LEGENDARY Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose fires up his keyboard to reveal why the original lineup will never reform and to drop hints about when their follow up to Chinese Democracy will land.
He claims Slash wanted touring to get the better of him back in the day and admits he's not "a punctual type" of person. Hit's Cameron Adams conducted this exclusive interview via email.
CA: Happy New Year! You played India for the first time late last year. There must not be too many places Guns N' Roses haven't played yet - did you get a chance to see the sights?
AR: Happy New Year!
We always look forward to playing new places. Africa has always been a goal.
I definitely didn't get to see the sights as much as I'd hoped but I had a great time and loved it there. We hope to get back there for more shows as soon as we can.
CA: Will these Australian shows be an extension of the Appetite For Democracy tour? Or something different?
AR: We'll let ya know!
CA: That tour marked 25 years since Appetite was released - which is something to be proud of... you must notice how that record is discovered by new ears each year?
AR: Happy New Ears! Yes we've been very fortunate in that regard. Also surprising and equally rewarding has been how many fans around the world enjoy and sing along with our newer material live.
CA: A lot of fans were hoping for a 25th anniversary re-issue of Appetite - was that ever on the cards?
AR: I wouldn't mind re-mastering it sometime.
CA: Is there anything left in the vaults from the Appetite sessions that could see the light of day?
AR: Not that I'm aware of but it's worth a look. There aren't any new or different songs but maybe a couple versions of things that we felt didn't quite make the grade, although most of that made it out as bootlegs back in the day.
CA: Can we expect new music from GN'R in 2013 by chance?
AR: I can give you a definite maybe.
CA: Your live set is a good mix of classics, covers and CD material. You seem to be a band who, while still playing new songs, don't deprive people of the hits.
AR: We try. We enjoy playing pretty much all the material so that helps. It's not like anyone in the band goes "God I hate that song!"
CA: Your brilliant open letter declining your induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame predicted fallout from your decision - was there much of that?
AR: Surprisingly no, there wasn't, and thank you.
CA: You don't seem like someone who trawls Facebook or Twitter or You Tube. Do any of the fan or media comments filter through to you? What are your thoughts on social media?
AR: I'm not that directly involved with social media, though we do use it with GNR. I'll make a post here and there. I get shown or told about things people think I'll have an interest in, updates. I like that our fans can keep up to date and connect with each other.
Regarding social media, I really don't understand what appears to be the general population's lack of concern over privacy issues in publicizing their entire lives on the internet for others to see to such an extent... but hey it's them, not me, so whatever.
However, when so many seem to be making similar choices regarding their privacy to where it seems to become the norm, and in turn businesses use someone's lack of involvement with social media to marginalize or stereotype and stigmatize them, or use it as grounds not to hire someone, I feel it's extremely unfair and seems a bit Orwellian.
CA: A lot of people appreciated the fact you stuck to your beliefs and didn't do something to please other people. You must have noticed a precedent for members of other bands reuniting for the right amount of cash or prestige - not the best motivation.
AR: The surprising amount of public support has felt good and, as I've said, is a relief.
In regard to other bands what another person or band does is just that, meaning it is what someone else chooses to do for whatever reasons. I, like anyone, can have an opinion about those choices but ultimately it's not my life or my band and how it affects my life is negligible. As for money and prestige, if one has an opportunity to make money and/or advance their position or place in life there can be a lot to weigh and consider, such as responsibilities, goals and objectives etc. We all make choices, deal with our sense of priorities, principles, ethics, morals, balancing, juggling, making compromises... or not! Ha!
CA: One interesting issue it raised was the question of the romantic idea of an original line-up reforming, no matter the reason behind them no longer working together. Billy Corgan has talked about a "porn fantasy" some fans have of the original Pumpkins line-up touring again, which he continually has to say will never happen - what are your thoughts on this?
AR: I understand the "romantic" thing, the desire, the fantasy. Personally I haven't wanted other bands to reunite, or really enjoyed it when they have. For me generally something always seemed missing.
But Guns is my life, not someone else's. For me there hasn't been a way to make any type of reunion work regardless of money (either talk or legitimate) without jeopardizing what I feel is the well-being and best interests of nearly everyone I'm involved with in the GNR camp (including myself). People here have big investments of their lives in what we're doing. We've worked hard for what we have here now and continue to do so. I know what I went thru then. I know what I and all of us have gone thru since. People enjoyed the product and the entertainment our lives gave them back in the day, but they weren't the ones actually living those lives together. It's not somewhere I'd go back to or would want to go again. Life's too short.
CA: Did you end up watching the Hall of Fame show out of curiosity?
CA: Your blogs show you have a great way with the written word - any desire to pen an autobiography? Presumably there have been offers?
AR: Thanks. I've written a few things down and there have been offers but it's not something I'm that interested in right now.
CA: You are about the only original GN'R member not to have written down your memories - did you read any of them or were you consulted about them writing about events that involved you?
AR: I read Slash's to have an idea what I might be facing then, but haven't read anyone else's. And no I haven't been consulted about anything with anyone.
CA: There are plenty of interesting anecdotes in those books, but what were your memories of Paul Stanley auditioning to produce Appetite?
AR: Paul was unfortunately being led on and used (by, and according to, Slash) at the time (as was I) for fun, with no real intention of working with him, so Steven could meet him.
CA: The books do cover you being late on stage, with your former bandmates being unsure what the delay was. Any hints?
AR: Ok this is a multiple choice answer.
Answer #1: Do we really have to go there?
Answer #2: No comment
Answer #3: In answering I would like to say that I have no intention or desire to take "shots" at either the old band or anyone from any of our lineups. That said, to answer some questions factually and honestly it may appear that way to some. Unfortunately, in my opinion, that's just the nature of the beast.
I could choose to say nothing or no comment but I feel 1.) These particular questions in this interview don't exactly deserve that response and 2.) I have a right to have my side, perspective and what I not only believe, but know to be the truth regarding several issues with old Guns and our time together out there.
The Illusions' lineups comments that I've read in media or Slash's book were, in my opinion, predominantly public gamesmanship, strategy and politics on their part. Pretending to be unaware or innocent to the public has been a common deceptive tactic often used in regard to what was happening with the band and our relationship with each other. As I've said before, I shouldn't have been on tour when we started in '91.
That had a lot to do with Alan Niven, our then manager, and Slash. In my opinion Alan wanted money and Slash wanted the touring to get the better of me given my circumstances at the time. My safety and well-being were not their concern.
After the first few months things got a little better and primarily for not wanting the crew to be injured for not having enough rest but the damage, especially with media, had been done. Those who wanted to throw stones have had ammo they've used for years whether it's real, hyped, a non-issue, reasons beyond our control, justifiable reasons such as injuries or technical difficulties or just life, doesn't seem, and hasn't seemed, to make a difference. (And all of these issues have been addressed previously elsewhere.)
Another issue has been that each time I have agreed to a tour, I've also had agreements on our show times and start times. Often in dealing with former managers and agents, these weren't reality. It's not something said or explained, it's a show day thing they do for their own reasons which we'll get into a bit similarly with your next question.
And often tours or dates are booked without my having formally given my consent or having authorized them. That's pretty much how this business works.
All of that said I'm not a "punctual" type of person, never have been. I apologize to anyone I've inconvenienced or put out in any way. And for those who've felt they've lost money with any cancellations in the past perhaps you'll find some comfort in that I'm sure I've lost tens of thousands, if not millions, more - especially in the long run. In general I usually don't really go by or live my life by a clock and outside of touring I don't really ask anyone else to. It's not out of lack of respect for anyone or intentional.
I can say I haven't been late because I was watching a sporting event or something equally as ridiculous. The reasons have all been in one way or another show-related or having to do with those involved with the show in some fashion. It's just my reality and I try and work on it. It's been getting better with our tours, especially over the last three years.
In the last three years we've done three Asian runs including Taiwan, Jakarta and a hugely successful record breaking, sold out India run, three European runs including four sold out nights at London's 02 Arena, five shows in Russia, headlined several sold-out festivals such as Reading and Leeds, Rock In Rio, two record breaking, sold out South American tours, an Australian tour (this will be our 2nd), a sold out tour in Central America, a Canadian tour, a sold out US arena tour, a sold out US club tour (that included The Ritz/Webster Hall in NY, The Electric Company in Philadelphia, The Fillmore in Detroit and The Palladium in Los Angeles), New Year's and a sold out month residency at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, Puerto Rico, the Middle East, Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit, NY Fashion week gigs w/Varvatos, The Rose Bar and the Hiro Ballroom and a few one off club and private party shows such as at L'Arc in Paris, The Zep in Tokyo and recently for Tommy Hilfiger at LA's The Soho House.
In a concerted effort to make things up to our fans, friends and associates we've gone back to various cities where things have in the past gotten... ahem... "complicated" such as Vancouver, Montreal, Atlanta (twice), Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Dublin and had extremely successful shows without incident.
We've been fortunate to be able to play everything from the smallest clubs to giant stadiums and huge outdoor audiences for a total of 185 shows in 48 countries, in 147 cities with approximately over 500 hours of stage time with an average full show time around three plus hours, performed for over 2,000,000 fans with our current lineup of DJ Ashba, Ron Bumblefoot Thal and Richard Fortus on guitars, Tommy Stinson on bass, Frank Ferrer on Drums and Dizzy Reed and Chris Pitman on keyboards, worked with over 200 bands and artists from Motorhead to Black Label Society, shared bills with Elton John, Aerosmith, Rhianna, Queens Of The Stone Age and Metallica with minimal promotion, minimal to zero label support, minimal nonsense and often with serious management challenges.
And in our defense addressing the nonsense, the relatively small majority of which percentage wise being in general what we feel are at least somewhat reasonable or justifiable such as technical difficulties, crowd control issues, health or injuries, managerial/agent nonsense or simply beyond our control and often as the case may be more hype than reality which again (and definitely not taken for granted) with all things considered, eventually has seemed to work out fairly well.
CA: Do you get informed if there are venues or cities with strict curfews?
AR: More multiple choice!
Answer #1: We still goin' there?
Answer #2: No comment
Answer #3: Sometimes
Answer#4: This is another one that's a bit of a long answer and kind of a continuation of the last question (and I'm not aware of this being an issue currently) but, in my opinion, the question opens up a lot of issues. I feel it's an important subject I don't want to be vague or appear too cavalier.
It depends, generally no. If I get told in advance rather than the show day it's extremely rare, and always has been. I agree to shows under various agreed upon conditions. Those conditions often change as if they never existed or are changed by others without notice or warning prior to show day or show time. There's not a lot you can do on show day about that and being forced into what you feel is an uncomfortable situation. A situation you hadn't agreed to nor would have approved in advance, sucks. It makes something that was supposed to be fun into something else.
Unfortunately it happens a lot (though it has been getting a bit better) and there is generally a lot of finger pointing. Getting to the bottom of things takes longer than it's worth and you still have a show to do. It could be anyone's fault. None of that really matters publicly as it'll ultimately end up at my door whether we had a successful show or not. It's what happens and you try to avoid it (the lack of communication, show day surprises) as much as possible. When you're not getting the facts it could be because of one of any number of reasons or any number of people from all sides. Often it's simple misunderstandings and unintentional human error.
With curfews and transportation etc law enforcement in the various countries and cities at the venues usually have their orders dictated by city councils and city ordinances. Public transportation has their schedules and the times they stop service and they all have their budgets and various regulations.
Getting new information on show day usually means getting it close to, if not right before, going on stage. The reason can vary: no one knowing about the curfew or public transportation issue in advance, new rules, new laws, new schedules, people not knowing I wasn't informed or negligence. In some cases people don't want to inform me for fear if I'd known about the restrictions I may not have agreed (when booking the tour, not on show day) to do the show... and someone somewhere felt it was in our, or whoever's, best interest for us to do that particular show.
I don't have any issues with a venue wanting things to be done in a way they know, that makes sense and works for them, it's their venue. I get that workers, traffic and transportation, law enforcement for a large audience and overtime for a large venue are real issues. There are real safety concerns, expenses and public transportation for a significant number of fans is important to take into consideration. That said, I ask about transportation etc. but 1.) I don't personally know the various cities public transportation timetables (though we have been better at getting some of that info in advance) and 2.) It still doesn't mean I'll get real info until show day and 3.) Unfortunately often when we are in that type of situation and there's suddenly a previously unknown curfew or a public transportation issue we're already short on time which is extremely frustrating.
If I find out on show day, or even right before a show, and I feel we need to play longer to appease the audience, we begin negotiating with the promoters, building managers, law enforcement etc. with my involvement through either my stage assistants, tour manager or manager. This negotiation continues during the course of the show often all the way through to the last couple songs. Before a show there's a lot of stress and tension for everyone involved. Venues and officials may not know what to expect so there is a bit of hardball and wanting to see how things go. Usually as long as the crowd is happy and things are going well, people aren't too out of control or bored off their ass and we're doing our job, it's worked out fairly well for all sides.
CA: You've been covering Pink Floyd - is that still in the show? Did you see the Roger Waters Wall tour in the past few years?
AR: So far yes. And no, unfortunately I haven't seen it. Everyone I know who went said it was amazing!
CA: What's the most crucial element of your rider these days?
AR: Besides water probably a good cold beer (and beers for everyone else after the show!)
Most of my rider, the food and what drinks are left after we leave as with old Guns, usually goes to the crew. The alcohol is shared with guests, the band etc. I can't and don't eat much before the show. There are usually meals brought in afterwards like burgers, chicken etc. but they mostly go to the crew as well. DJ loves the burgers and our security lives for the chicken.
CA: Lastly, because you're a man of mystery when not on stage, what was your favorite album, movie and TV show of 2012?
AR: The Black Keys El Camino, The Dark Knight Rises, Luck and Dexter.