Josh Freese Talks About ‘Chinese Democracy’
Drummer Josh Freese recently appeared on the ‘Let There Be Talk Podcast’ where the interviewer brought up his time with Axl Rose and Guns N’ Roses in the late 90’s. The interviewer brought up the two new recent tracks the band put out ‘Absurd’ and ‘Hard Skool.’ The interviewer asked Freese if he played on the tracks to which he responded:
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“Possibly. I mean, in the end, though, the only recording I think that exists of me playing drums for GN’R was a song that was used for a film about a year before the ‘Chinese Democracy’ album came out.
“It’s a song called ‘Oh My God,’ it’s the name of the track. I played drums on that.
“But when I left, Axl’s situation there, he got a new drummer, and to make him feel more of a part of the whole thing, he had him redo the drums.
“My feelings weren’t hurt, I didn’t care, but the interesting part is that, and I’d hear rumors about this, but then you can see online, Brain [Bryan Mantia, drums] talking.
“Brain tells a story, and I’d heard about it, but not until I saw him interviewed about it, I went, ‘Oh my god, this is true!’
“I guess when I left, they hired like a transcriber that worked for Sony Pictures, they did all the scores for their movies and whatever, and Axl was like, ‘I really like what Josh played, but I want your flavor on it.’
“So he had some guy map out every last note that I did, and Brain redid the drums, note for note.
“But for me, the thing I take away from the time that I spent with Axl that I’m proud of, and kind of in a funny way is, I wrote the song ‘Chinese Democracy,’ I wrote the music.
“And Axl wrote the lyrics and the melody, but so, still, to this day, I’ll walk into a room of people, sometimes it’s people I don’t even know, I’ll be backstage at a gig, and some people are talking, really animated about something, like, ‘What do you guys talk about?’
“They go ‘Dude, we’re talking about ‘Chinese Democracy.” And I go, ‘I wrote ‘Chinese Democracy…” They go, ‘Huh? The whole record?’ ‘No, no, no, the title track.’
“It’s the only thing I wrote on that record. Of course, it came out right when records weren’t selling anymore.
“I wish it came out in 1987 and not in 2007, but anyways, I like that I’ve got that co-write on that record, and it’s that track, it’s not like, ‘Well, it’s track No. 8,’ or something
“When they started doing gigs again with Slash and Duff, it might be the only song from the new Guns N’ Roses era, and I saw Axl, I hadn’t seen him in many, many years, I saw him the year they played Coachella…
“I ran into Axl over the weekend there, and he goes, ‘Hey man, we’re playing your song during the set.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ And he’s like, ‘Dude, you got to come out.’
“This is right when they first started doing the reunion shows. ‘You got to come out and guest on something.’
“I’m like, ‘Everyone in your band has my phone number. Slash’s got it, Duff’s [McKagan, bass] got it, Frank [Ferrer], your drummer’s got it, Melissa’s [Reese, keyboards] got it.’
“And I never heard from them, and that’s OK. You can call me this afternoon, I mean, that’s what’s fun about what we do, the optimism of it.
“My phone could, it might not ring for weeks or months with anything special…
“Or, I might get a call in five minutes saying, ‘Dude, David Bowie just came back to life and he wants you to play drums: Can you fly out? Axl’s sending a helicopter for you right now, can you come to do this thing tonight in Vegas?’, or whatever.
“Not knowing what’s possibly around the corner can be exciting.”