Re: 1998: Chinese Whispers
In early 1998, Geffen Records dispatched A&R man James Barber to work with the band.
"Nothing else had worked, so Geffen figured they'd send me in to talk to Axl after I moved to Los Angeles. [...] No expense was spared; they were the biggest band in the history of the label and, even though everyone except Axl was gone, Geffen Records lived and breathed for another GNR album. [...] We desperately wanted the new album for Christmas 1998 and I had a year to get it finished." (James Barber, Poptones, 10/16/05)
"'In 1998 and 1999 you start getting a little bit nervous,' Mr. Rosenblatt, the executive who led [Geffen Records] after David Geffen's departure, said delicately. 'Edgar Bronfman [CEO of parent company Seagram] picks up the phone more than once. He wanted to know what was going on. You unfortunately have got to give him the answer, you don't know. Because you don't.'" (New York Times, 03/06/05)
On 02/10/98, Axl was arrested on a Phoenix airport on disorderly conduct. He'd missed his birthday party, apparently in order to visit Sharon Maynard, his physic advisor. Having gotten back to Los Angeles after the airport incident in Phoenix, Axl was business as usual.
"[Doug] Goldstein told Rolling Stone that [GNR] have recorded more than 300 hours' worth of material, and 'they each take a CD home, listen for cool parts, pick them out, and that's how they build songs.'" (Rolling Stone, 02/20/98)
"Some [bits] were three seconds long, some where three minutes long," recalls [studio engineer Dave] Dominguez. "Sometimes it was just a guitar lick. 'Oh, that's cool.' They were transferred to CD. Everything had an ID and a number, then the CDs were made for each member of the band. They could go, 'OK, on set four, CD three, idea 15, let's do something with that.' Then everybody would take their CD home, get the part and write something to that. It was intense." (What's On Dubai, 12/10)
"[Goldstein] estimates that Axl and Co. are 'three to five months away from actual recording' but says not to expect a record until 1999. [...] As for bassist Duff McKagan, Goldstein reports that the GN'R bass slot will be held open until McKagan - who's recently become a father - decides on his future plans." (Rolling Stone, 02/20/98)
Re: 1998: Chinese Whispers
As can be seen from his mugshot, Axl had, by this point, ditched the beard again and become slightly more recognizable.
"[On 26th/27th of] March 1998, he was spotted on the balcony of the Hollywood Palladium, watching Tool." (Kerrang, 08/21/99)
One of Axl's recent enlistings was in fact Billy Howerdel, who'd worked with Tool on their tour as a guitar tech and in the Aenima sessions as a Pro Tools technician. Tool was doing a four concert minitour at the time, which may have overlapped with his GNR duties.
"I wound up going into the studio with Guns N Roses. Just for an afternoon with Robin Finck from Nine Inch Nails who got asked to join Gn’R, and he called me to see if could come down and help program his sounds for that audition. It was just such an odd thing, you know? We kind of laughed about it just thinking about it. Guns n’ Roses, right? So we went there and it wound up being a project that I wound up feeling really attached to and really wanting to see it through. I became close with Axl, and stayed there for two and half years." (Billy Howerdel, Lithium Magazine, 04/14/11)
"I came in there initially to program some guitar sounds, and then wound up hitting it off with Axl, and then my job kind of migrated into the computer guy. I don't know what you would call me exactly. I kind of was there all night with Axl as he would work. The band came in during the day with a producer and would work most of the day, and then I would come in ten o'clock at night, say goodbye to those guys, Axl would show up later on, and then we'd do our thing all night and then do it the next day." (Billy Howerdel, Blabbermouth, 02/04/08)
Howerdel would come to serve as a jack of all trades in the new band.
"The first time I went [to audition, Axl] wasn't there. I auditioned, and, oddly enough, the two guys auditioning me were guys I would later be in two separate bands with... On guitar was Robin Finck, the guitar player who had just left Nine Inch Nails to do Guns N' Roses...
The guy that was playing bass, because they didn't have a bass player at the time, was Guns N' Roses' Pro Tools engineer at the time, Billy Howerdel, who would later do A Perfect Circle, but he was just the Pro Tools guy and he strapped on a bass and I had no idea. Who's this weird bass roadie?" (Josh Freese, PodAMatic, 04/13)
Howerdel was also responsible for introducing a future band member to Axl.
"[In early '98], I had been invited down to their studio to meet and hang out with the guys, the purpose being, as [Billy Howerdel] explained, they were looking for a producer or collaborator, and someone to bring some 'modern' sounds to the mix." (Chris Pitman, official website)
"I was introduced to them through Billy Howerdel, he worked for Tool for awhile. Billy’s just a fun guy, he was way into computers and stuff before many people were. He was doing recordings and playing a bunch of instruments, and was like myself, and he turned Axl on to the Lusk record, and Axl was way into the guitar sound and the orchestration we did." (Chris Pitman, Talking Metal, 11/08/08)
Re: 1998: Chinese Whispers
Ready to Rumbo
"Around the start of 1998 Mr. Rose moved the band that he had assembled to Rumbo Recorders, a three-room studio deep in the San Fernando Valley where Guns N' Roses had recorded parts for its blockbuster debut, 'Appetite for Destruction'. The crew turned the studio into a rock star's playground: tapestries, green and yellow lights, state-of-the-art computer equipment and as many as 60 guitars at the ready, according to people involved in the production. But Mr. Rose wasn't there for fun and games. 'What Axl wanted to do,' one recording expert who was there recalls, 'was to make the best record that had ever been made. It's an impossible task. You could go on infinitely, which is what they've done.'" (New York Times, 03/06/05)
"The recent edition of Metal Hammer reported that Axl had rented out the entire Rumbo recording studio in Hollywood because he became paranoid that others would hear the new GN'R stuff. He shelled out 2 million dollars to keep everyone away. To top it all of he never showed up even though he had his band come every day. As the magazine said, this is just a rumor..." (Metal Hammer, 07/04/99)
"I was a staff engineer at Rumbo Recorders. [...] Guns was coming in to do their next record, and they had no producer or engineer and [they] needed someone with experience, so I said 'yes', and [the studio manager] also said they would be writing for two months and then recording for two months and they would be it (haha) seven months later. [...] During that time they interviewed quite a few producers, and I had to give them a technical rundown of what was going on, which was pretty elaborate and insane." (Dave Dominguez, Sp1at, 02/07/05)
"Four producers are being considered for the project - which Goldstein describes as an 'updated nineties-rock sound with a little more technology thrown in' - including Scott Litt (R.E.M.), Steve Lillywhite (U2), Mark Bell (Bjork) and Youth (The Verve)." (Doug Goldstein, Rolling Stone, 02/20/98)
"Mike Clink was involved briefly while I was there. [...] Scott Litt came down to meet about the job, as did Jay Baumgardner (who produced Papa Roach; that's how I met him). Robbie Jacobs came down for a week to "try out" and the schedule and boredom nearly killed him (haha). There were one or two more [aside Youth] before Sean [Beavan] was hired but I can't remember who." (Dave Dominguez, 2004)
Re: 1998: Chinese Whispers
Send in The Replacements
Soon after their relocation to a new studio, Axl seriously began to round up a proper band.
"L.A. session drummers are fervently hoping there's truth to the rumor that Josh Freese has accepted or is about to accept an offer from Guns N' Roses. Freese is one of the most desirable skin beaters on the market and certainly one of the busiest. [...] Sources close to Freese confirm that he's been joining Axl Rose in the studio late at night while continuing to do his regular sessions in the daytime." (MTV, 03/06/98)
"When I got the call to go down and audition for Guns N' Roses, I was at a rehearsal place in LA, doing preproduction for a record, and I had a message on my phone from their manager and thought 'What?' I called him back and he asked me if I wanted to audition. But it seemed too big, like a bigger than life band. He was persistent and a couple of days later he said come and meet Axl and the guys.
I went down and auditioned for them, sick as a dog - I had eaten some dodgy seafood in London right before that, gotten on a plane and auditioned that night. I was vomiting all the way top the rehearsal. Axl was totally cool though, and very open-minded about music. He said: 'I hear you played with Devo; I really liked Devo and when I liked them, you got beat up for liking them.'
I thought this guy is really cool, it became obvious that he really listens to music, he was talking about artists all over the map. They invited me back again and from the beginning Axl was so nice and we got along and had a good time. He was completely open, so I decided to join." (Josh Freese, Modern Drummer, 03/03)
"'There's a market for people that work well and fast and can adapt quickly in the studio,' [Freese] says. 'I think a lot of drummers might be in a band and be great drummers, and what they do well is play that music. But they might not be able to step in and within an hour of meeting people, sit down and record a record and make it sound like a band. And make it sound comfortable.'" (Josh Freese, 2001)
"I signed a two-year contract... something saying that they're the priority. It was more like, 'Hey, we want to know that if you sign on this thing, you're not going to split in three months. Unless you want spend some time and money in hassle, or if you have a real reason to get out of it in a year, you're going to be in here and we can count on you.'" (Josh Freese, PodAMatic, 04/13)
"'They're paying Josh an obscene amount of money for two days of rehearsal a week,' says a source close to the musician. '[But] Josh has kind of an "I don't give a fuck" attitude about it.'" (Spin, 07/99)
"I didn't get a big signing bonus and I was not shopping for Ferraris on the next day." (Josh Freese, PodAMatic, 04/13)
"When I started with them I said, 'I'm going to work three days a week,' and they said, 'four.' Well, they said, 'five,' I said, 'three,' they said, 'four,' we compromised." (Josh Freese, Launch, 05/20/00)
"The first year ('98) I was there five nights a week, I'd drive from Long Beach up to the Valley. 9-10 at night and worked until 4, 5, 6 in the morning... I was playing records and doing sessions during the day, and then going there at night to do his thing." (Josh Freese, PodAMatic, 04/13)
"Every few months, say sources, somebody, if not everybody, would get fired - at least management could step in and resolve the issue.
'[Axl]'d be 'on' for a couple of weeks and then 'off' for a couple weeks', recalls Dave Dominguez, an engineer who started the sessions with Rose in the late nineties. 'He called in pretty much every day, though. He'd ask who was there, what they were doing.
He'd say to tell them that,
'I'm coming in, I'll be there in a while.'
I'd tell the band, 'Axl called and said he's coming in.'
[Oftentimes,] he'd never show up... [but when he did, Axl] would show up at 2AM, [or] 2.30AM, and no one would be around, he'd get upset.
'Where are they?'
'I don't know, they all left.'
Then he'd call the next day.
'OK, have everybody leave. Have them break everything down. We're done.'
...It took two days to break the room down because he fired everybody.'" (What's On Dubai, 12/10)
"A young Tommy Stinson and I in the studio working with Axl in 1998. Robin Finck made these balloon hats for us and sometimes when things got really crazy we'd order a pizza or something (now you know why 'Chinese Democracy' took so long to make.)" (Josh Freese, Facebook, 2012)
One of Freese's first contributions was to hook up a new bassist to audition, so that Howerdel would revert to Pro Tools full-time.
"I was doing a session with a friend of mine who played drums for GN'R at the time, Josh Freese. [...] He was joking about them needing a new bass player. I laughed and said I'd play bass. The next day, they called." (Tommy, Plain Dealer, 11/22/02)
"Stinson, formerly of the Replacements, has adamantly denied to press sources his ongoing involvement in the project but insiders confirm he's been hanging out in the studio." (MTV, 04/22/98)
"The former Replacements bassist 'hadn't worked in a long time' when Rose called, according to a source close to Stinson. 'Tommy didn't get nickel one from the Replacements,' the source says. '[So] he bought a used copy of Appetite, and learned the bass lines.'" (Spin, 07/99)
"I learned about four or five songs. A day or so after the audition, they called and said, 'If you want it, you're in.' And I took it." (Tommy, Plain Dealer, 11/22/02)
"I came around in '98, when the band was still writing the record. It was Paul Tobias and Robin Finck on guitar, Dizzy Reed and Chris Pitman on keys, Josh on drums, and me.
[...] We all just started hammering ideas out. [...] We were all left to our own devices to come up with individual instrumental parts. The broader song ideas had to be hammered out." (Tommy, Bass Player, 04/09)
"Another source says there's tension between [Tommy and Paul Huge] because Huge 'has the whole Guns attitude but he's never toured.'" (Spin, 07/99)
"There were guys who'd never ever made a record putting out their ideas. At first, those of us who'd actually made records thought their ideas sucked, but there were also some good ones. [...] We each had to give reasons for liking or disliking something – you couldn’t just be bull-headed. We had to function as a democracy or we’d end up hating each other. Collaborating was good for that. I think every one of us learned a lot from it." (Tommy, Bass Player, 04/09)
Re: 1998: Chinese Whispers
On May Day '98, Geffen Records officially acknowledged the departure of Slash and Duff from GNR.
"Since 1992, [GNR and Geffen Records] have executed various amendments to the Recording Agreement, including most notably, two amendments dated as of May 1, 1998.
One of these amendments [...] confirmed Slash's and Duff's departure from the band and their status as "Leaving Members" under the 1992 Recording Agreement, thereby relieving them of charges against their royalty accounts for the enormous recording costs and other expenses being incurred by Axl Rose in connection with the recording of the new Guns N' Roses studio album. Slash and Duff, like Stradlin and Adler before them, retained a royalty interest in masters created under the Recording Agreement prior to their departure from the band.
In the other May 1, 1998 amendment, [...] Axl Rose agreed, among other things, to deliver that new studio LP (which was even then long overdue under the Recording Agreement) no later than March 1, 1999 and received a substantial advance from Geffen in return." (Greatest Hits lawsuit document)
"The label paid Mr. Rose $1 million to press on with the album, with the unusual promise of another $1 million if he delivered "Chinese Democracy" by March 1 of the following year." (New York Times, 03/06/05)
Re: 1998: Chinese Whispers
This I Love Revisited
Axl was looking into breaking his silence by releasing This I Love (a song he'd first mentioned in 1993) on a film soundtrack. The film was called What Dreams May Come, and it premiered on 09/28/98. The soundtrack was released on 10/13/98, with (obviously) no new GNR tune in the fold.
"'This I Love' was supposed to be for a soundtrack to a Robin Williams movie awhile back. Thats the only reason any old track was even thought about by Axl, that track was never going be on the record." (Dave Dominguez, Sp1at, 02/07/05)
"When I knew I was gonna go in and record one of the lead parts on 'This I Love,' I would listen a few times without playing. I would listen to the track without playing guitar and just kinda try to hear what comes natural as far as starting low or starting high or where to begin and where to end up." (Robin, Ultimate Guitar, 01/17/14)
The track would become a contender for an album spot in 2000.
"Dawn Soler, the musical supervisor for the film "What Dreams May Come", [...] assured me that Axl 'was really into the film' and rather interestingly suggested that he 'wrote the song for it'. This contradicts an interview from 1994 where Axl said he had already written the song, which many fans speculated was about Dylan, the son of Axl's one time partner, Stephanie Seymour. However the film did not make the final cut despite Dawn's fondness of the Guns n Roses track, the reason she gave Sp1at was that 'the director was a pill and didn't get how cool it would be'." (Sp1at, 02/15/05)
While the original recording might've featured the TSI lineup, Axl quite possibly had the new lineup re-record the tracks. He would soon go on to more drastic measures than that.
Re: 1998: Chinese Whispers
Fountain of Youth
"If all goes according to the current plan - which is not a sure bet in the world of Guns n' Roses - Axl Rose will be going into the studio with with Killing Joke bassist Youth, the co-producer of The Verve's "Urban Hymns... Youth and the band are still months away from recording, however. Rose and cohorts are reportedly still in writing mode with no completed songs at this time." (MTV, 04/22/98)
"'When I walked into the studio, they were rehearsing the old songs to record for a greatest hits package,' says Youth. 'They were gonna do them exactly the same way. So my first project was to sort of dissuade Axl from doing that.'" (Spin, 07/99)
"I have re-recorded 'Appetite' [with] Josh Freese on drums, Tommy Stinson on bass, Paul Tobias on guitar, [...] and Robin Finck was on lead guitar, [...] with the exception of two songs [Anything Goes and You're Crazy], because we replaced those with 'You Could Be Mine,' and 'Patience,' and why do that? Well, we had to rehearse them anyway to be able to perform them live again, and there were a lot of recording techniques and certain subtle styles and drum fills and things like that that are kind of '80s signatures that subtly could use a little sprucing up... a little less reverb and a little less double bass and things like that." (Axl, MTV, 11/08/99)
Axl also recruited some outside help to modernize the sound.
"Engineer, mixer and remixer Critter is currently working in the studio with Guns N' Roses as a programmer. [...] He's previously worked with such acts as Filter, Liz Phair, the Cure, Marilyn Manson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and [Chris] Vrenna's former group Nine Inch Nails." (MTV, 07/21/98)
"It was at Ocean Way Studios with Jordan recording 'Below the Sliding doors' when I got the call from GNR. This was May 1998, and I had a friend who was working with Guns at the time. He said that Axl was a fan of LUSK and was really into the wierd guitar sounds, and Orchestration we did. There i met Axl, who was very gracious, respectful dude with that larger-than-life persona he's got, and would make you feel like you had been part of the family for years.
We sat in the control room all night listening to tons of songs and jam tapes that they were working on. Axl, along with Paul Tobias and Dizzy Reed were the core writers of the band at the time, and were writing some incredible stuff, you could tell they were in the right place exploring and reaching for the stars, so to speak." (Chris Pitman, official website)
Axl saw the re-recording of AFD as a sort of 'dress rehearsal' for writing a new GNR album with the lineup he'd only recently secured.
"At the beginning [the new band] didn't want to play [the old songs] [laughs]. They didn't want to play [them] that much, because they are musicians in themselves. They had a punk attitude like the old Guns N' Roses. But later it became fun for them, they began to appreciate the songs and enjoy playing them." (Axl, Rock & Pop FM, 01/22/01)
"Playing the original catalog songs kind of directed me to what I thought I wanted to hear Axl sing over and so I probably wasn't alone in that. So that kind of directed me to present the material I did." (Robin, Ultimate Guitar, 01/17/14)
"Learning the old Guns songs and getting them up, you know, putting them on tape, really forced everybody to get them up to the quality that they needed to be at. I don't know what I'm going to do with [the re-recorded AFD], exactly, when I would be putting that out. But you know, it has a lot of energy. [...] Once the energy was figured out by the new guys, how much energy was needed to get the songs right, then it really helped in the writing and recording process of the new record." (Axl, MTV, 11/08/99)
"We hadn't written songs or recorded for many years. There were band changes and there were many changes in the record company. [...] When we tried writing songs in the old style of Guns N' Roses, they sounded too old, they didn't sound so alive. We could not make that. And I think that that also passed with the old Guns N' Roses. The songs composed by the boys for another album many years ago, everything sounded old. Then we tried to explore to maintain the band alive." (Axl, Rock & Pop FM, 01/22/01)
"While I was talking to Jaz [Coleman, Killing Joke frontman], he was telling me that Youth has been asked to produce the next Guns n Roses album. He also told me that Geordie [White, KJ guitarist] had been asked to play session guitar on the album but had declined in the typical good-natured way that only Geordie can. (Read into that what you like - I cant say)" (Killing Joke Network Magazine #5, 07/98)
No stranger to turning down big offers, White auditioned for Faith No More in the mid-90's, ultimately declining the spot due to the band being "far too suburban" and that he "wouldn't dream of playing with any of you".
"Youth from Killing Joke was hired and fired. I met him before he was hired and never saw him again." (Dave Dominguez, 2004)
"[Youth] had "four or five" spells working with Rose in . [...] 'I went to his house and we started writing songs, strumming guitars in the kitchen', says Youth. 'That was a major breakthrough because it got him singing again which he hadn't done for a long time.' (Q Magazine, 05/01)
"He hadn't been singing for around 18 months. I think the record had turned into a real labour. He was stuck and didn't know how to proceed, so he was avoiding it." (Youth, The Times, 03/18/05)
Alluding that Axl hadn't recorded new vocal tracks for the '98 Appetite as of yet.
Axl opted for a more intimate studio setting before embarking to Rumbo.
"[In around June] I got the buzz, 'Hey, me and Sean are just finishing up putting a studio together up in Axl's guest house, and he wants you to come hang out", 'Yeah... and do what exactly?!' 'You know... just do what you do, recording, playing whatever!' 'Cool.... When do you want to do this?' 'You can come up tonite if you want to hang.'" (Chris Pitman, official website)
"He invited me up to his house, like a guest house that was made into a studio, and we wrote music there for like three years just me and him. It was a great neutral zone without people bugging you and a lot of great stuff came out of there." (Chris Pitman, Talking Metal, 11/08/08)
In CD's liner notes, Youth is credited for some preproduction work on Madagascar. Sure enough, that track had come about by then.
"I was up at his house for about a week or two, and I was setting up rack mounted samplers, and you had your fake orchestra with synthesizers. One would be the strings, one would be the brass, and I was setting that up for him, and I was going "now this module here, we’re going to us this for brass instruments and here you have horns…", and he was playing while I was switching the sounds, and I switched the sounds to French horn sound and he was playing this chord progression and I went to another sound, and he goes "oh no, go back to that one".
We went back and it was the French horn sound and he kept playing this progression and it sounded really cool and I turned around and turned on the tape machine and that ended up being the very intro for the song "Madagascar". And that’s just how that evolved and he just had this chord progression and all of the sudden it married with the French horn and it was their super-moody song and that was the start of that song. We actually recorded it really quickly up there at his house and he just sang unbelievably on it." (Chris Pitman, Talking Metal, 11/08/08)
"As the far as the songs go: 'Oklahoma' was pretty much written by the time they got to the studio... 'Ides of March' was a working title of one of the songs that came from a loop name that Dizzy came up with: I think they kept the name, but it's been years so I'm sure everything has changed by now." (Dave Dominguez, Sp1at, 02/07/05)
"Axl Rose has finally scheduled studio time in early August to begin recording with the revamped version of Guns 'N' Roses." (muzic.com, 07/10/98)
"Rose is laboring over a song with the working title 'Prostitute', according to Youth, but past successes weigh heavily on him." (Spin, 07/99)
"He had some brilliant ideas, but they really were just sketches. He really wanted to leave the past behind and make a hugely ambitious album, like Led Zeppelin's Physical Grafitti crossed with Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon." (Youth, The Times, 03/18/05)
"'They sold millions of records in a few years,' says the producer. 'He had a big crew of people in the studio... and I think that kind of pressure chokes creativity.'" (Youth, Spin, 07/99)
"Despite what you may have heard elsewhere, Guns N' Roses have not yet begun recording their much-rumored comeback album. Axl Rose and associates are scheduled to go into a Los Angeles studio later this month to begin tracking the album with one-named producer Youth at the helm." (muzic.com, 09/03/98)
"Geffen also offered [Youth] extra royalties if the recording came in before [03/01/99]." (New York Times, 03/06/05)
"When Youth ushered Rose back into the studio, progress ceased: So I said, 'Next time I come over I want to record the songs', and he said, 'You're pushing me too fast.' I had to pull out." (Q Magazine, 05/01)
"Axl was deeply unhappy. I sensed he was clinically depressed because he only worked from 9pm to 9am. He was living a hermit lifestyle. In the end, he told me he wasn't ready. He was trying to get to some spiritual level that would make him happy." (Youth, The Times, 03/18/05)
"Sources close to the GNR camp confirmed that [...] things just 'didn't work out' with [...] Youth, their last producing candidate. No details were available regarding his dismissal." (Rolling Stone, 09/20/98)
Re: 1998: Chinese Whispers
CD Mk. 1 in the works
After Youth'd tried and failed to get things rolling, a new producer was recommended for Axl by Robin and Billy Howerdel.
"According to insiders, [Sean] Beavan has been asked by Rose to get involved in the project, and the producer has accepted in principle, although details and contracts have yet to be worked out." (Rolling Stone, 09/20/98)
"I was approached by Billy Howerdel from A Perfect Circle. He was doing some programming there with Axl and running one of the computers for it. Robin Finck was playing lead guitar and so the two of 'em kind of approached me to come in and help out and do some production for it." (Sean Beavan, Ultimate Guitar, 05/06/15)
"They were great friends and it was good to work with them. I also met Tommy Stinson there (Replacements and GNR bassist) and we became great friends." (Sean Beavan, Fabryka, 08/15/06)
"Axl was really, really interested in working with me and doing some stuff together, which was really fun. Axl and I are the same age so we get along really well. We have similar influences... We're both big Alice Cooper and Queen fans. That was really fun." (Sean Beavan, Ultimate Guitar, 05/06/15)
"Sean Beavan was hired as producer when I left. I worked with him for about a week, showing him how things were set up." (Dave Dominguez, 2004)
"I brought in my friend Critter the engineer who had started engineering for them. Around that time, Chris Vrenna but Josh Freese started there who was a friend of mine." (Sean Beavan, Ultimate Guitar, 05/06/15)
"Recording and programming has been administered by Critter [aka Jeff Newell], an engineer/remixer, who's recently remixed material for Manson, God Lives Underwater and Sheryl Crow. Critter is expected to remain on board once the sessions get underway, assuming they actually do, but, like Beavan, his exact role has yet to be determined." (Rolling Stone, 09/20/98)
"Axl Rose... is scheduled to enter a Los Angeles studio with... Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails producer Sean Beavan... this weekend... According to Geffen publicist Bryn Bridenthal, Rose's motivation to roll up his sleeves and grind out new music may be stronger than ever now because he hopes to revisit the nation's arenas and stadiums with new material next summer." (Rolling Stone, 11/14/98)
Not to mention he had a due date on the album set for 03/01/99. A&R man James Barber saw his one-year working relationship with the band come to an end without an album, although he maintains one existed by then - even if there'd virtually been no producer on the material prior to inclusion of Beavan late into the year.
"The Robin Finck/Josh Freese/Tommy Stinson/Billy Howerdel/Dizzy Reed version of the album that existed in 1998 was pretty incredible. It still sounded like GNR but there were elements of Zeppelin, Nine Inch Nails and Pink Floyd mixed in." (James Barber, Poptones, 10/16/05)
"The time I was on [the songs], they were very industrial sounding with the old GN'R elements on top. Axl had some vocal ideas down, but not many." (Dave Dominguez, 2004)
"There's nothing out there right now that has that kind of scope. Axl hasn't spent the last several years struggling to write Use Your Illusion over again. [...] An artist [like Axl], who's had as much success with Guns N' Roses as he has, gets to a point in his career where he can settle into one sound and do it over and over again, usually with diminishing returns. Axl is determined not to do that. There's a sort of ruthlessness about pushing Guns N' Roses to grow, and to find some depth in their music, and to evolve." (James Barber, Rolling Stone, 05/11/00)
"The record just needed a lead vocal and a mix. [...] If Axl had recorded vocals, it would have been an absolutely contemporary record in 1999." (James Barber, Poptones, 10/16/05)