MTV has had quite a lengthy and, um, interesting relationship with Mr. W. Axl Rose — one that has spanned decades, musical genres (metal, pseudo-industrial, sorta rap-rock) and, of course, cornrows.
Our cameras have been there at basically every step of Rose’s career: from Guns N’ Roses’ first appearance on “Headbangers Ball” in 1987 to their ascent to legendary status in ’91 and then through the bevy of beefs, arrests and in-band bickering that eventually led to their demise. And, for the most part, one man has been in front of (or beside) those cameras: Kurt Loder.
So after combing our vaults to find the most Awesome Axl Moments on MTV, we decided to sit down with Kurt to get his take on the man himself — and luckily, he also had more than a few truly excellent Axl stories to share with us before the release of Chinese Democracy.
(More of Kurt’s Axl stories, after the jump!)
On Axl, The Man:
“Well, I think Axl is a little out of control, which is the way you should be if you’re going to be a big rock star with the limos and all that,” Loder said. “You should be out of control, and you should never know what’s going to happen next, so I thought that was great. That doesn’t happen at that level any more, because I think bands arrive at that level with all kinds of attorneys and handlers and stuff. They sort of pose as rebels, but they’re not dangerous. Nothing’s going to happen around them. Whereas with Axl, you never knew. Because I think he was on drugs or something, I don’t know. He was a very talented guy. He could be very, very nice, and he could all of a sudden be prickly. So, it was always interesting to be around him.”
On Axl’s Post-Bail Limo Trip In 1992:
“Oh yeah, it was totally prearranged. Totally corny, totally prearranged. All set up in advance. [Axl] was inside signing autographs for the cops; they loved him. He had started a fight a year earlier, outside of St. Louis, and there was a fugitive warrant out for him, so he was arrested when he arrived at JFK Airport in New York. They brought him down to the jailhouse and kept him there overnight or something, so we went there, got the limo, he got in and we talked to him. It was all preplanned, of course. But he was in a jolly mood, you know? And then he went on to start a tour. … He also started wearing a lot of Versace [around then]. Maybe it was the Elton John period.”
On Axl, The Myth:
“It’s a shame that people who claim to be revolutionary and dangerous today, they just aren’t. I’m sure there are a million bands at a lower level, but when you reach the big chart level, you’re not going to endanger anything. Whereas Axl Rose can take 16 years to make a record, still keep his record label, after 16 years of having various studios on hold around the clock, and make it work. He’s finally put the record out. Who else could do that? Nobody.” [Editor's note: If there's a band working that angle these days, it's Hinder — check out what they have to say about Chinese Democracy here.]
On Axl’s 1992 VMA Performance With Elton John, And His Backstage Beef With Kurt Cobain:
“Axl had that song ‘One in a Million’ … and he tried to explain that ‘n—–’ didn’t necessarily mean ‘black person,’ and he tried to explain the ‘f—-t’ thing, so he got together with Elton John. You know, Elton John got together with Eminem. He’s there to save souls, I think. So, the two of them up there, with the pianos — it was a little weird, you know? The backstage thing was the most interesting, because it was Courtney [Love] and it was Kurt [Cobain] and it was Axl. It was like two worlds colliding. That was sort of an important moment in the way fashions changed, and you really saw the culture of music going in a slightly different way. But it didn’t last, did it? The guys in the flannel shirts started buying Gucci too.”
On Axl’s 2002 VMA Performance:
“Well, nobody knew about it. Really nobody knew about it. And then [MTV Executive VP] Dave [Sirulnick] came to me and said, ‘You should really come over to see this.’ It was the night before the show, and they were doing a rehearsal, and it was Axl. And you just thought, ‘Where’s he been? What decade are we in?’ And he had this big band — and they were a great band, you know — but he was doing Guns N’ Roses material, and they were great. It really was a surprise. And when he came out, it was like the Pee-Wee Herman moment.”
On Axl, The Legend … And The Dinner-Party Host:
“I think, even as eccentric as Axl seems, he really is who he is. It’s not really an act or anything. I think maybe he had some problems with kind of … keeping it together in public, which would be storming off the stage or jumping into the pit to wrestle cameras out of fans’ hands. But that’s just the way he is. He’s not at all pretentious. And it’s good to have him back. I think Sebastian Bach was telling me that he thought Axl should get out of the house more, because he spent years just giving dinners — he had a big long table and people would come eat. But I had heard that Sebastian told him ‘Axl, you’re Axl. Why don’t we go out occasionally?!’ And he started getting him to go to nightclubs occasionally, which was probably a good thing.”