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SoulMonster

1994.03.DD - Interview with Slash in Q Magazine

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1994.03.DD - Interview with Slash in Q Magazine

Post by Soulmonster on Wed Apr 27, 2016 5:18 am

Multiple snake charmer, true rock giant and no stranger to the Oedipal compound noun, he is, indubitably, Slash out of Guns N' Roses. While The Spaghetti Incident? LP lines the pockets of two-bit punk bands everywhere, David Cavanagh speaks to the cat in the hat about Axl Rose, Charles Manson and, well, Stiv Bators.

It's a flat, nasal, slightly jazzy put down song. It has a certain West Coast mid-'60s period charm, but you couldn't be any less disparaging than that. Ah yes! Essence of crap Stephen Stills demo. No, wait… of course. From the soundtrack of Drafted (1966), starring Peter Fonda and a young Elliot Gould, with music by Henry Mancini and Kim Fowley. Unfortunately, right at the death, W. Axl Rose blows its cover. "Thanks, Chas," he drawls. Uh-oh. Chas. He's used the abbreviation. The song's called Look At Your Game, Girl. It was written by Charles Manson. And once again, Guns N' Roses are in trouble. Up to that point, The Spaghetti Incident? had been blessed with a low-key campaign, or at least as low-key as a band notorious for fighting, taking heroin, keeping large amounts of snakes, periodically taking out whole floors of the Hotel Clean-Up, and not necessarily waiting for the queue to the gents' to thin out before emptying their bladders, could realistically get. Following up the monstrous hubristic binge that was, or were, Use Your Illusion 1 and 2, Guns N' Roses delivered their long-promised album of punk covers, except by the time it arrived the rules had been amended to allow songs by Nazareth, T. Rex and the Skyliners. The Spaghetti Incident? is, in the main, a good-timey slam through these-the-Guns-have-loved, pit-stopping in London circa '76, LA in '82 and some dangerous New York subways. But the GN'R outlaw stance, if it ever was a stance, is now practically a religion, for a lot of songs are by dead people: T. Rex (one), The Dead Boys (one), Johnny Thunders (one), and the New York Dolls (Thunders, plus two others). The royalties from others, like the Damned's New Rose and the UK Subs' Down On The Farm, are expected to be literally life changing for their respective composers. The Manson controversy has blown over, with the band electing to leave Look At Your Game, Girl on The Spaghetti Incident? and to forward all mechanical royalties to Bartek Frykowski, son of Voytek, who was one of the Manson Family's victims in 1969. Bartek, now 37, lives in Poland and is a father of two. But prior to the dust settling, three wildly different statements were faxed from America: one from Geffen, lamenting GN'R's poor judgement; one from GN'R stressing that Manson won't get a cent; and an extraordinary, wayward, 750-word missive from Axl Rose, during which he attempts to justify Look At Your Game, Girl as being of "historical and musical" importance, lambasts the media for picking up on it, drags the reader back to his own violent childhood in Indiana, applies the song to a "personal situation I happened to be in", calls Manson "a sick individual", admits he likes the "black humour" in wearing a Manson related Charlie Don't Surf T-shirt onstage, says that he himself isn't crazy, implies that Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys wrote the song anyway, and ends up in an emotional defense if dolphins. It's little wonder, when the invitation comes to do a Guns N' Roses interview, that the role of spokesman for the band has been taken over by Slash. An interview with a man who ends an important fax with the words "this is my way of giving something back to the dolphin" could have had all sorts of repercussions. But then again, Slash has 50 snakes. That's more than 10 snakes. It's too many snakes. If he were to get shot of 15 snakes, he'd still have 35 snakes. Whatever way you look at it, it's a superfluity of snakes. Does he need them all? When Use Your Illusion 1 and 2 came out, a Guns N' Roses interview was only put in motion if the journalist signed a waiver giving the band all the rights to the article. Things have relaxed sufficiently now for Slash's people to guarantee half an hour with the man. Their only stipulation is that Slash won't want to answer questions about Charles Manson. Read the press release: it's all there. "Hey!" Slash speaks quietly. He is reputed to be shy. He sounds tired, but only a bit. Aside from occasionally awkward memory loss, he is fine. He is in his home in LA. He lives here with his wife Renee. And 50 snakes. "I'm trying to clean up this fuckin' coffee that my cat just knocked on the floor. Other than that it's pretty normal here."

Were you in the danger zone when the recent fire happened?
Right by it. And fortunately it didn't come this far. I fuckin'… I was asleep early one morning, and the phone rings, and it's this friend of mine, who I actually don't talk to that much, he goes: "Are you watching the news?" Uh, no, why? He says: "Well, 'cos Mulholland's burning." And I was like, Mulholland? (Laughs) That's the street I live off. It turned out it was Mulholland City which is pretty far away so it didn't get this close. Matt (Sorum, GN'R drummer) almost lost his house. And Tom Zutaut from Geffen Records did. And Axl almost lost his. It's pretty… y'know, it's fucked up, so what I did was - that sort of gave me a little bit of panic, so I went out and got emergency evacuation containers for all my snakes and cats.

You still have snakes then?
Ah, I got 50 of them. 45, 50

Is it true that one of them bit you?
(Thinks) Not recently.

How has The Spaghetti Incident? been received over here?
Aside from the Manson thing in Los Angeles, fine. The cool thing about the way we put it out is there was no big campaign. It was almost like an underground record. The only thing that made it a little bit more recognizable was the name Guns N' Roses itself. But everything else was very low-key. I thought that was cool because only the real die-hard Guns N' Roses fans really know about it. It's really, like, getting around by word of mouth. At this point it's been well received.

Who had the idea?
What happened was, when we were doing Use Your Illusions, to sort of alleviate the pressure of being in the studio and trying to get new songs recorded and all the other fuckin' barrage of fuckin' hassles that go into making a record, we would just get together and like jam on old songs, to sort of loosen up, and we ended up recording four songs. And y'know, we thought this would make a great EP. That was just a conversation in the studio. So we kept the four songs, finished Use Your Illusions, went out on the road. Then, somewhere along the line, we started recording more of them, like in between gigs and stuff, and at the very end of it we had 13 songs. So with that amount of material, it was still considered, to us, an EP, but it really was a record (ie album)

It was mooted that you'd do the UK Subs' Down On The Farm on one of the Use Your Illusions.
You know what? That actually sheds some light on the possible start of it all, now that you mention it. I would imagine that when we did Down On The Farm we were just doing it for the fun of it. And it was sounding good so we recorded it. And then we went and played it at Farm Aid. No… Ach! God! It's so weird, the series of events that went into the making of this record go back to the… to the point where I can't even remember for the life of me how it started.

Were you aware that the writers of some of these songs, like Brian James of The Damned, were waiting with trepidation to see if they were going to become rich?
That's what I've been told. I haven't been in England in a while, so I really have gotten to the point where I'm very out of touch with what's going on in this business. It's gotten to the point where I'd rather not know.

You've probably changed a few of these people's lives. They stand to make a lot of money from royalties.
Yeah, well… y'know… (high-pitched laugh)… that's… The whole reason for fuckin' doing it - making sure we were as accurate as possible as to who wrote what - was because I can't believe that some of these fuckin' bands who are so fuckin' significant in the mid-to-late-'70s, as far as rock 'n' roll is concerned, that they should just get shelved and forgotten about. I mean, every single fuckin' band we covered is pretty much out of print and forgotten.

Or dead.
Yeah, well, most of them are dead. Well, a few of them are dead. But I mean, I can't believe that T. Rex is, outside of some of the cool people that I know, y'know… Marc Bolan's not even… y'know, at least in everybody's minds.

Have you modeled yourself on him a bit?
No. He wasn't what you'd call… funny, people always ask me that because of the Slider cover with the hat. But no, that had nothing to do with it.

Were you inundated with old punk bands hoping you'd do one of their songs?
No. The only people that I talked to were Steve Jones, who, really, I could give a shit whether he wanted me to do it or not (laughs), and Iggy. And Iggy is so easy-going and so unpretentious he didn't care whether we did it (Raw Power) or not either - y'know, he just likes to hang out. And he just likes the fact that we thought of that tune. Everybody else, like the Nazareth guys I never talked to. Cheetah Chrome (of The Dead Boys) I talked to, and of course I could tell that he was excited by it. And then there Mike Monroe (ex-Hanoi Rocks, who co-sings with Axl), who was just excited about having it come out because it was a cool song and it was sort of a memorial for Stiv Bators.

Axl has said, "I enjoy our versions but I like the originals better." Does the same go for you?
Well, we didn't even have any access to most of the originals to learn the songs correctly, you know what I mean? So we just play them the way that we play them. It's basically a Guns N' Roses record, just a bunch of songs the way that we interpreted them. But the original versions have that natural raunch. They represent the times that they were recorded in. They tell a million stories in three minutes, y'know? So the original versions always are more romantic.

It was first mentioned as an album of purely punk covers, wasn't it? Could you not find enough?
Well, y'know, when you're doing an album of punk songs, if you wanted to, you could make a box set (laughs). We just picked the stuff off the top of our heads.

You know Nazareth are kind of a standing joke in Britain?
Yeah, that's what I've heard. Well, Nazareth are one of those bands… I never really got that into them. I think Axl really made me more aware of Nazareth than anybody, because he can sing like that (Dan) McCafferty guy, and really dug his voice. And so I remember listening to Nazareth a lot at one point, and then, ah, that sort of passed.

How many of these songs do you actually remember from the years that they came out?
Well, definitely the UK Subs. Pistols… Well, that's not really a Pistols song (Black Leather), it's more like a Steve Jones song. Iggy Pop I did, but that's because my mom used to play it a lot. As far as The Damned go, I'm not really sure. As far as I remember, The Damned were just always there.

The only band you could have seen live were Fear, is that right?
Fear I saw live and Iggy I saw live. The Damned I didn't see around that time.

How old were you when you left Stoke-on-Trent?
Permanently? I don't know, I was probably about 10 or so.

So you can remember a few things about living in England?
Oh yeah, I went to school there. And the last couple of times we played there, I actually saw my grandparents.

How did you get into punk?
Well, there was a time there, when I was living in Los Angeles, there was a lot of stuff that I really hated, especially LA. That's when I first got exposed to it. So when we talk about the UK Subs record, I think that's probably one of the first ones that I remember taking a interest to. And then, whatever happened to me after that… Because I'm not the resident punk guy. I only like certain bands that really fuckin'… I consider, like, one out of every hundred bands to be any good. And the time that punk rock was what I considered cool probably only lasted for about a year (laughs)/

Is that Axl trying to do a Cockney accent on Down On The Farm?
I guess it's some sort of approximation.

It's not bad. Have you noticed, on the New York Dolls song Human Being, he plays kazoo exactly like he sings?
Yeah. Yeah. (Laughs warily)

In the sleevenotes, Ain't It Fun by The Dead Boys is "in memory of Stiv Bators" and You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory is in "memory of Johnny Thunders". Are these people your heroes?
Well, the Johnny Thunders song was the one song on the record I didn't play on, and really I have no fuckin'… I hated that guy. He's definitely an icon for the fuckin' junkie songwriters, and a character, but as far as a person, he was a total asshole. So I really didn't give a shit, to tell you the truth, as far as Johnny Thunders. But Stiv Bators was great. Yeah, he was a hero. Stiv's a hero, and I suppose Johnny Thunders is in a way too, but God he pissed me off.

Tell us about Fear and The Misfits, because they're not very well known in Britain.
Well, Fear's what I would consider one of the only good bands that was around in 1978 in Los Angeles, and that record that that song (I Don't Care About You) is from one of the only records I had when Guns N' Roses first started, so it's sort of like an anthem. I really didn't hear any other bands that could… I mean, everybody used to like X and I could never understand what the fuck they saw in them. Fear was the only band that I really liked. I couldn't really tell you all that much. They were just a bunch of fuckin' rowdies. And The Misfits was another band where there was some good songs and some other stuff I'd rather forget about. I'm very particular about what kind of music I like, so I couldn't say The Misfits were one of my all-around favorite bands, but they did have a couple of great songs. Like Attitude.

And the Steve Jones song, Black Leather? Surely that can't be your favorite Pistols song?
No. Actually, I thought we did a much better version than him (laughs). That's the only song I can say that about.

Do Guns N' Roses have any kind of long-term view these days?
Well, ever since we got off the road and finished The Spaghetti Incident?, I instantly went back into the studio and started working on the next record, so we're about nine songs into it. In a perfect world, we'd have the record out in the summer.

Are you officially a six-piece now?
Yeah.

Every Guns N' Roses feature, up to about two years ago, was about how close you were to falling apart. What it's like now?
I don't know. What happened was, we had such a hard time dealing with the hype and stuff that surrounded the band, and the constant fuckin' nagging from the press, but then also it was a very confusing time. And that's really what resulted in Izzy leaving and Steven obviously not being able to pull us back together. And so that being the case, Gilby (Clarke, rhythm guitar) and Matt were like godsends, because you don't easily find guys to take Guns N' Roses musicians' places. So those guys worked out perfectly.

Do you have to pay Steven Adler loads of money?
Yeah, we've got to pay him a lot of money. For no fuckin' reason that I can understand.

The credits to The Spaghetti Incident? thank hundreds of individual people and various organizations for their help on the Use Your Illusion tour. It says: "We Did It… Thanks!" You sound surprised.
It's a long story. I mean, the album was hard to make. We were getting into drug problems and the band was going through line-up changes. And even before Izzy quit, he was pretty much phased out - he's even phased out of his own band. He's just not interested any more. But Izzy started to lose interest anyway, so that was another thing that made the record hard to make. Going on tour was… the band had such a ball, and we managed to tour for two and a half years against all the fuckin' odds. It really was a fuckin' endurance test, of pretty big proportions.

There's the story, from your early years, about your van breaking down on the marathon drive across America, and that's what symbolically bonded you together and made you so insular. Is it more like that these days, or less so?
It's more like that, because, y'know, things never change, they just get fuckin' more complicated and on a bigger scale, you know what I mean? So in order to maintain any semblance of integrity as far as music goes, as far as doing things the way we want to, we have to really fuckin' go against the grain, go against the odds, to force our own way. And it's not an easy thing to do.

Would you agree, though, that it was only Use Your Illusion that convinced most people you were a band of musicians, and not an image-conscious rock 'n' roll band?
I don't know exactly. I mean, I hadn't given it much thought when we were making the record. We were just trying to have a good time. Y'know, the six of us are trying to draw together to make a record and there are so many fuckin' outside distractions. So that's why there was so much material and so many different instruments and expression and stuff. I think we were really trying to get it off our chests.

Do you play anything apart from guitar?
Well, I have to play bass a lot because Duff's been on the road. Basically anything with strings on it, with the exception of the violin (laughs) or stand-up bass.

What picture would you like people to have these days when they hear the words Guns N' Roses?
I don't really give a shit. If I hadn't had as much of a hard time trying to sort of maintain what I think Guns N' Roses is about, for so long, I'd probably be able to tell you that as long as people thought that we were a bona fide, sincere band who weren't full of shit… But at this point I really don't care. I've had too much flak for too long. That's why I just ignore everything. I don't even read the press anymore. I don't read magazine articles. I probably won't read this when it comes out (laughs).

Until the Manson controversy, it had been a reasonably long time since the last proper Guns N' Roses scandal. Are you cutting down?
We haven't really done any… We were out touring, so just the fact that we were playing… I mean , that's the only proof that there is that you're doing it. And unless you shoot somebody or get busted on some drugs thing, basically as long as you make it to the gig, there's nothing that they can really say. Now that we're not on the road, they're waiting for something to happen.

So do you do drugs any more?
Uh… (pause)… I stopped doing what I was doing before.

Is Los Angeles still full of Guns N' Roses wannabe bands?
I have no idea. I don't even go into Hollywood much now. Most of the Guns N' Roses-type bands came out around the time Appetite started to get big. Right now I have no idea what it's like. It's really hard to tell. As far as listening to the radio is concerned, around here in Los Angeles, I still listen to old stations, oldie stations, so I'm not really hip to what's going on.

Duff's had a solo album out, Izzy's had a solo album out. Would you do one?
I'd like to think that I wouldn't have to. Y'know, Guns is a great vehicle for me to do pretty much anything I want to do. But then, to keep myself playing all the time, when Guns aren't recording or touring, I go and I play with other people. So I pretty much do everything that I want, and I really would hate to do one of those guitar albums, like fuckin' Steve Vai or Joe Satriani, because it's really dull.

If Bob Dylan asked you to play on another of his records, would you say yes?
No. I mean, I hate to insult the guy. He is definitely one of the icons of rock 'n' roll, and he was one of the people my parents used to listen to. But it was just such a bad experience.

It was bizarre to read that your mother once went out with David Bowie.
(Laughs) I still talk to David.

Were they ever close to getting married?
I don't know. At that point he was the first guy that came along after my mom and dad divorced, so I can't think I was al that interested or happy.

Do you look up to him, though?
Oh, definitely. Now that I'm older and I can take his music to heart in the way that I have, yeah, definitely. The guy's a genius. And I worked with him a couple of times.

Do you like Duff's album?
I haven't really listened to it. I heard it when he was making it. I mean, I don't listen to our records when they're finished either.

Is Axl a happy man these days?
Well, aside from the lawsuit with his ex-girlfriend, yeah, he's great.

There's a bit in one of the Manson press releases where Axl complains about none of Guns N' Roses' charity work, like for dolphin conservation and so on, ever being mentioned.
No one gives a shit about anything positive.

Let's say we do. Tell us about some of it.
(Sighs) Y'know, I understand what you're saying, but it's already been said. Basically, what's positive for us - yeah, the charities are cool and I'm just pleased that we got to do them in the first place - but then making what I would consider a decent record and going out and having a successful tour and being very true to ourselves and our music, as far as that goes, that's all positive. But that's not really stuff that you talk about. And as far as the bad stuff goes, I don't talk about that either. Everybody else does.

Do you now feel that you've done everything you set out to do?
Actually, I think we've done a lot more. I don't think we really thought about what we were setting out to do in the first place. I mean, we've done a lot of stuff, but we still have a lot of energy towards, y'know, doing the next thing. So we've done a lot of really cool shit over the years, but I had no idea what we were going to end up like. When we first started, we were just doing it.
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