Author Stephan Davis 15 year timeline to "Chinese Democracy"
Author Stephan Davis has updated his bio, Watch You Bleed: The Saga of Guns N’ Roses. In the process he put together a timeline of Chinese Democracy, reproduced below. It’s very long but extremely interesting:
Late November, 1993 – Guns N’ Roses release its final studio album, The Spaghetti Incident? It consists of punk covers and an uncredited song written by serial killer Charles Manson. Axl’s stepbrother Stuart Bailey had taken it from Manson’s bootleg record LIE and played it for Axl and Slash without telling them the identity of the singer/songwriter.
Early 1994 – Guns is still intact but the fissures between the band’s personalities is getting too wide to straddle. In mid-January Axl flies to New York for the induction of Elton John into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He joins the celebrity jam late in the program singing the Beatles’ Come Together with Bruce Springsteen. It will be his last public appearance (except in courtrooms) for six years.
Spring 1994 – Geffen records is panting for a new Guns N’ Roses album. (David Geffen had sold the label to MCA in 1990 and now has one-year remaining on his employment contract.) The company offers Guns a reported advance of $10 million and sets the band up in a big room at The Complex, an L.A. studio, that they’ve equipped with pool tables and a GN’R pinball machine. The band almost never shows up, and the engineers–who are on permanent call–never have all six Gunners in the room at any one time.
April 1994 – Duff McKagen collapses with a burst pancreas. Doctors warn him if he drinks now he will die right away. He retreats to Seattle to recover and starts to exercise and work with a martial arts teacher. He will return to L.A. a changed man and starts taking business classes at a community college. Later he will enter a Jesuit business college and eventually graduate with a degree in finance.
June 1994 – Virgin Atlantic releases Pawnshop Guitars, an album by Gilby Clarke that features Duff, Slash, and Axl along with some guest stars. Fans will consider it the strongest of the Guns-associated solo albums. When Clarke does interviews to promote the album, some mild, faintly critical, supposedly off-the-record remarks he makes about Axl are publishing in Kerrang! Axl is furious and Clarke is fired. He goes quietly. When the royalty checks stop, and his calls go unreturned, he sues Guns N’ Roses. A settlement will be reached in 1995.
Summer 1994 – Slash gets serious about a side project, a band originally conceived as SVO Snakepit and consisting of Slash, Gilby, and members of other local bands working out some of the ideas Slash is trying to develop for the next Guns album. By this time Slash is unable to break through Axl’s wall of silence. It’s a problem because Guns had agreed to record a cover of the Rolling Stones "Sympathy for the Devil" for the new Tom Cruise/Brad Pitt movie, Interview with the Vampire. Axl hires Paul Huge, an old pal from Lafayette, to replace Gilby. The others are appalled. They all hate Huge and beg Axl, through Doug Goldstein, to reconsider. An attempt is made to work with Huge in Axl’s home studio but nothing comes of it except toxic vibes and general negativity.
Fall, 1994 – This version of Guns cuts "Sympathy for the Devil" with Mike Clink at Rambo. It is hoped that this will get the band together in the studio again, jump-start the new Guns album, and give the Geffen-released sound track a shot at the sales charts. Slash, Duff, and Matt Sorum show up for work every day. Axl stays away and then records his vocals and Huge’s rhythm guitar when the others have left. Slash crashes one of Axl’s vocal sessions in order to talk to him. He waits for hours. When Axl arrives they sit in the lounge. Slash will later say, "He talked to me from behind a magazine without once looking me in the eye."
December 1994 – Most of the band is embarrassed by "Sympathy for the Devil" which is released as a Guns N’ Roses single. An incredulous Slash realizes Axl had gotten Huge to double over his guitar work. (He says, "It was like really bad plagiarism." He also notes, "If you’ve ever wondered what a band sounds like when it’s breaking up, listen to our cover of ‘Sympathy for the Devil.’")
February 1995 – Slash’s Snakepit releases It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere on Geffen Records. Gilby, Duff and Matt Sorum play on the record and in the Snakepit lineup that will play the Monsters of Rock Festival later in the summer in England. Geffen needs Guns N’ Roses back in the studio if the label is to survive. The few times the band does rehearse at The Complex over the course of the year, Axl doesn’t show up until two in the morning.
April 1995 – Axl listens in court as his two former lovers and their witnesses testify against him. Their descriptions of his abuses are picked up everywhere in the press. With more to come, his lawyers call it a day and settle with both women.
August 31, 1995 – At this point Axl and Doug Goldstein are making all the decisions for the band, who are later notified via fax or phone. Axl had sent Slash and Duff a new band contract that they then hesitated to sign. Now he sends them a letter saying he is leaving the band and taking over the brand. The last two original Gunners give in and sign Axl’s contract.
September 1996 – By this time all work on the next Guns album has stopped.
October 30, 1996 – Slash announces via his publicist that he has left Guns’ N’ Roses. (He and Axl had held a final secret dinner during which Axl had laid out plans for Guns, trying to draw Slash into his vision. Slash had thought Axl’s vision ridiculous.)
1997 – Geffen executive Todd Sullivan is given the job of prying the next Guns N’ Roses album out of the clutches of Rose, now the band’s sole owner. The label thinks that fresh ears might help, and they want to team Guns with a new producer. Sullivan sends Rose a box of CD’s by different produces to see if anyone appeals to him. A few days later he will learn that Axl threw the CDs in his driveway without listening to them, and then ran over them with his car until they were just bits of crushed plastic.
Sullivan meets with Rose, who plays him some sketches the band has been trying to develop. Sullivan responds with enthusiasm, and suggests that Axl try to bear down and complete some of these songs. Axl stares at Sullivan and then says, "Hmmm, bear down and complete some of these songs." Sullivan then gets a call from Geffen chairman, Eddie Rosenblatt, informing him he is no longer working with Guns N’ Roses.
February 11, 1997 – On a visit to his spiritual advisors in Arizona, Rose is arrested at the Phoenix airport and charged with threatening a security worker searching his luggage. He will later plead guilty to disturbing the peace, fined, and given a day in jail.
1997 – Axl brings in Moby to audit some tracks on the new album, now titled Chinese Democracy and maybe add some techno-style production. Moby isn’t on hand long. He will later say Axl seemed reserved and suspicious–"like a beaten dog." It is impossible to discover any logical pattern to the song sketches Axl has on tape. And he becomes defensive when Moby asks him about the vocals. Moby will ultimately walk out, and later say he will be surprised if Chinese Democracy ever comes out at all.
May 1997 – West Arkeen, who had helped write some of Guns’ best songs dies of a heroin overdose, at age thirty-six.
August 1997 – Unable to justify GN’R's existence any longer, Duff McKagan quits Guns, leaving Axl as the sole remaining original member.
Early 1998 – The Democracy sessions move to Rumbo sound, where the crew installs tapestries, colored lights, and the usual rock star amenities. Matt Sorum is fired and replaced by drummer Josh Freese. Slash’s replacement is Robin Finck, late of industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails. Dizzy Reed and Paul Huge stay in the band. Duff is replaced by Tommy Stinson, late of the Replacements, on bass guitar.
1998 – Youth (Martin Glover) is named GN’R's new producer. Desperate for a hit record, faltering Geffen Records tell Axl their jobs are at stake, and then advance him a million dollars, with the promise of another million as a bonus if the album is finished by March 1999. They promise Youth bonus royalties also, but none of this gets Axl into Rumbo Sound. He continues to live in near complete isolation in his Latigo Canyon home.
Having been told by Axl that Rose isn’t really ready to make an album right now, Youth pulls out of the project and is replaced by Sean Bevan, who’d done Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson. He begins working with the band, trying to build sketches and fragments into coherent instrumental tracks.
Operating expenses on Chinese Democracy reach stratospheric levels. Five days a week, couriers ferry DAT’s containing new mixes of the various songs to Axl in Malibu, where they are mostly received without comment. Weeks sometimes pass by with no studio activity at all. By the end of the year the production team will have more than a thousand DATs and CDs of recorded music.
1998 – The pressure on the Geffen execs has intensified significantly. Universal Music Group chairman Edgar Bronfman is calling Geffen executives every other week and is getting more and more annoyed at being told the label has no release date for an album they’ve already spent millions on.
January 1999 – With Doug Goldstein having suggested that Geffen put out a live Guns N’ Roses album to release some of the pressure on Axl, a lot of energy has been going into sifting through concert tapes as far back as the London club shows of 1986. It’s not enough to save more than a hundred Geffen employees who are fired when Universal folds Geffen into Interscope Records. Interscope’s president, Jimmy Iovine, takes charge of Guns’ recorded output. Reportedly upset by the mass exodus of people he has worked with at Geffen for ten years and more, Axl will stay away from the recording studio in mute protest.
March 1999 – The delivery deadline for Chinese Democracy passes without much notice.
March 16, 1999 – GN’R is presented with a Diamond Album award by the record industry’s trade association, commemorating sales of fifteen million units of Appetite for Destruction. The award is accepted in New York, by Steven Adler.
Summer, 1999 – Gun N’ Roses releases "Oh My God," their first new song in eight years. It is destined for the sound track of End of Days, an Arnold Schwarzenegger action film, and is introduced by Axl on MTV. Hopes for Chinese Democracy rise in a flurry of publicity, but the song barely gets on the radio, and is slagged in the press as another disappointment from a band that has lets its fans, and itself, down.
Late 1999 – Axl previews a dozen Chinese Democracy tracks for Rolling Stone. The magazine duly reports that the new album is tentatively scheduled for the summer of 2000.
November 1999 – GN’R's much anticipated live album is released. Titled Live Era ’87 – ’93, the album contains twenty-two tracks that have been mixed and overdubbed separately by Axl and the ex-Gunners, communicating through managers and staff. Despite some blistering live performances of songs from their smash debut album, Appetite for Destruction, the new album receives no radio airplay and reviews are less than raving. Axl will decree that ex-members of Gun cannot help promote the album, and he will not bother to either, so sales in the crucial Christmas market will total less than a million units, a shocking slap from the band’s old fans.
2000 – Sean Bevan quits trying to produce Chinese Democracy. Interscope gets Axl to agree on Roy Thomas Baker, who had produced Queen’s major albums. Baker has Guns rerecord everything of any significance for Chinese Democracy with a new drummer, Brian Mantia, formerly of Primus. Axl hires Buckethead, the shy, virtuoso metal guitarist who appears in public wearing a plastic mask and a commercial fried chicken bucket on his head. Rose has this version of Guns N’ Roses rerecord the tracks they had done for producer Baker.
June 22, 2000 – Performing for the first time in years, Axl joins Gilby Clarke’s Starf*ckers at the Cathouse. The audience of approximately 300 erupts when he walks on stage, which spurs him to dance through renditions of "Wild Horses" and "Dead Flowers."
December 31, 2000 – Guns N’ roses plays the House of Blues in Las Vegas. Buckethead and Robin Finck front the band with Axl a few hours into 2001. Paul Huge plays rhythm guitar. Chris Pittman contributes effects. Dizzy Reed anchors the whole thing.
Mid-January, 2001 – GN’R plays for 200,000 at Rock in Rio III. A European tour is announced and tickets for some shows will sell out with no promotion; but the tour will be canceled without explanation. (It will be rescheduled and canceled a second time.) A planned DVD of the Las Vegas show will also be shelved.
March 2001 – Interscrope brings in Tom Zutaut–the only recording executive ever to get any original music out of Guns N’ Roses–to try to get Chinese Democracy finished. He is offered a major bonus if the album is ready by the end of 2001. CD’s of alternate instrumental takes will be driven to Axl almost every day. Buckethead will then threaten to quit, and have to be coddled. He will make Axl take him to Disneyland, and then demand that the studio build a chicken wire coop, in which he’ll then record his solos.
2001 – Producer Greg Wattenberg is hired to work on Axl’s vocal tracks, which seems to be Chinese Democracy’s final stumbling block. He’ll wait six excruciating weeks to meet Axl, be granted only a twenty-minute interview in the studio, at four in the morning, and ultimately decide to go home.
December, 2001 – By Christmas both Tom Zutaut and Roy Thomas Baker will be out of the picture.
Late December, 2001 – Guns plays two Las Vegas shows. Slash and his new wife, Perla Ferrar, try to see the New Year’s Eve show but are rudely stopped at the backstage door for fear they will be a distraction to Axl who keeps leaving the stage because of sound monitor problems.
Early 2002 – Axl has the band rerecord all the new songs–again. Paul Huge leaves the band and is replaced by guitarist Richard Fortus.
Summer 2002 – Guns N’ Roses plays sold-out (and well-received) shows in Japan and Europe. They will finish the tour at London’s Wembley Arena, with Weezer opening, completely sold out. Axl will tell the audience that Guns has two new albums, ready to go.
August 29, 2002 – Guns N’ Roses makes a surprise appearance at MTV’s Video Music Awards. After "Jungle" the band premiers the new song "Madagascar" and closes with "Paradise City."
November 7, 2002 – Guns N’ Roses first North American tour in ten years starts with a riot in Vancouver when Axl’s plane is late and the promoter cancels the first show. The rest of the month will go well, despite some sparse crowds at smaller venues.
December 5, 2002 – GN’R plays a letter-perfect show at sold-out Madison Square Garden in New York. Afterwards, Axl goes out with an entourage, but he is rudely turned away from the ultra-chic, model-ridden nightclub Spa because he is wearing a fur jacket and the club has a strict no-fur policy. He storms back to his hotel.
December 6, 2002 – Instead of playing in Philadelphia, Axl stays in and watches a basketball game on television. After both opening bands play, with Axl still in Manhattan, the show is canceled at eleven P.M. and a riot breaks out. The rest of the tour will be canceled by the promoter.
Summer 2003 – Geffen Records tells Axl is it releasing a Guns N’ Roses greatest hits album. Axl doesn’t want this to happen and gets Doug Edelstein to promise the company Chinese Democracy by the end of the year if they hold off. The label agrees, but they still don’t get the new record.
February 2004 – Geffen finally pulls the plug on the band’s studio sessions. By this time the Chinese Democracy recording budget has reportedly ballooned to more than $11 million. Buckethead quits the band.
March 2004 – The greatest hits album is released over Axl’s strenuous objections and despite a court challenge that was quickly dismissed by the judge. This final Guns album shocks everyone by quickly selling two million copies. It gets to number one in England and many European markets, and enters the Billboard chart at number-three.
Spring 2004 – Velvet Revolver’s first album, Contraband, comes out and the new band starts touring, putting on club-level rock concerts that start on time. Steven Adler revives his own band, Adler’s Appetite, and tours in Europe.
January 2005 – Axl Rose announces he has moved GN’R's song publishing business to Sanctuary Records. Sanctuary executive Mark Mercuriades is also managing Guns, since Doug Goldstein has resigned or been fired by Axl for reasons unknown. Eight months later, Slash and Duff McKagen will sue Axl after they stop receiving royalty payments. Axl’s lawyers will claim it is all a mistake, and Axl will countersue Slash.
May 2005 – Guns N’ Roses plays a week of intense theater-size concerts in New York that are hailed by both critics and fans. The band plays "Madagascar" and other new songs, but mostly sticks to carbon copies of the old records.
Early 2006 – A bunch of Chinese Democracy songs are leaked onto the Internet via a fan club Web site. Radio stations will download one of them–"I.R.S."–and begin playing it in February, until the band’s management puts a stop to it.
2006 – The feud among the original band members continues to simmer. After Slash pays a contentious nocturnal visit to Axl’s house, Axl has his attorney release a public statement claiming that Slash has admitted that Axl had been right about everything over the years.
May 2006 – Having announced a new world tour, Guns N’ Roses plays four warm-up shows in New York at the Hammerstein Ballroom. (The shows had sold out in three minutes.) The opening night crowd learns that Guns now has three guitar players, for Buckethead has been replaced by Bumblefoot, also known as Ron Thal, wh joins Robin Finck and Richard Fortus. Axl opens the evening with "Welcome to the Jungle," and the crowd roars the lyrics with him, word for word. They roar again when he brings out Izzy Stradlin for five songs. Izzy seems as amazed as anyone else that he is standing onstage with Axl Rose again. The people in the crush down front see that he seems to have tears in his eyes as the band launches into "It’s So Easy."
June 2006 – After a sold-out show in Stockholm, and a subsequent celebration at the Café Opera, Axl returns to the Hotel Bern, really drunk, at three a.m. He gets into a shouting match with a young woman. A security guard tries to intervene. Axl smashes a mirror and then bites the security guard on the leg. The police drag him off to jail. International headlines follow the next day along with a $5,000 fine.
September 2006 – Now back in the U.S. the plays a sold out show in San Bernardino and earn respectful if somewhat bemused reviews, as if they are the best Guns N’ Roses tribute band in the world. Afterward Axl throws a lavish party at his Malibu compound and plays the full Chinese Democracy album for guests in his billiards room. He says that veteran engineer Andy Wallace, who had mixed Nirvana’s Nevermind, is working on the Guns album in New York. Merck Mercuriades tells Rolling Stone the record will be out by the end of 2006. The following month, Axl tells Mercuriades that he is out instead. Chinese Democracy stays in the can.
Late 2006 – Tower Records closes, bankrupt because kids don’t pay for records anymore, preferring to download or copy them instead. A shocked Axl wonders if there will be any stores left to sell Chinese Democracy if he ever lets it out. In an open letter to Guns fans on the band’s Web site, he writes: "To say the making of this album has been an unbearably long and incomprehensible journey would be an understatement." He also hints it will be released in March 2007.
May 2007 – More tracks from Chinese Democracy are "leaked" on the Internet. Most are remixes of previously downloadable music.
Summer 2007 – Guns plays shows in Mexico, Australia, and Japan. Axl works with Sebastian Bach on his solo album, Angel Down, which will come out late in 2007. The three duets he performs with Bach are his first recording in years.
March 2008 – The company behind Dr. Pepper states it will offer a free can of Dr. Pepper if Guns N’ Roses releases Chinese Democracy by the end of the year.
Spring 2008 – Velvet Revolver implodes when Scott Weiland–out on $40,000 bail after a drug arrest on a freeway ramp–leaves the band to return to Stone Temple Pilots. Slash releases a statement that they are fed up with Weiland’s "erratic on-stage behavior and personal problems." No replacement is announced, and tongues began to feverishly wag that Axl Rose, who is rumored to have serious cash flow issues, will re-form the original Guns N’ Roses for one final stupendous tour.
Mid-June, 2008 – Nine songs from Chinese Democracy are leaked online increasing speculation that the album could be finally nearing release. Several radio stations reportedly begin playing the songs until receiving "cease and desist" letters from Axl’s attorneys.
August 2008 – Another supposed new cut from Chinese Democracy reportedly shows up online. The song, Shackler’s Revenge, was meant to be premiered on the sequel to the "Rock Band" video game which is slated for release in mid-September.
October 20, 2008 – In a California court, blogger Kevin Cogill pleads not guilty to the charge of violating federal copyright law. The FBI claims that Cogill posted nine tracks from Chinese Democracy online.
October 22, 2008 – Guns N’ Roses releases a statement officially confirming that Chinese Democracy will be released on November 23, 2008. The album will be available only through Best Buy stores and BestBuy.com on CD, vinyl, and via digital downloads. The title track, the first single form the album, is released to radio.
October 30, 2008 – Federal authorities reportedly reduce the criminal charges against blogger Kevin Cogill from a felony to a misdemeanor. There is speculation in the press that "a deal may be in the offing."
November 11, 2008 – In the first official review of the new album, Rolling Stone describes Chinese Democracy as a "great, audacious, unhinged and uncompromising hard-rock record."