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Re: 2001: Chinese Whispers

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Inauguration of a live band


Starting at 3.35am on 01/01/01 at the House of Blues, Las Vegas, Guns N' Roses played their first official live show since 07/17/93 and the wrap-up of the Use Your Illusion world tour. New songs from the CD sessions included Chinese Democracy, The Blues, Rhiad and the Bedouins and Silk Worms, along side the '99 single, Oh My God.

"'I have traversed a treacherous sea of horrors to be with you here tonight,' Mr. Rose told the crowd, which received him with roars of approval. Warm reviews followed." (New York Times, 03/06/05)


On 01/15/01, GNR played a late-night set in front of an audience of 190,000 in Rock in Rio 3, Brazil. The 140-minute set included an animated intro, guitar solos, Axl's trademark rants, and all the new songs played in Vegas, along with an exclusive number, Madagascar.

"We'll be here next summer with a whole bunch of new songs." (Axl, Rock in Rio 3, 01/15/01)

"With 18 songs, the group's next album [...] which will be released in June [...] is a collection of songs, which, in Axl's opinion, are as good as 'November Rain'. Among them 'Madagascar', included in the show on Sunday. The CD will include a tribute to John Lennon [Catcher in the Rye], and another [song] about child abuse." (O Globo, 01/16/01)

"The day after Rock In Rio 2001 Axl and I were at the pool and he mentioned that there was a possibility that Slash could have played on a few tracks for Chinese Democracy if he were willing to apologize  in the press for the things that he said about Axl publicly.  Axl was cracking the door open and saying to me, 'If  Slash apologizes publicly for the things he said about me in the press I have three songs that he could play on the new album'." (Marc Canter, Legendary Rock Interviews, 04/22/12)

"Hopefully we will put out a new single [...] sometime this spring, and then the record [is] gonna be done in June or shortly thereafter." (Axl, Radio Rock And Pop Chile, 01/01)


From Rio De Janeiro, Axl continued to Buenos Aires, Argentina on 01/20 and from there to Santiago, Chile on 01/22. A brief tour had been planned to take off at RIR3.

"The idea was, I wanted to play Buenos Aires and Santiago. [...] For some reasons that did not work out right now." (Axl, Radio Rock And Pop Chile, 01/01)

"Although the possibility existed that [GNR] would play at the Buenos Aires Hot Festival [on January 16th-18th, 2001], [Axl] preferred to wait for the band to be more "oiled". Also transcended that the group requested a high price to play (in Rio, the organizers paid them more than a half million dollars)." (Clarin, 02/01)


"It's very possible that we will play [in South America] in  [...] November this year or January of next year." (Axl, Radio Rock And Pop Chile, 01/01)

"Guns N' Roses [...] will arrive in Buenos Aires in November [2001] to play a concert at the second [annual] edition of the Buenos Aires Hot Festival." (Clarin, 02/01)

"We wanted to play in Buenos Aires and Chile but we won't really be on tour until in five months, because this is very new for us." (Axl, Radio Rock & Pop FM, 01/22/01)

sic.
 Rep: 150 

Re: 2001: Chinese Whispers

sic. wrote:

Zoot 'em up

After Axl got back to LA, little over three months after Bob Ezrin was officially named the new A&R Man, a replacement was sought, implying an abrupt end in his working relationship with the band.


"It's February 2001, and, somewhere in New York city, Tom Zutaut's phone is ringing. On the line is Jimmy Iovine, founder of Interscope and head of Geffen and A&M Records and he's asking Tom - a man that Geffen sacked two years previously [likely during the Seagram merger in January '99] - the most unlikeliest of questions: if he'll come back to work. For Guns N' Roses. [...] 'No-one can wrangle a fucking record out of 'em but you! Would you do it?...'"

[Axl] had a vision and wanted to make the best record that had ever been made. And we talked.

Axl: 'I go to the studio, I tell 'em what I want, and they tell me that they've got what I want and then, when I listen to it, I'm bummed out... Nobody seems to understand my language.'" (Classic Rock, 04/08)

"'[In studio work,] there's definitely a need for people skills and figuring out what they want to hear,' [Freese] says. 'Someone might try to explain something and even though he's not explaining it well, just by knowing his music and by talking to him I can kind of tell what he wants.'" (Josh Freese, 2001)

sic.
 Rep: 150 

Re: 2001: Chinese Whispers

sic. wrote:

Brain Surgery

"Josh Freese was the drummer before and he had basically played drums on about 30 songs and when he had left Axl really liked my 'feel', so he was like 'Well, I really liked what Josh played, but I want your 'feel'." (Brain, EQTV, 10/08)

"Brain is a great groove drummer, whereas Josh is a very linear, straight-ahead punk rock session player. Josh is known for going in there, listening to a song, memorizing it immediately, and nailing straight to click. Brain is more of a hip-hop feel creative weird guy." (Gersh, GNR drum tech, 2001)

"I would not have wanted to be in Brain's shoes. Basically we were saying to him; 'We have got a brilliant performance of this and now we need you to recreate it.'" (Tom Zutaut, Classic Rock, 04/08)


"What surprised me is that they supposedly had Brain re-do my drums note for note." (Josh Freese, Podocast, 04/13)

"Roy [Thomas Baker] was the producer at that time and he's like, 'Well, basically what you are gonna have to do is play exactly what Josh played. Exactly note for note." (Brain, EQTV, 10/08)

"[Baker] was coming from Queen, The Cars, Journey, more the rock thing. He said we had to go re-record the drums because they sounded very industrial." (Brain, MusicRadar, 10/22/12)


"[Producer] Roy Thomas Baker drove us around L.A. in his Rolls Royce to try to find the exact drums that we wanted for the recording... We went to every company, and it wound up being a mash-up of all the best drums we could find around L.A." (Brain, Modern Drummer, 05/09)

"Ironically, [Brain] settled for a fairly standard five-piece setup. But that was only his starting point." (Brain, 2001)

"We pretty much gathered the most ridiculous kit you could ever have, to rerecord Josh’s parts." (Brain, Modern Drummer, 05/09)

"At any time Brain can choose from an enormous selection of drums that he keeps on hand in the studio at all times. He alters his setup for every new track he records, customizing his kit to suit each song. Why does he do it? For the same reason that dogs lick their genitals - because they can!" (Brain, 2001)


"So we brought all those drums into the main studio at Village, where Fleetwood Mac recorded Tusk. I set up and started playing, and I was like, 'Wait a second, man. We’re doing Guns N’ Roses here.' .. Going into the Guns thing, it just felt like we had to do something better that what you’d normally get in a studio that’s built to sound good... I was kind of coming from the school of Tom Waits...

I talked to Jeff Greenberg, the owner.

Brain: 'Jeff, man, we gotta have something better than this. I mean, the room sounds great and this is cool, but you just had, like, Kenny G in here. I can’t have my shit sounding the same as a Kenny G album.'
Jeff Greenberg: 'Well, what are you saying? Is it the drums? We can have any drum put in here.'
Brain: 'No, it’s not the drums. The drums sound good and the room sounds good. But we gotta get a vibe.'"  (Brain, Modern Drummer, 05/09)
Jeff Greenberg: 'Well, we have an auditorium that used to be a Masonic Temple upstairs.'  (Brain, EQTV, 10/08)


"There’s an old haunted Masonic temple upstairs where the Masons would give their speeches, and nobody ever goes up there. It was a theater. So we go up, [Jeff] opens the door, and it just felt like, Okay, now we’re talking." (Brain, Modern Drummer, 05/09)

"it's all cold up there, it's like ya'know just... really eerie feeling... and, and I'm like, 'This is it, this is where we, I'm recording all the drums...' All of a sudden there was a vibe, and it clicked." (Brain, EQTV, 10/08)

""I’m thinking, We’ve got to set up here. We found the sweet spot in the room and I set up the drums there... and that’s were they stayed for six years." (Brain, Modern Drummer, 05/09)

"We basically ran everything up to the top of this, of this Village Recorders and we set up the drums in this auditorium, and so it really just had a huge kinda Bonham-esque sound. (Brain, EQTV, 10/08)


"Roy would try every Marshall guitar amp in a five-state area to find just the right guitar tone. And he wanted to do that for every single part on the album..."  (Tommy, Bass Player, 04/09)

"'I have an idea of what I want when I go in [with a new track],' [Brain] says. 'And since there are 50 snare drums and 40 kick drums, or whatever, you know it's kind of like, 'Well, this song would be great if we start with a 26" kick, 14", 16", 18" toms, because it's a huge sound - a very slow, huge, grunge-type of sound. Let's get some big hi-hats in there. Where's that really deep snare? Let's get a 7" or an 8". Let's try it.' It usually works right away." (Brain, 2001)

"In my opinion, [Baker] wasted many years and many millions of dollars trying to get us better sounds that we could have addressed in the mixing stage." (Tommy, Bass Player, 04/09)


"Per Baker's request, engineer Caram Costanzo has close to 30 mics on the drums alone - using four on the snare and two on each tom." (EQ Magazine, 2001)

"I’m not a proponent of his style of producing. I think Iovine put Roy Thomas Baker in the producer seat because he didn’t think the raw sounds were good enough." (Tommy, Bass Player, 04/09)

"But also, it didn't really surprise me, meaning sometimes, what people do in the studio if they're procrastinating is, you can do stuff also that makes it look like you're busy..." (Josh Freese, Podocast, 04/13)

"[Baker] sometimes spent as long as eight hours on a few bars of music..." (New York Times, 03/06/05)


"Musicians, engineers, Pro Tools guys, assistant engineers - in all honesty, these fucking people are getting paid shitloads of money and they're sitting on their arse doing nothing because Axl's not coming to the studio and they can't get him on the phone... they're inventing ways to stay busy." (Tom Zutaut, Classic Rock, 04/08)


"[Brain had] to do a massive amount of studying and learning and recording different feels with the same song structure. He really [had] to put his fingerprint on this thing and it would be a lot of work." (Gersh, GNR drum tech, 2001)

"So I'm like, 'So, I'm gonna have to transcribe every like 30 something songs?!' and I'm like, 'Pfft, oh man, I'm not getting paid enough for this.' So I'm like, 'I don't mind doing that but you're gonna have to get someone else to transcribe it', so I went to the head transcriber at Sony Studios and I brought him 2 CD's worth of like 30 songs and I said, 'Dude, I want, note for note, for you to transcribe everything that's on this drum-wise!'" (Brain, EQTV, 10/08)

sic.
 Rep: 150 

Re: 2001: Chinese Whispers

sic. wrote:

Brain Surgery, pt 2

"So about a month later [the transcriber] calls me and I get back, I go and pick it up at Sony Studios I get like, it must have been like that thick (holds hands about a foot apart) of sheet music and it was every song written out note for note and these were some seven minute songs."

With, at the end, Josh doing soloing. Actually, like 'Ba-budda-bah-pssh-budda-bash'. Like every note was written out and he had like the exact solo of the end of 'There Was A Time', maybe that was like literally, I dunno, like 2 minutes of the vamp at the end of Josh just going crazy. All written out!" (Brain, EQTV, 10/08)


"Supposedly, they hired a guy to transcribe all the drums parts, including the 'shut up and play your guitar' drum parts." (Josh Freese, 04/13)

"When I opened the charts, there were like one page, two page, three, four, fi... like six pages! [...] So each song we had up, like, we had this like this huge like banner made where we could have the whole chart across. So I would look at it from here all the way to like almost 90 degrees (Points high left side and swings arm around to high right side). I would just see this huge chart. And I learned every song for, I dunno, maybe 2 weeks." (Brain, EQTV, 10/08)


"We listened to some prerecorded tracks that Josh had already played on." (Brain, Modern Drummer, 05/09)

"I like to listen to the song as long as I can. If I can I'll ask for songs a week in advance or two weeks in advance, I'll live with them, and listen to the lyrics. Sometimes I'll write them down. Sometimes I'll think about it and go, 'Okay, what kind of energy do I want to bring to this?'" (Brain, 2001)

"I was never the studio session kinda guy. Maybe I just never had the talent to pull it off or whatever, but there'd have to be more. I could never just go in, and read a chart and play something. I wanna know what are we playing, what are we making, what are we saying with this that we're making. I couldn't just go, I just need to get my paycheck and play. " (Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)


"[We recorded drums for Madagascar] the first time we had the drums set up in that theater, and it just sounded really Bonham-esque... The loop at the beginning I just created from the MPC. Then we went into the main parts where Axl comes in, and that’s when we added the drums, played live...

"It was like, 'Okay, here’s ‘Madagascar.’ This DW 13” tom – a Timeless Timber model that my drum tech had – sounds huge. And it sounds really great with this Gretsch floor tom. And this aluminum DW snare sounds great with this particular setup….” (Brain, Modern Drummer, 05/09)

"I have to play to where their guitars are, or where their bass is. I still try to just play my feel and lay it back, but sometimes there are just conflicts. If it's a super busy part, it might be like, 'You can't lay back there, Brain. Check it out. It's flamming all over the place.'" (Brain, 2001)

"In the spoken-word section we took away the baffles and had it completely opened up because we wanted it bigger." (Brain, Modern Drummer, 05/09)

"[The spoken-word section samples] Martin Luther King's famous 'I have a dream' speech - a sample for which they didn't have clearance during Zutaut's time on the album.

'Axl feels that particular speech is at the core of the message that he is putting across at that song,' says Zutaut, 'and he told me that if the Martin Luther King estate would not give permission for that to come out on the final record, that track would not be on it without it.'"  (Classic Rock, 04/08)



"The sound became a little bigger, a little sloppier. And that became more of what the album is now." (Brain, EQTV, 10/08)

"I got the album then. I started getting what the drums should sound like. Josh’s drums were kind of tight and precise, and we loosened it up." (Brain, EQTV, 10/08)

"That’s totally my style and the way I like to play; I was just biting off Bonham the whole time on that track... the big long fills. " (Brain, Modern Drummer, 05/09)


Brain took two weeks to rehearse each of the pre-existing songs at the Masonic Attic, followed two days' recording. He'd eventually record a total of some 16-18 of Josh's drum tracks, aka the '99 album.

"Learned all the parts, I sat there and got it down like it was orchestrated. I just practiced until I got it... Roy didn't want me to do it in sections... Its like, 'No, you gotta play it as one piece.'" (Brain, EQTV, 10/08)

"[Doing multiple varying takes] was hard at first. That's why I say, 'Look, you get three takes and then I'm done.' I usually shoot for that first one, where I'm fresh. I've practiced the song in my brain and physically 30 or 40 times, and I come in and go, 'This is it. I'm going to play this. I'm going to give everything I've got for this first take.'" (Brain, 2001)


"We'd try to record [every track] for 2 days until I got the 'perfect' take." (Brain, EQTV, 10/08)

"I always pretend that the band is right there,' Brain says. 'I haven't noticed a difference in my playing. The only thing I miss is the band isn't playing to my feel, so I have to convert to something that's already there." (Brain, 2001)

"I'm upstairs practicing and I would call downstairs and be like, 'Yeah man, I think I got it, so maybe we should try it. Two weeks have gone by I think I got it'...  and everybody down at the $2,000 a day studio would just be sitting there, like watching cartoons or The Exorcist or something." (Brain, EQTV, 10/08)


"The first task set to [Zutaut] by [Axl] was to help with the drum sound for [the Chinese Democrary track, written by Freese]. Axl had told the studio guys that he wanted the same drum sound as Dave Grohl on Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit. The production crew would claim they had it, but Axl wouldn't be satisfied.

After hearing the [CD recording] for himself, Zutaut agreed with Axl. He took a break and went to the local Tower Records, where he bought a copy of Nevermind. Back in the studio, [Zutaut, Baker and the studio engineer Caram Costanzo] compared [Smells Like Teens Spirit and CD] and set to work making the GNR drummer sound exactly like Grohl." (Classic Rock, 04/08)

"Everything would be dropped off to [Axl on CD]... There'd be a runner ready to go right when we were done at midnight, to bring it to his house in Malibu.'" (Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)


"[The discs could have ] 16 or more takes of a musician performing his part of a single song." (New York Times, 03/06/05)

"[Axl] would call Zutaut or RTB and go through what he liked and what he didn't like." (Classic Rock, 04/08)

"We'd wait about 35-40 minutes until it got there and get the call. 'Yeah, this is cool', or, 'No, we gotta change something or whatever.'" (Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)

"Axl: 'I've been only asking that for, like, six fucking months!"  (Classic Rock, 04/08)


"We were working on [an unreleased] track... We'd been doing that for about 2,5 weeks on this song, let's say. Finally, [Axl] loved what we were doing, but we had to change something with the drums.

So, I remember replaying the part, but, on the beginning of the second half of the intro, there's a kick drum that I had missed on the final take. We had already figured out all the parts and everything was going great, and producer Roy Thomas Baker was like, 'That was the take.'

"They sent the finished thing over to Axl." (Classic Rock, 04/08)

"[On the unreleased track,] I had noticed that I'd missed one kick drum. One kick drum on the one, on the second half of the intro, OK? We send it there, and I'm not shitting you, [Axl calls and says,]

Axl: 'Everything sounds great, except I think Brain missed a kick drum on the one.'

...I was like, 'Wow. He caught that." (Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)

sic.
 Rep: 150 

Re: 2001: Chinese Whispers

sic. wrote:

Made glorious summer

Ever since 01/08/01, a week after the Vegas show and a week before the Rio performance, GNR had added European dates for the June tour itinerary.

"[The album] will be released in June or July. They already have 48 songs." (Beta Lebeis, Brazilian Journal, 03/12/01)

"95% of Zutaut's job was to listen to all the songs. 'There were probably 50 or 60 songs on four or five CDs with 12-15 songs a piece.'" (Classic Rock, 04/08)

Apparently, Axl was making him look into both the A- and B-list songs from the Beavan era.

"The record company is selecting the material." (Beta Lebeis, Brazilian Journal, 03/12/01)

"'I had to go through those songs and then sit with Axl and work with him directly to pick and choose which songs would be worth finishing...' A nocturnal worker, Axl's irregular time-keeping was also causing its own problems... 'He'd come to the studio once or twice a week,' says Zutaut, 'and then we might be there for two weeks because he stays to work on stuff.'" (Classic Rock, 04/08)


"Robin Finck shed some light on the groups (GnR's) upcoming plans. He stated that the new album, 'Chinese Democracy', is looking for a June release through Interscope... with a single hitting radio earlier in the Spring... while the band will be doing a European tour in May and June."  (Finck Tank, 03/03/01)

Finck also confirmed that the plan was to continue from Europe to the US in the next month.

"When the band returns to North America in July, they plan to embark on 'a 2 month U.S. stadium tour and yes, I will be on tour with GnR. I have not left NIN and I hope to tour with them again. I am looking forward to bringing the new GnR lineup to stage.'" (Finck Tank, 03/03/01)

"'Yeah, I miss playing gigs,' Brain says. 'What I miss about playing live these days is just the interaction, I mean, I did play one of the biggest shows of my life, Rock in Rio, with this new situation, and it was awesome. It was one of the best things I've ever experienced. It was so huge and such a great experience that when I came back I was kind of depressed for a while, because I was kind of like, 'Wow! What's next?' I went to the tenth floor.'" (Brain, 2001)

sic.
 Rep: 150 

Re: 2001: Chinese Whispers

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Show Me the Money

"'One of the things that Interscope wanted me to do was have a look at the budget,' [Zutaut] says, 'and try to figure out where all this money was going. So you know, it took me about a month.'" (Tom Zutaut, Classic Rock, 04/08)


"[A year earlier,] they were paying enormous rental bills and they were paying people to sit around the studio waiting for Axl to show up and it was just a disaster." (Bob Ezrin, HitChannel, 04/12/12)

This was when Guns were still at Rumbo, the Appetite studio. Early into the job, Ezrin had moved them into a costlier studio.


"One internal cost analysis [by Zutaut, no doubt] from the period pegs the operation's monthly tab at a staggering $244,000. It included more than $50,000 in studio time at the Village, a more modern studio where [A&R Man Bob Ezrin] had moved the band.

[...] [Zutaut's calculations] included a combined payroll for seven band members that exceeded $62,000, with the star players earning roughly $11,000 each. Guitar technicians earned about $6,000 per month, while the album's main engineer was paid $14,000 per month and a recording software engineer was paid $25,000 a month, the document stated." (New York Times, 03/06/05)" (New York Times, 03/06/05)


"One area where there was an astronomical amount of money being spent was in rented gear. [...] My recollection is that we were able to shave around $75,000 a month off the budget..." (Tom Zutaut, Classic Rock, 04/08)

With

$62,000 for the band members,
$50,000 on studio time,
$25,000 for Pro Tools engineer Eric Caudieux, 
$18,000 for three guitar technicians,
$14,000 for main engineer Caram Costanzo,

equals

$169,000 per month.

Add in $75,000 for unnecessary gear rental and you'll end up with the numbers Zutaut found.

"The crew rented one piece of specialized equipment, for example, for more than two years - at a cost well into six figures - and used it for perhaps 30 days, according to one person involved with the production." (New York Times, 03/06/05)

"It's a bit of a luxury to have a '59 Les Paul at however many thousands dollar a month when it isn't even being used. Maybe one day three years ago they needed this piece of gear, but now the track it was used on isn't even being considered, the gear is still sitting there and the rental company is still making the money. We'd paid enough in rental for it that we could have bought it!'" (Tom Zutaut, Classic Rock, 04/08)

sic.
 Rep: 150 

Re: 2001: Chinese Whispers

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Up in the Bucket

"By the time Zutaut joined the Chinese Democracy project, Buckethead had left, frustrated by what he saw as the band's inactivity. Axl wanted him back. So Zutaut arranges a meeting with Brian/Bucket at a deli in LA and listens as the guitarist explains why he left."

"'There was a bit of creative tension with Roy Thomas Baker,' says Zutaut... It could well have been, what with Roy being an eccentric, flamboyant, British rock god producer and Buckethead being, well, a chicken...

[Bucket's] frustrated at the whole situation - at coming in to the studio everyday when Axl's not even there, playing the same parts over and over. Axl's his hero, he tells him, but he just spent a year going nowhere.  He doesn't think the record will ever come out and he just has to move on with his life."

Zutaut: 'You've just told me how you don't feel right in the studio. What if we build a chicken coop in the studio for you to record your guitar-parts?'
Buckethead:'If I could have my own chicken coop in the studio, my own world to live in, I could play a lot better.'

Two days later... 'We built the coop and then he brought in all his props and toys and put straw on the floor! You could almost smells the chickens.'" (Classic Rock, 04/08)

"What I've noticed about playing in the studio for the last three months doing it, whatever you give, it comes out on tape," [Brain] says. [...] When I give more and I feel like I'm into it and I have a vibe you can hear that, too. So I bring the vibe. I bring all my inspirations. Like I bring pictures of Bruce Lee, and hang them up all around the drums. For me it's everything. It just adds that extra energy. [...] And then I would play better." (Brain, 2001)


"As the weeks went by, the [chicken coop] joke started to wear thin. [...] 'So Bucket comes and says he needs a TV so he can sit in his chicken coop and watch porn,' says Tom. 'And that seemed to really inspire him to record some great stuff.' 

One evening Axl turns up for the session. '[He] sees that Bucket is running this porn - and it is pretty hardcore stuff... and Axl is really disturbed by it.' [So Axl] takes Bucket outside for a talk... that it wasn't right to be inspired by shit like that.

"'He said, 'I really can't have the vibe of a dirty, depraved porn being a part of my record - it is really not what this record is about, you know?'"

"Then Axl left and Bucket was pretty despondent. He disappeared for a few days, because he was pretty torn up about it." (Tom Zutaut, Classic Rock, 04/08)


An unhappy Bucket would develop a medical condition on the eve of the summer tour.

"Guitarist Buckethead has suffered hemorrhaging and has missed [Guns] rehearsals, according to Helter Skelter, the band's European management agency... Doctors have been unable to determine the hemorrhaging's cause, though the guitarist is going through extensive testing in California." (Sonicnet, 05/10/01)

"Buckethead has been diagnosed as having a gastric ailment by one doctor and tuberculosis by another." (Merck Mercuaridis, Billboard, 05/31/01)

sic.
 Rep: 150 

Re: 2001: Chinese Whispers

sic. wrote:

Sanctuary... or an ossuary?

On 04/24/01, Doug Goldstein's Big FD Management was announced to be merged into Sanctuary Group. GNR had a 14-date European tour now in place for June and things looked good on the outside.

"Sanctuary today continued its expansion in the United States music market with the announcement that rock superstars Guns N' Roses and their long time manager, Doug Goldstein, are to join the Group. Goldstein, who has been with the band since its first album and over its 75,000,000 record sales, will become Co-President of Sanctuary Music Management based at the company's new Los Angeles offices which are due to open in mid-May." (Dust N' Bones mailing list, 04/24/01)


Of course, practically the first thing Goldstein had to announce Guns' summer tour was off.

"Guns N' Roses has begun rescheduling the summer European tour canceled due to health concerns relating to guitarist Buckethead." (Billboard, 05/31/01)

"With the deadline looming to ship the band's equipment overseas, and given the rehearsal time required for a band that's only performed together twice, the situation was deemed unworkable, according to a source close to the band." (Sonicnet, 05/10/01)

"It's thought that the [Buckethead] is being treated on an outpatient basis at home in Southern California and is not currently hospitalized. According to a note from the guitarist's official webmaster, 'Buckethead is OK at this point in time. The problem is still being looked into.'" (CDNow.com, 05/10/01)


Axl obviously had a very brisk chat with Goldstein over potential touring while completion of the album was still in the air.  Sanctuary's North American CEO Merck Mercuriadis was first on the case, as he was no doubt concerned over the moods of his newly-gained client.

"[Merck Mercuriadis] tells Billboard.com that... the [Guns tour] will not resume until the winter to allow Buckethead adequate time to recover." (Billboard, 05/31/01)

"Contrary to the popular rumor, Axl Rose has not fired manager Doug Goldstein of Big F.D., although they are 'taking a break from each other.' According to Goldstein, no legal steps have been taken to dissolve their relationship. He admits that the pair did have (yet another) falling-out over touring issues." (CDNow, 06/30/01)


Plans for the US tour seemingly began soon after the Big FD/Sanctuary merger. Goldstein and Mercuriadis were able to secure a veritable promoter, Clear Channel, which would be necessary for a nationwide arena tour. In the course of the year, Axl was also granted a $1 Million advance. The amount of expectations and the money involved kept the deal under wraps for a fair amount of time as the European tour was delayed.

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Re: 2001: Chinese Whispers

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Extracurricular activities

While CD was supposed to have been already released, and Buckethead was clashing with the studio crew and the GNR camp was arguing over touring with Doug Goldstein, Axl attended the NBA finals between the LA Lakers (featuring one-time GNR guest vocalist Shaq O'Neal) and Philadelphia 76ers.

On 06/13/01, he was spotted in Philadelphia during the fourth game.

"Rose was dining at [Buddakan,] the upscale Asian eatery [in Philadelphia] with two companions... When [owner Stephen] Starr approached to say hello, the hard rock hero recognized him... 'I promoted their show at the Trocadero about 10 years ago, and then another one at the Spectrum.'" (On the House, 06/30/01)

Moving away from promoting GNR in Philly would turn out well for him.

In the following game, Axl was interviewed by NBC at the Wachovia Center. Another strange coincidence in the world of GNR was the interviewers remark.

NBC: 'Now Axl, you've sat out there, you experienced the Philadelphia fans... People say it's a tough crowd, it's a rough crowd - what did you think?'
Axl: 'Mellow'.

A year and a half later, he might've reflected on that assessment.


In April/May, Robin and Buckethead contributed to the soundtrack of the John Carpenter film, Ghosts of Mars. Most of the albums basic tracks were cut by Anthrax in mid-March, with additional contributions by Steve Vai. Robin played on four (out of six) Anthrax tracks [Love Siege, Fight Train, Power Station and Ghost Poppin']. Buckethead was featured on Love Siege as well, along with the fifth Anthrax track, Kick Ass. He also played a solo number, Fightin' Mad.


Suddenly, Finck was keeping himself busy with soundtrack work.

"Clint Mansell recently completed a score featuring Danny Lohner and Robin Finck for the film 'Rain,' which is scheduled for release towards the end of 2001. There's no word on the soundtrack release at the moment, but more information will be provided by the official site [www.clintmansell.com] in the not to distant future." (Seems Like Salvation, 08/09/01)

While the soundtrack has never been released separately from the film, Mansell's website provides some samples.

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Re: 2001: Chinese Whispers

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The Gospel of Yoda

Beta, Axl's personal assistant, was visiting Brazil in late June.

"Axl calls [Beta, during her visit to Brazil,] to ask advices, to speak about the recording of the new album that it should be ready before Christmas, to negotiate of accounting problems and, mainly, to guarantee that she will return even on this Monday [07/02/01]..."

The Buenos Aires Hot Festival in November was apparently already out of the question, as the album needed to be completed.

"Between February and March of next year, [Guns N' Roses] intends to begin a new tour in South America... [The album] 'will be 12 or 18 songs, they are still coming to a conclusion. He composes lot by himself, other times with the other members of the band.'" (Beta, Brazilian Journal, 07/01/01)


As one advisor came back home, Axl felt the urge to see another, for sound reasons.

"[In July 2001,] mid-way through Zutaut's time there, Axl decided that [the two of them] were surrounded by negative energy and should go to visit Sharon Maynard [Axl's Sedona-based psychic advisor]...

'This was actually quite perceptive on [Axl's] part as the studio crew was making fun of him behind his back when he wasn't there.'" (Classic Rock, 04/08)

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Re: 2001: Chinese Whispers

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The Dog-Shit Boys

"MTV Brazil is reporting that Guns N' Roses' guitarist Buckethead has left the band." (CDNow, 07/26/01)

"After news leaked that Buckethead had indeed left the Guns N' Roses building, a little birdie told us that he's now back at the negotiating table with Axl Rose." (CDNow, 08/02/01)

"[Axl] accompanied Buckethead on a jaunt to Disneyland when the guitarist was drifting toward quitting, several people involved recalled." (New York Times, 03/06/05)


"Buckethead is still in the band, he tried to quit but Axl talked him into coming back. On the condition that he only has to play/record with the band 3 days a week. They are in the still in the studio recording two full albums, so when they finally release the first one, they can tour for a year and then release another one without going back into the studio." (HTGTH, 10/23/01)


Even when Bucket agreed to come back and try working things out with Baker and the studio crew, there was undoubtedly a good deal of tension about. Events upon his return to the fold certainly give a different meaning to 'a breath of fresh air'.

"'Axl,' says Zutaut, 'had a couple of wolf dogs.'" (Classic Rock, 04/08)

"[On 06/28/01,] Thursday morning, Axl was calling up at 8.30, [re]counting details of the birth of [a] couple of [wolf dog puppies]... 'He said that they are two, but I think more were born and he is hiding, with fear that I don't want to be with them in the house.'" (Beta interview, Brazilian Journal, 07/01/01)

"When Zutaut's daughter came to the studio, Axl offered to give her a puppy as she'd recently lost her dog." (Classic Rock, 04/08)

As wolf dogs are most keen to make contact with strangers between six and eight weeks of age, Axl likely introduced the Zutauts to his pup in late August.


"[Axl] brings in a puppy... 'It goes into the chicken coop and takes a dump... No one was allowed to go in there apart from the assistant engineers to adjust mics - you could not destroy the spirit and karmic vibe of the coop, his personal retreat.  But - it's chicken wire.  You could stand outside and talk, looking through, but nobody was allowed in there with his hacked up dolls and rubber chickens and heads...

So Bucket shows up later to work on his parts and he is mic-ed up, so he can record and we hear through the speaker, 'Oh, I love the smell of dog poop... leave it right there, don't let anybody touch it.'

Three days later, the studio stinks to high heaven of dog poop, and finally the studio could not bear it and had it cleaned up.'" (Classic Rock, 04/08)


And if Bucket was only in the studio three days a week, he must've gotten an insane giggle out of Baker & co inhaling the dog-poop odors all week long.

"'When Bucket came in the next day, he was like 'Where is my dog poop, man?' [...] [He] was generally bummed out [...], [it] had inspired him for a few days to do some great work...' Zutaut never did get the puppy - it had three months of weaning to go and he was off the project before then." (Classic Rock, 04/08)


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Wonder if the Finnish band knew about the incident when naming their album in 2005?

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Re: 2001: Chinese Whispers

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Sanders' Last Stand

"According to sources close the band, due to the 'global situation' and not being able to replace departed guitarist Buckethead, Guns N' Roses are in the throws of cancelling their end of year European tour." (Metal Hammer, 10/03/01)


Meanwhile, the studio was installing new equipment, temporarily holding off the recording process.

"When Jeff Greenberg, CEO of The Village recording studios, heard the new Neve 88R analog console, he was not the only one who had to have it. A top rock act in mid-production lock-out at the well-known West L.A. recording venue had to have it too. The result was what Greenberg called 'an outstanding effort' to install the new console in record time.

'The band halted recording at 2 a.m. on [10/07/01],' said Greenberg." (ProSoundWeb, 2001)

Less than twenty hours after holding off the recording process, at 9.30pm (PDT), the United States launched its attack against Afghanistan.


"On [10/14/01, Village Studios] had a great energy buzz going... the installation of a Neve 88R analog console into Studio D. Guns N' Roses had been locked in D with producer Roy Thomas Baker, and there was only a one-week window to pull the existing Neve VR SP and commission the 88R. A heroic effort by Neve, Village chief tech Mitch Berger and their respective crews pulled off the feat." (Mix Online, 12/01/01)

"That's seven days! Neve deserves a lot of credit for pulling together an amazing team to make the installation happen.'" (ProSoundWeb, 2001)

"On the day I visited, the band was loading back in for more tracking." (Mix Online, 12/01/01)


And as for what were they doing with such haste, exactly...

"About seven to eight months [re-recording the drums, and, in around October,] I was done. And that's how that album was recorded." (Brain, EQTV, 10/08)

"We did most of the music as a total collaborative effort a while back, most of the music was recorded [by 2001]. In the last seven years, in the last four years (98-01), it's been pretty much done... It's been through a couple of producers' hands, some have been good, some have been bad." (Tommy, Rhinocast, 01/16/06)


"'We were finishing tracks [in October],' confirms Tom. 'Doing overdubs with Buckethead and Robin Finck and some stuff with Tommy Stinson." (Classic Rock, 04/08)

"I had to redo [bass on all  tracks with Brain on drums.]." (Tommy, Bass Player, 04/09)

"Mixes were being finished... 'I felt we had a well finished version of The Blues, Madagascar, Chinese Democracy. Atlas Shrugged was pretty good.'" (Tom Zutaut, Classic Rock, 04/08)


Bucket would do his overdubs in his typically zany way.

"A month after the September 11 attacks on America... [band members]  watched the news... 'Thousands of Islamic militants fought with the police in the Pakistani city of Karachi, setting fire to cars, buses and an outlet of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Let's go over to our Foreign Affairs Correspondent...'

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But [Buckethead] was already on his feet. [He] wasn't going to take it any more. 'That's fucking IT!' he was yelling, as the screen showed images of the Karachi KFC with flames licking out of its windows.

'They've gone too far now! I'm joining the fucking army! They are not going to hit KFC, no fucking way! That's it - I can't record anymore. I'm joining the army - now we really are at war!'

And with that, he grabbed his KFC bucket hat, collected some things from his specially built chicken coop in the studio, and left. Some of the guys stayed on a while, but not a lot got done that day." (Classic Rock, 04/08)

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'Even friends seem out to harm you'

In November, the cat and mouse game finally ended, as Doug Goldstein canceled the rescheduled European tour.

"Following the euphoria of Rock in Rio, I jumped the gun and arranged a European tour as our plan was to have the new album out this year. Unfortunately, Buckethead's illness not only stopped the tour but it also slowed down progress on 'Chinese Democracy'. As a result, touring right now is logistically impossible. [...] I made a plan and unfortunately it did not work out." (Doug Goldstein, press release, 11/08/01)


The producers of Black Hawk Down had also by then approached the GNR camp for the inclusion of WTTJ to the films soundtrack. Unfortunately, Axl's reaction wasn't as rosy as it was back in '94, when Zutaut arranged GNR to contribute to the Interview with a Vampire soundtrack.

"Direct Ridley Scott had requested permission to use “Welcome to the Jungle” in his movie Black Hawk Down, and negotiations had begun to see if he would accept a remade version featuring the new Guns N’ Roses lineup." (Classic Rock, 04/08)

"I found out that it's incredibly difficult to license Guns N' Roses songs. We tried for the rights to the original masters, and then a re-recorded version." (Kathy Nelson, Black Hawk Down music supervisor, Allstar, 01/08/02)


"[Beta Lebeis] recalls that [Axl] told Zutaut, ‘Listen, we’re making the album. Now we have to stop and do this?'

But Zutaut claims that the band had already rerecorded the song. 'Part of Axl's induction process for his new band [in 1998] was that they re-record every song off of Appetite,' [Zutaut] says. 'So we just had to spend a day mixing it.'"  (Classic Rock, 04/08)

Also, SCOM had been featured as an original/re-recorded mash-up on Big Daddy in '99.


"It's difficult to explain why Zutaut was sacked, but it centres around the fact that Axl had requested a private screening of the movie (a standard request). When he turned up to find strangers there, he felt that Zutaut had midled him over the nature of the screening... Zutaut, meanwhile, claims to have been set-up by someone looking to discredit him - an accusation denied by the Axl Rose camp." (Classic Rock, 04/08)


"Around Christmas, [Axl] ousted... Mr. Zutaut (who said there had been a miscommunication)." (New York Times, 03/06/05)

"He said, 'Who the fuck are all those people in there?'" says Tom.  'I was told that this was my private screening and I don't know who these fucking people are! I can't believe you lied to me about this - you told me it was a private screening!  You're fired!'" (Classic Rock, 04/08)


"We tried for the rights to the original masters, and then a re-recorded version. We came close, but it just wasn't going to happen." (Kathy Nelson, Black Hawk Down music supervisor, Allstar, 01/08/02)

"It would be weeks before the singer would even allow an Interscope executive to visit him in the studio, according to people involved with the production." (New York Times, 03/06/05)


"In the faint red light of the Rainbow Bar and Grill, Tom Zutaut sips at his drink and spills a bit of regret. [...] 'I really thought I could get [Axl] to deliver the record,' said Mr. Zutaut, who spent nine months trying. 'And we got close.'" (New York Times, 03/06/05)

"By the time I left, I felt there were probably 11 or 12 tracks that just needed final mixes... I would've given it another 3 months for a few more overdubs and 3 for mixing... We could have had a record out for September 2002... and, worst case scenario, out Spring of '03." (Tom Zutaut, Classic Rock, 04/08)

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Re: 2001: Chinese Whispers

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Love's Labour Lost

In December, the band regrouped in a live setting, announcing two New Years shows in Las Vegas.

"Guns N' Roses will be playing the Joint at the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas on December 29 and December 31, 2001 (New Years Eve). [...] A quote from Axl: 'We've been cooped up in the studio for so long, that we have to release some energy. Since we had so much fun playing Vegas last year, we've decided to do it again.'" (GNROnline, 12/03/01)

'Cooped' is an interesting choice of words when considering Buckets makeshift working environment. Regardless on whether Axl made an inside joke or a Freudian slip, the past year had been rather stressful for the band and live shows were thought to come not a moment too soon to enable the band to have fun again and start the following year with a clean plate.


Genesis associate Paul Whitehead had been decided upon to create the artwork.

"Whitehead is currently involved in a number of projects, including the intriguing possibility of creating the sleeve design for Guns N' Roses' long awaited and much-anticipated 'Chinese Democracy' album. 'I met just last week with [producer] Roy Thomas-Baker, so hopefully I'll be meeting again with Roy and Axl and it all gets tied up,' he says." (Classic Rock, 01/02)


The first night was plagued with uneven Front of House and the most dubious Axl rants of the year.

"During a 10-minute mid-concert apologia [on 12/29/01], Rose rambled semi-coherently on how the record company, the studio, the producers, and everyone in the band "dropped the ball" in the last year until 'we didn't know what the ball was.'" (Allstar, 01/02/02)

"[Album cover designer Paul Whitehead] was taken aback to learn that for the past three months Axl has been working on just one track." (Classic Rock, 01/02)

Axl seemed to have again slipped to the perilous neighborhood which he'd occupied the year before, spinning his wheels, as he put it.


"[Axl's] story [on the tour] follows the press release that was given to the press when they canceled it. Turns out the record label wanted to make some money so they booked the shows without Axl's knowledge. He said that he was not ready for the shows and instead of canceling it, they postponed it to later dates because they had already made a lot of money off of it (they sold out most of the venues according to Axl) and did not want to give a refund." (Fan review on the 12/29/01 show)


Therefore, the early part of Axl's speech refers to the June shows, towards which he felt ready and able to commit after RIR3. They were hardly booked without his direct consent - or, alternatively, he was at least informed of them no later than in January.

"Rose claimed to have learned about Guns' cancelled European tour via the Internet, to which someone in the audience screamed: 'Aw, bullshit! Get a manager!'" (Allstar, 01/02/02)

Which alludes to Axl learning about the December shows on the Internet. I guess you can say taking a break from Goldstein put Axl into situation where he learned the ongoing matters of his band from the web.


"Slash [...] was in Vegas on vacation, [...] made some calls and got on the guest list for the December 29 show. [...] Slash said a representative from the band's management company, along with hotel security officers, came to his room and told him to stay away from the show, 'to spare me the embarrassment of being turned away at the door.'

[...] The prevailing concern, they relayed, was that his attendance might 'freak Axl [Rose] out'. [...] Guns N' Roses' manager, Doug Goldstein [...] told the Los Angeles Times: '[...] Axl was really nervous about these shows. We decided on our own not to take any risk.' [...] [Slash conculed,] 'It shouldn't have been a big deal. And if, even after all this time, if Axl had wanted to do a song, any number of our old GN'R songs, it would have been way cool.'" (01/05/02, Sonicnet)


While the second night was generally considered a much more firm effort, a reunion wasn't in the cards.

Like other A&R men before him, Zutaut had lasted a year. But was there an album to be released?

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