Some people thought "Chinese Democracy" would never come out. Were there times during the making of the album when you felt that way yourself?
Axl Rose: Not so much that it wouldn't come out but that we could in some way legally be forced to release it either incomplete or with so many business areas unresolved that the beginning would be the end as well.
Without sounding presumptuous, what took so long to get the album out?
And without sounding facetious, what didn't? There aren't too many issues of the hundreds [we ran into] that happened as quickly as anyone would have preferred, from building my studio; finding the right players; never did find a producer; still don't have real record company involvement or support; to getting it out and mixed and mastered.
All that aside, it's the right record and I couldn't ask for more in that regard. Could have been a more enjoyable journey, but it's there now. The art comes first. It dictates if not the course [then] the destination artistically. For me, once the real accompanying artwork is there with a few videos and some touring, the package was achieved and delivered.
And to do so at this level in terms of quality, both artistic and performance-wise, both on record and live, is something that's a miracle at minimum and something that wouldn't have happened, no matter how anyone tries to convince others, with old Guns, regardless of anyone's intentions. It was just as ugly in old Guns, regardless of our success.
What were your expectations in terms of what Best Buy would do to promote the album?
Best Buy has been great. Going with Best Buy was a way to work out a deal with Universal and we were fortunate enough to work with Irving [Azoff, as manager] and deal more directly with Universal. I've asked for information regarding their role in working the record but that hasn't come yet so I'm not able to tell what Universal has or hasn't done, although Zach [Horowitz, Universal Music Group president/COO], or whoever's behind the international efforts, is doing great. It's more than appreciated and a welcome relief.
Unfortunately [going with Best Buy] didn't change us having to rely on Interscope as much as we'd hoped. The opinions expressed or "jumped" on publicly regarding promotion seem to be [about] my or our involvement with mainstream media -- talk shows, rock magazines and dot-coms -- which have generally held negative public stances toward myself or the band for years, [and they] unfortunately have not been resolved. Efforts are being made to understand the relationships and evaluate how best to proceed.
Our focus was in getting the record deal done while finishing the album, which hit many an unexpected bump or sinkhole in the road right up until the actual release. We never intended a huge public rollout, especially without resolving certain issues, and no one ever suggested us doing so, though Interscope's communications with Best Buy in these areas may not have been as clear as anyone would have preferred.
Our approach, for better or worse, has always been to work the record over the course of the following tour cycles, with attempts to forge new or better and hopefully redefined relationships with the different forms of media that may be interested along the way. In regard to our promotion, it was based around certain agreements with Universal, Interscope, our management and legal [teams] that unfortunately never happened. I won't get into specifics but am beginning to address some of those issues in my own way as opposed to "working together," and we'll see how that plays out.
What are your thoughts on how Universal has handled the album?
Unfortunately I have no information for me to believe [that] there was any real involvement or effort from Interscope. I'm not saying there wasn't. But in my opinion, without [Interscope Geffen A&M chairman] Jimmy Iovine's involvement, it doesn't matter who anyone talks to or what they say -- virtually nothing will happen from their end.
I do know [that] I've been asking for a marketing plan for over five years and still haven't got anything. We've asked for a complete breakdown of promotion expenses and efforts from all parties but unfortunately I've received very little information, if anything, so far. On another note, the draft booklet leaking and, I believe, the early shipping of preorders and the inclusion of the early draft booklet for the release was through involvement with Interscope, which was a mess. That's not to say they don't work for other artists and make things happen. I feel they work very hard for whatever it is they truly want to sell, whether it's good or ...
I can say how the band feels, and that is that to a man they hate the record company other than Universal International with a passion. And that's with me talking with them about the record company negatively hardly ever, if at all. They're not blind: They hear the talk and see the results. Our involvement with Interscope has been more than frustrating for them. It's not like anyone here wants to have any negative views, impressions or opinions. They don't go around bitching about things all the time and they don't let it get in the way of whatever they're supposed to do here, but it is what it is.
Here's how things worked until they were no longer involved-that is, until recently. Jimmy [Iovine] and whoever would come down to the studio. Things would be good for a month. Then, according to whoever was involved at the time from their side, someone above Jimmy would start putting pressure regarding us on him, Jimmy would start pressuring others at his label [and they] would begin doing the same with us. We get that it's just how business -- and perhaps especially this business -- tends to work, but after a month of this the whole thing would get ugly and extensively interfere with getting anything productive done, and near the middle of the third month we'd arrange for Jimmy to come down again. They'd go away happy and the entire process would repeat itself over and over and over.
[Former Interscope Geffen A&M president] Tom Whalley brought in Roy Thomas Baker to produce and [A&R executive] Mark Williams suggested Marco Beltrami, among others, to play strings on the album. And Jimmy had an idea for low guitar in a track and the EQ on a drum part. That's it as far as I'm aware. They were all good things, but in all sincerity, that's it. Now, what efforts were made to help keep Universal or Vivendi off us for as long as possible could very well have been extensive, and in that regard either would have been or would be most appreciated. I like Jimmy, but I've never understood him in regard to us or this album. Everything's always been, "That's easy," or "We can fix that, no problem," but unfortunately rarely added up to any kind of reality for us until [he found] Bob Ludwig for mastering.
We'd love to have their and Jimmy's support after this. But to continue at this juncture feeling as we do, keeping things so behind the scenes, unfortunately feels like the same 'ol same 'ol for all of us and, at least momentarily, a bit much to digest. Jimmy did point us in the right direction for mastering, and I believe he's sincere in his appreciation of our record but still for whatever reasons gave up pretty early in those areas.
We feel that, unfortunately, we've never been really anything all that much more other than a throw it at the wall, see if it sticks, no real ground work, something to take advantage of, last quarter, cook the books, write-off, fuck this headache, hoping to get lucky scam. And, unfortunately, for all their nice words and assurances, nothing that's happened since the week or so before the release has shown us much of anything to the contrary. So at least in regard to the U.S., for the most part I don't look at it like we have a record company -- I look at it for the most part like we have friendly but otherwise cutthroat loan sharks, and we were lucky to get what we got but feel we could have done more if they were at least, especially with some of their backgrounds, a bit more involved creatively. So in light of pirating and the mess the major labels are in, I have no sympathy for the record companies, based on our experiences in the U.S.