|Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY
The Guns N' Roses singer says new music will come sooner than the band's long-awaited 'Chinese Democracy' did.
Few front men in rock 'n' roll have been as controversial, sensationalized or polarizing as Axl Rose, who suffered sexual and physical abuse in childhood, led Guns N' Roses to global fame starting with 1987's Appetite for Destruction and engineered its collapse a few years later. He spent years in seclusion hiring and firing new players while tinkering endlessly on 2008's Chinese Democracy. His current GNR lineup takes the stage Wednesday night in the first of a dozen shows at The Joint in Las Vegas' Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. In a rare interview, the press-leery Rose shares his thoughts on Guns now and then, old wounds and the music industry.
New music: "All the guys are writing, and we recorded a lot of songs over the years. We'll figure out what we feel best about. Chinese was done in piecemeal with one person here and one there at different times. Appetite for Destruction was the only thing written with lyrics and melody fitting the guitar parts at the same time. After that, I got a barrage of guitar songs that I was supposed to put words to, and I don't know if that was the best thing for Guns. I do want to lean more toward lyrics and melody."
The long wait for Chinese Democracy: "I had to deal with so many other things that don't have to do with music but have to do with the industry. There's such a loss of time. It was more about survival. There wasn't anyone to work with or trust. Someone would come in to help produce and the reality was they just wanted to mix it and get it out the door. They had a different agenda. (The next album) will come out sooner."
Songwriting slump: Supermodel girlfriend Stephanie Seymour and original Guns guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan "did more damage to my ability as a writer. To those three, it was all crap. It beat me down so much. At the time of the (Use Your Illusion) tours, Slash and Duff said, 'You're an idiot, you're a loser.' I didn't write for years. I felt I was hindered for a very long time. I was also trying to figure out what I wanted to say, when it's right to be venting and when you're digging a bigger hole. Lyrics on Chinese took a long time."
Good times with GNR: "Here's what I miss about old Guns the most. And this is really before we got Appetite out. In the very beginning, you had three people (Rose, Slash and guitarist Izzy Stradlin) on the same page for a short period looking out for the best interest of that band and its goals. We were trying to get signed from the beginning. We were figuring out the right attorney, the right label. I had two other guys I could rely on. I don't necessarily have that now because it is more my thing, but I do ask everyone's opinion about everything."
How the original band might have lasted: "Maybe if we could have worked together in the way Appetite was put together. I was really na´ve. I thought the success of that record would bring everyone together more. It did the exact opposite. They got success and wanted to run in their own directions. I thought they'd go, 'Whoa, it did work.' But they wanted to do their own huge bigger success off of Guns."
The odds of a Guns truce: "I feel that ball's not in my court. I'm surviving this war, not the one who created this war."
The music industry now: "It's horrible. It has nothing to do with music. I'm not trying to be bitter or cynical, but it's an ugly business. People want you to care about them or their lives, their kids, but in the end, you're just a commodity. I don't feel that way about this Guns lineup. I'm not trying to use them. I have to treat it like a business, but I don't want to make decisions that are detrimental to anyone's welfare."
Skipping the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction: "It wasn't painful to not be there. It was a beating to deal with all the pressure of feeling I was supposed to be there and deciding what to do. I try to be respectful about getting an honor or recognition, but I don't really know what the Rock Hall actually is. In my experience with the people who run it, I don't see it having to do with anything other than them making money."
Seclusion and ducking the media: "I just didn't go places where media was. I wasn't interested at the time. If the place to go was some restaurant in Hollywood, I went to the Valley. There was so much negativity, I didn't see any way to go public. I felt I was going to be slammed. The rock entertainment world just wanted to sell magazines."
Psychological issues: "I worked out a lot of them. It was strange to get successful and lose almost your entire family. Then you end up with daytime TV talk shows. All of a sudden, things considered horrific when I was growing up were so what? You were abused? Who cares? There should be more of a public acknowledgement of reality. When I talked to Rolling Stone about it, I thought people would take a harder look at my stepdad. Instead, they came down harder on me. That's still confusing to me. But surviving at any level is good. I'm a lot better than a lot of people predicted. They were rooting for the opposite. There were things on the Internet about how I'd be found dead. I had a very dark attitude."
Free time: "I go to movies, go out with friends, go to car shows. I have a zoo. My animals (wolves, parrots, dogs, cats) are my buddies. They need lots of love and attention."
Fans who discount GNR as less legitimate than the original: "They can think whatever they want. I'm not interested in their opinions."