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December 21st, 2011
Axl Rose talks playing the Forum, Hall of Fame gig, reunion
The L.A. Times music blog
Early Saturday morning in Seattle, Guns N' Roses singer Axl Rose sat down for a long, freewheeling interview after his band's three-hour concert Friday night at Key Arena. You can read a story about the exchange here, but left on the cutting-room floor was an hour-and-a-half of fascinating conversation in which a sharp, well-spoken Rose tackled many topics that fans have been discussing for years.

Over the course of the interview, which took place from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. in his dimly lit dressing room, Rose talked about the past, present, and future without pulling any punches. (So much so that we edited out some of the more potentially libelous business-industry accusations Rose leveled.)

Los Angeles Times: Can you talk about the L.A. show at the Forum on Wednesday night?

Axl Rose: Well, LA will be interesting. Iím looking forward to it. We had a great time in í06. We did three nights at the Gibson. But this year was very weird because the industry was trying to force us into a smaller show ó just one, and then make it two. But the real thing about it is that the soundís not that good at the Palladium ó and why are we going down, when we can draw more? So weíre doing the Forum, but it really wasnít done right. We had to fight for that. [Rose goes into a long tirade about specific industry executives.]

This whole tour is part of ó itís not like thereís a lot of money going to Live Nation or anything, but itís part of how we worked out the settlement [with former manager and Live Nation exec Irving Azoff]. And I could have gone on to court, but that was going to block other things, so Live Nation's not getting paid, weíre not getting paid, but weíre putting it out of the way, so we did this tour. Then we get on the tour and find out that everything that was supposed to be done wasnít done, and managers and agents are selling a show that was supposed to go on at 8 oíclock. They knew I was never going to do that.

And this lack of promotion is one reason Iím here? [Laughter]

Yeah, well, the showís already what it is, so itís not really about that. The showís already basically sold, so ...

And you were talking about adding a second show?

Well, we were talking about it, but I got different numbers at different times from different people, and some of those came from our latest former manager, and they were ..., so we basically decided that weíre going to wait until later to do it right and deal with L.A., because I want to deal with L.A. Thereís places I want to play. I want to play some of the clubs, some of the nightclubs, different places for fun, and I want to play different venues like weíve done in New York.

And I know we can do it in L.A., but what happens is people are really good at saying what you want to hear. So you go, yes, yes, yes, yes, and then they do something completely different. "Thatís awesome. Thatís a great idea!" And then they do everything they can to block it and make sure it doesnít happen. That really happens. To me, they canít ... do anything and they donít want to do anything unless they feel that theyíre getting away with a scam. They canít feel theyíre doing something thatís legitimate, and feel that kind of pride, they have to feel like, I got it, I ... them over, da da da. And thatís their victory.

All these managers, they know one thing. They know that they can at least ... sell a reunion tour and get their commission. Itís just a phone call. Itís a half a dayís ... work, or however long they want to keep the bidding war going. They get their commission and they donít care if it falls on its face.

Because, really, you can get guys from the "Illusion" thing, but the only thing that would make it would be Duff and Slash, really. Itís nothing against Izzy and itís nothing against Steven, or anything like that. Steven may want it, but these guys Iím working with right now, they work really hard and itís hard work. Iíve toured with the other guys and Iíve also seen what theyíve done since, and I just know the difficulties.

I donít have an excitement to work with people that joined in the "Illusion" time. Thereís behind the scenes that was really, really difficult there with different ones. So itís not really even a full reunion. And these guys have been here a long time, whether the public knows it or not because we havenít done the media like that. Tommyís been on 14 years, Richardís going on 11. Thatís as long as Duff was in the band. Chris has been in going on 11, Dizzyís on since "Illusion," Frankís going on six, and soís Bumble. These guys have been here. And DJís going on three.

Plus, we can have our differences, and everybody in the band can be like, ĎI donít understand that guyí and point at one of us, you know? But at the same time, we get along. I donít have to tell these guys what to do onstage. I can suggest something at times, but thatís very little.

But itís also that youíre clearly the boss in this band ó itís your band. Correct me if Iím wrong, but that wouldnít necessarily be the case with the original lineup.

With live, itís not really any different, because there was never really a fight about leading it live, because for whatever reason they were fine with whatever song I was going to do next, singing.

Congrats on the rock hall of fame.

Yeah, thatís a trip.

Itís a trip that itís 25 years.

Yeah, itís a trip that itís 25 years, that Iím here and alive.

Congratulations on that too. Can you talk about how you found out?

[Rolling Stone co-founder publisher and rock hall co-founder] Jann Wenner was excited about it 11 years ago. So I was pretty sure he wanted it, because he was very excited in ó when did I do the Elton John thing, was that '93 or '94? He was excited then. And heís always been a fan, and at the same time Rolling Stone has done some of the worst damage ever.

Iíve got mixed emotions about what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame actually really is, but at the same time, thereís a lot of people ó the fans ó that it just means something to them, and theyíre happy. Itís like you won the Heisman or something. I have people of all ages ó in Indiana, I hadnít been there in 18 years, and youíve got elderly TSA guys, a hundred pounds overweight, come up and theyíre happy. So I donít want to take that away from them.

I think about it in terms of ... when Michael Moore got up at the Academy Awards and said whatever about George Bush. People donít want that associated with their awards shows, even if you have a big audience. In one way it might be right, but it usually backfires on whoever does it. So I really donít want to spoil it for everybody else ó and take the beating. [Laughs]

It is kind of a mixed blessing.

Itís a lot of people making money. Why do they get to decide? But itís the same with Grammys or Academy Awards, who wins.

ó Randall Roberts


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