The Story of Buckethead & Axl Rose
Good evening everybody, today we’ll take an in-depth look at the history between guitar hero Buckethead and iconic guns n roses frontman Axl Rose. So, let’s begin.
The story begins in late 1999, 3 years after lead guitarist Slash quit the band and shortly after one of his replacements Robin Fink had left.
(Josh Freese in 2013)
When robin finck had left for nine inch nails we were looking for a guitar player and we auditioned a few people. And then one day I walked into the studio and Axl says “Buckethead. Do you know him?”. I said “Yeah man I’ve known Buckethead since 1991”.
Axl had first became aware of Buckethead through his newly released album Monsters & Robots. Which Buckethead was promoting whilst on tour with Primus.
Through Josh Freese Axl called Buckethead in November of 99 and invited him to his house for a Christmas party.
At the time Buckethead was apprehensive about joining GNR because it “wasn’t really…his kind of thing”.
A 2002 press release for Buckethead’s album ‘Bermuda Triangle’ recounts the meeting stating:-
“At a 1999 Christmas party at Axl Rose’s house, the Guns N Roses leader, whom he had never met before, presented Buckethead with a gift…a hard to find Leatherface doll no one else had given him”.
Buckethead would later tell the story to MTV stating he took the gesture as sign and that Axl “must understand me somehow”.
So, it wasn’t because of money or fame that Buckethead joined GNR, it was all because of a leatherface doll. Excellent.
Buckethead officially joined GNR In March 2000. And as for the signing of the contract…
“He signed his contract with Axl at Disneyland. I think Axl went to Disneyland and they signed on the Haunted Mansion. As he was on the ride he signed the contract.”
And although you could probably throw away this story away as being a joke with anybody else, knowing what we know about Buckethead, it’s probably true.
In fact, in a December 2008 forum post Axl himself said “I’m pro Disney, go about once a year. Went with Buckethead a lot.” Woo.
(2001 June European tour cancelled/ Rescheduled December tour cancelled)
The new GNR would play their first shows less than a year later in January 2001 in las vegas and brazil before announcing and later cancelling a European tour…twice.
Both of these times GNR manager Doug Goldstein would release a statement putting the blame on Buckethead.
The first time, stating that Buckethead had a “Stomach ailment”.
The second time, saying that“unfortunately, Buckethead’s illness not only stopped the tour, but it slowed down our progress on Chinese Democracy”.
Yep, Buckethead slowed down the making of Chinese democracy so much that it took another 7 years to come out, and 4 of those years buckethead wasn’t even there. Shut ya face.
Incidentally when both of those statements were released, buckethead had already put out a handful of albums that year, was in the middle of making Bermuda triangle for a 2002 release and recorded the soundtrack for John Carpenters ghosts of mars.
The band would eventually tour in late 2002, which not only included the infamous vma awards appearance, but also a handful or riots and the firing of GNR manager Doug Goldstein. The tour was eventually cancelled in December 2002.
“I think what happened was Axl was pulling his moves (being a diva) and clear channel (ticket company) was getting sick of it and said ‘we’re gonna pull the plug’ (cancel the tour). And then he missed 3 shows, so they cancelled the tour”
While Guns n Roses remained inactive in 2003, Buckethead took a hiatus from the band, released several albums, toured with his former band the Deli Creeps and auditioned for Ozzy Osbourne.
Buckethead would officially leave Guns n Roses in early 2004 citing GNR’s “inability to complete an album or tour”.
“I think he was just like ‘I’m not having fun in this anymore’. Because with Bucket it’s about fun. And I think for him it wasn’t fun anymore. Every band I’ve been in with him where it’s not fun, is when he just doesn’t like to be involved anymore.”
Buckethead’s departure lead to GNR cancelling an appearance at 2004’s Rock in Rio event and European tour, despite it being over 2 months away. Axl later released a lengthy statement saying, among other things, that buckethead was “inconsistent and erratic” and that he had let the fans down.
Yep, Axl rose calling someone inconsistent and erratic and accusing them of letting fans down. Irony.
GNR would later replace buckethead with Bumbelfoot and then went on a European tour…2 years later.
(Sigh) (“Inconsistent and erratic”-Axl Rose)
Axl would mention Buckethead in a 2006 interview
“Bucket is bucket. He’s now on the same trip as he before before he was with us. And now he’s out. His world is his own.”
Axl would further mention Buckethead in early 2008 after soda company Dr Pepper offered to give everyone in America a free can of soda that year if Chinese Democracy was released, everyone except Buckethead and Slash.
Axl responded by saying “As some of Buckethead’s performances are on the album, I’ll share my Dr Pepper with him”.
Chinese Democracy was eventually released that year on November 23rd 2008, 4.5 years after Buckethead left the band. And no, not everyone in America received a Dr Pepper.
A month later Axl joined a Chinese democracy forum chat, which, among other things said that one his favourite parts of the album was Bucketheads playing on the song ‘Prostitute’ and that Bucketheads intro to Shacklers Revenge reminds him of an elephant.
Since then, with the exception of Axl putting a KFC bucket on his head at a show in 2010, there’s been no mention or interaction between the two.
Personally I think that whilst a lot of the blame for cancelled shows, delays and riots rightly should fall on Axl roses shoulders, a large majority of the problems at the time were caused by mismanagement and Axl Rose brown-nosers.
“And then it wasn’t even about music anymore, it was like ‘oh, they’re wearing Buckethead out. They’re wearing me out. Robin Fink is upset. Tommy’s quitting’. Ya know what I mean?
And whilst it’s easy to criticize Axl for things he’s done and said throughout his career, he certainly deserves some credit for appreciating Buckethead for who he was and who he is, when others haven’t.
And we got a pretty good album out of it, which in my opinion, without Buckethead’s playing on it, would have become an average one.