Even though Slash’s guitar playing was amazing from the jump, Axl’s unhinged snarl was edgier than what bands like Poison and Motley Crue were doing at the time. After the Appetite for Destruction tour wrapped, fans got a look at the real Axl Rose.
Ever since hitting it big, Axl has become one of the most difficult musicians to work with, whether he’s saying polarizing things to the press or being a pain in the ass to work with.
While he might hold all the rights to the name Guns N Roses, the reason he couldn’t hold onto his band was because of his never-ending penchant for drama.
Here are just a few examples of why people hate Axl Rose. Heis still an amazing frontman, but after seeing these play out, one can definitely see where the hate comes from.
Keeping His Audience Waiting
Typically, musicians prioritize their fans above everyone else. If you’re Axl though, entertaining a crowd seems to be the last thing on his mind.
Back in the Use Your Illusion days, Axl was known for ditching fans on almost every other show, either citing his vocal problems or just not going on until a specific hour of the night. Axl was known to keep people waiting for hours at a time before he actually performed, or deciding not to show up at all for some shows.
That waiting ended up taking its toll on the rest of the band, with Gilby Clarke saying (33:47) “you get to the show you have a cocktail, and then another cocktail. And by the time we went on we were hammered from sitting and drinking so much.” Granted, when Axl finally showed up to work, he killed it. He might be mellow these days, but in the early ‘90s, you were going to have to wait for King Axl.
‘One In a Million’
Guns N Roses have always gotten some pushback for the language they use in their songs. These guys were a gang on the streets of Hollywood, and they often sounded like it whenever Axl opened his mouth to sing. In the middle of their acoustic EP, Axl showed his bigoted colors on the track ‘One In a Million.’
Fans had issues with the lyrics, which feature racial and homophobic slurs that sound really sleazy coming out of Axl’s mouth. Even though Axl tried to defend by saying that his language wasn’t meant to reflect all black people, Slash took major offense to it saying (20:04)
“It struck a nerve with me because I’m half black. So he starts saying [racial slurs] around me, it becomes really unsettling.”
There’s a chance that Axl might have meant this as a satire song, but there’s probably more than a few people who listen to lyrics about immigrants who “think they’ll do as they please. Start some sort of mini-Iran, or spread some fucking disease” and take them deadly serious.
3 Chinese Democracy
After “The Spaghetti Incident?,” fans were waiting to see what the next chapter of Guns was going to be. Even if Slash and Duff weren’t in the band anymore, hope was still high that Axl could come through with something kickass for the next record. Then we waited…and waited…and waited some more.
While some bands take a while between albums, Axl is in another league, spending over a decade and millions of dollars putting together Chinese Democracy. Even though there were one-off tracks made like ‘O My God’ off of the End of Days soundtrack, the band was still in limbo until the album finally got released in 2008, 14 years after the last record dropped.
With all of that hype, fans were more than a little underwhelmed, as the album was a mess from song to song with a bloated run time. This may have gotten a better reception if it were an Axl Rose solo album, but after waiting that long for a new Guns project, this is not what fans wanted at all.
Calling Out His Bandmates Onstage
Axl Rose will always speak his mind, no matter who he pisses off. As Guns were on the brink of becoming huge, Axl let some of the band drama seep into their live performances.
During a tour opening for the Rolling Stones, Axl let it slip onstage that some of the band members were high on drugs and that they needed to get some help. Right before going into ‘Mr. Brownstone,’ Axl said (21:24) “if certain people don’t stop dancing with Mr. Brownstone, then this band will be over.”
Axl never said who it was, but Slash said that he knew it was directed at him because he was using heroin and getting fairly strung out when those concerts were happening. While both Slash and Axl may have gotten over their differences, it probably took a while to get over your own bandmate calling you a junkie.
Owning The Name
It was clear that Guns N Roses was in shambles during the Use Your Illusion tour. The venues were getting bigger, and the band self-medicated as much as they could. While Duff and Slash might have tried keeping themselves under control, Axl was taking advantage of their state.
In the middle of the tour, Axl presented the band an ultimatum: sign over the rights to the band name or they would break up on the spot. While the rest of the band had their issues with the agreement, Slash said, (27:46) “the band would have ended right then and there, so we did what we always did and kept the fucking thing going.”
The fans didn’t feel the effects of it until much later, when Axl assembled an entirely new version of Guns N Roses from scratch after everyone left, with the likes of Buckethead, Bumblefoot, and Robin Finck playing lead guitar at some point. With Slash and Duff out of the band, the touring act started to feel like a tribute band.
Making the Band Soft
Part of the appeal of Guns N Roses at the time was how dangerous they sounded. Axl had plans for the band’s future direction though, and it was far from dangerous.
Looking to change the band’s image, half of the Illusion records revolve around the piano, bringing in orchestral arrangements and keeping Slash’s guitar muted. Although the different styles work perfectly on ‘November Rain,’ the rest of the band was confused about catering to Axl’s singer-songwriter side with Matt Sorum saying (26:43), “I was sort of looking to join a badass rock and roll band. What’s with the piano?.”
Even though Axl is a great songwriter, going from the gutter punk sounds of ‘It’s So Easy’ to Elton John style ballads was bound to rub some fans the wrong way. Axl might have good instincts for what Guns should be, but when left by himself, we get the unnecessary pieces of the GNR catalog.
Guns N Roses always carried themselves like a gang. When the critics came calling though, Axl had a lot softer skin than most of us thought.
For all of the interviews that he did, Axl never really confronted any of the critics directly. Not one to take the high road, Axl decided that he would make one long diss track. On Use Your Illusion II, ‘Get in the Ring’ is Axl venting about what journalists say about him, including a middle section where he mentions a lot of them by name from Kerrang and Hit Parader.
The whole song builds to a weird fantasy sequence where Axl and the rest of Guns N Roses are in a boxing match and kick everyone’s ass who has ever talked shit about them. It’s one of the band’s most childish songs, showing how thin-skinned Axl could get.
His Dust Up With Nirvana
Both Nirvana and Guns N’ Roses killed hair metal, but they weren’t exactly on the best terms.
After sporting some Nirvana merch on the Use Your Illusion tour, Axl changed his tune when Kurt refused to to with them because of how misogynistic their lyrics were. From that point on, Axl saw Nirvana as his nemesis, including one moment where Kurt said “I asked Axl if he wanted to be the godfather of [Frances Bean] and he started pointing his finger at me. I haven’t been treated like that since I was in high school.”
No matter how Axl screamed about it, change was in the air, and Nirvana was about to become the biggest band in the world whether he liked it or not.
Kicking Out Fans for Wearing Slash Merch
Axl was never one to live in the shadow of his old band. With Slash out, he wanted the new iteration of the band to be the focus. When reminded of his old friends, let’s just say he didn’t have warm feelings about them.
When performing ‘It’s So Easy’ live in the ‘00s, Axl kicked a fan out from the stage just for wearing a shirt that had Slash’s picture on it saying, ‘Are you listening to me Mr. Security Man. That guy is gone.’ The humiliation wasn’t really enough for Axl, asking the fan to disrobe and give the shirt to him.
Seeing how Axl behaved is the musical equivalent of the jealous ex who sees their old flame out in public.
Not Saving the Day in Montreal
Guns N Roses’ joint tour with Metallica was doomed from the start. While both bands were at their peak of success, Axl’s antics were throwing a wrench into things both onstage and off. Once Metallica went off the rails though, Montreal fans weren’t going to roll over and take it.
After James Hetfield accidentally got burned in a pyrotechnic accident, Axl could have saved the day and played a blistering set. Axl’s voice was giving him trouble that day and chose the better option to leave the stage after a couple of songs. When Metallica came into their dressing room, Jason Newsted said (28:11)“Axl’s got a cigarette in one hand and a champagne glass in the other saying ‘My voice is giving me trouble.’ You probably shouldn’t be drinking or smoking.”
The crowd caused a riot, which left the band unable to go onstage. There’s no way to upstage a man that set himself on fire, but Axl didn’t want to be outdone. Metallica even took the whole thing in stride, with James saying (28:31) “we learned what not to do.”