The most unpredictable period of Guns N’ Roses was witnessed by Bryan “Brain” Mantia. Here’s How It Actually Was


unknown legends

The Unknown Legends segment of the Rolling Stone interview series involves in-depth discussions between senior writer Andy Greene and seasoned artists who have long histories of performing and recording with legends. All are well-known in their respective fields, although others are less well-known in general society. These musicians share their experiences here, providing a close-up view of life on the A list of the music industry. Bryan Brain Mantia, a drummer, is featured in this episode.

To compare the 2002 Chinese Democracy tour by Guns N’ Roses to the 2004 Real Gone tour by Tom Waits would almost be absurd. The GNR tour was canceled less than halfway through due to the pandemonium surrounding the gigs, including an riot in Philadelphia where the band failed to appear on stage. The band was touring behind a wildly anticipated record that wouldn’t be released in stores for another six years. Waits, on the other hand, performed 11 intimate performances in small theaters across Europe and North America, and each one went off without a hitch.

Bryan Brain Mantia, a journeyman drummer who has also kept the beat with Primus, Serj Tankian, Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell, Buckethead, and others, was the drummer for these two early 2000s tours.

Mantia first became interested in drumming at the age of 16 while pursuing his dream of being a professional skateboarder. As a young boy in Northern California, he was fascinated to the old-school funk he heard on the radio. He soon developed a taste for complex jazz and fusion groups like Miles Davis’ Seventies combinations and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. With a few notable exceptions, such as the night in the summer of 1977 when he saw Led Zeppelin’s final U.S. show at the Oakland Coliseum, rock played a less significant role in his life. As Mantia explains, “there was just mayhem, and that kind of helped when I got in Guns.” My brain had become accustomed to the pandemonium. Ah, shit, I thought. You arrived late, and that’s cool, right? They were inventing justifications, such as Jimmy Page’s guitar not working. They appeared to be only fighting backstage..

With current GNR keyboardist/backup singer Melissa Reese, Mantia has shifted his concentration over the past decade or so since leaving Guns to writing music for films, television shows, and video games. (Our 2020 Melissa Reese story will include further information on their collaboration.) He was working on their most recent Call of Duty production when he boarded Zoom from his native Cupertino, California. According to him, it’s like a billion-dollar game or something. The budget is very large. We exert every effort. Additionally, he just finished scoring a TV pilot with Reese and playing drums in a brand-new Predator film.

They’re excellent shows, but Mantia admits to missing the unpredictable thrills of GNR during the Chinese Democracy era, particularly his extended time spent in the recording studio with Axl Rose on the almost mythical LP. And he’s willing to tell some of his craziest behind-the-kit tales. I genuinely believe that “Axl” sets high standards for himself and wants everything to be perfect, Mantia explains. I really like that portion of it.

When you briefly joined Primus in the late 1980s, you got your first break in the music business. How did that come about?

Joe Gore, a journalist for Guitar Player, was there. He had a strong interest in music. He played in a Worldbeat band in the Bay Area, and he introduced me to the record Ice Cream and Suckers, which Paul Simon essentially plagiarized for Graceland. I thought, “Wait a minute, that bass line is literally from Ice Cream and Suckers.”

I’m performing with Big City, his band, when this guy walks in. It was Les, but Les “Claypool” will certainly hate me for stating so. He’s got my drums on him. Basically, he is my roadie. {Laughs.} Hey, I’ve got a band too, he says. It is known as Primus. Yeah, sure, buddy, I said. similar to all roadies

You’ve got to check out this band, the band’s guitar player stated as he approached. They really are deadly. I visited Berkeley Square and took a look around. Oh, shit, I thought. This person is at a higher level. I went and jammed a few times as a result. However, I continued to skateboard. I then fractured my foot. They ultimately obtained Tim “Alexander.” Tim performed admirably. For years and years, they went out and did their thing.

After that, when they had really grown in popularity, I was working in Los Angeles conducting sessions and programming. Les answers the phone when it suddenly rings. We’re doing quite well right now, he says. Want to play sometime? I said, “Yeah.” I’m not acting stupid. Do it now.

How about Praxis, the group you were a part of at the time with Bernie Worrell, Bootsy Collins, and Bill Laswell?

Praxis began while I was a member of the Limbomaniacs, a band. The records that Bill Laswell produced for Manu Dibango, Herbie Hancock, and Public Image Ltd. were among our favorites. Bill Laswell was our absolute favorite. Our management suggested that we contact him. We traveled to New York, where we made a recording at Platinum Island. It was outstanding.

At that point, Buckethead appeared.

Joe Gore introduced me to Buckethead. At Guitar Player, he bought a VHS tape. He said, “Brain, you’ve got to check this person out.” I think you two would get along. When I checked it out, he was basically soloing while lying on a bed, and the emcee said, “David Letterman, you’ve got to get Buckethead in the band.” I said, “This is ridiculous!”

When I was in New York for the Limbo album, I obtained the VHS tape. One day the phone rang as I was relaxing at home with my folks. Bill answered. I want to work on this record with some of the Jungle Brothers, Af Next Man Flip, Bernie Worrell from Parliament/Funkadelic, who I was a tremendous fan of, as well as Bootsy and Buckethead, he stated. I questioned, “Really?”

He sent me some travel tickets and invited me to record in New York. He was one of my heroes, and I played on his equipment. I thought, “Oh my God!” This is how Praxis came to be. We just jammed through that first album, Transmutation.

Suddenly, you’re sharing the stage alongside some of the greatest musicians in music history. Better than Bernie or Bootsy is hard to find. Yes. I initially assumed it was a prank when it first began. Then I thought, “This is the bass Jimi Hendrix, the flipping Jimi Hendrix.” Right? Then those funk-filled lads bring it to a close. true to its word.

I definitely had the feeling that I was the odd one out. This is as a result of Bucket’s shtick. What is going on with this guy? asked Bootsy. With the mask, Bucket had his complete thing. Along with his toys, he was making noises with this enormous robot. I distinctly recall feeling unsure about my place in this.

Bill once passed by as I was waiting to play there. He is the most cool dude. Like Batman, he is. He seldom ever spoke. He simply spoke in my ear. Play the drums like you’re going to kill someone, he simply instructed. I then exclaimed, “Fuck, I got it.”

What did you think about Buckethead when you first met him? How did he behave? It sounded like, “Here’s another genuine guy.” And I wasn’t certain that I was a genuine guy. I continued to conduct sessions. I was still making advertisements for suntan lotion and dealing with producers who were really L.A.-centric and very much liked the “uncool voice”; okay, we have to repeat this ten times so that it’s perfect.

Bucket wasn’t a frequent user. Bernie wasn’t in Letterman’s band, in my opinion, because he was simply too real. Bernie, you’re late, it said. You must arrive on time. Bernie Worrell here. I have absolutely nothing to do!

Likewise, Bucket was the real deal. He continues to send me music to this day. I almost always find a solo on my phone when I first wake up. Hello, man. I believe I’m accelerating! mimics a wild guitar sound. All of the men “in Praxis” were experiencing it. That was no joke.

How did you initially come across Tom Waits?

That one originated with Les “Claypool.” One day he contacted me and said, “Tom Waits needs a drummer.” I was foolishly uninformed about songwriting. All I cared about when it came to drumming was improving at that, fusion, and how many different strange times I could play in. I was so caught up in my own little narcissistic image of drums.

I had no idea who Tom Waits was when Les stated it. I responded “OK” when he told that Tom Waits was looking for a drummer. He responds, “No, bro.” I don’t believe you comprehend. To play with him, people would kill.

I’ve only now begun to realize how serious it is. And during the middle of some of the songs when I performed with him, I would cry.

After Les informed me of the position, I was silent for some time. And then one night about ten o’clock, I’m at home when the phone rings. Tom appeared. Hey man, Les tells me you’re a good drummer, he remarked in a scratchy Tom Waits voice. Do you wish to visit Prairie Sun’s “Recording Studio” and participate in certain activities?

Yeah, sure, I said. Which type of drum ought I to bring? Don’t bring anything you can buy at a store, especially from Guitar Center or other such establishments, he advised. Bring wooden-soled shoes as well.

I located my father’s shoes. I traveled there. We really had plywood on the ground as I played the first track. They were plywood sheets measuring 12 by 12. The first rhythm was actually tapped out by us. Incorporates the rhythm. I thought, “Oh no.” It’s going to get strange here.

You are in the Colosseum and on Such a Scream right now, OnBone Machine. Can you remember creating them? Yeah. The best Scream was the one. I had a torpedo shell turned into a snare drum. It was made of a very thin metal. Tom said, “That sounds wonderful,” as I was playing that tune. Like a shotgun, it. I adore that noise.

He was rolling tape as I was playing. I didn’t realize they were recording as I just started banging objects while dancing to the music. Without even thinking, I completed the entire game. That was excellent, he said at the conclusion. You seemed to be acting out a jail cell. That’s all, I thought. Yes, he says. It’s finished.

The production or the drum or synth sounds on the majority of pop records can basically tell you when they were recorded. You can say, “This screams 1978,” or something similar. Never in the case of a Tom Waits album.

It somewhat makes me think of Bruce Lee. Your first thought upon seeing Bruce Lee is, “That could have been today.” I have no idea what it is. He always has a throwback aesthetic in mind. Always beat-up and screwed-up sounding. I can tell you a ton of tales about how we recorded. I would be playing outside in a pasture.

I adore the Mule Variations. Your show is Big in Japan. Big in Japan was a little amusing. It was done with Primus. Ich bin japanese. I recall Tom approaching me in the recording studio. Brain, I have a song called Big in Japan, he says. You are not involved in it at all. I had been friends with him for ten years by this point.

I couldn’t care less about anything. I thought, “Whatever.” Who cares anyway? I recall that song’s beginning had a nice, funky vibe. Tom also dislikes conventional drum sets. He owned a marching band’s 26-inch marching drum. That served as our kick drum. It had a really expansive, huge sound.

Instead of using a conventional hi-hat stick, I was using this peculiar piece of wood. He literally nailed on jingle bells and other strange objects, like metal pieces.

If he says to arrive at 10 a.m., he will be there at 8 a.m. on the ground, creating percussion instruments or striking objects to produce sounds and tones, or he may even bring in strange automobile carburetors. When I arrive, I’ll say, “There’s Tom.” He is beating the ground while there.

Real Gone was recorded where?

They transported the entire studio to this isolated old church. The studio was erected in this church after a sizable truck was brought in and unloaded. I recall that the toilet was where the drum set pattern for one song was recorded due of the wonderful echo. With these strange plywood objects that Tom constructed, we were bashing the sides of the walls. He created everything on his own.

We would enter and start hitting things. I once discovered a microphone inside a trash can when I opened it up. The microphone is in the trash can, I thought. It sounds like someone got buried there, he said. Everything was open-ended.

You were asked to take the tour by him. That had to be extraordinary. Yeah. My drum company, DW, once invited me to a performance at the Warfield in San Francisco. I can’t recall who was singing. It was this up-and-coming musician. Tom Waits is here, someone said to me as I entered the backstage area. I had collaborated with him on some Jack Kerouac projects, including Bone Machine, Mule Variations, and others.

Someone stated they wanted to say hi to me, and I saw “his wife,” Kathleen “Brennan,” there. I thought, “That’s cool.” Tom and I haven’t spoken in ages. I’ll never forget approaching them to speak with them. Hey, what are you doing, Kathleen asked. Nothing, I replied. all I did was play a lot of tennis and golf. It would be fun to do something, she said.

That resulted in Real Gone, where he nearly made me a band member. I played in a trio with Larry Taylor on bass and Marc Ribot on guitar. These musicians are among the best Tom has ever collaborated with. The greatest honor I had ever experienced was that.

How was it to learn the Tom Waits discography?

Really, I never did. Funny thing was, I was still a hip-hop fan. Tom’s kid, Casey, and I grew close. Later, he began playing the drums alongside him. were still close pals.

When we were on tour, the most amazing thing occurred in Berlin. We had a roughly four-hour soundcheck before we were scheduled to perform in this gorgeous theater. We played all of his popular songs and hits. Hey man, this one sounds like this, Marc would say as he assisted me. I had sort of, but not really, heard them. We played through maybe 20 of these tunes in total. This is going to be the best show ever, I said. All the parts were mine.

I won’t soon forget. We were in the basement. Tom was in his own dressing room upstairs. I was there with Larry, and I’m sure Ribot was too. Here is the setlist for today, Brain, Kathleen says as she knocks on the door. I seized it. A door closes. When I see it, I exclaim, “No!” There aren’t any of the songs we practiced on this! I quickly climb back down. Kathleen, I don’t understand, I say. We practiced all of this additional material before I let out an oooo. I got it. He desires that it be new. I am not to be aware of it, he says. He like it this way.

He could easily perform songs that the crowd is familiar with, such Jersey Girl, Downtown Train, or Ol 55, but he chooses not to.

Nope. He is unwilling to. Another amusing anecdote is the song they were working on the day before I arrived at the studio where we were recording Real Gone. I was being shown it by Ribot. Tom enters the room and asks, “What are you doing?” Marc says, “I’ll play the music for Brain.” He says, “Man, don’t mess it up!”

How much did you know about Guns N Roses in the 1980s and 1990s, to change the subject. Did you enjoy it? The music didn’t appeal to me too much. I simply liked Axl and his energy. I recall seeing him wearing that feather boa on MTV. But Melissa always assures me that it wasn’t a feather boa. However, I noticed him donning one of those outfits that Dave Navarro frequently sports without a shirt on. It is being worn by Axl with this spandex.

Hey, can someone get that guy, Axl shouted to the audience in this video. Adjust that!? No? I give up! I’ll solve it! And he leaps into the spectators. Holy sh*t, this guy is cool, I thought. What in the world?

When Bucket joined the group, he announced that Josh Freese had left. I’ve been mentioning you to Axl. Would you be curious? Oh, shit, I thought.

In the year 2000. They had already gotten very far with Chinese Democracy. Almost all of the tracks were already recorded by Josh.

Despite being ill, Josh is not the album’s drummer. You are the main player. How did you go about his body parts? Josh was accompanied by two different players. Similar to how Tim “Alexander” and I are. I receive hate mail from Primus fans who claim that I have destroyed the band. You simplified it, made it hipster, or whatever. Tim plays the drums better. I said, “Yeah.” Tim is an unquestionably superior drummer for what they’re doing. were close. He acts in his manner.

Josh is somewhat similar. I’ve saw him play with Devo from my seat in back. He is an incredible technician. He had Nine Inch Nails on when I spotted him. Technically speaking, and how he can play something so effortlessly and flawlessly, it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever witnessed. However, my style is far more hip-hop and funk. Although I have superb technique, the style is very different. “Brain, re-record the songs as you,” Axl said. OK, I replied.

In one tune, a lot of 16th notes are played rapidly. He always plays eighth notes on the kick drum while performing the fill. It has a Keith Moon vibe. My aesthetic is much more Wu-Tang. I performed that rhythm in the same manner as Liquid Swords’ GZA. When he returned, he exclaimed, “Oh no!” There is excessive space. Brain doing his thing won’t work, in my opinion.

When he returned, he suggested that you perform all of Josh’s tasks while maintaining your own style and actions. Even though I could have done it, I thought, “Well, I’m not going to transcribe all this material.” So we brought a bunch of CDs to Sony, went to the editorial section, and located a guy who is a superb orchestral transcriptionist. We simply stated, “Dude, check out all of Guns’ tunes.” Scribe them down.

I actually had five “music” stands with the complete composition, just as Josh played it. I used my instincts when playing his roles. We eventually began tossing the charts into the trash. Then I began acting independently.

Back then, most people regarded Axl to be somewhat terrifying. When you initially met, how did you discover him? Undoubtedly, it was intimidating. I sensed that this person might snap at me. But playing with Miles Davis or Prince was my main ambition. Instead, it was distributed to Guns N Roses, Tom Waits, and Primus. I therefore didn’t give him much thought. I’ll go in there and talk about Wu-Tang, I thought. I believe he enjoyed it. He considered it to be cool. Axl has always enjoyed all types of music. And it kind of worked because I approached it innocently.

In 2001, you started performing with GNR. How much of the original pieces by Steven Adler and Matt Sorum are you trying to duplicate, and how much of it is your own interpretation?

Shit, this stuff is deeper than I imagined, I started thinking as I listened to the older music. Adler performed somewhat akin to Alex Van Halen. He either plays the bass section or the guitar parts on the cymbals. He is not simply following the groove. Here, there would be a six-beat segment and two bars. There were parts like A, B, C, D, and F. This is kind of complex, I thought.

I adored Adler’s grease-factor. If you can call it that, he brought a love to it. His work is this. His music is this. Here he is. More of a metronomic approach was introduced by Sorum. He was more concerned with having nice hair. I have to check the way my chains are hanging. Nothing wrong with him. He’s a wonderful man, I’m sure. I just found myself drawn to Adler much more because the drum set was screaming with love.

You took part in the group’s first gigs since 1993. The press and the crowd focused a lot of attention on it. Did that pressure hit you? Wow, there’s a lot of music to remember, so that made me anxious. It’s definitely not my style. We lacked the freedom of Primus, where the music was more free-form and jazz-like. Les would simply start playing songs after calling them off.

This made me anxious about the technical side and my ability to perform properly for this band. I was unaware of the gravity of Slash or Duff’s departure. Shit. For Axl, this is a major event. I will only keep a beat, I reasoned. That served as my defense. There was nowhere I let myself go. Not until much later did I ask, “What the hell?” I can’t believe what I had to go through.

The crowd was furious. They desired the previous band. Without a doubt.

Because of the delayed starts and the incident in Philadelphia, the 2002 tour was a complete disaster. Do you recall every detail clearly? Yeah. Without a doubt. As I already mentioned, this mentality and the band’s aura of Led Zeppelin inspired me to join them. I was smitten. Everyone else was seated there, terrified and exclaiming, “Oh my God.” Two hours late, Axl! Who cares, I thought as I sat there enjoying an ice cream? We might not even play! Even better, that Who cares as long as the money comes? I truly believed that the turmoil persisted. I was very into that mood. He could have been very smart. He might have panicked while performing. I enjoyed it.

I clearly recall the one in Philadelphia. In the motel I was. I repeatedly called the trip director. Hey buddy, I said. Do I still need to descend? Do I have to perform at this show? What is happening? Just remain there, was his advice. I thought, “Something seems off.”

The previous night, we had just played in Madison Square Garden and won. When I turn around, I see Chris Rock, Beyonce, and Jay-Z enjoying it. We performed superbly. We’re in Philadelphia right now, but we have no idea where Axl is or what’s going on.

I adore it. Actually, I’m eating pasta and thinking, “This is cool.” The wife of Mix Master Mike texts me. She asks, “Brain, are you people coming?” They are screaming and hurling objects towards Mix Master Mike. For approximately an hour and a half, he has been doing the same DJ set. Dude, I don’t really know, I say. We finally receive a call stating that he is not coming. All of them left, yelling, “Home!” It’s the final performance. I thought, “Oh, shit.”

He simply wouldn’t show up if, for whatever reason, he didn’t feel like playing. He was aware that doing so would probably result in negative effects like a riot or a postponed tour, but at the time, he didn’t seem to care.

On the highest level, that is. And while I’m not claiming it’s correct, that sounds a lot like the tales I used to hear about George Clinton and Bernie Worrell getting into an altercation. He’s ready to discard it. I’m not sure in the end. When I learned that Bernie was ill, I ran into him toward the end. I attended one of his last concerts. I’m not sure if it will be worthwhile in the end.

Melissa tells me that Guns N Roses are now present on time. They put on the most incredible spectacle for four hours. Go figure, then. But I did enjoy it somewhat. The tales are mine. I’ve had the situations. I am capable of playing the monotonous drums.

Why did Chinese democracy take ten years? I know this is a complicated issue with a lengthy response.

{Laughs.} Well, I suppose it’s because the original band started it. It was a really chaotic two or three years. Slash, Duff, and Matt Sorum subsequently departed. Josh was found. That need a few more years. They worked with several producers.

When I joined, deciding what we would do and the type of music we would make required a lot of trial and error. A new band was playing. Axl also takes his time in any case. It will now take twice as long because it is a brand-new thing. Then it started to resemble folklore. Now that it had gotten to this point, it might as well have cost $12 or $13 million. A decade. Let’s start a record. I’m not sure. {Laughs.}

Millions of money are being burned by you. Music is leaking out. How was it like to be in the hurricane’s eye? That was absurd. I believe I hold the Village record for having the drums set up for the longest time. Tusk and all the Fleetwood Mac albums were recorded there. My drums were probably physically set up there for around four years. They were set up and prepared to begin. During that time, I attended the Real Gone and Tom Waits tours. And it simply continued. I’d receive the call.

This is the best thing in the world, I truly understood at that precise time. I first became interested in music—not even the drums—when I saw The Song Remains the Same. In one scene, Jimmy Page is shown seated with a music box. When he turns around, a man says, “We need you.” You’ll leave to have fun. When you look up, he is in Madison Square Garden.

I simply liked being a part of Guns while still pursuing other interests, such as daily golf lessons, computer and programming classes, orchestration classes, and music theory classes. After that, you receive a call stating that Axl needs you. I thought, “This is as near to the Zeppelin thing as I’m going to get.” What the fuck cares? Make it go indefinitely. The fact that it took 10 years is the coolest thing.

Amazingly, The Beatles created Please Please Mein in just one day.

Many fans claim that while the songs on Chinese Democracy are excellent, you can tell how much work went into them and wonder whether it became overly preoccupied with. Ist das fair? Yeah. When they were playing the playback, I thought of the joke while I was in the studio. I remarked, “Dude, I think the ones and zeros are wearing out.” We need to go collect it because it has been played so many times and is on 10 separate hard drives in the vault. There was simply a ton of labor.

I kind of agree with some of that. It has its own sound when I listen to it. Is that how Appetite makes me feel? No. Is it how I feel when I listen to The Spaghetti Incident or Use Your Illusion? No. Yet it has an own identity. It is extremely deep, electronic-sounding, and metronomic. The has that.

There are so many stories about how the record was made. Is it accurate to say that Bucket had a chicken house built for him in the studio? Yeah. They built him a chicken coop because that’s where he felt most at ease playing. The appeal of this band lies in that. What you ask for will appear, so you had best be careful.

How come Bucket left Guns?

Bucket was just having trouble with the politics involved. Bucket was a real musician since all he wanted to do was play. He would ask, “Why does it have to be so difficult?” Why can’t the album simply be released? I was savoring it and saying, “Dude, that’s part of the gig.” Not feeling it was him. We kind of fell out with one other. It feels like they’re just capitalizing on this, he said. It’s not that I’m getting into it, I said. I’m simply trying to accept things as it is. Naturally, I won’t be able to change it. So I might as well make the most of it.

Izzy occasionally joined you on tour once the band in 2006 returned from their break. That seems to be a fun time. Yeah. Every tour had its own unique little thing. Chaos ruled them all. You never know what’s going to happen every three days. We saw some of the greatest and the worst performances. Everything resembled a rollercoaster. That made it more engaging for me.

Certain performances began after midnight, which must have been when the overtime charges at some venues began to apply. That is just crazy. Yep. However, if we began at 1:00, the show would conclude by 4:00. Axl would devote his entire life to that show. Never once have I ever seen that fuckin man back down. This show will end at 4:30 if it starts at 1:00 in the morning. And he continues to yell even if you are asleep.

You left Guns, why?

The birth of my daughter. I said, “I’m not sure I want to go on tour anymore.” It was still a feel I enjoyed. I remained fond of the individuals. I was friends with Tommy “Stinson.” I don’t think anyone in the band, including Dizzy Reed and Robin “Finck,” ever shown any odd behavior.

For me, it actually was. Axl’s jokes and his attitude started to fade. I thought, “Here I am playing Nightrain and performing the cowbell part.” I still have other interests in music than this. Everybody is constantly asking, “What happened?” Were they scumbags? No. For me, it was primarily because I wanted to pursue other interests.

Around this time, Melissa and you also met.

Yeah. I was spending a lot of time at that time studying theory. I started learning jazz theory, classical theory, and even eclectic material that my teacher was teaching me from these strange books. I was making an effort to understand everything I could about that.

I thought Melissa would be the ideal partner when I first met her because she was classically trained, had excellent pitch, showed some interest in this things, and was considerably younger and moldable. She looked attractive as well, so I thought, Hey, I can look beautiful too. I’ll get started straight away.

Josh just departed Nine Inch Nails, I was getting calls saying. They are searching for a person. Korn called me as well. Terry Bozzio demanded $2 million in exchange for his company. What about you? Then System of a Down’s Serj “Tankian” called. He encouraged me to go on tour after I just finished playing on his album “Elect the Dead.”

Everything took place at the same time. If I had wanted to continue playing the drums, I could have chosen the next gig myself. However, I said, “Nah, I’m going to try doing this other thing.”

Almost every drummer on Earth has the same dream: to receive calls like the ones you were.

{Laughs.} Right. And I stay away from them. That is how badly I desired crossing over. However, I aspired to be someone like Oscar-nominated film composer Marco Beltrami or Ennio Morricone. You’re a drummer, dude, kind of like that. Back up there! Before you acquire it, you have 20 years of crap to accomplish.

You moved extremely quickly there. Going from flying off to Prague to perform with Guns N Roses to writing the music for Call of Duty must have been abrupt. Yeah. I’ve always been a great fan of chaos. When Axl didn’t show up today, I was like, Screw it! I enjoy that sort of material. It’s corporate now. Its deliverables and prompt email responses. It’s less about me, really. It has to do with the director’s vision. You must win over the studio. The emphasis on music shifted.

I took a significant blow. For around three or four years, I thought, “Wait, maybe drumming is more my natural personality.” What happened? I asked my therapist when I was chatting to her. I’ve just started drumming. I received a ton of calls. And right now, I hardly get anything done with composition. We had simply been seated at the table up until this point. Yet I’ve been doing it for the past 12 years.

The fact that you left the Guns N Roses circus in 2006 and your partner Melissa joined the group ten years later is absurd.

Yeah. You are aware of the tale, of course. That was absurd. That call was the last thing on either of our minds. It was ideal in the end.

Both of you have discussed the Chinese Democracy remixes that Axl asked you to create a few years back. Will we ever hear those? So, I hope. I adore Axl because of his attractiveness. He gave us access to the area so we could reconstruct, mess with the files, and even experiment with his voice. We added some insane techno, electro, Wu-Tang, and other tracks, enabling us to perform those halftime shows with the remixes. That is why I continue to work with them. In that regard, my musical career is progressing.

Will it ever be released? When it happens, business-related issues start to arise. Back now are Slash and Duff. Do they enjoy it?

It’s ironic that while being quite different musicians, Tom Waits, Axl Rose, and Buckethead all exude a sense of mystique. They rarely give interviews, and the general public knows very little about their lives off of the stage. You’ve worked with all three of them, which is very great. Yeah. I believe that’s why I felt drawn to them. Someone like Bootsy accomplishes more things, yet Bootsy is also a game player. Although he can do interviews, he also has that “mystery.” It is with Bill Laswell. People who I’m interested in doing things with consistently possess that.

Are you and Buckethead still good friends?
Yeah. Were performing a Praxis event at the Sony Theater in New York with Bill Laswell. 30 and 31 August.
You are returning to your starting point in full circle.

Yeah. Although we haven’t actually talked about the play yet, I believe that it will almost improve. Bill has been playing me a lot of his recent Miles Davis remixes. I’ve been receiving covert tapes of that material. They are outtakes from the 1970s, which is my preferred decade. Some of those grooves are going to be stolen by me. I’m looking forward to playing the gig.

The quantity of music that Bucket produces is beyond absurd. The major media pays it little attention, although it is all available. He simply enjoys playing. He has managed to hold onto his inner child. He always has a guitar in his hand while we speak or interact in any way. Hell will knock on your door carrying a guitar.

Do you mind if the abbreviation “former Guns N Roses drummer” is used to refer to you forever?

No. In the end, I don’t really give it much thought. I once battled it. I feel proud to have been a part of it now that I reflect about it. I participated in something on a very high level. I’ll never perform with Miles or Mick Jagger. That’s about as cool as it gets in terms of rock and roll, not that I’m comparing them. And I won’t collaborate with Dylan on a singer-songwriter level. I did, however, get to perform with Tom Waits.


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