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Producer Steve Lillywhite On Axl Rose’s Voice: ‘Like Fingers On A Chalkboard’

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Producer Steve Lillywhite has one of the best resumes in rock and roll: he has worked on records by Morrissey, Peter Gabriel, the Dave Matthews Band, Phish, The Rolling Stones and, most famously, U2. One band that isn’t on that list: Guns N’ Roses. He came rather close, though, to getting the Axl Rose experience, but as he told Los Angeles alt-rock station KROQ‘s Kevin & Bean Show, he pulled the plug on that.

Apparently, Lillywhite was one of many producers considered for GNR’s loooooong-delayed Chinese Democracy album (finally released in 2008), and he actually took a meeting with Axl Rose to discuss it.

“I was summoned to Los Angeles to meet with Axl Rose, we went for sushi, and then we went to the studio to listen to some tracks and he played me some instrumentals,” Lillywhite said. “I thought, ‘I can understand why he’d want me to work on this.’ And then I said, ‘Do you have anything with vocals on it?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I’ve got one song.’”

It was at that point that Lillywhite remembered why working with GNR would be unpleasant (besides Axl’s famously volatile personality).

“I was listening to it and I thought ‘Oh my God, I’d forgotten how much I hate his voice.’ I’m sorry! To some people, Axl Rose is royalty. To me, it’s like fingers on a chalkboard. Now, He was a very nice guy. We finished the evening – he paid – the next morning, the manager called and said, ‘Steve, you’re in. He thinks your fantastic. ‘ I said “I’m sorry, I don’t think I’m the right man for this job.” And that was it and I left it at that.”

It’s likely that Rose was upset by this, and the next development in the story reads like a bit of payback. “I wouldn’t be telling this story,” Lillywhite says, “except, the next issue of Rolling Stone came out and it said ‘Axl Rose Turns Down Steve Lillywhite!’ I would have said nothing if he said nothing!”

Lillywhite most recently produced Thirty Seconds To Mars‘ new album, Love Lust Faith + Dreams, which was released earlier this week (May 21).

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