Sunday, September 19, 2010

Alan Niven: "[It's] a Tremendous Deceit on Axl’s Part"

Mitch Lafon of does a massive interview with former Guns N' Roses manager (1986-1991) Alan Niven.

Highlights are reproduced below ... for the full interview click here. Let me ask you about Guns N' Roses. Everybody slags the new version of the band because Slash is not there… because Duff is not there… But then you have a band like Whitesnake that is essentially David Coverdale with a revolving door of musicians. You have Foreigner, which is Mick Jones and a new cast of characters. You have Thin Lizzy that changes line-up almost yearly. My questions is why do you think those bands get a pass, but Axl or Guns N' Roses get nothing but negative press?

Alan Niven:
“I think it’s a matter of perception by the audience. You mentioned Thin Lizzy (Vivian Campbell is now in both Thin Lizzy and Def Leppard), there’s a degree of acceptance in the audience that there’s a natural order of turnover. Vivian is a really cool guy and a great player and they’ll be accommodating to Vivian playing in Thin Lizzy. However, when you have a situation where quite obviously one individual has driven off the others, and furthermore, stated that he is ‘last man standing’ and that he alone represents the idea of Guns N' Roses and, by the way, Guns N' Roses doesn’t exist as far as I’m concerned. Guns N' Roses as far as I’m concerned played their last show on April 7 1990 in Indianapolis which was the last show live show at Farm Aid that the original line-up played. That’s my personal and particular viewpoint. But in this instance, we have a situation where the first thing Axl did after he fired me was to have the rest of the band sign over the rights to the name to him exclusively.

I think we’re looking at coercion and unpleasantness and meanness of spirit that elicits a negative response when they see a ‘Guns N' Roses’ banner over a crowd at Leeds which is exacerbated by a Slash look-a-like who is doing the same moves and wearing a top-hat. Where there is a guy who looks rather similar in haircut and body language to Izzy and plays a hollow body guitar and you look at the bass player and think ‘well, that’s the closest they could find to Duff. I think that’s a tremendous deceit on Axl’s part. I think it’s an incredible insult to the people who made Guns N' Roses what it was… to Izzy, to Steven, to Slash, to Duff and I think it’s very callous and arrogant. I think it’s foolish for Axl to do it and I think it’s foolish for an audience to accept it. Let me be clear, Axl has every right as an individual to perform whatever music he wishes with whomever he wishes. That is a right that is absolutely unquestioned, but what I cannot digest is that he states that he is Guns N' Roses because on his own – he is not.” After the band fired you, you went ahead and worked with Izzy, Slash and eventually ‘the project’ (which would become Velvet Revolver).

Alan Niven:
“Let me clarify that as far as ‘the project’ is concerned. I came into LA with my daughter and we had a dinner with Slash and Duff. Duff looked across the table and said ‘how about it Niv?’ I was very flattered to be asked, but it seemed to me that it wasn’t a good idea. I didn’t like the prospect of everybody, but Axl being involved. I thought that would raise an unfair bar and unreasonable expectations for everybody, so that was something I felt very very nervous about.” Is that why, in the end, you think Velvet Revolver failed (because everybody expected it to be Guns N' Roses)?

Alan Niven:
“I don’t think you can consider Velvet Revolver as a complete failure.” But they did fail…

Alan Niven:
“Yes, but they did have a number one and sold over a million copies and that’s respectable. That was better than Slash's Snakepit, for example. I think the weakness in Velvet Revolver was the material and writing. In that respect, I was really nervous about Scott Weiland too. I’m not sure what he’s got to contribute as a writer…” Did that pick as a singer baffle you? You go from Axl Rose who’s a troubled singer to a guy with a reported heroin addiction who walked out on his band. Did it make any sense to you?

Alan Niven:
“I thought it was an unfortunate compromise to make. I felt that there was an aspect of marketing behind the idea that could have worked, but you have to look at the individuals themselves and when one of them is turning up semi-coherent at rehearsal with a ‘minder’ it’s quite obvious that they are still using. That’s another reason why I was less than thrilled at the idea of Velvet Revolver.

The other thing was… that the heart of the soul of Guns N' Roses was Izzy and a lot of those songs work well because of his musical intelligence and his feel. He’s got a beautiful rock n’ roll sensibility about him that informed and influenced everybody’s writing and without Izzy being fully involved in Velvet Revolver I wasn’t sure where it was going to go. I’ll be blunt, I think Slash is one of the best guitar players that has ever lived. I love his soul. I love his note selection. I love the way he plays - but he’s not a great songwriter. Duff won’t appreciate me saying this, but on his own, Duff, is not a great songwriter - brilliant at bass parts and drum structure but not a great songwriter. You only have to look at his first solo album to note that. Guns N' Roses was an amazing collective and a chemistry that worked and any successful entity can be looked at with the analogy of the molecule. You can take out the smallest part of a molecule and that molecule will collapse and that’s Guns N' Roses.” Did you listen to Chinese Democracy?

Alan Niven:
“One of the people who has sought me out in recent years is a rabid Guns N' Roses fan who lives in Australia and who appears to have a normal respectable life, other than being a Guns N' Roses fan, but over the years I have found him interesting and engaging. He was extraordinarily adept at copying me on all the tracks that got leaked out on the web. I was pretty aware of Chinese Democracy a long time before it came out. There was so much stuff floating about. It wasn’t like Chinese Democracy was released and on that day I had the opportunity to decide whether or not I was going to sit through it and evaluate it. I was pretty aware of what it’s content was before it's release. Does that answer your question or does that bring up part two of the question – what did I think of it?” “Well, yeah. Are you ‘allowed’ to say?

Alan Niven:
“I thought it was complex and difficult to get through, but it was pretty Axl.” For me, it was really more a question of is this what I waited fourteen years for? These songs could have been worked up in six months.

Alan Niven:
“Here’s my pot shot about Chinese Democracy. Axl made two huge mistakes. One was releasing it and the other was Irving Azoff.” Irving Azoff? Really? Why?

Alan Niven:
“If I’d been in a responsible position to advise and counsel Axl, I would have done everything in my power to make sure that Chinese Democracy was something that people always talked about and wondered about, but never actually got to completely hear, that it would never be actually released. Recording went on for so long that there was no way in hell that the record he was putting together was going to meet expectations. The minute it was released Mitch - it became just one more record.

Before its release it was a myth. It was fascinating. People talked about it. People wanted to hear it. The third mistake was that he should have made sure to keep all his tapes and all his discs under his wing and under his lock and key, so, that there wouldn’t have been any leaks. Then he could have released the occasional track and he could have worked them 'live' for another ten years. That would have been more mysterious, more engaging, more fascinating…”

Again, you can read the FULL interview here.


Manets said...

Cool read.

snakepipero said...

really cool read, but i disagree on some points, the main one is when he says neither Slash nor Duff are good songwritters. That's not true in my opinion, just listen to Slash solo album, it's fuckin' awesome and listen to Snakepit ones as well, mainly Ain't life grand, such an amazin' har´rock album!!!! in Duff's side just listen to the two Loaded albums, they're fuckin' great punk-rock records as well as the neurotic outsiders one and his solo albums are not bad at all, they have some great songs. I find so borin' when people says the main and the better songwritter in Guns was Izzy and the other guys were just good musicians!!!

Anonymous said...

An interview from the Great White manager: (G who? ya, Niven is the greatest)

Gn'r name was an issue 2 me (until the guy explained it with legal issues implying debt).Because otherwise it'd be a strategic mistake. Fans would still buy records and go to gigs,no need for this load of expectations that only harm him and the people who play for him (minimized as 'hired guns',no matter their prowess). He could free himself from all these shackles of expectations and finally be in a even leveled field.

I love Duff and what he brought to the band - but i listened to "loaded" and "believe in me" and

VR: the idea was good (did niven notice that Weiland used a bandana also,btw?),but again VR equals 2 great songs and the rest are medium/mediocre in lyrics and composition...IMO,of course.

Slash's recent had 1 great track? Who wrote the lyrics? Andrew Stockdale. The rest are forgettable songs, expect for the 1 who unites Izzy and Duff and, not surprisingly, doesn't have lyrics.

And Izzy?...The alleged soul of gn'r now plays some sort of country meets blues music and I hear it once every 6 months.

So yeah,I'm all for the molecule metaphor.You got that one right, Niven. But you see, you should read Slash's book (haven't read Adler's yet, and I'm not sure i will) and see Niven's firing was signed by all members of gn'r. But hey, by now we all know it's all Axl's fault.