When I interviewed Velvet Revolver a decade ago, I got to clear up some of the Guns N’ Roses mysteries I had long wondered about. For example: was the worst job in rock ‘n’ roll the guy who had to keep on returning Axl Rose’s microphone stand to an upright position when he knocked it over dozens of times per concert? (Yeah, pretty much.)
I even got a lucid explanation as to the meaning of the title of the band’s cover album, “The Spaghetti Incident?”–and in context, the quotation marks make sense. But the one thing the former Gunners couldn’t explain was a tiny coded message on the bottom of the front cover. Duff McKagan said he had never even noticed it; Slash said that he had once known what it meant, but had forgotten (dude was a nice guy, but let’s face it, he killed a lot of brain cells).
A couple of years later, however, some fans on a Guns N’ Roses message board figured it out. (I apologize for being seven years late with this news–and I thank John Darnielle, the genius behind the band The Mountain Goats and the novel Wolf in White Van, for pointing me in the right direction.) Axl was using the substitution cipher invented by the Zodiac Killer, who claimed a bunch of victims in northern California in the late 60s and early 70s, and then disappeared into the annals of true-crime fame, revived only by the 2007 David Fincher movie Zodiac.) This totally fits Axl’s personality, or the nihilistic-asshole side of it that thought it’d be kicky to cover a Charles Manson song. You can read the message-board conversation starting here if you’re curious, but here’s the bottom line: the hidden message was “FUCK EM ALL.” Words of wisdom from W. Axl Rose.