Marc Canter is the owner of Canter's Deli, L.A.'s oldest rock & roll pastrami-and-coke joint. He's also the world's biggest Guns N' Roses fan, someone who can honestly say Axl Rose performed “November Rain” at his wedding.
“When I didn't have money to print flyers or even buy myself guitar strings, Marc Canter was there for me. He'd front me the cash to take care of whatever needed to be done,” said Slash in his 2008 autobiography. The guitarist, who met GN'R bassist Duff McKagan in a Canter's Deli booth, was a childhood friend of Canter's, and once referred to him as “a sterling specimen of the obsessed, die-hard rock devotee.” The kind of guy who would collect GN'R memorabilia like rare baseball cards, all of which he turned into a book on GN'R's early years, Reckless Road, filled with Canter's personal photos of the band.
It's also the book that destroyed his relationship with frontman Axl Rose.
“I was told that if the book came out before the record [Chinese Democracy], I would lose a friend,” says Canter, who got the message from a member of Rose's camp during constant delays and miscommunication regarding the release date of Chinese Democracy. Canter's publisher released Reckless Road about a year prior to the belated arrival of Chinese Democracy in November 2008. Rose, true to his word, cut Canter off.
Eight years later, Reckless Road inspired the buzz-bloggers at Uproxx to create a three-part documentary on GN'R. Canter says the first part of the series, which focuses on him, was originally going to be titled “GN'R: Where It All Started.” But when the video landed on YouTube on April 22, it was curiously retitled to “One Man's Plan to Reunite Guns N' Roses.” Which sounds way more epic than revisiting GN'R's halcyon days on the Sunset Strip.
The juicy clickbait, along with a teaser of two additional mini-docs about Canter's so-called plan to reunite the band, led to a shit-storm of attention and controversy. In May, Billboard asked McKagan about Canter's plans to reunite the band. “That came out of left field for me. My manager sent me the link and I looked at it like, 'What the hell?' Little weird. But Marc is a good guy. He’s been around forever, and if that’s what he thinks, it’s his thing,” he told Billboard. There were also think-pieces, and L.A. Weekly rode the hype with its own piece titled, “The Owner of Canter's Deli Has a Plan to Reunite Guns N' Roses.”
But when we finally decided to talk to Canter, we found out that there was no such plan.
“I'm passionate about the history of this band, and I would want to see them get back together, but that was not at all my plan,” says Canter, who turns into a child unboxing his first Nintendo at the mere mention of GN'R. He's also obsessive about details and facts, and maintains a close relationship with the GN'R community on MyGNRForum — where he has his own page. In many ways, he's the unofficial one-man fan club of all things GN'R. So the last thing he wanted to do was mislead the fans.
“My plan was to be a part of a cool documentary about my time with the band. And it moved me watching it. But the question was something they threw in the last 20 seconds and spun it.” According the Canter, the original question was, “What would it take to get these guys back together?” Canter answered: “It's simple. Come back to where it all started,” he said, pointing to the shitty rehearsal space at Fortress studios on the corner of Selma and Highland where the original lineup first jammed. “I believe that the chemistry inside them, the gravitational pull is so strong that if they were to just walk into this room, music would pour out their souls. You put those guys together in that little 15-dollar-an-hour rehearsal space where it all started? That's all you need.”
That was it. No mention of a plan. But the passion in Canter's eyes talking about his friends, along with some creative edits over a suspenseful film score, pulls you into the fantasy of a GN'R reunion — one orchestrated by Uproxx, not Canter. “I'm still happy with it,” says Canter. “Change the name and I'm good to go.”
Canter had to conduct some damage control as a result of the controversial title.
“I emailed Slash about the Uproxx doc, and told him that they changed the name.” Canter was warning Slash before the media broke the story. In May, Slash appeared on CBS This Morning and offered a “Never say never” to questions about a potential GN'R reunion. Rose's camp, meanwhile, reached out to Canter and told him to stop what he was doing, because only Rose could make those plans. Except Canter wasn't planning a thing. In fact, he's on Rose's long shit-list of enemies, which includes Slash and everyone associated with Slash.
The truth is the only person who can reunite the Appetite-era GN'R lineup is Axl Rose, who hasn't talked to Slash since 1996. Other than McKagan (one of the only people to have maintained friendships with both Axl and Slash), the only thing the two have in common is animal rights. So maybe PETA can reunite GN'R, but not Canter, who's more focused on helping turn Reckless Road into a script for a future GN'R biopic.
As for Rose, it's victory or death. While many believe a reunion is possible (including Slash), the frontman of GN'R, whom Slash once nicknamed “Ayatollah,” is the only one who can wave the truce flag and end the band's 23-year civil war.
Canter, ever the optimist, believes that war will end within a decade. “My best guess? Seven to eight years, because Axl moves slowly. But before … it was never. You could put a gun to his head, and ask him to get on stage with Slash, and he'd pull the trigger.”