Four of the five original Guns N' Roses guys reminisce about Axl. Set in 2015.
Steven “Popcorn” Adler, drummer [1985-1990; 2012-2014]
Sure, I miss him. I miss that damn bastard, and I can admit it now because it’s been a year and supposedly time heals all wounds. The day we reunited still stands out in my mind as being the greatest day of my life, simply because I knew he no longer hated me, and things could get back to the way they always should have been.
He hated me in 1990, I suppose, because I was an addict and I couldn’t get out of it. Being a drunk, being a junkie, that was weak, and he couldn’t stand weakness. Still, he was the only one who stayed overnight at the hospital in ’88 when I O.D.’d and nearly died, and he was the only one, apart from Carolina, to really be there for me in 2013, when I had my surgery to replace the tissues I’d damaged from extensive heroin use.
Axl was a great guy, though. Even when he had his little rages, those of us closest to him could see that most of it was a ruse, to cover up the remnants of an insecure red-headed choir boy from Indiana. I guess I’m just lucky to have been part of the few who could see that.
Duff Rose “The King of Beers” McKagan, bassist [1985-1996; 2010-2014]
When I heard Axl was dead, I was shocked. Someone like that shouldn’t die, not in the natural order of things. It should’ve been me or Steven to go first; he had three strokes, for god’s sake, and I’d been a disgusting, bloated drunk whose pancreas exploded in ’94. But no, Axl had to go and get fucking cancer and fuck everything up…
Do I seem bitter? Maybe I am. But then, all of us were, at first. Axl had known he was dying for a long time, but he didn’t tell anyone—not even Slash—until it was nearly time for him to go into the hospital so he could pass on fairly painlessly. He didn’t want radiation or chemo or anything, he just wanted out. And in the end, that was the most selfish thing he could have done. As Guns N’ Roses, we were a family: brothers or lovers, depending on who you’re talking about. You tell your brothers that sort of stuff. You don’t hide it, especially not for over a year.
In the beginning, I think we all blamed ourselves, but now it’s only Slash who still walks around with that invisible chain on his neck. He’s taken it harder than anyone, and no one blames him, because, after all, he and Axl were together, same as Izzy and I, or even Steven and Carolina. Sometimes I wonder if Slash had known, and just chose to remain quiet, and that’s why he’s so depressed now. But I can’t say for sure, because who really knows?
I still remember the day I met Axl, courtesy of Izzy. He was just a little guy, a thin, pale redhead talking to someone on the phone, but he smiled at me and after he got off the line we had a pleasant chat. Even then, I could see it in his eyes—the determination, the perseverance. He hypnotized me so that I wouldn’t see his darker side at first. He did it to all of us, but without Axl, Guns would’ve stayed a street band. Without Axl, we couldn’t have made it.
Without Axl now, we’re nothing.
Izzy Stradlin, rhythm guitar [1985-1991; 2006-2014]
Axl was my best friend. He was the only guy in Lafayette who knew how it felt to get called ‘fag’ or ‘gay’ by the kids in school. He and I used to cut class to smoke cigarettes behind the gym, or to walk on the Wabash, or even to go to the park and just talk about nothing in particular. Once, we even tried being a couple, but it, like everything in my life until I found Duff, was for the sex.
Oh, and just to clear the air—yes, that’s why I left Indiana first. I still feel guilty, though he used to repeatedly tell me not to. I split with him, then I left, and there was a tiny part of me that didn’t want him to come find me. But I couldn’t say no to Axl—no one could—and letting him come crash at my apartment on Wilshire turned out to be the best idea I ever had.
Anyway, when Axl died, it was like a physical part of me had been removed. I’d known him longer than anyone, and people tend to forget that I was the first one he forgave. Or rather, the first to be let back in. Axl isn’t the forgiving type—wasn’t the forgiving type. It may have been a year, but fuck it, we’re still adjusting.
The worst part was knowing he had cancer, and knowing there wasn’t a damn thing we could do to stop it. I remember calling Vince Neil a few times, just to figure out how to deal better. For a long time, I resented Axl for never telling us, but I’ve learned how not to think about it. Anyway, I think the truth was that I resented myself, for not noticing sooner that he was getting thinner, paler, weaker. How do you not notice those changes in your best friend?
But, like I said, I don’t think about it so much now. Mostly I just cuddle with Duff, trying to make up for the time we lost…after. See, when Axl died, Duff and I drifted apart for about six months—it was like knowing that we were both tied to this charismatic enigma who was now gone was too much for us to handle. But we’re back together now, and I’m glad—I think Axl would have wanted us to be happy.
So no, I’m not bitter or angry anymore, but it’ll be a long time before I stop feeling sad. And until I do, I think a very small part of me will always resent Axl, for what he put us all through; for not telling me what was going on… for shutting us all out.
Slash “Half-Man Half-Beast” Hudson, lead guitarist [1985-1996; 2012-2014]
I miss Axl. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss that self-centered, egotistical pain in the ass. Sometimes I wake up and think he’ll be downstairs, flipping pancakes or frying bacon, smiling at his little joke. But it’s wishful thinking. I had him for thirteen years; I guess it would have been too much to ask for more.
I remember the first time we met. He was going off on some tangent over the phone, and never even looked at me the whole time I was at he and Izzy’s place, but I was impressed. Something about his presence awed me, even then. That’s why I almost didn’t show up when Izzy called me about a week later, wanting me to come back and audition. I was terrified of making the wrong impression, or even just of making a fool of myself, but Izzy and his boyfriend Duff liked me, and Axl—well, you could never really tell whether Axl approved of someone or not, but he didn’t kick me out.
Then a month later, we were at a bar together, getting shitfaced, and out of the blue he kissed me. I didn’t know him very well then, so I had no clue if he was gay or straight-but-drunk or what. Still, I kissed him back, and that night turned into one of the most beautiful nights of my life. After that, we were inseparable—onstage, he’d sling his arm across my shoulders and let me sing lead with him; offstage, we’d cuddle and kiss and make love and have these really long, intense conversations that involved him ranting and me listening and offering occasional input. It got to be where I was the only one who could read his moods, calm him down, even understand him. Izzy himself admitted I knew him better than anyone.
Maybe he did hypnotize all of us so we wouldn’t see the truth at first. But once the hypnotism wore off, we stayed. And I think he had a hard time realizing that we liked him, really liked him, that we weren’t just staying on to suck up his talent. Axl was always very insecure—I think partially from what his stepfather used to do to him, partially from his manic-depression. He was like a coin—he had two sides, and no matter how many times you flipped him you were never 100% sure which side you were going to get. That’s why, when Izzy left and Axl started going downhill, I stayed quiet. I couldn’t bear to get his Mr. Hyde, the tails of his coin, the dark half of his yin yang. Because Axl was pleasant and beautiful and charming and I loved him, but even I couldn’t fully control him when he got into one of his moods.
I still regret 1996. It was a tough year for all of us—Duff’s pancreas was still healing; Izzy had seemingly dropped off the face of the earth; Steven was dying; Axl was battling severe depression. He needed me, and I let him down. I hate myself for what I did, but Axl’s sadness made me sad, so I’d go to bars and drink to forget and numb the pain. He disapproved of my drinking, but that’s not why he split with me.
That reason was Perla.
She’s Perla Ferrar now, because I divorced her the minute Gn’R reunited, but from 1996 to early 2012 she was Mrs. Saul Hudson. I know, I know—I’m gay, she’s a woman… but I did it anyway. I pretended she was Axl, then I realized I no longer had to pretend. I never loved her—I loved the hole she could fill for me, and I love Cash and London—but as a person, Perla may as well have been my cousin. She never knew that, though—and neither did Axl. The hatred in his eyes when he caught us together killed me inside. I couldn’t bear his accusations, so I just left, and so did Duff—without Izzy, it wasn’t the same for him anyway.
I was so happy when Axl called—nearly eighteen years of separation was destroying me. Originally it was just a one-time deal; just a gig to get fans happy and raise money. But afterwards, we found ourselves in a bar, talking… a lot of shit came out, over the course of five hours, but we were adults, so it was mature. And then I found him wrapping his fingers on my wrist, and I found myself wanting to cover every inch of him, and the next thing I knew it was morning and he and I were tangled together in his hotel room. And after that… there was no going back.
I guess he always knew he had cancer. By the time he told me, it was stage four and far too dangerous to fuck with. The most I could do was get him to a nice hospital and spend our final month together holding his hand and reminiscing with him. Sometimes I wonder if he got back with me because he’d had it in 2012 and knew he would die. I wonder… but I’ll never know.
I’m still depressed. Izzy and Duff know; I can see it in their eyes. Prozac and Valium don’t help; I’ve started doing heroin again and pouring back shot glasses. Axl wouldn’t approve, but I want to die; this will just get me to him faster. I visit his grave every day and talk to him for hours; it helps, a little. Duff and Izzy are back together, and I’m glad; I just wish Axl had never died so the four of us could have had our double wedding.
In the end, I don’t know if telling us sooner would have done anything. He wouldn’t have told us anyway; Axl was always selfish. His last words to me were, “I love you, Saul, but don’t fuckin’ miss me forever. You’ve got better shit to do.” But I will miss him forever, all because of his selfishness. He died, my little redhead with the attitude, and left me here to suffer alone.
Axl… you always were a goddamn pain in the ass, but I fuckin’ loved you anyway. I still do. I love you, I hate you, I miss you, I can’t wait to see you again.
Get ready babe, ‘cause I’m coming soon.