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 Rep: 150 

Re: 2003: Chinese Whispers

sic. wrote:

Cheap Shot

Axl started his year by calling up an old friend.

"Robert John had been taking photographs of Guns N' Roses since the beginning of the band. […] [Robert] made a deal with Axl to sell him all his photographs - thousands of images dating to 1984. Robert took the archives to Axl's house [in January 2003] and then waited for the check." (Watch You Bleed, 2008)

Robert John was there to shoot the 2001 club shows, being one of the remaining members of the old Guns crew.

"Now [Robert] started getting complaints from Axl. [...] "[Axl]'d already fired Gene Kirkland, a terrific photographer who'd been shooting Guns almost as long as I had. [...] He wasn't happy with the way he looked in the pictures [from the 2001 shows],' Robert said." (Watch You Bleed, 2008)

"Next thing, I'm the Antichrist because I didn't like some photos." (Axl, Spinner, 02/28/09)

"'But his looks had changed. People get older, right? He'd put on a few pounds. He criticized the brightness of the shots, but I wasn't lighting the shows." (Robert John, Watch You Bleed, 2008)

"On April 28 [2003] 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." (Blabbermouth, 05/03/03)

"When Merck [Mercuriadis, former GNR manager], for whatever reasons, took forever to pay [him, Robert] sues me... but I didn't know anything about it." (Axl, Spinner, 02/28/09)

 Rep: 150 

Re: 2003: Chinese Whispers

sic. wrote:

Meet you guys in...

A Dust N' Bones listmember met Richard Fortus at Don Hill's in New York in mid-March.

"When asked about GN'R's plans, Richard said 'Yeah, we're starting up again in May.' To the question regarding the Chinese Democracy album and whether it will come out or not, he said 'Yeah, Axl is finishing it up now, doing vocals - overdubs. It's great.'" (Dust N' Bones, 03/20/03)

As Dizzy said in November 2002, the album supposedly had 2-4 months of work left in it. Starting out in May therefore seems to hint the album was scheduled to be completed at that point. Retailers seemed support that notion, as on 15/02/03, CDNow customer services responded to inquiries that the provisional release for CD was currently on 07/01/03.

Also, soundtrack rumors were abound (again).

"It's looking likely that [Arnold Schwarzenegger] will have a song from the long time coming G'n'R 'Chinese Democracy' album included on the soundtrack for Terminator 3. [...] Terminator 3 : The Rise of the Machines will be released on July 2, 2003." (Undercover, 01/07/03)

As with End of Days, the track would've likely been tied into the films ad campaign, allowing an album release a fair share of additional publicity.

In April, Fortus implied that dates had slid in the past month.

"[The new GNR tour is] probably not going to start till early Fall when the record is released." (Fortus, Anderson Guitars, 04/20/03)

Tommy'd spent the spring recording a solo album, and by the time he got around to tour, the get-together phase was pushed back - again.

"On break from Guns N' Roses until September, [...] Stinson is currently putting the finishing touches on 16 new songs for an upcoming solo record. Primarily recorded over two months in a studio owned by friend Charles Thompson (aka Frank Black), [...] the untitled album is currently being shopped to labels." (Press release, 06/27/03)

 Rep: 150 

Re: 2003: Chinese Whispers

sic. wrote:

Almost there?

In June, the official website was updated with an ominous message.

"Stay Tuned for news and information on Chinese Democracy coming soon." (GNROnline, 06/09/03)

Axl was also spotted at the Led Zeppelin DVD release party that month.

"On [06/13/03], antiMUSIC co-hosted a viewing/release party for the new Led Zeppelin DVD [...] at the Cat Club in Hollywood. GNR frontman, Axl Rose was among those who showed up for the party. [...] [Axl] seemed hopeful that patient fans would finally have the album by the end of the year. He elaborated a little bit that he was co-producing the CD and eluded to the fact that he wants to make sure it is a perfect as possible before it is released." (AntiMusic, 06/17/03)

"Axl says he wants to release the album in the middle of October and I think he will because the album is almost finished now and Axl is happy with it. [...] He wants to start touring when the album is released. He says he might tour America again first, but I tell him to do South America first as they are his biggest fans and his friends." (Fernando Lebeis, O Globo, 07/09/03)

With everyone promising a fall release for the album, Axl, for his part, appeared to be content with the album as well. Why not, he appeared to have a brand new song in tow.

Fortus confirms Robin wrote the first part of the Better main riff, while he wrote the latter.

"[Better] was brought in after Josh [Freese] and was written by the band. It was Robin Finck’s song. We jammed it for a couple weeks and then went into the studio and recorded it." (Brain, Modern Drummer, 05/09)

"Robin wrote the first part [of the main riff], I wrote the second part. All this part [plays the first part], Robin had that all when he came." (Fortus, Masterclass, 2012)

"Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose wandered into the Crazy Horse Too in Las Vegas Wednesday morning (July 16) and treated the nearly empty strip club to a preview of tracks from his band's long-delayed Chinese Democracy album." (MTV, 07/17/03)

"Our first leaks [presumably Better, There Was A Time and IRS, leaked in early '06] were from using a sound system in a strip club in the early hours when it was basically empty. I went there to play the tracks for someone I was interested in working with. I'd gone there with a guy who worked band security, who was allegedly somehow related to the owners, feeling it was a bit more of a protected environment than it turned out to be." (Axl, Billboard, 02/06/09)

"In addition to blasting new cuts over the club's PA system, Rose also visited the VIP room, ordered champagne and signed autographs, according to an employee." (MTV, 07/17/03)

 Rep: 150 

Re: 2003: Chinese Whispers

sic. wrote:

Return to Geffen

"One thing that may bear in the equation [of CD's release] is the recent changes with Geffen Records. Last week MCA Records was effectively folded and most of the roster was moved over to Geffen.

Word on the street is Geffen will be reorganized and in effect become once again a full self-standing record company (over the past few years Geffen was ran as part of Geffen / Interscope / A&M).

What that means is there will be more muscle behind a new GNR release when the time comes." (AntiMusic, 06/17/03)

This was the second time the album would appear in the Geffen books.

"What really happened was the record company stood back and left Axl to his own devices. Axl had all these ideas, and he needed somebody to help interpret what he wanted. He had to basically produce himself, and that’s not what he went into this wanting to do. There are a lot of reasons the album took so long to make, but I think the record company really dropped the ball on this one." (Tommy, Bass Player, 04/09)

"Geffen begs to differ; one source told me they were highly supportive until the breaking point in 2004, after Rose had begun to ignore them altogether and after the album was already way over budget." (AddictiveThoughts, 07/12/09)

Axl's relationship with the resurrected Geffen appeared more sour than the one with Interscope, as they remained cordial towards each other just little over six months.

"It is hoped that the merger of Geffen and MCA's staff will bring Geffen back to its former glory. [...] If the plan, which is still being negotiated, comes to fruition, it is expected that the majority of MCA's staff will be brought under Geffen, thus transforming Geffen into a full-service label again, sources said. Jordan Schur, president of Geffen Records, is negotiating a new contract to helm the new Geffen." (Billboard, 05/20/03)

Schur had been the head of the label throughout the drought years of Geffen, and was no doubt eager to capitalize on one of their biggest artists.

"In August 2003, [...] label executives announced their intention to release a Guns N' Roses greatest-hits CD for the holidays." (New York Times, 03/06/05)

"Rose was originally informed by letter dated August 6, 2003 that UMG intended to release the Guns N' Roses GHLP, and of the specific tracks to be included on that album and their sequence." (Greatest Hits lawsuit document, 2004)

 Rep: 150 

Re: 2003: Chinese Whispers

sic. wrote:

'Call the President'

"[In or around 08/08/03], New York Met's catcher, Mike Piazza, was sorting through fan mail when something caught his eye. It was a cd that had 'Guns N' Roses, I.R.S.' written on it." (Eddie Trunk, 08/31/03)

"The rest of the CD was also cool. It sounded like a total of 3 songs, with instrumental versions of each of the 3, making a total of 6 tracks (I think). The last track, which I did not play, was the best. A great rocker, with tons of shredding guitar from Buckethead." (Eddie Trunk, 09/02/03)

"[On 08/29/03, Mike] Piazza appeared on [...] 'Friday Night Rocks... with Eddie Trunk,'. [...] He persuaded Trunk to play [IRS] at 12:15 a.m. Saturday morning. Almost immediately the station was flooded with calls. [...] One of the calls, however, was from GNR's management.

[...] Because Trunk deals with [Sanctuary Artist Management] often and has a professional relationship with them, a simple phone call took the place of any legal cease-and-desist letter. [...] So adamant was the GNR camp to retrieve the disc, they arranged to meet with Trunk, to whom Piazza had given the CD, as soon as possible. And that just happened to be at Shea Stadium on Sunday [08/31/03]." (MTV, 09/03/03)

Piazza and Trunk both had ties to GNR at that point, as they were confirmed to be present in the backstage of the Madison Square Garden show on 12/05/02.

 Rep: 150 

Re: 2003: Chinese Whispers

sic. wrote:

Third's the charm

"It's closer to the end of the record being completed than it is the beginning. And we start back up in rehearsal mode in the middle of September, which is a good sign to me."  (Tommy, Albany Times Union, 08/22/03)

Apparently, the original intention with Axl and the band was to have him finish up album and have them reconvene for rehearsals for a new tour in mid-September. Tommy's comments and the two-month time window the record label requires would've placed the album release into late November.

However, mid-tour Tommy seemed to have received word that things had, once again, changed.

"Rehearsal will start in October, and the release of Chinese Democracy has been delayed again until early 2004." (The Perfect Gentleman Newsletter, 09/06/03)

It would seem the album was gradually recorded all over again, starting mid-year. As it was, the RTB/Zutaut mixes were gradually picked apart and re-done. This time, however, the makeover wasn't likely as sudden as it had been before.

"The band, our two engineers [Caram Costanzo and Eric Caudieux], myself, [and] most importantly, Axl... have been working on the actual album for the last two years [from early 2003]." (Merck, 03/06/05)

"It went through Sean Beavan, Roy Thomas Baker and then I guess Axl is the producer now." (Brain, EQ TV, 10/08)

"Every artist would like to produce their own records... You still need somebody else around to make sure you get the best out of yourself, because you can't be in two places at once." (Roy Thomas Baker, MixOnline, 04/01/99)

"Having it produced by Axl Rose and Caram Costanzo says it all. We went to people that were put to us to help make the record, and that ultimately didn't work out. You just kind of have to wash your hands of it." (Tommy, Gasoline, 11/08)

"A lot of artists will go to an engineer, who is probably a great engineer, but as of that stage has not seriously produced anything. They forget that there's more to a production than getting a nice, polished sound. People will not go out and buy a nice drum sound if the song isn't there." (Roy Thomas Baker, MixOnline, 04/01/99)

"After [my work] was done [on the RTB/Zutaut mixes,] Axl said, “Okay, that was cool, now do your thing.” So I went in, forgot all of what I’d just done, and did my thing, and I think it became a combination of both." (Brain, Modern Drummer, 04/09)

"After [09/13/03] Middle East gig... Stinson rejoins Axl and company for what he says is the last bit of work on Chinese Democracy." (The Perfect Gentleman Newsletter, 09/06/03)

"I probably ended up completely re-recording each part five or six times over the years." (Tommy, Bass Player, 04/09)

"In the end, I redid [the drums] again by kind of doing half my thing and some of what I remembered from Josh’s original drum parts. We were also writing as a new band with me and Bucket. We had some songs that we started from scratch, where I just recorded myself without charts." (Brain, Modern Drummer, 04/09)

"I have heard several versions of some of the cooler songs, and they all sound great... The obvious thing would be to have a couple versions of each." (Dizzy, Rock Journal, 07/11/04)

"There's definitely a record, and it's definitely close to being done... So hopefully the GNR album will be out early in the new year." (Tommy, Boston Phoenix, 09/07/03)

 Rep: 150 

Re: 2003: Chinese Whispers

sic. wrote:

Call or Fold

On 10/15/03, Geffen Records formally announced the release of Welcome to the Videos, a DVD compilation of all GNR's officially released live and promotional videos. Almost certainly an olive branch handed by Axl's people to Geffen, so that they might benefit from the sales of a new GNR product in the absence of a studio album.

A few days later, Amazon listed a new GNR album in their catalogue, with the release set for 11/25/03. The album was soon revealed to be the Greatest Hits release. The listing disappeared on 10/22/03, mere days after the title was revealed.

"The band's representatives managed to hold [the plans for a GHLP] off with yet another promise to deliver 'Chinese Democracy' by the end of the year." (New York Times, 03/06/05)

On 11/07/03, GNR were confirmed to perform at Rock in Rio-Lisboa on 05/30/04. The announcement came over six months before the planned event. On 11/10/03, the German MTV indicated the band was putting together a European tour for the summer. Later in the month, Rock Am Ring organizer Marek Lieberberg was said to be in negotiations with GNR to headline the festival in June.

As the tour rumors were began at such an early stage (with one show already unveiled), a thought that springs to mind would be GNR signaling Geffen that they were serious about releasing the album in or around June, and were setting themselves for a summer tour.

But, as usual...

"December 31, 2003 came and went without delivery of the studio LP, as had so many previous deadlines." (Greatest Hits lawsuit document, 2004)

"Both [Axl's seclusion and going overbudget forced Geffen] to cut their losses after he turned down a lucrative ultimatum to have the record out by year’s end." (AddictiveThoughts, 07/12/09)

Time had ran up.

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