very hard on it – but what I heard was something that he had painted over too many times. So, by the time I heard it, the original content was lost and it was just a highly produced piece of something…

Anyway, I agreed to help out if Axl would agree to work with me, which he did. He had the idea that the only person who could finish the album with him was me, based on what I don’t know. I came, I listened, I said to him I will listen and will give you notes we will see together.

I spent a lot of time listening. I went to see Jimmy Iovine and I gave him my perception of the situation, including the fact that they had to get out of Rumbo Studios immediately – not because Rumbo is a bad studio, it’s a wonderful studio –  but because they needed to be closer to the scrutiny of the record company and Jimmy’s team, so there could be at least some measure of control. And I recommended we move them to the Village Recorder in West Hollywood. So, they did that, and moved everybody there.

I had to wait to talk to Axl because he avoided me. He was nervous about hearing what I had to say.

We finally met, on a night when my wife – who was then my girlfriend – came down from Toronto to visit me and we were having a dinner with friends at my house. She was cooking when I got a phone call from Jimmy Iovine saying that I needed to come meet Axl and I said “I can’t tonight. I’m booked”. And Jimmy replied saying “ok” (laughs). No he didn’t. When he wants something, he really knows how to get it. Anyway, he basically guilt-tripped me and I told him “Ok, I will be there at 8pm and I will leave there at 8.30, whether Axl shows up or not”, because that was Axl. Because last time we had an appointment at 10pm and Axl showed up at 2 in the morning. “So tell Axl that’s it”.  

I went to the restaurant at 8 and a team of Axl supporters and hangers-on showed up and joined me at the table – and no Axl. Axl finally came about 8:25 (laughs). Anyway, I told him basically what you’ve heard. I didn’t tell him “you have 2 ½ songs” and when he sat down, he started saying me that he has finished the record. And I said “Axl, we are not ready to mix this record. This record isn’t ready to be mixed”. I said “there are two great songs on it and I know that you’re capable of more, that’s the reason why I’m here.  You’re such a great talent and I would do you a disservice if I didn’t tell you the truth, which is that most of the songs aren’t great.  But I‘m very happy to help you get there and I believe that it’s possible, if you would like to continue to work on the record, to make it better”.   He said “I don’t agree with that. We are ready to mix”. And I told him “you have my number, if you change your mind let me know, but I have a dinner party at home now and I had to go”.  I left and I haven’t heard from him since. It was years later when it came out.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 9:18 am


In August 1999, it would be rumoured that the band was not working on one record, but two records, and that it was expected that both would be released in October 1999 [Metal Hammer, August 13, 1999].

When Axl finally did speak in late 1999, he revealed that not only had they worked on enough music for two records, but that they also planned for two records:

We've been working on, I don't know, 70 songs. […] The record will be about, anywhere from 16 to 18 songs, but we recorded at least two albums' worth of material that is solidly recorded. But we are working on a lot more songs than that at the same time... in that way, what we're doing is exploring so, you know, you get a good idea, you save it, and then maybe you come back to it later, or maybe you get a good idea and you go, "That's really cool, but that's not what we're looking for. Okay, let's try something new." You know, basically taking the advance money for the record and actually spending it on the record. […] and I don't want to be in a situation again where I have to depend on other people and have [to] start all over. So we have material that we think is too advanced for old Guns fans to hear right now and they would completely hate, because we were exploring the use of computers [along with] everybody really playing their ass off and combining that, but trying to push the envelope a bit. It's like, "Hmm, I have to push the envelope a little too far. We'll wait on that." So we got a list of things.

Axl would also indicate that the substantial costs of making the record wouldn't be so bad if they got two albums out of it [Rolling Stone, January 2000].

The plan was to let the first record be more guitar-driven while the second would contain more aggressive electronica:

It took working on the majority of these things and at least the couple albums' [worth] of material to figure out what should be on the first official Guns album. I wouldn't say it's like, you know, that we recorded a double album, or that we have all of our scraps to be the second one. There is a distinct difference in sound. The second leans probably a little more to aggressive electronica with full guitars, where the first one is definitely more guitar-based.

I'd like to take some of the old Guns fans along with me gradually into the twenty-first century.
Rolling Stone, February 3, 2000; interview from November 1999


In 2001, when visiting Brazil for Rock In Rio, Axl talked to fans at his hotel, as reported by RS Argentina, and reportedly stated that they had 36 songs almost finished (one dedicated to John Lennon, another one about child abuse) and that it might be two records with the first being called "Chinese Democracy" and the second "P.R.L.", but the latter name was possibly misheard because RS Argentina but a question mark after this [RS Argentina, 2001]. When the Village leaks happened in 2019, containing music from 2001, one of the instrumental compositions leaked was called "P.R.L." indicating that this wasn't someone mishearing what Axl said.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 9:20 am


I think I have the record for my drums being set up for the longest time in any studio. I think they were set up at Village Recorders in Santa Monica for six years. Six years.

It was awesome; huge production! We drove around L.A. in (producer) Roy Thomas Baker's Rolls Royce trying out every kick, snare, tom and hi-hat. I had the best drum kit you can piece together. It was incredible!

[...] and[Axl]'s always been cool to me despite what you hear or whatever from other people. He's always been super cool and always like trusted my playing and what I wanted to do on the album when we were doing Chinese and, you know.


Josh leaving meant that Brain would initially replace some of Josh's parts:

Not on the whole record, but yes, I made some recordings.

This could indicate that at initially the record was intended to contain drum parts by both Brain and Josh. As it turned out, Brain would end up replacing all of Josh's parts with Axl asking him to recreate Josh's drumming but with Brain's feel:

Okay, so with Chinese Democracy which, I think this is the first time I'm telling the story in any kind of interview or anything, but... That was, its... I think I have the record for how long my drums have been set up in a studio, and I think it was five years the drums were set up at the Village Recorders in Los Angeles. My drums are up there for five years, I think it went through three different producers. It went through Sean Beavan, Roy Thomas Baker and then I guess Axl's the producer now. [chuckles] That's five years my drums were set up.

And basically how it started was Josh Freese was the drummer before and he had basically played on about 30 songs and he had left. Axl really liked my feel so he was like, "Well, I really like what Josh was playing, but I want your feel," and I was like, "Okay" so I'm gonna need songs and go in and re-play them. And it was like, "No, I really liked what Josh played but I want your feel," and I'm like, "What does that mean?" And Roy was the producer at that time and he's like, "Well, basically what you're gonna have to do is play exactly what Josh play, exactly note for note, but you play it." So I'm like... So, I'm gonna have to transcribe every like 30-something songs and I'm like, "Man, I'm not getting paid enough for this," so I'm like, "I don't mind doing that but you're gonna have to get someone else to transcribe it". So I went to the head transcriber at Sony Studios and I brought him two CDs worth of, like, 30 songs and I said, "Dude, I want note-for-note you to transcribe everything that's on this drum-wise." So about a month later he calls me and I get back, I go and pick it up at Sony Studios, I get, like, it must have been that thick [gesturing thickness approximately 35 cm] sheet music. And it was every song written out note-for-note and these were some seven-minute songs with, like, at the end Josh doing soloing, actually, like [gesturing solo drumming with sounds], like every note was written out and he had like the exact solo at the end of There Was A Time [?] that was like, literally... I don't know, like two minutes of that at the end, of Josh just going crazy all written out.

We replaced a lot of drums: because of Axl’s belief that the record is supposed to be the energy of the people involved in creating it, we had to replace Josh Freese’s drumming. And his drumming was spectacular. I would not have wanted to be in Brain’s shoes. Basically we were saying to him ‘We have got a brilliant performance of this and now we need you to recreate it’.

Josh had come up with some pretty good parts for the album. Axl was like, “Hey, I like what Josh did, so could we start out by you doing his parts, but with your feel? Because your feel’s different.” So I went over to Sony Music and found the dude who did their orchestrations for films and asked if he could transcribe the drums on the thirty songs. He’s like, “All right, yeah, I’ll let you know when they’re done.” He would do about six a month – literally these six-page drum transcriptions of what Josh had played.

Axl is a perfectionist. Josh [Freese], who is one of my favourite drummers, had already recorded some beautiful tracks but they didn’t have the sound. They were very digital sounding, there wasn’t a lot of air moving, they were electronic sounding. Axl liked some of the parts so he asked if I could play what Josh did but in my feel. He wanted me to replay it note for note.

So I thought if they want that somebody’s going to have to transcribe this. I made some calls and went over to Sony I went over there and dropped off a handful of CDs and they transcribed it. They set it up on a teleprompter, I learned it and recorded it note for note. After that Axl was like, ‘Now do it your way!’ I think what came out on the album was a hybrid of a little of Josh and what I did.

Well, it was funny because like with Chinese at first, you know, Josh is a very linear drummer also, you know, he's probably like the best, you know. I can't think of a better drummer than Josh Freese. I mean, he's one of my favorite drummers. He's technical, you know, he's very technical and perfect. I mean, you know, with the Nine Inch Nails shit, I love watching those rehearsals on YouTube, you know, because he's playing with a click in the machine and it's like perfect, you can't tell the difference. And I guess that's how Sorum is a little bit, I guess, you know, I don't know Matt's playing that much except for that stuff. Josh, I followed for years and I just, you know, still talk to him and I feel like he's, you know... And I've seen him with Sting and Devo, he's awesome, you know, or whatever. But when I first joined, yeah, I'd say about 80% was done and Axl was like, "Well, I want to see what you can do to these things." And so, you know - and it's a story I told before in print, I don't know if I've said it in a podcast - but, you know, it was like at first he was like, "I like Josh's parts and playing," so I was like, "Then what do you want me to do?" you know. And Axl's like... I'll tell you a story about what happened in a second and just blew me out, but before it, you know, Axl was like, "Well, I want to see what you can do but with Josh's parts," and I was like, "Wait, so you want me to play his part but with just, you know, I'm playing it? Replaying it?" He was like, "Yeah." So I went to like Sony Music cuz I was like, "Dude, I can transcribe this but that's like a full-time job to transcribe all this stuff," so I went to like the orchestrator at Sony Music and I remember dropping off a bag of CDs and just saying, "Can you orchestrate all this stuff, write out all the drum stuff, even the crazy solo at the end of [There Was A Time]..." [...] But anyways, which is crazy so the guy transcribes all of it, right? And he gives them back and I literally had like huge, you know, like literally like a, you know, a six-foot chart above my head that I just learned to play all the parts, you know what I mean? Like literally note for note. I did it. And I was like, we did it in my feel, because my feel, what I think I give to it is a little different feel, it's a little more of a swing to the whole thing. So I think that that's where Axl was like, "Okay, I like Josh's part but I like the way you feel with his parts." So that's where I was like, you know, because Axl is, I mean, he is ridiculous. I mean, I'll never forget - here I go again, probably forgetting what song it was - because, you know, I mean, dude, I did that album for like six years, after a while every song and every title became the same-

In 2013, Josh would comment on having his drums replaced by Brain's and say he had no problems with it but find it curious that Brain would redo the drum parts note for note:

I honestly didn't care either which way [about the drums being replaced]. I honestly didn't care. And what I was more excited about is that I had written three or four songs, I co-wrote three or four songs. When I left there was two lists. There's the master list, like, "Here's the 20 songs we're concentrating on." And there was a B list, "And here's the other 20 songs that if we get to him one day or finish him one day, we'll see what happens." For the 20 songs, I had three or four songs, or for the 16, I had three or four songs that were in the running. And so, like, that's pretty cool, you know, and, "I've put in enough time down here playing drums and I have made some money doing it and got a chance to write some... co-write some songs to these guys. Whatever they want to do with my drums after I leave is their business." You know what I mean? And it didn't surprise me...or I will tell you what did surprise me. It didn't surprise me that they had someone replay my stuff. What surprised me is they supposedly had Brain redo my drums like note for note. That's supposedly a true story. And I've never actually asked Brian about it, I wasn't sure if he was allowed to talk about or how that worked, but I saw an interview someone was for [?]... He's done some interviews where he says that, like I'd heard it through the grapevine.


So anyways, Brain recorded... And I get the whole, "Okay, you're the new drummer, we want you to feel part of this, we want you to redo some of the drums." I got that part. I also got the part that Axl loved what I did, or was not so much he loved what I did but had gotten used to hearing the song certain way and liked them a certain way. It was strange  to me that he had him redo them almost note for note. But it also didn't really surprise me. I mean, I get that a lot of time, sometimes what people do in the studio if they're procrastinating, is you can do stuff also that makes it look like you're busy, give yourself certain [?], you know what I mean? I might come back to my studio and have to, like, write something that I need to do with somebody, but I'll go, "I'm going to just clean instead, I'm gonna order that new piece of gear, and then I'm gonna do this," and I never get to the actual writing of the music, but I cleaned the studio and I ordered the gear and I returned that phone call, so I did some shit, you know? Anyways, I understand, yeah, he wants the dude to feel like he's a part of it and so they're gonna re-do the drums. But supposedly they hired like a guy to transcribe like all the drum parts. Not that it was... they're not, you know, transcribing the "shut up and play your guitar" drum parts- [...] the 4/4 rock and roll.

In 2012 and 2018, Brain would say there had been 25-30 tunes floating around with 90% of them featuring Josh Freese, and that it was Roy Thomas Baker who had wanted new drums to sound less industrial and more rock:

They had recorded a bunch of stuff and Josh Freese had recorded a lot of stuff. I think he recorded 90% of the drumming on the 25-30 tunes that were floating around. When I came it was right when they got [producer] Roy Thomas Baker. He was coming from Queen, The Cars, Journey, more the rock thing. He said we had to go re-record the drums because they sounded very industrial.

I have to say there was like 20 songs recorded with Josh, I would say. So there was at least enough for a couple albums, almost two albums of material that Josh had played on. And I literally came in and, you know, replaced his parts exactly to the T, like exactly what he played. Then re-did it again, the way I'd play it. So I recorded what was there twice, with Roy Thomas Baker over a period of, yeah, it seemed like three years. It felt like something like two and a half years. [...] and I was like, "Okay," you know, "sure. I'm not going to transcribe these so let's take him to Sony and, you know, get a dude who does this for a living for orchestral scores and," you know, "transcripts." Took them there, took a stack of CDs, will never forget it, you know, in Culver City over at the Sony Building, and just dropped them off and they're like, "What is this?" And I'm like, "Well, here's like twenty CDs of material," you know, kind of thing, like, "Just start sending us the drum parts." And so, you know, like every week we'd get one or two, I'd go up there and we would like, you know, go up to - we were at the Village at the time - and, you know, and I'd have them like an orchestral chart above my head and I'd go in for a day, learn it, and we'd start recording the next day. And then we'd get another chart would show up. "Oh, we got two more charts! Okay." I played, you know, like Josh Freese's, I think, There Was A Time, his solo at the end note for note, like I had to learn it. What became on the album was a combination of mine and his. Because, you know, I had learned his so, you know, I just started playing it that way but then I would let loose sometimes and do my thing. So what ended up on the album was like half Josh, half me.

Oh, shit, I can't remember now, but I felt like I played on at least twenty-something, you know, maybe more. You know, but I mean, don't quote me on that, but that's what it felt like. [...] I mean, there could be [50-60 "out there", as suggest by the interviewer]. I didn't play on all those. But yeah, there absolutely could be, yeah. Because I don't know what they did after I left. But I could say, you know, at the highest, there could be 30 when I left, that were around. I'm not sure I played on all 30, but I know I played on at least 20 something that were finished, I think, myself. Then I think Frank came in after I left and he played on some more. And then since then, I'm sure people were still writing, you know.

They would also record the drums in a different room at the Village Recorders:

So basically I went in and we set up at the top of this, like, in the Village we decided to record... I went in and I heard the room in the Studio C and I was like, "Well, you know, this is cool but you know we're making, like, the Guns N' Roses album! Come on, we can't just be in the studio where, like, everybody else records. You got to have something better than this?" And the owner Jeff was like, "Well, we have an auditorium that used to be able to be a Masonic Temple upstairs," and I'm like, "There you go, now we're talking, you know, like Led Zeppelin, we're getting into something here." So we go to the top and it's all cold up there. It's like, you know, just really eerie feeling and I'm like, "This is it. This is where we got to record all the drums." So we basically ran everything up to the top of this, this, Village Recorders, and we set up the drums in this auditorium. And so it really just had a huge kind of bottom-ass [?] sound.

So we brought all those drums into the main studio at Village, where Fleetwood Mac recorded Tusk. I set up and started playing, and I was like, “Wait a second, man. We’re doing Guns N’ Roses here.”

I talked to Jeff Greenberg, the owner, and said, “Jeff, man, we gotta have something better than this. I mean, the room sounds great and this is cool, but you just had, like, Kenny G in here. I can’t have my shit sounding the same as a Kenny G album.” So he’s like, “Well, what are you saying? Is it the drums? We can have any drum put in here.” I say, “No, it’s not the drums. The drums sound good and the room sounds good. But we gotta get a vibe.”

He tells me there’s an old haunted Masonic temple upstairs where the Masons would give their speeches, and nobody ever goes up there. It was a theater. So we go up, he opens the door, and it just felt like, Okay, now we’re talking. I’m thinking, We’ve got to set up here. We found the sweet spot in the room and I set up the drums there…and that’s were they stayed for six years. This was a Guns N’ Roses album – it had to be overblown.

I wasn’t going to just sit in the studio. I was kind of coming from the school of Tom Waits. One of the best studios I ever recorded in was Bill Laswell’s Greenpoint Studio, just an open cement building, and the only baffling that he had were these little foam pillars, and it sounded amazing. We recorded the first Praxis album there, with Bernie Worrell, Bootsy Collins, Bucket, and AF from The Jungle Brothers, and it was the best – the drums sounded killer. I was using Steve Jordan’s Yamahas, and they just sounded incredible. It sounded so much better than the studios I had worked in, which were built for acoustics. So going into the Guns thing, it just felt like we had to do something better that what you’d normally get in a studio that’s built to sound good. All of a sudden there was a vibe, and it clicked. I got the album then. I started getting what the drums should sound like. Josh’s drums were kind of tight and precise, and we loosened it up. The sound became a little bigger, a little sloppier. And that became more of what the album is now.

We literally drove in his green Rolls Royce around LA and we picked up from every drum company probably every famous drum and tried out every drum. We had them ship it to The Village in LA where we were recording.

We set up all the drums and I said, ‘This is the Guns N Roses album, we need a vibe’ and there was a temple upstairs that people used to do their speeches in. We went up there and it was a mini auditorium. As soon as I put drums up there and hit them I said, ‘Oh s***, this is the vibe’.

But when I was there recording, no, I was just like, "Oh shit, this is a big thing, this is kind of rad," you know, it's like, "This shit has to be killer," like, you know. I'll never forget, we were at the Village and we're in the front, the main room where they did, I think, Rumors so it was like Studio A, I think, it was the big room I guess and, you know, we were setting up the drums and I was like, "Whoa, wait a second," I go, "dude, this is Guns N' Roses, you know, like, I said to everybody and I was just like, "Dude, we can't just record here, like, we got to fucking like, you know, like, we got to do something rad or whatever," and I remember the studio owner, Jeff Greenberg, who became good friends, you know, he brought me into his office and he's like, "What's up?" you know, "Do you need a new tech? Do you need new drums or whatever?" I'm like, "No dude, we need to record in a rad place, I mean, this is Guns N' Roses. Really, I'm just going to record where every other Joe Schmo sets up?" He's like, "Hold on, there's an auditorium upstairs that was an old Masonic [?]", and I'm like, "Okay," and so he's like, "You want to check it out?" and like, "That sounds better." And so we walked up there, he opened the door and it was like a fucking, you know, [?] or something, you know, just like it creaked open and it was just shit everywhere and it was just this, you know, really cool auditorium and I was like, "Dude, this is where we got, this is where [?] set up," [?], "All right," and they ran cables up and they cleaned it out, they built Bucket a chicken coop and, you know, like, "Now we're recording! This is now Guns N' Roses, this is cool now," you know. And, you know, he took pictures and it became kind of a famous thing that they built Bucket a chicken coop, you know, to do his guitar stuff, and they did. And then my drums are set up in this auditorium and they just ran cables up there and had TVs and shit for us to talk back and forth and stuff like that. [...] So they probably just said, "I don't know, sounds good to me," you know, like, "Why not record up there? Does it sound good?" you know, and it was like, "Yeah, sounds amazing," like, "Okay." Cuz really down in Studio A is cool, you know, it's great, but I was just like, "Dude, it's got to be better than this," you know what I mean? Like, "Anybody comes here to record, where has somebody not recorded in this building?" you know. So it was this kind of like, "Okay, now we got something going." So I think that's what I loved about it was that it was just on that level, you know [...].

Yeah, at first I didn't get it. At first I was just like, "Oh, Guns N' Roses, whatever." Then I started going, "Whoa, this is a big thing, okay, well wait." So they bring us to the Village Recorders and we're in their studio. You know, the one where like Mick Fleetwood set up for, you know, Fleetwood Mac and did Rumors there or whatever the big album was, or Tusk or whatever, you know? And we're there in the studio and I'm playing, I'm like, "Wait a second," I'm like, "this is Guns N' Roses, you guys want this? This isn't good enough. Other people have recorded here." And I remember Jeff Greenberg coming in the studio just going like, "Wait, what's the problem here? You don't want to be recording here?" and I'm like, "No Jeff, you know, this is Guns N' Roses. Really? This is the drum sound I'm gonna get?" And he just like, "What do you mean?" I'm just like, "Well, what else do we got here?" and he's like, "Well, there's an old masonic, you know, like theater upstairs, you want to go check that out?" and I was like, "Wait, masonic? "Yeah," "Theater? Sounds cool to me - what is it?" We go up there it's all toasted, you know, there's boxes in there, all this crap and like this little theater. And I'm like, "Whoa, this is perfect!" It's all dark and gloomy. And I'm like, "Yeah, let's set up the drums here." And then they built a chicken coop for Bucket in the corner. You know, so I feel like in a way I was getting into it. I was like, "No, let's do this." "Yeah, let's get Sony to transcribe these things and let's do it. If we're going to do it, let's do it perfect."

Brain would talk about how much effort went into setting up the perfect drum kit:

I had my drum tech [Gersh] bring in over 30 different kits from the Drum Doctor, Drum Paradise, and Drum Fetish. I literally slept in the rehearsal space for three days, looking at angles. I just sat there staring at the stage. I was on the ground looking at angles to see how the kids are going to be looking at it from this angle. And then I would climb up on the stairs and get on a ladder and look at it from above, and say, 'Okay, the people in the balcony are going to be looking at it from this angle. What's going to be the right vibe? What's going to work for this situation?'

I have an idea of what I want when I go in. And since there are 50 snare drums and 40 kick drums, or whatever, you know it's kind of like, 'Well, this song would be great if we start with a 26" kick, 14", 16", 18" toms, because it's a huge sound - a very slow, huge, grunge-type of sound. Let's get some big hi-hats in there. Where's that really deep snare? Let's get a 7" or an 8". Let's try it.' It usually works right away.

And sometimes we get bored and we're like, 'Let's set up in that corner up in the balcony and get a little baby kit. Let's get an 18", and a 12" snare, and 12" hi-hats, just for something to do. Let's put it in the chorus.' This is probably one of the most creative things I've been in, because I've just been allowed to experiment so much.

[Producer] Roy Thomas Baker drove us around L.A. in his Rolls Royce to try to find the exact drums that we wanted for the recording. We went to every company, and it wound up being a mash-up of all the best drums we could find around L.A. We pretty much gathered the most ridiculous kit you could ever have, to rerecord Josh’s parts.

It was a constant sound thing. Each song started from scratch, so it was like, “Okay, here’s ‘Madagascar.’ This DW 13” tom – a Timeless Timber model that my drum tech had – sounds huge. And it sounds really great with this Gretsch floor tom. And this aluminum DW snare sounds great with this particular setup….” Then, next song… “Okay, this is a tighter kick drum, let’s use this one.” And every cymbal would change. That was fun. Like I said, I’m kind of a studio tweaker, and it was fun to be able to do that. We had the budget, so I was like, Let’s just do this. When am I ever going to get a chance to do this again?

At one point I probably had forty snares lined up on the ground…twenty different kick drums…cymbals just thrown all over the place – it was insane. But then I’ve got pictures of the Tom Waits thing, and it’s the same thing, but it’s just junk. All of the great albums that I’ve been lucky enough to play on have always had that kind of overblown type of tweaking. I feel comfortable and at home when it’s like that. I was a chameleon on every song, just like on the Tom Waits stuff. Every song I was like, Okay, now I’m this, now we’re in this situation.

There was another room with literally 30 snare drums lined up, 15 kick drums, cymbals stacked up like a music store and it’d literally be, ‘This one looks cool, let’s try it with this’. We’d just play some beats and see how it sounded.

There was no time constraints, there was nothing. I don’t think anybody was keeping track of it. I was going, ‘I don’t know who’s paying for this, or what’s going on but I don’t really care because I get to come here and f*** off in one of the best studios in the world with some of the best drums and some of the best recording gear, everybody talks s*** about Axl and Guns N Roses but this is killer for me!’

Towards the end we probably came up with one kit that sounded pretty solid and we’d just change out the snare. ‘I’m Sorry’ was more the Pink Floyd thing so I think I used a bigger kick, a 24" or a 26", on ‘There Was A Time’ we used a 22", we were just experimenting. We were having a ball, me and my drum tech. We would try something, record it and send the CD to Axl. He’d check it out and saying, Yeah that’s cool’, or sometimes he’d come in but his hours are pretty crazy so he’d come in at four in the morning and listen.

And, "Yeah, let's get every drum set..." I remember driving around with Roy Thomas Baker, you know, in his custom-made green Rolls Royce and we're in search of Ringo Starr's 22-inch kick drum. You know, we heard, "Oh, the Drum Doctor might have that," and, you know, we're driving to his place, hitting every kick drum in LA. You know, "Oh no, let's go over here, he's got it!" you know. [...] "No, the Drum Fetish has it!" You know, because that's what we have to get, that's what's got to be on this song is this, you know. I have pictures of like, you know, like 40 snares lined up, you know, 20 kick drums and, you know, and we're trying different ones, you know, on every song. And I kind of started getting into like, "Okay, if we're going to make this crazy, let's get crazy."

In contrast to Josh who had only done acoustic drumming, Brain would bring in drum programming:

I'm totally into using a computer-based sequence setup. I use Logic and Pro Tools, and I have a G4 titanium laptop. I have this bag where I keep a nice DAT machine with a nice mike, or I have those toy samplers that you buy at Toys R Us. And I just sit there after whatever session I'm in, whether I'm even at the rehearsal space or at the studio, and I just hit my drums, make weird sounds, make weird loops, and then I take them home. I get home at about 2:00 in the morning and from 2:00 until 4:00 in the morning I sit at my laptop, cut up all my beats, make more beats, more sounds, and then bring them into the producer and say, 'Hey, check this out. Are you into this?' That's what I spend most of my free time doing.

What I've noticed with this situation is that I've kind of made it my own, tow here I'm getting what I want out of it and what I want to do. It's really been inspiring in that way. At first it was different. It was hard for me to get into this process. But I kind of turned it around. I said, "Wait. I've got access to the studio and to do what I want. I'm going to start calling the shots to say, 'Let's try this or let's do this.' I want to add what I want to this project. I'm looking at this as a musical education.

Being asked what they listened to while they recorded the drum tracks:

We listened to some prerecorded tracks that Josh had already played on. Sometimes we did some stuff all together, but most of it was done when there were already bass and guitar tracks. And whatever feel that we put on it, maybe they’d go back and rerecord to that. I took one song at a time, learned each as an orchestra piece – literally note for note, every fill, every crazy thing. I replayed it with my feel and the new sound in the new building. And that process happened for a few songs, so it took a while. After that was done Axl said, “Okay, that was cool, now do your thing.” So I went in, forgot all of what I’d just done, and did my thing, and I think it became a combination of both. In the end I redid it again by kind of doing half my thing and some of what I remembered from Josh’s original drum parts. We were also writing as a new band with me and Bucket. We had some songs that we started from scratch, where I just recorded myself without charts.

Recording each song took two weeks, and the whole recording process took 7-8 months:

We set up all the drums in the corner and we literally put... when I open the charts they were like 1 page, 2 page, 3, 4, 5, like 6 pages and they wanted... Roy didn't want me to do it in sections so it wasn't like, "Okay, here's the verse," and I'm playing it. It's like, "No, you got to play it as one piece." So I'm like, "Dude! I got to, like, practice this and get..." So each song we had up, like, we had this huge, like, banner made where we could have the whole chart across. So I would look at from here [gesturing to one side] all the way to like, like [gesturing to the opposite side], almost like a 90 degrees, I would just see this huge chart. And I learned every song for, like, I don't know, maybe two weeks. Learned all the parts. I sat there and, like, got it down like it was orchestrated. I just practiced until I got it. Then I would say, "Roy", and while everybody down [?] to the studio, it's $2,000 a day in studio, which would just be sitting there, like, like, watching, like, cartoons or The Exorcist or something, there's like, well, I'm upstairs practicing and I would call downstairs and be like, "Yeah man, I think I got it so maybe we should try." Two weeks have gone by, I think I got it, we try to record, track it for two days until I got the perfect take. One song done. "Okay, let's start the next one." About seven to eight months later I was done and that's how that album was recorded.

This suggests Brain was not through with his recording before well into 2001.

Talking about Axl's attention to detail:

You know, that's one thing about Axl too, is he knows his shit, dude. I'll never forget. I don't know how much time we have. We were working on a track and we probably were working on this track, I forget the name of the track, I don't even know if it made it on Chinese Democracy. But we were working on it for about two weeks, maybe even longer. We would work at the Village, which is in Santa Monica, at studio, and everything would be, like, dropped off to him. At that point it was like giving him CD's was a thing so it'd be a runner ready to go right when we were done at 12 midnight to bring it up to his house in Venice, and we would - I mean, in Malibu. We waited about 35-40 minutes till it got there, get the call, "Yeah, this is cool," or "No, we gotta change something" or do whatever. We've been doing that for like, I don't know, 2 1/2 weeks on this song, let's say. Finally, he loved what we were doing, but we had to change something with the drums. So I remember replaying the part but on the beginning of, like, the second-half of the intro, there's a kick drum that I had missed on the final take that we... We already had figured out all the parts and everything was going great and the producer Roy Thomas Baker was like, "That was the take." But I had noticed that I just missed one kick drum. One kick drum on the one of the second-half of the beginning of, like, the intro, okay. We send it there and I'm not shitting you, he says, "Everything sounds great, except I think Brain missed a kick drum on the one." So he's fucking listening. We thought we were sending this shit and he's literally, you know, sitting there, King Arthur with seven chicks on his pipe and licking his, you know, and no, he's working, he's listening, he's working. I mean, after that I respected.... I was like, "Holy shit!" Like, "He caught that?" Yeah, he's listening to every little thing, because that was my time of getting the drums right. So he was focusing on that. And he was like, "No, you guys missed this kick drum." We're like, "Oh shit," you know? Anyways, I don't know what that means or anything but, I mean, it's pretty amazing because you would think someone like him wouldn't like, does he need to care? I mean, he's, you know, the puppet man. [...] Yeah, that one got me. I was like, "Wow, he caught that."

I have a love-hate relationship with that album, you know. When people ask me, "Do I like it?" you know, yeah, I like it, but, you know, some of the process was pretty hard, you know, doing it. Because Axl wanted it to be so great that, you know, we had to keep pushing it and pushing the boundaries and, you know, he would just... and that was my story about, like, on the charts [=of drum notes Josh played] -  which he never saw the charts - on one of the songs it was, like, I remember recording the whole song with Roy Thomas Baker, you know, maybe spending three days on this song until we got the perfect tape because, you know, I had to play everything that Josh played exactly how he played it, and we finally got it. But I remember when we were listening to the playback, and this was like at two in the morning or something, I go, "Oh shit," I was looking at the chart, I go, "Dude, I missed this one kick drum right at the beginning of the verse," and we listened back and we're like, "Yeah, but you hit the cymbal and you hit everything and then you kind of come in there, I don' know, I mean, let's just send it to him and check it." You know, we send it to him, you know, he gets it around four o'clock in the morning, we get the call and it was literally, "Yeah, I liked it but I think Brain forgot to hit a kick drum at the beginning," like, he doesn't miss, I was like, "Holy shit! Again!" This gig kicked me out, like, he's not is not fucking around, you can't get away with shit. And it was like, you know, this like lightest kic, too, it was like, you know, three fucking peas [?] on the fucking quarter note, it was, like, just tap it, just, you know, a little tap. And I was like, "I just forgot to tap it," it's like, "Yeah, but Brain forgot to hit that," I was like, "Oh, this is some serious shit," like, he knows his shit, he's listening, not like the, you know, we're just sending it up there for no reason and shit, you know.

He doesn't miss anything though, man. I remember one time, on the chart there was like this... it was at the beginning of like Prostitute or something, I think it was, and there was a kick drum that happened, like this one little tap, like [make tap noise], like little tap. not even like a big boom or anything, it was just kind of like, okay, the ride cymbal comes in with a little like trill and like [make trill sound], and you hit the one with the kick drum and I go, "Oh shit, on the chart, I missed that." I thought, "Man, no one's gonna catch it." And in the control room, Roy and engineers no one caught it. We sent it Axl and like, you know, like a couple hours later it was like, "Hey, did Brain miss like the downbeat of...?" "Holy shit! Wow!" Yeah, that's pretty good.

With new drum tracks, Tommy had to rerecord his bass lines, too:

I had to redo [the bass tracks]. I probably ended up completely re-recording each part five or six times over the years. It was tough.

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 9:20 am

LATE 2000

In November 2000, Shoutweb, who claimed to have spoken to Axl, would report that Axl was planning a secret show in Las Vegas to debut the new version of the band [Shoutweb, November 22, 2000]. With the band already confirmed to play at Rock in Rio on January 14, 2001, this meant that this secret show would haver to take place within the next two months. According to Shoutweb, the band intended to play this secret show under another name [Shoutweb, November 22, 2000].

The show would be confirmed to a new year's show and take place at the Las Vegas House of Blues [MTV News, December 3, 2000].

I heard them in rehearsals. ... [The old material] sounds substantially more powerful. With two lead guitars, it just sounded so powerful.

We've been rehearsing and recording — we just wanted to blow some smoke. What better place to do that than New Year's Eve in Las Vegas?

A week later it would be reported that the setlist at the Las Vegas show would closely resemble the setlist planned for Rock in Rio, and that the show would last up for up to two hours [MTV News, December 11, 2000].

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Post by Soulmonster Sat Aug 29, 2020 9:25 am

JANUARY 1, 2001

I have traversed a treacherous sea of horrors to be with you here tonight.

Then, on January 1, 2001, more than seven years since the last Guns N' Roses show, the new version of the band would finally enter the stage and a select few would get to hear Guns N' Roses live again. The event took place at The House of Blues in Las Vegas, NV, USA, and the band would take the stage at 3:30 am in the early morning [New York Times, January 2, 2001].

The show would start with a cartoon called "It's A Sorta Kinda Wonderful Life" of Axl making fun of his own public image.

The band's performance was preceded by an animated feature that poked fun at Rose's media-perpetuated persona. The mercurial frontman was depicted in bed — presumably having spent the last seven years in Brian Wilson-like seclusion — carrying on conversations with Buddha and the odd alien, with a music magazine used in lieu of toilet paper following a bedpan sequence. Footage depicting a journey through a birth canal was also presented, among other esoteric endeavors.

This self-deprecating style would continue during the show:

Ah, good morning. I just woke up, I’ve been taking a nap for about eight years (laughs).

Let’s do Patience. Because that’s what I’m going to try to experience right now... Or should I, like, have a tantrum or something? (chuckles) Now we’re talking, huh? Break some shit, fuck things up... have them write in the paper what a dick I was... (mocking laughter) So Thursday night was the first night I ever, like, sang a set with these guys. It was the first time I sang a set in eight years. I have a little bit of emotional problem doing the old stuff that I had to work through... I don’t know, it’s a little worrying, because, see, there was a rehearsal, then we had some kind of setlist, then I actually went to soundcheck. That’s a first for all three of those in 15 years. I was afraid that might jinx the show. You know, like baseball players wearing different socks or something. I could fuck things up. Alright. We’ve got some acoustic guitars? So people are on crack. [Shouts from the crowd] Say what? (laughs) [The crowd chants “Welcome back”] Thank you. Now you’re embarrassing me...

The lineup would feature Axl, Paul, Robin, Buckethead, Brain, Dizzy, Tommy and newcomer Chris Pitman.

Axl at the House of Blues
January 1, 2001

The 20-song setlist would naturally be dominated by old Guns N' Roses songs, but the band would also play the following new songs: "Oh My God", "Rhiad and the Bedouins", "Chinese Democracy", "Street of Dreams" and "Silkworms".

During the show, Axl would take time to praise Paul for his role:

I’d like to introduce a couple of people now. Someone who’s worked very hard to be here, and through all the opposition, and worked very hard with the former band to try to help things work out, and has worked solidly, basically every single day for the last seven years to try to help me have a god damn band. The original guitar player that I’ve worked with, that I met when I was 12 years old and we’d argue about who’s cooler, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Kiss or Aerosmith. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Mr. Paul Huge, the question mark and “who the fuck is Paul,” and “what does he look like” and... Well, now you all know him and you can write home to everybody how it just doesn’t work and it’s not – it just sucks (laughs).

After the show Axl would talk about putting together a new lineup and how Buckethead and Robin hadn't know each other at the show:

[...] this band did not come together by a bunch of guys meeting each other in a bar or down on a corner in their old neighborhood or anything like that. So it's taken a long time to pull these guys together and then have them develop a chemistry with themselves. When we first did our first show in Vegas, Robin and Buckethead didn't know each other at all, and you've got two lead guitar players trying to kill each other.

Axl would say that Robin and Buckethead playing together had been similar to when Zakk was brought in to play with Slash in early 1995 [WRIF Radio Detroit, November 20, 2002].

A DVD and video of the performance at the House of Blues would later be scheduled for release in Japan in September 2001 [CDNow, August 11, 2001].

Bernard Baur from Music Connection attended the show:

I was at the House of Blues in Vegas, at one of their shows anyway, and it seemed as if Guns N’ Roses was back. I mean, even without all the other members, Axl was right in form, he was great, you know, he was singing great and he was moving great. They did mostly the old songs though. They did a few of the new songs from the Chinese Democracy album, but mostly it was the old Guns N’ Roses stuff. It was just like Guns N’ Roses in the old days, except it was a bit more polished. In the old days there was nothing polished about these guys. You know, they were rough, gritty and dirty. It’s a bit, bit more polished, but I mean the music sounded good, the production was good and the show was great.

As did Robert John:

Yeah, actually that was a really, really amazing show. They played to, like – I think it was 6:00 in the morning (laughs). I just remember when we walked out it was bright daylight. Yeah, that show was insane, you know. The thing that got me, though, was looking at them on stage, you know, with Robin dressed the way he is, then you had a guy with a chicken bucket on his head, and you had Dizzy – the rocker –, Axl was wearing whatever Axl wears, and then he had another keyboardist up above him... It just, the chemistry to me, wasn’t there. But the show was great.

Joel Miller was one of the roadies working for the band at the time, and he would later discuss his experiences from either working for them during the January 1, 2001 show at the House or Blues or the January 14, 2001 Rock In Rio show:

It was pretty amazing. The first CD I ever bought was Appetite For Destruction, so to be able to work for a band so influential and important to me personally, was as rewarding as any life experience could be. It was just great. On top of that, to hear them and they’re still really good, was even cooler. Axl was really cool to me. I got to watch them rehearse when there were only two or three other people in the room for months. It’s like getting a lifetime Disneyland pass. The band was just coming together, and there was a lot of hanging out. I talked to Bucket a lot. He was a really nice guy, really into horror films. He was very polite and gentle. Brain was cool. He was like a king on the throne on the drumset. You can just see that he’s about to rock. I remember it was a big deal because of the three guitar players. Robin’s awesome, really, really amazing. He was very interesting. He’s extremely intelligent. So, getting into a conversation with him was really interesting because he’s a very smart guy. The neatest thing was sitting there and watching. It was so cool.

[...] there’s one thing I remember, Axl said I could make a good of tea because there’s English blood coming out of me. It was really big deal for the first guy that contacted me from your website that I was from England. [...] I think everything I heard, they played live. Did they play “Silkworms” live? I remember that was a Dizzy song. [...] Then, you know about “Madagascar”, “The Blues”, and “Chinese Democracy”. There were a few others, but I don’t remember. It was a while ago.


According to CDNow, in August 2001 the band planned to release a live DVD of the Las Vegas House of Blues show in Japan on September 21, including the four new songs that were played [CDNow, August 11, 2001].

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Post by Soulmonster Wed May 26, 2021 12:21 pm


Chinese Democracy, track no. 4, November 2008.

Written by:
Axl Rose, Tommy Stinson and Dizzy Reed.

Axl Rose – lead vocals, backing vocals, keyboards, piano, guitar
Robin Finck – lead guitars, keyboards
Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal – lead guitar
Buckethead – lead guitar
Paul Tobias – rhythm guitar, piano
Richard Fortus – rhythm guitar
Tommy Stinson – bass, backing vocals
Dizzy Reed – keyboards, piano, synthesizer, backing vocals
Chris Pitman – keyboards, programming, sub bass, backing vocals, bass, 12 string guitar, mellotron
Bryan "Brain" Mantia – drums, percussion
Frank Ferrer – drums, percussion

Live performances:
'Street of Dreams' was played live for the first time on January 1, 2001, at the House of Blues, USA (at that time called "The Blues"). In total it has, as of {UPDATEDATE}, at least been played {STREETOFDREAMSSONGS} times.

Early version of this song was called "The Blues".

Street of Dreams
From the alternative Red Hand album artwork
Credit to troccoli

Street of Dreams
From the alternative Grenade album artwork
Credit to troccoli


All the love in the world couldn't save you
All the innocence inside
You know I tried so hard to make you
Ooo I wanna make you change your mind

And it hurts too much to see you
And how you left yourself behind
You know I wouldn't want to be you
Now there's a hell I can't describe

So now I wander through my days
and try to find my ways
To the feelings that I felt
I saved for you and no one else

And though as long as this road seems
I know it's called the street of dreams
But that's not stardust on my feet
It leaves a taste that's bittersweet
That's called the blues

I don't know just what I should do
Everywhere I go I see you
You know it's what you planned, this much is true
What I thought was beautiful, don't live inside of you anymore

I don't know just what I should do
Everywhere I go I see you
Though it's what you planned, this much is true, oh oh.
What I thought was beautiful, don't live inside of you anymore

What this means to me
Is more than I know you believe
What I thought of you now
Has cost more that it should for me

What I thought was true before
Were lies I couldn't see
What I thought was beautiful
Is only memories, oh, oh oh, oh oh.

What'd I tell ya, oh, oh oh, oh oh.
That's what I'd tell ya, oh, oh oh, oh oh.

Quotes regarding the song

For Dizzy the song was a highlight during the live shows since his keyboard playing was an integral part of the song:

I like playing 'Street of Dreams.' It’s a treat for me to come out and play the piano, December 2011

Axl would later explain why the song was renamed:

The Blues was my first working title and I was never comfortable with it in the sense that I felt that should be used with a bluesier based song. And here in Hollywood with the walk of fame etc I had always seen that imagery in my head when I think of it. I also like the idea of the song having in affect two titles.

After the album was released, Tommy would talk about his playing on the song:

That’s definitely one of the places where I tried to play melodically. Axl [Rose] had the majority of that song written, and I brought in the bridge bass line and progression.

And Dizzy would talk about the writing process:

[On writing for Chinese Democracy]: There was no set formula. People who were in the band at the time tossed ideas around and we'd add parts or drop parts. People would try things on their own and we all contributed in our way and developed the songs into what they eventually turned out like on the album. With “Street Of Dreams” we were just playing around with it and one day I sat down and developed the bridge part and the intro and that became part of the finished song. There was a lot of work to put it together but I think the material worked out really well
Metal Express Radio, May 2012


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