We’re big fans of the new, improved Axl Rose – the likeable, charismatic guy who turns up onstage on time and holds his hands up when he turns in a sub-par performance.
But part of us misses the old Axl – the perma-bandana’d fist-swinging, shit-talking wildcat who shot first and asked questions later.
It’s that Axl who appeared in a now-legendary BBC documentary on heavy metal that aired way back in 1989. The doc, which was broadcast as part of a special night of programming dedicated to metal, featured interviews with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Jimmy Page, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich and Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson, who is filmed showing off his fencing skills.
There’s none of that sort of behaviour from Axl. Filmed in a Portacabin backstage at the previous year’s Monster Of Rock festival at Donington Park, just as Guns N’ Roses’ career trajectory was rocketing upwards, he was quizzed by an off-screen interviewer about some of the more established bands they were sharing the bill with – namely Kiss and Iron Maiden.
“I liked Kiss in their early days,” he replies. “I think the only thing we have in common with Kiss now is that they like to make money and they like girls… but basically their music is second fiddle to their other desires. Our music comes first.”
The singer reserves most of his snark for that year’s Monsters Of Rock headliners. Asked “Have you got anything in common with Iron Maiden?” a smirking Axl replies: “I hope not.”
“I mean, they’re nice guys,” he continues, “but it’s like political organisations… your band’s like a political thing. and your music or your album is kind of like your political stance.
“Theirs is completely different to ours, and I think theirs doesn’t have anything to do with rock ’n’ roll as far as I’m concerned.
“We’re a rock’n’roll band, and what they do is what they do: I don’t know what it is and I hope to never be like that.
“I hope it’s not catching,” he concludes, rubbing salt in the wound with a casual swig of his Coca Cola.
Where did the bad blood come from? Well, it probably originated with GN’R opening for Iron Maiden in Canada a couple of years earlier, when the LA band were reportedly unhappy at the fact they weren’t allowed to soundcheck.
Axl apparently didn’t endear himself to the headliners by mocking the French-speaking audiences, something which Maiden frontman Dickinson confirmed in a 2015 interview with Le Journal de Montréal.
“I should have come on-stage and given him a punch,” said Bruce. “How could he dare speak to my audience in that way? I always regretted not having done so.”
In Axl’s defence, he may have mellowed with age but his fondness for starting static has never really gone away. Except rather than aiming snark-bombs at other bands, these days he’s taking aim at Vladimir Putin. Say what you like about the man, but at least he’s consistent.
You can watch Axl’s highly amusing shit-talking from 4:05 onwards in the clip below.