How the Offspring Nearly Stole ‘Chinese Democracy’ From Guns N’ Roses
The Offspring’s highly anticipated new album, Let the Bad Times Roll, will finally be released on April 16. It marks yet another record not titled Chinese Democracy, which the punk legends nearly stole from Guns N’ Roses in the early 2000s.
By 2003, Axl Rose had been working on GN’R’s follow-up to Use Your Illusion I & II for the better part of a decade, spending exorbitant amounts of money on a project called Chinese Democracy. “There's a lot of Chinese democracy movements, and it's something that there's a lot of talk about, and it's something that will be nice to see,” Rose told MTV’s Kurt Loder in 1999. “It could also just be like an ironic statement. I don't know, I just like the sound of it.”
Axl also announced an intent to release Chinese Democracy by early 2000, but as the years dragged by, lineup changes, recording difficulties and extensive media coverage turned Chinese Democracy into a meme. And in this case, in the age before social media, the Offspring became rock’s biggest shitposters.
"When the record’s coming together, you try to seriously think of a title for ten minutes and then everyone in the band jokes around for the next two hours with ideas like Offspring Bloody Offspring," Offspring frontman Dexter Holland told Spinner. "One day, somebody suggested Chinese Democracy and we couldn’t stop laughing about it."
The Offspring soon put out a press release announcing Chinese Democracy as the title for their seventh studio album. "You snooze you lose," Holland said in a statement shared by MTV. "Axl ripped off my braids, so I ripped off his album title."
In reality, the Offspring only sent out the press release as a prank, but the joke was lost on Axl Rose, who sent the punk band a cease-and-desist order. "I think it got blown up a little more than we intended it to," Holland later commented.
The Offspring ended up calling their seventh album Splinter instead of Chinese Democracy. "I don't think we ever seriously considered using that name," Holland said. "But we could have if we wanted because you can't copyright or trademark an album title or a song title. Think of all the songs that are called 'I Love You' or 'Baby, Baby.' "
While guesting on Eddie Trunk’s radio show, Axl Rose was actually asked about the Offspring by none other than Sebastian Bach. “Hey, I want to ask you. What do you think of that jack-off band the Offspring?” Bach inquired.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” Rose responded. "I mean, I’m not saying they don’t mean anything, it just doesn’t matter, you know?”
The Offspring later joked about the Chinese Democracy fiasco during an interview with NME. While discussing why there was such a long gap between Splinter and their eighth album, Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace, guitarist Noodles said, “I think we never should have joked about calling our last record Chinese Democracy. I think that came back to haunt us.”
“It backfired,” Holland added. “Karma.”
NME Video: The Offspring speak to NME Video
Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy album was finally released in November 2008 to mixed reviews. Though Chinese Democracy is almost unanimously viewed as the low point of GN’R’s otherwise stellar discography, the record was still met with commercial success, selling over a million copies in the United States and over 2.6 million copies worldwide. It’s possible that Chinese Democracy was even able to make back its budget, which reportedly surpassed $13 million.