Reclusive GUNS N' ROSES singer Axl Rose took part in yet another online chat Friday night (December 12), this time via the GUNS N' ROSES fan community ChineseDemocracy.com.
BLABBERMOUTH.NET has compiled the most interesting bits from the question-and-answer session and is re-posting them here for your reading enjoyment. (Note: Some of Axl's responses were slightly edited for clarity.)
Q: If you tour the UK again, will you be going back to Newcastle? Despite the last time one prick there throwing pound coins about. I was there that night in 2006 and it would be a shame for the next tour not to stop there because of one idiot out of thousands (although I'm sure it's a lot more complicated then that and down to promoters).
Axl: That wouldn't stop us from playing there again. And the whole throwing-shit [thing] sucks and is pretty cowardly, but the leaving [threatening to walk off stage when people throw objects at you while you are performing] I got at Donington from Lemmy. When we first played Donington, I was so happy I had knocked a bottle of piss out of the air when Lemmy gave me a lecture how if another band got hurt because I allowed people to throw things at our shows I'd be responsible for other bands getting hurt. Whether real or there's an argument against that, I've never been able to have anything override that in my head, not even a riot, and I don't know why. If you're working hard and some cunt throws something so he can tell his buddies, I don't see where it's worth it.
Q: Is "Silkworms" on the next record? It's a masterpiece.
Axl: [It] has a lot of guitars, lots of different drum [patterns] and the chorus is gone.
Q: Just wondering if there truly was a rap song with Shaq [American professional basketball player, rapper and actor Shaquille O'Neal] on it that you recorded? This is one of the many rumors flying around since this album's conception and I think we all wanna know.
Axl: In my opinion, that was just cheap shots from media jerkoffs knowing that Shaq wasn't the most popular or respected rapper publicly. I've never met the man. He goofed around with Paul [Tobias, a.k.a. Paul Huge; GUNS N' ROSES guitarist 1996-2002] and Diz [GN'R keyboardist Dizzy Reed] and it went from there.
Q: I was wondering about new tour dates....
Axl: No plans. We're talking.
Q: What is Brain's [GN'R drummer Bryan "Brain" Mantia] status?
Axl: I think he's doing alright. Maybe I should check.
Q: Can you bring back "Breakdown" or "Dead Horse" to the set?
Axl: Maybe. [I'm] more interested in [performing] the newer [material] now.
Q: Your music means more to me than I could ever express.
Axl: Thank you. [It] means a lot.
Q: What's your opinion on the ["Chinese Democracy"] album, GunsNRoses.com and ChineseDemocracy.com being banned in China?
Axl: China's a tough place. A lot of us have no idea how good we have it and think less of those less fortunate. The Chinese people have been kept in the dark through literally the fear of incarceration or death, which, to most, is either unimaginable or only able to be contemplated with stories or movies and such where there is an all-encompassing environment and they're growing larger everyday.
Q: How does an average GN'R rehearsal go? Like, do you jam on any covers, go over songs until they are extremely tight, etc.? Also, how frequent are GUNS N' ROSES rehearsals?
Axl: Frequency depends on the reason, say a tour or particular gig, and how we feel about where we're at with whatever the material is and not so much on the covers but lots of jams. Generally, there's a lot of fun but a lot of work and these guys take it very seriously, which is great.
Q: How do you feel about meeting your fans? What is the best way for a fan to meet you if they happen to be a dude (since the stereotype is that rockers only wanna meet hot chicks)?
Axl: I like meeting all kinds of fans, but after a show (I realize that's the only time some may feel they have an opportunity, but with the exception of close friends around...), not to be offensive, but I'm generally not looking forward to walking off stage to hang with guys, whether they're fans or not. I deal with GUNS all day every day, so coming off stage to talk about the band is just like more of the same. Unless there's pressing business, I wanna forget that 'till it's time to go at it again the next day. And people may enjoy meet-and-greets and have their reasons why it meant a lot for them, which I respect, but overall, charging fans for it, I think, [is] disgusting of bands. Now if they did it for free to winners of a contest, etc., that would be different. Charging is lame. How to meet bands? Maybe try to hang out places you might hear they do sometimes.
Q: How much does [J.D. Salinger's 1951 novel] "Catcher in the Rye" [have to do with] the [GUNS N' ROSES] song ["Catcher N' The Rye"], or is [the title] solely referring to Chapman [John Lennon's murderer Mark David Chapman was carrying a copy of the book when he shot the ex-THE BEATLES member]?
Axl: For me, the song is inspired by what's referred to sometimes as Holden Caulfield Syndrome. I feel there's a possibility that how the writing is structured with the thinking of the main character could somehow re-program, for lack of a better word, some who may be a bit more vulnerable, with a skewed way of thinking, and tried to allow myself to go what may be there or somewhat close during the verses. I'd think for most those lines are enjoyed as just venting, blowing off steam, humor or some type of entertainment where it may be how others seriously live in their minds. The bridge before the solo is an artistic interpretation of an institutionalized mind. The outro is a tribute to Lennon and an indictment of the author for writing what I feel is utter garbage and I agree wholeheartedly that it should be discontinued as required reading in schools. That's my take, I could be completely wrong. I do realize that the song and title could have the next poor soul reading the book and feeling inspired to make an unfortunate statement. So there's the catch, I guess. When I came up with the focus, I got a call from the director of "Imagine" wanting a bunch of money to make a documentary, had a guy sending me strange packages about Lennon and serial killers, etc., and the web started calling me Salinger, with no one knowing what I was writing. I figured I was on the right track, at least for a song.
Q: Axl, when are you coming down to South America? You have forgotten this place in the last years.
Axl: Haven't forgotten. Looking forward to it.
Q: Just wanted to ask this: out of all of the music you have written, what song are you most proud of?
Axl: Right now, a lot on this album "Chinese Democracy". For me, musically, it would have to be the orchestral arrangement in the bridge of "This I Love".
Q: How does it feel to see your face everywhere? Especially these very old pictures...
Q: When GUNS played the surprise acoustic show in London, can you remember what the request was that you denied before playing "Nightrain", and if so, what was that request?
Axl: No idea.
Q: Axl, what do you think of Duff's [McKagan, ex-GUNS N' ROSES bassist] comments about "Chinese Democracy"? [Duff told the Seattle radio station KISW 99.9 FM on Friday, December 12] that Axl "sounds amazing" on "Chinese Democracy", before adding, "You know, I'm glad he [Axl] put out the record he wanted to put out and I think it's gonna be successful, him going out and touring. People have been talking how the record's doing. I think it's a longevity thing; it will do fine for him. And I wish him the best of luck."]
Q: Do ya Internet with a 56K modem, Axl?
Axl: Do you?
Q: "Chinese Democracy" is awesome, but it's a pretty ballady album compared to previous GN'R albums. Is this the new direction of GN'R or will some of the future GN'R albums be more focused on hard-rocking songs again?
Axl: What I know is it's the record that was able to get through the red tape and get itself out there while helping friends, loved ones and myself along the way. The whole ballad or rocker thing has never been something I've ever cared too much about. There's some meaner sections ahead, but a particular focus once there were a few of the newer guys together was to bring a bit more beauty into our efforts.
Q: Is the band still in contact with [former GN'R guitarist] Paul Huge [a.k.a. Paul Tobias]? Any more future plans with him? Guest apperance on tour maybe?
Axl: Paul helps out all the time and is on a lot more material. Paul helped get a lot of the base credits, etc., together which were extensive. He's always had a good memory on that stuff and it's generally important to him to be as ethical as he's capable, which is invaluable.
Q: If you're composing music (piano), are you using some computer software to write the notes down or are you using a sheet of paper and a pen for this?
If I want to capture it, I either use Logic or Pro Tools in the studio. I've tried recording myself otherwise for years, but for some reason, no matter what's there, it doesn't seem to be where my real focus should ultimately be.
Q: A lot of the GN'R fans always say how good the House of Blues 01/01/01 show is. Are you thinking about releasing that for the fans n DVD or download soon?
Axl: No plans for any live shows as DVDs currently.
Q: From interviews, tours, riots, and information you revealed yesterday morning, this project has obviously had its ups and downs. If you could do this whole process over again, with the making of CD, would you?
Axl: Only for the same reason I have, other than that... not in a billion years.
Q: Also, would you consider GN'R to perform for a charity cause, and if yes, what that cause would be?
Axl: All depends on the cause and if it feels right for us at the time. There could be a disaster that we felt strongly about being involved with helping in some way but often these turn into ways for bands to just promote themselves — not really caring, but looking so publicly. Or the money doesn't reach the victims or those in need while the celebrities are promoted for their efforts. Efforts at what? Not into that so much. Medical situations are always important. If you're really helping, then I'm for it. Which ones, I couldn't really say. It's not like I would draw a line or argue the importance of one over another in most cases.
Q: When did you start the recording of your voice for CD and when did it end and which was the last song recorded? Are you here to promote the album, or do you really care about your fan base?
Axl: I'll have to think about the first bit. With the second [question], I'm not sure how much this is promoting the album as it's in our own backyard, so to speak, but it is talking with fans about some of the realities of GUNS or myself which whether I've wanted to or not didn't feel right until now. So I'd say it's about us!!
Q: Has anything Disney ever inspired you musically? Like "The Little Mermaid" score or something? Are you a fan of "The Little Mermaid"? What's your favorite Disney animated film?
Axl: I don't know about musically, but I'm pro Disney. Go about once a year or so. Went with Bucket [former GN'R guitarist Buckethead] a lot. It's nice to go somewhere where people allow themselves to be more in touch with a more innocent side of themselves at least for what seems like the most part.
Q: Did you do a song with Eazy-E [late American rapper, producer, and record executive] in the early '90s. I read it somewhere. I think it would be pretty cool. Did you hang out with Eazy-E ever? What was a cool moment hanging out with N.W.A.?
Axl: He recorded with Slash and Duff. He really wanted to attack the media over attacking me for "One in a Million". There wasn't really any Easy on it. I wasn't there. He gave me the tape to consider. Sounded a bit like the other guys doing BODY COUNT. The idea was OK but the track wasn't really there and I felt it would get more heat than the track could stand up to. Only hung a couple times after a show with any of them. Was glad I got to meet Eazy.
Q: Which of your songs ever is the most meaningful for you? And why?
Axl: I probably won't answer this for a while. It's a good question, but one I'll have to think about.
Q: Which song on "Chinese Democracy" do you feel was your best work vocally?
Axl: End section of "There Was A Time", backgrounds in "Catcher N' The Rye".
Q: What do you do in your spare time for a hobby? What else do you love except music?
Axl: Cars, checking out art, F1 [Formula 1].
Q: If you don't mind, would you tell me what are your favorite 10 albums of 2008 and all-time favorites? I would like to know more about your music taste.
Axl: I'm more into film scores.
Q: "Chinese Democracy" was a brilliant album, but do you miss the old GUNS from time to time?
Axl: I miss the illusion we shared for only a few months, if that, of thinking we were in this together. It wasn't real, or if so, only ever so briefly while deeper currents of ambitions were temporarily put aside, but I didn't know that then.
Q: I love "Oh My God", but it really sounds like a demo. Why? I'm sure we all would love a new version.
Axl: Because that's all it was, only at the time having just got it together only Jimmy Iovine [music producer, entrepreneur and chairman of Interscope-Geffen-A&M] knew that who wanted it to sell their soundtrack ["End of Days", released in 1999]. I saw segments of the movie which were good. As a whole later not so much, but it wasn't ready yet then. I did write an experimental piece inspired by the bits I'd seen called "Daddy Can the Devil do Mommy and Me?"
Q: I guess the only question I really have is when do you think we will see you boys on the road again? And is there ever a chance of you playing Philadelphia again?
Axl: Not sure. Looking at options. And I would love to play Philly, as I would have loved to play back in '02.
Q: Sebastian Bach mentioned you were writing an autobiography. How is that progressing?
Axl: It's not exactly an autobiography as much as legal record of every last detail of what went down with the breakup. I have about 40,000 words on it (don't know where [the previously reported number of words] 12,000 came from) but it's generally really depressing so I don't go back to it so much.
Q: Could you tell us more about [the unreleased GUNS N' ROSES song] "The General"?
Axl: You may have heard parts of it somewhere.
Q: How many other new songs are fully complete and ready to go?
Axl: Haven't checked.
Q: It's Saturday morning here in sunny old England and it's pissing it down. However, looking forward to the summer festivals. What are the chances of an appearance?
Axl: They're being considered. Was great in '06.
Q: I find the verses on "Shackler's Revenge" to remind me of "The Sopranos" theme tune in certain ways. Should they do? Furthermore, any chance of getting the complete album on Rock Band? That would be swell.
Axl: Never thought of that with "The Sopranos", but a big fan of that song. And I think that's a yes on Rock Band.
Q: Which is the most emotional song for you too sing on "Chinese Democracy"?
Axl: "This I Love".
Q: Outta the whole ["Chinese Democracy"] record, what is your favorite part of music on it? Like a breakdown at some point, strings, anything.
Axl: Bucket's blues fill at the beginning of the last verse in "Prostitute" and his "eventide" bits in the outro, the guitars in the bridge of "Better", Robin's [Finck] solo in "There Was A Time", for a few of them.
Q: On the 2006 tour when you were in the good old UK, did you use Michael Owen's helicopter? Huh? I heard rumors.
Axl: Not sure, but leaving Silverstone, and [due to] no fault of our pilots, I saw another helicopter coming towards us blades first out of the corner of my eye, yelled "watch out" and our pilot jerked us out of the way of an idiot who was unauthorized to be where he was and came out of nowhere. Without our pilot's skill and quick reflexes, it would've been over right then for real. It was also great to read how "Merck [former GUNS N' ROSES manager Merck Mercuriadis, who was fired by Axl Rose in December 2006 — Ed.] took the keys to the 'copter so Axl couldn't leave" Donington like I'm James Bond or something. I did make him drive back to London though!!
Q: Do you think "This I Love" is still the heaviest thing you've written, or has another song popped up that now holds that title?
Axl: That's still it and ultimately a great healing experience to compose something you have no real idea you're capable of such as the bridge. It's a lot more intricate than I think most realize yet as the guitar and vocals are placed as they should be so dominant. The main string melody in that section I had originally written to a hip-hop loop as well.
Q: Could you please talk at all about what inspired the lyrics to "Shackler's Revenge" and/or "Catcher N' The Rye"? Or the meaning behind "Riad N' The Bedouins"?
Axl: "Shackler's" was inspired by the insanity of senseless school shootings and also the media trying desperately to make more out of one shooter's preference for the GUNS song "Mr. Brownstone" to no avail. That said, listening for my own enjoyment or if we were to make a video or performing it, I lean more to the entertainment of a horror flick or something like "Dexter", something with an interesting menacing character as opposed to real life.
On song inspirations:
Axl: I tried sending this ages ago but apparently it never went through. It was a direct response but now fits others questions on the same subject.
The whole "who's it about?" bit with songs doesn't work for me that much as in whether a line or whatever was inspired by a particular person or situation doesn't mean that in the end that's what or who the song's about. I could be working with clay and think of someone or something and somehow that could inspire me to take the work in a different direction at the moment but in the end it could just be a nice vase. I often wonder where the people who inspired so many songs are now and why it's only important with some songs such as "Layla" as opposed to others. I'm guessin' a fair number of beautiful love songs or otherwise were inspired by some that the artists and public might consider now or in hindsight to be the opposite of how they are depicted or allegedly represented. With "Sorry", like a lot of the material is drawn from a lot of different situations. The main focus on the boards with the track seems to be either Slash or "the fans" (and the collective of "the fans" is another thing that doesn't work for me) and is much too restrictive or narrow and limits what I feel I intended. For me it's for anyone talking nonsense at mine and the public's expense and that many of those as well as the public don't know who to believe. Also where possible I'd like to give people the opportunity to get what they can from the material for a while before clouding that with my inspirations. Of course that's not always avoidable.
Q: What effect do leaks REALLY have on the band/the album? There's a lot of speculation but no clear answer.
Axl: Basically, for us it's devastating across the board. And when you have such a majority openly justifying their actions and throwing out nonsense, such as it's not actually stealing as the original is still with whomever, it's unbelievably insane. It exists because of the greed of the record industry, the greed of large-scale pirating, the ease and common nature now of the act itself and personal motivations such as popularity among certain groups, possible momentary media recognition etc. And it's too rampant and widespread. It's simply too huge a mess for the courts to deal with and in that with those numbers and the expense and manpower involved necessary at this time to curtail it... obviously there are more serious crimes for society to focus on. Besides, fuck musicians, right? If they didn't make enough already, then they probably suck anyway, right? "I ain't cryin' for no rich dude." Whatever. And who knows? What are our numbers on the torrent sites for this album? I don't know. So I don't know how or if it's affected us in terms of sales this time around. Maybe not, but with the economy and the core of our market, I'd think there's a possibility it has had a negative effect. Anyone?
Q: Axl, I'd just like to say I feel that you have captured the mood and feel of J.D Sallinger's "Catcher in the Rye" perfectly. Why did you chose this book to reference as regards to "Chinese Democracy"?
Axl: OK, I've never actually tried to put this into words this way before, and this'll probably get me in trouble with someone, but here goes...
The piano started while watching a documentary or A&E type show on Chapman and wanting to write something for Lennon and his family.
With the book, it started as fascination and curiosity with Holden Caufield Syndrome and what was or could possibly be in the book that obviously certain vulnerable people have seemed to become so passionate about and resort to outrageous public attempts or acts of violence. That and the question most have in regard to Lennon's death... Why?
Can't say I have those answers, but I feel our song pays the emotional tribute to John Lennon in the end that I'd wanted to write since the night he was killed and also since first listening to Elton and Bernie's "Empty Garden".
I read the book. I fell into a deep dark sleep. Went to the studio and sang as a joke what I refer to as the Holden parts off the top of my head and felt at the time, at least in my opinion, I had stumbled on a way of thinking that had a pattern and a flow but was broken up like a television station going out and coming back slightly off course intermittently and not making sense with its earlier portion.
Where this unease helped to justify or even demand taking action and feeling the power of taking that action against whoever your mind felt was somehow involved or the root of this unease and alienation. Accompanied by a calming surreal almost religious (but totally insane) vibe I think that if some were to experience having limited capabilities, insecurities or are mentally and emotionally challenged in some way could find a false sense of solace and take comfort in like being on some type of drugs or meds but with an added completely false sense of an imagined calling or purpose. It certainly could and very well often would feel better than some individuals real world or having to experience or live with a clearer perspective of their true reality... All of which, of course, could be imagined and hooked together by events like Lennon's murder, reading the book, wanting to write a song about someone being insane, John Lennon, Chapman, people shooting people and watching Mel Gibson's "Conspiracy"! And when I got home, not in any dramatic way, but more like cleaning off the dinner table, I threw my book away.
Don't know if any of that's really what any of that's about but that's how it hit me and just like an instant cake we got the basis for a song.
Q: What are your five favorite books?
Axl: "The Stand", "A Scanner Darkly", "The Mutant King", "The Zodiac", "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein".
Q: Will there ever be decent promo and interviews, etc. concerning this album, or is this it?
Axl: There were, in my opinion, well-thought-out plans and strategies that unfortunately were ignored once we were pressing CDs. There will be proper interviews and some are already scheduled for much later intentionally. Good idea, bad… we'll see. I'm happy the record's out; the rest… one nightmare at a time.
Q: What part of guitar work for "There Was A Time" is yours?
Axl: I wrote Robin's bit in the second verse. There's microscopic bits throughout usually woven down in the other guitars. The bits throughout the end, the basic power chord bit was originally mine. There's a ghost-like bit that formed the basis for the end vocal melody right before Robin's riff in one side in the outro before Bucket's solo and as it gets to the very end there's lots of little overdubbed bits woven in and out — very small, but structured bits.
Q: Which women influenced the writing of the new ballads.
Axl: Ha! We'll get to these a bit later as they're a bit more complicated than a simple answer of a few names, but most are composites and became much more about the song than particular individuals. Also, again, I'd like people to have a chance to develop their own relationship with the material a bit. Not dodging, as most of these answers will come out over time.
Q: Any plans on updating the website to make it more... fan-friendly? And what ever happened to the fan club thing?
Axl: I've started (again) recently to make an attempt to try and get something going there. It's been extremely frustrating. I've had ideas but former management went with theirs. Previous to what we have now, I've consistently had others attempt to pressure and railroad me into working with others that I chose not to as it was more about managerial control than a good website and not in my best interest, so the ideas get shelved and it generally just sits there. Plus, as frustrating as it was for everyone, it was not time to talk publicly. So it gets consistently shelved.
Q: What are your views on [VELVET REVOLVER's] "Contraband" and "Libertad"?
Axl: I'll save this one. These are obviously highly charged areas and I'd rather take things one step at a time.
Photo by George Chin: