Axl Rose started out screeching about being “just an urchin livin’ under the street,” but in the thirteen years he’s been working on the oft-delayed album Chinese Democracy (at a price that’s exceeded $13 million), he’s had time to reflect on heavy-metal posturing. “We thought we were so badass,” he said in the greenroom at the VMAs. “Then N.W.A. came out rapping about this world where you walk out of your house and you get shot. It was just so clear what stupid little white-boy poseurs we were. It was like, ‘All right, we can give up the act.’ If you’re talking about which lifestyle is more hard-core, the one where you get shot always wins.” So what’s the holdup with Chinese Democracy, Axl? “It’s not about being a control freak. It’s about being maybe smart enough to go, ‘No, that’s a bad idea.’ That’s all it’s about—keeping the ability to at least have a shot as opposed to something that’s just an obvious disaster. I want to make a good record. I don’t want to throw a brick. This cannot be Shaq at the free-throw line.” Rose promises the album will be released by the end of the year.