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AXL ROSE BLAMES HIS RECORD LABEL FOR CHINESE DEMOCRACY‘S POOR SALES

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Today is Axl Rose’s 46th birthday (!), and he decided to celebrate by giving his first official interview in nine years. The interview, with Billboard, was conducted by e-mail, and Rose reveals that one of the reasons he granted the industry rag’s request was because he “liked the questions,” so apparently the only way to get in good with the guy is to give him up-front approval on everything (no real shock there). Still, there’s some entertaining nuggets in the interview, which, even from the point of view of an Axl apologist such as myself, is pretty friggin’ ridiculous. Check out the highlight reel after the jump, with our observations in italics.


Without sounding presumptuous, what took so long to get the album out?

And without sounding facetious, what didn’t? There aren’t too many issues of the hundreds [we ran into] that happened as quickly as anyone would have preferred, from building my studio; finding the right players; never did find a producer; still don’t have real record company involvement or support; to getting it out and mixed and mastered.

$13 million isn’t “real record company involvement or support?” I hope nobody tells that to, um, pretty much any other recording artist on any other label in the known universe.

What were your expectations in terms of what Best Buy would do to promote the album?

Best Buy has been great.

So we can now assume that Rose was nowhere near any Best Buy at the time of his album’s release, because the store advertised their exclusive sale of the record about as much as they would a new offering from The Starland Vocal Band.

Rose continues:

Unfortunately [going with Best Buy] didn’t change us having to rely on Interscope as much as we’d hoped. The opinions expressed or “jumped” on publicly regarding promotion seem to be [about] my or our involvement with mainstream media  – talk shows, rock magazines and dot-coms  – which have generally held negative public stances toward myself or the band for years, [and they] unfortunately have not been resolved. Efforts are being made to understand the relationships and evaluate how best to proceed.

So, again, Rose is basically saying he won’t give interviews to any media outlet that doesn’t constantly kiss his ass. Again, shocker.

Also, still not sure what Rose expected Interscope to do when he refused to promote the album. And I’m saying that as someone who doesn’t think very highly of the record industry.

Our approach, for better or worse, has always been to work the record over the course of the following tour cycles, with attempts to forge new or better and hopefully redefined relationships with the different forms of media that may be interested along the way.

How can your approach to work the record be tied to touring when you’re not touring in support of the record and reveal in this very interview that you currently have no plans to tour?

What are your thoughts on how Universal has handled the album?

Unfortunately I have no information for me to believe [that] there was any real involvement or effort from Interscope. I’m not saying there wasn’t. But in my opinion, without [Interscope Geffen A&M chairman] Jimmy Iovine’s involvement, it doesn’t matter who anyone talks to or what they say — virtually nothing will happen from their end.

I do know [that] I’ve been asking for a marketing plan for over five years and still haven’t got anything.

Which is so weird, ’cause the label had been asking for a record for ten years and still hadn’t got anything. Funny how that works.

On another note, the draft booklet leaking and, I believe, the early shipping of preorders and the inclusion of the early draft booklet for the release was through involvement with Interscope, which was a mess. That’s not to say they don’t work for other artists and make things happen. I feel they work very hard for whatever it is they truly want to sell, whether it’s good or …

At least he admits the booklet sucks.

I can say how the band feels…

And you’d have to, since you apparently won’t let them give any interviews on their own.

…and that is that to a man they hate the record company other than Universal International with a passion. And that’s with me talking with them about the record company negatively hardly ever, if at all. They’re not blind: They hear the talk and see the results. Our involvement with Interscope has been more than frustrating for them. It’s not like anyone here wants to have any negative views, impressions or opinions. They don’t go around bitching about things all the time and they don’t let it get in the way of whatever they’re supposed to do here, but it is what it is.

Here’s how things worked until they were no longer involved-that is, until recently. Jimmy [Iovine] and whoever would come down to the studio. Things would be good for a month. Then, according to whoever was involved at the time from their side, 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. We get that it’s just how business — and perhaps especially this business — tends to work, but 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.

[Former Interscope Geffen A&M president] Tom Whalley brought in Roy Thomas Baker to produce and [A&R executive] Mark Williams suggested Marco Beltrami, among others, to play strings on the album. And Jimmy had an idea for low guitar in a track and the EQ on a drum part. That’s it as far as I’m aware. They were all good things, but in all sincerity, that’s it. Now, what efforts were made to help keep Universal or Vivendi off us for as long as possible could very well have been extensive, and in that regard either would have been or would be most appreciated. I like Jimmy, but I’ve never understood him in regard to us or this album. Everything’s always been, “That’s easy,” or “We can fix that, no problem,” but unfortunately rarely added up to any kind of reality for us until [he found] Bob Ludwig for mastering.

We’d love to have their and Jimmy’s support after this. But to continue at this juncture feeling as we do, keeping things so behind the scenes, unfortunately feels like the same ‘ol same ‘ol for all of us and, at least momentarily, a bit much to digest. Jimmy did point us in the right direction for mastering, and I believe he’s sincere in his appreciation of our record but still for whatever reasons gave up pretty early in those areas.

We feel that, unfortunately, we’ve never been really anything all that much more other than a throw it at the wall, see if it sticks, no real ground work, something to take advantage of, last quarter, cook the books, write-off, fuck this headache, hoping to get lucky scam. And, unfortunately, for all their nice words and assurances, nothing that’s happened since the week or so before the release has shown us much of anything to the contrary. So at least in regard to the U.S., for the most part I don’t look at it like we have a record company — I look at it for the most part like we have friendly but otherwise cutthroat loan sharks, and we were lucky to get what we got but feel we could have done more if they were at least, especially with some of their backgrounds, a bit more involved creatively. So in light of pirating and the mess the major labels are in, I have no sympathy for the record companies, based on our experiences in the U.S.

I can’t understand how Rose feels like the record company didn’t support him when they supplied him with enough money to feed a starving third world country, and when they helped make him a gazillionaire rock god. Lest we forget, this is still, for better or worse, a business, and it seems to me that they were about as patient with Rose as any label could have been. But, hey, I wasn’t there, so what do I know?

How many other songs were completed and considered for “Chinese Democracy”? There are rumors that there are two full albums done.

We’d like to get another album out at some point, but for now our focus is on “Chinese.”

Translation: the next GN’R album will arrive in 2025.

Some artists like to test out their new songs in their car stereos or invite friends to the studio to hear playbacks. How did you listen to the album when it was a work in progress?

My studio, car stereos, a CD Walkman, computers and different speaker setups, clubs, iPods. Actually, our first leaks were from using a sound system in a strip club in the early hours when it was basically empty. I went there to play the tracks for someone I was interested in working with.

So those rumors about Robin Byrd being the new guitar player in GN’R had some merit to them? Weird…

Also: A “CD Walkman” is often referred to as a “Discman.” Just an FYI.

I’d gone there with a guy who worked band security, who was allegedly somehow related to the owners, feeling it was a bit more of a protected environment than it turned out to be.

That’s so odd, seeing as most Strip Clubs have security fit for Fort Knox. Oh wait.

There was talk of a “Guitar Hero” or “Rock Band” download of “Chinese Democracy.” Is either going to happen?

There is talk about a “Rock Band” release, and they felt the record-based on the nature and complexity of the depth of instrumentation-deserved a bit more attention and some more involved elements than they’ve generally dealt with. I have no idea what that means but it’s my understanding they were very enthusiastic. We’re looking at a Feb. 28 release, according to [executives at MTV responsible for] “Rock Band.” [“Rock Band” has since changed the release date to spring.]

Actually I have nothing funny to say about this, other than the fact that my ribbing aside, I really dig Chinese Democracy and would rather enjoy playing it on Rock Band.

Is there any chance you’ll work with the former members of Guns N’ Roses in the future?

I could see doing a song or so on the side with Izzy [Stradlin] or having him out [on tour] again. I’m not so comfortable with doing anything having more than one of the alumni. Maybe something with Duff [McKagan], but that’s it, and not something I’d have to really get down into, as I’d get left with sorting it out and then blamed on top of it. So, no, not me.

In regards to Slash, I read a desperate fan’s message about, what if one of us were to die and looking back I had the possibility of a reunion now, blah blah blah. And my thoughts are, “Yeah, and while you’re at the show your baby accidentally kicks a candle and burns your house down, killing himself and the rest of your family.”

Give me a fucking break. What’s clear is that one of the two of us will die before a reunion and however sad, ugly or unfortunate anyone views it, it is how it is. Those decisions were made a long time ago and reiterated year after year by one man.

There are acts that, once committed between individuals, they are what they are. To add insult to injury almost day after day, lapsing into year after year, for more than a decade, is a nightmare. Anyone putting his own personal entertainment above everything else is sickening.

So everyone shut the fuck up about those reunion rumors.

Rose concludes with a discussion of his reluctance to do press for the album:

With Reuters, I get their reach. That said, they’ve been particularly ugly toward me and this band for years, with nearly everything they’ve written being condescending or negatively judgmental with the cute little press trick of using negative adjectives across the board whenever they’ve written anything. In our regard they’re one of the media outlets that appear to continually attempt to set a tone for a negative mainstream public perception regarding either us or myself, at least in the United States, if not the world.

I get freedom of the press, but I’m not clear in regard to their writers or those who choose to run their spin, why someone who no one’s ever heard of with so little “real” information is deemed qualified — let alone allowed so much corporate backing — to promote negative and often completely inaccurate and purely opinion-based (at best, if that) shots in forums with so much exposure at the public’s and our expense.

Billboard.com has generally taken a pro-Slash and -old Guns position as well, and I don’t recall having been particularly negative toward them previously either. In my opinion it seems a bit less professional than tabloid in nature. This is an attempt to begin sorting these things out when more than shots across the bow have been taken by both of these organizations — but obviously much more so with Reuters — if not a deliberate public stating of both position and intention, in my opinion.

Rose has a point about letting any asshole speak as an official source, but otherwise, it seems like he’s actively admitting he will only deal with those who speak positively about him in the press. Which is… whatever.

The text of the interview also claims that “In a separate phone interview, longtime Guns N’ Roses (and former Replacements) bassist Tommy Stinson echoed Rose’s sentiments,” but that interview hasn’t been published. Probably because Billlboard realized that no one besides the hardest of hardcore GN’R fans gives a fuck what Tommy Stinson has to say.

-AR

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