Guns N’ Revolvers: Axl’s Feud with Scott Weiland
While Slash and Duff are suing Axl and he’s countersuing them, their new band Velvet Revolver is riding high. This leads to a bitter war of words with Scott Weiland.
Let’s look back at the spats between GN’R and Velvet Revolver in 2005. Here’s an exclusive excerpt from our just published Last of the Giants: The True Story of Guns N’ Roses by Mick Wall.
On tour in June 2005, Scott Weiland caused a minor stir in Germany, where the media accused him of wearing Nazi regalia on stage, an illegal act. Vigorously denying any Nazi sympathies, Weiland responded to the allegations by saying, “The Nazi SS hat that I wear in fact symbolizes the loss of democracy and the shift to totalitarianism. One could make an argument that indeed the Government of the US is evolving into, or is already, a fascist police state, hiding under the guise of a republic.” While nobody who knew him would ever mistake Weiland for a Nazi sympathizer, his explanation hung heavy from the weight of the sort of lazily contrived anti-authoritarianism one would expect to hear at a teenage punk show.
The RIAA certified Contraband as double-platinum in July, with the band latching on to the Ozzfest tour for August and September. Celebrations were soon quietened when Matt broke his hand in a water-skiing accident in August. He posted the following statement to fans: “Just wanted to say to all the fans that came to see Velvet Revolver on the last leg of the tour, including Ozzfest, how sorry I am that I couldn’t make it. It was very hard for me to sit on the sidelines while my band went out on the road without me. But it’s what they had to do and with my blessing. It was just a week before the tour when I went to my Mom’s house on Lake Havasu near the Colorado River. I was water skiing when I had a freak fall on the water skis by getting tangled in the ski rope and being dragged.” The band brought in a former Ozzy Osbourne drummer, Brian Tichy, to handle Matt’s commitments until he himself had to leave for a tour with Billy Idol. The band then hired Mark Schulman, formerly the drummer with Simple Minds, for the remainder of their Ozzfest tour.
August would also prove contentious for other reasons. Later that month, Slash and Duff filed a suit against Axl in the federal court, alleging that Axl had changed the publisher of GN’R’s copyrighted songs and kept the royalties for himself. Earlier in the year, Axl had negotiated a multi-million-dollar deal with the Sanctuary Group—Axl’s new management, following the departure of Doug Goldstein—for the rights to GN’R’s back catalogue. Although this deal was reported by the press, Slash and Duff claimed that they had not been clued in to the details and argued that Axl had “omitted and concealed” the scope of his dealings. It was their position that they weren’t aware of the scope of the deal until their royalty checks stopped arriving. The lawsuit read: “Suffering an apparent attack of arrogance and ego . . . Rose recently decided that he is no longer willing to acknowledge the contributions of his former partners and bandmates in having created some of rock’s greatest hits.” Duff’s lawyer, Glen Miskel, explained, “When the ASCAP check didn’t come, we called and they looked into it. We didn’t know all the facts at first.”
Yet while aggressively confronting Axl in the courts, in public, Slash still wore his chill, confrontation-avoiding persona. In February 2006, Slash said that he’d “always been supportive” of his old singer and that he was as excited as anybody for the release of Chinese Democracy. If Slash offered such comments as something of an olive branch, Axl wasn’t having it. A month later, Axl filed a countersuit against Slash and Duff to clarify the property rights surrounding the copyrighted material in the GN’R back catalogue. Sanctuary issued an utterly scathing statement that branded Slash as “a consummate press, photo and media opportunist and manipulator” who “has attacked Axl Rose on a number of levels.” The statement additionally alleged that “Slash has continually made negative and malicious statements about Axl [in the press] in order to garner publicity for himself,” further accusing Duff and Slash of making “numerous false allegations about Axl . . . [and that] Mr Rose believes that once apprised of the true facts, the judge or jury deciding these lawsuits will rule in Axl’s favor on every issue before them.” The statement went on to allege that Slash and Duff’s lawsuit “attacks [Axl’s] integrity as Slash and Duff, in a vindictive attempt to aggrandize their own stature, rewrite history through false statements, which have been repeated by the media. Their attacks on Axl stand in sharp contrast to Rose’s conduct. Axl has at all times worked diligently to maintain the artistic integrity of the band by choosing with great care which properties to license Guns N’ Roses songs to.”
In true scorched-earth fashion, the statement went on to claim that Slash had turned up at Axl’s house in October to offer a truce. According to Sanctuary’s statement, “Slash came to inform Axl that ‘Duff was spineless,’ ‘Scott [Weiland] was a fraud,’ that he ‘hates Matt Sorum’ and that in this ongoing war, contest or whatever anyone wants to call it that Slash has waged against Axl for the better part of 20 years, that Axl has proven himself ‘the stronger.’ Axl regrets having to spend time and energy on these distractions, but he has a responsibility to protect the Guns N’ Roses legacy and expose the truth,” the statement continued. “Axl believes he has been left with no alternative but to respond to these lawsuits. It would have been Axl’s preference to resolve disputes with Slash and Duff in private. The courthouse is not his choice of forum. However, Axl could no longer sit quietly and allow the continuing dissemination of falsehoods and half-truths by his former bandmates.”
Never one to knowingly walk away from a fight, Weiland weighed in with an open letter to Axl that read: “Get in the ring. Go to the gym, motherfucker, or if you prefer, get a new wig, motherfucker. I think I’ll resist the urge to ‘stoop’ to your level. Oh shit, here it comes, you fat, Botox-faced, wig-wearing fuck! Okay, I feel better now.” Then he continued: “Don’t think for a second we don’t know where those words came from. Your unoriginal, uncreative little mind—the same mind that had to rely on its bandmates to write melodies and lyrics. Who’s the fraud now, bitch? Damn, I couldn’t imagine people writing for me. How many albums have you put out, man, and how long did it take the current configuration of this so-called ‘band’ to make this album? How long? And without the only guys that validated the name.
“How dare you! Shame on you! How dare you call our bass player ‘spineless’? We toured our album over a year and a half. How many shows have you played over the last ten years? Oh, that’s right—you bailed out on your long-awaited comeback tour, leaving your remaining fans feeling, shall we say, a trifle miffed?! I won’t even list what I’ve accomplished because I don’t need to. What we’re talking about here is a frightened little man who once thought he was king, but unfortunately this king without his court is nothing but a memory of the asshole he once was.”
Many months later, Beta Lebeis told the official GN’R website the following: “I was the one whom Slash spoke with when he came to Axl’s house in [October] 2005 and expressed his negative comments regarding the others in his new band.” She went on: “Behind the scenes it is a very different story than what the public is told.” Forced to respond, Slash now admitted in an interview with New Jersey’s Home News Tribune that, yes, he had visited Axl’s home in an effort to call a truce. “I actually did go to Axl’s house at one point, but I never saw him. I never talked to him. I left a note with his person over there having to do with the lawsuit that we were in. I don’t know how it got turned into what it got turned into.”