A few hours before GUNS N' ROSES arrived in China for the start of the band's Chinese Democracy World Tour (they will be performing tonight at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Center), frontman Axl Rose conducted a brief interview from which the following excerpts are provided:
On launching the tour in China:
Axl: "It's a dream realized. A dream come true. The right time, the right place and the whole thing came about by chance. I guess it's meant to be. This was something we could not turn down. The most exciting thing is getting the band out there to begin doing some shows and these are some big shows. It's a way for us to play for a lot of people and have a lot of fun. It's also a warm up so we can have an understanding of how to start our Fall tour. And that's a warm up for the Spring tour. This thing is starting now and much like Use Your Illusion that went for two and a half years, this thing is going to go off and on for the next two or three years and we'll see how it goes. We're really looking forward to seeing all the different people in the different countries and this is a great opportunity."
On the new band line-up:
Axl: "Okay, let's see. We have Mini Me and Nipsy Russell and Charles Nelson Riley and Colin Powell. Just kidding. It's nearly the same as it's been: Dizzy Reed (keyboards), Chris Pitman (keyboards), Brain (drums), Buckethead and Robin (guitar), Tommy Stinson (bass), Richard Fortus (guitar) and myself. I'm very excited to do these shows. Being at the rehearsals with the guys was just really exciting."
Regarding those who are skeptical as to whether or not GUNS N' ROSES will actually be performing:
Axl: "To the ones who are negative and want to see either myself or the new band fall on their faces, personally I can't pass up an opportunity to upset so many of them in one quick swoop. I get misty-eyed just thinking about it. I feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside! But seriously...this is our tour. This is a collection of performances I've agreed to. That I have personally authorized not someone else's good intentions gone awry or a reckless promoter's personal agenda. These shows are important to us, and for better or worse, we'll be there. For those who've had my back and are down by us with even a modicum of understanding we hope to give you our best, and look forward to seeing you on this little intro jaunt."
Regarding the upcoming album, Chinese Democracy:
Axl: "I gave into a lot of pressure on Illusion, both internally in GUNS and externally in the press, [and] those albums suffered as a consequence — it's not something I'm too excited to have to live with again. There are a lot of new songs that were just done in the last year that we feel that, 'Okay, well that bumps a lot of stuff off the previous list, but it's time to stop that now and wrap up the baby. It feels right, the timing, and a lot of things. We've sorted it down to what songs are on the record. What the sequence of the songs is. The album cover art is ready. Blah, blah, blah. If you're waiting...don't. Live your life. That's your responsibility not mine. If it were not to happen, you won't have missed a thing. If in fact it does, you might get something that works for you — in the end you could win on this either way. But if you're really into waiting, try holding your breath for Jesus 'cause I hear the payoff may be that much greater."
Regarding now apparently-former guitarist Paul Tobias:
Axl: "The public gets a different story from the other guys – [former members] Slash [guitar], Duff [McKagan, bass], Matt [Sorum, drums] - who have their own agendas. The original intentions between Paul and myself were that Paul was going to help me for as long as it took to get this thing together in whatever capacity that he could help me in. So when he first was brought into this, he was brought in as a writer to work with Slash. At the time those guys never suggested one name. Nobody else. Ever.
"Paul was one of the best people we knew who was both available and capable of complimenting Slash's style. You could bring in a better guitar player than Paul. You could bring in a monster. I tried putting Zakk Wylde with Slash and that didn't work. It brought out some interesting things in Slash, but it was a different approach that ended up being overpowering and didn't bring out the best in Slash. It brought out some interesting things and it would've worked to do some songs. But Paul was only interested in complementing Slash, laying down a foundation of a riff or something. That would accent or encourage Slash's lead playing. Now, whether or not Paul was going to be officially on the album or on the tour, that really wasn't an actual consideration at the time. It was in the air as a possibility, but Paul was a friend trying to help us and he had a huge respect for Slash. He is and this is the bottom line a good man and that's the reality behind things. That doesn't change what took place with old GUNS. I feel that some of the recordings we did in that limited amount of time had some of the best playing that Slash had done at least since Illusion. I was there. I know what I heard and it was pretty exciting."
Axl: "Originally, I intended to do more of an Appetite-style recording but with the changes in the band's dynamics and the band's musical influences at the time, it didn't appear realistic. So, I opted for what I thought would or should've made the band, and especially Slash, very happy. Basically, I was interested in making a Slash record with some contributions from everybody else. There'd still be some chemistry and some synergy happening and whatever dynamics anyone else could bring in to the project. It seemed to me that anytime we got close to something that would work, it wasn't out of opinion that Slash would go, 'Hey, it doesn't work', but it was nixed simply because it did work. In other words, 'Whoa, wait a minute. That actually might be successful, we can't do that.' People like to call me paranoid. It has nothing to do with paranoia — it was to do with reality. If the material were strong enough for me to sink my teeth in, then I would still be in a certain public position in regards to GUNS, we'd have possibly still held a certain popularity with the public as I have previously been fortunate enough to have had. Slash and his ex-wife Renee and his security guy and closest confidant at the time, Ronnie Stalnacker, could not live with that. It's not something Slash could live with. Slash chose not to be here over control issues. Now people can say, 'Well, Axl, you're after control of the band too.' You're damn skippy. That's right. I am the one held responsible since day one. When it comes to GUNS N' ROSES, I may not always get everything right, but I do have a good idea about getting things from point A to point B and knowing what the job is that we have to do. Within those parameters, I give everyone as much freedom to do what they want — something Slash has verified in several interviews. Had Slash stepped up and written what we captured glimpses of, it would have created an environment that was beyond Slash's ability to control. He did not want to do that or put himself through the rigors of taking the band to that level even if he was capable of writing it. Was he capable of doing it? Absolutely 100%. I think that some of the riffs that were coming out of him were the meanest, most contemporary, bluesiest, rocking thing since AEROSMITH's Rocks. The 2000 version of AEROSMITH Rocks or the 1996 AEROSMITH Rocks by the time we would have put it out. I don't know if I would have wanted to even do a world tour at the time, but I wanted to put that record together, and could we have done it? Yes. It's not something I would want to approach (without Slash) because at the time there was only one person that I knew who could do certain riffs that way. We still needed the collaboration of the band as a whole to write the best songs. Since none of that happened, that's the reason why that material got scrapped. If one were to say well then why not do it now there are several reasons. 1) My band, too much time, too much effort and hardship. Confidence in our material. Excitement in watching this grow and being a part of the whole experience. 2) Money. You get what you pay for and nothing's free. Can you cover the cost of this venture and its financial potential that I am just supposed to walk away from and for what? To where? I do not believe in any true effort or potential regarding most of my past relationship from the other party or parties, creatively or emotionally. Without that, the money from a reunion doesn't mean much, and though I'm sure the alumni is up for it, for me it would be as, or more, lacking than it was during our attempts to work together previously. As a friend and former friend of Slash said to me in regards to working with Slash, 'You can only do so many pull-ups.' This is my shot and you can root for me to fail all you want, but there is simply way too much put into this to cater to someone else's selfish needs and destroy people's dreams I truly care about, including my own. Not to mention that, though I've fought what feels like the heart of the nature of this entire industry, my own people would probably eat me alive if I opted for a lesser course. 3) Slash has lied about nearly everything and anything to nearly everyone and anyone. It's who he is. It's what he does. Duff's support for the man, though understandable in one sense in regard to his circumstances, is inexcusable, and furthers my distance from the two of them. For me, Matt doesn't figure into the equation, and for as much as I was a friend to him, he was incapable of reciprocating, and life is much better without such an obvious albatross. Don't get me wrong, I'm not taking anything away from the alumni in regard to their prior performances on record or touring to support the albums. I know how I was treated, and more importantly, I know how they treated others during both of these things — it's not a way anyone should be forced or even asked to work. And for the record, I'm referring to Slash and Matt in regards to their actions and behavior, Duff played more of a supporting role (for reasons I've never understood). For the fans to attempt to condemn me to relationships even only professional with any of these men is a prison sentence and something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. I'd say my parole is nearly over. I'm practically a free man and if you don't like it you'll have plenty of time to get used to the idea."
On Richard Fortus replacing Paul Tobias:
Axl: "Paul helped us a lot in the writing and the recording of this record and to me was a vital part of not only the band but also my life. The world tour really wasn't his cup of tea whereas he's much more comfortable in a studio setting. We're fortunate to have found Richard who has this vibe kind of like [former guitarist] Izzy [Stradlin] but with amazing feel. The first thing I heard Richard play was the beginning of 'Stray Cat Blues' by theSTONES and he did it with the right feel. Richard likes to play rhythm. He's an amazing lead player and very technically skilled. He really likes the pocket that Brain sets and the two of them click with Tommy so we finally have the real deal rhythm section, as Richard is a proven professional. Basically, Richard's the guy that we always were looking for. I think that we'll go on to write some very interesting things with Richard and he's already done some rhythm work and some leads on the album."
About the many rumors surrounding GUNS N' ROSES:
Axl: "People talk about player haters. Well, I don't think it pays to be a 'hater - hater.' You've got the haters out there but the guys in this band it just rolls off their shoulders because they take a certain pride in their work. They're hungry and they want to do this for all the right reasons. They want to get this material out there to the people. Now that we feel that we have clarity as to the album we're trying to make, we're wrapping it up. We've had every obstacle and every strange occurrence that you can have and for us to be playing Hong Kong in a few days is a big step. Everyone's excited and everyone's nervous. As Dizzy put it, 'Oh no, we're gonna have the Red Army between us and the plane…'"
GUNS N' ROSES are confirmed to play the following dates as part of their Chinese Democracy World Tour:
Aug. 14 – Hong Kong Exhibition Hall
Aug. 17 - Japan Tokyo, JAP @ Chiba Marine Stadium, Summer Sonic
Aug. 18 - Japan Osaka, JAP @ WTC Open-air Stadium, Summer Sonic
Aug. 23 – UK @ Leeds Festival
Aug. 24 – BEL @ Pukkelpop Festival
Aug. 26 – London, UK @ Docklands Arena