Shootin’ the breeze with Axl Rose

On Wednesday, 24 October, Axl Rose was the much anticipated main guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live. It was being touted as “Axl’s first TV interview in 20 years!” Eddie Trunk, d.j. and host of VH1 Classic’s “That Metal Show,” took a little exception to that since it was just last November that Axl sat down with him for TMS. Eddie was willing to concede on the point of this being a “live” TV interview and acknowledged that he was happy to see Axl on Kimmel [all via Eddie Trunk’s Twitter account].

Guns n’ Roses has a 12-date residency spread out through the month of November at Hard Rock’s The Joint in Las Vegas. The appearance on Jimmy Kimmel was to drum up a little publicity and re-introduce Axl and Guns n’ Roses to the general public. Many hardcore GNR fans were disappointed at the fluff factor of this interview, but in reality, it wasn’t for them anyways. As I have mentioned before, although Axl has been busy and actively touring over the past six years, he doesn’t command headlines like he used to. And for all those people who only vaguely remember him from the ’90s and were briefly reminded of Axl’s existence during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame brouhaha, this type of interview was exactly what he needed. While obviously a tad nervous and stiff (not the first celebrity to appear that way on live TV), Axl came off exactly as I expected him to: polite, affable, generous, charming, and funny. And the general public needed to see that. Remember that violent, angry, foul-mouthed Axl Rose you thought you knew? That stays onstage for the most part and, even so, is largely a thing of the past. The vast majority of Axl’s interviews through the years have shown him to be quite calm and collected, witty and with varying degrees of gregariousness and cheerfulness depending on his mood and comfort with the interviewer. Unfortunately, all of those interviews were aired on MTV or VH1 and would have been viewed only by music fans wanting to see interviews with their favorite rock stars. Going on network television — which typically has relished in flogging Axl’s dangerous bad boy image — exposed an entirely different dimension of his personality to a broader cross-section of people. And he can only benefit from that!

To see the show, click here.

In the promo spot before Axl comes onstage, he strides up to a girl and “signs” her chest. She turns around to reveal the message, “Up next: Axl Rose.” Axl has signed many a body part in his day, but this was just a silly gag. Surprisingly, many people online didn’t seem to catch that despite Axl’s feigned writing motions. May I present, once again, ladies and gentlemen, exhibit A: It’s not his handwriting. But yes, it was funny that he played along.

Jimmy Kimmel opened the interview with a joke about Axl’s punctuality for the show, to which Axl replied with a grin, “It’s a miracle.” Axl’s timekeeping proved to be Kimmel’s fall-back joke, and Axl good-naturedly rolled with the punches. The rest of the interview was a bit of a show-n-tell beginning with an old flyer that Axl and Izzy had made up back when they were playing under the name Rose. I’ve seen a few jabs online about the bad grammar on the photo: “There [sic] living fast and they’ll die young.” Without meaning to dog Izzy, that is his handwriting (mixture of lowercase and capital) and the bad grammar is fairly typical of the writing samples I’ve seen from him. When Axl uses bad grammar, it’s to intentionally sound colloquial (ie. lyrics from “You Could Be Mine”: It don’t matter how we make it; “Breakdown”: You ain’t got no one. Etc. etc.) So why didn’t he proofread his friend’s contribution? Who knows, but that was 30 years ago, so let’s cut them both some slack.

Jimmy mentioned the proximity of early GNR’s rehearsal space to the television studio and asked Axl if he remembered it (why wouldn’t he?). Axl wryly answered, “Unfortunately,” and the internet conspiracy theorists immediately assumed that it was a jab at the old bandmates. First of all, they were talking about the space, not the bandmembers. Secondly, at that point in time, Axl was homeless and basically starving to death; he actually moved into the rehearsal space which was nothing more than a storage unit. No heat/AC, no bathroom, no windows. Ah, memories. I think Axl’s allowed to look back on that without a heart full of warm fuzzies.

From there, Jimmy asked about how Axl ended up in L.A. (he hitchhiked when he was 19).

What was that question, Jimmy?!

Next in the show-n-tell was a photo of Axl’s now-famous Halloween tree. He was at his most engaging during the telling of this story. He declared it one of the most evil things he has ever done. If you’re a parent, you may be inclined to laughingly agree.

Earlier in the day, fans submitted questions for Axl via Jimmy’s Twitter. Axl’s reponses to these were good-natured and let his wicked sense of humor shine. There was one question about voting and Axl had to admit that he’s not a voter (In the ’90s, Guns n’ Roses was invited to play for Rock the Vote and Axl declined, pointing out that he’s a poor example. According to him, his reasons for abstaining are that he never has time to properly research candidates and issues and doesn’t want to just throw a vote out there to say he did it. Musician Magazine Sept. 1991). Still, when pushed, Axl said that he might vote for Obama if he were to vote. It has been funny seeing little headlines and blurbs online declaring, “Axl Rose Endorses Obama! Axl Rose Is a Democrat!” I wouldn’t exactly call this a ringing endorsement: Axl shrugs, “I would lean Obama.” Don’t get too excited, people; besides, he’s not voting anyways.

The interview concluded with more talk about the Vegas residency, the Neil Young Benefit that GNR played last weekend (more on that to come in another post) and Axl’s early musical influences. Then Axl surprised the crowd by announcing that there were two sets of tickets to the Vegas gigs hidden under the seats and then treated the entire audience and crew to a burger from a Tommy’s Burger truck that he had brought along. A few skeptics have doubted that this was Axl’s doing, but I’m inclined to think that it’s perfectly in fitting with his personality. Slash, in his book, has said that Axl enjoys making grand gestures towards people.

All in all, it was a pleasant interview despite its lack of any new revelations. It seemed to be a positive experience for Axl, Jimmy, and the fans; anyone looking for something negative to report is just nit-picking.

Well done, Axl Rose.


Pseudo Art

I debated even mentioning this, but since it is gaining public attention and is relevant to Axl, I decided to go ahead with it in the hopes of injecting some rational thought into the matter.

Recently an L.A. photographer named Laura London announced her new art installation, “Once upon a time… Axl Rose was my neighbor.” The title alone should throw up dual red flags of exploitation and name-dropping. The main feature of her exhibit is a 20 + year old photo of a garage door with graffiti aimed at Erin Everly, Axl’s wife at the time.

According to London, Axl and Erin were having a fight and, in the heat of anger, Axl ran outside and spray-painted the garage. The only thing is… London never actually witnessed this; she just made the assumption that it was Axl because she “was hearing stories about him…” While she was taking the photographs, Erin came home and confronted her and she subsequently stored the photos away. Not very well, apparently, because they’ve been circulating on the internet for years. Why she decided to make a big deal about it now, I can’t imagine. In addition to this photograph that is old news anyways, she also hired “actors” to portray Axl, Erin, and even Slash, not one of whom resemble the real people in any way. But it’s art because somebody hand-painted the tattoos on Faux-Axl. Groovy.

On 26 September, Axl’s attorneys issued a cease-and-desist letter to London. The following day, another cease-and-desist letter was issued, this time from Erin’s lawyers who stated that not only does Erin back up Axl’s denial of having painted the message, she is also willing to testify on his behalf. At this point, with their marriage dissolved 21 years ago, there would be no reason for Erin to lie to protect him. If Axl had in fact painted the door, Erin’s cease-and-desist letter would have only had to request that her name and image be pulled from the exhibit. But the fact that she verifies Axl’s account exposes London’s artwork as defamatory.

Now, if that is not enough (and it doesn’t seem to be for some people who are bound and determined to believe anything negative about Axl), a simple comparison of handwriting should be proof enough. Take a look at the garage door photo and then study the following samples of Axl’s handwriting.

Handwritten lyrics to the song “My Michelle,” circa 1986, signed by Axl on the lower left side.

Postcard sent to the band publicist in October 1987. Axl’s note is in black.

Samples from the “November Rain” and “Don’t Cry” videos, 1991 & 1992

Samples from the “Estranged” video, 1993.

Axl always writes in all capital letters. The graffiti message is an odd mixture of capitals and lowercase. Axl’s handwriting tends to be more angular while the graffiti letters are more rounded. Even accounting for the difference in using a spray can versus a pen, no one’s handwriting would change that much. Note in particular the R’s, E’s, and S’s. Axl has a very distinctive way of writing these letters, none of which is used on the graffiti message. Also notice that, on the garage door it says “nothing” while in the postcard sample, Axl writes the colloquial “nuthin’.” In addition, the message itself is inane. Even in a rage, I would expect Axl Rose to come up with something more poetic and shrewd than that. The man expresses himself through words as a living! Erin has told sources that neighborhood kids were the ones who vandalized the garage door. Some people have wondered, “Why would kids do that?” Why not? Kids do lots of stupid things. If they were aware that Erin and Axl lived there, they probably found it funny to be a nuisance and stir things up.

London’s exhibit was supposed to have taken place on the 29th of September, and judging by the gallery’s website, it apparently still did. They offered a weak back-pedaling statement saying, “The show title beginning with ‘Once Upon A Time…’ was, we believed, an obvious reference to fantasy and a re-imagined reality. The gallery regrets any possible inference otherwise made, and we apologize for the confusion.” Maybe so, but was anyone else going to see it that way? This probably would have remained largely under the radar for most people, being a small exhibit and all, and Axl has been accused of drawing too much publicity to it. Again, maybe so, but if someone were making money off of your name and purporting that you did something in which you had no part, wouldn’t you be upset, too? Even though the added publicity is unfortunate, if Axl had let this quietly pass by, people would always wonder. The guy has a hard enough time with public image without people “re-imagining reality.”