On April 28 in Los Angeles, photographer Robert John, 41, sued GUNS N' ROSES frontman Axl Rose, 41, for allegedly refusing to honor an earlier contract in which Rose agreed to pay $80,000 for hundreds of photos of the band that John has taken since 1985. John claims that Rose has been keeping the photos since January.
A longtime friend of the group, John was known as the GUNS N' ROSES' "official" photographer from their earliest days as a struggling band in the clubs of Los Angeles to their early '90s status as one of the biggest rock acts in the world. Wherever the band went, from the studio to the stage and everywhere in between, John was there with them, eventually documenting the group's entire career in the widely-acclaimed 1993 book "Guns N' Roses - The Photographic History", which included a foreword written by Rose.
In a 1989 interview originally published in the long-defunct magazine Rock Scene, Robert explained how he connected with the Gunners and ended up becoming the band's official photographer and personal friend.
"The way I first met GUNS N' ROSES was that Izzy was in this local band in Hollywood that I used to work with, and we became friends," John recalled. "Then we lost touch for a while and I ran into him at the [Hollywood club] Troubadour one night. We started talking and he said, 'You gotta come down and check out my new band, GUNS N' ROSES.' So I thought, 'Okay, that sounds cool.' So I went down to their next gig and I thought they were really cool. I had seen Axl before in L.A. GUNS, which Izzy's band was opening for one night. He was playing with this little kid on stage [apparently referring to Tracii Guns — Ed.] who had braces and black hair, and then all of a sudden I saw this guy come down from the drum riser and he's in a gray suit jacket, with all this puffed up red hair. He jumped down on stage and he was like a maniac, plus he had this radical voice. I was really impressed so when Izzy told me that this Axl guy was in the band, I really wanted to check them out.
"Izzy asked me if I would take a few shots of the band and I said 'Sure.' I went down and shot them at a Country Club gig," John continued. "They wanted to see the photos afterwards and Izzy warned me that Axl was the pickiest. So I brought over a projector and my slides and met with Axl for the first time. We sat down, looked at the slides and he really liked them. He asked me if I would do a group session of the guys so we did, and from then on I've been working with them, cause the whole band was happy with my work.
"I used to go over to the old studio that they rehearsed in, this little pill box place about the size of my bedroom, and one day it was raining real hard and there was nobody there but Axl. They had this loft that they built from wood that they stole from construction sites, and they used to sleep in it and take girls up there all the time. So Axl was just there hanging out and we started talking and before we knew it we had been talking for about seven hours just about everything. We had so much in common, it was great, and we became good friends just from that, just from getting to know each other. Me and Slash, well, I never trusted him back then because he was like this little street-wise kid, and he used to question everything. But I soon realized from the questions he would ask that he was finding out information, which I liked. I thought that was real smart because he didn't want anybody working with the band that was gonna screw them over with money and stuff like that, even though there was no money back then..."
To view samples of Robert John's work, visit his official web site at this location.