The math on Guns N’ Roses’ long-awaited Chinese Democracy is not promising: no tour, no videos, no interviews and now, one lawsuit.
Five days after news broke that two independent record labels filed suit against Axl Rose’s band and the Universal Music Group on Friday over claims that a Democracy track illegally sampled two songs from the German electronic artist Ulrich Schnauss, the Guns camp came out blazing with a denial.
“The band vigorously contests these claims and intends to respond accordingly,” manager Irving Azoff said in a statement released on Tuesday. “The band believed when the record came out and still believes that there are no unauthorized samples on the track.”
According to Azoff, the snippets of ambient noise that open the song “Riad N’ the Bedouins” — which the $1 million lawsuit claims are taken without permission from Schnauss’ compositions “Wherever You Are” and “A Strangely Isolated Place” — were “provided by a member of the album’s production team who has assured us that these few seconds of sound were obtained legitimately.”
The Schnauss songs came out in 2001 and 2003, respectively,while the Guns album was in the works for more than 17 years beginning in the mid-1990s. Unless the case goes to trial, it might remain unclear which song, or songs, came first.
After years of delays and endless tweaking, Democracy was released in November and has sold just under 600,000 copies to date in the U.S. In the statement, Azoff appeared to be shifting the blame, if there is any, to the unknown member of the production team, adding, “Artists these days can’t read the minds of those they collaborate with and therefore are unfortunately vulnerable to claims like this one. While the band resents the implication that they would ever use another artist’s work improperly and are assessing possible counterclaims, they are confident this situation will be satisfactorily resolved.”
Azoff promised that the band’s legal and production team would formally respond to the complaint soon.