In June 2008, Kevin Cogil, better known as Skwerl, on his website Antiquiet.com leaked nine songs from Chinese Democracy, 6 newer versions of songs already leaked before (Chinese Democracy, IRS, There Was a Time, Madagascar, Street of Dreams [the Blues], and Better) and three new songs (Riad N ' The Bedouins, If The World, the band played as a jam in 2006 and Prostitute that Axl played a few times as an introduction to November Rain in 2006). According to Skwerl, these versions were "mastered, finished", and probably were part of an album version of the Guns N 'Roses delivered to Universal just before the leaks, but he never revealed his source.
Read his very insightful interview with GNR-Syndicate:
The GnR Syndicate: How much did this event consume your life over the last year? Are you glad it’s finally over?
I’m still waiting on some bills to come in, but all told, tens of thousands of dollars. More than I’ve ever possessed, let alone spent, in my entire life. My family is pretty poor; I’m not some trust fund kid. So I had to work my fucking ass off to make it happen. Even after the bulk of the legal fees were taken care of, I continued to work my ass off to make sure that there’d be money in the bank for my girl and kid if the judge decided to throw the ol’ book at me and send me to jail.
I’m not crying about it or asking for sympathy or anything; I saw it as paying the price for what I did. But you asked, and the answer is: a whole shitload of money.
But hey, I’d rather give that money to a lawyer than pay it to RIAA in fines or restitution or as part of some settlement. I’m not saying that out of any kind of hatred for RIAA or anything. I just don’t play that game. I completely respect their right to prosecute me for what I did, and I always admit it when I’ve made a mistake. But I also respect my own right to fight fucking tooth and nail and make them prove everything they claim in a court of law; especially when they make it a criminal case. It’s nothing personal. That’s just how this country’s justice system is supposed to work.
If it’s indeed over, then yeah, I’m thrilled, of course. But we’ll see how things go. While I cooperated, my prosecutors didn’t exactly get what they wanted- my butt in jail, my sources’ names on a silver platter, a big tarred and feathered spectacle to scare the pants off of everyone with a Demonoid account. So who knows? Let’s just say I’m not celebrating anytime soon.
The GnR Syndicate: Besides money, what has this cost you?
Time. This has been a massive project. I had to be ready to go into court at the drop of a hat- more times than the media caught wind of- not to mention countless meetings and phone conferences with a small team we put together; not only to defend the charges, but to really investigate what the prosecution was presenting as the facts. It was on my mind at all times. It was all consuming.
Again, not crying about it or asking for sympathy. You asked, the answer is: A shitload of time.
The GnR Syndicate: Were the authorities interested in where the songs came from, or just that you posted them online? What did they want to know? Did their actions (i.e. providing you with the tracks) result in any adverse consequences? How did they get the songs?
The authorities wanted to know who the source was, but I didn’t know. I had a story, but I didn’t necessarily believe it. We (and whenever I say “we”, I mean my legal team) had to conduct our own investigation to get to the bottom of all of it. This meant that we could question my leads & contacts privately, rather than having the FBI do it and cause a big crazy shit storm. I can’t get into details of who led us where, but we were able to protect my friends’ identities.
The GnR Syndicate: I guess the biggie is: How did you come across these leaks? Was it somebody close to the band?
Ah, the big one. The one I won’t answer just yet. The decision not to talk about this is not an easy one for me to make, but I can say that it is my decision entirely. There’s no secret gag order, and I’m not involved in any sort of ongoing investigation. What I can also say is that we completed our investigation, and figured out exactly where the songs came from, and how they wound up in my hands. I could go public with this information, but for now, I’m saving it for a rainy day.
The GnR Syndicate: What were the events leading up to the arrest? The FBI originally only questioned you, correct?
Yeah, well that’s how it goes. They let you run your mouth for as long as they can get you to while they build a case up. I was kind of naive in the beginning- I knew I was in some trouble, but I guess I figured it couldn’t possibly be that big of a deal to them.
I was working at a company in Ladera heights last year when all of this went down. I came back from lunch one afternoon, and Mulder and Scully were there in the lobby waiting for me. They called my name as soon as the elevator doors opened. They were professional, polite and discreet. I was quoted as calling it “an ambush, ” by some reporter, and that made me laugh- it felt more like a business meeting. (Though I’m sure I’ve described certain business meetings as "ambushes" on occasion, so whatever.)
The three of us went outside where I told them exactly what I did. They wanted to borrow my computer, and make a copy of the hard drive. I didn’t want to have to leave work, so they agreed to come by my apartment in the morning for it- the first of a few visits to my apartment, none of which I would describe as particularly intimidating. They were investigating, and I wasn’t trying to hide what I did.
The GnR Syndicate: The Feds: A little too heavy handed in all this or no? Guns (pardon the pun) were pulled correct? Can you tell us what happened?
Well at the time, my main priority was just keeping my life together- the last thing I wanted was some big scene that would freak out my employer or landlord or anyone that could fuck my shit up if they suddenly saw me as a liability. I wanted things to be over and done with as soon as possible, even if it meant I’d have to put the handcuffs on myself. So there were several times that I told Mulder that if he needed to arrest me, all he’d have to do is call me. I didn’t know the legal terms, but I made it clear that a summons would be more than enough to get me in front of a judge.
At some point it became obvious that an arrest was coming. I had been talking with Mulder regularly, you know, running my mouth like a dumbass. I insisted that my source was anonymous and that I did not know their identity, but I kept breaking down the timeline, the traffic, the crash, how exactly the files were encoded, how they were uploaded, how they were accessed, and all of those technical details. At some point, I asked Mulder a question (I don’t even remember what it was), and he claimed to not be able to discuss something that would be going to a grand jury. Those are two big words, and that’s when I started looking for lawyers.
When I finally found David, the first thing he told me to do was to shut my fucking mouth (of course), and just tell the FBI that I was retaining counsel before going further. He told me that as soon as I did that, things might get ugly that they might get angry. When I told Mulder, he simply said he understood, said good bye, and hung up the phone. He didn’t even have to think about what to do next, which was scary. It didn’t really register- I didn’t walk around the whole rest of the day waiting to be arrested or anything, but it was in my head somewhere, because that night I dreamt about some spooks kicking in my door and hauling me the fuck out. I was awoken from that dream by the feds banging on my front door, yelling, and while that was pretty freaky for a moment, I immediately knew what was going on. When I opened the door, there were five or six (I remember five, my girlfriend counted six) federal agents, all with guns aimed directly at me, except for the one that was handcuffing me. I looked down the hall, and there was my buddy Mulder, with his gun pointed right at me, and all I said to him was that it was “totally unnecessary. ” He didn’t respond, and I didn’t say anything else until I was in court. We weren’t friends anymore.
They drove me downtown to the federal lockup. The place was crawling with U.S. Marshals. There was this insane poster in the little booking area that portrayed some famous crazy U.S. Marshal from the 1860s, with some metal-ass ridiculous nickname like “The Butcher, ” like something out of a movie, with this wild handlebar mustache, and he’s standing on top of a scaffold with a row of nooses. I forget exactly what it said below in hardcore old English text, but the gist was that their job description included enthusiastically killing the shit out of criminals. It was clear that people are sent there to be executed. It was intense.
I was in there with some no-bullshit-motherfuckers. This one dude had pistol whipped a cop (allegedly!) after illegally sneaking back into the country after his fifth deportation. Ironically enough, he was a friendly dude. Same as the local drunk tank, people just love to talk shit and trade stories, to distract themselves from the fact that they’re pretty much totally fucked. I was more scared outside of the cell than in it. That’s reality for you.
Eventually, I met with the judge who had signed the arrest warrant, and right there in the courtroom in front of everyone, he said “I don’t even understand why this wasn’t a summons case, like I recommended. ” He let me go on a signature bond (a friend vouches to keep an eye on you, but pays a massive fine if you skip town), despite the government pushing to keep me locked up.
You know, I gotta admit, one of our posters on Antiquiet raised a good point- I didn’t slip these tracks onto some underground IRC channel in the middle of the night, quietly, anonymously- we did it right in our front yard, with a marching band and cheerleaders, in broad daylight. In a way, the crime was a complete overkill, and so I can’t get too mad about the arrest being a complete overkill. I probably would have done the same exact thing if I were them. Sometimes inappropriate behavior is the best way to make a point.
The GnR Syndicate: How quickly were you notified after putting the songs up, to take them down?
Well one thing a lot of reports- perhaps all of them- have gotten wrong is the fact that the songs were long gone before anyone contacted me. My server crashed from the traffic. The only way I could get my site back up was to remove the songs. They had only been up for about fifteen minutes before that happened, and then maybe an hour after I got the site back up with the songs (and a bunch of features) completely disabled, I started getting calls.
The GnR Syndicate: Who initiated the prosecution? The band? The label? The government?
RIAA did the initial investigation, and packaged the case up for the government.
The GnR Syndicate: The prosecutor wanted jail time, do you feel that this would have been appropriate in a case such as yours?
Well no, of course not. Do you?
Nah, but seriously, even the prosecutor conceded that it wasn’t necessarily appropriate for me on an individual level, but that doing so might deter others from committing more harmful cases of the crime. I knew ahead of time that was the situation I would probably be in. We had put up a great fight, but it would come down to whether or not the judge felt it was time to make an example out of someone. That’s a scary side of justice; sometimes what you deserve isn’t the only factor the court considers when deciding your fate. Luckily, the honorable judge Abrams is a fair dude.
The GnR Syndicate: Do you feel that your actions sabotaged Guns n’ Roses or harmed them in anyway? The record label? The RIAA?
I don’t feel that my actions harmed the band or label in any way whatsoever. The finished version of Chinese Democracy went up for streaming in its entirety on Myspace before the album was released. The label paid money for this. They called it promotion.
The GnR Syndicate: In many ways the RIAA appears to be both the dinosaur as well as comet hurling towards earth. Is dragging people into criminal court for this type of offense going to solve their problem? If not, then what would solve it in your opinion?
I'm going to reserve judgment on RIAA... for now.
The GnR Syndicate: Do you regret what you have done? If so, were you able to convey your apologies to the band through legal counsel or other means?
I don’t regret what I did, but I won’t ever do it again. I’ll let someone else take the next one, and I’ll find another boat to rock. One that isn’t so illegal maybe. As I said the other day, my actions disrespected Axl’s right to control how his work is presented to the world. For that I humbly apologize. But that’s as far as it goes.
The GnR Syndicate: Did anybody from the band ever contact you?
Nope. No one truly authorized to represent the band, besides Axl’s lawyer, who sent a cease & desist.
I’m sure you guys know about Beta’s kid Fernando. He was actually the first to call me, identifying himself as a member of the “Guns n’ Roses camp. ” Like I said, the songs were long gone, but he wanted to know if I was going to put them back up. I told him I would not. He asked where I got them, and I told them that I didn’t know the identity of my source. The cease and desist came via email shortly after.
Apparently the FBI questioned Fernando (before me), and he had given them a very different story. He told them that I said I got the tracks from a source at the record label, and he told them that the songs were still online when he called, suggesting that he had something to do with my taking them down. Initially we thought that he had something to do with the leaks (why else would he make so much shit up to the freaking FBI), but when we investigated, he was a dead end. He’s been responsible for past leaks, but not mine. So I don’t know. He may have been trying to play hero to redeem himself, or he may have mistakenly thought he was somehow responsible. I don’t know.
The GnR Syndicate: What was the mindset behind putting the unreleased tracks up for people to download? What motivated you to do this? Considering the time and money put into the album weren’t you a bit apprehensive?
Honestly, I didn’t think much before doing it. It was automatic. Let me answer those questions along with this one:
The GnR Syndicate: There has always seemed to be a conflicting view in regards to these leaks. Few, if any, of the people I knew were strong enough to refrain from downloading them. On the other hand many of the fansites were vehemently against even discussing them (All while downloading for themselves or actively seeking them out). What kind of feedback were you getting in your mail box? Thanks? Fuck you?
Well that’s two-faced bullshit. If you’re running a fansite, you’ve gotta ask yourself who you’re doing it for. Are you doing it to get closer to the band? Or are you doing it to serve the fans? Johnny Firecloud [Antiquiet co-founder] and I ran a big fansite back in the day for A Perfect Circle. We pissed that band off so much, posting shit we weren’t supposed to, refusing to take said shit down until we got a substantial statement in return for the fans to chew on. But once you start censoring yourself, then you start becoming little more than an extension of the band’s cocktease “official ” site, only you’re not getting paid. You know what? No matter how close you may get to the band, you’re still going to be the fanboy (or girl)... unless you sell drugs too, I guess. The relationship you build with the fans is way more valuable in every single way. They’ll be there for you at the end of the day.
Sometimes you’ve gotta make real tough choices between the band’s wishes and the fans’ wishes, and I’m not saying the fans have to win every time. But sometimes you’ve gotta stand up for them, you know? You’ve gotta say, “Look, this shit is out there, I’m a journalist, it is my job to report this. Take me to court if you have to, but I’ve got rights. ” Or else I’ve gotta wonder why you still bother.
One thing that was really interesting to me was how the feedback I was getting would change with the weather; with each turning point in the story. Initially, everyone was like “Fuck yeah! Thanks! ” But when I did a couple interviews and the FBI got involved, haters came out of the woodwork, and then it was split evenly between “thanks” and “fuck you. ” It fluctuated at various points as the whole thing went up and down, but when someone reported the government’s recommendation that I do jail time, the needle swung so hard in my favor, it broke. It was more comments than ever before, and all but a few were “Fuck RIAA! Fuck the man! Free Skwerl! ” and that kinda shit.
I read the comments and emails and shit, but I never let any of it get to me. These people don’t know shit about me, so how can I take any of it personally? Besides, most of the people ranting about how I’m a scumbag piece of shit asshole don’t even have the story straight, and few of them know the first thing about how the record industry really works these days.
The GnR Syndicate: Were there any donations towards your legal fund?
I hadn’t done the math (accurately), so I’m going to sit down and do it for you now.
Less than 2% of my legal fees came from donations, not including bills I’m still waiting for. It was a few hundred dollars over the past year, most during the first two days of me having a donation button available. Twenty-five people donated, including my girlfriend. Most of the donations were in the ballpark of $5, and a couple people shocked the hell out of me with their generosity. I definitely, sincerely appreciate the support. It meant a lot to me. I’m trying to figure out something really cool I can do for those twenty-five people to let them know how much I appreciate it.
I’m happy to lay this out for you though. Once upon a time I had a site that ran up astronomical hosting bills, yet was home to a really cool, supportive community. I opened the donation jar, and it was pretty much the same deal; I got less than 2% of what I owed the hosting company. So in the end, we got shut down. That was eons ago, but to this day, every once in a while, someone will bring it up, and ask where “all that donation money went” like I’m Bernie fucking Madoff. If there’s ever any backlash with this case, if some troll goes on a tirade someday about how I avoided a costly trial just so I could pocket donated legal fees, or how thousands of pro-piracy communist hippies rallied together to buy my freedom or some shit, you can direct them here.
The GnR Syndicate: So did you finally buy Chinese Democracy? What did you think?
Damn right I did. How could I not? I had been waiting for it longer than I’ve had hair on my balls.
For me the bottom line was that it was a great album, but it had just been cooking too long, plain and simple. When we think back to 2008, we might remember it as the year Chinese Democracy finally came out, but you’re not going to hear it playing during the flashback scenes in movies 20 years from now. It’s going to be fucking Katy Perry, or Linkin Park. Say what you want about their shitty albums, but at least they claimed their moment.
I still listen to it. There are some songs that I like even more now than I did when I wrote the review, like “Sorry. ” That’s a great song, it grew on me big time.
At least two people on my legal team purchased the album, which definitely wouldn’t have otherwise. I’m pretty sure they hated it.
The GnR Syndicate: Many people felt that giving into the temptation of the leaks ultimately tainted the album once they listened to it in its entirety. Did the leaks spoil the final product for you?
Some people are like that. The listening experience is a sacred ritual for them. Some of these people are the same kinda people that have albums they can’t listen to because some girl or boy that broke their heart liked it or got them into it. I was never one of those people. If an album is good, nothing I do or avoid doing is going to change that.
If you’re the type of person that feels the listening experience can be spoiled by leaks... don’t listen to leaks.
The GnR Syndicate: Anything else you’d like to readers to know? Guns n’ Roses?
Yeah, if anyone gets their hands on the new Dr. Dre album, I’d like to check it out.
Taken from here.