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Guns N’ Roses Insiders Share Stories from the Making of Chinese Democracy

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Hard to believe, but this past November marked the tenth anniversary of the release of Chinese Democracy, the Guns N’ Roses album which will go down in history for scores of reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the music it contains (which is too bad, ’cause a lot of that music is, in this blogger’s opinion, quite good). To commemorate the occasion, Billboard has published a retrospective on the record, which contains some interesting tidbits from insiders who worked closely with Axl Rose during its production.

For one thing, both Chinese Democracy bassist Tommy Stinson and Tom Zutaut, the A&R dude who first signed GN’R to Geffen in the 80s and “was recruited in 2001 by Interscope-Geffen as consiglieri to Axl,” confirm a rumor that’s been going around since at least 2002: Rose was never making just one record. Zutaut asserts that “Chinese Democracy was going to be trilogy,” while Stinson is less specific about the final number of albums the sessions were meant to produce, saying only “that record was not meant to be one disc.” Whether CD was intended to be two albums or ten, it makes perfect sense that Rose would have meant for it be spread across multiple releases; he and his hired Guns were said to have written and recorded as many as 72 songs, and the exorbitant fee of making the album (allegedly $15 million, the most expensive record ever produced) might have been offset it it had, in fact, been spent making a few albums.

More interesting still are the article’s insights into why Rose never really promoted Chinese Democracy after working on it for a decade-and-a-half. Says Stinson:

“I think he [Jimmy Iovine] never gave it a chance. I think he was like, ‘Ok I’ll sponsor this, and then the band will get back together, and I’ll have that.’ I think he was always waiting for that ball to drop. I think to some degree, he [Jimmy Iovine] sabotaged the thing. There were a lot of missteps, and they were all record company related, which had everything to do with the failure of that record.”

The article goes on:

“There’s an audio clip Billboard reviewed; it’s allegedly from June 2014 and includes Axl Rose from behind his grand piano telling a story to a group of friends. Some of those who knew him then describe him as ‘Twain-y’ because of his gift for gab. ‘Listen, listen, you gotta’ understand,’ he says. ‘When you see the real artwork from my album, not what you see (inaudible), there’s a reason I didn’t promote it, because the real artwork is what I will promote.’ Axl then begins to play a medley of Elton John. The grand piano from the recording is described to have custom artwork on the lid that most uninitiated fans have never seen. Initially, Chinese Democracy was scheduled to be released with three different covers (a grenade, a red hand, and a bicycle), but only the minimalist bicycle art made it to the mass-production phase and became ubiquitous with Chinese Democracy, a record that was the antithesis of minimalism. ‘They ripped it away from him,’ says Stinson. ‘Right at the last second, when he wasn’t ready….'”

I don’t think it’s that far-fetched to imagine that some of this material will eventually be re-recorded with Slash and Duff McKagan and released on the new Guns N’ Roses album. But who knows, maybe they’ll just wanna start to fresh, or lean into material that has a more classic Appetite for Destruction feel.

Still, it seems worth nothing that according to Billboard, while sales of Chinese Democracy haven’t increased much since the reunion, “streams of Chinese Democracy (a total of all songs on the album) have spiked from 8 million to 24 million.” So maybe some Slash n’ Duff magic is all the other material needs to garner interest.

Read the entire piece here.

[via Metal Injection]

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