During Recording Process “I’m sure you’ve heard the famous stories of Axl just being out of control, and being rude, yelling,” Dave Dominguez says.
During an interview with GN’R Central, Dave Dominguez – who worked as an engineer during the early stages of GN’R’s “Chinese Democracy” – recalled his experience of working with Axl Rose and co.
You can check out the conversation below (transcribed by UG):
Was the original idea that Guns were just going to come in for a few weeks and get some ideas together and then record immediately?
“Yeah, the idea was that they were going to come in for four months and rehearse – or three months – and then they were going to start writing a record for three months, but they didn’t have a producer at the time. It was supposed to be six months long.”
What was it like working with Axl?
“I’m sure you’ve heard the famous stories of Axl just being out of control, and being rude, yelling. I never really got any of that personally. He always treated me great and treated my family great, and he was always awesome.
“The only time he ever did really get upset with me was during one session – at the end of the song ‘This I Love’ he had said he was repeating the Stephanie scene one, like ‘I love you, Stephanie,’ or, ‘This I love Stephanie.’
“And he heard it and goes, ‘Just erase all that.’ I was like, ‘Do you want me to back it up?’. He was, ‘No, erase it!’. He yelled and walked out of the room.
“The assistant comes in, and I said, ‘We’re going to erase something GN’R fans are never ever going to hear. This is crazy, this is a GN’R song that no one’s ever heard, and no one is ever going to hear this again.’
“I looked at him and said, ‘Are you ready?’. And I put the tracks in and erased it.”
During those sessions, did Axl have a really good idea of what he wanted the album to sound like? Or was it just people throw out ideas and then they share the CDs?
“He was listening to a lot of Nine Inch Nails at the time, a lot of industrial stuff, so I remember that vibe, that was what he was going for.”
In one interview, you talked about going to Axl’s house for one of the parties he had. Was it a Halloween party?
“It was awesome. I got the call real quick before that we would take weekends off, and I would do sessions on the weekends. I get bands – it was extra money – and I get bands in the studio because it was down-time, there were two rooms, so I’d get bands in whenever I could.
“My ex-wife had to work, so I had to take my two young kids with me to the studio, and it was only half a day, it wasn’t a whole day so there’s like six hours.
“Once we got there, my kids were like, ‘Hey dad, we’re hungry,’ and I was like, ‘Okay, we’ll order pizza in a few minutes.’ I start working – I’ve never taken them to work with me before, I forget they’re there, and it’s like, ‘Three hours later,’ and I’m like, ‘Shoot, the kids are here!’
“So as I walk out of the room, I hear this deep voice talking, and I look up and it’s Axl. He said, ‘I hope you don’t mind, the kid said that you’re going to order them pizza, so I’m ordering pizzas. Is that okay?’. So he bought them pizza, he’s talking to them, he’s hanging out with them for an hour.
“So, he called me up and said, ‘Bring your family.’ My ex and I have four kids, so I brought only three because the youngest was only two years old at the time. So, we get to the house, it’s up in the Canyon in Malibu, a really beautiful area, park the car, tell the kids not to touch anything, just being a dad…
“So we walk in, and they have a Barney who’s greeting all the kids, and there’s Barney dancing and he greets the kids and also goes, ‘Hey Dave’ in a deep voice, and he takes the head off and it’s Axl in the Barney costume.
“He rented a bunch of busses and rented out the Universal Studios – he was taking everybody down there. I got my kids, so I can’t go.”
You said that he had a big game room, so was he a big gamer himself?
“He never mentioned it, he just had one push-down projector screen, and he had a couple of gaming systems. I’d never heard him talk about gamers, ever.”
So when the album came out in 2008 and you heard it, did you recognize a lot of the stuff you worked on?
“Not a thing, the only thing were the titles, but at that point, I had already been off for 10 years, so I couldn’t remember any of the loops. I remember ‘I.R.S.’, ‘Oklahoma’… ‘Better.’ kind of remember some of that.”
What exactly is the role of an engineer on an album?
“The role is to get tones and record the sound and to lay down the bands’ instruments.
“The producer will come in and make arrangement ideas and it could be – they could carve out the tones together, this is what the engineers job is to sit there and mic it, make sure it’s not distorted, make sure it’s clear, it’s all on the technical side, as opposed to the producer which is on the artistic side.”
Was it difficult to leave the GN’R project and move on?
“Not at all. They were going to rehearse for three months and then record for three months and then the record would be out. I left it in August. I think we started on January 3rd – I left in August, and nothing had been written, nothing had been recorded, it was just like ideas.”
At that point when you left in August, you weren’t with a lot of different musicians, I’ve always heard that everything was so expensive and grandiose in the studio, like no expense was spared compared to some other bands.
“For the first three months, there was FedEx or UPS every single day. Keyboards, guitars, from what I understand, Axl has a studio in his place, all the keyboards were being delivered to Axl’s, so there was a ton of money spent. A ton of money. I think I saw paperwork, and at when I left, and it was in the millions.”
After GN’R, what were some other bands you worked with?
“I met Jay Baumgardner, who produced Papa Roach, at his studio. I went for an interview because they needed someone as a Pro Tools operator, and a friend had set me up. So I went down there, it didn’t work out that way, but Jay said that they needed an engineer.
“He recognized me as an interviewee from the Guns thing as a producer, and we’re like, ‘Hey.’ We started talking, he said, ‘You want the job? I’m doing a demo for a band from Sacramento called Papa Roach.’ I said, ‘Yeah.'”
What do you make of the way the music business has changed now? Seems now everything is on streaming services, kids nowadays don’t know anything about album covers. What do you make of what the music industry has become?
“I really wish it wasn’t like that, but everything changes. I wish it was like back in the old days where there were record stores.
“That was our hangout when I was 13-14 years old because they were open until midnight – free listening station, magazines, I’d hang out there for hours. But times change.”
[Ex-GN’R manager] Doug Goldstein, did you ever deal with him back in the day?
“Yeah, BFD management, I dealt with them early on. It was probably, maybe halfway through when Axl just canned them. But he was a nice guy, I met him, he came down to make sure everything was rolling and then I never