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Happy 12th Birthday, Chinese Democracy


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Fuck it, I emailed the guy myself and he wrote back, for anyone interested. Not sure why its purple.     1. How did the interview come about? Did you reach out to management?

My favorite GN'R album. Such a bummer that nothing else has been released since but I'm very happy to have finally been able to buy Chinese Democracy 

What a great fucking album

I hope one day CD gets a proper multi-disc anniversary release full of alternative versions, discarded songs, etc. Perhaps with CD2 (and whatever of CD3 was done) before Slash and Duff rejoined.

It would have to come after the eventual next GN'R album, because I'm confident a bulk (if not all) of that album will be from CD era songs.

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On 11/23/2020 at 1:46 PM, downzy said:

The same amount of time has between between now and CD's release as Axl's 1996 fax and the release of CD. 

The 1996-2008 period felt like an eternity.  The last twelve years went by fairly quickly in my opinion. 

The 2009/2010 tours were amazing. 

2011-2015, not so much. 

The reunion was was fantastic, up to a point.  Once 2018 rolled around and it was the same tour things started to get old.

As for the album itself, I rarely listen to it anymore.  But it's important to consider that we were all listening to the album in one form or another for nearly ten years before its release.  It represents a time in my life that I consider formative and for that I'll look back at it fondly.  Better, TWAT, Madagascar are some of the best GNR songs produced in my opinion.

It's a shame there has been no follow up to this point.  In 2015 GNR management told me that an album was slated for 2016.  But as with all things GNR, plans changed with the departure of Bumble and DJ and the return of Slash and Duff.

As some have stated, I think in many ways we should consider ourselves lucky that we actually got to buy the album.  I don't think it was inevitable that it was going to come out (though the financial constraints on the album's release were considerable).  Buying the album, hearing it performed live (with some of Axl's best vocals of the past twenty years), meeting Axl a couple of times, seeing Axl, Slash and Duff share a stage again.  It's not been a bad 12 years for this GNR fan.  It could have and should have been so much more.  But if you told me back in 2007 that what I experienced in the last twelve years was going to happen I would have taken it with a smile on my face.  

Ron gave his notice in early 2014, and DJ left because Slash was returning. GNR management are liars. 

 

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30 minutes ago, Blackstar said:

I came across this Axl interview from March 2009, shortly after the release of CD, that I hadn't read before. I don't think it's much known (as are the other two Axl interviews of the time, with Billboard and Spinner), as I haven't seen it reposted on any of the "usual" sites/forums:

The Oakland Press, March 2, 2009

https://web.archive.org/web/20201125060111/https://www.theoaklandpress.com/news/gnr-axl-rose-talks-to-gary-graff-about-his-new-album-rumors-and-the-fans/article_1013f97b-3319-5a5c-bf42-a3716a4f5013.html

https://www.a-4-d.com/t5235-2009-03-02-the-oakland-press-g-n-r-g-n-r-axl-rose-talks-to-gary-graff-about-his-new-album-rumors-and-the-fans

G'n'R: Axl Rose talks to Gary Graff about his new album, rumors and the fans

GARY GRAFF  Mar 2, 2009

Axl Rose has never been a talker.

Since Guns N' Roses emerged during the mid-'80s, the band's enigmatic and iconoclastic frontman -- now its unquestioned leader and sole remaining original member -- has kept his own counsel and has kept quiet and out of the public eye. And, he acknowledges, it's cost him.

"I didn't talk forever," the 47-year-old Indiana native, born William Rose Jr., notes. "If I talk I need to 'shut the f-- up.' If I don't talk, it's much worse."

But these days there's much to talk about with Guns N' Roses -- as if there weren't before.

In November, Rose and his latest group of musical cohorts released "Chinese Democracy," an album that's been in the making since the early '90s and has been the subject of considerable speculation and reportage of massive costs (reportedly more than $13 million), release dates and in-fighting that saw band members drop away one by one -- including guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagen and drummer Matt Sorum, who went on to form Velvet Revolver.

Nevertheless, interest in GN'R remained high. Chalk some of that up to multiplatinum albums such as 1987's "Appetite For Destruction" and the two volumes of "Use Your Illusion" that came out in 1991. Rose took incarnations of GN'R -- including longtime keyboardist Dizzy Reed and former Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson -- on the road at periodic intervals, previewing the new songs and enduring a few Internet leaks of the material.

At this point, three months after its release, there were hopes that "Chinese Democracy" would be a much bigger deal than its proven to be. The album -- a sweeping exposition of epic, richly produced rock, which debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart -- has sold less than 600,000 copies in the U.S. though 2.6 million copies worldwide. The domestic number is a disappointment, and it has set fingers pointing. Rose feels his record company, Interscope, did not put enough muscle behind it. Some feel Best Buy, where it's been sold exclusively, did not put forth enough of an effort -- and certainly nothing close to what Wal-Mart did for AC/DC's "Black Ice." And let's not talk about Dr. Pepper's botched promotion to distribute free soft drinks to celebrate the release.

Still others blamed Rose for not being willing to do interviews -- though he did trade comments with fans on the Internet -- and didn't have the band ready to tour to support the album's release.

He's talking now -- sort of. What follows are excerpts from a lengthy e-mail interview solicited prior to the release  of "Chinese Democracy" and updated afterward. Whether "Chinese Democracy" is ultimately deemed a success or failure, its long gestation guarantees it a place in rock lore forever, and Rose's insights only add to that status.

How does it feel finally having "Chinese Democracy" out? Was the gap between albums frustrating for you or was the process of making of the album its own kind of reward?

Rose: "Ha! Last thing anyone wants to read about are MY frustrations! It feels great!! There were rewards, of course, mainly in meeting and working with the players involved that -- no offense to anyone -- you could only wish you'd met sooner in life. But no (frustrations with) recording or with those involved but with whatever else was going on around (it). It was pretty ugly for the better part of the duration. That said, being a part of the material personally and with these people means a lot to me.

How much of the past 13 years of making the album was focused on creative concerns vs. distribution/release/commercial concerns?

Rose: This is the closest to the real issues of the record I've seen from anyone over this entire time. The reality is that most of my creative energy was used in any area other than music ... just navigating through the mine fields -- which so far we've managed, maybe not so pretty, but an album that many said would never be released by a guy that was either supposed to be dead or kill himself at this level's not so bad. And (the music is) not as horrific as many predicted, in our opinion, which is a bonus.

What was the overall creative mission or goal that you felt in making these songs?

Rose: No. 1 was just to be involved in what I felt was a good record that I could stand behind with confidence, with no shame artistically, to know that I gave the public our best efforts with no compromise and no holding back. To have the material not be as self-destructive as I have tended to be but still have power. To deal with real and personal issues that may be a bit uncomfortable to embrace ... in an effort to help anyone who might benefit. To push the envelope with guitars working together. To not be quite as dated as some predicted or expected. To have an album for Guns fans (who) may have gotten past or are dealing with destructive influences in their lives could enjoy as a positive progression. For the music not to feel worn down, so as to be somewhat giving rather than taking. To be a bit different and its own thing in some way as other Guns albums were, at least to some extent.

What's the overall impact you want the album to have on its listeners?

Rose: I would just like people to feel a bit better or refreshed and that maybe some feel a perhaps much-needed release in whatever area it may affect them and maybe some are even inspired. The list goes on, and I feel that I achieved a lot of these things to some degree or other. Whether anyone likes it or not, it's an extremely special guitar record in that so many influences styles and players creating this tapestry is fairly hard to come by, the same with the various drum and rhythm approaches or styles.

What kind of impact did time make on the album we're hearing now? Are there specific songs or parts of songs you can point to that benefited from the years spent on the album?

Rose: There's not a song that didn't gain something from the time and elements that happened in recording as things progressed -- different players, new gear, new ideas, lots of things. Regardless of what nonsense was going on both behind the scenes and publicly, the album ... continued forward.

What were your thoughts and emotions as you changed personnel throughout the course of the making of "Chinese Democracy" -- especially as Slash, Duff and Matt stopped being part of GN'R? Could that older lineup of the band have stayed together and, if so, under what conditions?

Rose: The question seems to incorrectly and perhaps unintentionally imply ... that I was changing or attempting to change the musical approach of old Guns. Part of that, I feel, may have come from Slash painting a rather distorted picture publicly, both back then and since, of what our studio was like during his trial period. Contrary to his accounts, there weren't tons of computers, keyboards and endless, useless gear around that anyone was paying insane prices for. What in my opinion are Slash's aversion and fears have been greatly amplified and exaggerated and often in complete juxtaposition to and a subversion of reality to support his case publicly at both ours and the fans' expense.

I know that I wasn't opposed to anyone from then ... and tried anything I could, or that anyone else could think of, to allow that to happen at the time. ... The end of each relationship was devastating and terrifying, (but) ... no, there wasn't any way I'm aware of, then or in hindsight, to have kept the old lineup together, at least (by) myself or anyone involved in our camp at the time. In regard to those who came and went in Guns since, and were a part of "Chinese," some left amicably, some in other ways that had different effects on everyone involved. I think with the album's release we made it through a good number of those, and what were hard feelings in some areas are water under the bridge now.

When did you actually know, or feel, the album was finished, and what told you that it was?

Rose: Working with Bumble's (guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal) fills, (drummer Frank Ferrer)'s additions and various intro bits etc., a lot happened in our final month of mixing as well as in mastering. Thank God for (mastering engineer) Bob Ludwig and his patience.

A line like "Why would I choose to prostitute myself to live with fortune and fame?" (from the song "Prostitute") sounds like a pretty direct and explanatory statement about your attitude. True?

Rose: In this business, someone is always telling you why to compromise on every issue imaginable. Generally ... it's just personal interests as opposed to what's best for the music or anyone involved, and least of all the fans, regardless of their preferences. It's about money in the short term. However you can be used to make whatever anyone can for whatever reason is important to them for the quick buck that's what you deal with 24/7.

Ultimately, did you have a mostly good time making the album? And how close does it come to the initial vision you had for it?

Rose: No, not really, but I like the people (involved) and what we were able to accomplish. It was much better than previous lineups, and if not for the ugliness around us and the circumstances I'm sure it would've been much more fun. I'm very happy with the album, looking forward to audiophile and Blu-Ray mixes at some point if we're lucky, as that's really what it was designed for since first hearing about Blu-Ray.

What is your sense of how the world at large views GN'R at this point?

Rose: I think there's a lot of things to clear up and I wouldn't presume all that much. ... I'm not so sure the world at large cares one way or the other. It's a big place with a lot of people into different things, but some would like a good show from us, so if we can get there, we'll do our best to bring it.

How do you feel about selling the album exclusively at one place?

Rose: Fine. It's not like we had that many options -- get f---- by Interscope or wait till next year with another retailer.

Are you happy with the way Best Buy has handled things?

Rose: In many ways, yes. In many areas, they've been great. I'm not clear how much the record company has helped them yet, though.

"Chinese Democracy" is very much an album. Are you at all concerned that in an iTunes era, people aren't interested in entire albums anymore?

Rose: "Chinese" doesn't have a pretty road in front of it, but it was never going to. It is an album. That's how it was crafted and meant to be. I tried to deliver something I felt was good ... and let others find out if there's anything there for them. There's a lot there, so there might be something. I was always the one who liked the albums (that) bands made that weren't necessarily their most publicly acclaimed (or) their bigger commercial hits -- meaning that I enjoyed other approaches than what a band's mainstream fans felt defined them. "Appetite" was influenced by a number of (those); it took a good while to catch on. It's ... possible to make something that works better as an album and not so much as singles.

Is the measure of "success" for "Chinese Democracy" purely creative, or are there external and commercial measures as well?

Rose: I think that's a great question. I would say it has more than one life or is a bit multi-tasked or faceted. The creative comes first or ... should be the deepest, then there's getting it across as you put it. And if you can have some fun it's even better. Those are elements that have been part of Guns. We had some great times touring in '06-'07, and it looked like others did as well. As long as the music and performance come first then, anything that contributes to that is great.

How the fuck did this slip under the radar?

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6 minutes ago, ShadowOfTheWave said:

How the fuck did this slip under the radar?

I know, right? After I came across it, I searched the archives of all the sites/forums (even the defunct ones through archive.org) to make sure it hadn't just slipped my attention and I didn't see it posted anywhere. Odd.

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10 minutes ago, Blackstar said:

I know, right? After I came across it, I searched the archives of all the sites/forums (even the defunct ones through archive.org) to make sure it hadn't just slipped my attention and I didn't see it posted anywhere. Odd.

My two biggest takeaways were that the world is a big place and he didn't have fun making it.

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Thanks for sharing, @Blackstar

Like other posters I had never seen this before!

Enjoy reading Axl's thoughts around this time because the release of CD was raw and public opinion was probably at its most critical. The pervading feeling I get from these interviews is that Axl really is on the defensive. Reminds me of the "interview" done with Del on the official site in which his response to the first question was "Well that's f***ing bull****" or something along those lines.

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Happy 12th Birthday Chinese Democracy! I must say, it's a very unique and fluid album to say the very least; my defined favourite songs always change in rank along the ladder as time goes by, but these are There Was a Time, Catcher in the Rye, Sorry, I.R.S. & Prostitute. Truly a masterpiece :shades:

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I'd prefer much more the "B-sides" or the other "big guns" like HS, Atlas etc. over any remixes of what we already have. We'll see what "the new album" will bring and what will be left. Wow, so many quotes in a single line. 

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Thanks @Blackstar! I don't even know how you came across that 12 years later. 

4 hours ago, DTJ80 said:

What a great interview. It’s a pity we haven’t (yet) got the Blu Ray version of Chinese he references - a 5.1 mix would really draw out the various instruments.

In a lot of ways, the Rock Band stems did that for me. Surely it's not the same thing, but still. 

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Very cool interview. I'd echo lots of what people have already reflected on about it.

It was done via email so Im curious if the interviewer or their editor tidied up Axl text at all. Because he's prone to use n' in conversation instead of "And." Either way this is a very quality Axl interview imho.

My heart went out to Axl when he said that CD doesnt sound dated, though :hug:Im only speaking of the electro drums and a touch of the synth of course.

I love this album and this might be my favorite insight that Axls given about the whole thing :headbang:

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37 minutes ago, Voodoochild said:

Thanks @Blackstar! I don't even know how you came across that 12 years later. 

In a lot of ways, the Rock Band stems did that for me. Surely it's not the same thing, but still. 

True enough - would certainly help differentiate a bit. A 5.1 though.... :drool:

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4 minutes ago, alfierose said:

Great find @Blackstar

I'm also bemused how it passed seemingly everyone by. Could it have been uploaded at a much later date than the actual interview?

Possibly. But wouldn't it have been noticed somehow at the time it was uploaded?

Or maybe the site was for subscribers only then, and since, as I understand, the printed newspaper is a local one in Michigan, nobody saw it.

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21 hours ago, ShadowOfTheWave said:

Ron gave his notice in early 2014, and DJ left because Slash was returning. GNR management are liars. 

 

DJ did not leave because Slash was returning.  This is categorically false.

It is still up to debate whether Bumble gave formal notice.  He never confirmed his departure publicly.  Neither did GNR.  From what I was told it was unclear whether Bumble would come back or not and hence nothing was said on the matter until a decision had to be made.  From my understanding Bumble had left or threatened to leave on several of occasions prior.  

So why should we believe your claim if Bumble refused to confirm until 2015?

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49 minutes ago, downzy said:

DJ did not leave because Slash was returning.  This is categorically false.

It is still up to debate whether Bumble gave formal notice.  He never confirmed his departure publicly.  Neither did GNR.  From what I was told it was unclear whether Bumble would come back or not and hence nothing was said on the matter until a decision had to be made.  From my understanding Bumble had left or threatened to leave on several of occasions prior.  

So why should we believe your claim if Bumble refused to confirm until 2015?

This is what Ashba himself has claimed. That Axl asked him to be part of the reunion and he said no, because there was no reason for him to be there if Slash was there. As for Ron, Gary Graff had said in 2015 that a source told him "Bumblefoot quit last year. I don't understand why he continues to be evasive on his status with the band — he quit in South America. He told Axl he was done and Vegas would be his last run with the band." This lines up with what Ron had been saying in 2014/2015, he was somewhat evasive yes but was all but literally saying "I quit" in late 2014 interviews, months after the No Trickery residency had ended. I suppose you could be correct that they were still unsure in early 2015, but I'm sure there was never any serious intention to release something in 2016. If there was, surely Axl could have pulled them back into the fold as the lack of new music was their main complaint for years.

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12 minutes ago, ShadowOfTheWave said:

This is what Ashba himself has claimed. That Axl asked him to be part of the reunion and he said no, because there was no reason for him to be there if Slash was there. As for Ron, Gary Graff had said in 2015 that a source told him "Bumblefoot quit last year. I don't understand why he continues to be evasive on his status with the band — he quit in South America. He told Axl he was done and Vegas would be his last run with the band." This lines up with what Ron had been saying in 2014/2015, he was somewhat evasive yes but was all but literally saying "I quit" in late 2014 interviews, months after the No Trickery residency had ended. I suppose you could be correct that they were still unsure in early 2015, but I'm sure there was never any serious intention to release something in 2016. If there was, surely Axl could have pulled them back into the fold as the lack of new music was their main complaint for years.

DJ left in July of 2015.  There were still no plans of reunion at that time.  I know this because I was told this a month or two before it was confirmed by either DJ or the band.  The plan or expectation  as of July 15th was that an album was to be released in 2016.  Again, DJ did not leave in July of 2015 because Slash was set to return.  Perhaps Axl asked later if DJ wanted to come back but that wasn't the original motivation for DJ leaving the band at the time.  I can't speak more about this but I inferred there was still a certain level of hostility towards Slash within GNR ranks in the summer of 2015.  Perhaps Axl and Slash had reconnected on some level, but the notion there was a concrete plan to bring him back when an album was expected the following year doesn't make any sense.  

Sorry, but you're going to have to pull up those interviews in 2014 where Ron made it clear he had quit the band.  Perhaps he did, but I saw no mention of this.  What I saw was Ron continually use the band's name to promote himself without stating whether he was still a member.  I asked management in July of 2015 why neither Ron nor the band had made it clear he was no longer in the band.  They didn't really answer the question on their end, other than to suggest he had left or threatened to leave numerous other times and were keeping quiet in the off chance he decided to come back (which is kind of a thing with GNR). 

While I'm not a huge fan of GNR management, what does concern me is people suggesting that GNR or management is or was lying about these matters.  Your basis is entirely on media reports or what band members said that aren't tied to any strict date or time.  

 

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@downzyfrom what both Axl and Slash have said, Axl made the phone call to Slash in March 2015. As Axl recounted in the Globo interview, he called Slash after he considered taking the offer for Coachella.

And Bumblefoot said he was hearing whispers about a reunion when he left in 2014.

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36 minutes ago, downzy said:

DJ left in July of 2015.  There were still no plans of reunion at that time.  I know this because I was told this a month or two before it was confirmed by either DJ or the band.  The plan or expectation  as of July 15th was that an album was to be released in 2016.  Again, DJ did not leave in July of 2015 because Slash was set to return.  Perhaps Axl asked later if DJ wanted to come back but that wasn't the original motivation for DJ leaving the band at the time.  I can't speak more about this but I inferred there was still a certain level of hostility towards Slash within GNR ranks in the summer of 2015.  Perhaps Axl and Slash had reconnected on some level, but the notion there was a concrete plan to bring him back when an album was expected the following year doesn't make any sense.  

Sorry, but you're going to have to pull up those interviews in 2014 where Ron made it clear he had quit the band.  Perhaps he did, but I saw no mention of this.  What I saw was Ron continually use the band's name to promote himself without stating whether he was still a member.  I asked management in July of 2015 why neither Ron nor the band had made it clear he was no longer in the band.  They didn't really answer the question on their end, other than to suggest he had left or threatened to leave numerous other times and were keeping quiet in the off chance he decided to come back (which is kind of a thing with GNR). 

While I'm not a huge fan of GNR management, what does concern me is people suggesting that GNR or management is or was lying about these matters.  Your basis is entirely on media reports or what band members said that aren't tied to any strict date or time.  

 

If you held a poll here asking whether people felt GNR management are liars the result would be an overwhelmingly yes. Almost no one here believes anything the Lebeis family says.

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10 hours ago, Blackstar said:

@downzyfrom what both Axl and Slash have said, Axl made the phone call to Slash in March 2015. As Axl recounted in the Globo interview, he called Slash after he considered taking the offer for Coachella.

And Bumblefoot said he was hearing whispers about a reunion when he left in 2014.

There might have been thoughts, but I can tell you unequivocally that the notion of a reunion was not something seriously considered in early or mid part of the summer in 2015, or at least when DJ left.  Axl was not happy about it.  The focus at this time was on the new album.  Pitman was at Axl's studio almost daily working on various mixes.

There is also some business/financial aspects of this that I can't really get into that undermine suggestions that the reunion looked likely as of July of 2015 and was the reason for DJ leaving the band.  All that I can say is that at the time management and the band were not operating like a multi-million dollar pay day was around the corner.  

I can say that this forum generally had decent communications with management and the band's PR arm until rumours of a reunion in September, 2015 started to percolate.  Then all communications stopped until official announcements were made and a tour seemed likely come Spring of 2016.  If Axl and Slash were on the verge of reuniting for a huge pay day I really have a hard time believing management would have met with me in Malibu for lunch back in July of 2015.  

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10 hours ago, ShadowOfTheWave said:

If you held a poll here asking whether people felt GNR management are liars the result would be an overwhelmingly yes. Almost no one here believes anything the Lebeis family says.

I don't really give a shit how people perceive GNR management.  Trust me, at this point I'm not a fan either and we have cut communications between this forum and management for quite some time due to matters of communication and trust.

But I know what I know based on first hand experiences.  

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There is, however, one other aspect that maybe should be considered: Axl burying the hatchet with Slash was undoubtedly a huge and very delicate thing. It wouldn’t be completely unthinkable that the first discussions/meetings they had starting in spring were strictly personal, confidential. We know they only communicated via phone for the first couple of months. Hence I could imagine even the management being partially out of the loop still in summer. Which, on the other hand, doesn’t have to mean that DJ hadn’t been informed or at least hadn’t suspected anything. Remember, Slash gave an interview in August where he basically said that him and Axl had made peace – i.e. the process had been going on for some time, and I guess a resident band guitarist (DJ) should/must have been aware of such turn of events at that point. 
All I’m saying is, even if you count on the idea that TB would always tell the public/fans the unconditional truth back then, even Beta might not have known entirely everything in this very special case...

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