Guns N' Roses: Chinese Whispers
Zutaut had a brainstorm. “I said, ‘What if we built you a chicken coop in the studio for you to record your guitar parts?’ His jaw dropped. He said, ‘Would you really do that?’ And I said, ‘Well, it’s my job to find out whatever it is that will help you get the best creativity out of yourself.’ Buckethead said, ‘If I could have my own chicken coop in the studio, my own world to live in, I could play a lot better.’ ”
Two days later, the coop was built. “It’s like an apartment within the studio that’s a chicken coop,” Zutaut explains. “He’s got his chair and a little sofa in there, and there’s, like, a rubber chicken with its head cut off hanging from the ceiling, and body parts. It’s totally Buckethead’s world. He brought in all his props and toys and put straw on the floor! You could almost smell the chickens.”
Aside from assistant engineers who would adjust microphones, no one but Buckethead was allowed in the coop. “You could not destroy the spirit and karmic vibe of the coop, his personal retreat,” Zutaut says. “You could stand outside and talk, looking through, but nobody was allowed in there.”
Beta Lebeis stresses that the coop was just a bit of fun. “In every band, people have their own ways of being creative—their own things that are personal to them,” she says, “and Buckethead loved chicken coops. And he loved cemeteries. He just loved that shit. So it was just a fun thing to do.
“And [the coop] didn’t cost money or anything. People say, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s part of the money we spent on the album.’ It has nothing to do with that. It’s something you do in three or four hours just for fun, to play a joke on somebody.”
As the weeks went by, the joke started to wear thin. “There was a bit of creative tension with Roy Thomas Baker,” Zutaut says. “Not because Roy is doing anything wrong or isn’t a great producer or anything like that. But you know, some people have friction. It’s like oil and water. It might have been cultural differences.”
If the coop seemed an extreme accommodation to artistic stimulation, it didn’t compare to Buckethead’s next request: a TV setup so he can watch porn movies while recording. “And that seemed to really inspire him to record some great stuff,” Zutaut says.
The guitarist was deep into it one evening when Rose turned up. “Axl sees that Bucket is running this porn,” Zutaut recalls. “And it is pretty hardcore stuff. It’s not soft porn by any stretch of the imagination. And Axl is really disturbed by it.” Zutaut explained the situation to Rose, but the singer was not moved. “He said music is about energy and we are transferring a creative spirit and vibe within the music,” Zutaut says. “He said, ‘I really can’t have the vibe of dirty depraved porn being a part of my record. It is really not what this record is about, you know?’ ”
The story sheds much light on Rose’s philosophy about the creative process. “Axl is a firm believer that the energy, or soul, of everyone involved in the process comes through in the final artistic piece,” Zutaut explains. “So he works really hard to make sure what comes in and goes out is pure and right for his vision. Which is why Axl was always very disturbed about the former Gunners’ heroin use and what effect it had on their creativity.”
Rose spoke with Buckethead and explained his position. “Then Axl left, and Bucket was pretty despondent,” Zutaut says. “He disappeared for a few days because he was pretty torn up about it. Not because he was angry or because he thought he should be able to watch what he wants. I think it was more because of the emotional implications that Axl brought up to him: that it wasn’t right to be inspired by shit like that.”
If that wasn’t weird enough, there was also an occasion where Buckethead appeared to be inspired by shit itself. One of Rose’s wolfdogs— a hybrid that is three-quarters timber wolf and one-quarter dog—had recently given birth, and the singer had offered one of the pups to Zutaut’s daughter, who had recently lost her own dog. A few days afterward, he brought in the puppy. “And it’s the cutest little thing,” says Zutaut, “but it goes into the chicken coop and takes a dump. And because no one is allowed in there, we wait for Bucket to come in so that we can get his permission to clean it up. So Bucket shows up later to work on his parts, and he is miked up so he can record and we hear through the speaker, ‘Oh, I love the smell of dog poop…’
Zutaut recalls that Baker or one of his engineers offered to have the mess cleaned up. “And Bucket says, ‘Don’t take it away. I love the smell of dog poop..’ Three days later, the studio stinks to high heaven of dog poop, and finally the studio could not bear it and had it cleaned up. When Bucket came in the next day, he was like ‘Where is my dog poop, man? I told them not to clean it up,’ and was generally bummed out that it had been cleaned up. And in the meantime, the wolf puppy poop had inspired him for a few days to do some great work.”
Artists:Guns N' Roses
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