Classic Interview with Chris Pitman (Guns N' Roses)

First some background on this. Back in 2009 I was living in Edinburgh and did some work for Leith FM (which is now Castle FM). Through MySpace I got the chance to chat with Guns N’ Roses percusionist Chris Pitman. He was extraordinarily private and didn’t give interviews – but for some reason – agreed to speak with me on air the morning that the announcement of Chinese Democracy’s release came.

So this was a pretty special moment and – three years later – someone at a gig mentioned to me they’d heard this interview years before and remembered it fondly. Sadly the audio has been lost but this written transcript remains – transcribed in 2011 for the website Daily Music Guide.

DMG sat down for a very special interview with Chris Pitman, Guns N’ Roses percussionist, and one of the principal songwriters on new album Chinese Democracy. The album breaks a 14-year-long release drought for the band.

How did you get involved in music in the first place? How did you know it was the career for you?

If you’re a kid, and you get advice from a band like The Beatles or Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin, that’s who you aspire to be. You can be into sports, or you can be into music. And I’m from Kansas City originally, in middle America, and there’s not much to do there, apart from growing corn, tending the cows, or joining a rock band!

Was that middle American heritage what helped you share a bond with Guns N’ Roses frontman (and Indiana native) Axl Rose?

Oh yeah, certainly. When we first met, he didn’t know I was from Kansas City. And when I said it, we had something in common because we were from the mid-West. It was almost like we were long lost brothers because of that fact – we had that bond and that connection. And then, in both our cases, something happened and we both ended up out here in Los Angeles. It’s a great melting pot for musicians, as I’m sure you know.

What do you think of the reaction and fan response to your new single ‘Chinese Democracy’?

People are always asking us when our record is coming out, like all the time, and yesterday it was kind of a shock when it actually did come out. And suddenly it was ‘hey, it’s coming out, right now!’ It’s awesome. You know, Guns N’ Roses is such a popular band, so it’s an enormous response. And when you get so many people and you get jazzed up, you couldn’t ask for anything more.

Turning to your new project Sex Tapes – where did the musical inspiration come from for the band?

We weren’t trying to get a specific sound. That was the only sound we could really get. That was more the sound of a collaboration with the guitar player and myself. He had played in an earlier version of Jane’s Addiction, with Perry Farrell, so he had a rather hard rock style. He had these great riffs and I just wanted to see what I could put on top of it. It has a very LA punk vibe to it that we like. It’s just kinda balls to the wall rock.

There’s been a lot of talk about a Guns N’ Roses collaboration between yourself and Dizzy Reed, on a track known as ‘Silkworms’. It has been confirmed that this track will not make the final cut of Chinese Democracy. Why is this? Does the track have a future as a B-side or future release?

I hope so. That song in particular that you are talking about, ‘Silkworms’, it ended up being this incredible track that sounded like Guns N’ Roses 10 or 15 years in the future. It was so far removed from our other songs that we had to put it in this other place. Concept-wise, it didn’t fit with Chinese Democracy. We hope we will have other songs that match that kind of futuristic sound. It’s a really exciting track because it morphs into this crazy sound, but it was out so much in the other direction that we have to let time catch up with it.

Queen’s Brian May was involved with the album making process and played on some of the tracks. Did you work with him much and do you think his input will survive on the final cut?

That was one of the biggest joys of my life. He’s the greatest guitarist in the world to me. To meet him and see what a sweet fellow he is was great. He came in and just played these solos that just ripped up everything we were doing – you would expect nothing else from him. That was quite a while ago now, that was around 2000, 2001. So I’m not really sure what ended up on the record or on this record that we might have done, but he is amazing.

Another Guns track, ‘If The World’, is featured in the film Body Of Lies. This is a track you co-wrote with Axl. Have you had a chance to see your song featured on the big screen?

I saw it last week, and it was a cool film. It was very dark. It was about a tough time in America, plus it’s hard to watch movies about Iraq. I don’t know if it was a little bit wrong but it was a very cool movie. That track was particularly good to work on – it was a track that was recorded quickly. We did it very quickly and it felt right to put it on that movie.

Back to Sex Tapes – why did you feel now was the time for a solo project, as opposed to the years when Guns have been off the road or when times were less hectic?

Probably because I am so busy with the writing and production of the Guns thing, and even though it might not seem like something is happening, we are always working on it. We got close to the summer, the Guns album was near completion and since we’d done the drum tracks for Sex Tapes almost two years ago, we thought ‘okay, this is our chance to do it’. We got in the studio for one night and put the drums down.

Why do you think Guns N’ Roses are so popular after all this time?

It’s snowballed with each generation. If you are committed to what you do and dedicated with no expense spared, then I think people like that. They like the energy of not knowing what’s happening. As long as you come through on your end and put on great live shows and release albums, then people will support you.

SexTapes’ debut album is released on iTunes on 11 November, Body Of Lies goes on general release on 21 November and Guns N’ Roses’ new album Chinese Democracy is released worldwide on 23 November