Former Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson drummer, Chris Vrenna who was also briefly a member of Guns N’ Roses in 1997, said Axl Rose wanted to modernise the band’s sound during that time by adding elements of electronic music.
When ‘Chinese Democracy’ was finally released in 2008, did you recognize any music from the period you were working with Guns N’ Roses?
“Nope. Not a thing. Because by then they’d gone through nine drummers, 14 guitar players, seven producers… I kept up with it after I was there.
“When I was there, Moby was going to produce. Axl didn’t come in very often; he’d show up about once a week. So sometimes we jammed. Sometimes me and Moby just sat and drank coffee and talked about music. Moby was rad.
“Can you imagine a Guns N’ Roses record with [guitarist] Robin Finck and me and Moby producing? And Axl really wanted it to have an electronic element. He kept referencing the Passengers album that U2 did [‘Original Soundtracks 1,’ a 1995 collaborative effort of U2 and Brian Eno released under the pseudonym of Passengers] – ‘It’s wonderful. It’s so good.’ That and Nine Inch Nails.
“He thought that was where he could see the sound of Guns N’ Roses going, modernizing it: ‘We’re not a bunch of ’80s strung-out-on-heroin dudes on Sunset Boulevard anymore.’ And I applauded Axl and that’s why I stuck with it for as long as I did, and I got Axl’s vision.
“The best time I ever had, though, was when Axl came down and he was just in the mood to play and he was like, ‘Alright we’re going to run ‘Appetite,’ top to bottom. Ready? Go!’.
“I was like, ‘Holy crap.’ And we played the whole album, top to bottom. The one time I got to do that. And I got home in the morning and I couldn’t sleep I was so excited I got to do it. He sang half of the words, half voice – he didn’t want to blow himself out. He sat and played the grand piano for some of the songs. Axl’s talented, man.”
What’s something about Axl Rose as a day-to-day guy most people don’t know?
“Just really a soft-spoken guy, very knowledgeable about music and art and film and just would like to sit around and talk about film and art, the way I talk about TV. Same kind of talk, but very soft-spoken.
“He’s actually not that crazy. I think maybe he outgrew it too; like, we’re all young and nuts at one time and then you eventually get older. Now Guns N’ Roses goes on on-time, every time. People change.
“That’s one thing about everybody you’ve asked me about. People grow up and people’s tastes change. I don’t listen to the same music now I listened to when I was 16. I don’t like the same kind of movies when I was 22. Trent [Reznor]’s married and has four kids. He scores movies.
“The problem becomes this weird thing where fans don’t want you to ever change what you were. They don’t want [Marilyn] Manson to be anything besides ‘Beautiful People,’ ‘Antichrist Superstar’ Manson, even though Manson’s going to be 50 next year.
“No one wants to see 50-year-old Manson in the same fishnets and bustier thing and jock strap. Nobody wants to see that, so let him wear a suit and a tie because he looks good in a suit in a tie.
“Let him not wear as much goofy makeup like he used to wear on ‘Mechanical Animals.’ You can’t please anybody. A few people get lucky and can.”