In a long talk with Matt Wake with Alabama.com, drummer Chris Vrenna (Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Mason) who took part in the recordings sessions of Guns N’ Roses’ “Chinese Democracy” and is currently teaching at Calhoun Community College in Alabama, told why Axl Rose decided to maintain the name Guns N’ Roses even with the leave of Slash and the dudes and all the musical changes of heart in “Chinese Democracy.” Click here to read all the interview.
“It was a little all over the place. And Paul (Huge) made it change a little bit. By that time everything was so fractured, and everybody had an opinion of what the band should do. After Duff left, that really bummed me out. Because Duff was a good hang and he was the last thread to the first record.
After he left I even had a talk with Axl one time like, “You know, you’re changing the sound of the band and it’s really just you and we’re all new dudes and we all come from cool places. But have you ever thought of just saying, f— Guns N’ Roses. That name is dead. The band is over. We are now called ‘blank.’
And he goes, ‘Yeah you’re not the first person who’s told me I should probably do that. But Guns N’ Roses is an international brand name, and to start over when I can just use the brand name that everybody knows, I can’t sacrifice the branding that’s already been established.’
And I got his argument for not changing the name. But I also firmly believed in what I was saying. If Axl Rose came out and said, ‘Look, man. Everybody’s quit the band. If I call this Guns N’ Roses you guys are going to laugh at me,’ which a lot of people did. Because it’s not what we know as Guns N’ Roses, so call it something new. You’re Axl Rose, it will be big and people will know that new logo and that new name and that new whatever.”
Currently, in addition to intro to mass com, Vrenna is teaching intro to recording technology, studio production and Pro Tools at Calhoun, a school with an enrollment of around 10,000 and located in Decatur, a north Alabama city best known for being home to Point Mallard water-park and rocket manufacturer United Launch Alliance.
Vrenna’s more than OK with being there.
“You never know what life’s going to be and I like a new challenge and I like teaching,” he says. He’s seated behind a desk in a small office – decorated with platinum records, model rockets and Funko figures of Jimi Hendrix and Amy Winehouse – inside the Alabama Center for the Arts. The Calhoun Jazz Band’s rehearsal room is visible through a window behind Vrenna’s left shoulder.
“But yeah,” Vrenna, age 51, continues, “in 2010 if you would’ve told me, ‘In eight years you’re going to end up in Huntsville, Alabama,’ I’d be like, ‘Yeah, right!’ But things change.”
After tearing his left rotator cuff twice (“It’s a full year of physical therapy to recover. I couldn’t even lift my arm over my head for six months”), the result of decades of repetitive drumming motion, Vrenna turned to teaching. Vrenna’s first teaching gig was at Wisconsin’s Madison Media Institute. He started at Calhoun this fall.