An Axl to Grind
I'm not one to shy away from an opportunity to post a repeat, especially when I'm going to be gone most of the day.
And seeing as that no less than eight people have emailed the link about Slash and Duff suing Axl, I figured I'd throw this one up on the front burner again, just because I love to read the emails from the raging Axl fans who think I should be shot, hung and drowned.
[I chopped off the first part of the post for various reasons; all quoted parts are from this NYT article on Axl and the making of Chinese Democracy]
My history with Axl and company is a long and complicated one. I imagine that most metal fans who hooked on to the early GnR bandwagon followed the same path I did. Think of the seven stages of grief in reverse. From acceptance (Appetite for Destruction = welcome to my record collection!) to denial (I swear to you I never owned The Spaghetti Incident), we watched - and in some ways participated in - the slow death of a once great band. But it wasn't their years of putting out head banging, fist pumping music that was the greatest show. No, it was watching Axl Rose trying in vain to raise the Phoenix from the ashes that offered the most jaw dropping, car-wreck kind of entertainment this side of the November Rain video.
Real music fans don't just buy an album, get their groove on and put the album away until later. We invest a part of ourselves in each record we buy. And, by extension, we invest a piece of ourselves in the bands we love. We form a relationship, so to speak, with the band as a whole. And it's a tenuous sort of relationship, because the only thing that ties us together is the actual music. A new album comes out, you listen for the first time and each perfectly crafted song is tantamount to being embraced by a passionate lover. Every lyric that resonates, beat that you feel in your bones, hook that captures your soul - it's like making love to the music and those who made the music (metaphorically speaking, of course). The better the anticipated album or single, the more intense the action is. So each new album we wait for is like the promise of hot, dirty sex after your partner has been away for a while. And in that essence, Chinese Democracy has been a years long cock tease.
My real lust for the band kind of faded right around Civil War. It was then I realized that GnR was the equivalent of the girl who teases you with her perky breasts for years and when you finally manage to get under the hood, you grab hold of three inches of padded bra. All that music before Use Your Illusion II was just a ruse to get us to this point. They gave us the good stuff first so they could later on sit back and make this pretentious, melodramatic drivel that they called art. There was nothing left to them. Empty D cups.
I never held a grudge against the rest of the band like I do Axl. He was - and is - a self indulgent monster whose posturing bravado could never hide the fact that he was really nothing more than a wimp, a nancy boy, a withered soul of a human being who couldn't handle criticism or competition. Yet somehow, he managed to convince himself that he was the king of the mountain and deserved every indulgence he demanded - something the attempted creation of Chinese Democracy has made all so evident, especially since he surrounded himself with people just like himself.
He accompanied Buckethead on a jaunt to Disneyland when the guitarist was drifting toward quitting, several people involved recalled; then Buckethead announced he would be more comfortable working inside a chicken coop, so one was built for him in the studio, from wood planks and chicken wire.
Out of the entire five page NYT article, that excerpt alone is what symbolizes both Axl Rose and the whole warped evolution of Guns N Roses. Ridiculous excess, indulgence, pretentiousness and the penchant for extending the idea of making an album to such ridiculous heights that, somehow, building a chicken coop for Buckethead seemed like a good way for Geffen to spend their money.And how much money has Chinese Democracy cost to make so far?
[Axl] has racked up more than $13 million in production costs, according to Geffen documents, ranking his unfinished masterpiece as probably the most expensive recording never released.
13 million dollars to make an album that a) will probably never see the light of day and b) even if it did, would never recoup the costs to the label or even be worth listening to at this point. Who wants to hear what a lover has to say after they've kicked you in the back time and time again? At some point, you walk. You don't look back. After all the teasing - the MTV awards, the New Year's Eve show, the inlkings of what the record would sound like, the addition of people like Robin Finck to the band - to still be standing here waiting for some GnR loving is to victimize yourself.
Mr. Rose is reportedly working on the album even now in a San Fernando Valley studio. "The 'Chinese Democracy' album is very close to being completed," Merck Mercuriadis, the chief executive officer of Sanctuary Group, which manages Mr. Rose, wrote in a recent statement.
Mr. Mercuriadis was not very happy with the NYT article and wrote a letter to the editor, in which he called the author of the piece, Jeff Leeds, "the return of Jayson Blair under a pseudonym."
Axl Rose is not interested in fame, money, popularity or what the New York Times or any other paper for that matter might think of him. His only interest is making the best album he is capable of so that it can have a positive affect in 2005 on people who are enthusiasts of music and interested in Guns N' Roses. His artistic integrity is such that he has chosen to do so without compromise at great personal sacrifice which makes him a soft target for the sort of rubbish you have chosen to print. I believe he will have the last laugh.
One has to wonder if Mr. Mercuriadis really believes what he wrote. Or perhaps he is just a victim of Axl's cult of personality. Maybe Mercuriadis and Axl both really believe that Chinese Democracy will be released some day. Maybe they both believe it won't raise the bar on suckitude. And maybe they believe that whatever ragtag band Axl ends up with deserves to be called Guns N Roses. But the phrases "artistic integrity" and "great personal sacrfice" don't really come to mind when I think of Axl Rose. Is it that "artistic integrity" that's causing his old bandmates to sue him?
I prefer to remember Axl the way I first loved him; all swaying hips and high decibel screaming, causing riots, forgetting to show up for concerts, making an ass of himself in ways that are forgivable in rock and roll. The whole Chinese Democracy saga? As unforgivable as The Spaghetti Incident.