Much to the surprise of, well, no one, Guns N' Roses have nixed their May 30 appearance at Rock in Rio - Lisbon.
In an official statement, singer Axl Rose blamed the cancellation on former guitarist Buckethead, who quit the band earlier this year (see "Buckethead's Hand Puppet Says Goodbye To Guns N' Roses").
"The band has been put in an untenable position by guitarist Buckethead and his untimely departure," Rose said. "I apologize to the fans who planned to see us at Rock in Rio - Lisbon. The festival and its tradition mean a lot to me personally and I sincerely do not enjoy being robbed by one of our own of the opportunity to be the first artist to play it for the third time."
Rose, who failed to show up at two of the band's gigs last year, forcing the cancellation of the remainder of the tour (see "It's Extra Official: Promoter Says GN'R Tour Totally Off"), called Buckethead unreliable, and claimed he was largely responsible for the band's inability to proceed with its decade-in-the-making album, Chinese Democracy.
"During his tenure with the band, Buckethead has been inconsistent and erratic in both his behavior and commitment — despite being under contract — creating uncertainty and confusion and making it virtually impossible to move forward with recording, rehearsals and live plans with confidence," Rose said. "His transient lifestyle has made it impossible for even his closest friends to have nearly any form of communication with him whatsoever."
Buckethead quit Guns N' Roses several times during his four years with the group, but he repeatedly returned. It got to the point, claims Rose, where the band wasn't even entirely sure when the puppet-toting guitarist was in and when he was out.
"In February, we got word from [drummer] Brain that Bucket had called him and said he was back in Guns," Rose said. "According to Bucket, he had been gone, but had turned himself around and was really excited to do Rio - Lisbon and a European tour. Somewhere in the following month, things changed once again."
Not only was Buckethead flaky, Rose claims, he was also underhanded — at least, that's what other people told him. "According to those who have actually spoken with Buckethead, it appears his plans were to secure a recording contract with Sanctuary Records, which I encouraged my management to make available to him," Rose began. "[Then he was going to] quit GN'R and use his involvement in the upcoming Guns release to immediately promote his individual efforts."
Despite the harsh tone of his statement, Rose seems to have left the door open for Buckethead to again return to the GN'R fold. "We greatly appreciate Bucket's contributions and remain open to discussions, as there are obviously several issues to resolve."
Even if Buckethead's gone for good, Rose insists the guitarist's decision to bolt has sparked a creative burst from the band, and added that a release date for Chinese Democracy will be announced "within the next few months."
"Rather than dwelling on the negative, Guns will be moving forward and surprisingly (without giving away any details), this unfortunate set of circumstances may have given us the opportunity to take our recording that one extra step further," Rose said.
Neither Buckethead nor his hand puppet were available for comment at press time.
For more on Buckethead, check out "Beneath The Bucket, Behind The Mask: Kurt Loder Meets GN'R's Buckethead."