Ex-Guns N’ Roses Manager Recalls Awful Way Axl Rose Treated Him, Explains What Made Them Different Than Other Bands

“Appetite for Destruction” came just at the perfect moment. Guns N’ Roses were sincere about their music and really functioned like a rock ‘n’ roll bunch. This was a major change from what most 1980s sleazy superficial glam metal bands were doing. However, this came with other challenges.

Guns N' Roses - Welcome To The Jungle (Live at The Ritz 1988 HD)

While talking to VWMusic, the band’s former manager Alan Niven looked back on his first impressions of the band. In particular. Recalling those first moments with them, he said:

“Fuck-ups. But that meant they weren’t your typical, calculating L.A. wannabes who had more ambition than talent. Y’know, throw a demo together, shop it, not get signed, all change, join other musicians. Every three months.”

“A band is something that must be forged in the fire of adversity. Stay together and allow personal chemistry to percolate. Take on impossible odds. Fuck ’em all; it’s us against them. That was Mötley. That was Great White. That was Guns. Us against everything. One for all and all for one…

Guns N' Roses - Mr. Brownstone Live At Rock In Rio 1991 (Headbanger's Ball Full HD Remastered Video)

“Keith Richards told Slash he could never leave the band. Keith understood this to the marrow. He may have hated Sir Mick at certain points and thought the knighthood a betrayal of the blue-collar rock ‘n’ roll spirit, but he was Keith’s knight of the realm. So, fuck ya all.”

Additionally, he reflected on drummer Steven Adler and how difficult was it to work with him due to his lack of proper skill. He said:

“Stevie couldn’t play anything the same way twice. We persevered way past the point when the obvious was apparent. Had he been able to, our only issue would have been keeping him alive.”

But as far as Izzy Stradlin was concerned, he was the only serious one. Niven explained:

“As far as I was concerned, it was his band – he had the cool disposition and the unimpeachable street vernacular. Add to that the syncopation of his right rhythm hand, and you have a personification of rock ‘n’ roll right there.

“He was always the one who was always available for conference, for discussion. Axl was insular. Slash and Duff were mostly fucked up.”

The relationship Niven had with Axl Rose was a complicated one. It’s not much of a surprise to know as Axl was known for his eccentric nature. Asked about Axl and how they worked together, Niven said:

“His first insult was to thank me in the liner notes after his fuckin’ dogs. He didn’t bother to show for the dinner with [GN’R lawyer Peter] Paterno and the rest of the band where they offered to extend my original contract for another whole three years. That was when I knew I’d be fucked over by them.”

GNR "American Music Awards 1989"

“They did offer to raise my commission rate to 20%, but I turned down the increase. I did not want my company being paid more than a band member, although I had to pay for offices and staff. I never charged back a dime in expenses, as I had the conventional right to do so.”

“The only time Axl ever said thank you was from the stage of the Hammersmith Odeon – so even that was more about him than me. See me being gracious. He wasn’t a nice person back then. He may have changed. To me, he’s kinda like the Tonya Harding of rock ‘n’ roll – capable of being sublime but best known for other reasons.”

Photo: Andres Fernando Allain (Axl rose 2010 concert)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.