On New Years Day 2001 Guns N' Roses played their first shows in eight years, at Las Vegas's House of Blues. Two weeks later they performed another, at Rock in Rio III in Brazil.
Joining the entourage was Stone Temple Pilots, Poison and Cranberries roadie Joel Miller, who recounts the tale – and many more – in his book Memoir Of A Roadie (subtitled, "Axl said I made a great cup of tea, Scott Weiland liked The Carpenters, and Ozzy drinks Rosé.")
In this extract, Guns N' Roses are preparing for the first show, and Axl Rose is thirsty.
On the 27th everyone was back in the rehearsal studio and hitting the pavement hard. We all had to get ready for the New Year’s Eve show in Las Vegas. Everyone was nervous, including the guys in the band. Talk about a different vibe than STP.
That night I heard the songs Silkworms and Madagascar for the first time. I thought Madagascar was an awesome song. I didn’t know Axl knew how to play the guitar, but guitar in hand, while on stage, he showed the guys something he wanted to do while performing it.
I was getting excited again. Realizing my ignorance, I said aloud to myself, “of course he would know how to play guitar.” However, how many people ever got to see Axl with a guitar strapped over his shoulder in a rehearsal studio?
GNR was one of those bands that had a massive entourage. Cesar was trying to cut back expenses and get rid of as many of these hangers on as possible. For example, there was going to be a guy who flew to Rio with us to make Axl tea. His only job was to be the tea making guy. For whatever reason, he wasn’t able to make it this night, and so I was delegated to make Axl his tea. I was fine with that; I figured it would be a good way to get to know him better and maybe I wouldn’t get fired again.
That night Axl and I had our first conversation.
“Damn. You make a good cup of tea,” he said.
“Thanks, man,” I replied.
I asked him if he wanted anymore and he said no. That was our conversation. It was deep and meaningful, in fact, so deep the event might have been worthy of even being a book title.
Over the next few days I was, for the most part, the only one of the crew in the studio. I was spending roughly 20 hours a day there. I’d take naps on the couch when needed. Everyone was spending time with their families for Christmas. If anything needed to be done in the meantime, I would be the guy to sort it out for them.
On one of these days when it was real quiet, Axl unexpectedly strolled in with his assistant, her son, and I think his gardener. I was upstairs with Buckethead, the only other guy there at the time. I had been picking obscure songs to see if Buckethead knew how to play them. I hadn’t been able to stump the guy yet.
When Axl came in, I quickly ran back down the stairs just in case he needed anything. Buckethead stayed put on the upstairs couch.
“Oh, hey man how goes it?” Axl said.
“Good, need anything?” I asked.
“No, it’s cool,” he replied.
It was yet another deep conversation between the two of us. Our relationship was building so fast! The tea conversation had only been days before.
He sat down at the piano, and shortly thereafter began to play the song November Rain. I didn’t know why he had chosen to come to the studio or to play the song, but it was awesome. I watched on in awe, savouring the moment.
When the song finished, the phone rang. I picked it up and it was Cesar on the line. “Hey, Rif, I was calling to see if you were there. Go home and get some sleep. I’m flying in and we are going to have a long night. We are pulling an all-nighter.”
“Axl is here,” I said quietly over the phone.
“Oh yeah? What’s he doing there?” Cesar asked.
“He’s playing November Rain for his gardener,” I told Cesar.