"People will hear music this year," says Axl Rose, puffing on a cigar in the early hours of Saturday morning at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
The notoriously reclusive rocker is of course referring to Guns n' Roses' decade-in-the-making Chinese Democracy, arguably the most anticipated album in rock & roll history. "It's a very complex record," says Rose, a surprise guest at Korn's tour announcement bash. (Others in the house: Jessica Alba, cast members of The OC, and members of Linkin Park, Good Charlotte and the Used.) "I'm trying to do something different. Some of the arrangements are kind of like Queen. Some people are going to say, 'It doesn't sound like Axl Rose, it doesn't sound like Guns n' Roses.' " He then smiles and adds, "But you'll like at least a few songs on there."
Dressed in a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, cross hanging around his neck, cornrows still intact and sporting a blonde goatee, Rose strolled into the party around 1 a.m., just as the DJ was coincidentally rocking some vintage G n' R. Approached by a steady stream of women and hard-rock disciples — including Puddle of Mudd's Wes Scantlin and Papa Roach's Dave Buckner — Rose is cordial and chatty as he poses for photo after photo. He seems more like an average guy out for a night with friends than the most mythical rock star on the planet in 2006.
And he maintains that that's exactly what he is. "The only time people ever write about me is when I go out to a strip club, because I don't chase the paparazzi down," he says. And, when he's out of the spotlight, Rose says you'll find him doing average-guy stuff: reading books and watching movies. His favorite book is Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly. "I was a little scared when I saw they were making it into a movie starring Keanu [Reeves]," he says. "But I guess if he can handle The Matrix, he can do this."
While Rose and his revolving cast of G n' R bandmates have been working on Chinese Democracy, Papa Roach have achieved platinum status in their own right. But tonight, their drummer reverts to his teenage fan days, asking Rose for a picture and to guest on Papa Roach's next album. Rose strikes a pose and then graciously refers the fellow rocker to his management.
After all, before he lends his talents to others' projects, Rose has one of his own to finish, and he says it's getting there. "We're working on thirty-two songs, and twenty-six are nearly done," he says. Of those, thirteen are slated for the final album. Among Rose's favorites are "Better," "There Was a Time" and "The Blues."
As for a reunion with his former G n' R mates, that seems unlikely. "I haven't spoken to Slash in ten years," Rose says. "I love the guy, I always wanted everyone to know how great he was, but.... I was just talking to Izzy the other day though."
However, he hints that you could see the current incarnation of G n' R back out on the road soon. "Every time there's a big festival announced, we get rumored to be on there," he says. "But we'll see what happens."
One thing's for sure: Everyone will be watching.