W. Axl Rose is pissed off. Not, thankfully, in the grand manner to which he sometimes is accustomed : no glass smashing, no room wrecking. But he has a bee in his bonnet that he wants squashing....and so what if itís nearly midnight, why donít I come over right now and take down some kinda statement? Well.....why not? Sleepís for creeps anyway, or so they say in LA. So I hot-rod my tape-machine, scuttle down a coupla quick beers and head over to Axlís West Hollywood apartment. Axl meets me at the door with eyebrows like thunder clouds.
ę I canít believe this shit I just read in Kerrang! Ľ he scowls.
ę Which shit are you referring to? Ľ I ask.
ę This shit ! Ľ, he growls, holding up a copy of Kerrang dated November 4, 1989 in his hand, yanked open at a page from Jon Hottenís interview with MŲtley CrŁe.
ę The interviewer asks Vince Neil about him throwing a punch at Izzy backstage at the MTV awards last year, and Vince replies Ľ, he begins, reading aloud in a voice heavy with sarcasms : ę Ď I just punched that dick and broke his fucking nose! Anybody who beats up on a woman deserves to get the shit kicked out of them. Izzy hit my wife, a year before I hit him.í Well, thatís just a crock of shit! Izzy never touched that chick! If anybody tried to hit on anything, it was her trying to hit on Izzy when Vince wasnít around. Only Izzy didnít buy it. So thatís what thatís all about.... But this bit, man, where Vince says our manager, Alan Niven, wasnít around, and that afterwards he walked straight past Izzy and me and we didnít do a thing, thatís such a lot of bullshit, I canít believe that asshole said those things in private, let alone to the fucking press! Ľ
ę The whole story is, Vince Neil took a pot-shot at Izzy as he was walkiní off stage at the MTV awards, after jamminí with Tom Petty, because Vinceís wife has got a bug up her ass about Izzy. Izzy doesnít know whatís going on, Izzy doesnít fuckiní care. But anyway, Izzyís just walked off stage. Heís momentarily blinded, as always happens when you come off stage, by coming from the stark stage-lights straight into total darkness side-stage. Suddenly, Vince pops up out of nowhere and lays one on Izzy. Tom Pettyís security people jump on him and ask Alan Niven, our manager who had his arm Ďround Izzyís shoulders when Vince bopped him, if he wants to press charges. He asks Izzy and Izzy says : ĎNaw, it was only like beiníhit by a girl!í and they let him go Ľ, he smiles mirthlessly.
ę Meantime, I donít know nuthiní. Iím walking way up ahead of everybody else, and the next thing I know Vince Neil comes flying past me like his ass is on fire or s omething. All I saw was a blur of cheekbones! I tell ya, man, it makes my blood boil when I read him saying all that shit about how he kicked Izzyís ass. Turn the fuckiní tape recorder on. I wanna set the record straight. I mean, when Vince did that, we were advised we could sue his ass off if weíd wanted to. But we said no, fuck it, who needs the grief? The guyís a jerk. Fuck the courts, the guy needs a good ass-whippiní! And now I read this - we get Kerrang a little late here in LA - and I tell ya, heís gonna get a good ass-whippiní, and Iím the boy to give it to him..... Itís like, whenever you wanna do it, man, letís just do it. I wanna see that plastic face of his cave in when I hit him ! Ľ
ę Are you serious about this? Ľ, I ask him.
He nods vigorously.
ę Thereís only one way out for that fucker now and thatís if he apologises in public, to the press, to Kerrang and its readers, and admits he was lyiní when he said those things in that interview. Personally, I donít think he has the balls. But thatís the gauntlet, and Iím throwing it down. Hey, Vince, whichever way you wanna go, man : guns, knives, or fists, whatever you wanna do, I donít care. Turn on the machine... Ľ
We settle back in the only two available chairs not smothered in magazines, ashtrays, barf-balls (one squeeze and fzzzttttt, itís Johnny Fartpants a-go-go) and other assorted crap. I fix up my machine and we start to roll....
Axl scrunches up on the balcony window which affords an impressive cinema-scope view of the twinkling footlights of the billowing Hollywood hills below. It reminds me of the sort of backcloth you might see on something like ĎLate night with David Lettermaní. I wait for the band to cool out and the applause from the studio audience to die down before I hit tonightís star turn with my first question...
K : You donít seriously believe Vince will take up the gauntlet and arrange to meet you and fight it out, do you?
A : Iíve no idea what he will do. I mean, he could wait until Iím drunk in the Troubadour one night and come in because he got a phone call saying Iím there and hit me with a beer bottle. But itís like, I donít care. Hit me with a beer bottle, dude. Do whatever you wanna do but Iím gonna take you out....I donít care what he does. Unless he sniper-shoots me - unless he gets me like that without me knowing it - Iím taking him with me and thatís about all there is to it.
K : What if Vince was to apologise?
A : Thatíd be radical! Personally, I donít think he has the balls. I donít think he has the balls to admit heís been lying out of his ass. Thatíd be great if he did though, and t hen I wouldnít have to be a dick from then on.
K : I heard that David Bowie apologised to you after the incident at your video-shoot.(the story goes that Axl got pissed off with the ageing superstar after he appeared to be getting a little too well acquainted with Axlís girlfriend, Erin, during a visit last year to the set where the Gunners were making a -yet to see the light of day- video for ĎItís so easyí. The upshot, apparently, was that Axl ended up aiming a few punches Bowieís way before having him thrown off the set.)
A : Bowie and I had our differences. And then we talked and went out to dinner and then went down the China club and stuff. And when we left, I was like, ę I wanna thank you for being the first person thatís ever come up to me in person and said how sorry they were about the situation and stuff. Ľ It was cool, you know? And then I open up Rolling Stone the next day and thereís a story in there saying Iíve got no respect for the Godfather of Glam even though I wear make-up and all this bullshit... Itís laughable. I was out doing a soundcheck one day when we were opening for the Rolling Stones and Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton cornered me. Iím sittiní on this amp and all of a sudden theyíre both right there in front of me. And Jagger doesnít really talk a lot, right? Heís just real serious about everything, and all of a sudden heís like (adopts exaggerated Dick Van Dyke-style Cockney) : ę So you got in a fight with Bowie, didja? Ľ. So I told him the story real quick and him and Clapton are going off about Bowie in their own little world, talking about things from years ago. They were saying things like when Bowie gets drunk he turns into the Devil from Bromley.... I mean, Iím not even in this conversation. Iím just sittiní there. Listening to Ďem bitch like crazy about Bowie. It was funny.
K : But you and the Thin White Duke are now best of buddies, is that right?
A : Well, I donít know about Ďbest of buddiesí. But I like him a lot, yeah. We had a long talk about the business and stuff and I never anybody so cool and so into it and so whacked out and so sick in my life...I remember lookiní over at Slash and going : ę Man, weíre in fucking deep trouble Ľ and he goes ę Why? Ľ and I go ę Because I got a lot in common with this guy. I mean, Iím pretty sick but this guyís just fuckiní ill ! Ľ. And Bowie sitting there laughing and talking about ę One side of me is experimental and the other side of me wants to make something that people can get into, and I DONíT KNOW FUCKING WHY! WHY AM I LIKE THIS ? Ľ And Iím sitting there thinking, Iíve got 20 more years of...that to look forward to? Iím already like that...20 more years? What am I gonna do? (laughs)
K : They say that every successful band needs a dictator in the line-up to kick butt and keep things moving. Do you think thatís one of the roles you fulfill in Guns Ní Roses-the dictator of the band?
A : Depends who you ask and on which day. We got into fights in Chicago, when we went there last year to escape LA and try and get some writing done. Everybodyís timing schedules were weird and we were all showing up at different times. But when I would show up I was like,OK, letís do this, letís do that, letís do this one of yours Slash, OK, now letís hear that one Duffís got....And thatís when everybody would decide I was a dictator, a completely selfish dick, yíknow? But fuck, man, as far as I was concerned we were on a roll. Slash is complaining weíre getting nothing done and Iím like ę What do you mean? We just put down six new parts for songs! Weíve got all this stuff done in, like, a couple of weeks. Ľ And he was like ę Yeah, but Iíve been sitting here a month on my ass waitiní for you to show up Ľ I had driven cross-country in my truck to Chicago from LA and it had taken me weeks. So suddenly, like, everythingís a bummer and itís all my fault. But after working with Jagger it was like, donít anybody ever call me a dictator again. You go work for the Stones and youíll find out the hard way what working for a real dictator is like!
K : Apart from that one brief conversation about Bowie, did you get to hang with Jagger or any of the rest of the members of the Rolling Stones when you supported them last year?
A : Not really. Not Jagger, anyway. That guy walks off stage and does paper work. He checks everything. That guy is involved in every little aspect of the show, from what the backing singers are getting paid to what a particular part of the PA costs to buy or hire. He is on top of all of it. Him and his lawyer and a couple of guys he hangs out with. But basically, itís all him. And this is where I sympathise. I mean, I donít sit around checking the gate receipts at the end of every show, but sometimes the frontman.....I donít know. You donít plan on that job when you join the band. You donít want that job. You donít wanna be that guy to the guys in your band that you hang out with and you look up to. But somebodyís got to do it. And the guitar player canít do it because he is not the guy who has to be communicating directly with the audience with eye-contact and body movements. He can go back, hang his hair down in his face and stand by the amps and just get into his guitar part....
K : How do you manage to Ďcommunicate directlyí with the crowd when youíre playing in one of those 70,000-seater stadiums like the one you played in with the Stones?
A : You have to learn how, but it can be done. You know, like someone goes, ę Youíre gonna have this huge arena tour next year, dude! Ľ. And I go, ę I know, but thatís the problem. I can work a stadium now. Ľ And I can. And if I can work it, then thatís what I wanna do. Itís just bigger and more fun.
K : Do tell me about how things are coming together for the new LP.
A : Itís coming together just great. Cos Slash is on like a motherfucker right now. The songs are coming together - theyíre coming together real heavy. Iíve written all these ballads and Slash has written all these really heavy crunch rockers. It makes for a real interesting kinda confusion....
K : What about Steven Adler, your drummer? First heís out of the band, then heís back again. Whatís the story right now?
A : He is back in the band. He was definitely out of the band. He wasnít necessarily fired, we worked with Adam Maples, we worked with Martin Chambers, and Steven did the Guns Ní Roses thing and got his shit together. And it worked, and he did it, and he plays the songs better than any of Ďem, just bad-assed, and heís GNR. And so if he doesnít blow it, weíre going to try the album with him, and the tour and, you know, weíve worked out a contract with him....
K : So you told him he had to stop taking drugs or he was out of the band?
A : Yeah, exactly. But, you know, itís worked out. Itís finally back on and weíre hoping it continues. Itís only been a few days so far. Itís only been since Thursday last week, and heís doing great. Weíre all just hoping it continues.
K : How different has it been writing these new songs compared to the way you wrote songs for Appetite for destruction?
A : One reason things have been so hard, in a way, is this. The first album was basically written with Axl cominí up with maybe one line, and maybe a melody for that line, or how Iím gonna say it or yell it or whatever. And the band would build a song around it. This time round...Izzyís brought in eight songs at least, OK? Slash has brought in an album, Iíve brought in an album. And Duffís brought in one song - Duff said it all in one song- itís called ĎWhy do you look at me when you hate me?í and itís just bad-assed. None of this ever happened before. I mean, before the first album, I think Izzy had written one song in his entire life, ya know? But theyíre coming now... And Izzy has this, like, very wry sense of humour, man. Heís got this song about...(half-singing the lyrics) : ę She lost her mind today, got splattered out on the highway, I say thatís OK... Ľ (laughs) ! Itís called ĎDust and bonesí, I think, and itís great. The rhythm reminds me of something like ĎCherokee peopleí by Paul Revere and the Raiders, only really weird and rocked out. Itís a weird song. But then it is by Izzy, what can I tell you?
K : You seem very happy now youíre back with the band in a recording studio. You like recording?
A : Yeah, I do. I prefer recording to doing a live gig, unless Iím psyched for the gig. Before the gig I always donít wanna do that fuckiní show, and nine times out of 10 I hate it. If Iím psyched itís like, letís go ! But most of the time Iím mad about something, or somethingís going fucking wrong....I donít enjoy most of it at all.
K : Isnít that partly your own fault, though? Some people have accused you of having a very belligerent attitude.
A : I donít know exactly....Something always fucking happens before the show. Somethiní always happens and I react like a motherfucker to it. I donít like to have this pot-smoking mentality of just letting things go by. I donít feel like Lenny Kravitz : like, peace and love, man, for sure, or youíre gonna fuckiní die ! (laughs) ! Iím gonna kick yer ass if you mess with my garden, you know? Thatís always been my attitude.
K : Do you think that attitude has hardened, though, with the onset of this enormous fame and notoriety you now enjoy?
A : Meaning what exactly?
K : Do you act the way you do because your fame and popularity allows you to, or would you act that way anyway?
A : Iíve always been that way, but now Iím in a position to just be myself more. And the thing is, people do allow me to do it, whether they like it or not. Itís weird.
K : Do you ever take unfair advantage of that, though?
A : (long pause)....No. No, usually Iím just an emotionally unbalanced person. (laughs) No, really, Iím usually an emotional wreck before a show because of something else thatís going on in my life. I mean, as I say, somethiní weird just always happens to me two seconds before Iím supposed to go onstage, you know? Like I found William Rose. Turns out, he was murdered in 84 and buried somewhere in Illinois, and I found that out like two days before a show and I was fucking whacked! I mean, Iíve been trying to uncover this mystery since I was a little kid. I didnít even know he existed until I was a teenager, you know? Cos I was told it was the Devil that made me know what the inside of a house looked like that Iíd supposedly never lived in. So Iíve been trying to track down this William Rose guy. Not like, I love this guy, heís my father. I just wanna know something about my heritage....weird shit like am I going to have an elbow that bugs the shit out of me when I get 40 cos of some hereditary trait? Weird shit ordinary families take for granted.
K : You say your father was murdered?
A : Yeah, he was killed. It was probably like at close-range too, man. Wonderful family.....
K : Youíve taken a lot of personal criticism for the more brutal aspects of the lyrics to your songs, ĎOne in a millioní being the most obvious example. Do you think your critics miss a lot of the humour in your songs?
A : To appreciate the humour in our work you gotta be able to relate to a lot of different things. And not everybody does. Not everybody can. With ĎOne in a millioní, I used a word - itís part of the English language whether itís a good word or not. Itís a derogatory word, itís a negative word. Itís not meant to sum up the entire black race, but it was directed towards black people in those situations. I was robbed, I was ripped-off, I had my life threatened! And itís like, I described it in one word. And not only that, but I wanted to see the effect of a racial joke. I wanted to see what effect that would have on the world. Slash was into it.... I mean, the song says ę Donít wanna buy none of your gold chains today Ľ. Now a black person on the Oprah Winfrey show who goes ę Oh, theyíre putting down black people! Ľ is going to fuckiní take one of these guys at the bus stop home and feed him and take care of him and let him babysit the kids? They ainít gonna be near the guy ! I donít think every black person is a nigger. I donít care. I consider myself kinda green and from another planet or something, you know? Iíve never felt I fit into any group, so to speak. A black person has this 300 years of whatever on his shoulders. OK. But I ainít got nothing to do with that. It bores me too. Thereís such a thing as too sensitive. You can watch a movie about someone blowing all the crap outta all these people, but you could be the most anti-violent person in the world. But you get off on this movie, like, yeah! He deserved it, you know, the bad guy got shot... Something Iíve noticed thatís really weird about ĎOne in a millioní is the whole song coming together took me by surprise. I wrote the song as a joke. West (Arkeen, co-lyricist of ĎItís so easyí amongst other songs) just got robbed by two black guys on Christmas night, a few years back. He went out to play on Hollywood boulevard and heís standing there playing in front of the band and he gets robbed at knife point for 78 cents. A couple of days later weíre all sittiní around watchiní TV - thereís Duff and West and a couple other guys - and weíre all bummed out, hungover and this and that. And Iím sitting there with no money, no job, feeliní guilty for being at Westís house all the time suckiní up the oxygen, you know? And I picked up this guitar, and I can only play like the top two strings, and I ended up fuckiní around with this little riff. It was the only thing I could play on the guitar at the time. And then I started ad-libbing some words to it as a joke. And we had just watched Sam Kinison or somethiní on the video, you know, and I guess the humour was just sorta leaniní that way anyway or somethiní. I donít know. But we just started writing this thing, and when I sang ę police and niggers, thatís right Ľ, that was to fuck with Westís head, cos he couldnít believe I would write that! And it came out like that....then later on the chorus came about because I was like getting really far away, like ĎRocket maní, Elton John. I was thinking about my friends and family in Indiana, and I realized those people have no concept of who I am anymore. Even the ones I was close to. Since then Iíve flown people out here, hadíem hang out here, Iíve paid for everything. But there was no joy in it for them. I was smashiní shit, going fuckiní crazy. And yet, trying to work. And they were going, ę Man, I donít wanna be a rocker any more, not if you go through this Ľ. But at the same time, I broughtíem out, you know, and we just hung out for a couple of months - wrote songs together, had serious talks, it was almost like beiní on acid cos weíd talk about the family and life and stuff, and weíd get really heavy and get to know each all over again. Itís hard to try and replace eight years of knowing each other every day, and then all of a sudden Iím in this new world. Back there I was a street kid with a skateboard and no money dreaminí Ďbout being in a rock band, and now all of a sudden Iím here. And itís weird for them to see their friends putting up Axl posters, you know? And itís weird for me too. So anyway, all of a sudden I came up with this chorus ę Youíre one in a million Ľ, you know, and ę we tried to reach you but you were much too high .... Ľ.
K : So many of your lyrics are littered with drug analogies. Is that a fair comment?
A : Everybody was into dope then and those analogies are great in rock songs - Aerosmith done proved that on their old stuff, and the Stones. And drug analogies.... the language is always like the hippest language. A lot of hip-hop and stuff, even the stuff thatís anti-drugs, a lot of the terms comes directly from drug street-raps. Cos theyíre always on top of stuff, cos they gotta change the language all the time so people donít know what theyíre saying, so they can, you know, keep dealing. Plus theyíre trying to be the hippest, coolest, baddest thing out here. It happens. So thatís like, ę we tried to reach you but you were much too high Ľ, I was picturing Ďem trying to call me if, like, I disappeared or died or something. And ę youíre one in a million Ľ, someone said that to me real sarcastically, it wasnít like an ego thing. But thatís the good thing, you use that ę Iím one in a million Ľ positively to make yourself get things done. But originally, it was kinda like someone went, ę Yeah, youíre just fuckiní one in a million, arenít ya? Ľ, and it stuck with me. Then we go in the studio, and Duff plays the guitar much more aggressively than I did. Slash made it too tight and concise, and I wanted it a bit rawer. Then Izzy comes up with this electric guitar thing. I was pushing him to come up with a cool tone, and all of a sudden heís cominíup with this aggressive thing. It just happened. So suddenly it didnít work to sing the song in a low funny voice any more. We tried and it didnít work, didnít sound right, it didnít fit. And the guitar parts were so cool, I had to sing it like.....HURRHHHH ! so that I sound like Iím totally into this.
K : It certainly doesnít sound like youíre pretending on the record, though, does it?
A : No, but this is just one point of view out of hundreds that I have on the situation. When I meet a black person, I deal with each situation differently. Like I deal with every person I meet, it doesnít matter.
K : Have you taken any abuse personally from any black people since this whole controversy first started raging?
A : No, not actually. Actually, I meet a lot of black people that come up and just wanna talk about it, discuss it with me because they find it interesting. Like a black chick came up to me in Chicago, and goes : ę you know, I hated you cos of ĎOne in a millioní. Ľ And Iím like, ę oh, great, here we go. Ľ And she goes : ę But I ride the subway Ľ, and all of a sudden she gets real serious. She says ę and I looked around one day and I know what youíre talkiní about. So youíre all right. Ľ And Iíve got a lot of that...
K : What about from other musicians?
A : I had a big heavy conversation with Ice-T (former member of hard-line LA rappers NWA- Niggers With Attitude or alternately No Whites Allowed). He sent a letter, wanting to work on ĎWelcome to the jungleí cos heíd heard I was interested in turning it into a rap thing. He wanted to be part of it. Anyway, we ended up having this big heavy conversation about ĎOne in a millioní, and he could see where I was coming from all right. And he knows more about that shit than most....
At last the grisly subject of ĎOne in a millioní is allowed to drop. Axl lights another cigarette, unzips the top from another can of Coke, rubs a tired eye with the back of a thumb, and the conversation drifts towards the next Guns Ní Roses album.
A : Thereís, like, 37 songs right now, but I know by the end of the record thereíll be 42 to 45, and I want 30 of Ďem down.
K : A double album then?
A : Well, a double album but a single 76 mn CD, something like that. Then I want five B-sides - people never listen to B-sides anymore - and thatíll be the back of another EP. Weíll say itís B-sides, you know, plus there should be four extra songs for an EP, if we pull this off. So thatís the next record and then thereís the live record from the tour. If we do this right, we wonít have to make another album for five years ! (laughs) But itís not so much like five years to sit on our ass. Itís like, five years to figure out what weíre gonna say next, you know? After the crowd and the people figure out how theyíre gonna react to this album.
K : What kind of direction do you see the band taking on this next album? Do you plan to expand your usual themes somewhat, or are you sticking pretty much to the sleazy half-world undercurrents of the first album for inspiration?
A : This record will show weíve grown a lot, but thereíll be some childish, you know, arrogant, male, false-bravado crap on there too. But thereíll also be some really heavy serious stuff.
K : Itís been such a long time since the release of ĎAppetite for destructioní, and what with everything thatís gone down in between, do you sense the possibility of a backlash building up in time for the new album?
A : It doesnít fuckiní matter. This doesnít matter, man. Itís too late. If we record this album the way we wanna record this album, it could bomb, sure. But five years from now, thereíll be a lot of kids into it in Hollywood. 10 years from now, itíll be an underground thing like Aerosmith and Hanoi Rocks. The material has strong enough lyrical content and strong enough guitar parts, youíll have no choice, itíll permeate into peopleís brains one way or another. If the album doesnít sell and be successful, someday in 10 years from now someoneís gonna write a record and weíre gonna be one of their main influences, and so the message is still gonna get through. Whatever weíre trying to say and the way in which we try to say it, we pay attention to that. If we get that right, the rest just takes care of itself. Itís not so much like, ę our message is the way Ľ, but there is an audience for what weíre saying thatís going through the same things we are, and, in a way, we are leading.
K : How conscious are you of the role as leaders, in terms of your position - both critically and commercially - at the forefront of modern rock music?
A : Itís been.....shown to me in a lot of ways. I didnít want to accept the responsibility of it really, even though I was trying, but I still was reluctant. Now Iím kind of into it. Because itís like, you have a choice, man, you can grow or die. We have to do it - we have to grow. If we donít grow, we die. We canít do the same sludge forever. Iím not Paul Stanley, man ! I canít fuckiní play sludge, man, for fuckiní 20 years. Sludge, man. Itís sludge rock. Thatís one of the reasons why 1989 kinda got written off. We had to find a whole new way of working together. Everybody got successful and it changed things, of course it did. Everybody had the dream, when they got successful they could do what they want, right? That turns into Slash bringing in eight songs ! Itís never been done before, Slash bringing in a song first and me writing words to it. Iíve done it twice with him before and we didnít use either of those songs, out of Slashís choice. Now heís got eight of Ďem that I gotta write words to! Theyíre bad-assed songs, too. I was working on, like, writing these ballads that I feel have really rich tapestries and stuff, and making sure each note, in effect, is right. Cos whether Iím using a lot of instrumentation and stuff or not, Iíll still write with minimalism. But it has to be right; it has to be the right note and it has to be held the right way, and it has to have the right effect, do you know what I mean?
K : I didnít know you were such a perfectionist.
A : What people donít understand is there was a perfectionist attitude to ĎAppetite..í. There was a definite plan to that. We could have made it all smooth and polished. We went and did test tracks with different people and they came out smooth and polished. We did some stuff with Spencer Proffer and Geffen records said it was too fuckiní radio. Thatís why we went with Mike Clink, we went for a raw sound because it just didnít gel having it too tight and concise. We knew what we were doing, and we knew this : we know the way we are onstage, and the only way to capture that energy on the record, is by making it somewhat live, doing the bass, the drums and the rhythm guitar at the same time. Getting the best track, having it a bit faster than you play it live, so that brings some energy into it. Adding lots of vocal parts, and overdubs with the guitar. Adding more music to capture....because Guns Ní Roses onstage, man, can be out to lunch! But itís like, you know, visually, weíre all over the place and you donít know what to expect. How do you get that on a record? Thatís the thing. Thatís why recording is my favourite thing, because itís like painting a picture. You start out with a shadow, or an idea, and you come up with something and itís a shadow of that. You might like it better. Itís still not exactly what you pictured in your head. But you go into the studio and add all these things and you come up with something you didnít even expect. Slash will do, like, one slow little guitar fill that adds a while different mood that you didnít expect. Thatís what I love. Itís like youíre doing a painting and you go away and come back and itís different. You allow different shadings to creep in and then you go, ę Wow, I got a whole different effect on this thatís even heavier than what I pictured. I donít know quite what Iím onto, but Iím on it, you know? Ľ
K : Youíre using Clink again to produce the new album, and youíre recording in the same studios you made ĎAppetiteí in. Are there any ingredients you plan to add to the recording that you didnít use first time around?
A : Yeah. Weíre trying to find Jeff Lynne....
K : Jeff Lynne?! (leader of 70ís monoliths Electric light orchestra, last seen hob-nobbing it with the Travelling Wilburys)
A : I want him to work on ĎNovember Rainí, and thereís like three or four other possible songs that if it works out Iíd maybe like him to look at.
K : As an additional producer to Clink, or to contribute some string arrangements, or what?
A : Maybe some strings, I donít know. Cos this record will be produced by Guns Ní Roses and Mike Clink. But I might be using synthesizer - but Iím gonna say Iím using synthesizer, and what I programmed. Itís not gonna be like : ę Oh, you know, we do all our shows live Ľ and then itís on tape. Thatís not gonna be the thing. I mean, I took electronic music in 11-th grade at school. Itís like, I donít know shit about digital synthesizers but I can take a fuckiní patch-chord and shape my own wave forms and shit, you know? So now I wanna....you know, jump into today. Iíve never had the money to do it before. Maybe someone like Jeff Lynne can help me. Itís a thought.
K : This song, ĎNovember Rainí, I read somewhere that you said if it wasnít recorded to your complete satisfaction you would quit the music business....
A : That was then. At that time it was the most important song to me.
K : Were you serious, though, when you said youíd quit the music business if it wasnít done right?
A : Yeah! Thatís the fuckiní truth, allright. But the worst part of it is, like, if you wanna look at it in a negative way, Iíve got four of these motherfuckers now, man ! I donít know how I wrote these, but I like Ďem better than ĎNovember rainí! And Iím gonna crush that motherfuckiní song, man ! But now Iíve got four of Ďem I gotta do, and theyíre all big songs. We play them and we get chills. It started when I came in one day with this heavy piano part, itís like real big, and it fits this bluesy gospel thing that was supposed to be a blues-rocker like ĎBuy me a Chevroletí by Foghat or something. Now itís turned into this thing, like, ĎTake another piece of my heartí by Janis Joplin or something....
K : Iím still mulling over the giddy prospect of Jeff Lynne working on the next Guns Ní Roses album....Why him? Were you ever an ELO fan?
A : Oh yeah, Iím an ELO fanatic ! Like old ELO, ĎOut of the blueí, that period. I went to see them play when they came to town when I was a kid and shit like that. I respect Jeff Lynne for being Jeff Lynne. I mean, ĎOut of the blueí is an awesome album. So, one : heís got stamina, and two : heís used to working with a lot of different material. Three : heís used to working with all kinds of instrumentation for all kinds of different styles of music. Four : he wrote all his own material. Five : he produced it! Thatís a lot of concentration, and a lot of energy needed. Hopefully, I would like, if heís available, to have him. Heís the best. But I donít know if we can get him or not.
K : Youíd work with him just on certain tracks?
A : Thatís what Iíd like to start with. I mean, who knows, maybe him and Clink will hit off just great, and everybodyíll be into it. If it works, then great, welcome to it, you know?
Silence reigns for a brief moment, Axlís attention turned suddenly to the low distant hum of his hi-fi which has been spinning taped music throughout the conversation, his gaze frozen between the ashtrays and magazines littered on the table before us, a pinched little smile creasing his lips. I ask who it is weíre listening to.
A : Cheap Trick, ĎIn colorí, featuring Rick Ďthe dickí Neilsen. What a fuckiní asshole! I love Cheap Trick, too. Itís kinda funny now, cos I listen to it and just laugh at him.
K : Why? What happened?
A : There was a thing in Rolling Stone where he said he fuckiní decked Slash! He didnít deck Slash! Do you think anyone is gonna fuckiní deck Slash when Doug Goldstein is standing right there between them? Itís not gonna happen.
K : Why does everybody want to tell the world they beat up one of Guns Ní Roses?
A : Because Guns Ní Roses has this reputation for being bad, you know, the new bad boys in town, and so, like, hey, man, it perpetuates down to fuckiní Rick Neilsen wanting to get back in good with the youth market by claiming heís badder than GNR, you know? If he had any real balls, heíd apologise to Slash in the press. Not in person, he can come up to me and say heís sorry all he wants, it doesnít mean shit Ďtil he says it in the press. Now Bowieís a different situation, because Bowie hasnít talked to the press. Itís not like he went and talked to the press about our bust-up. So Bowie can apologise to me, and then when they see photos of me and him together theyíll go : ę Fuck, we tried to start a war and look at these guys, theyíre hanging out! Ľ (laughs) Thatís cool, you know? Like Jagger was supposed to have told me off and the next thing you know Iím onstage singing with him....That sure fucked with a lot of them. I mean, itís either somebody kicked our ass or itís how some chick is scared Iím gonna come kill her cat. I mean, I could make a joke about it, but....
K : Speaking of Ďbad boysí, did you get to meet Keith Richards when you supported the Stones?
A : I got to meet him and talk to him for a little bit. I just kinda watched the guy. Basically, I told him I gotta go shopping....cos he has the coolest coats in the world. He just loved that. I asked him about Billy Idol rippiní the ideal off for ĎRebel yellí from him, kinda joking. And he goes : (Axl adopts a tie-dyed Cockney accent) ę Stole it from my fuckiní night table, he did! Ľ (laughs) I thought that was great. Itís like, I met John Entwistle from the Who, man, and I said Iíd always wondered about these rumours about ĎBaba OíRileyí, you know, like for the keyboard parts they went and got brainwaves and then programmed Ďem through a computer, you know? So I asked Entwistle, and Entwistleís annihilated out of his mind, right, heís in his own little world, and he looks at me and goes : ę Brainwaves? What fuckiní brainwaves? Townsend ainít got no fuckiní brainwaves ! Ľ (laughs) And yet Townsendís a genius and he knows it. Then I asked him about the time he was supposed to have shot up all his gold records, and he said : ę Iíll let you in on a secret, mate. Those were all Connie Francisí records, I fuckiní stole them ! I ainít gonna shoot my own goddamned records! Ľ I said : ę Wow, okay, Iíve had enough of this guy, I canít deal with it anymore ! Ľ (laughs) He was just fuckiní lit and ready to go....
K : You seem very settled at the moment, relaxed, not a bit like your image.
A : Iím happy to kick back tonight and sit around jawing, because today everything is under control. Tomorrow - wait and see - itís fuckiní over! Something will come up. Thereís only one thing left, and thatís this damn album, man. Thatís it. I mean, we may do another record but itís like, Guns Ní Roses doesnít fully function, nothing ever really happens, to its utmost potential, unless...itís a kamikaze run ! Unless itís like ę this is it, man! Ľ .Like, ę fuck it, letís go down in fuckiní flames with this motherfucker! Ľ. Thatís how we are about this record, everybodyís like, weíre just gonna do this son of a bitch....
K : The hour, as the prophet sang, is getting late. We wind up with the obligatory, ĎWhat now?í questions, Axl casting a slant-eyed glance into the immediate future for himself and his band.
A : The main thing about the next record is this is our dream, to get these songs out there into the public. Then once we get out there weíll fight for them with the business side and stuff. But at this point thatís not whatís important. Whatís important is the recording of the songs. If the business comes down on us really hard in a weird way, then weíll make our choices - do we wanna deal with this, or do we not wanna fuckiní deal with it? The record will sell a certain amount of copies the minute it comes out anyway, and we could live off that for the rest of our lives and record our records on small independent labels, it doesnít matter. I mean, thatís not in the plans, but...ultimately, it just doesnít matter, you know? Itís all down to what we want to deal with. Do we wanna give everything that we feel we have inside of ourselves, to do the shows to our top potential? Yes, we do. But I donít choreograph things. I donít know when Iím gonna slam down on my knees or whatever. Itís like, you have to ask yourself, do I wanna give all that, and have someone fuckiní spitting in my face? Does it mean that much to me? No! I dig the songs. If you donít want Ďem, fine. But I donít have to give them to you.
K : I know youíve often threatened it, but if you wanted to, could you really leave all this behind - the band, your career in the music business - not just financially, but emotionally, artistically?
A : If I wanted to badly enough, sure. This is all right, in bits and pieces, but whether itíll take up all the chapters in the book of my life, I donít know. I would like to record for a long time....I have to make this album. Then it doesnít matter. This album is the album Iíve always been waiting on. Our second album is the album Iíve been waiting on since before we got signed. We were planning out the second album before we started work on the first one! But as much as it means to me, if it bombs, if that happens, yeah, Iím sure Iíll be bummed business-wise and let down or whatever, but at the same time it doesnít matter. Itís like, I got it out there. Thatís the artistic thing taken care of. Then I could walk away...
K : What about the money - could you walk away from that?
A : Iíd like to make the cash off the touring, and then Iíd like to walk away knowing that I can support my kids, for whatever they want, for the rest of my life, you know?....and that I can still donate to charities. Iíd like to have that security. Iíve never known any security in my whole life. The financial aspect is just to get that security. If I have that in the bank I can live off the interest and still have money to spend on whatever - including, top of the list, the welfare of my own immediate and future family.
K : Last question. First question. Same question, in fact, Iíve been asking for the last couple of years....
A : When will the album actually fuckiní come out, right?
I nod. He doesnít.
A : Itís taken a lot of time to put together the ideas for this album...in certain ways, no oneís done what weíve done - come out with a record that captured that kind of spirit, since maybe the first Sex Pistols album. No oneís followed it up, and weíre not gonna put out a fuckiní record until weíre sure we can ! So weíve been trying to build it up. Itís like, itís only really these last couple of months that Iíve been writing the right words. Now suddenly Iím on a roll, all the words for Slashís songs are there. But itís taken this long to find Ďem. I just hope the people are into it, you know? I think that the audience will have grown enough, though. Itís been three years - theyíve gone through three years of shit too, so hopefully theyíll be ready to relate to some new things. When youíre writing about real life, not fantasy, you have to take time to live your own life first and allow yourself to go through different phases. Now I think thereís enough different sides of Guns Ní Roses that when the album is finally released no one will know what to think, let alone us ! Like, what are they tryiní to say? Sometimes I donít fuckiní know....
Thanks to Laura for this article!