It appears that Axl Rose is gaining a collaborator and losing a drummer.Rose, the sole remaining original member of Guns N' Roses, has been working with the near-indescribable Buckethead, an avant-garde multi-instrumentalist best known as a rapid-fire electric guitarist. Sources say that the two have been spending time working on material together and that Buckethead is involved in the recording process for the upcoming Guns N' Roses album, although they add that he's not necessarily the band's new guitar player. The group has been without a guitarist since the departure of Robin Finck, who had replaced original guitarist Slash. Finck left GN'R last August to rejoin Nine Inch Nails (see "Guitarist Robin Finck Leaves GN'R To Return To NIN"). Guns N' Roses manager Doug Goldstein declined to comment on Buckethead or any possible replacements for Finck, other than to say the search continues. Buckethead, traditionally crowned by an upside down Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket on his head, has guested on dozens of records, soundtracks and games, and has released at least four solo albums, the most recent being a 1999 effort called "Monsters And Robots." Guests on that LP include Primus bassist Les Claypool, drummer Brain, P-Funk's Bootsy Collins, and progressive producer/musician Bill Laswell (Herbie Hancock, DJ Spooky, Yoko Ono). Buckethead also played in Laswell's hip-hop flavored Praxis with Brain, Collins, and Collins' P-Funkmate Bernie Worrell, among others. The guitarist also made brief, frenetic appearances onstage with Primus during Ozzfest '99 and toured with the band last year (see "Primus Lines Up Post-Family Values Dates"). He was also a key performer at the 1999 International Progressive Music Festival in San Francisco last May. Meanwhile, it appears that drummer Josh Freese, who's been manning the Guns N' Roses skins in the studio for the past two years, will not be returning to the band once he completes his current stint with A Perfect Circle (see "Nine Inch Nails Taps A Perfect Circle For U.S. Tour"). Formed by guitarist Billy Howerdel and fronted by Tool's Maynard James Keenan, A Perfect Circle is touring with Nine Inch Nails most likely until the end of June. Drummer Freese is a rotating member of The Vandals and also plays the occasional outing with Devo. A management spokesperson for A Perfect Circle said Freese's status with Guns N' Roses was "up in the air." In possibly a telling move, an A Perfect Circle press release issued by Virgin listed only The Vandals among Freese's credits, and not GN'R. Sources close to Freese confirm that the drummer is out of the band, reportedly at the end of his contract and no longer willing to remain available for the Guns N' Roses project. Freese's personal manager could not be reached for comment. GN'R manager Goldstein says that he has not heard from any official representative regarding Freese's status. He adds that the drummer's parts are done, and seeing as how Guns will not be touring anytime soon, the door is open for Freese's return in the future.