Exclusive: Former GN’R Manager Counters Axl’s Claims
“Axl got rid of me to wrestle control of GN’R!” claims former GN’R manager Alan Niven in a Classic Rock exclusive.
Guns N’ Roses’ former manager has claimed that Axl Rose had him fired in what he believes was an attempt by Rose to take control of the band name.
In a web posting on December 11, 2008, Axl claimed that he sought ownership of the band’s name as protection because their then manager, Alan Niven, “was always trying to convince someone they should fire me”.
He added: “As I had stopped speaking with him he sensed his days were numbered and was bending any ear he could along with attempting to sell our renegotiation [with record company Geffen] out for a personal pay day”.
In his first full length magazine interview printed in the next issue of Classic Rock, Alan Niven refutes Rose’s allegations and gives new insights into life behind the scenes with GN’R.
Of Axl’s claim that Niven tried to personally benefit from the Geffen renegtiation, the manager claims that, rather than being fuelled by greed he “paid millions to get Axl out of my life”.
Niven claims that he had “a 17% commission in perpetuity [ie that] anything released, mastered or negotiated during the term of my contract was commissionable forever… Axl fired me in ’91. Now that means that the sales of Appetite, Lies and Use Your Illusions were all commissionable. Forever. To get Axl out of my life I sold those rights back to the band for $3.5 million. I did not want to deal with him again. Now that’s a decent chunk of change, but Geffen had only paid royalties on about five million albums total at that time. Imagine how much I had still coming. [Appetite For Destruction alone has sold 30 million copies.] The settlement I took is not nearly anywhere close to what I was due and had earned.”
In fact, Niven claims that Axl waited until the manager had renegotiated the deal before firing him.
“As regards his remark about me getting a payday from Geffen from renegotiations – let’s get some more facts straight. I have a right to defend myself against this guy. “Firstly, both the managers of Aerosmith and Whitesnake tried to get renegotiations on existing contracts around this time and failed. I think I am the only person to leverage a re-negotiation out of David Geffen on an existing contract… Their royalty rates were increased by 30%. There were other refinements. Better advances, etc. But since when I was fired I sold my rights back to the band I did not benefit from this re-negotiation.”
“Furthermore, I had their merch deal redone, and their sub-publishing deal redone. They were due. …I also got the first major headline tour in place. Then I was fired. Nice.”
“As for his claim I was trying to get him fired because he wasn’t talking to me, that is an absurd invention. He didn’t talk to me after the incident in Phoenix in ’88 when his failure to show caused a riot. He didn’t talk to me when I refused to cancel the Aerosmith tour. I was banned from that tour for a month. Many was the time Axl would send me to Coventry.”
While Axl claims he sought rights to the name to protect his position in the band from Niven, the former manager suggests that he was fired so that Axl could wrestle control of GN’R: “What I find interesting is that after I was fired, by his own admission, Axl took the band name as part of the Geffen renegotiation. I believe he got rid of me to do that, amongst other things. I think that he always intended to take total control. And he knew I would not stand for such a move. I could be wrong, but I rather think there you have it.
“Axl always had a problem that I made it clear that I represented the interests of all five members of the band, not just and exclusively his.”
Of the new GN’R, Niven comments: “Y’know, everyone has the right to make the music they want to with whomever they wish. But just be up ’n’ up about it. All this ‘last man’ standing stuff from Axl is horseshit. He wore us all out. Drove us all off. And for a personality like Axl, solo work only makes sense. If he wants to be Elton Rose then more power to him. Go for it. Pull it off. He has the talent to do that. But don’t pretend that one person alone represents the idea of Guns N’ Roses. That band, in my opinion, played its last show on April 7, 1990. Farm Aid, Indianapolis.”
To read the full interview, see the new edition of Classic Rock, onsale Wednesday February 4.