The Real Reason Josh Freese Left Guns ‘N Roses
via rocknpics / Youtube
Drummer Josh Freese gained recognition as an exceptionally dependable session musician in the realm of popular music prior to his involvement with the Foo Fighters. His notable contributions ranged from providing rhythmic beats for prominent new wave band Devo to making studio appearances alongside Evanescence and Avril Lavigne.
Freese’s extensive track record surpasses his current musical endeavor, as he even had a brief stint with the renowned hard rock icons Guns ‘N Roses.
Breakthrough amidst Guns ‘N Roses Drama
At the age of 27, Freese secured the drummer position for Guns ‘N Roses in 1997. While this opportunity would typically be a dream come true for most rock musicians, the band was facing significant turmoil during the late 1990s.
Many of the original members, such as Slash, Duff McKagan, and Izzy Stradlin, had left the group in tense circumstances. Axl Rose had complete control over the band, and during Freese’s time with them, the lineup consisted of various musicians, including Robin Finck from Nine Inch Nails and Tommy Stinson from The Replacements.
In an interview with The Drummer’s Journal in 2016, Freese disclosed that his involvement with GNR followed a more structured process than anticipated. He clarified:
“I had a two-year contract with them; I chose not to re-sign after those two years were up.”
Despite being part of the band, Freese did not perform live with them. During his tenure, Guns ‘N Roses dedicated their efforts to recording Chinese Democracy, an album that would only be released in 2008.
The Shift from Guns ‘N Roses
Freese asserted that he had a positive relationship with Rose. He claimed:
“I spent a lot of time in the studio with them, but after two years of exactly that, I realized that’s how things were likely going to continue. At the time, I was also doing lots of other projects. I’d make a Chris Cornell record; I was working with Devo and The Vandals.”
However, his involvement with another band ultimately led to the end of Freese’s time with Guns ‘N Roses. Freese explained:
“I was starting what would become A Perfect Circle with Maynard [James Keenan] from Tool. Guns ‘N Roses were so big it was intimidating.
“I was skeptical about that part of it. They were like this giant jumbo jet sat on the tarmac waiting to take off, but A Perfect Circle was this little sports car saying, ‘Jump in and let’s go!’”
Freese’s involvement with Guns ‘N Roses was limited to their 1999 single, “Oh My God.” He further explained:
“Put it like this, by the time A Perfect Circle had made a record, booked a tour and gotten a record deal, Guns ‘N Roses were still sat in the studio working on that same record,” then stated, “I got involved with them at a weird time when they were trying to figure out their next move. That said, if I’d reached the end of my contract and they’d immediately gone out on tour with a new record and come home filthy rich, yes, I would definitely have felt like I’d messed up. But that’s not how it happened.”
Change of Directions
On the other hand, Freese had a fruitful year in 2000. Following his departure from Guns ‘N Roses, he became a member of A Perfect Circle and participated in the recording of their first album, Mer de Noms.
Additionally, he made guest appearances with alternative rocker Tracy Bonham and John Doe, the frontman of X. During this time, Guns ‘N Roses experienced some changes, and coincidentally, Freese’s path briefly crossed with the Foo Fighters.
Taylor Hawkins was then approached as a potential replacement for him on drums. However, Hawkins decided to remain with the Foo Fighters, but he wasn’t the only band member considering joining GNR.
During that period, Chris Shiflett, former guitarist of No Use for a Name, was also offered an audition. Shiflett declined the opportunity (ultimately, the position was given to the exceptionally skilled avant-garde shredder Buckethead) and chose to join the Foo Fighters instead.