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APPETITE FOR DISCUSSION
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.

Cheers!
SoulMonster

2008.11.09 - The Sunday Times - Guns N’ Roses And Chinese Whispers

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2008.11.09 - The Sunday Times - Guns N’ Roses And Chinese Whispers Empty 2008.11.09 - The Sunday Times - Guns N’ Roses And Chinese Whispers

Post by Blackstar Thu May 20, 2021 11:36 am

Guns N’ Roses and Chinese whispers

Years of procrastination and outrageous gossip, much of it true, have surrounded Chinese Democracy, the long-awaited new album by the rock band Guns N’ Roses

By Maurice Chittenden

Forget Barack Obama. This is the democracy rock fans have been waiting for. In 15 days’ time Guns N’ Roses finally release their new album. It is called Chinese Democracy and it has been 14 years, £10m and five producers in the making.

Why should anyone care? The answer is, if you’re a bloke over 35, Guns N’ Roses probably once were the embodiment of being young, angry and desperate to get laid. The band’s five wild, flamboyant poseurs stuck two fingers up at every convention. Sweet Child o’ Mine was the theme song for a generation of fans who were tired of anaemic synth-rock and sugary 1980s pop and who liked their rock edgier than Bon Jovi. It was the signature tune of troops going into battle in the first Gulf war.

Then something happened. Guns N’ Roses stopped making albums. The last one, “The Spaghetti Incident?”, issued when Bill Clinton was the fresh-faced new kid in the White House, was a hotchpotch of punk and glam-rock covers ending with a song by Charles Manson, the rock world’s favourite murderer. This, then, is their first album of new material since 1991.

Some fans have joked that China would be a democracy before the new album was released, but as far as the band - or at least Axl Rose, the singer and only remaining original member - are concerned, it wouldn’t matter if it took another 14 years. You can’t rush genius. In one of those moments that echo This Is Spinal Tap, the 1984 “mockumentary” film about a heavy rock band, Andy Gould, Guns N’ Roses’ manager, said recently: “When they asked Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel, they didn’t say, ‘Can you do it in the fourth quarter?’ Great art sometimes takes time.”

Someone should have told him that it took Michelangelo only four years to finish the Sistine ceiling job. Nevertheless, the most expensive album ever made will probably have recouped its cost by Christmas.

When Appetite for Destruction, Guns N’ Roses’ first album, came out, it was 1987, the year of Black Monday, when markets around the world crashed. Now the band are relaunching at the beginning of another world recession. There is something about a global meltdown that feeds heavy metal. It cannot just be a longing for bandannas, mullets and spandex, or a reaction to too many twee indie bands.

It seems that when we are caught between a rock and a hard place, we turn to hard rock. Leave the fizzy pop to Dr Pepper, the drinks manufacturer that, after an unwise wager by its chief executive about whether Chinese Democracy would be released this year, is now committed to giving away a free can of drink to every American. Last month AC/DC, the Australian hard rockers who have been going since Richard Nixon was in the White House, shipped 5m copies of their comeback album, Black Ice, to stores worldwide. It has topped the album charts in 29 countries, including Britain, where they have had their first No 1 since 1980.

The sense of expectation - not to mention a huge marketing campaign - should catapult Chinese Democracy to the top with similar ease. Rose and his new bandmates have stretched to Spinal Tap lengths in their search for perfection. They have gone through five producers and have had a revolving door for guitarists, including Slash, the original axeman, Brian May of Queen, one called Buckethead and another nicknamed Bumblefoot. Shaquille O’Neal, the basketball star, was called in to rap.

Tracks were recorded in a hall that used to be a masonic temple. They have spent £200,000 alone on rerecording every individual drumbeat and cymbal for the album after John Freese, who drummed on the original sessions, left the band. Bryan “Brain” Mantia, the new drummer, spent seven months replicating the intricate patterns.

While this was going on, Rose was holed up like some Blofeld figure in his Malibu mansion, surrounded by pet snakes, religious paraphernalia, weaponry and tanks of exotic spiders. When his record company sent him a stack of CDs with samples of the work of producers he might consider, Rose simply tossed them onto his driveway and ran over them with his Ferrari.

As Slash, born in Stoke-on-Trent, says on the cover of his autobiography: “It seems excessive . . . but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.” So what made Guns N’ Roses the most notorious crash-and-burn bad boys from Los Angeles, the city of excess? As with other bands, the stories surrounding their off-stage escapades are the stuff of legend. The difference is, with GnR the legends are true.

During one cocaine-induced hallucination, Slash punched out his glass shower door and ran naked into the streets in terror. He was being chased, he said, by Predator-like creatures with machine guns. The incident got Slash into rehab, but no sooner had the driver of his limo picked him up from the clinic, supposedly cured, than he was downing half a litre of vodka in the back seat.

So violent were Rose’s antics on stage that the road crew taped foam rubber around everything within reach - stage monitors, amplifiers, his microphone stand - to prevent him from impaling himself or other band members when he went into one of his on-stage frenzies.

Modern bands seem wimpish in comparison. Take Coldplay, today’s stadium-rock band of choice. In Viva la Vida, their latest, heavily hyped album, they sing about lovers in Japan dreaming of the Osaka sun, while on the title track Chris Martin, their singer, imagines being quizzed by St Peter at the gates of heaven. Martin is happily married to Gwyneth Paltrow, with whom he has two children, Apple and Moses, and is concerned with fair trade and saving the planet more than smashing up his hotel room.

Rewind a quarter of a century to the behaviour of, say, Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones. Back in the 1980s, Wood and his entourage were sharing drugs in a dressing room when a stage manager popped his head around the door and said: “The police are coming.” Wood and his chums flushed the drugs down the lavatory. Seconds later, Sting, Andy Summer and Stewart Copeland of the Police walked in to say hello.

When ZZ Top decided to take their home state on tour, they had a stage built in the shape of Texas and furnished it with two bison, vultures and two glass tanks of rattlesnakes. All went swimmingly until one of the bison saw red at the loud music and rammed the display cases, spilling a dozen rattlers across the stage. The band fled.

Guns N’ Roses took things to a new level again. When Buckethead, who took over from Slash after he left the band in 1996, asked for a chicken coop to be erected in the studio, Rose said yes, only for his pet wolf cubs to break in and kill the hens. Watch You Bleed, a new biography of the band by Stephen Davis, recalls how they turned up for a meeting with record-company bosses with a naked woman wrapped, still wet, in a shower curtain.

So will Chinese Democracy equally delight the record label? Such has been the delay that various tracks have leaked to the internet; while the record company insists they are not the finished product, they give a good idea of what the album will sound like.

Is it any good? Well, it’s different. What we have here is essentially an Axl Rose solo album under a group name. Gone are Slash’s signature guitar riffs and any sense of a band sound. Instead we get a more mature approach to mirror the thirtysomething and fortysome-thing status of those who rocked out to the original band all those years ago.

Here are complex, Queen-like arrangements that throw in everything but the kitchen sink. The songs go through endless changes and twists. Take the title track. It opens with police sirens, introduces Chinese voices and then adds the effect of the wind blowing over the Great Wall.

If the World is even more involved and could have been the theme song to the new Bond movie. The producers of the new spy film Body of Lies snapped it up instead. It goes through breakbeats, Philly soul, classical, funk and metal guitar, piano and more, and all the while Rose’s distinctive voice floats above it in effortless radio-friendly style.

Davis said: “The truth is that there is no democracy in China, so Chinese Democracy is Axl’s ironic but pointed reminder that Guns N’ Roses remains a dictatorship - not of the proletariat, but of its charismatic owner, W Axl Rose.”

At least Sebastian Bach, the former front man with Skid Row, is convinced. A friend of Rose, Bach sings backing vocals on at least one song and makes great claims for the long-awaited album: “It’s badass, with killer screams, killer guitar riffs, but it’s got a totally modern sound. The word for it is ‘grand’. It’s a f****** epic.”

*

ROCK ON . . . AND ON, AND ON

Despite decades of hard living, the best rock legends simply refuse ever to go soft.

AC/DC

The Australian band have sold more than 200m records since releasing High Voltage, their debut, in 1975. Following the death of Bon Scott, the original front man, after a heavy night of drinking in 1980, they recruited a Geordie singer, promptly made Back in Black, the world’s second-bestselling album, and are still recording now. Black Ice, their first work in eight years, was released last month. At 53, Angus Young, the band’s diminutive lead guitarist is still wearing that trademark school uniform. Creepy.

LED ZEPPELIN

Led Zep disbanded in 1980 after the death of John Bonham, the drummer, who choked on vomit after drinking 40 vodkas in 24 hours. They reformed last year for a concert in tribute to Ahmet Ertegun, the late head of Atlantic records, with Bonham’s son on drums. There is now a blank cheque waiting for them to sign for a North American tour but Robert Plant, the singer, doesn’t seem keen.

IRON MAIDEN

By the time these British heavy rockers shot to the top of the album charts in 1982 with The Number of the Beast, Paul Di’Anno, their original vocalist, had already been sacked over his cocaine abuse. He was replaced by Bruce Dickinson, who left to pursue solo projects in 1993, three years after the band scored a surprise Christmas No 1 with Bring Your Daughter . . . to the Slaughter. Dickinson, who is also an airline pilot and keen fencer, was back by 1999, prompting a lucrative reunion tour. Their 15th studio album is expected next year.
Blackstar
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