The Guns N' Roses Story - Past, Present & Future

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The Guns N' Roses Story - Past, Present & Future

Indlægaf Michael » 6. jul 2011, 13:17

The Guns N' Roses Story - Past, Present & Future
Saturday • November 29, 2008


In the first of a three part feature on Guns N' Roses, to celebrate the release of the band's first album in 15 years, we find out who Guns N' Roses really are.

Celebrating the release of Chinese Democracy, Wayne Madden of the Daily Music Guide takes a look at the revolving line-up of Guns N' Roses' present situation and introduce you to the members you may not know ever existed!

Looking at the band's uncertain future, we discover whether Axl Rose has plans to take the GN'R train for another few spins.

Part 1: Introducing Guns N' Roses

If you've read any music news in the past few days, chances are you can't help but notice that Guns N' Roses - by which we mean singer Axl Rose, as he holds all legal rights to the name - have finally decided to release the long delayed Chinese Democracy album. But who are Guns N' Roses today? And what exactly is the real truth about the latest album?

Many media reports will tell you that this album has been in production since 1993, but that's incorrect. Others will say 1994; they're wrong as well. And although the actual start date isn't 100% verified we can make an educated guess that it lies somewhere between 1998 and 1999.

There are two reasons for this: an interview Axl Rose gave MTV journalist Kurt Loder in 1999 reported Rose as saying that he had found new bandmates, and that they'd been recording. The track 'Oh My God', which featured - albeit as a demo version - on the soundtrack to the 1999 film End of Days, was touted as a precursor for Chinese Democracy.

But to understand Guns N' Roses today we must first examine what caused these rifts in the first place. Tension started when Gilby Clarke - who had been drafted in to replace founding member Izzy Stradlin in 1991 - was fired and replaced by Axl, apparently without consultation between the other band members, with Paul Tobias.

Clarke had been an extremely well-liked character whom Slash felt would have done well in the band and Tobias, according to Axl, was unworkable. Axl saw Gilby as simply a hired hand, and with the recent tour over felt he had served his purpose. The band had also tried to ask Izzy Stradlin to return around this time, but although he did he left again without recording a single note.

In 1994 Guns N' Roses 'did' attempt to write a follow-up to their 1991 Use Your Illusion albums and in January 1994 both Axl and Slash gave a radio interview in which they said material had just been passed between them in relation to a new album. The proposed release date was 1995 to correspond with a 1996 tour schedule. Axl also mentioned that he had been trying to get Queen's Brian May to work with Slash as Guns N' Roses' second (or even third) guitarist.

Although May did work with Guns N' Roses, and toured with the band, we only know of work he did in 1999/2000 and not of anything done before that. Guns N' Roses apparently recorded a full album's worth of material in 1994, and as late as 1996 bassist Duff McKagan was saying the band had plans to release the new album soon. But despite intense censorship on the issue it has since been learnt that Axl slowly dismissed all current and founding members of the band; that is, apart from Tobias, Dizzy Reed and himself. The material Slash claimed Axl rejected for use in 1994 was released in 1995 under the Slash's Snakepit project with contributions from Clarke, McKagan, Sorum and even Dizzy Reed.

Returning from a tour in early 1996, Kerrang Magazine published breaking news of Slash's dismissal from Guns N' Roses, and for once it seemed the train had finally stopped rolling on the Greatest story in Rock history. If only they knew...

Part 2: Guns N' Roses Today

On 1st January 2001 at 3am, after a superb set by Placebo, Axl Rose appeared to play a special show titled as the return of Guns N' Roses in Las Vegas. To a crowd of Journalists, skeptics, cross-dressers and gamblers it was Rose who re-appeared onstage, but not with whom fans were expecting. That night, a whole new generation of Guns N' Roses members were born.

Fast forward 10 years, and DMG does its best to create an accurate picture of Guns N' Roses in 2008, although Uncle Axl ain't making it easy...

W. Axl Rose (Vocals)
The lead vocalist has been frontman since the band's inception in 1985, but it's a little known fact that even Axl was kicked out of the band, for 3 days in 1988. His bandmates then asked him back after he pleaded with them to allow him to support the Rolling Stones; later that year he made infamous remarks about his bandmates' use of heroin on-stage during those concerts.

Dizzy Reed (Keyboardist/Percussionist)
The band's percussionist and keyboardist since 1990, Dizzy is the only member of the band other than Axl to have appeared on Use Your Illusions and the Spaghetti Incident - a 1993 covers album - and played extensively with the band during their mammoth 1991-93 World Tour. Reed was apparently hired with no consultation from other members (although it is rumoured he pushed to have Reed in the band since 86). His first concert, Rock In Rio 1991, was also the first concert of drummer Matt Sorum (1990-1996).

Tommy Stinson (Bass)
Tommy joined the band in or around 1998 when Axl had tried repeatedly, and failed, to encourage original bassist Duff McKagan - the last founding member of the band other than Axl left - to reconsider leaving the group. Stinson played with the Replacements, a cult punk band, from age 12 and calls himself an extremely loyal friend of Axl's.

Robin Finck (Lead Guitar)
While most people would be happy with one majorly successful band, Finck enjoys a double life as the lead guitarist of both Guns N' Roses and the Nine Inch Nails. Silent about his GNR involvement for the most part, Finck has come and gone since 1998, but is ultimately the band's first choice replacement for Slash.

Chris Pitman (Percussionist/Keyboardist/Snyth/Technical)
Originally hired as the 'pyro guy' and 2nd keyboardist, Pitman has done everything: from percussion to guitar samples and co-ordination as well as co-writing several tracks with Axl. Also from the mid West, Pitman joined the band in 1998, and is only currently planning his own release for November - that of side project SexTapes - a hard rock outfit with a gritty LA sound.

Richard Fortus (R. Guitar)
Fortus joined the band in 2002, replacing Axl's childhood friend Paul Tobias, who bowed out due to the pressures of touring. While he was a newer member of the band, relatively speaking, Axl has been known to approve of his work immensely and said the album could not have happened without him. Fortus was originally throught to have re-recorded Tobias' work on Chinese Democracy, but with the release of the album his work remains and Fortus features lightly on only two tracks.

Paul Tobias (Guitar and Piano)
Drafted in 1994, Paul did not work well with Slash, and is often referred to as the Yoko Ono of Guns N' Roses. Tobias helped Rose write songs as far back as 1986, and is a childhood friend, so was a natural choice to join the band as far as Axl was concerned. In 2002, having outlasted most of the founding members of the group, Tobias bowed out due to the pressures of touring and being on the road. Having said that, his material still features heavily on Chinese Democracy and he is co-writer of several tracks. It's most likely that Tobias will return again for the next album in some form.

Bryan "Brain" Mantia (Drums)
Having joined Guns N' Roses from Primus on the suggestion of Buckethead in 2000, Bryan was asked to recreate - note for note - all of previous drummer Josh Freese's work on Chinese Democracy. Having done this Mantia played every live show with the band until summer 2006, when he stepped out to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. The credits for the band's last single, Chinese Democracy, indicates the drummer is new recruit Frank Ferrer. Although Bryan does contribute drum parts to the majority of tracks on the album, he does in some tracks share duties with the bands other drummer and his tour replacement, Frank Ferrer.

Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal (Guitar)
Ron Thal was brought in as a replacement to Buckethead around 2006 and has retained his place in the band ever since. Thal is alleged to have recorded over 100 guitar parts for Axl, who then chose 5 or 6 to incorporate into various songs on Chinese Democracy. Despite his relatively short time with the band his work is featured quite heavily, especially on the track 'I.R.S.'.

Frank Ferrer (Drums)
Frank Ferrer joined in mid 2006, and toured with the band for about a year, also helping to record parts for Chinese Democracy before its completion. He re-recorded material for the title track on the album as well as collaborating with Bryan's inital drumming work on various tracks such as 'There Was A Time' and 'If The World'.

Other Guys You Might Hear
Having 10 members in a band, it seems, is just not enough for Axl and GNR. Reports claim that even more musicians have worked on the album and that in the ten year writing, production, mixing and mastering process several artists have been approached to help further this project to its now completed status. But who are the most important and recognisable? We attempt to find out...

Brian May (Special Guest Appearance)
Queen guitarist Brian May toured with Guns N' Roses as their opening act during a portion of the band's 1993 European tour. In 1999/2000 May recorded some parts with Guns N' Roses in an LA studio; a leaked, low bitrate demo version of the song 'Catcher in the Rye' found its way online with May's guitar work. But, for whatever reason, May's version was left off the final edit and his solo replaced by Robin Finck.

Buckethead (Lead Guitar)
Buckethead, also known as Brian Carroll, joined the band in 1998 from Primus. His unusual behaviour, which included building a chicken coop in the studio and watching hardcore pornography inside, did not lead to his departure. It's unclear exactly why Buckethead left Guns N' Roses - sometime in 2004 - which led to a Rock in Rio concert cancellation by the band, as well as the subsequent 2 year hiatus. Both Buckethead and Axl made references to 'The Head' being featured on Chinese Democracy in its final form. Not only does Buckethead feature, but plays on almost every track, even co-writing 3 (insert reunion rumours here!).

Josh Freese (Drums)
Nine Inch Nails and No Doubt drummer Josh Freese joined Guns N' Roses as the first choice replacement to Matt Sorum in 1998. He helped co-write several songs, but only one credit remains: the album's title track. While all his material has been removed (because that would have been three drummers on the CD), it is his co-writing credit on Chinese Democracy itself which has gained him the most attention and will surely earn him some nice royalties.

Part 3: Guns N' Roses: The Future

With Guns N' Roses masterpiece, or rather Rose's masterpiece released, many feel this may be the end of a long era with a rather short-lived musical output. Many feel tensions within the band are currently at breaking point, with rumours rife that lead guitarist Robin Finck has become distanced from the group.

As well as this, recent news of both Brain and Buckethead not being invited back to the fold - despite their large musicial input on this album, both physically and creatively - is also taking its strain on the group. Thrown into this rather speculative mix is Paul Tobias, who was believed not to have been a member of the band for the last 6 years, has now been named as having co-written several tracks; he performs on all but three of them.

In the album credits it can be seen that Rose only writes one track on the album ('This I Love'), with his team of musicians chipping in wherever possible. In all, Pitman, Finck, Reed, Tobias, Mantia, Carroll and Freese have all written and contributed to tracks. Moreover, Chinese Democracy also features writing credits from producers, with Caram Costanzo contributing a writing credit to the tracks 'Shackler's Revenge' and 'Scraped'.

Composer Pete Scaturro also has a writing credit, working on such theme tunes as 'The Practice' and Disney's 'Zoog'. This diversion shows the amount of influences called on by this album. Essentially, it's a team effort, and that seems important to Axl: it has been stated in the past that despite being the only original founder member of Guns N' Roses, this is far from a solo project. Another question is the time in which it has taken to complete this album. It's important to note that of all the tracks performed live and previously leaked, only one ('Silkworms') has not yet appeared in its final studio form on a GNR album.

As a result, it's questionable what plans (if any) Axl has for follow-up material and how long this could take. Surely it can't take another 15 years (by which time Rose would be in his 60s), but while Chinese Democracy has been rumoured to be a trilogy of albums - with good friend Sebastian Bach saying the last of which will be released in 2012 - there is no indication of a recurrence at this time.

There have also been no tour announcements, and Axl's silence in the immediate aftermath of this release (despite positive reviews of the album), creates the feeling of uncertainty in the future. The lack of a video with a physical single release is also unusual for a band of Guns N' Roses' calibre, since there will be no live performances from the band around the time of the album release; it's essentially being released without a word from the artists involved. Whether the group have a future or not simply remains to be seen at this time.

After several years of disinformation, rumour and innuendo, it looks like Chinese Democracy has finally seen the light of day. As you unwrap that CD and hear this LP's tracks for the first time, remember that you are listening to a decade's worth of work.

Guns N' Roses are back, and this time, it's for real!

Source: Daily Music Guide
Photo: George Chin ©
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Tilmeldt: 28. apr 2004, 15:09
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