Thursday, March 24, 2011

Guns N’ Roses: Queen’s Brian May talks about his work on Chinese Democracy

It’s not hard to think of Queen’s Brian May as a hired-gun; outside of the legendary Queen, the guitarist has played on many, many outside projects through the years.

In 1999, Brian got the call to record something for the Guns N’ Roses work-in-progress, “Chinese Democracy.” May recorded a guitar solo for "Catcher In The Rye," although the song(s) (and album) went through so many incarnations, that Brian’s contribution was eventually cut from the final album version of the track.

In the new issue of Uncut magazine, the Queen legend responded to a series of fan questions, including one asking about how he got involved with the “Chinese Democracy” project in the first place.

"I can't remember when I first met Axl [Rose, GN'R frontman], but we invited them to play the [1992] Freddie [Mercury] tribute,” said May. “They did a fantastic job, and also donated a lot of money to the Mercury Phoenix Trust. Subsequent to that, my solo band supported GN'R on tour and we got on very well. People think of Axl as difficult, but he was always very attentive to me.”

"When they were making that album,”
continued Brian, “after God-knows-how-many years, he was talking to [Queen's old producer] Roy Thomas Baker, who was doing some production for them at the time, and they came up with the idea of contacting me to help them work out a direction.”

“I flew out to meet him, and he played me pretty much the whole album. We had a long night, talking, thinking, figuring out potential directions, and then I had a couple of days just trying things out. I think I played on two-and-a-half tracks, but they didn't end up using my parts. They used about 10 guitarists subsequent to that! I have rough mixes of these tracks somewhere in my archive, but I'm not going to let anyone listen to them, out of loyalty to Axl. It was fun, to throw something in there to help out a friend."

Rose explained the decision to drop Brian's track from the album by saying, "There's a few reasons, and none of them all that big and definitely not in spite or to slight anyone. First off, obviously I knew people liked the song, but the Brian appreciation really only showed up in force publicly after we had moved on in Guns. In fact, not many seemed to care and most comments were aimed at why Slash, in their opinions, should be here. Brian's solo itself is a personal fave of mine and I really couldn't understand, as he's such a rock legend, why it wasn't openly appreciated more at the time."

"In actuality," continued Axl, "all that feel and emotion referred to now had a lot to do with Sean [Beavan, one of the producers who worked on 'Chinese Democracy'] and I and the parts I chose out of Brian's different runs, versions, practice runs, etc., to make sure we had those elements in one version. It's entirely constructed from edits based around one specific note Brian hit in a throwaway take. And though Brian seems to have warmed a bit to it, at least publicly, he was unfortunately none too pleased at the time with our handiwork. I remember looking at Brian standing to my left and him staring at the big studio speakers a bit aghast saying, 'But that's not what I played.' Sean Beavan and I were not in any way trying to mess with Brian, we just did what we do and then try and do our best to stand up for our decisions."

Guns Guns N' Roses

Guns N' Roses – Catcher In The Rye
Kyocera Dome - Osaka, Japan – December 16, 2009

See also:

Guns N’ Roses confirmed for Rock In Rio
Guns N’ Roses: $20 Million lawsuit against Activision goes to trial in January
VIDEO: Guns N’ Roses - Duff joins Steven Adler in London
RUMOR: Guns N’ Roses North American tour dates
Guns N Roses: Activision lawsuit docs online