This is from my new book, Last Of The Giants: The True Story of Guns N’ Roses – out now. Just click the link on the right of this page.
In This Lifetime
With Axl informing the other members of the reconfigured GN’R line-up that the ‘calendar was empty’ after their final show sin 2014, there was now a much more seismic event on the horizon, though as with many things related to the on-going Guns N’ Roses soap opera, it was only obvious at the time if you were paying close attention.
On 30 December 2014, Slash filed for divorce from his wife of 13 years, Perla Hudson. The pair had split once before, in 2010, but had soon reconciled. This time it was to be permanent. According to legal documents, the pair had separated six months earlier. Soon afterwards, Slash had hooked up with a new girlfriend, Meegan Hodges – the same Meegan Hodges whom Slash had first fallen in love with as a teenager, but who had walked away for the sake of her own sanity when things began to take off in earnest with Guns N’ Roses, and the same Meegan Hodges who had been such a good friend to Erin Everly, and who was about to play a pivotal part in the future of both the guitarist and his old enemy, Axl Rose.
‘Meegan was his nineteen-year-old girlfriend in 1988,’ says former band manager Alan Niven. ‘But Meegan bailed on him because it was so fucking crazy. And well done Meegan, for having a sense of self-preservation and getting her ass out of there. Meegan coming back into his life now was sufficient for him to finally get out of a relationship that he was very unhappy with. By falling in love again with Meegan and having her support he could get out of the relationship.’
Coming back together with Meegan unlocked another door for Slash, suggests Niven. ‘So Meegan has a best friend who lives in Atlanta. And that best friend is called Erin Everly.’ Suddenly, ‘Erin and Axl are talking again. That was the seed for getting Axl and Slash back together. It was Erin and Meegan.’
The idea of Axl considering a reunion was also backed up by Ricky Warwick, the former Almighty singer who now fronted the resurrected Irish rockers Thin Lizzy. When Lizzy supported Guns N’ Roses in 2012, Ricky and Axl had become friends, Warwick told Classic Rock magazine. ‘Axl was quite realistic about the possibility of a reunion, saying: “Who knows?” He had fond memories of it. It was always a case of: “We’ll see where the road takes us.” It was never: “Over my dead body.”’
Unbeknown to the public, by the summer of 2015 Axl, Slash and Duff were already in communication – albeit via their lawyers and business managers. Though according to Alan Niven, who remains close to Slash, ‘Duff did most of the spadework at that stage’, a statement backed up by the band’s old friend Marc Canter, who said the bassist had acted as the main peacemaker. ‘Duff was a big part in getting them back together,’ Canter told The Mail. ‘He was working with Axl again and is a good middleman. There was no one else who communicated with Slash and Axl. When Axl was venting about Slash, Duff was able to help him see things through Slash’s eyes.’
At the same time, however, both the Axl-led GN’R and Slash’s solo band were set to release their own live DVDs. Both featured classic Guns N’ Roses songs that required the other party to sign off on ahead of release. Whereas in the past Axl would most likely never have allowed his old nemesis the privilege, this time he agreed to it seemingly without objection.
The thaw had started. But all that was going on in private. To the outside world, it was business as usual – that is, no business at all. At least it was until a single tweet set the alley cat amongst the pigeons. On 6 February 2015, Axl Rose celebrated his fifty-third birthday. Anyone watching his Twitter feed closely would have seen a string of birthday greetings from fans across the world, people the singer would have never met. But there was one tweet that stood out:
Happy Birthday @AxlRose iiii]; )’
The message was from the very man that Axl had spent the best part of 20 years disparaging and publicly maligning: Slash. The crudely rendered top-hat-and-winking-face ‘emoji’ suggested the message was light-hearted but entirely serious. After two decades of acrimony, could the most damaged friendship in rock’n’roll have finally been repaired? And if it had, what did that mean for the greatest rock’n’roll band of its era?
Slash himself wasn’t letting on, at least not in public. Interviewed on the US TV show CBS This Morning in early May, he played his cards close to his chest. Asked about the rumours that he and Axl had finally made up, he chose his words carefully. ‘Well, we haven’t really talked in a long time, but a lot of the tension has dissipated,’ he said. ‘We don’t have all those issues any more. It’s not a lot of controversy. It’s something that is more perpetuated by the media, more than anything.’
When he was asked directly if he wanted the classic Guns N’ Roses line-up to get back together, he was no less cagey. Though what he didn’t say said as much as what he did. ‘I got to be careful what I say here,’ he said quietly. ‘I mean, if everybody wanted to do it and do it for the right reasons, I think the fans would love it. I think it might be fun at some point to try and do that.’
His erstwhile bandmates were no more forthcoming. In June, Duff was asked for his thoughts on a potential reunion. ‘It could happen and it could not,’ the ever-diplomatic bassist told the US radio station WIND-FM. ‘And I think it would be wonderful, one day, if we reconciled, first and foremost. That alone would be cool.’
Amusingly, some members of the most recent Guns N’ Roses line-up were still holding out that there was a new record in the pipeline. ‘We’re going to be doing stuff next year,’ insisted Richard Fortus, the guitarist on Chinese Democracy, in June 2015. ‘We’re not going to have anything out this year. Next year it should be out and we’ll be touring.’
Whether Fortus was being disingenuous or just misguided wasn’t clear. But at least one of his colleagues had had enough. In July, DJ Ashba confirmed that he was no longer a member of Guns N’ Roses, citing family commitments as well as his renewed work with Mötley Crüe’s bassist, Nikki Sixx, in the latter’s Sixx:A.M. side project, as reasons for his departure.
‘It is with a very heavy heart and yet great pride that I announce that I’ve decided to close this chapter of my life and encapsulate the wonderful times that I’ve shared with Guns N’ Roses into fond memories,’ said Ashba in a suitably buttock-clenching press release, before losing control of himself completely.
‘I was blessed with the opportunity to not only work with one of the most talented bands but also to share the stage with a living legend and a truly gifted human being, Axl Rose. The amount of confidence and trust that Axl placed in me was genuinely heart-warming and truly career-defining.’
The same month, Bumblefoot also made it official. ‘That is the thing I am not prepared to elaborate on,’ he told journalist Gary Graff, when asked why he now wanted out. ‘I think there’s enough clues out there for you to figure out what I’m up to now . . .’
Everything pointed to the fact that ‘new’ Guns N’ Roses was falling apart, and that it left the door open for a reunion of the original incarnation – or at least some sort of credible version of it.