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Trivia / Chinese Democracy

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  • Banned in China: The album was not only banned for the title alone, but also because of mentions of the Falun Gong, a Mystery Cult in China who the Chinese government exclude out of the media.
  • Dueling Works: In a way, to AC/DC's Black Ice, both being returns of well-regarded hard rock bands which in the US were exclusive to a retailer (Black Ice on Walmart, Chinese Democracy on Best Buy). Axl's Australian idols eventually won, being the second best-selling album of 2008 (after Coldplay's Viva La Vida) while Guns N' Roses couldn't even top the Billboard 200.
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  • Executive Meddling: The album was ready for release in 2000. Then Bob Ezrin told Axl he had "three finished songs," so Axl decided to start over. Also, it has been alleged the record company stifled production to try and force Axl to reunite with Slash. YMMV on that one though. Also if one considers Axl was his own executive, then he meddled with his own work, constantly changing the album and songs to better fit into what he considered the sound of that day.
  • Extremely Lengthy Creation: Production began in 1994, and the actual album was released in 2008. A long-running joke held that China would become a democracy before the album would ever get released. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.
  • Saved from Development Hell: A famous example, being released in 2008, after 14 years in development (one of the signs it would come out was the song "Shackler's Revenge" being featured in Rock Band 2, about two months before the album itself was released), subverting the long-standing joke that China itself would become democratic before Chinese Democracy was released. And yes, it's Banned in China. Showing that Tropes Are Not Bad, the album received mixed but generally positive reviews.
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  • Schedule Slip: The album was pushed back several times (to many an Obligatory Joke that literal democracy in China would happen before the album) before finally being released in 2008, 15 years after the band's last album.
  • Troubled Production: 11 years of development, millions of dollars spent, at least 11 musicians involved, and much pressure on getting the album released. The joke for much of that time was that actual Chinese democracy would likely come before the album was released.
    • After the extensive Use Your Illusion Tour wrapped, the band was unsure on their future. Their Cover Album The Spaghetti Incident? did not sell as well. To make matters worse, Axl Rose was still missing guitarist Izzy Stradlin, who was his primary songwriting partner and an old childhood friend. Stradlin had left in the midst of the last tour due to his recent sobriety and anger at Axl's behavior. He had been replaced by Gilby Clarke (though Izzy was brought back to some UYI concerts after Clarke injured himself). However, in the midst of this upheaval, Clarke was fired and Axl's old friend Paul Tobias was hired without consulting anyone else. Slash in particular hated Tobias, but Axl stood by him. The final straw came when a cover of "Sympathy for the Devil" for the Interview with the Vampire soundtrack had Tobias' guitar part mixed on top of Slash's. Slash officially quit two years later, but was pretty much done with the band at that point.
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    • The band did try to record a new album, but it never went anywhere. Axl and Slash both have stated that the other tried to take over all writing and have the other fired. Slash in particular has repeatedly stated that Axl took the rights to the Guns 'N' Roses name by force (refusing to go onstage until Slash and Duff signed the name over to him - which actually wouldn't work at all legally) and treated all members as session musicians. Axl denies this and claims he was the one repeatedly shut out and threatened with dismissal. He does own the rights to the name, but this was apparently after a complicated legal battle.
    • After Slash's departure, Nine Inch Nails guitar player Robin Finck was hired as the new lead guitarist. Tobias stayed on, but eventually drove drummer Matt Sorum and bassist Duff McKagan away. This left Axl and keyboardist Dizzy Reed as the last two members from the Use Your Illusion tour. Tommy Stinson of The Replacements, Chris Pitman, and Josh Freese joined the band around this time and officially started work on Chinese Democracy. However, after cycling through many different producers and recording for a full year, the band only released one song in 1999. That song,"Oh My God", was only ever featured on the soundtrack to End of Days and was not critically or commercially well received (eventually being left out of the finished album despite some live performances of the song).
    • Finck quit for the first time before 2000 to rejoin NIN. When he returned to the band, Buckethead had already been hired as a replacement. The two toured together starting in 2001, and they didn't get along, because Buckethead was mad that he had to "share the spotlight" with Finck. Freese also quit and was replaced by Bryan "Brain" Mantia of Primus.
    • Buckethead was also hard to work with in the studio. Among other things, he demanded a chicken coop be built for him to record his parts in and when a puppy had an accident in the studio, Buckethead demanded that the feces not be cleaned up as it gave him inspiration. He also tried watching hardcore pornography while recording until Rose forbade it. Also, after several festival performances, Paul Tobias announced he would stop touring with the band and was replaced by Richard Fortus. Tobias did remain as a recording partner of the band and still appears on several tracks on the finished album.
    • Despite these problems, the album was mostly finished by 2002, but a terrible performance at the 2002 VMAs and a North American tour that imploded after only half the promised dates had been performed set everything back. It's also rumored the album was rejected by the record label for not having any potential "hits."
    • The album was then tentatively set to be released in 2004, with an accompanying tour. Right before the tour was supposed to begin with a performance at the Rock in Rio festival, Buckethead left the band. Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal was hired to replace him in 2006 and would end up rerecording many of Buckethead's parts, while Frank Ferrer replaced Bryan Mantia on drums during the 2006 tour. (Mantia said it was because he wanted to take some time off to spend time with his newborn daughter.) The album again was to set to be released in 2006, but didn't happen due to the line up shift. However, a number of leaks from 1999-2006 came out that year.
    • Weeks before the album was finally released in 2008, lead guitarist Robin Finck again quit the band, which cancelled a hopeful tour. Axl Rose did zero promotion for the album for the next year, barring a few message board fan interviews. The band hired DJ Ashba (who played with Nikki Sixx in Sixx AM) as the new lead. A year after the album was released, the band continued the Chinese Democracy Tour (which had been going on since 2001) with a band that only had three contributing song writers left. To top it all off, the booklet and promotional materials were rife with errors and some have said the album was actually intended to be a TRIPLE album (Axl Rose has said he always thought of it as a double. Skid Row's Sebastian Bach claims to have heard four albums worth of material at one point). Instead, one record with the majority of the songs being nearly 10 years old was released with no further albums in sight. The band would continue to tour for Chinese Democracy until 2012. A whole decade of (mostly successful) touring on one album that took 12 years to be released as 1/3rd of the intended content. And that doesn't mention the multiple lawsuits, including one over plagiarized ambient music before a track (a track that was completed and performed live in 2002, yet had the offending sample added shortly before release in 2008), and a major one with a former manager of the band.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Axl intended this to be two albums with ten B-Sides, and then later expanded this to three albums. According to him, the band had thirty two songs they were actively working on by 2006. When the record did finally see the light of day, there were only fourteen songs on it. Supposedly he turned the follow up in around 2010, but it was rejected by the label.
    • At one point in the late 90s, Electronic Music Icon Moby was approached to produce the album. It certainly would have led to a total departure to what GNR's sound had been up until that point. But Moby felt he wasn't right for the group and left the project only offering Axl some advice to rent a small dingy studio in New York, record for a few days and then release it without pro tools and overdubbing, hoping to at least capture the sound and feel of their classic debut album Appetite for Destruction. Let's just say Axl did not like this suggestion and Chinese Democracy would continue to drag on and get even more bloated over time.


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