Re: 2000: Chinese Whispers
Fin de Siecle
The new millenium proved to be a slow starter in the GNR world. On 01/19/00, music website KNAC.com published a brief comment from Axl regarding the live version of Coma (available on the Japanese issue of Live Era), which had been made available at their website.
As time passed, however, news began to trickle. The innocent sideproject by Howerdel and Freese started to pay off.
"Drummer Josh Freese has left [GNR] after nearly two years, according to a source." (Allstarmag, 03/14/00)
"I'm hearing these rumors, and nobody has officially told me anything....[Freese] hasn't had an attorney or manager tell me he's out of the band.'" (Doug Goldstein, VH1, 03/18/00)
"'Josh can only talk to Axl through his layers now,' laughs Joe [Escalante, Vandals bassist]. 'He e-mailed his resignation because he didn't want to sit around waiting another year, so he joined A Perfect Circle with a couple of his bald friends.'" (Kerrang, 09/25/00)
"I left because we were in year two of sitting in the studio and the record still didn't look like it was going to be done anytime soon... So I was getting frustrated and discouraged like a lot of people. In the meantime, on the weekends, I'd been messing around with Billy Howerdel and Maynard James Keenan." (Josh Freese, Podomatic, 04/13)
"I believed in [the CD project] at the time, but there comes a time where you have to follow your dream, I guess." (Billy Howerdel, Launch, 05/20/00)
"I owe a lot of my studio work ethic to that job. Some things what to do, some things what not to do. I found that I just wanted to sprint and go full focused with A Perfect Circle in the beginning... I really needed to go, it was just time, I had this opportunity and I needed to do it. But I have to say Axl was extremely supportive of APC in the beginning. That was really cool, I got a lot of validation and moving forward from his approval I guess." (Billy Howerdel, Alternative Nation, 11/04/13)
"There wasn't really a light at the end of the tunnel yet. Once again, '(I) like everyone here... Like Axl, [but] I don't want sit around here, I don't know how much more time is going to be wasted down here.'" (Josh Freese, Podomatic, 04/13)
"[Howerdel,] Finck and Freese will be touring mates when Perfect Circle opens for Nine Inch Nails on their U.S. tour, kicking off April 12 in Cleveland." (Allstarmag, 03/14/00)
The timing supports the notion that both Freese and Howerdel were on a two-year contract with the band like Robin was.
"I just said, 'This is just going to be for a month or two,' and it wound up being two-and-a-half years. So you know, goods: I got to learn a lot of stuff. Bads: I could have stayed there forever, and I was there a little longer than I wanted to be." (Josh Freese, Launch, 05/20/00)
"According to G N' R manager Doug Goldstein, Freese had already completed the drum tracks for the forthcoming album." (VH1, 03/18/00)
"What I was more excited was that I'd written three of four songs. When I left, there were two lists, the Master list ('Here's the 20 songs we're concentrating on') and the B list ('Here's the other 20 songs, we'll finish them one day and we'll see what happens'). I had three or four songs in the running. And so I was like, that's pretty cool. I'd put enough time down playing drums and made some money doing it, and got a chance to record some songs with these guys." (Josh Freese, Podomatic, 04/13)
"When they finish the record and when it comes time to tour we've kind of left the door open, where if they feel like calling me, and if they still want me involved, I'm going to do it with them." (Josh Freese, knac.com, 03/28/00)
Re: 2000: Chinese Whispers
Queen for a Day
In April, a new producer was brought into the fold.
"With Queen, I have my favorite: Queen II. Whenever their newest record would come out and have all these other kinds of music on it, at first I'd only like this song or that song. But after a period of time listening to it, it would open my mind up to so many different styles. I really appreciate them for that. That's something I've always wanted to be able to achieve. It's important to show people all forms of music, basically try to give people a broader point of view." (Axl, Rolling Stone, 08/89)
The album was produced by one Roy Thomas Baker.
"A spokesperson for Guns N' Roses confirms that noted producer Roy Thomas Baker is currently in the studio with Axl Rose. Baker has only just met the singer, the spokesperson cautioned, and at this stage, he is only supplying additional production which may or may not make it onto the next GN'R album." (MTV, 04/29/00)
"[After the Geffen/Interscope merger in early '99,] Axl was told that [A&R executive] Jimmy Iovine would play more of a role in making the album happen. What Jimmy did instead was throw other people into the mix who weren't very capable." (Tommy, Bass Player, 04/09)
"[Former Interscope Geffen A&M president] Tom Whalley brought in Roy Thomas Baker to produce." (Axl, Billboard, 02/05/09)
"Best known for his production work with Queen, Baker follows in the wake of guest guitar tracks that Queen guitarist Brian May recorded for GN'R with Beavan last Christmas. [...] Meanwhile Buckethead, Rose's most recent guitar cohort, is currently concentrating on his other projects." (MTV, 04/29/00)
"Mr. Beavan, who was said to have tired of the project, soon bowed out." (New York Times, 03/06/05)
"I thought there was [an almost-finished album]. (laughs) I think we worked on thirty-five songs or something. But the guy just continually creates, and as people changed into and out of the band, a lot of things got re-tracked. I'd love to see the record come out soon, but we'll see." (Sean Beavan, Antiquiet, 08/13/08)
"I think [Jimmy] Iovine put Roy Thomas Baker in the producer seat, because he didn't think the raw sounds [on the Sean Beavan album] were good enough." (Tommy, Bass Player, 04/09)
Reports therefore suggest that the Sean Beavan album was completed to a presentable degree in early 2000 and delivered to Interscope. Whomever made the judgment call on the album sound (either Tom Whalley or Jimmy Iovine) and enlisted Roy Thomas Baker, effectively pushed back an album Axl appeared to consider "almost done".
Re: 2000: Chinese Whispers
Soon after Josh Freese left the building, Buckethead lured his frequent collaborator Brain in for the vacant drummer stool.
"Freese has no idea how many tracks he cut with Guns 'N Roses before having to leave to fulfill other obligations. When he did, the door swung open for Brain to enter the project on a referral by new Guns guitarist Buckethead, who worked with Brain in a number of different scenarios." (Two Drummers Who Can't Talk About Guns N' Roses, 2001)
"[Buckethead had] mentioned that he was going to join Guns... At that point Josh [Freese] was doing the gig." (Brain, Rhythm Magazine, 01/05)
"I was with Primus on an Australian tour when I talked to Buckethead... Around that time the whole Primus thing kind of fell apart because it wasn't really working out.... [Buckethead] told me Josh had quit." (Brain, Rhythm Magazine, 01/05)
Last show of the Australian leg was on 04/29/00. Brain would therefore audition for Guns in around May.
"Then Bucket [called to say], 'Hey, Josh is leaving. Do you want to come and play?' I was like, 'Ah, I don't know. That sounds kinda cool, I guess... [But,] in my mind, I was like, 'I don't know if I want to play rock'." (Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)
"When I left, I could've told you that Brain was going to come play, because they had already auditioned a bunch of guys in LA and didn't like any of the ones they'd found. I was the one they had settled on, and it was now two years later and I was like, are they going to audition the same ten dudes there? And Brain's a great drummer, and he wasn't doing a lot, so it only made sense. He's one of Buckethead's best friends." (Josh Freese, I'd Hit That, 04/13)
"[Bucket and I,] we're best friends. He doesn't let many people get behind the mask. I would have to say, me and about three other people have been the only ones who have ever got behind the mask." (Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)
"[Buckethead] said, 'Axl’s an awesome dude. You should come check it out.'" (Brain, Modern Drummer, 05/09)
"[Guns] were like, 'Why don't you just come down and meet everyone?' 'Cause, everybody wants this gig. [Big time studio drummer] Kenny Aronoff's knocking on the door, and all these people are saying, 'I'm the drummer for you', and I'm kind of being not really interested, and I'm thinking maybe that made Axl a little like, 'Wait, no-one says they don't want to play with me. This is Guns N' Roses!'" (Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)
"[Bucket] and I have done stuff together for years and we try and get each other involved in what we're doing." (Brain, Two Drummers Who Can't Talk About Guns N' Roses, 2001)
"So, they gave me a first-class [plane] ticket from San Francisco to LA. A ridiculous 550SL-something black Mercedes, all tinted windows, comes and gets me. They drive me to the studio... I went down and met everybody. Everybody seemed cool. Axl actually showed up - he was supercool." (Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)
"So I went down and met the guys and Axl, and everyone was super cool. The whole Guns thing really excited me and I think the record's incredible - it could be their Led Zeppelin II. I really have that feeling and I just hope it comes out." (Brain, Rhythm Magazine, 01/05)
"'I like to join bands,' Brain says. 'I play better when I get to vibe with the people. It takes me a while to get into the vibe of it. With each situation I kind of have to become friends with the people, and as I become friends with them and get to know them and relax more, I play a lot better.'" (Brain, Two Drummers Who Can't Talk About Guns N' Roses, 2001)
Despite popping up in the studio, Brain would have to wait for months to properly auditiion.
"I go home and three months go by... I remember sitting in café in San Francisco when I picked up the phone... Tommy Stinson, the bass player, calls.
Tommy: 'Hey man, we need a drummer, so what's going on? You wanna do this or what?'
Brain:'Yeah, well, it sounds kinda cool.' And he's like, 'You should come down and jam. Learn some songs and do, whatever.'
So, it finally hit me then, because they flew me out, we went to a ridiculous rehearsal studio, I think it was at CenterStaging or something, and it was the biggest room and my drums are on a six-foot riser... I'm just thinking, 'Whoa, wait. This is kinda cool. This is like when you go to the tenth floor, this is eleven. This is - IT! Shit, man! Maybe I've made it if I take this gig! This is getting serious now!'
So, I go in and Tommy Stinson shows up with his Replacements punk-rock attitude. I had a boom stand, he fuckin' takes his jacket off and sets it on my boom stand. I'm thinking like, 'This motherfucker. Oh, OK. They wanna play here, so OK.'
We're playing the songs and I am sucking cock, 'cause I didn't know any of them.
Tommy:'I thought you were a good drummer, what the fuck's going on?'
Brain: 'Dude, I didn't learn any of the songs, I don't know any of them.'
and then the phone rings - and I hear him talking to Axl.
Axl: 'So, how's Brain working out?'
I can just know what they're saying.
Tommy: 'Well, it's kinda cool, but he doesn't know any of the songs.'
I hear Tommy and him kind of going back and forth, and at that point, I thought, 'Uh oh. Now I'm turning out to look like a fuckin' douche.'
Brain: 'Tommy, give me a day. Just give me a fuckin' day and we'll come back.'
Came back [that night,] re-set my drums totally different. At that point, I had a kind of a Primus fusion set, so it didn't really work with Guns, anyway. Just having all these small toms and fuckin' splash symbal and shit.
Told the drum tech, 'Dude, set up a bottom kit. 26" kick drum, 13, 16, 18, fuck it, I'm going in with just power.' Sat up all night, learned the five or six songs, and when fuckin' Tommy comes in one more time and puts his fuckin' jacket [on my boom stand]...
I went in and just played so hard that four of five drums fell off the risers.
Tommy: 'Yep, he's our guy, that's it. Let's just do this.' " (Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)
"I remember Axl calling me and saying, "You know, if you want the gig you can have it, and you can still be on other stuff. You can still do Primus or whatever you want to do." (Brain, Modern Drummer, 05/09)
"At the moment [Primus] are on an indefinite hiatus and have parted ways with drummer Brain who is rumored to now be playing in Guns N Roses." (theprp.com, 10/25/00)
Re: 2000: Chinese Whispers
The Phantom and the Ghost
While the album release was still up in the air, Axl did resurface soon enough, with his first public apperance since the Phoenix airport incident in February, 1998.
"The reclusive Axl Rose resurfaced Thursday night [06/22/00] in West Hollywood to sing with his former Guns N' Roses bandmate Gilby Clarke, much to the shock of both Clarke and 250-odd audience members. The event marked Rose's first public performance in seven years. Management for Guns N' Roses confirmed to MTV News that Rose made an appearance at an L.A.-area nightclub after attending a concert by Roger Waters. According to club co-owner and drummer Slim Jim Phantom (of Stray Cats fame), Clarke was heading up a jam session with the pair's sideband, The Starf***ers, at the intimate Cat Club on Sunset Boulevard." (MTV, 06/24/00)
"'I guess he ran into some friends of mine at the Roger Waters show at Universal Amphitheater, and they told him that we were playing down there and he came by,' Clarke later explained to Rolling Stone. 'Maybe he just wanted to have some fun.'" (Rolling Stone, 06/27/00)
"Phantom didn't spot [Axl]. Rose had become so reclusive nobody really knew what he looked like anymore. But the bartender advised his boss that the fellow with the baseball cap leaning on the bar was indeed the legendary hellion. 'I wasn't sure,' Phantom tells Q. 'So I took Gilby over and tapped the guy on the shoulder. He turns round and Gilby says, 'That's not him!' But Axl grins and says, 'Hey, Gilby, how're you doin'?'" (Q Magazine, 05/01)
"Phantom told MTV News that he and Clarke approached Rose at the bar, said hello, and then took the stage. "We did a couple of songs, and then looked at Axl," Phantom recalled, "and he came up. He didn't need any prompting." Rose and Clarke shared a mic for duets of two Rolling Stones songs, "Wild Horses" and "Dead Flowers." The latter was included on Clarke's 1994 solo album, "Pawnshop Guitars," with a vocal and piano track courtesy of Rose." (MTV, 06/24/00)
Somewhat ominously, Dead Flowers and Symphathy for the Devil, another Stones cover, were the two last released studio tracks Axl completed while the old lineup was still together.
"According to Phantom, although Clarke was obviously surprised by the proceedings, he and Rose began talking as if they had just seen each other 'yesterday,' in Phantom's words. 'I left at 3:30 a.m., and they were still talking up a storm,' he noted. Clarke told MTV News that he and Rose mostly discussed Rose's new band and album. 'He was really excited about it,' Clarke said. 'He was explaining it to me. We didn't rehash anything. We had a good time.'" (MTV, 06/24/00)
"[Gilby and Axl] talked until 4am, [...] Clarke hasn't heard a word from him since." (Q Magazine, 05/01)
"'[Axl] was psyched,' recalled one person who worked with the band at Rumbo. 'It seemed like it boosted him again, people still want to hear him.'" (New York Times, 03/06/05)
"He should just go out and play a couple of new songs, then do the family favourites like The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd do. Sometimes you can over-think these things." (Slim Jim Phantom, Q Magazine, 05/01)
Re: 2000: Chinese Whispers
'Three good songs' (or, The Second Corporate Intervention)
In the fall, a new A&R man was hired to help bring the project into completion. He was someone specialized in providing the 'final push' for albums nearing completion. Interscope'd recently relied on him on one of their other top acts, hooking him up with Trent Reznor to provide the 'flow' to the tracklist of the Nine Inch Nails double album, The Fragile.
"To this day, really good songwriters that are ready to finish an album call me up and go, 'Do you have Bob Ezrin's number?' [...] Bob's not going to be a yes man. He's going to go in there and tell you how many (decent) songs you actually have. [...] He did it with Guns N' Roses." (Alice Cooper, King County Journal, 10/15/04)
"It started off when Jimmy Iovine (ed: producer, chairman of Interscope/ Geffen) asked me for a big favour. They were stuck, they were stuck in a studio in North Hollywood for years with Roy Thomas Baker (ed: Queen’s producer), and nothing was happening." (Bob Ezrin, HitChannel, 04/12/12)
"Here's how things worked [with Interscope since '99]. Jimmy [Iovine] and whoever would come down to the studio. Things would be good for a month. [Then,] someone above Jimmy would start putting pressure regarding us on him, Jimmy would start pressuring others at his label [and they] would begin doing the same with us." (Axl, Billboard, 02/06/09)
"[The band] needed to be closer to the scrutiny of the record company and Jimmy’s team, so there could be at least some measure of control." (Bob Ezrin, HitChannel, 04/12/12)
"After a month of this the whole thing would get ugly and extensively interfere with getting anything productive done, and near the middle of the third month we'd arrange for Jimmy to come down again. They'd go away happy and the entire process would repeat itself over and over and over." (Axl, Billboard, 02/06/09)
"I agreed to help out if Axl would agree to work with me, which he did. He had the idea that the only person who could finish the album with him was me, based on what I don’t know." (Bob Ezrin, HitChannel, 04/12/12)
"Bob Ezrin - best known for producing Pink Floyd's The Wall - has signed on as A&R man for the project." (Allstarmag, 10/30/00)
"I came, I listened, I said to [Axl], I will listen and will give you notes we will see together." (Bob Ezrin, HitChannel, 04/12/12)
"Axl was a definite perfectionist. Almost to the point where you wanted to say, 'At some point, Axl, it's gonna be good enough.'.. You never know if a person is not happy with it or if they're afraid of the material." (Alice Cooper)
"I spent a lot of time listening... " (Bob Ezrin, HitChannel, 04/12/12)
"Bob listened to it and said, 'Three songs.'" (Alice Cooper, King County Journal, 10/15/04)
"What I heard was something that he had painted over too many times." (Bob Ezrin, HitChannel, 04/12/12)
"I'm afraid of [rock] sounding too perfect. I mean, Bob Ezrin recorded Pink Floyd's The Wall three times." (Alice Cooper)
"So, by the time I heard it, the original content was lost and it was just a highly produced piece of something." (Bob Ezrin, HitChannel, 04/12/12)
"I went to see Jimmy Iovine and I gave him my perception of the situation. They had to get out of Rumbo Studios immediately – not because Rumbo is a bad studio, it’s a wonderful studio... I recommended we move them to the Village Recorder in West Hollywood. So, they did that, and moved everybody there." (Bob Ezrin, HitChannel, 04/12/12)
Axl felt the album was there and ready to be mixed. Production had been flourished by Baker and Buckethead had contributed solos. Now, Ezrin had listened the album through and had ordered the production to be moved to Village. Axl had cause to feel nervious.
"[Axl] was nervous about hearing what I had to say... When he sat down, he started saying me that he has finished the record." (Bob Ezrin, HitChannel, 04/12/12)
"Every time that we thought that we had the correct songs, then somebody [in the record company] thought that we could make it better." (Axl, Rock & Pop FM, 01/22/01)
"It was a bummer. Most of the songs that are on the record now were done 10 fucking years ago. But all the talking heads in the mix were saying, “Make ’em sound better! Make ’em sound better!” So we kept redoing this and that." (Tommy, AV Club, 05/19/11)
Bob Ezrin: 'Axl, we are not ready to mix this record. This record isn’t ready to be mixed. There are two great songs on it and I know that you’re capable of more, that’s the reason why I’m here. You’re such a great talent and I would do you a disservice if I didn’t tell you the truth, which is that most of the songs aren’t great. But I‘m very happy to help you get there and I believe that it’s possible, if you would like to continue to work on the record, to make it better.'
Axl: 'I don’t agree with that. We are ready to mix.'
Bob Ezrin: 'You have my number, if you change your mind let me know, but I have a dinner party at home now and I had to go.'
I left and I haven’t heard from him since." (Bob Ezrin, HitChannel, 04/12/12)
"The album has been mastered ONCE in the past. That was around 1999/2000, George Marino, the guy who mastered it confirmed it to me in an email in the past. However, he also said he had no idea about where it stands now." (Gigger, MyGNR, 12/1404)
"We started over, we continued adding songs, continued recording and recording." (Axl, Rock & Pop FM, 01/22/01)
"I think that when we release the album, it's gonna be something that I'm gonna be proud of and confident in. Then, we will also have an extra heap of songs." (Axl, Rock & Pop FM, 01/22/01)
"It ended up coming back down to the same fucking songs that they were 10 years ago, except that now they were a super-dense mishmash of a bunch of instrumentation. That whole era pretty much sums up what happened to the record industry." (Tommy, AV Club, 05/19/11)
In mid-September, retailers were notified that Chinese Democracy was projected to be released in November, which does seem to support the notion that the record was essentially done, and Ezrin was called in for some final pre-release tweaks. Roy Thomas Baker had likely brought the Beavan album a bit more classic feel, but now the songs themselves weren't good enough anymore.
Re: 2000: Chinese Whispers
CD Mk. 2
The band moved to Village Recording Studios in Western LA. The studio team would also be revamped with Pro Tools engineer Eric Caudieux (and, presumably, new main engineer Caram Costanzo).
"Eric Caudieux, our rhythm guitarist/keyboardist, had an offer to produce Guns'n'Roses, and we wouldn't let him turn it down!" (Joe Satriani, 08/11/00)
Axl went back to the demo tape Duff and Izzy prepared in 1995.
"In '95, Duff and me recorded songs for the band. We made a tape that went nowhere. Then, a couple of months ago I have a message on my answering machine: 'Yo! It's Axl, I need a copy of the songs that you did.' There was one called 'Down by the Ocean' or 'Down by the Sea', they may have used it, I haven't come back to know nothing." (Izzy, Popular Magazine, 2001)
This I Love is another old track that might've been drawn back into the mix in 2000, after it last surfaced in 1998, as a possible inclusion to the What Dreams May Come soundtrack. Howard Karp worked on the song at that time as an assistant engineer to Caram Costanzo and producer Roy Thomas Baker.
"I only worked with Axl, no one else, it was a solo piano piece. I heard nothing else. Axl was cool, two short evenings, nothing too eventful." (Howard Karp, 01/19/04)
"It was very boring, sorry to say, just Axl and his piano (no singing) and a bunch of idiots running around catering to him and stroking him. I don't know if they'll ever release anything... shame." (Howard Karp, 03/13/04)
Another track which might've been brought up in response to Ezrin's hardline comments could've been Shackler's Revenge.
"The basic song structure was written by Bucket and Brain. Big B did a score for a film of the same name (never released) From what I can gather Axl liked the plot/ideas of the story and crafted lyrics behind the music (which is not from the score). It's supposed to be a pretty guitar driven rocker of a song with an amazing hook/bridge." (Saul, 07/08/08)
"[On CD, there] are two songs that Rob and good friend Pete Scaturro helped create, way back in 2000. Yes, in the year 2000. Pete and Rob produced the tracks "Sorry" and "Shackler's Revenge" with literal guitar hero Buckethead and former Gn'R and Primus drummer Brian "Brain" Mantia, with Axl ultimately adding his voice." (Rob Beaton, Official Website, 11/08)
The original song, simply called Shackler, featured Buckethead and Bootsy Collins, and has been released on the DragonBall Z soundtrack, The History of Trunks on 21/12/01. It was subsequently featured on Buckethead's Secret Recipe DVD in 2005, labeled under the year 2000.
Shackler's Revenge was originally written by Buckethead, Brain and Pete Scaturro. Once GNR had been mulling over it, Axl, Robin and Caram Costanzo all received additional credits.
The working relationship with Ezrin seemingly proved tiresome to Axl, as he later confided to Tom Zutaut, the next A&R man, that work on the album had effectively halted in around August 2000, either corresponding with Ezrin's blunt opinion on the material - or creating a situation which Ezrin had been summoned to mend.
"I need you here to move forward, 'cos I've been spinning my wheels for at least six months!" (Axl, Classic Rock, 04/08)
Re: 2000: Chinese Whispers
In late October, GNR were finally announced to play live.
"Roberto Medina, head of the Rock in Rio festival, told Brazil's Globo television network on Wednesday (October 25) that reclusive GN'R frontman Axl Rose has agreed to play the massive South America event Rock in Rio 3 in January with his new lineup." (MTV, 10/26/00)
"According to [Medina], after 6 months of negotiations, last Tuesday Axl signed the contract with the organization of the show." (Dust N' Bones mailing list, 10/26/00)
The players themselves were subject to change.
"Axl called me when he had the plan to play Rock In Rio. I don't believe that he hoped to reform the group as a whole because I am the only one that he called, but, in any event, I declined the offer." (Izzy, Guitar & Bass Magazine, 2001)
"Guns N' Roses' management company, Big F.D., has officially confirmed that Buckethead and former Nine Inch Nails guitarist Robin Finck are handling noodling duties for the band." (Allstarmag, 10/30/00)
Therefore, Axl might've considered Izzy to play with Buckethead and Robin.
"O Globo reports that the group's decision to perform at Rock in Rio ties into their desire to launch the album in January. There was much talk about the album being finished in time for release this summer (fueled by Rose coming out of hiding to talk about it with both Rolling Stone and MTV), but it never materialized." (Rolling Stone, 10/27/00)
Once again, Axl was spotted at a rock show.
"Axl Rose turned up at a benefit gig put on by System of a Down on the weekend to raise money for Armenian Genocide recognition. Members of the band thanked the audience, which included Guns N' Roses' Axl Rose, for their support in this cause that is very personal to all four band members, who are all of Armenian decent and lost family members in the Armenian Holocaust." (Radio Undercover, 11/10/00)
A warm-up gig was now being planned, and the band begun to rehearse as an eight-piece in early December (or a seven-piece, as Axl admitted in the warm-up show that he'd sung his first set with the lineup on 12/28/00).
"I think we rented out the Sony [lot], where they did the Wizard of Oz. It was this huge lot. And [Axl] wanted the whole stage set up that we were gonna have at Rock in Rio, so we had to go there, because they had to mark it out." (Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)
"This band has played only been together for six weeks before Rio." (Axl, Rock & Pop FM, 01/22/01)
"We rehearsed for probably two or three months without Axl." (Brain, MusicRadar, 10/22/12)
"First of all, you need to switch your whole schedule around... Rehearsals started at midnight... We rehearsed the set for a month. He didn't show up. We'd always get that call at 4 in the morning, saying, 'Uh oh. He might come.'" (Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)
"The bassist, Tommy Stinson, worked very well taking the band through the rehearsals." (Axl, Rock & Pop FM, 01/22/01)
"It was the day before the gear was supposed to leave... The crew had been there since 8 in the morning, setting up. They have to break it down and the gear has to leave, literally the next morning. ...We rehearsed the set, two and half hours... It's probably 3 in the morning, now. Axl calls from Malibu. He's coming. And he wants to see the whole set again. He wants to watch the show. Everybody's like, OK.
...We're on this big soundstage and [they bring] a little couch next to the soundboard, right in front of the sound guy... Well, an hour goes by. 'Is he REALLY coming?' The road crew, everybody's asleep by now, next to their gear. 'Yeah, he wants to come, but the problem is, he wants to see the WHOLE show, pyro and everything.
So, we're like, 'Wait. I think, each time the pyro guy hits the fuckin' thing, it's like $300,000 for each bomb that's gonna go up. But, we're going to do it on this soundstage, and in order to make that happen, they got to get the fire department down here.' Now the fire department comes down, but I think they're digging it. They're thinking, 'I get to watch Guns N' Roses rehearse, so whatever.' They show up.
Now, it's probably 5AM... We're playing [the set], we've been up since 12 o'clock, the road crew has been up since 8AM, for 24 hours. [Axl's]'s in the chair with his arms crossed, just watching. Bombs, fireworks, everything's fuckin' going off... I'm playing November Rain. They have the curtain of sparks bouncing off my cymbals, burning my face, getting on my shorts and shit like that. The door opens - it's DAYLIGHT! You see people coming to work.
We end with Paradise City, doing the fuckin' shuffle thing [in the last part of the song], they blew the confetti shit... And dude, I'm not joking, it's like 7.30/8 in the morning. It's the most surreal moment. In my mind, I'm just going, 'Who's gotta fuckin' clean the confetti? What are we doing? Some poor guy has to sweep fuckin' six inches of confetti.'
We hit the last note. [Axl] gets up, walks out. Never said a word, didn't see him. We just get up, everybody goes home and the next time we saw him was in Rock in Rio. That's sort of Guns in a nutshell. The chaos and what happens." (Brain, I'd Hit That, 02/15)
Axl agreed full band rehearsals happened at a very late stage.
"Thursday night [12/28/00] was the first time I sang a set with these guys... The first time I sang a set in about 8 years." (Axl, Las Vegas, 01/01/01)
"Our first show’s Rock in Rio and I thought, ‘Wait, what’s it going to sound like with Axl? Where is Axl? Oh here’s his helicopter coming in.’ The first time I ever played a real show with him was in front of 250,000 people! I was thinking, ‘How’s this song supposed to start again?’ Because some he was supposed to cue but we never had a verbal conversation on whether he would or I!" (Brain, MusicRadar, 10/22/12)
"It is still very new for them to play together as band, with Robin (Finck) and Buckethead. That was a surprise. Obviously, that was the correct decision to make, but it was not originally planned to have three guitarists." (Axl, Rock & Pop FM, 01/22/01)
"Originally it was gonna be a two-guitar player group. I split forever so I thought and went back to Nine Inch Nails. In my absence they were looking to replace me and Josh Freese, the drummer at the time, had brought Buckethead in to essentially fill the slot I had left. They really liked him but he's kind of a stunt guitar player. He does a very specific thing and he has a real genius sensibility about him. But he rarely plays the same thing twice ever and when you're trying to cruise through "Nightrain" that just makes it a little (laughs) too different. So they needed someone to anchor the songs. They kept Buckethead to do what Buckethead does and they needed someone else to play alongside. ... I think especially with Guns, I was more of a soul player than a soundscape artist." (Robin, Ultimate Guitar, 01/17/14)
"This band did not come together by a bunch of guys meeting each other in a bar or down on a corner in their old neighborhood, so it's taken a long time to pull these guys together and then have them develop a chemistry with themselves. When we did our first show in Vegas, Robin and Buckethead didn't know each other at all. You've got two lead guitar players trying to kill each other with their abilities. [...] I think they can be cordial to each other, that whole kind of thing, but when they're actually playing, it gets that kind of alpha male thing going, like 'Who's the real lead guitar player?'" (Axl, WRIF, 11/21/02)
Buckethead and Robin in a moment of harmony.
"Seven years after their last live performance, Guns N' Roses are expected to debut songs from their perpetually in-progress new album at a Las Vegas New Year's Eve concert, according to organizers." (MTV, 12/06/00)
"According to HoB's Senior VP of Entertainment Kevin Morrow, the show is confirmed and tickets go on sale this Saturday. The House of Blues had already booked the Goo Goo Dolls into the venue for the New Year's Eve show, so when reps for Guns n' Roses called, the HoB had to improvise. 'To tell you the truth, when they first called, I thought it was a joke. I said to myself, 'There is no way this can be real,'' Morrow said. Morrow contacted the Goos, who were more than willing to share the spotlight with the fragmented Los Angeles band." (MSN, 30/12/00)
"But the show - the first for the band's current lineup - will most likely focus on Guns N' Roses classics. 'I heard them in rehearsals... [The old material] sounds substantially more powerful,' GN'R manager Doug Goldstein said Wednesday (December 6). 'With two lead guitars, it just sounded so powerful. [...] We've been rehearsing and recording - we just wanted to blow some smoke,' Goldstein said. 'What better place to do that than New Year's Eve in Las Vegas?'" (MTV, 12/06/00)
A tour and record release were also in the cards.
"According to the official Rock Am Ring site, GN'R will be playing at the German festivals next summer. The festivals take place June 1st-3rd." (Rock Am Ring official site, 12/11/00)
"[The] early "wish-list" of organizers [of Ozzfest 2001, ranging from June 8th to August 12th] not only includes Ozzy Osbourne, but is also said to include the new lineup of Guns N' Roses [...], so says a source within one of those groups' camps." (Allstarmag, 12/08/00)
"On Monday (Dec. 11th), Guns n' Roses manager Doug Goldstein of Big FD Management told listeners on Los Angeles radio station KROQ that Gn'R's long-awaited new album, Chinese Democracy, could be available as early as next June, to coincide with a summer tour." (Rolling Stone, 12/12/00)
You could say that again...