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 Rep: 150 

Re: 2004: Chinese Whispers

sic. wrote:

Last Days in The Village

While the New Year deadline had been passed, the work went on without a hitch.

"2004 is off to a busy start at The Village Recording Studios in West Los Angeles, where the synergy of pop, rock, commercial and film music making continues hot. [...] Guns N' Roses camped out cutting new tracks with producer/engineer Caram Costanzo and Pro Tools engineer Eric Caudieux." (The Village Recorder, 02/01/04)

One band member was noticeably absent, tho.

"At the end of [2003], Buckethead became fed up with Guns' inability to complete an album or tour and stopped working with them, his manager said." (MTV, 03/17/04)

"In Guns, the greatest thing was, he would [talk through his hand puppet, Herbie] and wear out the managers. There's millions of dollars on the line - and they're talking to a fuckin' puppet!" (Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)

The people at Geffen, however, were displeased.

"In January 2004, Geffen resumed its plans to release the GHLP. At that time, Mr. Hoffman asked Ms. Lori Froeling to send another notice to Guns N' Roses pursuant to the Recording Agreement, informing Guns N' Roses that the GHLP would be released on March 23, 2004 in the United States and Canada, and on March 15, 2004 in other international territories. Ms. Froeling sent such a notice on January 22, 2004. The January 22 notice also indicated that the previously approved track listing and sequence had not changed." (Greatest Hits lawsuit document, 2004)

It appears Geffen got a response out of Axl, likely concerning the future prospects of CD and his general opinion over a Greatest Hits compilation. Accordingly, they responded.

"The release dates were in fact confirmed in a subsequent letter to Plaintiff Rose dated February 2, 2004." (Greatest Hits lawsuit document, 2004)

"'Having exceeded all budgeted and approved recording costs by millions of dollars,' the label wrote in a letter dated Feb. 2, 2004, 'it is Mr. Rose's obligation to fund and complete the album, not Geffen's.' The tab at Village studio was closed out, and Mr. Rose tried a brief stint recording at the label's in-house studio before that too was ended. The band's computer gear, guitars and keyboards were packed away." (New York Times, 03/06/05)

On 02/11/04, various retailers were reporting that the Greatest Hits compilation would be released on 03/23/04.

"'Every year there's been a new reason why Axl is not done with the record,' the source told Reuters, adding that Geffen went ahead with the greatest-hits package only because Rose failed to come through with 'Chinese Democracy.' 'Had he delivered this record like he promised seven years ago, this would not be happening right now.'" (Reuters, 03/16/04)

 Rep: 150 

Re: 2004: Chinese Whispers

sic. wrote:

The Bucket Kicks Back

"In Guns, the greatest thing was, [Buckethead] would [talk through his hand puppet, Herbie] and wear out the managers. There's millions of dollars on the line - and they're talking to a fuckin' puppet!" (Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)

"During his tenure with the band Buckethead has been... creating uncertainty and confusion and making it virtually impossible to move forward with recording, rehearsals and live plans with confidence." (Axl, press release, 03/30/04)

"[Buckethead] got off on that it wore everybody out and I was together enough to speak for him... He cared so much [about being in Guns], that I think that was his protection, 'I can't get worn out by this, because I care about this'. " (Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)

"[By 02/09/04, the night of the Grammy Awards,] Buckethead had already told Guns frontman Axl Rose he no longer wanted to be in the band, [Bucket's] manager said." (MTV, 03/17/04)

"Last time I talked to Bucket, he called to tell me he had bought a bootleg DVD off eBay and how proud he was to be in Guns and how impressed he was with everyone's performance." (Axl, press release, 03/30/04)

"Host: Like, he was doing the whole puppet thing with Axl?
Brain (suddenly solemn): Yeah... with everyone.
Host: And Axl loved it?
Brain: Yeah."
(Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)

"I have a blast w/ Bucket on tour and get a big kick out of the guy."  (Axl, HTGTH, 12/12/08)

On February 12th and 13rd, Buckethead played shows with Bill Laswell's band Material in Belgium and France, respectively. On first date, Laswell apparently confirmed to a fan that Buckethead wouldn't be joining GNR for Rock in Rio-Lisboa.

"In February, we got word from Brain that Bucket had called him and said he was back in Guns!?" (Axl, press release, 03/30/04)

"[Buckethead] was MIA for a month at a time... and the only way to get a hold of him - was through me. It was kind of fun and at that point, I was kinda like, 'Oh, they gotta go through me, this is cool.'" (Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)

"At the end of [2003], Buckethead became fed up with Guns' inability to complete an album or tour and stopped working with them, his manager said." (MTV, 03/17/04)

"Apparently, according to [what Bucket told Brain], he had been 'Gone' but had turned himself around and was really excited to do Rio-Lisbon and a European tour." (Axl, press release, 03/30/04)

"[Buckethead's] transient lifestyle has made it impossible for even his closest friends to have nearly any form of communication with him whatsoever." (Axl, press release, 03/30/04)

"They'd try to call him and Looney Tunes would come on the answering machine. And there's a huge tour coming on... I think they actually had people, like undercover cops, checking him out at one time. He'd call me and say, 'Brain, there's a car out front and it's been there for, like, three days....

And this was before we were supposed to go on a major Guns N' Roses tour. We didn't know what was going on, and he was paranoid and scared, so he said, 'OK, I'm gonna go out there with a mask.' And he had a hatchet. He said he went out with a mask and a hatchet and just stood next to the car... and they were looking at him and just took off.

So, I think he was being followed. He never found out the truth, but that's the game he was playing." (Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)

On 03/01/04, Buckethead's official discussion forum removed their dedicated GNR section. When queried, the webmaster replied that 'the ride is non-operational and non-functional', apparently describing Buckethead's current relationship with GNR.

"Somewhere in the following month things changed once again [with Bucket's involvement]." (Axl, press release, 03/30/04)

"I think he knew he had talent that people wanted, so he would wear them out, with, you couldn't get a hold of them for a month.

'We're going on tour, is he coming?
'I don't know if he's going to show up...'

And I'd always know, it was just like, part of the game."
(Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)

"During his tenure with the band Buckethead has been... creating uncertainty and confusion and making it virtually impossible to move forward with recording, rehearsals and live plans with confidence." (Axl, press release, 03/30/04)

"It wasn't from a punk-rock attitude, it was from, 'I'm scared. I don't want to get worn out by these lawyers. I have a talent here.'" (Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)

"According to those who have actually spoken with [him], it appears his plans were to secure a recording contract with Sanctuary Records which I encouraged my management to make available to him, quit GN'R and to use his involvement in the upcoming Guns release to immediately promote his individual efforts... Nice guy!" (Axl, press release, 03/30/04)

"The letters he would get from the [GNR] lawyers, because he would just wear them out so much. 'You'll never work again, you'll work in a gas station before you'll pick up a guitar again!'" (Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)

"I have no issues with Bucket. It's hard to tell what was real or not in things we were told by Merck... A lot of feelings were hurt on this side of the fence in how things went down." (Axl, HTGTH, 12/12/08)

Axl seems to be alluding Merck was the one who had conversations with Bucket over his future in Guns, whereas Axl himself hadn't spoken with him for some time.

"The band has been put in an untenable position by [...] his untimely departure." (Axl, press release, 03/30/04)

One can only wonder whether the problems Axl was facing with Geffen had anything to do with it.

"The after-show for [the] Yngwie [Malmsteen] [concert] was held [Sunday night, March 14] at the Cat Club. The band that was playing that night was a cover band featuring Dizzy Reed on keys. [...] [Dizzy] confirmed that [Buckethead] is unofficially out of the band." (Blabbermouth, 03/16/04)

On 03/14/04, Buckethead was announced to open for Particle on their American tour in between 03/31/04 and 04/16/04. A few days later, his representatives made the departure official.

 Rep: 150 

Re: 2004: Chinese Whispers

sic. wrote:

Exile on Main Street

During this time, as was rumored, Axl had plotted a legal action against Geffen.

"W. Axl Rose is joined by former [Guns N' Roses] members Slash and Duff McKagan in [...] a lawsuit against Geffen Records, a division of UMG Recordings, Inc., to stop the unauthorized release of a Greatest Hits package by the band. [...] The band has not been given the opportunity to approve the choice of songs, the artwork, the release date or the re-mastering done on the tracks included on this compilation.

[...] W. Axl Rose is concerned that not only will their audience be misled into believing that the planned compilation is an authorized release, but that it will hinder the release of the band's long awaited new studio album Chinese Democracy." (Sanctuary Group, press release, 03/15/04)

"U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer denied [the] request for a temporary restraining order, allowing Geffen to issue the [GHLP] as planned next Tuesday. A hearing on a motion for a preliminary injunction was set for next month." (Yahoo, 03/16/04)

"Plaintiffs' Application is based entirely on the belief that the GHLP contains remastered songs. In fact, none of the songs on the Guns N' Roses GHLP were remastered, nor were they edited, mixed, remixed or otherwise altered. [...] The sole basis for Plaintiffs' incorrect assertion that the album was remastered (and, in turn, the sole basis for this application) is a single reference on the website of CD Universe.

[...] In connection with the release of the Guns N' Roses GHLP, Geffen has already paid $1 million dollars in advances. [...] Rose has received an advance of $257,545 for the GHLP; Slash and Duff have received an advance of $568,565 for them to split; [...] plaintiffs did not file this suit until after they received these advances, and none of the three [...] has offered to return it." (Greatest Hits lawsuit document, 2004)

"'Their lawsuit is meritless,' Universal Music spokesman Peter LoFrumento said. 'Fortunately, since the court has denied their application for a temporary restraining order, the album will be released as scheduled on March 23.'" (Yahoo, 03/16/04)

"Released in March of 2004, [Greatest Hits] turned out to be a surprisingly strong seller, racking up sales of more than 1.8 million copies even without any new music or promotional efforts by the original band." (New York Times, 03/06/05)

On 03/30/04, Axl canceled GNR's scheduled performance in Rock in Rio-Lisboa, citing Buckethead's departure as the reason behind the decision.

"Rather than dwelling on the negative, Guns will be moving forward and surprisingly (without giving away any details) this unfortunate set of circumstances may have given us the opportunity to take our recording that one extra step further. [...] We greatly appreciate Bucket's contributions and remain open to "discussions" as there are obviously several issues to resolve." (Axl, press release, 03/30/04)

Axl's wording and tone was deceptively similar to his account on Robin leaving to tour with Nine Inch Nails in late '99. Brian May had stepped and recorded over some of Robin's parts, due to Axl wishing to replace some of Robin's work due to his resignation mid-way. However, Buckethead was said to have been kept in the band payroll for the remainder of the year.

In closing, Axl alluded the album might be completed for a fall release.

"We hope to announce a release date within the next few months." (Axl, press release, 03/30/04)

 Rep: 150 

Re: 2004: Chinese Whispers

sic. wrote:

Coming to a Courthouse near you

On 05/04/04, Slash and Duff were announced to sue Axl over control of the GNR back catalogue, also demanding a compensation $1 million for financial damages caused by Axl's denial to license the music.

"In the suit, Duff and Slash claim Rose doesn't have any controlling interest in the songs, but they say he killed deals that would have put their tunes in a half dozen movies, including 'Just Married,' 'We Were Soldiers,' 'Death to Smoochie' and 'Old School.' And you won't hear the band's huge hit, 'Welcome to the Jungle' in the movie 'Black Hawk Down,' because, according to the lawsuit, Axl wouldn't let the producers use it. Instead, he wanted to re-record it, thereby allegedly cheating his ex-band mates out of the licensing fee." (Celebrity Justice, 05/04/04)

And so, the Tom Zutaut-era incident with Black Hawk Down would come back to haunt Axl. The foundations of the suit lie in the disbanding of the old GNR partnership on 12/30/95. Slash and Duff were likely inspired to the case by a court remark in the Greatest Hits suit.

"Plaintiffs' own filings indicate that the Guns N' Roses [trade]marks are registered to the Guns N' Roses Partnership. The Guns N' Roses Partnership is not a party to this litigation. Rather, this action was brought by Plaintiffs in their individual capacities. Accordingly, Plaintiffs lack standing to assert a claim of infringement and cannot, therefore, show any possibility of success on the merits." (Greatest Hits lawsuit document, 2004)

The legal issues didn't end there.

"Rose had sought an injunction against the release of the album entitled 'Hollywood Rose - The Roots Of Guns N' Roses' [...] [by] Los Angeles-based independent record label Cleopatra Records. [...] The five original tracks were purchased by Cleopatra from guitarist Chris Weber [in November 2003], who performed on the record and who paid for the recordings back in 1984." (Blabbermouth, 07/08/04)

According to the Cleopatra lawsuit document, the claims similar to the Greatest Hits release had been going back and forth since April, which suggests Slash and Duff came around suing Axl midway to their collaboration on the Hollywood Rose case. Furthermore, the legal team was now trying to do damage control by acknowledging and even supporting the GH release.

"GNR also argues that the release is timed strategically to capitalize on consumer interest in the Guns N' Roses Greatest Hits release and it will unfairly reduce sales of that album. However, GNR's evidence as to the reduction in sales - the unsupported statement of Guns N' Roses manager - utterly lacks foundation." (Hollywood Rose lawsuit document, 2004)

It was, however, to no avail.

"On Tuesday, July 6, United States District Court Judge Gary A. Fees denied the motion of [Axl, Slash and Duff] for a preliminary injunction against [Cleopatra]." (Blabbermouth, 07/08/04)

 Rep: 150 

Re: 2004: Chinese Whispers

sic. wrote:


The production was moved out of Village Recording Studios, and work soon resumed.

"Axl Rose has taken over production duties for the album, Stinson said, [...] [and] thinks the record is finally almost done, and the only thing that's holding back its completion is legal issues." (MTV, 06/10/04)

"Since at least early 2004 (when Universal’s Geffen Records made clear it wouldn’t underwrite additional production costs for Chinese Democracy) Sanctuary had functioned as Rose's bank as well, deferring or delaying some commissions for managing him and offering other financial support. According to sources familiar with the situation, Axl’s tab reached well into the seven-figure mark." (Idolator, 11/20/08)

"Mr. Rose is reportedly working on the album even now in a San Fernando Valley studio." (New York Times, 03/06/05)

The studio was eventually revealed to be Curt Cuomo's Woodland Ranch.

"While [Jazan Wild was] recording in Curt Cuomo's studio [in April 2004], other musicians working there included Axl Rose / Guns N' Roses and Desmond Child. [...] Before Jazan Wild could finish the album, he had to move on to another studio as Curt Cuomo became too busy with Axl Rose working in his studio." (Kiss News, 11/17/04)

"Even the recent departure of guitarist Buckethead isn't slowing anything down. 'As far as I know, he hasn't been replaced. [...] Buckethead will be on the record, too. I really have no idea why he decided to leave, but it didn't come out of left field because he's always come and gone. Even when I do see him, I don't know what he thinks.'" (Tommy, MTV, 06/10/04)

"Brain is putting percussion on the album as I write." (Merck, 08/05/04)

"I have this bag where I keep a nice DAT machine with a nice mike, or I have those toy samplers that you buy at Toys R Us. And I just sit there after whatever session I'm in, whether I'm even at the rehearsal space or at the studio, and I just hit my drums, make weird sounds, make weird loops, and then I take them home. I get home at about 2:00 in the morning and from 2:00 until 4:00 in the morning I sit at my laptop, cut up all my beats, make more beats, more sounds, and then bring them into the producer and say, 'Hey, check this out. Are you into this?' That's what I spend most of my free time doing." (Brain, 2001)

A new guitar player was looked for in the late summer, perhaps not yet for touring, but to lay down guitar tracks in Bucket's absence.

"GN'R's Pro Tools engineer 'French' Eric Caudieux has worked a lot with Satriani and Satch recommended Bumble to French Eric." (Del James,, 10/31/06)

"It was actually [Joe] Satriani that recommended me to them (thanks Satch)." (Bumblefoot, 10/01/04)

"I was asked to join Guns N' Roses two months ago... Have yet to speak with Axl - spoke to their engineer about when to come out and lay geetar tracks on the album, spoke to their manager about lotsa stuff, their keyboardist Chris, but that's all that's been goin' on so far." (Bumblefoot, official site, 09/30/04)

"[They were] tellin' me there would be contracts to sign, wanting to have me come record with them in mid-Sept, all that stuff." (Bumblefoot, 10/01/04)

Ron's position would've therefore likely been similar to that of Dave Navarro and Brian May; recording some additional parts which could be used to replace Buckethead's work. Arguably, what cost Ron the gig was that Guns management objected him publicly acknowledging they'd been in talks.

"I told 'em no... After having some dealings with the management, I didn't like how they were doing things. It was something I didn't want in my life 'cause at that time my life was totally good. I didn't need it... I was doing so much and was so gratified doing it all, I knew if I joined Guns I would lose a lot of that and I wouldn't have the time... The way things were going with management at that time, I just didn't like the way they did things and the way they handled situations. And I told them, "No. I just don't want that in my life." I felt it would be toxic." (Bumblefoot, Ultimate Guitar, 07/02/14)

 Rep: 150 

Re: 2004: Chinese Whispers

sic. wrote:

All Mixed Up

In July, VH1 documentary delivered the update Axl'd promised three months earlier.

"Axl's album, Chinese Democracy, is finally slated for release in November of 2004." (GNR: Behind the Music, VH1, 07/04/04)

While the band management were quick to debunk the rumor, the timing felt deceptively apt. At the time, several tracks were apparently entering mixing stage.

"Originally we had a fucking whole lot of songs we were working on. We kinda rolled around them and just kinda kept molding them as we went along. [...] When you're working on 35 or so pieces of music that you're trying to finish, [...] it's really hard to decide, because out of 35 things, we might all like parts and bits of 30 songs. So then you gotta further narrow that down, and you know. It just takes a while." (Tommy, HTGTH, 10/10/04)

"I have heard several versions of some of the cooler songs, and they all sound great. [...] Its an unenviable task for whoever is going to mix it. But they better put my shit in the mix!" (Dizzy, Rock Journal, 07/11/04)

"Stinson also says that he listened to the final mixes recently and 'added his two cents,' noting that the songs were mostly quite long and epic, but 'mind-blowing and fucking huge.'" (Braveworlds, 09/11/04)

"'My two cents was very much like a cent and a half,' he says. 'It's like, all the stuff I heard was phenomenal. I didn't get a chance to listen to all of it, because I was pressed for time. But also I wanted to hear the things I hadn't heard yet. Some of the stuff had been done a while ago and hadn't changed much; I didn't really bother with that.

But I wanted to hear all the new stuff and I heard about six things that I hadn't heard finished yet, that were really mind-blowing. A few of the songs are pretty epic in length, but that's always been GN'R's thing, hasn't it? I don't think it's a particularly long album, but I think the six I heard are pretty epic. I mean they are just... fucking huge, you know [laughs]. I think pretty much all of us in the band have some songwriting credits on just about everything." (Tommy, Chart Attack, 09/15/04)

Tommy even went to suggest some of the material dates back to the UYI lineup, referring likely to This I Love, originally recorded during the UYI world tour, and perhaps even the '96 lost album.

"The undertaking was pretty much a large collaboration between eight people, even a couple others who aren't around anymore, but maybe started with pieces of the old band or whatever. But yeah, there is probably a lot to go around with that one." (Tommy, Chart Attack, 09/15/04)

"There's a record coming - sooner rather than later - and six or seven of the songs are earth-shattering. We'll be touring the world the beginning of the new year." (Tommy, Boston Globe, 09/14/04)

"Chinese Democracy is very close to coming out. I've heard a few of the tracks and it sounds amazing. There are a few more things to do then it'll be ready. They were originally shooting for November, but it may be February now. It's gonna be great." (Dizzy,, 09/18/04)

Amusingly enough, this more or less corroborated the VH1 release date information from July.

"'I would imagine they would start mastering it some time in October, November, somewhere in there,' says Stinson vaguely." (Tommy, Chart Attack, 09/15/04)

A release in February, a year after the label had cut funding...

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