Do you think that your fans take your problems seriously? Sometimes people relate to celebrities not as people but as objects or possessions – admiring the music or art isn't enough anymore. People have to feel as if they own you.
Yeah. That's a strange beast. And they don't like it when I let them know that they don't own me. Sometimes I don't even own myself [laughs].
Let's say a fan stopped you on the street and said: "Listen, I bought all your records, but I'm sick of your bullshit. I come to a show and you're two hours late, and I have to work the next day. You don't give a fuck about me."
If I didn't give a fuck about them, I'd come out and do a shitty show. I'd come out and tell 'em to fuck off. I'd sit down, sing the songs off-key and just not care. But I do care, and I also care too much about myself to do that. It's confusing to me that people go, "Well, I have to work in the morning." If you were getting laid, you wouldn't be so worried about what time it was. I know it's complicated, but so is getting onstage. And I'm sorry. I try to make it up by coming out and doing a good show and explaining as much as I can about what was going on in my head and why we weren't there.
Does it ever bother you, when you're onstage talking about something that's really eating at you, to think that the crowd would respond the same way no matter what you were saying?
Yeah. I approached it a bit differently when we did the first show in Dayton, Ohio. We'd been told we're the perfect house band for David Duke's America. And it's like, fuck David Duke, I don't like being associated with that. I asked the crowd: "Is that what you get out of this, that we're racists and you're supporting it? 'Cause that's not the case." I asked: "Is that all you're getting out of the record – 'Do cocaine and party'? 'Cause if that's the case, I'm gonna go home. That's not why we're here." I asked the crowd about those things. I got some real interesting responses. The way they reacted was a little bit different than normal. There was silence in different places and cheering in others. You could tell that they were thinking for a minute.
A lot of people think: "Axl is incredibly rich and famous and pampered. He shouldn't have anything to complain about, but he's throwing a tantrum every time you see him. He's a spoiled brat."
You think so?
Sometimes, yeah. Yeah, I'm real spoiled. I've spoiled myself. I'll get better at dealing with that, though. I mean, it's still new. Then again, there are a lot of things I complain about that everybody else complains about but won't do it publicly.
Like having somebody thrown out who is causing a commotion and basically obstructing the show. Most performers would go to a security person in their organization, and it would just be done very quietly. I'll confront the person, stop the song: "Guess what: You wasted your money, you get to leave." If a person is trying to egg me on, like "Come on out here, motherfucker, I'm gonna kick your ass," it's like "No, you're not going to kick my ass, you're going to go home. We're doing a show, there's 20,000 other people here, and. you're not going to ruin it. You're leaving." Because if I jump in and get in a fight and then there's no show, the crowd's gonna love that.
Why would you feel you had to jump in? Why couldn't you just ignore it?
Why should I ignore it?
Why should you give someone like that the time of day?
Why shouldn't I deal with it? And why shouldn't I deal with it publicly? It's a distraction. I don't go see a band just because they suck. And if someone comes to a G n' R show for that, it's like "Go home, we don't want you here." I mean, if you throw a party at your house and somebody comes to your party just to tell you you suck all night, you are going to ask them to leave your house. And while we're onstage, that's our house and those are our guests. I've been accused of thinking my shit doesn't stink. And it does, and maybe sometimes it stinks a lot worse than other people's. But I'm not gonna say I'm wrong until I'm shown I'm wrong. Just because someone else believes they're right doesn't mean that they've shown me I'm wrong.
You told me recently that you hate performing.
I just think it's a really weird job. I'm not saying it's a bad job, I'm not saying it's a great job. But you know, it's just the work that goes into being that athletic. I mean, do you want to go out every night and jump off, like, your car? And have to do that? It's like it becomes your job. That doesn't take away the sincerity or the honesty of it, but it is a job. And sometimes I'd rather be doing something else.
You obviously have to be getting something out of it to keep doing it. What do you get out of it?
The release of the energy. Being able to express myself as I choose. There's a certain pride in knowing that you achieved what you came to do. Sometimes there'll be a little flicker of communication between you and somebody that you never really communicated with. One night when I was bummed, Matt [Sorum, G n' R's drummer] came around and put his hand on me: "It's all right, man." Those little things are really special. With the new band and the new people, it's the first time I've really felt at home. It used to be just the five of us against the world. Now we've brought some of the outside world into the band. The first night we played with the new band, I was sitting at the piano during "November Rain," just looking at this and feeling really glad that I was a part of this thing.
I've talked to people who liked the band better when it was stripped down. You've added the horn section and the backup singers and a second keyboard player – the shows are becoming a lot more professional and polished.
But I don't think it's losing any of its energy. There's a lot more energy now. I think that before, people were seeing the potential.
There are purists who prefer the raw vibe that bands like the Sex Pistols had and that Guns n' Roses had in the early days.
Yeah, well, there are people who like a girl that had the same haircut she had ten years ago, too. I understand that. I understand that a lot. But it's like, we're evolving, and it's us. I read a quote where David Bowie was saying that Pink Floyd was Syd Barrett to him. I'm like "Yeah, but to deny anything that Pink Floyd's done after that?" Certain elements of our music and our performance and our attitude are still there, but we're not the same people we were then. Maybe it would've been best for the purists if we'd died or broken up. Then they'd get to keep it the way they liked it.
We haven't talked about Izzy. Why did he leave the band?
To get a clear answer, you'd have to ask Izzy. My personal belief is that Izzy never really wanted something this big. There were responsibilities that Izzy didn't want to deal with. He didn't want to work at the standards that Slash and I set for ourselves.
Can you give me some examples?
He didn't want to do videos.
Did he say why?
He just wasn't into it. Getting Izzy to work on his own songs on this record was like pulling teeth. When Izzy had 'em on a four-track, they were done. I mean, I like tapes like that, but we'd just get destroyed if we came out with a garage tape. People want a high-quality album. And it was really hard to get Izzy to do that, even on his own material. Izzy's songs were on the record because I wanted them on the record, not because Izzy gave a shit either way. If people think I don't respect Izzy or acknowledge his talent, they're sadly mistaken. He was my friend. I haven't always been right. Sometimes I've been massively wrong, and Izzy's been the one to help steer me back to the things that were right. But I know that I wanted to get as big as we possibly could from Day One, and that wasn't Izzy's intention at all. I think he's ready to do like an X-Pensive Winos [Keith Richards's band] thing. So maybe the world'll get another really cool band. I know that I'll be trying to get an advance tape, just like everybody else.
Can you really fault someone for getting out of something if he didn't feel it was right for him?
No, not at all. But I can fault someone, in the same way someone can fault me, for being an asshole about the way he went about it. A comic book says how Izzy comes to me and says, "You know, I just don't feel I'm up to this," and I go, "Yeah, and you're scared, too, aw, shit." Well, that ain't the way it went down.
How did it go down?
We were filming "Don't Cry," and he had to be there. Instead, he sent a really short, cold letter and didn't show up. We got this letter saying, "This changes, this changes, and maybe I'll tour in January." And they were ridiculous demands that weren't going to be met. I talked to Izzy for four and a half hours on the phone. At some points, I was crying, and I was begging. I was doing everything I could to keep him in the band. There were stipulations, though. If he was going to do like the old Izzy did, he wasn't going to make as much money. It was like "You're not giving an equal share." Slash and I were having to do too much work to keep the attention and the energy up in the crowd. You're onstage going, "This is really hard, and I'm into it and I'm doing it, but that guy just gets to stand there."
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