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2020.10.18/12.09 - 2020'd Podcast - Interviews with David Abbruzzese

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2020.10.18/12.09 - 2020'd Podcast - Interviews with David Abbruzzese Empty 2020.10.18/12.09 - 2020'd Podcast - Interviews with David Abbruzzese

Post by Blackstar on Tue Dec 15, 2020 9:11 am




Transcript of the GN'R related parts:
--------------------------------------------

First video (October 18, 2020)

[...]

Benny Goodman: So I gotta ask you, I’m sure it’s a trigger point. I feel like this is fight club, because I know multiple people that have played in the band Guns N’ Roses.

David Abbruzzese: Oh yeah.

Goodman: And you played with them for, I want to say what, a half decade or whatever. And there’s nothing. There’s nothing - other than lots of internet tapes or whatever, I’m sure - to show what the fuck was going on with Guns, Axl Rose... What the heck happened?

Abbruzzese: It was fascinating, man. I’ll actually... I’ll tell you.

Goodman: Oh my God. Thank you.

Abbruzzese: My lawyer and his lawyer were the same lawyer, blah blah blah... He had his guru looking at my pictures for a few years, I guess the time was right, so he asked my lawyer to ask me if I was interested in coming out. Then we spoke on the phone four or five nights a week for a couple of hours at a pop.

Goodman: What’s a phone call like with Axl Rose? What does he talk about?

Abbruzzese: We did that for months on end.

Goodman: But what’s that like? It doesn’t make sense. I don’t understand it at all.

Abbruzzese: It was cool. I mean, actually I considered him a friend. He was a fascinating dude, fun to talk to on the phone. I don’t think he did it very often back then - I don’t know if he does now. But it was cool. It was interesting. I felt good enough about it and excited about what he wanted to do with Guns N’ Roses. It was real intriguing and incredibly challenging, because he wanted the band to be bigger than it was, and it was like, “Wow. Okay. It’s gonna take some work.” But the band that was there when I showed up, like my audition - I just thought, you know, I’d heard these songs enough on the radio. I didn’t really like them that much – just like the Pearl Jam stuff; if I weren’t in the band I wouldn’t have listened to it. But I just figured I’d get it because, you know, as soon as that guitar part (?) - and I’m like, “Okay, great.” I bought a cowbell and everything.    

Goodman: “It needs more cowbell, David!” (laughs)

Abbruzzese: I got there and Axl came in late, and then he just said – you know, this after we’d gotten to know each other fairly well. He came and told some jokes and then he-

Goodman: Wait, what’s an Axl Rose joke? Do you remember an Axl Rose joke? Like, how does he break the ice?

Abbruzzese: No, I just remember that he was looking at me like this and he said, “I noticed you laughed at all my jokes.” The room got silent like the air left the room, the huge room. And I just said, “I don’t want to get fired.”

(Laughter)  

Siobhan Cronin: So honest. I love it.

Abbruzzese: That broke the ice and then he said, “So why don’t you and Duff run down these songs?” Oh shit! “Just bass and drums.”

Goodman: (Laughs) Oh God.

Abbruzzese: So we played and it was cool. But yeah, I expected to hear some of those guitar parts that were telling me what to do. But it worked out. It was really good. Then we started writing music that was nothing like Guns N’ Roses. It was me and Pod Boy doing a double drum thing, and guitarist from Nine Inch Nails, Robin Finck... Yeah, I mean the band was insane, but it certainly wouldn’t have been Guns N’ Roses.  

Goodman: You gathered like 600 hours of tape of this that one day could surface? Like, when Axl is not here anymore it could be like a Prince situation?

Abbruzzese: No, there’s no way in hell that Axl would ever let anything I was a part of surface.

Goodman: No, I’m saying, like, when it’s all over. Like a Prince situation, where Prince goes...

Abbruzzese: No, no, no. I bet if you mentioned my name you’d probably get fired.

Goodman: Why? So wait a minute. Is he triggered by you? Because most people - if you, say, talk to Bumblefoot about Guns N’ Roses, he’s just-

Abbruzzese: I don’t know. I hope he’s not triggered by me. I mean, I wish our relationship would have continued. But it was just where I was at the time, having gone through... You know, it was a really intense thing having my manager in the band getting fired; that was so weird. And then-

Goodman: So wait a minute. Your manager got fired? Like, wait-

Abbruzzese: No. When I got fired from Pearl Jam, my manager just disappeared. You know, it was like this huge wall came up.  

Goodman: Oh. Yeah.

Abbruzzese: And so, thinking about entering back into that arena - like, okay, the other biggest band in the world - first thing is talking to the manager and him telling me “Well, you can’t talk to Axl. You’ve got to talk to me, and then I talk to Axl and he tells me, and then I talk...” and I was like, “eww”. So I got Axl’s phone number and I called him up. That was really funny.

(Laughter)

Goodman: Well, can we relive that moment? Like, ring-ring, David is calling Axl. “Hi, Axl Rose here. What’s going on? Who is this?”

Abbruzzese: Well, that wasn’t it (laughs). Not even close.

Goodman: How the fuck you got his number?

Abbruzzese: His personal assistant - well, I got the number and, you know, good luck from the manager. Then I called and his assistant answered. I said, “Hi, it’s Dave Abbruzzese calling for Axl.” And it was just silence. She stuttered a little bit and said “Uh, hold on.” So I waited, you know, five minutes, ten minutes or so (laughs). And then it was like [in angry deep voice] “Hello! Why are you calling me?” (laughs). I said, “Hey Axl, it’s Dave. I wanted to see what was up. So are you gonna play some music?” And it was about 20 minutes later that it felt like he eased up and he wasn’t afraid of me anymore.

Goodman: So do you think he had appreciation for the fact that nobody ever says anything to him and maybe, like, you just busted his balls a little bit, like, “Give me that motherfucker’s number!”

Abbruzzese: Yeah. I was friendlier than that, but yeah, I think at first he was like, okay. But I think we just got along so well. You know, it was easy. Then one day he told me that he trusted me to - he was the captain of the ship and he wanted to go down below and go to sleep, and he wanted me to take the boat. (?)

Goodman (talks over): So is he really a vampire? Is that what he’s saying? That, like, he goes to sleep? Does he sleep in like a vampire coffin and then you go right into the iceberg like the Titanic?

Abbruzzese: All I know is he gets pissed and yells at people on the phone.

(Laughter)

Abbruzzese: But he started asking me about white leather, if I’d be into it, and then... (laughs).

(Laughter)

Cory Paza: You look like you have strong opinions about white leather.

Abbruzzese: Well, I was just thinking maybe we’d make a record before we decided what I was going to be fucking wearing. You know what I mean?

Siobhan Cronin: So interesting.

Abbruzzese: Plus I wasn’t that interested in what he wanted me to wear, actually (laughs).

Siobhan Cronin: It was interesting that you mentioned he said he wanted to make the band bigger than what it was. What do you think he meant by that? You know, in terms of image or, like, reaching a different audience, or the type of music. I think that’s interesting.

Abbruzzese: I think he wanted to make a record and have an experience where he could look to the other guys and just go, “Pooh.” You know, “See, I told you I could.”

Siobhan Cronin: Uh-hah. It’s so interesting what drives people.

Abbruzzese: Yeah, it was interesting. It was a trip. But he was really trying hard and he was at the rehearsals... yeah. But it was really a strange way of doing things, that whole trip. He wanted to just go down to Rio and, you know, “We could just go and play for a week, and make”-

Goodman: Wait, you played the Rock in Rio festival?

Abbruzzese: “... and go make 25 million.” It didn’t matter. We could just go play as Guns N’ Roses for a week and that’s when I started thinking “hmm”.

Goodman: I think I have that bootleg. I gotta go back and listen to it. That’s you that played in the first Rock in Rio?

Abbruzzese: No, no, no. No, I’m saying he was saying we could just go down and do that.

Goodman: Oh. Yeah, yeah.

Abbruzzese: And it just started hitting me really weird. Then the manager told me just to hang in there, because eventually he would be tired of it and hire the rest of the guys back, and it would be my end. That’s when I said I had to go.

Siobhan Cronin: Interesting. So you feel like he was motivated more by fame, maybe, than the music at the time?

Abbruzzese: No. Axl is just Axl. He’s a star. He’s who he is. I think that just the whole behind-the-scenes, how his manager told me just to hang in there, because Axl’s gonna burn out of this idea and then get Slash and everybody back, and that will be my end, and just like that kind of... It just hit me wrong. You know, when Pearl Jam - when we were first going through, it was like a really close-knit team, the crew and everybody. And yeah, I just can’t.

Goodman: When did you start getting a strange-

Abbruzzese: I can’t see doing it in any other way.

[...]

Goodman: Was [Eddie Vedder] stage two or stage three lead singer’s disease when you got fired?

Abbruzzese: (Laughs) Last time I saw him-

Goodman: And where was Axl Rose, by the way, when you saw him? Was he stage 4b by the time?  

Abbruzzese: Axl... No, he was – he didn’t have his hair plucked yet, so...

(Laughter)

Goodman: So he was in remission.

Abbruzzese: He was in remission. He was in his dungaree jacket phase.

(Laughter)

Cory Paza: It’s a good phase.

Abbruzzese: It’s amazing. There’s so many amazing things, like the guy who Axl hired to put together this unbelievable guitar rig, because he decided he wanted to play guitar or something. It was Billy, who gave me a cassette and he’s like, “These are my songs. I’m trying to put together this thing, it’s called A Perfect Circle,” blah blah blah. So all these, like, it was really an interesting time, all the stuff that came out of that little Guns N’ Roses camp thing. Because, you know, when I left, Josh Freese came in and then Josh started working with Billy, and then the Perfect Circle thing formed and... Really cool stuff came out of all that. Then you go, “Oh, oh, oh.”

Goodman: And then Chinese Democracy.

***

Second video (December 9, 2020)

[...]

Benny Goodman: So let me ask you, who’s a better conversationalist, Axl Rose or Timothy Leary?

Dave Abbruzzese: Well, just from experience, I’d have to say Axl. Yeah. Axl listens and he’s a very... he’s not as selfish as maybe he appears.

Goodman: How so? Explain. Humanize this man for me, because I don’t have a clue.

Siobhan Cronin: That’s interesting.

Abbruzzese: He communicates. You know, when we speak, he doesn’t say things just to hear the answer he already wants. Actually, it’s a conversation. And if he doesn’t know something and he’s interested, he genuinely will express interest-

Goodman: Was he just so used to people being “yes people” because of how they – like the stigma around him that maybe he’s pleasantly surprised when you say “Don’t fire me because I’m laughing at you”?  

Abbruzzese: Well, yeah, I think the biggest difference was – I mean, you know, that’s after months of us speaking on the phone together. That was our first interaction face-to-face, where we were talking... I mean, I don’t know-

Goodman: Was that like craigslist where you’re like, “Hey man, let’s be in a band together” and, like, you talk to each other a few times and all of a sudden you show up to practice and now you’re like, “This is the real deal. This is the guy I’ve been talking to.”

Abbruzzese: Well, no. More like a pump and dump.

Goodman: “A pump and dump” (laughs).

Abbruzzese: (Laughs) I’m just joking.

Goodman: So let me ask you: You said four months you talked to this guy for hours. And then I went back and listened to our podcast multiple times, and I got nothing. Total elusiveness as far as what you could possibly be talking about for four hours a night, four to five days a week for months, that would encourage you, especially someone that’s listening to what you’re saying. What are you downloading on Axl Rose and he’s giving you, like, good advice or... Please tell me something.

Abbruzzese: I was just enjoying... It’s like we were sharing opinions about things, you know, based on intimate things, but all in the context of just – I mean I just felt like we were being real. And we would talk about... he told me about things that no one – you know, that I’d heard the stories, but not the real story. You know what I mean?

Goodman: Give me a real story that, like, maybe Cory, myself and Siobhan never heard of. Did he incite the riot and after James Hetfield went up in a giant conflagration, which is a song on chapter two?

Abbruzzese: Yeah, now those things were more based on the fact that he had – there was a dude that was with him, the guy who said, you know, “Axl will take the stage when Axl’s ready to take the stage.” And the dude was his guru, his magi, whatever. Right? The guy would go up and have to fly over the stadium in a helicopter to get the vibe right before he could radio down that it was okay for Axl to leave the dressing room as long as no one saw his eyes, and blah blah blah. I mean it was that deep, right?

Goodman: Right. That’s rock ‘n’ roll.

Abbruzzese: Because Axl was... Well, you know, don’t forget that a lot of us get into rock ‘n’ roll because we get out of the ability to hide from everything we don’t understand. Then all of a sudden you’re famous, and you’re a frontman for a band, and people expect you to be a brilliant artist genius, and... No, he was fucking scared. I mean, you know, to summon the strength he had to go out and do what he did, and be Axl Rose, it was just... He’s a very courageous dude. Put it that way.

Goodman: You seem to have a lot of devotion to a guy that it seems like a lot of people have a lot of bad shit to say about him. And yet you said that - here’s something you said in the last podcast: you said that he would probably deny you ever even played with the band, or this or that; that you hope you still have a relationship with him. Why is it still an ambiguous thing? Like, how did you lose touch with Axl? Like, why did it even end? It sounds like you guys had a good synergy going.

Abbruzzese: Well, what happened was, after we started working and everything, in front of everyone he said – and Duff was still in the band, Dizzy... He said, “Dave, I’m the captain of the ship.” You know, the name is his, the deal is his, all that stuff.

Goodman: You don’t say.

Abbruzzese: Yeah, he got all that stuff from the other guys. He bought – you know, he got total control of the name.

Goodman: He manhandled them.

Abbruzzese: No. It was the name that had, like what, 14,000 lawsuits against it.

Goodman: Really?

Abbruzzese: Of course. Yeah. Yeah, there were a lot of lawsuits pending when he announced that he wanted – he was basically turning it over to me. He wanted to go under deck and he trusted me to steer the ship on course. It was a strange dynamic, because there was no management, there was no one involved to take all these egos and all these successful players - like Duff, I’m sure he was like, “What the fuck,” you know what I mean? - and get a conversation, all these things. So he was relying on me a lot. And when I decided that I couldn’t do it, that it wasn’t right - you know, that it was the opposite of what I needed to be doing with music – I sent it to him in a fax, because I wanted to make sure it was said right. Then, about four hours later, I got a call from Kim Neely from Rolling Stone in New York, and she said (laughs)... she asked if I was alright. I said yeah, you know, why wouldn’t I. She said she just got off the phone with Axl. Then he called me and, literally for two hours, screamed. I, like, put the phone down on the table; my partner Sherry and I, we just sat there. Two hours before I reached over and just hit off. Every other word was “fuck”, I was a dark lord sent to keep him from bringing light to the world... I mean, really intense.

Goodman: Well, it sounds to me like he wanted you to be his confidant, and you basically - like he didn’t trust (?)

Abbruzzese: I think I was – I know he trusted me.

Goodman: And you let him down, dude. Well, not in a bad way. He put, like, way too much on your shoulders, because he said he wanted to be bigger than the biggest band was in the world.

Abbruzzese: I didn’t know he would get... I didn’t expect him to blow out like that. I expected us to converse and, you know, I could’ve still been a part of it or whatever. But I really felt like just – you know, what I was feeling about the music, and where it was going, and what it could be that would help him versus what he wanted it to be-

Goodman: What was that conversation? So what did you think would help him versus what you were doing? What would have helped him?

Abbruzzese: I thought what would have helped him was to put out a fucking unbelievable record that he is the fucking - you know, his band. Not Slash’s Snakepit – you know what I mean, actual fucking... The music that was happening when I was there with Pod Boy and all that, it could have went where it should have, which was – I mean, Axl had... In Guns N’ Roses, I didn’t feel like the emotions and what he was trying to say, it didn’t really fit that bluesy rock thing. I think he needed something that was way more where the music was enforcing-

Goodman: Well, Slash is a very unique guitar player in that there’s not a lot of people that can do the blues thing in the style that he did in Guns N’ Roses and be successful. The way that he was, because he’s a blues shred player – I mean not to say shred, but he’s a really fast technical blues player much more than a B.B. King or an Eric Clapton, in the sense that he literally murders it on the Hollywood scene. When you had everybody doing the finger tapping Eddie Van Halen shit, he was doing the pentatonic scale in a very cool way. So yeah, you can’t do that type of Guns N’ Roses, in my opinion at least, without Slash; because it’s like saying you want to do Aerosmith without Joe Perry.

Abbruzzese: Well, that was the thing. We would do these songs that were new with Pod Boy - you know, he is Nine Inch Nails in my opinion in that he’s programmed all those drums for all those years. And Robin Finck, the guitar player, he was in Cirque de Soleil when he came to us, and-

Goodman: So wait, Robin Finck from Nine Inch Nails was playing for Cirque de Soleil and Pod Boy-

Abbruzzese: Yeah, and then I brought him in – you know, he was brought into the fold of the GN’R thing.

Goodman: Through you?

Abbruzzese: No, luckily right before with me. Yeah, and it was mentioned of him, and it was like “Oh, absolutely.” And then when I met him I was like – I mean, it was the first time I’ve ever met someone in that format of presentation that was charismatic and you just... I mean, he was a star. You know, he was a fucking... Yeah, he came in, he’s like 6.5-

Goodman: He’s a great guitar player.                    

Abbruzzese: (?) no eyebrows... And when he put his guitar on, it was just like... His fashion, it was sick. It was off the charts. Very charismatic player, you know? And Pod was the same way, and Duff with that music was the same way. It was just a totally different thing.

Goodman: So was Duff offended, like you said and kind of alluded to it? But, you know, Duff is an original member and, obviously, you would think if someone’s gonna have the ship to rebuild a band, Axl would hand it off to Duff. Do you think Duff was upset by this?

Abbruzzese: Well, don’t forget, Duff had already at this point sold his interest in Guns N’ Roses.

Goodman: Yeah, but wouldn’t you think that he would still be the next in line?

Abbruzzese: Well, don’t forget though, Dizzy-

Goodman: I mean, Dizzy was the keyboard player, but he wasn’t on Lies and he wasn’t on Appetite for Destruction. He came in in the Illusions and a lot of people think that’s the Van Hagar era of Guns N’ Roses.

Abbruzzese: Did you notice how incoherent and fucked up Duff was during those successful years? But Duff’s sense – you know, he’s really had a remarkable recovery, but he was so wasted because... I mean, the band was put together – Greg Gilmore from Mother Love Bone was approached to be the first drummer, but he didn’t have the look that the label was looking for. You know, they weren’t really... they didn’t meet in high school and put it together. They were a product then. They were built by an idea and a marketing strategy, and Izzy Stradlin wrote a bunch of great songs, and yada yada. Craziness.

Goodman: Izzy Stradlin is, again, a proper example where a lot of people don’t acknowledge his element; because if you listen to those first records they bounce back and forth.

Abbruzzese: But that wasn’t his role. He was getting paid for his elements, but the fashion of the band was Slash. So, you know, Izzy... just like Hamilton in Aerosmith. He’s the one that wrote those riffs. Oh, not Hamilton, excuse me. I mean Brad... you’re in Boston. Brad...

Goodman: Oh, Brad Delp.

Abbruzzese: No! What? Aerosmith.

Goodman: Ah, not the band Boston. Are you talking about Whitford? Brad Whitford?

Abbruzzese: Brad Whitford, the guy who wrote the most cool riffs with Aerosmith ever.

Goodman: Aerosmith, yeah!

Abbruzzese: But, you know, the fashion of the band... He’s in the back. Just like Malcolm from AC/DC (laughs).

Goodman: Mmm.

Siobhan Cronin: So this is all to say that your idea for the direction of the band was different from what Axl wanted or... Is that where the division started?

Abbruzzese: Well, the division started when it was like, this isn’t Guns N’ Roses music. I thought it was actually something that could be even more – maybe not as successful, but more important to be created. And I thought if Axl was courageous enough to do it himself, you know, as a record for himself, just put out a solo record – I still think he could have went with his name and still played those huge shows in Rio with a real band that had music that was integral and that could pull off the exciting performance of those Guns songs, too.  

Goodman: Can you explain something to me? Because you were there again for the genesis of the Chinese Democracy thing.

Abbruzzese (talks over): No, no. I wasn’t there.

Goodman: But I read at one point that he called in Brian May from Queen, who happens to be one of my all-time favorite guitar players, had him record a bunch of songs – I even heard some of these demos, because they were leaked on the internet forever ago, you know, years before the album even came out. And then he goes, “Nah. I’m not gonna use those versions.” It’s not that Bumblefoot, for example, isn’t an unbelievable guitar player. He plays on Lost Symphony, Singularity... He’s amazing. There’s nothing wrong with him at all. In fact, he’s one of the best guitar players on the fucking planet. But why, if you have Brian May fly from fucking England and get the guy that supposedly inspired you - you see him at the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert the whole night; like, it’s clear that he was a huge Queen fan – why the fuck would you not release the five songs with Brian May? Explain that. Like, explain the Axl Rose logic.      

Abbruzzese: It would fall under the same reason why he wouldn’t put out even an EP of this powerhouse of a band under his own name. It’s because what he did with Brian May wasn’t Guns N’ Roses; and he owns the name and he has all the responsibility for all those lawsuits. I mean, quite frankly, he probably can’t afford to be... you know, whatever. That Brian May stuff just wasn’t – he couldn’t call it Guns N’ Roses, so...

Siobhan Cronin: So going back to the two-hour phone call you were talking about: what happened after that? Was that it? Just...

Abbruzzese: I heard he pushed a couple of thousand gallon salt water fish tank over.

Shiobhan Cronin: Wow.

Goodman: What?! Really?

Abbruzzese: And then that was about it. I guess Josh Freese came in right after me. Basically the thing was that I just was not to be mentioned. But I think it’s a testament to the fact that there was a real camaraderie, a trust there between us that he never publicly - because, you know, if he has a problem with somebody, he typically comes straight at him whether it’s in a song or... But yeah, the fact that he’s never – it makes me think that he understood where I was coming from and maybe... You know, I understand his reaction, because I understand him, so maybe-

Goodman (talks over): So let me ask you this: Let’s say Axl Rose sees this podcast - which he’ll never do. But let’s say he does. What would you say to him?

Abbruzzese: If we say Eddie’s name three times right now, Eddie will see this podcast.

Goodman: Eddie, Eddie, Eddie.

(Laughter)

Goodman: Well, what would you say to him? Because it sounds like – I don’t know, I’m just being a third-party omniscient and you guys can tell me if I’m wrong. It sounds like you guys were really good friends, he was relying on you, he put too much on your shoulders, and now it’s like you’ve fallen out.

Abbruzzese: Basically, if I got word that Axl wanted to say hello or whatever – I mean, we never really were like “Hey, how are you? How’ve things been?” We were leading up to something. So I don’t know how that would go. I think if I saw him, if I were in the same room, I would feel comfortable walking over and giving an embrace, you know? And he is really a big guy. I was kind of disappointed when I first met him, because he seemed too big to beat up.

(Laughter)

Abbruzzese: It’s an important thing in a rock ‘n’ roll band, a drummer...

Goodman: Can beat up the singer?

(Laughter)

Abbruzzese: Yeah, and come over the kit and just throttle the guy. That’s rock ‘n’ roll.  

[...]
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