Former Guns N’ Roses Drummer Bryan “Brain” Mantia Talks Axl Rose, Chinese Democracy & The Reunion!

Former Guns N’ Roses Drummer Bryan “Brain” Mantia Appears on Podcast

Former Guns N’ Roses Drummer Brain appeared on the Appetite for Distortion podcast this past week. During the chat he talked a lot about Axl Rose, the recording of Chinese Democracy, performing with Melissa Reese and even seeing the Not In This Lifetime Tour!

I’ve summarized the discussion below. The interview was about 2 hours, but Brain doesn’t appear to talk about Guns N’ Roses until number two.

  • Brain admitted that he initially wasn’t a huge fan of keyboards in rock music.
  • Brain said he regretted leaving Guns N’ Roses since he had a great time playing with the band. He’s still close with people in the camp and he could’ve been playing with Slash and Duff if he hadn’t left.
  • Brain saw Guns N’ Roses on the Not In This Lifetime Tour. He went to a rehearsal met Duff and Slash for the first time. He said he’s really close with Del James.
  • Brain said before he joined Guns N’ Roses he met Josh Freese who at that time (1998) just joined Guns N’ Roses and signed a non-disclosure agreement. He tried talking to Josh about the gig and he couldn’t discuss it.
  • Josh Freese apparently called Buckethead and asked him to try out for Guns N’ Roses. Buckethead met Axl, hung out and did some jamming with them. Axl Rose was aying that he wanted to change the sound of Guns N’ Roses to do something different and Buckethead was into the idea. Buckethead liked Axl Rose and decided to join Guns N’ Rses
  • One day Brain called Buckethead to see how things were going and Buckethead told Brain that Josh Freese had just quit. Buckethead suggested that Brain should audition to be Guns N’ Roses new drummer. Axl Rose had already seen Brain play. Tommy Stinson called Brain and was acting kind of like a jerk saying that everyone wants the drummer gig in Guns N’ Roses. He mentioned Kenny Aronoff (John Mellencamp’s Drummer) was interested in the gig. Tommy initially was a bit rude to Brain until he found that Brain played with Tom Waits. After that Tommy started being cool with Brain.
  • Brain wasn’t sure if he wanted to audition for Guns N’ Roses and learn their songs. This took Guns N’ Roses management by surprise. Brain got another call from Guns N’ Roses management to come jam on some songs they had written for Chinese Democracy. Guns N’ Roses management booked him a first class ticket to Los Angeles, a Mercedes picked him up and they went to Rumbo studios.
  • Brain said the first guy he met was Robin and then Producer Sean Beaven. Chris Pittman was also there. When Brain started to jam with Guns N’ Roses, Axl showed up in the control room. Brain said Axl had a presence and was super cool. Axl basically offered Brain the job. Axl even told Brain he could play with Primus and other bands, but that Guns N’ Roses was to come first.
  • Once Brain joined the band attention turned to Rock in Rio 3 (2001). The band had three months to rehearse and Axl only showed up once to sing a few lines. Brain said he was really nervous for Rock in Rio and screwed up You Could Be Mine. He said Axl shot him a dirty look when he made the mistake, but claimed Axl screwed up the song.
  • Brain went on to talk about playing the songs off Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion records. He said certain songs like Out Ta Get Me always gave him trouble and that he loved Steven Adler’s drumming. He said Matt Sorum was a great drummer, but his drumming was easy to replicate since Matt was pretty much a “Drum Machine”. He also said Matt’s drumming song to song didn’t change very much.
  • Brain said his favourite song was Rocket Queen, especially the outro.
  • When Brain joined the band he revealed that 80% of the songs on Chinese Democracy were done, but Axl wanted him to redo all the drum tracks that Josh had previously done. Axl wanted Brain to play the songs note for note but with his own feel. Brain decided to get the songs transcribed so he could drum along to the music charts.
  • Brain said he had a love-hate relationship with Chinese Democracy. He said Buckethead played great on the album.
  • Brain also revealed that Axl has a really good ear for the drums. He can tell when even one kick drum sound is missing.
  • Brain also talked about the reunion show he saw and that Axl is always striving to do more. He said Axl wanted to play an additional five minutes longer the following night so Guns N’ Roses could almost play a four hour show.
  • Brain said him and Buckethead wrote Sorry and Shackler’s Revenge instrumentally.
  • He revealed that is was difficult for Buckethead to deal with two other guitarists since they had to split parts.
  • Brain revealed that when he was working on Chinese Democracy it was like living in a bubble. He wasn’t aware about all the jokes about the album never coming out. It wasn’t until he went on tour in Europe with Tom Waits that Guns N’ Roses fans came up to him and started asking him about the album. Brain thought it was ridiculous how the long the album took to come out.
  • He revealed that he came up with the name Hookers and Blow, not Dizzy Reed. Brain used to joke after each show that he was going to do both of them.
  • Brain said that he played some shows with Buckethead and that Buckethead is doing well as long as he takes his heart medication. He also said Buckethead has some side effects to deal with from his medication. He was hoping to do some west coast shows, but that’s still up in the air.
  • Brain said he had arranged for Frank Ferrer to take his place when he took a month off to be with his new child. Brain came back for five or six more shows but he was done with Guns after that. He decided he didn’t want to play drums anymore and he even got calls from Korn and a few other bands to come on the road but he turned them down. He said he wanted to get into composing and didn’t leave Guns N’ Roses because of any personality differences.
  • Caram Costanzo took over producing duties after Roy Thomas Baker left. Brain talked about doing some remixes on the Chinese Democracy songs. He said some of those remixes he played at a few NBA Halftime shows with Melissa Reese. He said Axl said it was okay to play the remixes. There’s still several other songs Brain played on that he wasn’t sure whether they will be released or not.
  • Brain talked about working with Melissa Reese on new music separately from Guns. Brain and Caram both introduced Melissa to Guns after Chris Pittman left.

Check out the remixes of the Chinese Democracy Songs that Brain did with Melissa Reese below!