Prior to its 1991 launch, he told label head David Geffen that he would put production on hold and send the band on tour if its percentage was not increased. This led to an argument which, among other things, Eagles member Don Henleyas Niven told Vinyl author music in a new interview.
“I had invited [Geffen executive Eddie] Rosenblatt for a birthday dinner for my then-wife,” Niven said. “After the Chardonnay had flowed, I quietly told him to tell David that I was putting the 1991 tour up for sale and that we would hit the road and make money but leave the record unfinished if david did that. not improve the band’s royalty rate. That was with a new signing rate of 12 percent.”
Geffen, he continued, “went ballistic” when he heard the news, “yelling and screaming that he wasn’t going to be intimidated or taken advantage of.” But, Niven added, “the more he yelled, the more I realized he understood he was going to have to retire.” When 10 days had passed, Niven began to think that his plan had failed, but then the label head pulled a trick. “I received a summons to Geffen’s office. I arrived to find all his A&R and executive staff in the room. I was there alone. The most important thing was that I was alone and without the band’s legal representation. I had been bushwhacked.”
Niven recalled, “Geffen asked what I wanted in a contract. Truthfully, I didn’t have time to think about such details, but I knew what my concept was: ‘I want the best contract you have with an artist on Geffen.’ ‘It can’t be done,’ replied Geffen. ‘Why would it be?’ I asked. ‘Because Henley has it and he has a favored nations clause.’ Which means it’s a position that only he can have.
“”Well, that’s not a problem,” I replied. “We want the same terms as Henley, and every time you front the band, I’ll go to City National Bank and get a perfect, uncirculated $1 bill and send the one to Don personally.” Then David stared at me for what seemed like the longest LA minute. He dismissed the others in the room and told me to get the band’s lawyer on the phone and start renegotiating. The door had been opened.”
When the new deal was made, Niven no longer managed Guns N’ Roses due to his relationship with Axel Rose had collapsed. Recalling that he turned down the invitation to lead the band twice before retiring, he said his first impression of the members was that they were “fuck-ups”.
He added: “But that meant they weren’t your typical, calculating LA wannabes who had more ambition than talent. … A band is something that has to be forged in the fire of adversity. Stick together and let personal chemistry seep in . Take on impossible odds. Fuck them all; it’s us against them. It was Varied. It was Great whites. It was Guns. Us against everything. One for all and all for one.”
He admitted that he was at times concerned that GNR’s debut album, Appetite for destruction, would never be completed. “I had just become a parent,” he said. “On the album, we were $365,000 in debt to Geffen. Now the video and touring costs would come on top of that. I figured I’d never see a hell of a penny.
“I got insomnia at this point in my life. It wasn’t fun anymore. It was stress, worry and pressure out there. I wondered if I had made the biggest mistake of my career. In some ways, I had.”
Concerts that turned into riots
Sometimes shows can get out of hand.