The GNR Story: Guns N' Roses Today

Wayne Madden | Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The GNR Story: 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 Stintson (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. Stintson 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.

Bumblefoot Ron 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.

The Guns N' Roses Story
Part 1: Introducing Guns N' Roses
Part 2: Guns N' Roses Today
Part 3: Guns N' Roses: The Future