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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.

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2018.08.20/23 - The Vinyl Guide Podcast - Interview with Brain

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2018.08.20/23 - The Vinyl Guide Podcast - Interview with Brain Empty 2018.08.20/23 - The Vinyl Guide Podcast - Interview with Brain

Post by Blackstar Sun Oct 24, 2021 2:14 pm

In Part 1, Brain shares his history and experience drumming for Primus, Limbomaniacs, Praxis, Tom Waits, Buckethead and more!
In Part 2, Brain tells of his time with Guns & Roses; from joining to nearly losing the gig, the indulgence of recording 'Chinese Democracy', to touring around the world and all that time waiting for shows to start.

Transcript of parts of Part I:


Interviewer: So before we get on the Guns N' Roses bit because this is absolutely fascinating this will spend some time on that uh... question of Buckethead now uh... back in the day when you first started playing with Buckethead did he have the bucket did he have the outfit?

Brain: 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. Yeah.

I: What is it? What can the world learn from Buckethead? I think there's something profound there, but I'm still not sure I've worked it out.

Brain: Well, I mean, 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 and he's kinda like, you know, he's kept it and uh... he is probably, you know... I mean, it's different and I'm not comparing but like, you know, like working with Tom Waits, Bill Laswell even Les, I mean even Axl, you know, they're like the real deal. I mean you know they're not you know some of them have you know like Bernie Warrell unfortunately probably didn't have too much in the end. You know, Les is more of a businessman of course Axl is a businessmen, Tom has people around him that keep it together, I think, because he's truly one of the greatest artists I've ever worked with. And Buckethead, yeah, you know, he's on that level to me. You know, he's not as popular, of course, and stuff, but he's on that level. You know, he truly lives and dies by his craft.

I: That's very apparent and I think anyone's heard Buckethead, seen videos of him play or seen him live, had the pleasure of that, realizes that. I think the question that I have is - very much the same question with the residents or someone like that - is like, there's a lot of effort that goes through essentially creating this entity, this image. And it seems like it would be more hassle to do that than it would just to deal with the impact of, you know, putting yourself 100% out there.

Brain: Right, right. You mean as far as like to his, like he has to live... for him to live that is way harder than it would be to just like expose himself or you're saying it's because of his insecurities of who he really is, he has to actually live through?

I: Oh, no, I would, I'm not judging the guy at all.

Brain: Right.

I: I just, I'm looking at it through, of course, the lens of my life and, you know, my experiences and you know, everything and just saying like, wow, it seems like he goes through a lot of effort to remain anonymous, yet at the same time, he's drawing all the attention just because he's dressed so differently.

Brain: Yes, because of that. Yeah. Right, right, right. Yeah, that's a good one. Yeah, because that is true, you know, and that's the thing of just, you know... He struggles so much, I think, with wanting to just let go and whatever, but I think that attention is really the fuel, you know, that keeps it, that keeps him, you know, going, which is probably his, you know... I know we're not judging and I'm not judging, but playing with him and being around him, you know, I think it's in, you know, in all music, I think there is some, even if people say there isn't, there's some ego driven, you know, I mean, a lot with some people and a lot less with others, but it's all coming from an ego based thing, you know. So I think for him to... maybe I still don't understand your question, but...

I: Maybe I don't understand it either. I just, I think when it comes to Buckethead, I mean, again, completely admire him, his playing, and his dedication to his decision to be this... I'll say "character", but it's, you know, I don't want to minimize it by calling it a character, because he's really... that's him. That's what he's projecting out there. But it seems like a lot of work to do that, a lot of energy to do that. And at the same time, it's also probably cost him opportunities as well. Like the whole, I think Ozzy wanted him to be in the band, you know, and, but Ozzy didn't want the guy with the chicken hat next to him because again, it would have been drawing this attention from him. So yeah-

Brain: you're absolutely right. I mean, you're assessed. Yeah. I mean, that's the crazy thing about. Yeah. And, you know, knowing Bucket that's one of his... Yeah, I mean keeping that image has been insane for him and cost him you know a lot. And it's like you said with that, but it is him 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... Axl were on the other side, Axl was into it, you know. Axl wanted him to wear that thing and wanted it to be around the band.

I:  Axl seems to be okay with other people's eccentricities, as long as they don't interfere with his. That's the read I'm going to do.

Brain: Yeah, yeah, that's true. Well, I'm sorry I couldn't really answer your question or get it.

I: That's fine. Look, even going on tour, I would imagine that Buckethead, checking into a hotel, he has to be careful about things.

Brain: Dude, when we're just hanging out at Amoeba, if someone recognizes me and then they're like, wait, aren't you Buckethead? Because, you know. not that many people recognize me but you know like he would get nervous back in the day. Oh yeah, with Guns he would check in with the whole outfit on, you know, or different outfits. Pretty much he'd just be wearing other masks and stuff. But no, I mean, you know, we'd be in sessions. I remember doing some sessions where he actually said yes to doing a couple commercials that I got him involved in and you know with all the clients there you know there we are like some studio in Los Angeles and you know he's showing up you know and he shows up in the fucking, the whole of the trench coat with the mask and the bucket and he's there for eight hours, you know, playing and never talks and just, you know, does the session and all these people are taking pictures and you know thinking it's the coolest thing and I'm looking at the bottom of his like, you know, pants and I can see drips of sweat coming out and going, "Man!"

I: Yeah, it's going to be supremely discomfortable. All right. So let's talk about Guns N' Roses. All right. Well, we're going to cut it off right there. That is the end of part one. Pick up on part two of our conversation shortly. Episode number 134 of the Vinyl Guide available at Set your podcast app subscription to automatically download it. And you'll be listening to Brain's Tales of Guns N' Roses shortly. Cheers.

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2018.08.20/23 - The Vinyl Guide Podcast - Interview with Brain Empty Re: 2018.08.20/23 - The Vinyl Guide Podcast - Interview with Brain

Post by Soulmonster Mon Feb 05, 2024 3:29 pm

Transcript of Part II:

I: Hey and welcome back everyone. Thanks for tuning in to part two of our two-part interview with Brian Brain Mantia. When we last left our hero, he'd played for the Limbomaniacs, Praxis, Primus, Buckethead, and he was about to join Guns N' Roses. And today's episode focuses on the Guns portion of Brain's career. If you're just starting here and you haven't heard part one, highly recommend you check that out first, get a bit of background, a bit of perspective before this part starts. Now that would be episode number 133 of the Vinyl Guide which can be had at the or on our Apple or Android mobile apps. Now before we get started I want to tell you a quick story. A friend of mine, Craig LeCicero, monster guitarist for bands like Forbidden, currently with Dress the Dead, he recently shared a picture online. Craig accidentally broke the neck of his guitar in transit. Now, fortunately, Craig's got another 50 guitars and the guitar tech who will sort him out, but you, Mr. and Mrs. Listener, do not. Unless you're Craig, and in that case, hey, what's up, Craig? But for the rest of you non-Craggers, check out Now, if you play guitar, or you know a guitar player, or are just interested in... engineering and physics, you got to check out the design of the Voyage Air. This is a huge step forward to guitar designs because finally, finally someone gets it. The guitar neck is a necessary, but exposed limb for a musician. Voyage Air guitars are designed for portability and built for quality. Amazing, simply amazing. Check them out today, And with that, let's get straight into part two of our conversation with Brian Brain Mantia. Oh, you are gonna love this one.

I: Let's talk about Guns N' Roses. Now you've made your way into Guns N' Roses by way of Buckethead, is that right?

Brain: Yes, because 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," he's come down 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..." 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. 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: Did you get the levity of the situation? I mean-

Brain: No, because I really... that really didn't... I missed that whole period. I was just so into listening to Pete Cozy[?], you know, take the craziest solos that were all fucked up on those albums and, you know, I just thought playing in this band, 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. 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.

I: This is the rehearsal studio or recording studio?

Brain: 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. 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, I don't know, then I went home. 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-

I: Did you want it at that point? Like, did you change your mind?

Brain: No, I think that was the catch-22 because I don't think I cared. So I didn't know what you were saying earlier, like, "Did you know the magnitude of what this actually was, that it's their big comeback?" 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. 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." 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. 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.

I: [laughs] Okay, did they have a Plan B if those two days didn't work out?

Brain: Yeah, because they, you know, I think any but drummer in the world wanted that gig. It was Guns N' Roses. Yeah, they could get Kenny Aaronoff. Kenny Aaronoff would have probably sight read the shit, because that's how good he is at that stuff. You know what I mean? But for me, I had to realize, "Uh-oh," I could lose this gig unless I got my shit together. So I got to actually do this. And that was the first time I realized, like, "Wait, they're playing a big show." And then from then on, I kind of was nervous up to then. Because I was like, "Wait, we're playing? We're headlining this thing?" you know. And Axl had never showed up and played with us, you know, first time I ever heard him sing was at Rock In Rio.

I: Oh Jesus. That's what? A quarter of a million people or something?

Brain: Yeah, So I was actually nervous, for the first time I was nervous playing the drums because I was like, "Wait a second, we never even heard his voice and we gotta go up there and like." You know, we would just play the songs as is, you know, like in everybody's heads thinking, "Okay, well, this is where Axl says this," "Okay, we'll come in here," "Okay, hit that then, then Axl will sing this," you know, that kind of thing.

I: So you'd spent some, I guess, social time with Axl, you've had some conversations, a couple of them, at least up to that point, but you hadn't really played with him. Didn't it strike you as peculiar?

Brain: Well, yeah, that's when I realized like, "Wow, this is even against my vibe of," like what we talked about earlier, which is like, of relationship... You know, lucky Tommy and I connected, you know, Tommy and I would be like... He would be like he my drinking buddy, my "let's hang out and party" buddy, my "let's," you know, "go do..." And I liked Tommy's playing, I got it, you know, so as long as I had that connection with him I think I was cool. I barely knew Robin. I knew Bucket. But Bucket was, you know, at that point Bucket was like the third guitar player. So it was just like, "Oh, he's just playing parts." It wasn't like he ever looked at me and we got into a groove or a part or something, really. It was just like, "OK, you take the lead on this, and I'll take this." That's when I realized, like, "Wow, now I'm in corporate situation. Now I get what it feels like for someone to get a job at fucking IBM or whatever." They just go, and it's a thing that's going, and it's going to go whether you like it or not or whether you're involved. So I'm like, "I can either jump on and go with this, or I could fucking jump off, but I'm on it now." So there was some resistance. Yeah, there was some resistance from me going, "Wait, why do we have to rehearse tonight? We learned the songs once." You know, and it was just like, "No, we gotta keep going. This is a job, dude. We play these songs twice a day, four days a week, five days a week, and then you got the weekends off." And I was like, "What? Primus would be like, 'All right, let's go snowboarding!' 'all right, then let's play for a couple hours,' 'all right, cool, let's go do the gig.'"

I: With Primus, I would imagine you would have the freedom to be able to improvise. You know, you could wander a bit with the songs. And that's OK. People appreciate it. People expect that. But if people showing up for a Guns N' Roses concert, they want to hear Welcome to the Jungle exactly as it is on the record. You know, fill for fill, note for note. So all of a sudden, you had to learn this whole different discipline, it sounds like.

Brain: That's exactly it and yep, you nailed it, that's exactly what was taking me out, because I was like, "Wow, I get it." Like with Primus it was kind of like jazz, it was like, "Here's the song," and every night it would be different, it would be couple BTMs slower, couple, you know, it would... "Oh, I changed the high hat parts"-

I: It's part of the charm.

Brain: Yes, it's part of the charm. And it was like every show - you know, this was before people were like recording the shows and selling them - but yeah, Primus would have been great as one of those band is like, "Oh, I got!" you know, "did you check out the way they played," you know, "blah blah blah on Saturday night instead of Sunday? Oh, it's so different!" That's kind of cool that they take, you know, that was like the charm like you said. But with Guns, yeah, if I didn't do, you know, [hums the fill] in November Rain... People are air drumming it better than I'm doing it, you know. I'm just like, "Oh shit, that's what I think took Buckethead out in the end," you know. I haven't told a lot of people this but that's sort of when I knew I was done, we were playing the rock show, KROQ show, I think, at the Verizon Amphitheater. I remember I was up there and I was playing the cowbell part to Nightrain and I was like, "I can't do this again." Like my body actually was stopping me from playing the cowbell. Like I couldn't physically do it cause I was like, I just had done it so many times and it wasn't a part that I would normally play either. And my body was rejecting it. And I just, that was the last time I ever played with them.

I: Yeah. I guess it's must be like being on a Broadway show. You're essentially playing the character of someone. You're doing the same thing all the time. It must get fatiguing after a while.

Brain: Yeah, exactly and I think that uh... you know they have their run and then, you know, I don't know too much about... but I know that they move to different cities and stuff but I think, you know, sometime a lot of the show seems like they switch out the caps[?] when they move to see different cities also and they have a run for what? However long... Well, I get some run along a long time. Yeah, I don't know how they do it, they must be a different breed, because for other people in the band I don't think it was a problem. It's just for me, it could just be my, you know, undisciplined, you know, music career. Like you said, a lot of it's been so jumping around and doing stuff that I never had the facility and the discipline of learning, like, "Oh, okay," you know, this is a thing. I never understood, you know, I was playing with Les and Ler, and Ler and I were into skateboarding and basketball, and we'd go fuck off all day. And yeah, we'd do a good job at the shows, but it was kind of like, you know, "Well, how do I feel tonight?" "Well, I'm feeling a little tired, so I'll just lay back here and just let it go and do this kind of feel. I know my drum solo, it won't be so many notes," or something. But yeah, but in Guns, it was like, no, you're paid to play this song the way it sounds on the record because that's what they want to hear.

I: So in terms of Rock In Rio, that was Guns N' Roses' first show in - I want to say - seven or eight years at that point?

Brain: Yeah.

I: Correct me if i'm wrong there. And Axl didn't show up to any of the rehearsals, so the first time you heard him sing was on that stage. Did he at least start the show on time?

Brain: Yeah, I don't think we were that late. I think it maybe was an hour and a half late. And those were the longest, that was the longest hour and a half that I've ever had to wait for a show, you know, because it was just like, I was like, "Wait a second," you know, "there's like," you know, "all these 250,000 people out there," you know, we don't know what's going to happen. We've never done the full set with him. You know, we're supposed to play two hours. Yeah. So yeah, you know, and he kept it that way. I think, you know. he kept us on our toes that way, you know, he was on his own schedule and he'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.

I: He strikes me as the guy who's absolutely cool, very personal. There seems to be a behind the scenes Axl and a press Axl. And if you just believe everything that you read in the news, he sounds like a complete maniac. But everyone that I've talked to who's spent time with him, quality time with him, says he's like the coolest guy ever. You understand why he's got this strange reputation. But although he is quite eccentric. So you brought up Chinese Democracy. When you joined the band, at what stage was Chinese Democracy at that point?

Brain: 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.

I: Jeez, that must have been expensive. So what was the conversation like? It's like, "Brain, I want you to rerecord everything that we've done in these 20 songs"?

Brain: Yep. That was pretty much it, 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.

I: In terms of the recording sessions, you have been in in recording sessions with heaps of other bands up at that point, at the time, did it strike you as this was really indulgent?

Brain: No, I mean, see, I felt like I was part of the instigating that whole thing. Because even when I showed up... 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." 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.

I: That's amazing.

Brain: "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."

I: [laughs] So really that's kind of the high watermark when it comes to rock and roll and indulgence. I'm not sure if that's ever gonna be met again. So you might as well ride the wave I guess.

Brain: Yeah, because yeah, of course, no, I mean, nothing's like yeah. No, I think that was you know, when I saw that article in the, you know, New York Times or whatever and it was like, you know, "the most expensive album never made", you know, and it was like, I think, it was 13 million and counting or something. You know, I was like, "Okay, yeah, I was a part of that." And I probably added a million, yeah, "I added that million at the top, thank you." Because, you know, at that point, I was like, "Okay, yeah, you know, if this is the way we're going to roll, it's not my thing." And that was the part that, you know, when I go back to that aloofness of like back in the day or whatever, you know, where it was just like, I always just felt like, you know, I don't... it's like, if this ended tomorrow, "Okay, whatever, I don't need this," you know? It's like, "It's not my band so I'll just go with whatever we're doing." But, you know, I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing because, you know, now I feel like that maybe it would have been fun to stick with Primus and see how far would have gone or something or maybe been more in tune with Guns and had more to do with it and stayed in it, or whatever.

I: Well, a lot of this is instigated, of course, by Axl, who wants you to re-record all the drum parts that were already recorded.

Brain: Yeah, that's true. It started from him, so...

I: Yeah, exactly. So as you guys are going through Chinese Democracy, how many songs total were recorded for that album?

Brain: 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: So there's a few outtakes, but I've heard there's like 50 or 60 songs out there.

Brain: I mean, there could be. 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.

I: Did the album, when you finally heard it, were you satisfied with it? Are the things you want to change on it?

Brain: I mean, since I was in it for so long there's parts of it I like and there's parts of it I just feel like were just worn out. And I've said this before, I just feel like even the zeros and ones got worn out. You know what I mean? Like it was played so many times and-

I: All perspective was lost.

Brain: Yeah, it just became like it just flatlined. So it's a little flatline sounding to me. You know, I would have liked a little more air, I would have liked a little more looseness. You know, I'm not a huge fan for rock and a click track. You know, I felt like this album was done in that era where it was like Nine Inch Nails was pretty big and everything was on the grid and everything was very exact. So once, you know, you make that cut in Pro Tools and you cut one thing, everything else has to be cut because now you're fucking with people's feels and time and things start to get... so you know once you make a cut now you gotta cut the whole thing, so now it's gonna become more linear and I just felt like the album became that, you know.

I: It seems a little bit suspiciously perfect in many areas and I'm one of the people who actually likes that album. There's a few tracks I could... probably I skip through pretty regularly but I still think it's a great piece of work. But a lot of effort went into that it sounds like and I'm not sure you see the absolute return of that.

Brain: Yeah, you know, I mean, there's just something about like, you know, the looseness of Appetite. I mean, I know that, you know, for Use Your Illusions and those albums I think they went more to a grid and I know that Matt Sorum plays more, you know, that style linear and he's a little more solid and it lost some of that for me. But, yeah, I mean there's parts of Chinese that, you know, it works for me but I kinda do what you do, you know, I'm kinda like, "Oh, this one's pretty cool, okay, I could listen to this," "Oh man, I gotta skip through that," "Oh, that brings back a bad memory, okay skip through that," you know, it's like that kind of a thing. You know, and overall though I'm more of a few... Like you said, you know, like Primus, we never used the click, Praxis never used the click. You know, we would just rehearse the songs, go in, do three takes, pick from those three takes, you know? Done. For Guns, it was like, "Okay," you know, "Do it again," "Do it again," "Do it again," "Okay," come back two weeks later, "Okay, let's do it again," "Oh, that part doesn't sound right, okay, let's cut it," "Oh, it sounds funny, cut," "Okay, let's do it again, okay, that one sounds good, cut," "Okay, keep that away," "Okay, we're going in to replace the right symbol, okay" you know. And sometimes. like you said, it loses the whole concept.

I: Was Axl in the studio most of the time, kind of making those calls? Or were other people making those judgments on his behalf?

Brain: Oh, it all goes through Axl. Yeah. But he wasn't there. No, we'd be sending it to him. You know, like, we had like a runner that would bring a CD up to him every night.

I: Okay. So you do a couple of takes, you think you're on the right path and then you send word out, you come back the next day, "Oh, here are the changes we have to make." And then the whole process starts again.

Brain: Yeah. 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.

I: So with all the time you spent in the studio with Guns N' Roses you also spend a lot of time on the road. What was it like touring with Guns N' Roses?

Brain: It was a tough one because I was used to like with Primus, you know, I just liked to play, get the show over and, you know, play four, five times a week even. You know, with Primus, you know, we do three shows in a row, have a day off, do two shows in a row and have a day off type thing. And, that would take up the week. With Guns it was like, "Okay we're going to play Rock In Rio," "Okay, we're leaving two weeks early," "Okay we're just now we're at the hotel," you know, "and we got ten days before the show." And I would be like, you know, "Wait, I just want to come here play this..." You know, it was like a lot of waiting around that kind of took me out. You know, the shows were like, you know, two or three a week type thing, and granted we did two and a half hour shows and they were more physical and we were headlining big things that we had to play longer and stuff. So that part of it kind of got me, the waiting around and waiting for Axl because Axl was on his time and that stuff. I had some great shows with them though, but I never felt like I never clicked. Like, you know what I mean? It never got to that touring clicking thing. But see, I had never done something on this big of a level. So I didn't know how to handle it, I think, in that sense. Like with Primus, it was like, "Oh, OK," you know, "we're all on the same bus, we're all going," you know, "into this war together and we're going to," like, you know, "we get off the bus together, we do our thing." You know, this one was like, "Oh, the band had two or three different buses." Nobody saw Axl. He flew to all the gigs. You know, the road crew, we never saw them. They're just, you know, on a whole different schedule. So it was hard to feel like a comradery going in with a band and becoming a band. I felt like we could never get on that thing where it was clicking. I mean eventually it did and when it did on some shows it was awesome. But when you're on tour and you're playing four or five days a week, it becomes a machine and you're just like, it's fun, you're shredding. You're like, "Oh okay, I'm going to just rip tonight." You don't even think about it. You just get up and get on stage and it's like-

I: -going city to city you could develop a bit of routine.

Brain: Yep, yep.

I: And it sounds like with Guns N' Roses it's kind of like, yeah, well, you can't even really get stuck into something because, you know, obviously there's no manual on how to do this, you just have to go with the, you know, with the decisions of the band and sit around and wait. If you're going to Rio 10 days early, I mean, what do you do waiting around for 10 days?

Brain: Right. And it's just, I just figured out who I was, you know, I've always been kind of the underdog and just into more of like... Like this last tour I did with Bucket I had a blast because it was like we went in a van again, or not a van, one of those uh... I forgot what they call them but it's like uh...

I: Pinto?


Brain: It was a Prius, yeah, we toured in a Prius.


Brain: No, but it was like a sprinter[?] van. But there was something rad, dude, about just like, "Hey man, there's a taco bell. Let's just stop. Okay." You know, you just stop, you know. With that thing, no, you're just like, you're on it, you're on the fucking train. And if you miss it, "Eh, there's somebody that'll take your place and do it just as good," you know? So yeah, you know, anyways, that's just me.

I: And the show delays, like Guns N' Roses is very notorious for, I should say Axl, for coming in and starting the show late. What is the feeling of the band as you're waiting for a show? You know, you had a 10 o'clock, you know, stage time and it's 10.30, 10.45, no sign of Axl. What's the band doing while that's happening?

Brain: Well, I mean, the band is freaking out, but that's where I think I had a blast, because that's what I was gonna say about it, is that I was always into the... I think it was through Bill Laswell, William Burroughs, Chaos Never Dies, type kind of attitude. It was like, I was into the, I started digging the chaos part. I was like, "All right, Axl's not here, it's three hours late, cool, well just call me, I'm gonna be sleeping, or I'm gonna be doing, playing basketball or something," you know what I mean? It's just like, I started getting off on that, where most of the band were pretty regimen, you know, like, Robin would be super pissed and be like, "What the fuck's going on?" I'd be like, "Dude, this is great, maybe it won't even happen, we don't have to play tonight. That'd be better." Like, you know, like that would be my attitude and I'd be joking. I think I fueled it and I took that side of it. Whether deep inside I was fucking scared to death or just going, God, you know, I was pissed off. It was more, I just started going, "This is rad! Okay, whatever." I didn't expect it to be on time. I just kind of was going, "Well, what do you expect? It is Axl Rose, Guns N' Roses, okay, we're gonna be late. Let it go." You know, and I started to fuel it. Like, "All right, well, yeah, he didn't show tonight, this is awesome," you know, because that's where I got off because I guess, you know, as a substitute, I couldn't get off on the music as much. You know, like with Primus, it was about playing and I can get off on the music. It's like there was some kind of ego stroke to going off and doing some cool fill and... this particular song for myself or to show off or there's some chicks on the side of the stage and I want to rip. It was more just like, "Well, you know, I got to do [hums drum fill] in November Rain." I can't get off on that. So I'm going to get off on, you know, like, "All right, the show's five hours late or we didn't get to play. Cool," you know, "the check still went in. I'm cool," you know.

I: Well you had this energy, I guess that, you know, around Guns N' Roses that you have to leverage somehow. But I would imagine also the promoters are freaking out. Did you ever have a show canceled simply because Axl didn't show up?

Brain: Oh, yeah, the first tour that we did, it was the first show, I think it was in Canada. Yeah, we got there and, you know, everything's broken and you know, like, the box office had one of those like barriers thrown into it. You know, we showed up and I was kind of nervous because it was the first tour and so, you know, and I remember Robin was even there and he's going, "God damn it! Looks like the show's canceled," you know, because Axl like already had canceled it and we didn't even know or something. And, you know, so the road manager was just about you know saying, "Yeah, I guess it's canceled," and,  yeah, we're like, "Yeah, obviously." So, you know, and I was like, you know, like totally into it and just going like, "All right, yeah, we don't have to play tonight." You know, like I was doing my thing. But yeah, I mean, we call them "wobblers". Every three shows had a chance of not making it. That was our percentage. And we'd call it "the wobbler". Like, "Uh-oh, two shows went good, uh-oh, the third show..." you know. And I'd say it was a 50-50 chance that he was gonna be so late that, you know, we'd be fined tons of money or something would happen or it would just be cancelled. It just became a routine.

I: Okay. And what's that doing during that time, because I think there was an article that came out that one time he delayed a show because he was watching teenage mutant ninja turtles. That was from him, he actually said that but uh... you know, what's he doing? Is he in the hotel, is he with his spiritual adviser? What's he doing at that time?

Brain: It's usually because somebody fucks up and it's something super dumb. You know, like, "Oh," we just landed in Poland and I remember the show we didn't play till like 2 in the morning and the show was supposed to be at like 9 or something and we had to wait because - the show wasn't canceled, we actually played - but we had to wait while he was on the tarmac while someone went back to Paris on a commercial flight... or they had to get the concierge to get his coat out of his room and bring his raincoat on a commercial flight into Poland before he'd get out of the private jet to get to the gig, because when they were getting out of the plane it started raining and no one prepared him. And like, "I'm with like 15 people flying with me and no one thought it could be raining here. Where's my coat?"

I: Oh, okay.

Brain: It's those things. It's the small things. It's, "Who didn't fucking tape that, at the front of the stage, I almost tripped. I'm fucking here doing my fucking job." You know, "I'm not going to go on for another two hours. I'm going to take a break right now in the middle of the set." That actually happened.

I: Okay.

Brain: Yeah, and at a big... I think it was like a Rock am Ring, one of those big ones. I don't think it was Rock am Ring because that one actually went pretty smooth because I remember Metallica was there. But it was another one just like that, big, huge festival. Right after, I think, Welcome, I think it was, when we were playing Welcome to the Jungle, which is our second song in the set because we'd opened up with Chinese, he almost tripped and then he went to the side of the stage and just started mumbling the words. And everybody was like, "What's going on?" And it was like, then he went off to the side of the stage and we can hear him yelling in the mic thing, saying, you know, "I almost tripped, who fucking fucked up! I'm not gonna deal with this shit, I'm here singing," and you know, "I almost killed myself," that type of thing and it was a riot for a little bit and I think Tommy threw his bass and it hit the cameraman in the front of the head, so he felt bad. It was a complete meltdown for two hours.

I: And then he came back up, you guys went back up and finished the rest of the set?

Brain: Then we played for three hours and killed it, yeah.

I: That's amazing. I mean, people around him must be, I mean, terrified, walking on eggshells. It doesn't sound like he directed it to you guys, but did you ever miss a cue and earn his wrath?

Brain: Yeah, but it was... you know, I'll never forget, it was the first one and it was my biggest nightmare because it was actually on You Could Be Mine, the one where I started, and it was the first time, Rocki In Rio, and we had never played it with him, so we didn't know, you know, there's a cue when I have to start the backbeat hits. So it starts off, you know, he announces me, "Hello ladies and gentlemen, we got Brain on the drum" [humming the drum intro to You Could Be Mine] and then there's a part where I have to go [continues humming]. And I usually cue it, I think there was a vocal thing, that I usually cue it by, and in rehearsal it was easy 'cuz Tommy would just look at me and say, "Here we go". But at the show we're supposed to cue it to a vocal thing. So Axl never did the vocal thing. So the song is going [humming the intro], and I think it's even on the video, and I'm just, you know, it pans to me and I look like a fish out of water, my eyes are like fucking huge, you know, and I'm just like panicking, you can almost feel the panic through the fucking video, and I'm just like, "Wait, when do I come in?" You know, like, no one's telling me, you know, "I can do it anytime, but someone fucking do it." And so, you know, Axl blamed it on me and he kind of looked back and he gave me that stare. And I just was like, "That's not my fucking fault, dude! You're the one who was supposed to fucking do..." you know, one of those things and then it went away. But, he called me the next day in the hotel room and it was a message and it was crazy. And I remember it because he was whistling at the beginning of the message and it was the most beautiful whistle melody I'd ever heard in my life, like, that guy could fucking whistle like nobody's business. Like, it was incredible. It was just like [whistling] it was like a bird or something. I was like, "What is this?" And then it was like, "Hey, man. Hey, this is Axe, you know hey, man, it wasn't my... you know, it was, yeah, I think I was the one who fucked up that beginning," he said he was the one and I was like "Oh, okay, I'm cool."

I: Wow.

Brain: Yeah, cuz you know I don't know if I'm gonna get fired. You don't know. You know, because it was like my biggest nightmare. Like I knew it had to happen on You Could Be Mine, which was my intro, you know, I was like, "Shit, I don't know when to come in!"

I: First gig, right? As he introduces you. So that's actually quite, quite magnanimous of him to be able to call you to make that effort knowing that you're probably balled up like a fist in your hotel room.

Brain: Yeah. Who knows? It was an interesting gig and he's an interesting.... I mean, in the end I'm so glad I did it.

I: Are you surprised that the somewhat original line up is reformed?

Brain: No. You know, I figured it was going to happen. You know, I remember Axl telling me at one point he was going to do that, and he did it. And so, you know, it's pretty crazy, I was like, "Wow!" He wasn't joking. Yeah, I mean, I wish I could have done it with, you know, Slash and Duff. I mean, that would have made it the real thing. Frank's a great dude. And, you know, when I quit and he joined, he's perfect. You know, he loves it. You know, it's his thing. He's a rocker and he loves to do it. You know, he stands up and gets the crowd into it. I was, you know, wearing fucking sunglasses and a fucking bandana over my mouth to try to hide sometimes, just to be weird. You know what I mean? I was just like, "Don't look at me!" type of thing. So he's great for it.

I: And you still stay in touch with anyone in the guns and roses camp?

Brain: Yeah. I mean, I went to some of the shows, you know, the latest shows and then, you know, I got my ex girlfriend, the keyboard gig, in it and she's doing it now, and, you know, through a connection through Guns that they knew. And when Mother Goose got fired you know, they needed a keyboardist then Caram - one of the producers that took over for Roy Thomas Baker - was like, "Hey, you think Melissa would want to do it?" and I was like, "I guess, yeah, that sounds cool." So she's doing the keyboard gig. And so we do remix stuff for Axl because we had a composing team together so we just did halftime shows doing remixes of this stuff for like some basketball games, the Houston Rockets game and then a Lakers game. I saw him probably a month or two months ago, you know, I was hanging out backstage, he was talking about the remixes, and talking about stuff. And man, they were on time, they played for four and a half hours, and they killed it.

I: Four and a half hours? Jesus.

Brain: They played four and a half hours at the last show. Three hours and forty five minutes I think at the one I, in Houston and at The Forum, the last show, I think, was like four and a half hours, I think. I'm not joking. It was ridiculous.

I: I haven't looked at the set list of recent dates. Do they play any Chinese Democracy with the reformed band?

Brain: Yeah. They did I'm Sorry, they did Chinese Democracy, they did uh... I think... What was it? I think they did like There Was A Time... They did a bunch of them, yeah. Axl really... yeah, he was actually saying like, "Oh yeah, hey, did you hear that new part that Slash came up? You know, I'm trying to incorporate his playing and his feel into it." And I was like, "Yeah, that was cool." In Chinese Democracy they had a little breakdown in a different section. It was cool. You know.

I: What an adventure, man. I want to thank you for sharing those stories here. What are you up to lately?

Brain: Well, lately, I am playing a lot of tennis. And I'm not joking. I'm taking lessons like a couple days a week and just getting into tennis. You know, I've been doing movie soundtracks. I have one coming out now that's called Bodied and it's by this director that I've also done his last couple of last features, and this Power Rangers short film that he did. And it was produced by Eminem, it's called Bodied, and it's a, you know, Melissa, my partner, who is now the keyboards in Guns N' Roses, her and I did the soundtrack to that. And yeah, so I've been trying to get into the composing thing, you know, I just recently did the tour with Bucket, you know, I went out on the road again playing drums. But yeah, dude, I mean, mainly I just been, you know, kind of just doing my own projects, we're doing another else [?] album, which was a collaboration of this other DJ named Extract and this other, and two other DJs, one, Qbert and Eddie Daff, Qbert from the Invisible Scratch Pickles. Yeah, you know, so just kind of doing just my own thing. You know, I feel like throughout my whole career, I've played and done a lot of everybody else's stuff that I just was like, "You know what? I'm just going to, you know, kind of kick it." So right now I'm just kind of doing the albums I want to do and, you know, and just doing that stuff while the money lasts. So, you know, I'm sure I'll be picking up a gig here soon, but right now, yeah, I'm just kind of doing that. Yeah.

I: Working on Brain 3.0.

Brain: Yeah, we'll see.

I: So Brain, really, again, want to thank you for spending time with us here on The Vinyl Guide. Some incredible stories from your career and, you know, a lot of interesting gun stuff, but you know, of course, Primus, Praxis, even back to the Limbomaniacs, playing with Buckethead, the whole thing, you've had an incredible career. And I'm, I certainly hope the second half is equally, if not more interesting than the first. I want to also invite you anytime you get to Australia, you're welcome to come over to the house. And again, drink all my beer and eat the food and we have a trampoline out back again if you want to. Thanks so much.
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Finished the parts about Buckethead and GN'R.
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