The Greatest Disaster Album... EVER

Redaktører: Democracyrose, Michael

The Greatest Disaster Album... EVER

Indlægaf Michael » 3. jun 2011, 10:41

The Greatest Disaster Album... EVER
Monday • January 1, 2007

Billede

Rock journalist Mick Wall has written a new Guns N' Roses article in The Mail (UK). He also has a new book coming out in May called:
‘WAR: W Axl Rose – The Unauthorised Biography’.

Ten years, £7 million, svengali astrologers, chicken-obsessed musicians… of all rock’s decadent tales, nothing comes close to the extraordinary story of Guns N’ Roses star Axl Rose and his tortured attempts to finish the most expensive album of all time...

Tom Zutaut knew what to expect as his car crowned a steep hill and drew up before the vast Malibu mansion. The huge iron gates were permanently adorned with a small crowd loitering for the merest glimpse of the rock god within.

Very occasionally he would slink out of the supremely tasteless estate in his silver Ferrari and the acolytes would go into a frenzy. Zutaut had been here before, often.

This was the first time he wished he could melt into the safe anonymity of the album-clutching fans; he was anxious about the confrontation to come and expected the worst. His instincts had not deserted him – as it turned out, he was proved absolutely right.

Behind the metal gates and high fence that surrounded the house and its four acres of grounds lived Axl Rose, without question the most successful rock star of the late Eighties. Even at the height of his success, Rose had been a difficult character, but he had now – in 2001 – become a virtual recluse, the subject of intense industry gossip and rumour.

In his solitary confinement, Rose had surrounded himself with huge tanks of snakes and spiders, a collection of Latin-American religious paraphernalia, and a large armoury of semi-automatic weaponry, including a huge array of Uzi submachine guns.

Although no longer the regular drug user he was in the Eighties, Rose still slept all day and then spent up to four hours every evening working out, alone, in his huge gym.

Then he would turn to his computer and surf the internet at night for any mentions of his own name, occasionally posting cryptic messages himself.

He communicated almost entirely by email and rarely spoke to anybody except his 50-year-old housekeeper, and his spiritual guru, Sharon Maynard.

All of which, after his great successes, he was entitled to do. There was just one problem: Rose was supposed to be several years into recording the next Guns N’ Roses album. His record company had already invested millions of dollars in it, but by 2001 Rose had produced very little. Zutaut’s arrival at the mansion was the last throw of the dice by a desperate record company. For Universal Music, Chinese Democracy – the working title of the album – should have been a safe bet.

The album was expected to sell ten million copies when the project was first mooted in 1996, which would have brought in profits conservatively estimated at £52 million.

The company accountants were duly briefed. The lack of a record had, therefore, left a huge black hole in Universal’s accounts. And to make matters worse, it seemed Rose had finally given up on the record himself – he had not been in the recording studio for weeks.

And so Universal had now turned to the very man who had created the Guns N’ Roses phenomenon in the first place: Zutaut had even been offered a 30 per cent bonus if he could get Rose to finish the album.

Zutaut had seen off stiff competition in 1986 to sign Guns N’ Roses (he scuppered rival A&Rs by misinforming them the band were appalling live), and presided over their rise to fame, launching the biggest-selling debut album of all time, Appetite For Destruction.

He had masterminded the success of the record by begging MTV to play the video of the single Welcome To The Jungle when sales of the album started to level out at just 200,000.

Reluctantly, the music channel agreed and within weeks the album went to No 1, a year after its release. It went on to sell an estimated 38 million worldwide – more records than Bob Dylan has sold in his entire career.

For five years, GN’R remained Universal’s most bankable act. The 1991 Use Your Illusion world tour made £30 million. Now, though, things were very different.

Zutaut stood in Rose’s huge entrance hall, reflecting on the fact that the star had already been through eight producers and 20 musicians. Things had gone beyond the decadent madness of even the infamous Beach Boys’ Smile project (started in 1966; released in 2004).

In the studio, Rose’s latest recruit, guitarist Buckethead (so-called because he wore an upturned Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket on his head on stage) had demanded a chicken coop be built. An area cordoned off by planks of wood and chicken wire had duly been constructed for the musician, an eccentric whose official biography claims he was raised in a coop, by chickens.

And as Zutaut took in the sight around him, his heart must have sunk. How was he ever going to persuade the singer to make music again? I know exactly how Zutaut must have felt, because I have known Rose well.

In the Eighties, I was one of the few rock journalists who supported the band. I interviewed him several times and was given a gold disc for the GN’R Lies album in honour of my loyalty.

The last time I actually saw Rose, though, was when he and three menacing ‘cohorts’ cornered me in a Los Angeles bar and threatened to murder me if I went ahead with a planned book on his band. ‘If I see anything with my name on it, I promise you this,’ he said, pausing for effect while peering at me through his long red hair, ‘I will track you down, and I will kill you.’

Of course, I went ahead with my book. By then, Rose threatening people with violence was a fairly regular scenario.

Even the band was growing sick of him – rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, the boyhood friend with whom Rose had started the band, walked out at the height of their fame in 1991. Stradlin was tired, he told me, of the singer’s histrionics: not least the mid-show walk-off at a concert in St Louis in 1991, which resulted in a mass riot that left 60 people seriously injured.

That was at the start of the two-and-a-half-year Use Your Illusion world tour. By the time it ended in July 1993, Guns N’ Roses were not only the biggest band in the world, they were also doomed. Rose had destroyed dozens of gigs by failing to show up or by storming off stage at the slightest provocation. When it was over, Rose would never perform with the original band again.

London-born lead guitarist Slash told me, ‘I just lost Axl. Everything was so out of control, then suddenly we came home and everything just kind of stopped.’

Over the next few years every member of Guns N’ Roses walked out on Rose. But he seemed not to care. He bought the rights to the band’s name and made it clear that he was going to continue producing Guns N’ Roses music.

The record company chose to keep the faith, too, believing that he could pull off another successful album single-handedly. How wrong they were.

Now ten years into the making, Rose’s album, originally called 2000 Intentions, but changed to Chinese Democracy as the year 2000 passed, has become the most expensive album ever made – except that it has not been made.

Around £7 million has been spent on an album that’s not been released. The New York Times has described it as ‘the recording industry’s most notorious white elephant’. To put it in perspective, Michael Jackson’s long-awaited Invincible cost £1 million. Indeed, studio techniques have changed so much since Rose began recording his album that there is no way another record will ever cost this much again.

It is now possible to create music professional enough for public release using a £1,000 laptop. A senior source at Universal told me: ‘I just can’t imagine anyone being given that sort of money now.’

The central issue has been this: even as he embarked on recording the new album, Rose made it clear to his record label that advice or help from other quarters would not be appreciated. In 1997, Todd Sullivan, then working as a talent executive for Geffen, a subsidiary of Universal that had signed Guns N’ Roses, sent CDs featuring various producers to Rose’s abode, with a note suggesting he might like to consider working with one of them.

Rose placed the CDs on his driveway and ran over them in his car. When Sullivan persuaded Rose to play him some of the snippets he’d been working on, he said: ‘Look, Axl, there’s some really great, promising stuff here. Why don’t you consider just bearing down and completing some of the songs?’

Rose replied: ‘Hmm, bear down and complete some of these songs?’

Almost immediately, Sullivan received a phone call from Geffen chairman Eddie Rosenblatt informing him he was off the project. Such was Rose’s power at Geffen that he could behave pretty much as he liked.

The working partners that Geffen secured for him were a roll-call of rock-production royalty. Youth (real name, Martin Glover), who had enjoyed success as the bassist in UK post-punk outfit Killing Joke and produced albums such as The Verve’s Urban Hymns, was offered an unprecedentedly high – but undisclosed – share of royalties if he succeeded in getting Rose to move on with the record when it was in its early stages, which at the time consisted of 38 different songs.

Working in the pool room of Rose’s mansion, playing acoustic guitar himself while encouraging Rose to sing, he recalls how Rose ‘kind of pulled out, and said, “I’m not ready”’. Youth says that the singer’s mental state seemed fragile. ‘He was quite isolated. There weren’t very many people I think he could trust. It was very difficult to penetrate the walls he’d built up.’

It was clear to everyone involved that Rose could not make up his mind. He instructed his studio engineers to keep recording any ideas the various musicians he’d invited into the fold came up with. As a result, Rose was being sent up to five CDs a week with different mixes of proposed songs. Eventually, he had more than 1,000 CDs and DATs (digital audio tapes). Then, four years in, Rose abruptly appeared to abandon the album completely in order to re-record Appetite For Destruction. He claimed new recording techniques would ‘spruce it up’.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the re-recorded album never appeared (although to be fair, a ‘spruced up’ version of Sweet Child O’ Mine did appear on the 1999 soundtrack of the Adam Sandler movie Big Daddy.)

By the time Zutaut arrived on the scene in 2001, Rose was back ‘working’ on Chinese Democracy. But getting involved in the project was no mean feat. Naturally enough, anyone working for Rose, from band members to cooks, had to sign confidentiality agreements containing stiff financial penalties for those who dared to divulge details of Rose’s bizarre private life.

All employees also had to submit a photograph of themselves, which Rose would then offer to guru Sharon Maynard for her ‘psychic inspection’ in order to reveal their true motives. Maynard even demanded pictures of potential employees’ children in order to read their spiritual auras more accurately.

Rose’s working routine had become so ragged he rarely showed his face at the studio, despite keeping all the musicians and engineers on a monthly retainer said to cost up to £130,000 depending on which line-up he was using at the time. Even the guitar technicians were paid around £3,000 a month; one ‘software engineer’ earned £13,000 each month.

As well as Zutaut, Universal also signed up former Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker. Rose was a huge fan of Queen and claimed the new material with which he had been wrestling resembled the work of the Seventies pomp-rockers. However, it was all to no avail. By Christmas 2001, with Chinese Democracy still no nearer to completion, Zutaut and Baker were both fired by Rose. Session artists would come and then go just as quickly. Even Buckethead finally bailed out in early 2004.

Universal’s patience finally ran out. In a letter dated February 2, 2004, the record giant informed Rose’s management company that, ‘having exceeded all budgeted and approved recording costs by millions of dollars, it is now Mr Rose’s obligation to fund and complete the album’.

The open tab at the recording studio was closed down. The band’s gear was packed away, and Rose retreated to his mansion.

Rose admitted, ‘So many times, I’ve come down [to the studio] with no idea what I was going to be able to do. If you are working with issues that depressed the c**p out of you, how do you know you can express it?’

Outside the studio, his behaviour – on the rare occasions he was seen – was increasingly bizarre. In February 1998, he was arrested at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix after getting into a fight with security staff. ‘I’ll punch your lights out right here and right now,’ he screamed at a guard who was doing a routine search of his baggage. ‘You are all little people on a power trip. Just put me in jail!’

They fulfilled his wish. Friends claim the incident happened because Rose was carrying gifts that he was taking for ‘review’ by Sharon Maynard – including a glass sphere – and he was worried the security personnel might break them. Maynard’s ability to ‘channel’ spirits has led Rose to believe he has lived many past lives.

At least one date on the last GN’R tour was cancelled after she expressed concerns about ‘energy fields’ in Minneapolis.

Rose apparently had ‘trouble’ in areas of the country that had a strong magnetic field. The tour was called off two weeks into its run after a series of no-shows by Rose provoked riots from fans. Following his visits to Maynard, Rose also underwent counselling from a past-life regression therapist named Suzzy London. She is said to have helped Rose ‘recover’ memories of childhood sexual abuse by his biological father William Rose, whom he didn’t know about until he was a teenager.

It is surprising Rose needed any more bad memories. William Rose had left when Axl was three, and Axl was raised by a stepfather, the fanatically religious Reverend L Stephen Bailey, whom Rose once described as ‘one of the most dangerous human beings I’ve ever met’. Rose claims that Bailey beat him regularly as a child. As one friend says: ‘This abuse is not an external issue for the singer, it’s at the core of his make-up.’

Other friends say, however, that the trouble lies closer to home. Rose has been married once, to Erin Everly, daughter of singer Don Everly, but the union was annulled in 1991. The huge house he lives in now was bought the following year when Rose was dating supermodel Stephanie Seymour.

Rose desperately wanted a child, and the couple planned to raise a family together. But Seymour fled in the wake of violent arguments, in particular at a Christmas party during which she alleged Rose smashed bottles, then grabbed her by the throat and dragged her barefoot through the broken glass. ‘His time with Stephanie was the first time in his life he had stability,’ says a friend. ‘When she left, he had nothing.’

Many of Rose’s friends feel that if he can just ‘get the monkey off his back’ – and release the album – normality may return to his life. There are now signs this might happen.

In September 2005, an internet rumour surfaced that Rose had talked to fans outside the electric gates of his mansion, giving them the news they were waiting to hear: that Chinese Democracy would be released at the start of 2006.

Since then, Rose and his manager have variously promised that the album would be released in March of this year, then November, then an ‘unspecified Tuesday’ before January 2007.

Rose has even been on tour this year, although the performances have been noted more for his eccentric behaviour than his music. Last month, he previewed a full version of Chinese Democracy to guests at his mansion. Former Skid Row glam rocker Sebastian Bach was there. ‘It was mind-blowing,’ says Bach. ‘The word for it is “grand”.’

Sources close to the singer say that Andy Wallace, the engineer who worked on Nirvana’s Nevermind album, is now working on the final touches to Chinese Democracy.

Even discounting Rose and his manager’s various promised deadlines, on November 8 this year a black-and-white video for There Was A Time appeared on the recently reactivated official Guns N’ Roses website. A television advert the same month for Harley-Davidson briefly featured an extract of new track Better – a satisfying blast with a chugging heavy-metal guitar underpinning Rose’s familiar wail.

In selected New York bars, Rose has swirled in and treated patrons to ten-song demos that ‘sounded finished’. It seems all Rose has to do is say the word, and the album can finally come out.

A couple of months ago, Merck Mercuriadis, who until recently was managing Rose, said, ‘I don’t know that we will announce a release date. You might just walk into your record shop one day and find it there.’ (Since then Merck has become the latest to fall out with the singer after a row last month.)

An internet announcement this month by Rose predicts a ‘firm’ release date of March 6, 2007. But as Rose himself said via the Guns N’ Roses website, ‘If you’re waiting, don’t. Live your life. That’s your responsibility, not mine. But if you’re really into waiting, try holding your breath for Jesus, ’cos I hear the payoff may be that much greater.’

Source: The Mail
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Michael
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