Axl Rose: The Rolling Stone Interview
One guitar has been destroyed, a mirrored wall shattered, several platinum albums broken beyond repair and the telephone dropped off a twelfth-story balcony. Apparently, W. Axl Rose had to get something out of his system.
Just two weeks ago, everything in Rose’s posh condo in West Hollywood, California, was in order. The mirror was intact, reflecting a space in which almost everything – including the refrigerator – is black. The platinum albums, along with dozens of plaques and awards, hung neatly on the wall.
So what happened? On the surface, one would think that the twenty-seven-year-old singer for the hard-rock phenomenon Guns n’ Roses has it made. After all, there’s a new BMW, a new condo, a parcel of land in Wisconsin on which he plans to build his dream house and, of course, the adoration of millions. One would think that life for Rose is pure rock & roll bliss. But one would be wrong.
Rose doesn’t want to discuss exactly what set him off and made him destroy his belongings. But it becomes clear as he talks that a lot of it has to do with suddenly being famous. “When I was growing up, I was never really popular,” he says. “Now everybody wants to be my friend. I like my privacy, to live alone in my own little world. I live in a security building, and all my calls are screened. I don’t even know my own phone number.” Tucked tightly behind a couch is an Uzi semiautomatic machine gun; nearby is a 9-mm pistol. “I’m not paranoid,” he says, explaining his fondness for weapons. “This is how I choose to live. This is comfortable.”
He wasn’t always quite so comfortable. The eldest of three children raised in Lafayette, Indiana, Rose hitchhiked to Los Angeles, hoping to hook up with guitarist Izzy Stradlin, a longtime friend, and form a band. The two struggled on the L.A. club circuit for years. Eventually, the duo met guitarist Slash and drummer Steven Adler. Later, Duff McKagan responded to a classified ad for a bassist, and Guns n’ Roses were born.
The band’s early gigs were tough going. Only two people showed up for the group’s first “official” L.A. performance. Over the following months, a series of frenzied, violent shows landed the Gunners on the shit list of everyone, including club owners, rival bands and the press – everyone but the fans, who grew in number with each passing gig. After playing together for about a year and building a strong following, Guns n’ Roses were signed to Geffen Records in March 1986 by A&R man Tom Zutaut.
The band’s debut, Appetite for Destruction, and its quickly released follow-up record, the extended EP G n’ R Lies, have put Guns n’ Roses at the top of the hard-rock heap. The records have sold upward of 12 million copies combined, as well as simultaneously charting in Billboard’s Top Five – a feat no one else has accomplished in the last decade.