If you've read any music news in the past few days, chances are you can't help but notice that Guns N' Roses - by which we mean singer Axl Rose, as he holds all legal rights to the name - have finally decided to release the long delayed Chinese Democracy album. But who are Guns N' Roses today? And what exactly is the real truth about the latest album?
Many media reports will tell you that this album has been in production since 1993, but that's incorrect. Others will say 1994; they're wrong as well. And although the actual start date isn't 100% verified we can make an educated guess that it lies somewhere between 1998 and 1999.
There are two reasons for this: an interview Axl Rose gave MTV journalist Kurt Loder in 1999 reported Rose as saying that he had found new bandmates, and that they'd been recording. The track 'Oh My God', which featured - albeit as a demo version - on the soundtrack to the 1999 film End of Days, was touted as a precursor for Chinese Democracy.
But to understand Guns N' Roses today we must first examine what caused these rifts in the first place. Tension started when Gilby Clarke - who had been drafted in to replace founding member Izzy Stradlin in 1991 - was fired and replaced by Axl, apparently without consultation between the other band members, with Paul Tobias.
Clarke had been an extremely well-liked character whom Slash felt would have done well in the band and Tobias, according to Axl, was unworkable. Axl saw Gilby as simply a hired hand, and with the recent tour over felt he had served his purpose. The band had also tried to ask Izzy Stradlin to return around this time, but although he did he left again without recording a single note.
In 1994 Guns N' Roses 'did' attempt to write a follow-up to their 1991 Use Your Illusion albums and in January 1994 both Axl and Slash gave a radio interview in which they said material had just been passed between them in relation to a new album. The proposed release date was 1995 to correspond with a 1996 tour schedule. Axl also mentioned that he had been trying to get Queen's Brian May to work with Slash as Guns N' Roses' second (or even third) guitarist.
Although May did work with Guns N' Roses, and toured with the band, we only know of work he did in 1999/2000 and not of anything done before that. Guns N' Roses apparently recorded a full album's worth of material in 1994, and as late as 1996 bassist Duff McKagan was saying the band had plans to release the new album soon. But despite intense censorship on the issue it has since been learnt that Axl slowly dismissed all current and founding members of the band; that is, apart from Tobias, Dizzy Reed and himself. The material Slash claimed Axl rejected for use in 1994 was released in 1995 under the Slash's Snakepit project with contributions from Clarke, McKagan, Sorum and even Dizzy Reed.
Returning from a tour in early 1996, Kerrang Magazine published breaking news of Slash's dismissal from Guns N' Roses, and for once it seemed the train had finally stopped rolling on the Greatest story in Rock history. If only they knew...
The Guns N' Roses Story
Part 1: Introducing Guns N' Roses
Part 2: Guns N' Roses Today
Part 3: Guns N' Roses: The Future