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SoulMonster

1994.01.DD - Interview with Slash in Guitar Player

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1994.01.DD - Interview with Slash in Guitar Player

Post by Soulmonster on Thu Apr 21, 2016 1:54 am

Guitar Player - January, 1994
by Chris Gill (Illustration by Steve Wacksman)

Punk Days Revisited: Slash Returns To His Roots

When it comes to controversy, Guns N' Roses were to the '80's what the Sex Pistols were to the '70's. It was almost as if Guns had fashioned its public image after the cash-from-chaos blueprint that Pistols manager Malcom McLaren outlined in The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle. Both bands gained notoriety from swearing on live television, heroin addiction, turbulent relationships, and outspoken, politically incorrect opinions. Wearing a lock and chain around his neck, Guns' bassist Duff McKagan even copped his look from the Pistols' Sid Vicious.

But Guns' phenomenal success in comparison to the Pistols' crash and burn invited skepticism about the earnestness of their music. Critics point out that Guns N' Roses reveal a musical affinity for Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, and even Elton John, music that the Sex Pistols rebelled against. Furthermore, Guns N' Roses got tons of airplay, while the Pistols were rarely MENTIONED on American radio. It took more than a decade for the Sex Pistols' Never Mind The Bullocks, Here's The Sex Pistols to go gold in the U.S., yet Guns' records ship platinum.

Guns N' Roses never set out to be the Sex Pistols or anything less than a great rock and roll band. With the release of The Spaghetti Incident?, the band pays homage to several of it's influences including the Damned, the UK Subs, the New York Dolls, Iggy & The Stooges, the Dead Boys, T. Rex, Soundgarden, Nazareth, the Misfits, the Skyliners, Johnny Thunders, Fear, and the Sex Pistols, with a bizarre, uncredited Charles Manson cover thrown in for dessert. This predominantly punk material shows that some critics may have condemned Guns too soon. The band's aggressive, heartfelt performance and outstanding song choices will regain them any street credibility that was washed away by "november Rain." Though critics may revere Nirvana as punk's new hope, Guns N' Roses are slyly persuading the masses to look back to punk rock's roots. Even if only a small percentage of the millions who will buy this recrd become punk converts, it will be a major triumph for the class of '77.

Slash is uncertain whether the record will be as successful as any of Guns' four previous releases, but he's confident that it won't disappoint those who prefer Guns' more aggressive music. "Our fans, the ones who go to our concerts, should be able to see this for what it is." he insists. "The band hasn't changed at all, but the media always has to look way deeper. Without knowing us as individuals, they can't have a valid opinion of what we're about." Within weeks of the record's completion, Slash agreed to conduct this exclusive interview to set the record straight.


The record is a surprise. There hasn't been the usual pre-release hype.

The record wasn't thought out too much and it wasn't supposed to be taken so seriously. To us it was like a joke. I have no idea how the general public is going to react, although it is very aggressive, and people usually like it when you say "fuck you" on a record. The kids who have grown up with us probably don't know some of the material. Then there are going to be some people who will go, "No fucking way! 'Raw Power' is on there?"

I think it will expose punk to a much larger audience, especially hard rock fans who never understood it.

That would definitely be cool. That's why it says on the record, "A great song can be found anywhere. Go find the originals." There were some great records back then. Most are out of print. Some of the guys who wrote these songs are fuckin' stoked because they'll get some money.

I saw [former Sex Pistol] Steve Jones at [Guns Drummer] Matt Sorum's wedding. He goes, "When is the record coming out?" I said, "Probably in November. 'Black Leather' sounds really good." He says, "I hope it's better than the Runaways' version." I said, "Steve, I'm sorry to say it's a lot better than yours too." [Laughs] I've known him for a while, I was just fucking with him.

Why did the band do this?

We were in the studio doing Use Your Illusion. All the basic tracks were done, but after 30-some-odd songs, we still felt like playing. As a warm-up in the studio, we usually jam on tunes we know. We thought it would be cool if we released a bunch of songs that are true to our hearts. It was going to be an EP with maybe four or five songs.

Everything was recorded live, though a couple songs have overdubs. We did seven in one day, four in another. We recorded "Since I Don't Have You" on the road when we had a couple days off. We recorded "Attitude" becausewe'd been playng it live for so long and thought we coulddo it better than our original version. When we got off the road, we picked some other songs that we wanted to play, and it turned into a 13-song record.

How did you choose material?

Everybody picked songs that they wanted to cover. Axl wanted to do [the Sex Pistols'] "Black Leather" and [the Skyliners] "Since I Don't Have You," which he used to sing all the time. "New Rose" by the Damned was definitely Duff's choice. We did [the UK Subs] "Down On The Farm" at Farm Aid, but I can't remember how that came up. We wanted to do a New York Dolls song and "Human Being" was the best one. We did two Stooges songs, but Axl liked the vocal on "Raw Power" the best. It was Mike Monroe's idea to do a Dead Boys song as a tribute to Stiv Bators. "Buick Makane" [T. Rex], "Hair Of The Dog" [Nazareth], and "I Don't Care About You" [Fear] were my ideas. I can't remember whose idea it was to do the Misfits' "Attitude." I didn't play on [Johnny Thunders'] "Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory" and an unmentioned track, which features a guy named Carlos on guitar.

It was recorded the way I'd prefer to do any Guns N' Roses record. When we did Appetite and Use Your Illusion, I had to deal with Izzy. I never liked playing with Izzy the whole time I've been in this band. It was great not having to deal with him on this record. It sounds a lot tighter, or at least a little more cool than it sounded before. I always used to get bummed out about certain songs on Appetite that Izzy didn't play right. For this record, we took off all of Izzy's tracks and Gilby played them. I wasn't there when Gilby did it, but when I got the tapes back, it was a relief. It sounded perfect.

What did you use on this record?

I used a Marshall half-stack, the one that I used for most of Use Your Illusions. For the first half of the punk record I had one half-stack, but towards the end I had two half-stacks in series.

As for guitars, I used whatever was around. I played Gilby's Tele on "Since I Don't Have You" because I had rented a Les Paul that was a piece of shit. For the rest of the stuff, it's either a Melody Maker or Les Paul. I was just looking at my appraisal sheets for the guitars that I own - I've got 81. At this point I just think of a particular type of guitar that will work for the song and grab whatever happens to be in the front of storage. I try to make any guitar do what I want it to.

What kind of Melody Maker are you using?

I've got a red '63 and a white '65, which I use more often. I still play my Max Les Paul copy with zebra pickups a lot. I used that for Appetite. It's my main guitar, and it holds a special place in my heart. Recently I've been using my main live guitar, an '84 or '85 Les Paul Standard reissue, because it's the closest by. It's been my main live guitar since we started because Gibson unfortunately doesn't produce many good-sounding new guitars. It's pretty beat up. It looks like it's 25 years old at this point.

Axl changed character to fit the songs nicely.

That's the basic problem with being a big band. All of a sudden you realize that you're confined. You have a really hard time when you start to branch out, expose some of your other influences, and change the format. People start to trip out. It's really stifling for a band like us. When you've done something once, you want to move on. We've just been saying "fuck it" and doing it anyway.

Critics pigeonhole you into talking about your influences in detail. Mine are endless. Our basic roots come from a certain hard rock background. I think that's why the band is what it is, because we all have that one thing in common. But you can do a million things with that base. That's what we've been trying to do.

The band's history and media exposure are similar to what happened with the Sex Pistols.

Well, none of us have died yet. [Laughs] And we've lasted longer than 14 months. We've overcome that basic obstacle.

What does the record's title mean?

It's an inside joke. I won't get into it. There definitely was a spaghetti incident.

I'll leave it up to our readers' imaginations.

They'll probably come up with stories that are a lot worse. I can't see anybody being able to imagine exactly what it was. I can't wait for the rumors to start flying.

Your choices on the record aren't punk except for the Fear song. Did punk influence you much?

To me, punk wasn't as much of a movement as it is to ex-punk rockers or wannabe punk followers. It was just a continuation of a certain attitude that goes all the way back to Gene Vincent a good, pure, aggressive outburst. I never cut my hair or changed my way of dress and followed it that way. As far as a punk was concerned, there were just some really great bands and some fucking rippin' songs, few and far between among the crap that was out. There was a lot of poseur shit - thin, no-background kind of bands, especially here in L.A.

My punk influences are the same as from any kind of music. I just dig that attitude, a certain kind of guitar sound, the lyrics, and a particular state of mind. If you were to ask Duff, he could get more into it. He's more of a punk rocker himself. When I first met him, he was a six-foot-something guy from Seattle with spiked hair. If you ask each individual in the band, they'll give you a different story.

What's interesting is that every time society gets too stifling and the rules get too complex, there's some sort of musical explosion. Every time it gets dull, predictable, and fucking boring, and there's no danger in music, there's one band that can't take it and breaks out. I thought we were like that when we came out, because there wasn't anything happening and we were against the grain. To this day we're still raising eyebrows.

There have been a lot of good three-chord songs throughout history.

Thank God. Thanks God that jazz has never hit it big. All the advanced rock and roll guitar players have made things really complicated. Could you imagine jass as a rock and roll movement? We'd all have to change our way of thinking.

Van Halen had just come out when I started playing, but I didn't think about how fucking good Eddie was. It just sounded great and gave me a certain kind of energy. When I started playing guitar. I did what I wanted to do. I wasn't intimidated by any of that shit, ever. When Guns was about to start, there was a certain point where G.I.T. suddenly became a big thing in Hollywood. Guitar players were doing this very technical playing. I never went for that.

A lot has happened since Guns N' Roses came out, but I never paid attention. It's nice to know that you can grab a guitar and play from the heart and not have to worry about the guitar player next door, unless he's rippig off your licks. [Laugs]

Why did you do the Fear song?

That song happens to be a sentiment that I appreciated for as long as I can remember. In our junkie days, me and a friend of mine, Danny Biral, used to cruise around town in this huge green Oldsmobile and try to cop. We listened to the Fear cassette because that's all we had. That song turned into an anthem for us. When the band was talking about punk songs, I was adamant about doing that one.

I know a lot of parents will be really happy about it. [Laughs] That's the funny thing about this punk record. In a lot of ways it will offend. I've already been asked if we'll do a kindergarten version for K Mart and the rack markets. I was like, "No!" It dawned on me at that moment that we didn't write all these songs that we played. So everybody's going to come down on us because it's us and because of the subject matter on the record, and I get to sit there and go, "Fuck you! We didn't even write this stuff." None of those people got hassled back then because they weren't big enough. It just gives you an idea of how fuckin' corporate, rediculous, and nonsensical this business is. It's a great statement for us, because we've been getting so much shit for our lyrics and attitude for so long. I'm wondering how come all of a sudden we're singled out as the only bad guys. We come from a bad-guy background. I suppose, because of all of the music we're influenced by, but they're not even aware of some of the shit that's gone on. And they're really not in any position to fucking criticize us. Or even the bands that wrote the originals.

Few people would call Nazareth a punk band, but that song has a sort of punk attitude.

It's really not a punk record anymore. It started out as a punk idea because the first couple of songs we were jamming on were definitely punk. But as we got into it, it evolved into a Guns N' Roses cover record. Somewhere around the completion of mixing and mastering everybody was going, "What about that punk record?" I'm like, "Oh God. I'm going to have to fight this one now. It's not a punk record! Aaaaagh! Listen to it!"

The uncredited Charles Manson song is interesting.

Stuart, Axl's brother, had a copy of the Manson cassette, and that particular song had significant lyrical matter, especially since Manson was singing it. We were a little bit shy about doing it, because we didn't want anybody to pin us on a Manson thing. There's a rumor that he didn't write it. I got a phone call from someone who said it was written by Dennis Wilson and somebody else. To this day we still don't know who the fuck wrote it. We did it anyway, but we didn't want to put its title and Charlie Manson's name on the record. None of us are into that for a serial killer's sake. We didn't want to give him the credit.

Except for that song's context, it's the antithesis of everything else on the record. It's so mellow.

That's the great thing about the record. We didn't pick a bunch of similar-sounding slamming songs. You can't really pin us on any one direction. There is some diversity in our influences in general. It gives some insight as to what kind of band we are.
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