Former Pearl Jam drummer Dave Abbruzzese recalled the dilemma he faced after starting work with Guns N’ Roses, three years after he’d been fired from Eddie Vedder’s band in 1994.

In a new interview with Songfacts, Abbruzzese said he became friends with Axl Rose before they started working together, and it figured in his decision not to continue beyond a run of rehearsals in 1997.

“The Guns thing was tough,” he said. “Axl and I became familiar with one another through nightly phone calls for months before we actually met and played music together.”

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He recalled feeling “leery of entering the big machine again” at the time, because of the “soul poisoning” he suffered during his Pearl Jam split, but “things were moving along well” until he suggested Rose’s management thoughts about the infamously tortuous Chinese Democracy album project.

“I spoke … regarding my opinion that the new music might be better suited to an Axl solo album rather than a GNR album. The Guns’ manager at the time told me that the management and the label had a plan of letting the album we were making be the catalyst for getting Axl to reunite with Slash.

“The plan was to let him fail, and the hope was that this failure would inspire him to reunite with Slash and get the big train back on the tracks.”

Dave Abbruzzese Took One on the Chin for Axl Rose

That was the crux of Abbruzzese’s dilemma. “When I heard this I was forced to choose between informing Axl about it or just bowing out. I felt that if I told him of their plan, it would destroy what little faith he had in the machine. So I opted to take one on the chin and sacrifice my new friendship for the sake of Axl’s ability to continue to be a creative force.”

Looking back 27 years later, Abbruzzese reflected, “It was a difficult decision but ultimately one that I am glad I made. I love that guy and I didn’t want to be responsible for ruining the chance of him and the band continuing to make music for their fans, [who] had waited so patiently for so long for GNR to get back to it.”

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Gallery Credit: Matthew Wilkening

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