Queen’s Brian May Had an ‘Odd’ Time Working on Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Chinese Democracy’
Guns N' Roses are notorious for the amount of lineup changes they went through over the last two and a half decades, especially while making their Chinese Democracy album. But did you know Queen's Brian May was also almost featured on the record?
A lot of guitarists have stood beside Axl Rose since Guns first formed in 1985, especially after Slash quit in 1996. Without him or Gilby Clarke, Rose had to find new guitar players to fill the voids, and so Paul Huge, Robin Finck, Buckethead, Richard Fortus, Bumblefoot and DJ Ashba were all brought in at one point or another. Fortus is still in the band and Ashba joined after Chinese Democracy was already released, but the rest of them cited the lack of progress on the album as one of the reasons they wanted out.
May endured an inconsistent experience with Rose as well. In an interview with Classic Rock [via Guitar World], the Queen guitarist recalled the whole endeavor as "odd," and noted that it was a nine-year process to record guitar parts for the song "Catcher in the Rye."
“It was an odd experience. I think it was about midway through the whole thing. By that point Axl was pretty much a recluse," May remembered. "He was working in his house, and I was working in the studio at the bottom of the hill with his engineer at the time, and he only rarely came down. Now and again he would call in and get all enthusiastic and talk a lot, and then he’d be gone again. I don’t think any of what I played actually got onto the album.”
It was originally reported back in November of 2008, just a few weeks prior to the release of the album, that May had been dropped from the finished product. He'd apparently recorded his parts for the song in 1999, and expressed his disappointment on his website, according to NME.
"Well, it is a shame. I did put quite a lot of work in, and was proud of it," May explained, though he added that he understood why Rose may have wanted the album to feature musicians who were in the band at the present time.
Hey, Josh Freese's drum parts for the album were all re-recorded by Bryan Mantia when he replaced him a few years later. It wasn't personal, it was just the nature of Guns N' Roses.
Rose had always been open about his admiration for Queen, and he performed with them at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert in 1992. Even in 2018, he called Queen the greatest band of all time.