Guns ‘N’ Roses

Guns N' Roses is an American Hard rock band from Los Angeles, California, formed in March 1985 when local bands Hollywood Rose and L.A. Guns merged. When they signed to Geffen Records in 1986, the band's "classic lineup" consisted of vocalist Axl Rose, lead guitarist Slash, rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Steven Adler. The current lineup consists of Rose, Slash, McKagan, guitarist Richard Fortus, drummer Frank Ferrer and keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Melissa Reese.

Guns N' Roses heavily toured the West Coast club circuit during their early years before embarking on the Appetite for Destruction Tour. Their debut album Appetite for Destruction (1987) failed to gain traction, debuting at number 182 on the Billboard 200, until a year after its release when a grassroots campaign for the "Welcome to the Jungle" music video brought the band mainstream popularity. "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Paradise City" both became top 10 singles, with "Sweet Child o' Mine" becoming the band's only single to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

The album has sold approximately 30 million copies worldwide, including 18 million units in the United States, making it the country's best-selling debut album and eleventh-best-selling album. With their stylistic mix of Punk rockBlues rock and Heavy metal, the band helped move mainstream rock away from the Glam metal era of the mid-late 1980s. In addition, they are credited with revitalizing Power ballads in rock. Their next studio album, G N' R Lies (1988) combined an early EP, Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide, with new acoustic songs and reached number two on the Billboard 200, sold ten million copies worldwide (including five million in the U.S.), and included the top 5 hit "Patience" and the controversial "One in a Million". Steven Adler was fired due to his drug addiction in 1990 and was replaced by Matt Sorum.

Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, recorded and released simultaneously in 1991, debuted at number two and number one on the Billboard 200 respectively and have sold a combined 35 million copies worldwide (including 14 million units in the U.S.). The Illusion albums included the lead single "You Could Be Mine", covers of "Live and Let Die" and "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", and a trilogy of ballads ("Don't Cry", "November Rain", and "Estranged"), which featured notably high-budget music videos. The records were supported by the Use Your Illusion Tour, a world tour that lasted from 1991 to 1993. Izzy Stradlin abruptly left the band near the beginning of the tour in 1991, replaced by Gilby Clarke. The punk covers album "The Spaghetti Incident?" (1993) was the last studio album to feature Izzy Stradlin and Matt Sorum, only to feature Gilby Clarke, and the last for Slash and Duff McKagan before their initial departure. While mostly well received, it was the band's worst-selling studio album to date and was not supported by a tour.

Work on a follow-up album stalled due to creative differences and personal conflicts between Axl Rose and other members; Slash and Duff McKagan left the band while Gilby Clarke and Matt Sorum were fired. In 1998 Axl Rose, Dizzy Reed, guitarists Paul Tobias and Robin Finck, bassist Tommy Stinson, drummer Josh Freese and multi-instrumentalist Chris Pitman started writing and recording new songs. Guitarists BucketheadBumblefoot and Richard Fortus, and drummers Brain and Frank Ferrer all contributed as the band's lineup changed.

Their upcoming sixth studio album, Chinese Democracy  (2008), was promoted with the expansive Chinese Democracy Tour (2001-2011). With Axl Rose failing to deliver the album on schedule, Geffen released Greatest Hits (2004), which became the 8th longest charting album in the history of the Billboard 200, reaching 631 weeks by July 2023. The long-awaited Chinese Democracy was released in November 2008, featuring the title track as the lead single.

At an estimated $14 million in production costs, it is the most expensive rock album in history. It debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 with a generally positive critical reception. Slash and McKagan rejoined the band in 2016 for the quasi-reunion Not in This Lifetime... Tour, which became one of the highest grossing concert tours of all-time, grossing over $584 million by its conclusion in 2019.

In their early years, the band's hedonism and rebelliousness drew comparisons to the early Rolling Stones and earned them the nickname "the most dangerous band in the world". Significant controversy followed the band due to late show starts and riots (notably the 1991 Riverport riot), lyrics perceived as problematic, Axl Rose's outspoken persona, several other members' drug and alcohol abuse issues, lawsuits, and public feuds with other artists. Several members of the band are considered some of the best in their fields with Axl Rose considered one of the best vocalists, Slash as one of the best guitarists and Duff McKagan as one of the best bassists by various publications. Guns N' Roses (Rose, Stradlin, McKagan, Slash, Adler, Sorum and Reed) were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. Guns N' Roses have sold more than 100 million records worldwide, including 45 million in the United States, making them one of the best-selling bands in history.

Formation (1985–1986)

In 1984, Hollywood Rose member Izzy Stradlin was living with L.A. Guns member Tracii Guns. When L.A. Guns needed a new vocalist, Stradlin suggested Hollywood Rose singer Axl Rose. This led to Guns N' Roses being formed in March 1985 by Axl Rose, rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, along with L.A. Guns founders lead guitarist Tracii Guns, drummer Rob Gardner, and bassist Ole Beich. Guns recalled the formation of the band in a 2019 interview, stating:

"Axl got into an argument with our manager and our manager fired Axl but we all lived together so it was all really weird. So, that same night he got fired we started Guns N' Roses and I called Izzy the next day and said 'Hey, we are gonna start this new band called Guns N' Roses, do you want in?' It was as simple as that, no paint or cocaine involved." The band coined its name by combining the names of both previous groups; initially it was the name of a label they were going to release music on. Rejected names for the band included "Heads of Amazon" and "AIDS".

After the band's first two rehearsals, Ole Beich was fired and replaced by Duff McKagan. The first rehearsal with McKagan was recorded and three songs from it ("Don't Cry", "Think About You" and "Anything Goes") were played during the band's first radio interview, aired two days before their first ever show at the Troubadour on March 26, 1985. Around this time, the band planned to release an EP with the three aforementioned songs and a cover of "Heartbreak Hotel". However, Tracii Guns left the band after an argument with Axl Rose, and plans for the release fell through. Guns was replaced by a former Hollywood Rose member, Slash. Rob Gardner, the last remaining L.A. Guns member to remain in the band, quit soon after. Steven Adler, another former Hollywood Rose member, filled Gardner's spot.

The band's "classic" lineup was finalized on June 4, 1985, when Steven Adler and Slash officially joined. After two days of rehearsals, the band played their first show with the lineup on June 6, 1985. Two days later, the band embarked on a short, disorganized tour of the West Coast, from Sacramento, California, to Duff McKagan's hometown of Seattle, Washington. The band drove in a separate van and had to abandon their gear when both vans broke down on the way to Seattle, forcing them to hitch-hike up the coast and back home to LA with only their guitars. The so-called "Hell Tour" settled the band's first stable lineup, with Duff McKagan later commenting, "This trip had set a new benchmark for what we were capable of, what we could and would put ourselves through to achieve our goals as a band." The band then took up residence at a house and rehearsal space dubbed "The Hell House".

Through the band's increasing presence on the Hollywood club scene – playing famed bars such as The Troubadour and The Roxy – Guns N' Roses drew the attention of major record labels. The group signed with Geffen Records in March 1986, receiving a $75,000 ($208,470 in current dollar terms) advance. They had turned down an offer from Chrysalis Records that was nearly double Geffen's, due to Chrysalis wanting to change the band's image and sound and Geffen offering full artistic freedom.

In December of that year, the group released the four-song EP Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide, designed to keep interest in the band alive while the group withdrew from the club scene to work in the studio. The EP release was designed to sooth over the label, who felt the band did not have enough songs to record an album. The EP contained covers of Rose Tattoo's "Nice Boys" and Aerosmith's "Mama Kin", along with two original compositions: the Punk-influenced "Reckless Life" and the Classic rock-inspired "Move to the City". Although billed as a live recording, the four songs were taken from the band's demo tapes and  overdubbed with crowd noise.

Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide was released on the Geffen subsidiary Uzi Suicide, with production limited to 10,000 vinyl copies.

Seeking to record their debut album, producer Spencer Proffer was hired to record "Nightrain" and "Sweet Child o' Mine" to test his chemistry with the band. The band eventually recorded 9 songs during these sessions, including "Heartbreak Hotel", "Don't Cry", "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Shadow of Your Love". The band then recorded demos with Nazareth guitarist Manny CharltonPaul Stanley of KISS was considered as producer, but he was rejected after he wanted to change Steven Adler's drum set more than Adler wanted. Robert John "Mutt" Lange and Tom Werman were also considered, but the label did not want to spend the extra money on a famous producer. Ultimately, Mike Clink (who had produced several Triumph records) was chosen, and the group recorded "Shadow of Your Love" first with Clink as a test.

After some weeks of rehearsal, the band entered Daryl Dragon's Rumbo Recorders in January 1987 to record their debut album. Two weeks were spent recording basic tracks, with a month of overdubs. The drums were done in six days, but Rose's vocals took much longer as he insisted on doing them one line at a time.

Breakthrough and mass popularity (1987–1989) - Appetite for Destruction

Guns N' Roses' debut album Appetite for Destruction was released July 21, 1987. The album underwent an artwork change after the original cover design by Robert Williams, which depicted a surrealist scene in which a dagger-toothed monster vengefully attacks a robot rapist, was deemed too controversial. The band stated the original artwork was,

"a symbolic social statement, with the robot representing the industrial system that's raping and polluting our environment". The revised cover was done by Andy Engell, based on a design by tattoo artist Bill White Jr., who had designed the artwork for a tattoo Rose had acquired the previous year. The artwork featured each of the five band members' skulls layered on a cross. The band's first single was "It's So Easy", released on June 15, 1987, in the UK only, where it reached number eighty-four on the UK Singles Chart. In the U.S., "Welcome to the Jungle" was issued as the album's first single in October, with an accompanying music video.

Initially, the album and single lingered for almost a year without performing well, but when Geffen founder David Geffen was asked to lend support to the band, he obliged, personally convincing  MTV executives to play "Welcome to the Jungle" during the network's after-hours rotation. Even though the video was initially only played once at 4 a.m. on a Sunday, Heavy metal and Hard rock fans took notice and soon began requesting the video and song en masse. The song, written in Seattle, was about Los Angeles. The music video took place in New York. According to Rose, the inspiration for the lyrics came from an encounter he and a friend had with a homeless man while they were coming out of a bus into New York. Trying to put a scare into the young runaways, the man yelled at them, "You know where you are? You're in the jungle baby; you're gonna die!" The song was featured in the 1988 Dirty Harry film The Dead Pool, starring Clint Eastwood, and members of the band had a cameo appearance in the film.

"Sweet Child o' Mine" was the album's second U.S. single, a love song co-written by Axl Rose as a poem for his then-girlfriend Erin Everly, daughter of Don Everly of the Everly Brothers. Due to the growing  grassroots success of the band and the cross-gender appeal of the song, "Sweet Child o' Mine" and its accompanying music video received heavy airplay on both radio and MTV, becoming a huge hit during the summer of 1988 and reaching the top of the charts in the U.S. Slash later commented, "I hated that song with a huge passion for the longest time, and it turned out to be our hugest hit, so it goes to show what I know." The song was released in Japan as part of the EP Live from the Jungle, which also featured a selection of live recordings from the band's June 1987 dates at London's The Marquee, the group's first shows outside the United States. The song is the highest charting Guns N' Roses song, and is the band's only song to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

After the success of "Sweet Child o' Mine", "Welcome to the Jungle" was re-issued as a single and reached No. 7 in the U.S. By the time "Paradise City" and its video reached the airwaves, peaking at No. 5 in the U.S., Appetite for Destruction had reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200. To date, the album has sold in excess of 30 million copies worldwide, including 18 million units sold in the United States, making it the best-selling debut album of all time in the U.S, in addition to being the eleventh best-selling album in the United States.

Guns N' Roses toured extensively in support of their debut album, embarking on the 16-month-long Appetite for Destruction Tour. In addition to headlining dates in Europe and the U.S., the band opened North American shows for The CultMötley Crüe, and Alice Cooper throughout the second half of 1987. During the 1987 tour, drummer Steven Adler broke his hand in a fight, and was replaced for 8 shows by Cinderella drummer Fred Coury. Bassist Duff McKagan missed several shows in May 1988 to attend his wedding; Kid "Haggis" Chaos from The Cult filled in. Don Henley of the Eagles played drums for the band during the 1989 American MusicAward show while Steven Adler was in rehab.

The band proceeded to tour the United States, Australia and Japan, while serving as opening acts on North America shows by Iron Maiden and AerosmithTim Collins, Aerosmith's then-manager, remarked, "By the end of the tour, Guns N' Roses were huge. They basically just exploded. We were all pissed that Rolling Stone magazine showed up to do a story on Aerosmith, but Guns N' Roses ended up on the cover of the magazine. Suddenly, the opening act was bigger than we were."

G N' R Lies

Guns N' Roses' second album, G N' R Lies, was released in November 1988. It included the four recordings from the band's 1986 EP Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide as well as four new acoustic tracks.  "Patience", the only single, reached number 4 in the U.S., while the album reached number 2. The album cover, a parody of tabloid newspapers, was modified after initial pressings to remove the headlines "Wife-beating has been around for 10,000 years" and "Ladies, welcome to the Dark Ages".

The song "One in a Million" raised accusations of racism, xenophobia and homophobia. The song's lyrics include the following: "Police and niggers, that's right, get out of my way, don't need to buy none of your gold chains today" and "Immigrants and faggots, they make no sense to me, they come to our country and think they'll do as they please, like start some mini Iran or spread some fucking disease". Axl Rose denied that he was a racist and defended his use of the word "nigger", claiming that "it's a word to describe somebody that is basically a pain in your life, a problem. The word nigger doesn't necessarily mean black." He cited the rap group N.W.A. and the John Lennon song "Woman Is the Nigger of the World" as other examples of musicians using the word. Several years later, Rose conceded that he had used the word as an insult towards black people who had tried to rob him, and because the word is a taboo. In response to the allegations of homophobia, Axl Rose stated that he considered himself "pro-heterosexual" and blamed this attitude on "bad experiences" with gay men.

During a November 1987 show in Atlanta, Axl Rose assaulted multiple security guards and was held backstage by police. The band continued the concert with a roadie performing lead vocals. Riots nearly broke out during two August 1988 shows in New York. At England's Monsters of Rock festival, held that same month, two fans were crushed to death during the group's set by the slam-dancing crowd. During the first of four October 1989 dates opening for the Rolling Stones at the L.A. Coliseum, Axl Rose announced that the shows would be the group's last if certain members of the band did not stop "dancing with Mr. Brownstone", a reference to the band's song of the same name about heroin. "That was serious", the singer remarked. "I'm not gonna be a part of watching them kill each other, just killing themselves off. Everybody was pissed at me, but afterwards Slash's mom came and shook my hand and so did his brothers." Events such as these helped earn Guns N' Roses the moniker "the most dangerous band in the world".

International success and band turmoil (1990–1993) - Use Your Illusion I and II

In 1990, Guns N' Roses returned to the studio. Steven Adler was briefly fired over his drug use, but was reinstated after signing a contract in which he vowed to stop taking drugs. During the recording session of "Civil War", Adler was unable to perform well due to his struggles with cocaine and heroin addiction, and caused the band to do nearly 30 takes.

Adler claimed at the time he was sick from taking opiate blockers to help with the addictions. He was fired on July 11, 1990 as a result, and later filed a lawsuit against the band. In 2005, he recalled: "Doug Goldstein called me into the office about two weeks later. He wanted me to sign some contracts. I was told that every time I did heroin, the band would fine me $2,000. There was a whole stack of papers, with colored paper clips everywhere for my signatures. What these contracts actually said was that the band were paying me $2,000 to leave. They were taking my royalties, all my writing credits.

They didn't like me anymore and just wanted me gone. That's why I filed the lawsuit – to get all those things back."

Martin Chambers of the Pretenders and Adam Maples of Sea Hags were considered as replacements.  Jussi Tegelman, from the Finnish band Havana Black, assisted on drums in studio sessions before a permanent replacement was found. The position was filled by drummer Matt Sorum, who had played briefly with The CultSlash credited Sorum with preventing the band from breaking up at the time.

In response to an interviewer's suggestion that replacing Steven Adler with Matt Sorum had turned Guns N' Roses from a Rock 'n' roll band to a Heavy metal band, Izzy Stradlin responded: "Yeah, a big musical difference. The first time I realized what Steve did for the band was when he broke his hand in Michigan ... So we had Fred Coury come in from Cinderella for the Houston show. Fred played technically good and steady, but the songs sounded just awful. They were written with Steve playing the drums and his sense of swing was the push and pull that give the songs their feel. When that was gone, it was just ... unbelievable, weird. Nothing worked."

A few months prior, keyboardist Dizzy Reed became the sixth member of the group when he joined as a full-time member.

In May 1991, Guns N' Roses fired their manager, Alan Niven, replacing him with Doug Goldstein.  According to a 1991 cover story by Rolling Stone, Axl Rose forced the dismissal of Niven against the wishes of some of his bandmates by refusing to complete the albums until he was replaced.

The band released the recordings as two albums, Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, on September 17, 1991. The tactic paid off when the albums debuted at No. 2 and No. 1 respectively in the Billboard charts, making Guns N' Roses the only act to achieve this feat until Hip hop artist Nelly in 2004 and the first to have the top two albums since Jim Croce in 1974. The albums sold 770,000 units (Use Your Illusion II) and 685,000 units (Use Your Illusion I) in their first week, and spent 108 weeks on the chart. They have sold a combined 35 million copies worldwide, including 14 million in the United States.

Guns N' Roses accompanied the Use Your Illusion albums with many videos, including "Don't Cry", "November Rain" and "Estranged", some of the most expensive music videos ever made. The ballad "November Rain" reached number 3 in the US and became the most requested video on MTV, eventually winning the 1992 MTV Video Music Award for best cinematography. At 8:57, it was at the time also the longest song in US chart history to reach the top ten. During the awards show, the band performed the song with Elton John accompanying on piano.

Use Your Illusion Tour

Before the release of the albums, Guns N' Roses embarked on the 28-month-long Use Your Illusion Tour. It became famous for both its financial success and for the many controversial incidents that occurred at the shows. The tour included 192 dates in 27 countries, with over seven million people attending concerts. The Use Your Illusion Tour is considered the "longest tour in rock history". The Use Your Illusion World Tour program included a guitar solo from Slash based on The Godfather theme; a piano-driven cover of "It's Alright" by Black Sabbath; and an extended jam on the classic rock-inspired "Move to the City", where the group showcased the ensemble of musicians assembled for the tour.

On July 2, 1991, at the Riverport Amphitheater in Maryland Heights, Missouri, Axl Rose discovered that a fan was filming the show with a camera. After asking the venue's security to take away the camera, Rose jumped into the audience, had a heated confrontation with the fan, and assaulted him. After being pulled from the audience by members of the crew, Rose said, "Well, thanks to the lame-ass security, I'm going home!", threw his microphone to the ground and stormed off the stage. The angry crowd rioted, injuring dozens. Footage was captured by Robert John, who was documenting the tour. The police were unable to arrest Axl Rose until almost a year later, as the band went overseas to continue the tour. Charges were filed against Axl Rose, but a judge ruled that he did not directly incite the riot. In his defense, Rose stated that the Guns N' Roses security team had made four separate requests to the venue's security staff to remove the camera, that those requests were ignored, that other members of the band had reported being hit by bottles launched from the audience, and that the security staff refused to enforce a drinking limit. Axl Rose was eventually found guilty of property damage and assault. He was fined $50,000 and given two years probation.

Rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin abruptly quit the band on November 7, 1991, after a repeat of the St. Louis incident nearly unfolded during a concert in Germany. As reasons for his departure, Stradlin cited a combination of Axl Rose's personal behavior, his mismanagement of the band, and difficulties being around Slash, Matt Sorum, and Duff McKagan due to his newfound sobriety and their continuing addictions.

Izzy Stradlin later commented, "Once I quit drugs, I couldn't help looking around and asking myself, 'Is this all there is?' I was just tired of it; I needed to get out". The band had three weeks to find a replacement or cancel several shows. Dave Navarro from Jane's Addiction was considered, but according to Slash, "he couldn't get it together". Stradlin was eventually replaced by Los Angeles guitarist Gilby Clarke, whom Slash credited for saving the band.

At many shows on the tour, Rose introduced Clarke to the audience, and Slash and Clarke would play "Wild Horses", a Rolling Stones cover. In 1993, Gilby Clarke broke his arm in a motorcycle accident during the tour and was replaced by Izzy Stradlin for several weeks.

In 1992, the band performed three songs at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. Because of the controversial song "One in a Million", activist group ACT UP demanded that the band be dropped from the bill, urged other artists to shun GN'R, and the urged crowd to boo the group. Members of Queen  dismissed the activists, with lead guitarist Brian May stating: "People seem so blind. Don't they realize that the mere fact that Guns N' Roses are here is the biggest statement that you could get?" Slash later performed "Tie Your Mother Down" with the remaining members of Queen and Def Leppard vocalist Joe Elliott, while Rose performed "We Will Rock You" and sang a duet with Elton John on "Bohemian Rhapsody". Their personal set included "Paradise City" and "Knockin' on Heaven's Door". When the band returned to the US for the second leg of the Use Your Illusion Tour, Axl Rose had wanted the Grunge band Nirvana as the support act, but lead singer Kurt Cobain declined.

Later that year, Guns N' Roses embarked on the Guns N' Roses/Metallica Stadium Tour, supported by Faith No MoreMotörhead, and Body Count. During a show in August 1992 at Montreal's Olympic Stadium, Metallica's lead singer James Hetfield suffered second-degree burns to his hands and face after malfunctions with pyrotechnics. Metallica was forced to cancel the second hour of the show, but promised to return to the city for another performance. After a long delay, during which the audience became increasingly restless, Guns N' Roses took the stage. However, the shortened time between sets did not allow for adequate tuning of stage monitors and the band members could not hear themselves. In addition, Axl Rose claimed that his throat hurt, causing the band to leave the stage early. The cancellation led to another audience riot, in which 10 audience members and three police officers were injured. Police made at least a dozen arrests related to the incident.

The Use Your Illusion tour ended in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on July 17, 1993. The tour set attendance records and lasted for 28 months, in which 194 shows were played in 27 countries. The show in Buenos Aires marked the last time that Matt Sorum and Gilby Clarke played in the band, and the last time Slash performed with the band until 2016.

The Spaghetti Incident?

Initially, the band planned to release an EP of covers in 1992 or 1993, but decided to record a full album. Their fifth studio album, "The Spaghetti Incident?", a collection of Punk and Glam rock covers, was released on November 23, 1993. The album features covers of songs of punk artists such as U.K. SubsThe DamnedNew York DollsThe StoogesDead Boys, MisfitsJohnny ThundersThe Professionals, Fear, as well as T. Rex, Soundgarden and The Skyliners.

The lead single, "Ain't It Fun" featured Hanoi Rocks  singer Michael Monroe as a guest vocalist.  The album debuted at number 4 on the Billboard charts, and sold 190,000 copies its first week. Many of the tracks were recorded during the same sessions as the Illusions albums, which were originally intended to produce three or four albums. Izzy Stradlin's guitar parts were reportedly re-recorded entirely by Gilby Clarke. Slash described the recording as "spontaneous and unpainted", and recording the songs served as "a purpose to alleviate the pressure of making the Illusions records".

The band wanted to increase the profile of some of their favorite bands and help them financially via royalties with the tracklist selection, and considered naming the album "Pension Fund".

The album includes a hidden track, a cover of "Look at Your Game, Girl", originally by cult leader Charles Manson. The track was kept secret and left off advance tapes sent to reviewers. The inclusion of the song caused controversy, with law enforcement and victims rights groups expressing outrage. Axl Rose stated "we wanted to downplay it. We don't give any credit to Charles Manson on the album". Label president David Geffen commented: "If Axl Rose had realized how offensive people would find this, he would not have ever recorded this song". Slash mentioned that the song was "done with naive and innocent black humor on our part". Rose stated he would donate all performance royalties from the song to a nonprofit environmental organization. The band was going to remove the song before learning that royalties would be donated to the son of one of Manson's victims. Geffen Records stated their share of royalties would be donated to the Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau.

The band did not tour in support of The Spaghetti Incident?. Although well received critically; it is the band's worst selling studio album, having sold 1 million copies by 2018.

Lineup changes and sporadic activity (1994–1998)

Between 1994 and 1996, the band sporadically recorded new material. According to Matt Sorum, in 1996, the band had recorded seven songs, with seven more in the writing stages, and intended to release a single album with 10 or 12 songs in spring 1997. In May 1994, Gilby Clarke said work on the next Guns N' Roses album had ended. Axl Rose said the material was scrapped due to the lack of collaboration between band members:

"We still needed the collaboration of the band as a whole to write the best songs. Since none of that happened, that's the reason why that material got scrapped." The album was described by Duff McKagan as consisting of "up-tempo rock songs" with "no ballads". Sorum said that It's Five O'Clock Somewhere, the debut album from Slash's band Slash's Snakepit, "could have been a Guns N' Roses album, but Axl didn't think it was good enough". In 1994, all of the then-current members of the band contributed to Gilby Clarke's debut album,  Pawnshop Guitars. In December 1994, GN'R released a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil". The song appeared in the films Interview with the Vampire and Fallen and was released as a single.

Entertainment Weekly stated that the "note-for-note remake works up a decent lather but seems utterly bankrupt". "Sympathy for the Devil" is the final GN'R track to feature Slash on lead guitar, Duff McKagan on bass, and Matt Sorum on drums. The song also featured Axl Rose's childhood friend and Hollywood Rose collaborator Paul "Huge" Tobias on rhythm guitar.

Tobias's presence in the band created tension; Slash had 'creative and personal differences' with Tobias.  A 2001 interview revealed Slash told his bandmates in September 1996, "I'm going to confront it. Either Paul goes, or I go."

The music was going in a direction that was completely indulgent to his friend [Huge] ... And another factor is this guy that Axl brought in and told us, "This is our new guitar player" ... There was no democracy there. And that's when Slash really started going, "Fuck this. What, this is his band now? or something? ... It was ridiculous. I'd go down there to start rehearsal at 10, and Axl would show up at four or five in the morning. That sort of thing was going on for a couple of years." — Duff McKagan

Gilby Clarke's contract was not renewed and he was gone from the band by 1995. Slash stated in his book that Axl Rose fired Gilby Clarke without consulting anyone, claiming he was a "hired hand". Clarke was not involved in the recording of "Sympathy for the Devil": "I knew that that was the ending because nobody told me about it". Clarke mentioned that before the final show of the Use Your Illusion Tour, Axl Rose told him "Hey, enjoy your last show". Gilby Clarke later sued the band over the use of his likeness in Guns N' Roses Pinball.

In August 1995, Axl Rose legally left the band and created a new partnership under the band's name. He later stated that he took this step "to salvage Guns not steal it". Rose reportedly purchased the full rights to the Guns N' Roses name in 1997. Slash claimed he and bandmates signed over the name under duress: "Axl refused to go onstage one night during the Use Your Illusion tour in 1992 unless the band signed away the name rights to the band. Unfortunately, we signed it. I didn't think he'd go on stage otherwise." Axl Rose denied the claim, saying "it Never happened, all made up, fallacy and fantasy. Not one single solitary thread of truth to it. Had that been the case I would have been cremated years ago legally, could've cleaned me out for the name and damages. It's called under duress with extenuating circumstances."

In 1996, Axl Rose, Slash, Duff McKagan, and former member Izzy Stradlin guested on "Anxious Disease", the debut album by The Outpatience. This would be the last material the four classic-era band members worked on together. The recording of "Sympathy for the Devil", coupled with tension between Slash and Axl Rose, led the former to quit the band officially in October 1996. Axl Rose sent a fax notifying MTV of the departure, and Slash responded: "Axl and I have not been capable of seeing eye to eye on Guns N' Roses for some time. We tried to collaborate, but at this point, I'm no longer in the band."

Slash stated, "Axl's whole visionary style, as far as his input in Guns N' Roses, is completely different from mine. I just like to play guitar, write a good riff, go out there and play, as opposed to presenting an image." Slash was replaced by Nine Inch Nails touring guitarist Robin Finck in January 1997. He signed a two-year contract with the band in August 1997, making him an official member. Finck was originally recommended by Matt Sorum to Rose a year earlier as a possible second guitarist to complement Slash.

Slash's departure was followed by the departure of Matt Sorum in April 1997. Sorum was fired by Rose following an argument about Paul Tobias's inclusion in the band. Sorum later stated that Tobias was the "Yoko Ono of Guns N' Roses".

Axl Rose auditioned multiple potential members, including multi-instrumentalist Chris Vrenna and guitarist Zakk Wylde, alongside drummers Dave AbbruzzeseMichael BlandJoey Castillo and Kellii Scott from FailureRolling Stone reported in April 1997 that the lineup of Guns N' Roses was Axl Rose, Duff McKagan, Paul Tobias, Robin Finck & Chris Vrenna.

Duff McKagan was the last of the Appetite lineup to leave, resigning as bassist in August 1997. McKagan had recently become a father and wrote about his decision to leave in his autobiography: "Guns had been paying rent on studios for three years now—from 1994 to 1997—and still did not have a single song. The whole operation was so erratic that it didn't seem to fit with my hopes for parenthood, for stability." Josh Freese was ultimately hired to replace Matt Sorum on drums, joining in the summer of 1997. After being recommended by Freese, former Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson joined in 1998, replacing Duff McKagan. By the end of 1998, a new version of Guns N' Roses had emerged: Rose on lead vocals, Stinson on bass, Freese on drums, Finck on lead guitar, Tobias on rhythm guitar, Reed on keyboards, and multi-instrumentalist Chris Pitman.

In 1998, Geffen released an edited single disc version of the Illusion albums entitled Use Your Illusion. In November 1999, the label released Live Era '87–'93, a collection of live performances from various concerts during the Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion tours. Former guitarist Slash described the selection of songs of the album as a "very mutual effort", adding that "the live album was one of the easiest projects we all worked on. I didn't actually see Axl, but we communicated via the powers that be."

New lineups and Chinese Democracy (1998–2008) - Background of new album

A new Guns N' Roses album had reportedly been in the works since 1994, with Axl Rose the only original member still in the band. Several producers, including YouthMobyMike ClinkEric Caudieux & Sean Beaven worked with the band during the late 90s, incorporating new electronic and industrial elements to the music. Rolling Stone stated that the label planned for the album to be released in late 1999. By August 1999, the band had recorded over 30 songs for the album, which was tentatively entitled 2000 Intentions.

In November 1999, during an interview with Kurt Loder for MTV, Axl Rose said that he had re-recorded Appetite for Destruction with the then-new band, apart from two songs which he had replaced with "Patience" and "You Could Be Mine". During the interview, Rose announced the title of the upcoming album, Chinese Democracy. Rose explained: "There's a lot of Chinese democracy movements, and it's something that there's a lot of talk about, and it's something that will be nice to see. It could also just be like an ironic statement. I don't know, I just like the sound of it.

The album has a lot of different sounds. There's some heavy songs, there's a lot of aggressive songs, but they're all in different styles and different sounds. It is truly a melting pot."

Band manager Doug Goldstein stated in November 1999 that the band had 'almost finished' recording the music, and the album was due out some time in 2000. Later that month, the band released a new song, the industrial styled "Oh My God", which was included on the soundtrack of the film End of Days. The track featured additional guitar work by Dave Navarro and Gary Sunshine, Rose's personal guitar teacher. Rose claimed that former members Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum had 'failed to see the potential' of the song and had no interest in recording or playing the piece.

In August 1999, guitarist Robin Finck departed the band to rejoin his former band, Nine Inch Nails, on tour. In March 2000, Avant-garde guitarist Brian Carroll, more commonly referred to as Buckethead, joined Guns N' Roses as a replacement for Robin Finck. Also in March 2000, drummer Josh Freese left the band. He was replaced by former Primus drummer Bryan Mantia, known professionally as Brain. Robin Finck returned to the band in late 2000, to complement Buckethead on lead guitar. With the album nearing completion in mid-2000, producer Roy Thomas Baker convinced Axl Rose to re-record it, causing further delays.

Title announcement and touring, tour cancellation and member departures

In an interview with Rolling Stone in February 2000, Rose played several songs of the upcoming album to reporters, including "Chinese Democracy", "Catcher in the Rye", "I.R.S.", "The Blues", "There Was a Time" and "Oklahoma". Rose mentioned that part of the delay of the new album was him 'educating himself about the technology that's come to define rock', stating that "it's like from scratch, learning how to work with something, and not wanting it just to be something you did on a computer."

Rolling Stone described the album as "Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti remixed by Beck and Trent Reznor. Rose mentioned that the expense of the record would be negated by the recording sessions yielding multiple albums, including a record that is "more industrial and electronica-influenced than Chinese Democracy". In a 2001 interview, Axl Rose described the album as having "all kinds of styles, many influences as Blues, mixed in the songs" and said that it was "not industrial". Describing why he continued using the Guns N' Roses name, instead of labeling the upcoming album an 'Axl Rose solo album', Rose stated,

"there were other people in Guns n' Roses before them, you know. I contemplated letting go of that, but it doesn't feel right in any way. I am not the person who chose to try to kill it and walked away. ... Everybody is putting everything they've got into singing and building. Maybe I'm helping steer it to what it should be built like." Also in the interview, Rose attributed the breakup of the old lineup to drug addictions and 'an effort from inside the band to destroy him', stating "There was an effort to bring me down. It was a king-of-the-mountain thing", and that he "needed to take control to survive", also describing the dissolution as "a divorce".

Eight years after the previous Guns N' Roses concert, the band made a public appearance in January 2001 with two well-received concerts: one in Las Vegas and one at the Rock in Rio Festival in Rio de Janeiro. The band played both songs from previous albums and songs from then-unreleased Chinese Democracy. During the band's Rock in Rio set, Rose made the following comment regarding former members of the band:

I know that many of you are disappointed that some of the people you came to know and love could not be with us here today. Regardless of what you have heard or read, people worked very hard (meaning my former friends) to do everything they could so that I could not be here today. I am as hurt and disappointed as you that unlike Oasis, we could not find a way to all get along."

The group played two shows in Las Vegas at the end of 2001. Former guitarist Slash claimed that he tried to attend a show and was turned away at the door by security. Due to his frustrations with touring, rhythm guitarist Paul Tobias left the band in 2002 and was replaced by Richard Fortus (formerly of The Psychedelic Furs and Love Spit Love).

The band then played several shows in August 2002, headlining festivals and concerts throughout Asia and Europe, including PukkelpopSummer Sonic Festival, and The Carling Weekend. At the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards on August 29, 2002, Guns N' Roses closed the show in a previously unannounced performance, playing "Welcome to the Jungle", "Madagascar", and "Paradise City".

In November 2002, the band's first North American tour since 1993 was organized to support Chinese Democracy, with CKY and Mix Master Mike joining. However, the opening show in Vancouver was canceled by the venue when Axl Rose failed to turn up. According to Guns' management, "Axl's flight from L.A. had been delayed by mechanical troubles". A riot ensued. The tour was met with mixed results, some concerts did not sell well, while shows in larger markets such as New York City sold out in minutes. Due to a second riot by fans in Philadelphia when the band failed to show up again, tour promoter Clear Channel canceled the remainder of the tour.

Source: Wikipedia

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