He was a member of Axel Rose‘s outfit from 2000-06, an era that included contributions to Chinese democracy album and the delayed 2021 single”Absurd.” In a new interview with Rolling stonesMantia compares his experience to seeing Led Zeppelin‘s last US show as a teenager in 1977.
“It was just chaos, and that kind of helped when I got into Guns,” he said of Zeppelin’s performance at the Oakland Coliseum. “The chaos was ingrained in my brain. I was like, ‘Ah, shit. You were late, and that makes it cool?’ They made excuses like,Jimmy Page‘s guitar doesn’t work.’ I think they were just fighting backstage.”
Mantia said he accepted the offer to join Guns N’ Roses because they reminded him of Led Zeppelin. “I loved it,” he said of the challenging work environment. “Everybody else was sitting there freaking out like, ‘Oh my God. Axl is two hours late!’ I sat there eating an ice cream like, ‘Who cares? Maybe we don’t even play! That’s even better! As long as the money keeps coming, who cares?’ … I was so into that vibe. He could have been brilliant. He could have freaked out on stage. I was into it.”
He recalled the night in Philadelphia when Rose simply didn’t show up and the frustrated crowd went wild. “I was at the hotel,” Mantia said. “I kept calling the tour manager. I was like, ‘Hey, dude, do I have to come down yet? Do I have to play this show? What’s going on?’ He said, “Just stay there.” I thought, ‘Something’s strange.’
“I got a text from Mix Master Mike’s wife. She says, ‘Brain, are you guys showing up? They’re throwing things and yelling at Mix Master Mike. He’s been playing the same DJ set for about an hour and a half.’ I’m like, ‘Dude, I don’t really know.’ We finally get the call that he’s not coming. They said, ‘Everybody’s going home. This is the last show.’ I was like, ‘Oh, shit…'”
Mantia made another comparison to Led Zeppelin when thinking about his experience working on Chinese democracy. “The moment I wanted to get into music, not even drums, was when I saw The song remains the same“, he said. “There’s a scene where Jimmy Page is sitting there with a music box. He turns around and a guy says, ‘We need you. You have to go out and play.’ The next thing you see, he’s in Madison Square Garden.
“I just loved being in Guns, but I was doing other things, like taking golf lessons every day and learning computers and programming and orchestration and music theory. And then you get a call like, ‘Hey, Axl needs you. ‘ I thought, ‘This is the closest I’ll get to the Zeppelin thing. Who cares? Make it go forever. This is the coolest thing, it took 10 years.’
Mantia said he understood Rose’s attitude in those days, even if it wasn’t right. “If he didn’t feel like playing, for whatever reason, he just wouldn’t show up. He knew it would probably invite a consequence like a riot or a canceled tour, but he didn’t seem to care at the time.” Mantia added: “I really think he wants things to be at the highest level and he puts that on himself. That’s the part I admire.”
Concerts that turned into riots
Sometimes shows can get out of control.
Guns N’ Roses’ most underrated songs