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Brain lifts the lid on the crazy world of Guns N' Roses

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In his near 30-year career Bryan ‘Brain’ Mantia has had some unusual gigs - from the mad rock of Primus to scoring video games. But, surely none come close to his six-year stint behind the kit for Guns N’ Roses.

Brain’s induction into the band coincided with the band’s return and the start of the post-Slash/Duff/Sorum era. The next six years would see them write, record, but not release Chinese Democracy, the ridiculously delayed full follow-up to the Use Your Illusion albums. Unsurprisingly Brain has some killer stories from his time backing Axl and co. And here they are…

"We did the first show at Rock in Rio. We rehearsed for probably two or three months without Axl. Our first show’s Rock in Rio and I thought, ‘Wait, what’s it going to sound like with Axl? Where is Axl? Oh here’s his helicopter coming in.’ The first time I ever played a real show with him was in front of 250,000 people! I was thinking, ‘How’s this song supposed to start again?’ Because some he was supposed to cue but we never had a verbal conversation on whether he would or I!

"You look to your left and there was the Foo Fighters, Oasis and Sting! We were headlining that day and everybody was anxious to see what we were going to do because Axl had put this motley group of people together"

"They had recorded a bunch of stuff and Josh Freese had recorded a lot of stuff. I think he recorded 90% of the drumming on the 25-30 tunes that were floating around. When I came it was right when they got [producer] Roy Thomas Baker. He was coming from Queen, The Cars, Journey, more the rock thing. He said we had to go re-record the drums because they sounded very industrial.

"We literally drove in his green Rolls Royce around LA and we picked up from every drum company probably every famous drum and tried out every drum. We had them ship it to The Village in LA where we were recording.

"We set up all the drums and I said, ‘This is the Guns N Roses album, we need a vibe’ and there was a temple upstairs that people used to do their speeches in. We went up there and it was a mini auditorium. As soon as I put drums up there and hit them I said, ‘Oh s***, this is the vibe’. They ran cords up there and eventually [then Guns guitarist] Bucket[head] set his chicken coop up there and that’s where he recorded. Bucket and I would look at each other and he’d been in the chicken coop with the wire and he brought in hay. We were up there for three years recording."

"Axl is a perfectionist. Josh [Freese], who is one of my favourite drummers, had already recorded some beautiful tracks but they didn’t have the sound. They were very digital sounding, there wasn’t a lot of air moving, they were electronic sounding. Axl liked some of the parts so he asked if I could play what Josh did but in my feel. He wanted me to replay it note for note.

"So I thought if they want that somebody’s going to have to transcribe this. I made some calls and went over to Sony I went over there and dropped off a handful of CDs and they transcribed it. They set it up on a teleprompter, I learned it and recorded it note for note. After that Axl was like, ‘Now do it your way!’ I think what came out on the album was a hybrid of a little of Josh and what I did."

"There was another room with literally 30 snare drums lined up, 15 kick drums, cymbals stacked up like a music store and it’d literally be, ‘This one looks cool, let’s try it with this’. We’d just play some beats and see how it sounded.

"There was no time constraints, there was nothing. I don’t think anybody was keeping track of it. I was going, ‘I don’t know who’s paying for this, or what’s going on but I don’t really care because I get to come here and f*** off in one of the best studios in the world with some of the best drums and some of the best recording gear, everybody talks s*** about Axl and Guns N Roses but this is killer for me!’

"Towards the end we probably came up with one kit that sounded pretty solid and we’d just change out the snare. ‘I’m Sorry’ was more the Pink Floyd thing so I think I used a bigger kick, a 24" or a 26", on ‘There Was A Time’ we used a 22", we were just experimenting. We were having a ball, me and my drum tech. We would try something, record it and send the CD to Axl. He’d check it out and saying, Yeah that’s cool’, or sometimes he’d come in but his hours are pretty crazy so he’d come in at four in the morning and listen."

[Axl’s] always treated me really good. Even when I left and Frank [Ferrer, current GN’R drummer, pictured above] took over because I was having a kid, they were pretty accommodating. I think Axl was a little freaked out with another drummer coming in but I did it, he let me do it and it was kind of my decision not to come back because I was getting into other stuff like producing and film soundtracks.

"But I’m still doing stuff, I’ve done some remixes for him. He’s always been good with me. I know he’s got his reputation and I’ve seen it and that’s what makes him Axl Rose. He’s running the whole ship. He’s got a lot of pressure and there’s a lot of freaks trying to take s*** from him.

"He was trying at one point even on this last tour, he was calling saying, ‘Hey, would you want to do a double drumming type thing where you play all of the new songs, Chinese which are a little more technical and let Frank do more of the rock stuff from the older days’. I was considering it. I don’t know if Frank wanted to do that and I didn’t want to put him in that position. And I didn’t know if I wanted to do the Grateful Dead thing with two drummers.

"But he was talking about having this rotating drums thing where it’s, ‘Hey, ok we’re playing ‘I’m Sorry’ from Chinese, the drum thing twirls and Brain’s playing, ok we’re playing ‘Welcome To The Jungle’, it twirls back and Frank’s playing’. It never rolled, I’m not sure they had the budget and Frank might not have been 100% into that. He’s the drummer now and I felt weird about that."

Source: Music Radar

Edited by Manets

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Interesting article Manets. I wonder what he meant by, "He’s got a lot of pressure and there’s a lot of freaks trying to take s*** from him."

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The two drummers idea would've been a cool thing to see, Brain also mentions 'I’m Sorry was more the Pink Floyd thing' could that be an unreleased song or am i just jumping to conclusions

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The two drummers idea would've been a cool thing to see, Brain also mentions 'I’m Sorry was more the Pink Floyd thing' could that be an unreleased song or am i just jumping to conclusions

I'm guessing it was just a working title for "Sorry".

Cool interview.

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The two drummers idea would've been a cool thing to see, Brain also mentions 'I’m Sorry was more the Pink Floyd thing' could that be an unreleased song or am i just jumping to conclusions

He is talking about sorry bc that has a pink floyd vibe

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The two drummers idea would've been a cool thing to see, Brain also mentions 'I’m Sorry was more the Pink Floyd thing' could that be an unreleased song or am i just jumping to conclusions

He is talking about sorry bc that has a pink floyd vibe

I've listened to Sorry and i know i'll get shit for sayin that it's one of my favourite tracks from Chinese Democracy,

but i don't think it has a Pink Floyd vibe to it all

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Sorry is an amazing song, you shouldn't get shit from anyone for liking it.

It has great lyrics and a very cool dark vibe. It grows live, and I must say it was one of the highlights of Rock in Rio last year to me, I noticed Axl was really into the song.

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Has to be in my top 3 aswell.. I switch betweem Catcher, Sorry, TWAT, TIL, Prostitute, SOD... :)

Chinese was not a great album, but its not half bad either.. It lacked a bit of "where its at" production wise, and needed a bit more work on a few songs, but there is some really good stuff there..

Thanks for posting this btw. - I was most fascinated by him touching on Axl's temper and his "thats just the way he is" comment, not that he should have gotten more into it.. But the rest is not that interesting for me.. :)

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Guest Morpheus88

Most songs on Chinese Democracy are great Better, The Blues, TWAT, CITR, Sorry, IRS, Madagascar,TIL and Prostitude are among best songs Guns ever did self tittled could be better without that stupid unnecessary intro production blows though cluttered, disjointed all life and soul are sucked out of songs album does n`t flow well it sounds like a compilation record or greatest hits collection

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Guest Morpheus88

Josh and Brain are amazing drummers too bad Axl underused them both why the fuck would you want Josh`s parts being rerecorded by someone or why the fuck would you want drummer like Brain rerecord someone else`s parts Axl is insane

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I agree.. Axl needs to let the band in on tracklisting and things, because he is really not making good decisions.. You can sort of feel how Axl's attention for detail and little quirks has grown throughout the albums. Its great in small doses and he has a real gift of melody in every sense of the word, but an album needs the basics too and thats simply gone from this.. It seems like Axls ambition sort of paralyze the flow of the record..

I like the intro, its just a little too long..

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I agree.. Axl needs to let the band in on tracklisting and things, because he is really not making good decisions.. You can sort of feel how Axl's attention for detail and little quirks has grown throughout the albums. Its great in small doses and he has a real gift of melody in every sense of the word, but an album needs the basics too and thats simply gone from this.. It seems like Axls ambition sort of paralyze the flow of the record..

I like the intro, its just a little too long..

Axl should have stepped down from producer duties he`s an amazing musician but godawful producer

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I agree.. Axl needs to let the band in on tracklisting and things, because he is really not making good decisions.. You can sort of feel how Axl's attention for detail and little quirks has grown throughout the albums. Its great in small doses and he has a real gift of melody in every sense of the word, but an album needs the basics too and thats simply gone from this.. It seems like Axls ambition sort of paralyze the flow of the record..

I like the intro, its just a little too long..

Axl should have stepped down from producer duties he`s an amazing musician but godawful producer

I totally agree with this, he's not got the ear for production.

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I agree.. Axl needs to let the band in on tracklisting and things, because he is really not making good decisions.. You can sort of feel how Axl's attention for detail and little quirks has grown throughout the albums. Its great in small doses and he has a real gift of melody in every sense of the word, but an album needs the basics too and thats simply gone from this.. It seems like Axls ambition sort of paralyze the flow of the record..

I like the intro, its just a little too long..

Axl should have stepped down from producer duties he`s an amazing musician but godawful producer

I totally agree with this, he's not got the ear for production.

That is why the leaked versions are way better because it was before Axl was the producer (which was the last album versions we got)

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I agree.. Axl needs to let the band in on tracklisting and things, because he is really not making good decisions.. You can sort of feel how Axl's attention for detail and little quirks has grown throughout the albums. Its great in small doses and he has a real gift of melody in every sense of the word, but an album needs the basics too and thats simply gone from this.. It seems like Axls ambition sort of paralyze the flow of the record..

I like the intro, its just a little too long..

Axl should have stepped down from producer duties he`s an amazing musician but godawful producer

So maybe Slash was right when he said the raw tracks for the UYI albums kicked ass before Axl got his hands on them.............................

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I agree.. Axl needs to let the band in on tracklisting and things, because he is really not making good decisions.. You can sort of feel how Axl's attention for detail and little quirks has grown throughout the albums. Its great in small doses and he has a real gift of melody in every sense of the word, but an album needs the basics too and thats simply gone from this.. It seems like Axls ambition sort of paralyze the flow of the record..

I like the intro, its just a little too long..

Axl should have stepped down from producer duties he`s an amazing musician but godawful producer

So maybe Slash was right when he said the raw tracks for the UYI albums kicked ass before Axl got his hands on them.............................

UYI albums are great as they are that being said would love to hear raw tracks

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Yeah, no need to get the uyi's involved.. Only thing is Izzys parts and we all know slash was turning the mix up on hos end, and that izzy was uninterested and sort of left all of it.. That said, illusions are fantastic records with great production.

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Axl's production ability was called into question and we know he did work on the UYI albums which Slash disagreed wuth so it is relevant to the discussion...I am not saying UYI is bad just that maybe they could have been better....

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Axl's production ability was called into question and we know he did work on the UYI albums which Slash disagreed wuth so it is relevant to the discussion...I am not saying UYI is bad just that maybe they could have been better....

Yeah UYIs would have been much better if Izzy was n`t drowned in the mix as we know Slash overdubbed most of Izzy`s tracks plus Matt`s drums are too loud on some songs and there are few duds on those albums

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Axl's production ability was called into question and we know he did work on the UYI albums which Slash disagreed wuth so it is relevant to the discussion...I am not saying UYI is bad just that maybe they could have been better....

Yeah UYIs would have been much better if Izzy was n`t drowned in the mix as we know Slash overdubbed most of Izzy`s tracks plus Matt`s drums are too loud on some songs and there are few duds on those albums

Izzy checked out on the UYI sessions early on which is a shame as his playing was the perfect counterpoint to Slash's so having him in the mix could have been an improvement just as eliminating the keyboards and synthesizers Axl added might have been...But we may never know as I doubt we will ever hear the raw demos before they were monkeyed with............

Concerning Axl as a producer considering how many outside producers he burned though making ChiDem and what a productoin mess it turned out to be it is too bad he doesn't turn these duties over to someone else and just concentrate on writing the music.....

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Axl's production ability was called into question and we know he did work on the UYI albums which Slash disagreed wuth so it is relevant to the discussion...I am not saying UYI is bad just that maybe they could have been better....

Yeah UYIs would have been much better if Izzy was n`t drowned in the mix as we know Slash overdubbed most of Izzy`s tracks plus Matt`s drums are too loud on some songs and there are few duds on those albums

Izzy checked out on the UYI sessions early on which is a shame as his playing was the perfect counterpoint to Slash's so having him in the mix could have been an improvement just as eliminating the keyboards and synthesizers Axl added might have been...But we may never know as I doubt we will ever hear the raw demos before they were monkeyed with............

Concerning Axl as a producer considering how many outside producers he burned though making ChiDem and what a productoin mess it turned out to be it is too bad he doesn't turn these duties over to someone else and just concentrate on writing the music.....

Agree he should focus on writing music and hand producing duties over to professional producer why he did n`t ask Mike Clink to produce CD is beyond me he is n`t Trent Reznor for the record keyboards and synthesizers don`t bother me much they worked on majority of songs I could do without synth overdub on Perfect Crime and Garden of Eden but it is what it is

Edited by Morpheus88

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I agree largely with you both.. Only thing is that Axl did alot for AFD in terns of uniqueness. I dont think the UYIs suffered.. I think that CD suffered from Axls vision and lack of structure which is a shame.. But the man was absolutely pivotal to everything those past records did.. Something that Slash has not forgotten either..

Both were great musicians.. Albeit a bit larger than life in the end.. A shame Izzy opted out, but I dont think slashs one take mentality and super raw mixing would benefit the records either.

In my point of view Slash was the rawness, Axl the finess and detail.. You can see it in their respective solo work, and without each other they just won't perfect anyrhing again.

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I agree largely with you both.. Only thing is that Axl did alot for AFD in terns of uniqueness. I dont think the UYIs suffered.. I think that CD suffered from Axls vision and lack of structure which is a shame.. But the man was absolutely pivotal to everything those past records did.. Something that Slash has not forgotten either..

Both were great musicians.. Albeit a bit larger than life in the end.. A shame Izzy opted out, but I dont think slashs one take mentality and super raw mixing would benefit the records either.

In my point of view Slash was the rawness, Axl the finess and detail.. You can see it in their respective solo work, and without each other they just won't perfect anyrhing again.

I`m not saying that Axl ruined UYI albums on the contrary without his contributions albums would suck ass he was 40 % of Guns but there are certain details that could be better if they had functioned as a band during recording Illusions same goes to CD Axl`s sophisticated songwriting and Slash raw powerful guitar playing made Guns such an amazing band add Izzy`s and Duff`s contributions and you have a perfection there are amazing ballads on Chinese but not enough good rockers

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