Chinese Democracy
Chinese Democracy
Name Chinese Democracy
Artist Guns N' Roses
Type Studio
Released November 23, 2008
Recorded 1994-2007
Battery Soundtrack, Bennett House, Can Am, Capitol, Cherokee, Electric Lady, IGA, The Palms, Rumbo, Sunset Sound, The Townhouse, The Village, Woodland Ranch
Genre(s) Hard rock
Length 71:18
Label(s) Geffen
Producer(s) Axl Rose, Caram Costanzo

Chinese Democracy is the sixth studio album by American rock band Guns N' Roses. It was released on November 23, 2008, worldwide, except in the United Kingdom on November 24, 2008.[1] It is the band's first studio album since 1993's "The Spaghetti Incident?", and their first album of original studio material since the simultaneous release of Use Your Illusion I and II in September 1991. Retail store chain Best Buy is the exclusive retailer of the album in the United States.

In a 2007 interview, Axl Rose's close friend Sebastian Bach stated that Chinese Democracy will be the first installment in a trilogy of new albums. Bach also remarked that Rose had told him the third, as yet untitled, album has been slated for 2012.[2]


Main article: History of Chinese Democracy

Guns N' Roses began to write and record new music in 1994. Ex-bassist Duff McKagan is quoted as saying, "[the] band was so splintered at that point that nothing got started".[3] Slash has criticized Rose for making the band seem "like a dictatorship".[4] Slash quit the band in 1996 with drummer Matt Sorum and McKagan both leaving soon afterwards.[5] Slash was replaced by Nine Inch Nails touring guitarist Robin Finck, ex-Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson replaced McKagan, and Josh Freese joined as the drummer. In early 1998, the band — which comprised Rose, Finck, Stinson and Freese along with long-time Guns N' Roses associate Paul Tobias, keyboardists Dizzy Reed and Chris Pitman — began recording at Rumbo Recorders, a state-of-the-art studio in the San Fernando Valley where Guns N' Roses had partially recorded parts for their debut album, Appetite for Destruction. During this time, Geffen paid Rose $1 million to try to finish the album, with a further $1 million if he handed it in to them by March 1, 1999.[4]

In 2000, Rose hired avant-garde metal guitarist Buckethead, and drummer Bryan "Brain" Mantia to replace the departed Freese. Later on in 2000, Finck rejoined the band as the third guitarist. On January 1, 2001, Guns N' Roses played their first concert in over seven years at the House of Blues in Las Vegas, Nevada. This was followed by their headlining performance at Rock in Rio III on January 14, 2001 in front of 190,000 people.[6] On August 29, 2002, the band made a surprise visit to the MTV Video Music Awards, playing old songs along with a new "Madagascar" to an ecstatic New York crowd.[7]

On December 14, 2006, Rose published an open letter to the band's fans on their website, claiming that remaining tour's shows were taking up time the band needed to finish recording Chinese Democracy. Rose also revealed that the band had parted company with their manager Merck Mercuriadis, implying that the reason the album was not released in 2006 was Mercuriadis's fault (many times throughout 2006, Rose had said the album would be released that year). In the letter, Rose announced a tentative release date of March 6, 2007 for the album; however, the album was once again delayed.[8][9]

On February 22, 2007, the band's road manager, Del James, announced that all recording for the album had been completed and it was in the mixing process, James stated that there was no release date for the album but that things appeared to be moving on after a number of delays.[10]

On September 14, 2008, "Shackler's Revenge" was released on the music video game Rock Band 2, making it the band's first official release of new material since 1999's "Oh My God".[11] "Shackler's Revenge" was shortly followed by another release, "If the World", which, according to Rolling Stone, plays during the closing credits of Body of Lies. A firm release date was announced by Billboard in October, 2008, set for November 23rd.[12] In the US, the retail release is sold exclusively through Best Buy. The first single from the album, "Chinese Democracy", was released on October 22, 2008.[13] On February 2008, Rose and video game developer Harmonix confirmed that the album would be released as downloadable content for the Rock Band series, joining the previously released "Shackler's Revenge."[14]


Long time Guns N' Roses producer Mike Clink was reported to have worked on the album during its conception. Moby and Youth turned down offers to work on the album.[15] According to Rolling Stone, engineer Andy Wallace, who had worked on Nirvana's Nevermind, was working on the album in 2006. A source close to Guns N' Roses is quoted as saying "we're absolutely delighted with the mixes".[16] Other producers who have worked on the album include Roy Thomas Baker, Bob Ezrin and Sean Beavan.[17]


The band has worked with numerous other artists during Chinese Democracy's recording process; including guitarists Brian May and Dave Navarro.[18][19] May recorded the lead guitar parts for the leaked song "Catcher In the Rye" in 1999;[18] however, May is not credited in the finished album.[20]

Composers Marco Beltrami and Paul Buckmaster worked on orchestral arrangements for the album in the early 2000s.[19] In January 2007, former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach recorded backing vocals for a song called "Sorry" at Electric Lady Studios.[21] Harpist Patti Hood has also recorded parts for the album.[22]


In 1999, the industrial metal song "Oh My God" was released on the End of Days soundtrack. It featured current Guns N' Roses members Axl Rose, Dizzy Reed, Robin Finck, Chris Pitman, and Tommy Stinson, along with former members Paul Tobias and Josh Freese. Dave Navarro and Gary Sunshine also recorded guitar parts for the song. "Oh My God" was unpopular upon its release and was described by Allmusic as "a less than satisfying comeback".[4][23] The sound of Chinese Democracy was often reported to be industrial rock music similar to Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, a style of which Rose had long been a fan. However, in a 2001 interview with an Argentine radio station, Rose stated the album wasn't industrial, and would vary in styles:

It is not industrial, the closest thing to that was perhaps "Oh My God", but there are some songs that won't be on the album that were this way. There will be all kinds of styles, many influences as blues, mixed in the songs.[24]

"Chinese Democracy" was the first single released by Guns N' Roses since 1999. In 2003, DJ Eddie Trunk spoke about the demo of "I.R.S.", which was leaked on his radio show:

It reminded me of Use Your Illusion-era stuff, with some modern flairs to it. The song had a loop track in the beginning, but then, when it kicked in, it was that same dramatic Guns N' Roses hard rock.[25]

During the launch party for Korn's 2006 tour, Rose conducted an interview with Rolling Stone and told the magazine:

It's a very complex record, I'm trying to do something different. Some of the arrangements are kind of like Queen. Some people are going to say, 'It doesn't sound like Axl Rose, it doesn't sound like Guns N' Roses.' But you'll like at least a few songs on there.[26]

In a Rolling Stone article in 2006, former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach described the album as "epic" and "mind-blowing" and added:

It’s a very cool album - it’s badass with killer screams, killer guitar riffs, but it’s got a totally modern sound. The word for it is ‘grand.’ It’s fucking epic. He’s reinvented himself yet again.[27]

Bach has also described the album as having "the rawness and the power of Appetite for Destruction, but it also has the grandiosity of 'November Rain'."[28] He went on to describe the song "Sorry", which he sings backing vocals on:

There’s this one song called ‘Sorry’ that’s almost like doom metal with Axl singing really clean over this grinding, slow beat that is fucking mean, I cannot get it out of my head.[27]


According to a March 2005 New York Times article, production costs for the album have reached $13 million, making it probably the most expensive recording "never made."[4] Then-Guns N' Roses manager Merck Mercuriadis, however, rejected the claims made by the article in a letter and claimed that the newspaper's sources had not been involved with the project for "six to nine years".[29]

Rose issued a press release on Guns N' Roses' official website on December 14, 2006. Entitled "An open letter to the fans from Axl", Rose announced the cancellation of four concerts that were scheduled for January 2007. He stated that if the band fulfilled the concerts, "valuable time needed by the band and record company for the proper setup and release of the album Chinese Democracy would have been lost". Also in the letter, he confirmed that Guns N' Roses had parted company with Mercuriadis. Rose blamed much of the album's delay on Mercuriadis. Rose also announced a tentative release date for Chinese Democracy of March 6, 2007, and remarked that it was the first time the band had publicly named a release date for the album.[8]

Despite Rose's announcement, the album was once again delayed. On February 22, 2007, the band's road manager, Del James, issued a press release definitively stating that all recording for the album had been completed. James elaborated, "There is no official release date, as the band is currently mixing, but after some delays and scheduling difficulties, things appear to be moving along."[10]

In a 2007 interview, Sebastian Bach claimed Rose had planned to have the album released by Christmas 2007: "I know Axl was very serious about putting something out before Christmas. He was talking to me about it. He was talking about finishing liner notes." Bach also said that Chinese Democracy's delay might be because of business problems: "I think there's a lot of business shit that goes on with him. It's just not as easy. It's a little more complicated than people think."[30] Little was said about the record after this, and 2007 saw no official release of the new material.

In January 2008, rumors arose that Chinese Democracy had been handed over to Geffen Records, but had been delayed because the label and Rose could not agree on the marketing of the album.[31] Eddie Trunk also claimed Geffen might have the album: "I hear the new G&R CD is actually done, but the delay in release is not the bands issues but the label. There is so much money tied up in this record that in today's business it will be virtually impossible to be profitable, meaning the label might want to sell it off but can not find a buyer since nobody buys CDs anymore. Problem might not be Axl this time around and might keep this CD in limbo for more years to come. Hopefully it gets resolved."[32] However, in a February 2008 interview with Classic Rock Magazine, Rose's personal manager, Beta Lebeis, debunked Trunk's suggestion and was quoted as saying, "We're currently in negotiations with the record label".[33]

Controversy and lawsuits[]

Greatest Hits release[]

In 2004, Geffen Records released Greatest Hits. Rose, along with former members Slash and Duff McKagan, attempted to block the album's release. They filed a lawsuit against Geffen, claiming the album was unauthorized and would damage the band's reputation. Rose also claimed it would distract the band from completing Chinese Democracy. A week before the scheduled release, a judge denied their request for an injunction and the album was released.[34] Greatest Hits was #1 in the UK for two weeks and reached #3 on the Billboard 200. It remained on the Billboard 200 for over two years and has sold over four million units domestically.[35]

Dr. Pepper promotion[]

On March 26, 2008, various media outlets reported that Dr Pepper would offer a free can of Dr Pepper to everyone in America—excluding former Guns N' Roses guitarists Buckethead and Slash—if the band released Chinese Democracy in 2008.[36][37] Later on March 26, Rose replied to Dr Pepper on Guns N' Roses' official website and spoke of his surprise at Dr Pepper's support. Rose also said he would share his Dr Pepper with Buckethead as "some of Buckethead's performances are on [Chinese Democracy]".[38] After it was announced that the album would be released in 2008, Dr Pepper confirmed that it would uphold its pledge.[39] However, Dr Pepper's online distribution of free coupons upon the album's release November 23, 2008 proved less than adequate. Lawyers for the band threatened Dr Pepper's parent company with a lawsuit just two days after the album's release. In a letter to Dr Pepper, Rose's lawyer Alan Gutman said "The redemption scheme your company clumsily implemented for this offer was an unmitigated disaster which defrauded consumers and, in the eyes of vocal fans, ruined Chinese Democracy's release."[40] Rose's lawyer also demanded that the company make a full-page apology that would appear in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times.[41][42]

Censorship in the People's Republic of China[]

The album is banned in the People's Republic of China, reportedly because of supposed criticism in its title track about the Government of the People's Republic of China and a reference to the Falun Gong.[43] The Communist government said through a state controlled newspaper that it "turns its spear point on China".[44][45]

Release and reception[]

Chinese Democracy debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200, selling about 261,000 copies in its first week of sales,[46] well below expectations.[47][48] The album also debuted at #2 on the UK Albums Chart,[49] coming in behind The Killers' album Day & Age. Chinese Democracy was certified Platnium by the RIAA on February 3, 2009,[50] and according to Nielsen SoundScan has sold 537,000 copies in the United States, and about 2.6 million copies worldwide.[51]

There has been a lot of finger pointing within the industry as to why the album hasn't sold up to expectations.[51] Record executives at Geffen have been upset with Rose for not doing any promotion or publicity work for Chinese Democracy, feeling that the album would have sold better had Rose been around to promote it.[48] It was reported that he had been missing for at least two months, and had not returned any phone calls or other requests.[52] Rose broke his silence on the Guns N' Roses message boards on December 11th, addressing topics concerning the status of his relationships with former members of the band, as well as stating that a video for the song "Better" would be released shortly.[53]

U.S. exclusive retailer Best Buy's limited promotional campaign and disorganization have also been blamed for the album's sluggish sales.[54] There were no midnight sales for the album's release, and some Best Buy locations had no vinyl records or promotional displays up on the release day.[54] According to Rolling Stone writer Chris Steffen, going into Best Buy on November 23rd, "[y]ou’d be hard-pressed to know it was one of the most hyped release days of the century."[54]

Chinese Democracy placed at number 12 on the "Top 50 Albums of 2008" list for Rolling Stone[55] and number 3 on "Top 50 Albums of 2008" for Classic Rock magazine.

Track Listing[]

All lyrics by Axl Rose

  1. "Chinese Democracy" - 4:43
  2. "Shackler's Revenge" - 3:37
  3. "Better" - 4:58
  4. "Street of Dreams" - 4:46
  5. "If The World" - 4:54
  6. "There Was A Time" - 6:41
  7. "Catcher in the Rye" - 5:53
  8. "Scraped" - 3:30
  9. "Riad n' the Bedouins" - 4:10
  10. "Sorry" - 6:14
  11. "I.R.S" - 4:28
  12. "Madagascar" - 5:38
  13. "This I Love" - 5:34
  14. "Prosititute" - 6:15


Guns N' Roses and former members

  • Axl Rose - vocals on all tracks; keyboards on tracks 1, 6 and 13; guitar on tracks 6 and 12; piano on tracks 7, 13 and 14; Orchestral arrangements on tracks 6 and 13; backing vocals on track 7; synthesizer French horns on track 12; samples on track 12; arrangements on all tracks; Orchestral and horn arrangements on tracks 6, 12 and 13; Choral arrangements on tracks 6 and 13; drum arrangement on track 6; digital editing on tracks 2, 3, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14; production, mixing
  • Robin Finck - lead guitars on all tracks; keyboards on tracks 3 and 5; guitar solos on tracks 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 11, and 13; acoustic guitar on track 10; arrangement, drum arrangement and digital editing on track 3; initial production on track 3
  • Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal - lead guitars on all tracks; guitar solos on tracks 2, 7, 8, and 9
  • Buckethead - lead guitars on all tracks except 7 and 13; guitar solos on tracks 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 14; acoustic guitar on track 5; arrangements on tracks 2, 8 and 10
  • Paul Tobias - guitars on tracks 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12 and 14; piano on track 6; arrangements on tracks 1 and 11
  • Richard Fortus - guitars on tracks 1, 3, 4, 6 and 14
  • Tommy Stinson - bass on all tracks except 5; backing vocals on tracks 1, 3, 4 an 6; arrangement on track 9
  • Chris Pitman - sub-bass on all tracks except 7; keyboards on all tracks except 9, 11 and 14; backing vocals on tracks 3 and 6; bass on tracks 5, 6 and 12; twelve-string guitar on track 5; mellotron on track 6; string machine on track 5; arrangements on tracks 5, 12 and 13; drum and Orchestra arrangements on tracks 6 and 12; guitar processing on track 1; drum programming on tracks 5, 6 and 12; digital editing on tracks 5, 12 and 13; additional production on tracks 5, 6 and 12; initial production on tracks 5 and 12
  • Bryan "Brain" Mantia - drums on all tracks except 1; drum arrangements on tracks 3, 4, 6, 12 and 14; arrangements on tracks 2 and 10; drum programming on track 11; initial production on track 2
  • Frank Ferrer - drums on tracks 1, 3, 5, 6 and 11
  • Dizzy Reed - keyboards on tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 14; backing vocals on tracks 1, 3, 4, 6 and 9; piano on tracks 4 and 5; Additional Orchestral direction on tracks 4, 6, 12, 13 and 14
  • Josh Freese - drum arrangements on tracks 4, 6, 9 and 14

Additional personnel

  • Pete Scaturro - keyboards on track 10; arrangements on tracks 2 and 10; digital editing and additional engineering on track 10; initial production on tracks 2 and 10
  • Sebastian Bach - backing vocals on track 10
  • Patti Hood - harp on track 13
  • Caram Costanzo - digital editing on all tracks; arrangements on tracks 2, 6 and 8; drum arrangements on tracks 3, 6 and 14; sub drums on track 13; production; mixing; engineering; initial production on track 8
  • Eric Caudieux - digital editing on all tracks; drum programming on track 5; arrangements on track 6; sub drums on track 13; Pro Tools engineering; additional production
  • Andy Wallace - mixing
  • Dan Monti - engineering
  • Bob Ludwig - mastering
  • Roy Thomas Baker - Initial album production
  • Sean Beavan - arrangements on tracks 1, 4, 6, 9 and 11; digital editing on tracks 4, 5, 6, 9, 11, 12 and 14; initial production on tracks 5 and 12; additional Pro Tools
  • Paul Buckmaster - Initial Orchestral arrangements on tracks 4, 6, 12 and 14
  • Marco Beltrami - Additional Orchestral arrangements on tracks 4, 6, 12, 14; Orchestral Arrangment on track 13
  • Suzy Katayama - French horns on track 12; Brass section arrangements on tracks 6, 12 and 13; Choral arrangements on tracks 6 and 13
  • Billy Howerdel – digital editing on track 6

  • Okhee Kim - engineering assistance
  • Andy Gwynn - engineering assistance
  • Brian Monteath - assistance
  • Dave Dominguez - engineering assistance
  • Jose Borges - engineering assistance
  • Joe Peluso - engineering assistance
  • Christian Baker - engineering assistance
  • James Musshorn - engineering assistance
  • Greg Morgenstein - additional Pro Tools
  • Paul DeCarli - additional Pro Tools

  • Jan Petrov - engineering assistance
  • Jeff Robinette - engineering assistance
  • Bob Koszela - engineering assistance
  • Paul Payne - engineering assistance
  • Mark Gray - engineering assistance
  • Xavier Albira – engineering assistance
  • Dror Mohar - engineering assistance
  • Mike Scielzi - mixing assistance
  • Billy Bowers - additional Pro Tools
  • Justin Walden - additional Pro Tools

  • Eric Tabala - engineering assistance
  • Shawn Berman - engineering assistance
  • Donald Clark - engineering assistance
  • Shinnosuke Miyazawa - engineering assistance
  • Vanessa Parr - engineering assistance
  • John Beene - engineering assistance
  • Al Perrotta - engineering assistance
  • Paul Suarez - mixing assistance
  • Rail Jon Rogut - additional Pro Tools
  • Isaac Abolin - additional Pro Tools
  • Ryan Corey - design
  • Terry Hardin - cover photography
  • George Chin - photography

Chart positions[]


Year Chart Peak position
2008 Argentina Albums Chart #1[56]
Australian Albums Chart #3[57]
Austrian Albums Chart #3[58]
Belgian Albums Chart #4[59]
Brazilian Albums Chart #1
Canadian Albums Chart #1[60]
Danish Albums Chart #7[61]
Dutch Albums Chart #4[62]
European Top 100 #1[63]
Finnish Albums Chart #1[64]
French Albums Chart #10[58]
German Albums Chart #2[58]
Greek Albums Chart #10[65]
Hungarian Albums Chart #4[66]
Irish Albums Chart #3[67]
Israeli Albums Chart #3[68]
Italian Albums Chart #3[69]
Japanese Albums Chart #3[70]
Mexican Album Charts #4[71]
New Zealand Album Chart #1[72]
Norwegian Albums Chart #2[58]
Polish Albums Chart #1[73]
Russian Albums Chart #4[74]
Slovene Albums Chart #1[75]
Swedish Albums Chart #4[58]
Swiss Albums Chart #1[58]
Portuguese Albums Chart #9[58]
UK Albums Chart #2[49]
U.S. Billboard 200 #3[46]


Year Song Chart Peak position[76]
2008 "Chinese Democracy"
Billboard Hot 100 #34[77]
Mainstream Rock Tracks #5
Hot Modern Rock Tracks #24[78]
Canadian Hot 100 #10[79]
UK Singles Chart #27[80]
Irish Singles Chart #3[81]
Australian ARIA Singles Chart #54[82]
Norwegian Top 20 #1[83]
Swedish Singles Chart #3[84]
2008 "Better"
Mainstream Rock Tracks #18[85]
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