Re: 2002: Chinese Whispers
The Desperate Trail
In January, Paul Westerberg contacted Tommy Stinson on a minor reunion for their former band, The Replacements.
"Last winter the Internet was alight with rumors of a Stinson/Paul Westerberg tour '” one that would, in typically perverse fashion, have retraced the steps of 1959's tragic Buddy Holly/Ritchie Valens/Big Bopper 'Winter Dance Party' package." (Metro Times Detroit, 08/20/03)
Historically, the Winter Dance Party is divided in half due to the tragic plane crash midway. The full lineup performed in between Jan 23rd and Feb 2nd, while the remaining dates ran from Feb 3rd to 15th. In a moment of morbid ingenuity, The Replacements would've probably hit the road on 02/03/02.
"[Westerberg hints] that some very influential someone kiboshed the surprise Replacements reunion he tried assembling in February, a just-for-kicks tour that would have retraced Buddy Holly's unfinished steps on the ill-fated Winter Dance Party jaunt of 1959. 'I think Tommy was advised not to do it, if you can make sense of that,' Westerberg tells us. 'When I called him, he was anxious and interested in a wild idea like that, and then suddenly had a change of heart. So go figure.'" (CDNow, 04/16/02)
"'It got as serious as one kind of funny phone call,' recalls Stinson of the Westerberg-proposed jaunt. 'We joked about it and I came back and said, 'I really don't have time to do it right now, but thanks anyway.' And that was the end of it.
Then somehow that turned into 'Axl wouldn't let him do it!' and all this bullshit that [Paul] put out in the press. It was really fucked. I can't say it made me real happy; it didn't make Axl very happy either. But in reality it never got any further than the one conversation.'" (Metro Times Detroit, 08/20/03)
Whatever the truth, the tour would've been deceptively close to certain someone's birthday, and he had other things to worry about already.
Re: 2002: Chinese Whispers
A Man Alone
In February, Interscope reps met with Axl and RTB at The Village. The label was having their first update since the Zutaut dismissal in November.
"Interscope dispatched a senior talent executive, Mark Williams, to oversee the project." (New York Times, 03/06/05)
"I went to the studio [in mid-February] and heard 41 songs... from the 60 or 70 [Axl]'s working on... You're gonna be blown away when you hear them." (Guns management 'spokesperson', Kerrang, 03/09/02)
The Zutaut -era album seemed to deliver the goods. However...
"Maybe turning 40 is getting to him, but we hear that Axl Rose (who passed that age milestone on Feb. 6) has been on a firing spree, the latest victim being producer Roy Thomas Baker." (CDNow, 02/12/02)
The details surrounding RTB's dismissal are sketchy, as some have suggested he was fired 'by accident', after an apparent misunderstanding.
"A spokesperson for RTB offered up the usual 'no comment,' followed by a cryptic, 'You know how these things are, it's cool.'" (CDNow, 02/12/02)
RTB's line was said to be that he'd be 'fired only once'. Whatever the reason, sources close to the band have said he was kept on the payroll for months after he'd walked out, with hopes of him returning and finishing the job.
"All this stuff in the papers is rubbish. Axl's got himself together and he's making an incredible, important record." (Guns management 'spokesperson', Kerrang, 03/09/02)
"Needless to say, the label wants the record done. They've been pouring millions into the project for years, the only saving grace being their books technically didn't start showing the loss until they inherited the already multi-million dollar old project from Geffen, whose share was written off when the label was folded into Interscope/Universal." (CDNow, 02/12/02)
Williams, the latest A&R Man, had a notable gap in his otherwise productive resume in around 2002. After leaving the project, he would launch the solo career of No Doubt vocalist Gwen Stefani, sign M.I.A. to Interscope and be selected the #1 in the World 100 A&R chart by HitQuarters in 2005.
The album was now allegedly scheduled for the second half of 2002. From the looks of things, they were still keeping within Zutaut's estimate for a September release.
Re: 2002: Chinese Whispers
Fall for Grace
In late April, the band announced three shows, all four months away. August 17th and 18th were set for appearances at the Japanese SummerSonic festival, while the 23rd was for Carling Leeds Festival in the UK. Rumbling was ongoing as for the album.
"An insider at the band's management company, Sanctuary, has told Metal Hammer.co.uk that work on the new GN'R album 'Chinese Democracy' has been completed. 'An album exists,' said the source, 'and we expect to have it released before the end of the year. Word is that it's an awesome record.'" (Metal Hammer, 04/25/02)
In May, the guitar player who was approached in late '99 to replace Robin was called to replace Paul Huge.
"I had done a few sessions with Tommy Stinson (bassist from The Replacements) and Brain (ex-drummer from Primus). Tommy and I had been pretty good friends for awhile so when they were looking for someone, Tommy called and asked if I wanted to audition.
At the time I was on the road in Europe [with Enrique Iglesias] so I had to fly from London to L.A. and then back to Ireland during a two-day break [May 17th-18th, 2002]. Got off the plane and went straight to the audition and then got back on a plane!" (Fortus, Anderson Guitars, 04/20/03)
"The first thing I heard Richard play was the beginning of 'Stray Cat Blues' by the Stones and he did it with the right feel." (Axl, GNROnline, 08/14/02)
"I was just getting the sound, and when you play something you play a riff or whatever. You’re doing something familiar to get the sound in the amp the way you want it to sound. That’s just one of those riffs. I was just playing the beginning of it, not even thinking about it. Then Axl was like, 'Whoa!' He was like, 'Wow, "Stray Cat Blues"! That’s big points.'" (Richard Fortus, Ultimate Guitar, 11/26/08)
In mid-June, more dates were announced. A US tour was now rumored to take place.
"Guns n' Roses will begin an overseas tour on August 14th in Hong Kong, which will include the Summer Sonic Festival in Tokyo and Osaka. The band will then head to Europe to play the Pukkelpop Festival in Belgium, the Carling Festival in Leeds, and two additional shows in London. G n' R are then planning to return to the U.S. for a tour to run from September to December." (Rolling Stone, 06/14/02)
The Leeds show would remain in doubt as the organizers experienced difficulty in obtaining the necessary licenses. Controversy seemed to follow GNR to their first European show in nine years, even though this was to be counted into non-related instances.
However, the album was said to have a release date - and lo and behold, it did indeed match Zutaut's prediction. It also matched the previous reports that the band would embark on a US tour in September, conveniently to tour behind the album.
"Guns 'n' Roses 'Chinese Democracy' has been rescheduled for release September 2, almost three years after the original release date. Axl Rose has recorded over 70 songs for this record with various producers." (Undercover News, 06/24/02)
"Guns N' Roses' record company and management has told Launch that rumors that the band's forthcoming album, Chinese Democracy, was to be released Labor Day weekend are untrue. A spokesperson for Interscope/Geffen spoke to the band's management, who replied to the unsubstantiated rumor, 'Where are they getting this from?'" (Launch, 06/25/02)
So, Axl speaks to his management, who speak to the label representatives, who comment to the press? Do it the hard way. But as it turned out, the state of the release was sketchy at best.
Re: 2002: Chinese Whispers
In the summer, orchestrations were ordered for a total of eight tracks.
"Marco [Beltrami] recently was asked to provide orchestral arrangements for the upcoming Guns N Roses album." (Marco Beltrami official site, 10/17/02)
"[A&R executive] Mark Williams suggested Marco Beltrami, among others, to play strings on the album." (Axl, Billboard, 02/05/09)
"[GNR] was sort of just work for hire. [...] I met with Axl and he played me these songs, asked me my ideas about them, and I told him what I thought they needed. They gave me four songs to orchestrate. [...] A song called 'Seven,' which is the one [...] I actually wrote a guitar part [on]. There was one called 'Thyme,' one called 'The General,' one called 'Leave Me Alone.'" (Marco Beltrami, IGN, 07/20/03)
If the Illusion records are anything to go by, back then Axl begun recording the vocals and adding the orchestrations and whatnot to the songs after the basic tracks had been recorded.
"They had finished tracks [...] and then I added orchestral stuff on top of it. [...] A couple of them I did more than orchestrating, I actually wrote some melodies and stuff. [...] The music was eclectic and at the time that I was doing it [...] they pretty much had the band tracks down, [but] there were no lyrics on the songs that I was working on. [...] I thought [the album] was coming out [in] September ." (Marco Beltrami, IGN, 07/20/03)
As Beltrami says he assumed the album would come out in September, he most likely worked in the project during July at the latest. Amusingly, he seemed to get the same release date information as others. And he wasn't the only one.
"Paul Buckmaster, a British arranger [...] met Rose in July at LA's Village Recorder studio complex. 'Axl was supposed to be there at 3pm, but turned up at 5,' says Buckmaster. [...] 'Axl [had] recently returned from Malaysia or Indonesia. [...] He [...] ran me through four songs that he wanted to put strings over. [...] We'd be listening to a guitar part and he'd say, 'That's not nearly loud enough'. Anyone else would have said that it was the loudest guitar sound ever recorded.'" (The Times, 03/18/05)
"According to Buckmaster's official discography/list of credits, which can be viewed at this location, he has served as the arranger and conductor on the tracks 'Blues', 'TWAT', 'Madagascar' and 'Prostitute'." (Blabbermouth, 11/23/04)
"Prostitute is a mid-up, kind of biting, aggressive rhythm section; the way I wrote for the string section (32-piece, consisting of ten 1st Violins, eight 2nd Violins, six violas, and eight cellos) gives the song another dimension of, ice and fire, kind of powerful." (Paul Buckmaster, Sp1at, 05/29/05)
As with the UYI's, Axl appeared to be nearing the finishing line as the tour crept closer. Once again, he seemingly had no qualms in possibly dropping the album while on the road.
"If Mr. Rose appeared more remote, his vision of the project became more grandiose, people involved with the band said. [...] He now spoke of releasing not merely one album but a trilogy. And he planned one very big surprise." (New York Times, 03/06/05)
"The 2002 MTV Video Music Awards has announced its first batch of performers and presenters for its Aug. 29 show at Radio City Music Hall in New York. While the much rumored Guns N' Roses performance is not on that list (at least not yet), P. Diddy and Shakira are." (CDNow, 07/30/02)
In between late June and mid-July, the second London date (08/27/02) had been wiped away before it was officially confirmed. It would certainly seem feasible that this was done in order to accommodate the band's overseas traveling schedule, as the VMA's would occur on 08/29.
Re: 2002: Chinese Whispers
As the tour start grew nearer, plans were put in doubt once again.
"It doesn't look like Guns N' Roses will be touring North America in September after all. According to a report out of Indonesia, the band will be performing there in late September, following a tour of Australia. Indonesian promoter Tommy Pratama told the local digital publication Detikcom that he's had to reschedule the concert three times, from Sept. 7 to Sept. 13 to the current date of Sept. 29, but he is optimistic the booking is now firm. He noted that the group was expected to be in Australia Sept. 11-25, and in Korea on the 27th. The popular rumor had been that a U.S. tour would be kicking off Sept. 2." (CDNow, 08/05/02)
It would seem the plan so far had been to finish up the album, do a minor warm-up tour in Asia and Europe (starting fittingly in China), return to the States for the Video Music Awards, celebrate the album release and begin a full tour in the midst of the CD release. Now, they were about to detour through softer markets, buying themselves at least another month before the assumed return to the US. But what for?
"Promoter Tommy Pratama has confirmed to Undercover News that he is in negotiations to bring G'n'R to Indonesia and that it will happen after their Australian tour. Pratama says he was initially talking about touring the band next month, but they have decided to move dates to January / February 2003 to promote the album Chinese Democracy.
[...] The comments confirm news early this year that the long awaited Chinese Democracy is indeed ready for release. Gunners had hoped to release the album in September but the record is now scheduled for November, according to Pratama." (Undercover News, 08/12/02)
In a week, the September slate was wiped clean. On the day the September cancellations were made official, Axl had already arrived to China. His cohorts would put out a press release following the performance in Hong Kong. All bets were off and the tour hadn't even begun.
"[This is] 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 Illusions 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.
[...] Paul [Huge] 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.
[...] 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." (Axl, GNROnline, 08/15/02)
As Axl had been vocal about the 2001 cancellations being the record company's fault, it's certainly good to hear he'd now gotten abreast of the matter and personally agreed to tour. At this point, there's no doubt whether he personally wanted to release the album in September to accommodate a long road trip. It also alludes that Richard Fortus was hired as first and foremost a touring member, as Huge seemingly wouldn't had wanted to spent a good while of the next few years traveling with the band.
"Guns N' Roses will go back into the studio immediately following the [August] dates to put the final touches on the forthcoming 'Chinese Democracy' album. 'I gave into a lot of pressure on Illusions both internally in Guns and externally in the press, 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'. [...] 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, [...] but it's time to stop [adding new songs] now and wrap up the baby.." (Axl, GNROnline, 08/15/02)
"The first record, everything was written. I went in and rerecorded parts, but it was all written before I got in. It’s funny because that was a big part of why I was brought in. It was because of the writing. I think Axl, he wants a band that can write with him." (Richard Fortus, Ultimate Guitar, 11/26/08)
"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. [...] 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.'" (Axl, GNROnline, 08/15/02)
Certainly, the album was supposed to be ready at that point. However, as there is still work to be done, Axl seemed rather defensive and sounded as if he'd answered same question more than once already. His stance seemed to be that he would not be forced by the management, the record label or any other party to finish up beforehand.
Rather than to cancel the already-booked performances at the VMA's and in North America, Axl then agreed to press on. One question remained: Could the album be completed in September?
Re: 2002: Chinese Whispers
Made in Hong Kong
On 08/14, at the tour opener in China, Axl proved the cover art was indeed ready.
"Before [GNR] played [CD], [Axl] told a little anecdote why the new album is called 'Chinese Democracy'. He said it was because he saw a photo taken in Hong Kong, which he's using as the new album cover. And then he showed it on the video screens, and it was a black and white picture of a bicycle with a basket, and in the wall behind it, someone had grafittied 'Guns N' Roses'!!! He said 'I didn't paint that myself, so one of you motherfuckers out there must have did it!'" (Fan review)
"At one point, that was going to be the cover of the record - I'm not sure if it's now. This one guy... he was my keyboard tech at the time... Michael... and I mean he was in China at the time and he saw that and took a picture and showed it to Axl." (Dizzy, Metal Sludge, 01/29/06)
By 08/23, the first European show at the Carling Leeds Festival, controversy would raise its ugly head again.
"Guns N' Roses show at Leeds Carling Weekend was delayed by over an hour last night resulting in a 'very substantial overrun' for festival organisers to deal with. The band were due headline the Main Stage, due on at 10pm following The Prodigy [who'd end at 9.30pm]. However, the stage was running approximately half an hour late." (NME, 08/24/02)
"From the first band all the way through the day, the set changes kept getting longer and longer. Prodigy was supposed to go on until 9.30pm, but didn't end up leaving the stage until 10.10pm. [...] We had out normal 45-minute set change." (Doug Goldstein, NME, 08/27/02)
Goldstein omitted the detail that GNR, like The Prodigy, were scheduled for a 30-minute set change. Therefore, GNR should've originally been able to take the stage at around 10.40pm. With nine bands in the lineup before GNR, an overall forty minute delay in set changes meant approximately five extra minutes per change.
"The running delay was further compounded by the vast amount of equipment between [The Prodigy and GNR]. As a result the Guns N' Roses crew were not able to take control of the stage until 10.30 pm to begin their preparations for the band's set." (GNROnline, 08/27/02)
"[GNR arrived] after 11pm - over an hour behind schedule. The Gunners then played a set running to almost two hours, not finishing until just before 1am." (NME, 08/24/02)
Apparently, the intended curfew time was at 12.00pm, which equalled a two-hour set, a generous amount of time for a festival headliner.
"Eyewitnesses claim that at about 12.15am, just before 'November Rain', Axl announced the council and promoters wanted him to finish the show." (NME, 08/24/02)
"Festival organiser Melvin Been [...] risked going to jail [...] if he did not shut down the show. Myself and my partner Merck, and our production manager were in his office during the GN'R set, and I saw this man, who had been a gentleman to us from the inception of our committing to play the event, in great emotional turmoil and unrest." (Doug Goldstein, NME, 08/27/02)
Axl's reactions hardly alleviated his distress.
"Melvin Benn [...] said in a statement: "It was a very unusual night which due to technical problems resulted in a very substantial overrun. We took a good number of steps to minimise the impact this would have on the local environment and we do not expect this to happen again. In view of the many thousands of fans that had waited diligently for the first Guns N' Roses appearance in nine years, and the potential consequences of that meant an overrun became the only option." (NME, 08/24/02)
A potential disaster had hurled in the air above the band and their UK debut.
On 08/26/02, during the last European show in Docklands Arena, London, the album issue was brought up again.
"There's been some concern. That if we play five or six new songs, then there can't that many more on the album. Au contraire, mon frére. We're just playing the songs we're not considering putting out as singles or anything. So, you'll get 18 songs, and about 10 extra tracks. And when that, when the record company feels that has run its course, then you'll get it all over again. By that time, I should be done with the third album. So we'll see if all goes well boys and girls." (Axl, Docklands, 08/26/02)
A total number of around 60-70 songs was said to have been in the works at the time, with 41 of them A-listed. Axl's numbers implied that after CD would be out along with the extra tracks, there'd be around 13 tracks left on the A-list, with another 20-30 on the B-list. Another album (without another EP) with the same amount of material would've left 15-25 songs in reserve, which would've been sufficient for three separate albums.
The B-sides weren't exactly a new idea for Axl.
"I want five B-sides [for Use Your Illusion] - people never listen to B-sides anymore - and that'll be the back of another EP. We'll say it's B-sides, you know, plus there should be four extra songs for an EP, if we pull this off." (Axl, Kerrang, 04/21/90)
Re: 2002: Chinese Whispers
'Fucked up and out of place'
On 08/28/02, the band went through a secret rehearsal at the Radio City Music Hall, New York, gearing up for the VMA's.
"We didn't have what we were doing on stage worked out until [...] the day before the show." (Axl, WRIF, 11/21/02)
"[MTV Executive VP] Dave [Sirulnick] came to me and said, 'You should really come over to see this.' It was the night before the show, and they were doing a rehearsal, and it was Axl. And you just thought, 'Where’s he been? What decade are we in?' And he had this big band - and they were a great band, you know - but he was doing Guns N’ Roses material, and they were great. It really was a surprise." (Kurt Loder, MTV, 11/22/08)
The original idea would've likely been to play the first single off CD, as the album release would've occurred within a week.
"At MTV's annual awards show [on 08/29/02], publicists buzzed through the audience whispering about a big finale." (New York Times, 03/06/05)
"The day of the show, they didn't let us go down that street. I had to get out of the car, run past the police, and they're telling me I have to stop, and I'm like, 'I've gotta sing.' And the best part was, as I'm running down the street, I had to run past all the people lined up to get into the building, and they're going, [puts on dumb rock fan voice] 'Hey, there goes KID ROCK.' I thought that was pretty funny. [...] I had, like, police chasing me down the street, and then our security and MTV had to clear it with them, but... It was very interesting." (Axl, WRIF, 11/21/02)
"And with just minutes to go in the broadcast, a screen lifted away to reveal the band and Mr. Rose, in cornrows and a sports jersey, looking strikingly young. The musicians burst into 'Welcome to the Jungle,' one of the original band's biggest hits, and the crowd went wild. But on television Mr. Rose quickly seemed out of breath and out of tune. He ended the performance, which included the new song 'Madagascar' and the original band's hit 'Paradise City' in a messianic stance, raising his arms and closing his eyes. He left the audience with a cryptic but tantalizing message: 'Round one.'" (New York Times, 03/06/05)
As can be heard, the VMA medley did no favors for Axl, as the WTTJ section kept asking for long wails with virtually no guitar solos in between. Thus Axl kept losing breath in between verses, resulting in a lackluster performance.
"Axl Rose brought Guns N' Roses back to the MTV Video Music Awards Thursday night for the first time in 10 years, but the frontman indicated that the wait for a new album from the band will continue. 'You'll see [the album], but I don't know if 'soon' is the word,' Rose explained to [Kurt Loder] immediately after unveiling the current GN'R lineup to an American television audience for the first time. 'It will come out, and we'll do some more recording and start the American leg of the tour,' he promised." (MTV, 08/30/02)
"Guns N' Roses will begin a 40-plus date North American arena tour in late October in the Northeastern U.S., according to sources. This will be the band's first full-blown U.S. tour since playing 29 shows in 1993 that grossed $13.7 million." (Billboard, 08/30/02)
Plan B was still in the works. Do the mini-tour and the VMA's, head back to the studio, and complete the album for a November release. The return to the road would happen in October, which would also be a slight necessity, as the record company requires roughly eight weeks to set the release up properly after the album is turned over. Hence, late-September completion equals late-November release.
Re: 2002: Chinese Whispers
'They only did it 'cos of fame'
"Recording [of Paul Buckmaster's orchestrations] began on September 13. Rose, though, was absent. Like many others on the project, Buckmaster has yet to hear if his contribution will see the light of day." (The Times, 03/18/05)
"I joined a few months back. We did the tour of Europe, and when we got back, I recorded my parts for the album." (Fortus, Times Union, 11/21/02)
And then, the inevitable happened; Axl was granted more time. At first, it was merely two-three weeks.
"Guns N' Roses are rumored to have set December 10th (December 9th in Europe) as the release date of their long-awaited new album, Chinese Democracy, through Interscope/Geffen Records. If the unconfirmed reports are to be believed, the album's first single, "Catcher In The Rye", is scheduled to surface on November 25th with an accompanying video to be filmed in the next four weeks prior to the start of the band's U.S. tour, which is said to have a late October kick-off date. [The Blues is] said to have been tentatively tapped as the album's second single, to be released sometime in early 2003." (Blabbermouth, 09/16/02)
On September 26th, a North American tour was announced, set to begin in Vancouver, BC on 11/07/02. Two days later, the shows in Chicago (11/18), Boston (12/02), New York (12/05) and Philadelphia (12/06) went on pre-sale, with the NY show in Madison Square Garden selling out in 15 minutes. The band was said to even looking into taking the tour to Montreal, where they hadn't played since the 1992 riot.
The tour start might've been slipped to November so that it would coincide with a single launch. That is, if there was a single.
Re: 2002: Chinese Whispers
The Catcher Shanghai'd
The rumors of GNR taking a trip to Shanghai to film a new video kept coming, zeroing in on early October. Meanwhile, the rumored release date crept up a notch, now landing on 12/03, just before the show in Madison Square Garden, New York.
"Axl Rose was spotted in Shanghai on Tuesday (October 8). Was the Guns N' Roses mastermind taking Chinese Democracy to the streets instead of the studio? Who knows ... there's still no release date in sight." (MTV, 10/09/02)
"Guns N' Roses were apparently [...] in Shanghai [...] last week [...] recording a video for the track 'Catcher In The Rye', which is taken from their forthcoming new album 'Chinese Democracy'." (Metal Hammer, 10/20/02)
"We had the following sent to us from a DJ at a radio station. They are doing an interview with Axl and his management sent over the following info to them:
3. The interviewer should ask about:
d) He spent some time in China and wrote songs there - what was it like?" (Metal Sludge, 12/06/02)
"Bach: And than you were telling me the other day that you lived in China for three months?
Axl: Yeah, we went and stayed in China for about three months, Beijing, Shanghai, and Xian." (Eddie Trunk show, 05/05/06)
As Paul Buckmaster mentioned Axl'd just returned from the Middle-East in June, it's possible he made at least two separate trips there in the space of six months, instead of one three-month trip. The trips would've occured on both sides of the Eurasian mini-tour.
"Trunk: That inspired the name of the album at all?
Axl: No, [the name] was before that, but then I just thought I should go. I wanted to go before they banned me. So, you know, I mean Chinese Democracy that doesn't quite work for the government over there." (Eddie Trunk show, 05/05/06)
Re: 2002: Chinese Whispers
Maybe Next Year
The deadline to turn in the finished album in order to meet a 12/03/02 release date would've been in early October, a time which Axl was said to be in Shanghai. Therefore, around Halloween, trouble was about.
"Apparently GN'R was slated to be in record store ads for the first week in December. But the ads were pulled at the last minute. That means that if the album comes out on Dec. 3rd, it won't be in the ad circulars in your local Sunday newspaper. At least not during that weekend." (HTGTH, 10/30/02)
"I've heard [the album]'s coming out in March -- but then again I've heard a lot of things, so you never know." (Fortus, Times Union, 11/21/02)
"'Chinese Democracy' should be in stores by June, according to keyboardist Dizzy Reed. 'There are just a few odds and ends left to do - a couple of finishing touches, a couple of vocals'” and we need to mix it,' he said." (Plain Dealer, 11/22/02)
As the record company would've required two months to set up a release, the album would've been turned over by April. Had they kept touring from North America to Australia, South Korea and Indonesia, studio work would've continued in February '03. In any case, Dizzy's assumption was that CD was only 2-4 months away from completion.
"We come up with new ideas that we're working on as we go, and it is a really, really slow process, because it's kind of left more to ourselves in trying to figure it out. [...] It doesn't seem like there's a lot of support [from the record company] for bands that have been around. That's my experience. So in putting this thing together, in a lot of ways, I've had to do way more jobs in it than I'm supposed to ... I've had to be manager, A&R man, producer, sole lyric writer, and a lot of [other] things.
[...] This is a collaborative effort with the players, but the players aren't exactly sure what it should be to try to win over the world Guns N' Roses style. So that's kind of my responsibility. It took a long time, but now it's working, and I think we'll have the right record, and when we do drop the record, the plan is to drop the record, have a bunch of extra tracks, about a year or so down the road drop another record and drop a third record. This is a three-stage thing and we'll be touring for a real long time." (Axl, WRIF, 11/21/02)
A trilogy of albums was in place, then - if only in Axl's mind at the moment.
Re: 2002: Chinese Whispers
On November 7th, after over two months of delays, the North American tour was scheduled to start in Vancouver, BC.
"Thursday was supposed to be a very big night for Guns N' Roses fans: the long-awaited launch of the group's first U.S. tour in nine years." (MTV, 11/08/02)
"The band rehearsed Wednesday in GM Place without Rose, who rarely rehearses with his band." (Canoe, 11/08/02)
"According to Guns' management, [Axl's] flight's departure from L.A. had been delayed by mechanical troubles. He had been scheduled to take the stage with Guns N' Roses at 9:30." (MTV, 11/08/02)
"The trouble began when the venue doors didn't open as scheduled at 6:30 p.m. [...] Ticket sales wickets were shut down." (Canoe, 11/08/02)
"The manager of the building said that the doors wouldn't open until he had confirmation that we were wheels up, that the plane was in the air." (Axl, KISW Seattle, 11/08/02)
Flight time between LAX and YVR is approximately 2hrs 40mins. Additionally, the distace between YVR and GM Place is around 7 miles, equaling to about 20-30mins driving. Had Axl left LAX at 6.30pm, he'd arrived at YVR at around 9.10pm, while arriving to GM Place, at the earliest, between 9.30pm-10pm.
"The official announcement [on the show having been cancelled] came over the loudspeakers at 7:40 p.m." (Canoe, 11/08/02)
"I was in the air. I was in a plane on the way to the show. [...] As soon as [the building manager] had that confirmation, he cancelled the show without telling anybody. [...] Before [the rioting] started, [the manager] had police at the airport, trying to find out what was going on with me." (Axl, KISW Seattle, 11/08/02)
Axl left LAX in between 6.30-7.40pm. Assuming he left at 7.30pm, his estimated time of arrival to YVR would've been at 10.10pm, with an arrival to GM Place at around 10.30-11pm. Give or take perhaps 30 minutes of preshow preparations at the venue, the show might've started at around 11-11.30pm.
"Though common sense says it would have been smart to be in Vancouver early in the day, like the rest of the band, for the start of the tour, Rose's manager, Merck Mercuriadis, said backstage Friday that Rose prefers to arrive at the arena just before show time. In this case, Rose's itinerary would have put him at the GM Place in time to go on at 10 p.m., as scheduled, but he was delayed in getting to the airport by traffic, the manager said. He added that the plane would have been in Vancouver in time for Rose to go on by 11 p.m., and that he tried to convince arena officials to let the show start late, with Rose covering overtime costs." (LA Times, 11/09/02)
"The building manager just decided, and in our opinion, prematurely, that the show was just cancelled. And he didn't discuss it with anyone. He just announced it over the P.A, we found out, my guys found out over the Public Address system." (Axl, KISW Seattle, 11/08/02)
"The members of Guns N' Roses were [...] bummed about the show's cancellation. Bassist Tommy Stinson, loitering by a backstage buffet table, said, 'Axl is gonna be pissed.'" (MTV, 11/08/02)
"I didn't even know what the hell was going on. Tommy and Dizzy were doing an interview backstage with Kurt Loder from MTV, and they heard the announcement that the show was canceled coming over the PA system in the arena. No one could believe it. And it was Robin's birthday, too. It was such a drag." (Richard, Times Union, 11/21/02)
"[At, or around, 8pm,] within 15 minutes of the cancellation announcement, the crowd - estimated at 9,000 - began rioting. Ticket sales windows at GM Place were smashed and when police were called in to quell the mob, rocks were thrown at them." (Pollstar, 11/08/02)
"[At, or around, 8.20pm,] after about 20 minutes of all this, a phalanx of cops waded in with attack dogs, and things got really ugly. Those fans who escaped the police onslaught with nothing more than a faceful of pepper spray might be said to have been the lucky ones. Wielding their riot batons with seeming abandon, the cops walloped legs, arms, heads, whatever available extremity presented itself. They ganged up to pummel people even after they'd fallen to the ground. One young man was smashed in the face and had his teeth knocked out ... he stumbled away in a daze, holding them in his hands, with blood pouring from his mouth." (MTV, 11/08/02)
"At 9 p.m., a dejected looking posse that included a masked Buckethead and other band members was ushered out of the building." (CDNow, 11/09/02)
"'We could have easily played that show,' Stinson said of the concert, pulled by the producer. 'We got the short end of the stick on it.'" (Tommy, Quad City Times, 11/17/02)
Like Axl, the tour was still up in the air.
Re: 2002: Chinese Whispers
Out in Style
The tour begun properly on 11/08/02 in Tacoma, Washington. The seating arrangement was set to accomodate around 12,000 concert-goers, with around 7,000 tickets sold. The band took the stage before 10pm, within 20-50mins (accounts vary) after scheduled time. While attendance was meek, the response was positive and the reviews generally fair.
In the ensuing shows, Axl inexplicably abandoned his VMA outfit of bandanna and leather trousers for various over-sized jerseys and sweatpants. On 11/21/02, at The Palace of Auburn Hills, Minnesota, the show ends abruptly after Patience as the band misses a beat, forcing Axl to go through one verse all over again. He storms offstage mid-song, returning to end it. After that, the show is over.
On 11/27/02, at the Pepsi Arena in Albany, NY, Axl ranted onstage on the behaviour of his former band mates. It was no doubt the most vitriolic commentary so far, which was curious considering how the recent shows had reportedly shown an enthusiastic band with even Axl visibly enjoying himself.
Starting from a concert in Toronto on 11/29/02, the band enjoyed a string of five shows with the most favorable reviews of the North American tour with venues always sold mostly if not completely to capacity.
"There was a sense that the entire existence of Guns N' Roses--a tenuous entity if ever there was one--hung in the balance on December 5, 2002. It was the day of New York City's first major snowstorm of the season, and the evening of GN'R's sold-out performance at Madison Square Garden. And 10 p.m. was make-or-break time for the winter of Axl Rose's discontent.
[...] And for the first time since...well, since forever, Guns N' Roses went onstage early and played real fucking rock music for two fucking hours (19 songs, three of them new). Against seemingly unfathomable odds, the reinvented Guns N' Roses were remarkably awesome.
[...] They rocked extremely hard. And then they were no more." (Spin, 06/26/03)
Re: 2002: Chinese Whispers
'Pretty mellow crowd'
The following show was to take place on 12/06/02 in Philadelphia. The only reported sighting of Axl on that day occured in the early hours.
"Axl Rose ... arrived [at the NYC nightclub Spa] at about 3AM, but he was wearing a fur coat, and the club has a policy against fur. One of the women in Axl's entourage checked her fur at a nearby parking garage, but angry Axl stalked off." (The New York Post, 12/08/02)
Three hours later, Axl had apparently found himself unable to perform that night.
"I did cancel the first [Philadelphia] show at [6AM]. But my manager (Doug Goldstein) told me he canceled it, then didn't. And ClearChannel wanted us to fuck up, because they wanted to end the tour, because they had some shit going down in Florida, or something." (Axl, 02/27/12)
GNR had tour dates lined up in Florida for the following weekend, with Tampa (Dec 13th) and West Palm Beach (Dec 14th).
The venue people were being brought up to speed 14 hours later.
"According to Philadelphia news stations, the opening act at the First Union Center date performed for two hours before the show was called off. [...] 'We were informed around 8 p.m. or so that Axl Rose was still in Manhattan and a helicopter was being sent to get him,' explains Peter Luukko, president of Comcast-Spectacor Ventures and chairman of Global Spectrum, management company for the First Union Center." (Billboard, 12/21/02)
"With a helicopter waiting on the rooftop of his hotel to take him on a brief 40-minute flight to Philadelphia for that night's show at the First Union Center, a dispirited Rose refused to budge." (Blender, 02/10/03)
"I went to the Guns N' Roses show tonight at the First Union Center in Philly, it was sold out and everything. Well, I got there at around 8:30 and Mix Master Mike was still on stage. He kept saying how Guns N' Roses would be on in a minute, yet never left the stage for another 30-45 minutes. Everyone started kidding around saying that Axl wouldn't show up again. Well, Mix Master Mike ended at around 9:15-9:30." (Blabbermouth, 12/07/02)
"Things went awry shortly after the opening act, Mix Master Mike, ended its set about 9:45. Witnesses said about a half-hour later, fans began to realize something was amiss when stagehands began packing up their equipment and leaving." (Philly.com, 12/07/02)
"At 10, no sign of the show starting. Word was spreading that Axl hadn't arrived yet. Then we found out that the First Union Center had put a stop on all beer sales ... kind of odd for them to do so before the main act went on. So it got to be 10:30, and still no band - people were starting to see what was coming. In between every song that was being played, the booing got louder and louder, and chants of 'asshole' began that were really loud. At that point, you knew Guns N' Roses wouldn't be playing." (Blabbermouth, 12/07/02)
After nearly three hours of hassle to get Axl to the venue, the matter was let go. Apparently, the band been oblivious to the subject and had been waiting to go on for at least a few hours.
"Promoter Clear Channel and venue managers Comcast-Spectator set a firm deadline of 10:45pm for Rose to say whether or not he would show up to play. Rose's longtime manager, Doug Goldstein, reached at Rose's New York hotel room, glumly reported, 'He's not coming.'" (Blender, 02/10/03)
"Basically we were in touch with band management as to what the progress was, and at 10:45 we were informed [Rose] wasn't coming." (Billboard, 12/21/02)
"Matt Cord, a DJ for Philly modern-rock station Y-100 and a longtime friend of bassist Tommy Stinson, says the band members [...] minus Rose, were in Philadelphia Friday night and ready to play. Then the show's local promoter informed them that their singer was feeling ill and wouldn't be joining them." (ew.com, 12/13/02)
"It was not Axl's fault. He will tell you later. He was late to the concert and it got canceled by the promotion people who were scared that there would be another riot. It was silly because there was a riot anyway." (Fernando Lebeis, O Globo, 07/09/03)
"What health problem Axl was suffering from is not known. But the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a source from the First Union Center told them that “speculation was that Rose had stayed in his New York hotel room to watch a basketball game."(AntiMusic, 12/06/02)
"I got really sick, and it had nothing to do with fur coats and basketball games." (Axl, 02/27/12)
By all accounts, the ensuing riot was significantly milder than the one experienced in Vancouver. A tour infamously bookended by last-minute cancelations started with a bang and ended with a whimper.
"Venue representatives boosted security to avoid a repeat of the riot that occurred when GN'R failed to turn up for their opening-night show in Vancouver on November 7." (Blender, 02/10/03)
"'At that point a decision was made to make an announcement at 11:15, giving us a half-hour to get security in place and police backup from the city of Philadelphia,' Luukko says." (Billboard, 12/21/02)
"Finally, when people saw the soundboard guys cover up their equipment, all hell broke loose. People started ripping binoculars off the seats and throwing them down on the floor, people were chucking their drinks and food at security around the stage as they took the equipment away, people rushed the stage, a fight broke out, folding chairs were turned into launching pads." (Blabbermouth, 12/07/02)
"At 11:15, the 15,000 strong audience was told the show was not going to happen 'due to illness in the band.' Fans were asked not to take their anger out on the staff or the facility. Some of them threw chairs and attacked the lighting, sound, and video crews, but no arrests or injuries were reported." (Blender, 02/10/03)
"An announcement FINALLY came on at around 11:15 saying that the show had been cancelled due to 'health reasons' and that tickets were valid whenever the show would be rescheduled." (Blabbermouth, 12/07/02)
"'It's very simple. We were informed Axl was ill and wasn't going to appear in the building, and we made an announcement,' said Peter Luukko, president of Comcast Spectacor Ventures, which owns and operates the center." (Philly.com, 12/07/02)
"That really set people off, and chairs started flying at the soundboard and up on stage. It was not a pretty sight. However, a good amount of people did leave and outside seemed to be quite calm in comparison to what was happening inside.
There was a large police presence outside, but thankfully they were not instigating anything with angry fans. Who knows what happened, but I can tell you while I'm shocked, I'm certainly not surprised. I also think Philadelphia fans handled the situation quite well considering the circumstances and the past history with riots." (Blabbermouth, 12/07/02)
"We did have some chairs thrown and some damage in the building, but all in all, considering the difficulty of the situation, we were able to get people out with no major injuries." (Billboard, 12/21/02)
Philly, a decade later.
"I want to apologize for my part [in the no-show]. I'm not saying I'm innocent." (Axl, 02/27/12)
Re: 2002: Chinese Whispers
"The band, with the exception of Rose, was still lodged at the Ritz Carlton in Center City [the following] afternoon." (Philly.com, 12/08/02)
"We'd just played Madison Square Garden and it went great and we were supposed to play the Spectrum, and, to make a long story short, it just fell through. It was one of those things, where Bucket and I are in a hotel room and we're watching chairs being thrown on Channel Seven, and they're like 'Ooh, the Guns N' Roses show isn't going to happen!" (Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)
There were reasons for them not to skip town as of yet.
"Guns N' Roses will attempt to enter the Guinness Book of World Records in Philadelphia, PA, when they become only the second act to play back-to-back shows at the First Union Center (December 6) and trek 758-feet, nine-and-a-half inches across the parking lot to the neighboring First Union Spectrum (December 8)." (First Union Spectrum, press release, 11/11/02)
"Then, ClearChannel calls and says the whole thing is over and we're flying home." (Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)
The second Philadelphia show was canceled, with further dates also disappearing from the tour itinerary. Soon, the promoters sent out a brief statement.
"The remainder of the Guns N' Roses concert dates promoted by Clear Channel Entertainment have been canceled. Refunds will be available at point of purchase." (Clear Channel, 12/12/02)
"Rose and Clear Channel could end up locked in a costly legal battle. The five-day delay in announcing the tour's cancellation (individual dates were nixed along the way) may have signaled a reluctance from both the band and the promoter to take responsibility for pulling the plug, according to [Pollstar editor Gary] Bongiovanni, who says that whoever made that decision could end up owing the other side money. ''I think lawyers are talking to lawyers,'' he says. One thing is clear: The promoter incurred financial losses from Rose's two no shows." (ew.com, 12/12/02)
The fact that there were monetary claims surrounding the cancellations that could go either way may partially explain why the band never officially commented the abrupt end of the tour. Then there was the lucrative advance from Clear Channel...
"The tour, more than a year and a half in the planning [dating back to the Sanctuary/Big FD merger], was hobbled before it started by the failure of band leader Rose to deliver "Chinese Democracy," the tie-in album that has been promised for years. [...] In recent days, all involved have huddled to broker the messy cancellation. Among the issues: The $1-million advance given to Rose last year to secure the tour.
[...] The Vancouver fiasco reminded fans of Rose's consistent inconsistency as a performer and instantly sapped any tour momentum. [The second Philadelphia] show was put on sale within days and was greeted by frosty fan interest. Only half of the tickets for the hometown venue had been sold.
[...] Fan safety and mounting financial risk haunted the tour's key players, as did the erratic ways of Rose, who would pop in a different city than scheduled in the hours before some shows." (Los Angeles Times, 12/14/02)
"For this tour, Rose even traveled with his own psychiatrist, whose major responsibility apparently was convincing him it was important for his mental health to get onstage nightly and perform." (Chicago Sun-Times, 12/11/02)
With $1 million already given to Axl in advance, it turned out to be difficult for Clear Channel to make profit. The Vancouver riot might've already caused additional expenses which they, as promoters, would've then shouldered in order for the tour to carry on.
"According to Pollstar, GN'R's North American tour was at number 75 on the top 100 tours of 2002. The tour grossed $6.5 million in ticket sales." (Pollstar, 01/04/03)
"Attendance at other venues was underwhelming according to figures reported to Pollstar, ticket sales for the tour's first 10 dates averaged 7,344 a night for arenas that hold between 15,000 and 20,000." (Blender, 02/10/03)
"Several shows did come off, albeit to mixed critical and commercial reception. Nine shows reported to Billboard Boxscores grossed $3,228,311 and sold 70,086 tickets out of a possible 118,611 capacity, topped by $733,525 from 13,639 at Allstate Arena near Chicago." (Billboard, 12/21/02)
It is speculated that the uneven ticket sales and the aftermath of Vancouver made Clear Channel to ask for the advance to be returned as collateral. True enough, the matter would remain in a legal hold-up behind the scenes in the years to come.
"Regarding the 2002 tour Tommy says: 'There was a problem with the promoting aspect of that tour... They pulled the plug on it and I can't really go into it.'" (Tommy, Q104.3, 01/31/05)
"'We owe Philly [a new show],' Stinson said. He wouldn't elaborate about the [2002 riot]. 'That's all still in litigation.'" (South Philly Review, 01/20/05)
Meanwhile, the band disbanded for an earlier-than-expected Christmas holiday.
"Sources say Rose is very close to checking himself into a psychiatric clinic to deal with ''exhaustion'' and a number of other emotional problems." (Chicago Sun-Times, 12/11/02)
"[A GNR spokesperson] wouldn't give any details surrounding the reasons that Clear Channel and Guns N' Roses ended their tour affiliation, but did say GN'R is very much intact.
The band and its members, vocalist Axl Rose, guitarist Buckethead, drummer Brain, bassist Tommy Stinson, guitarist Robin Finck, et al, are currently on vacation.
They will return to the studio in January to put the finishing touches on Chinese Democracy, which the band is releasing in the spring." (Yahoo, 12/20/02)