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SoulMonster

2017.08.XX - Interview with Slash in Music Aficionado

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2017.08.XX - Interview with Slash in Music Aficionado

Post by Soulmonster on Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:11 pm

Joe Bosso wrote:Leslie West Interviews Slash

Leslie West and Slash have long admired each other's work, but the two didn't become personally acquainted until West asked the Guns N' Roses lead axeman to play on his 2012 song Mudflap Mama.

"Slash just killed it," West enthuses. "What he played on my song totally floored me. It's what comes out of his fingers naturally, and it's part of his personality. He's a rock 'n' roll guitarist from the moment he wakes up till the time he goes to sleep. Very few guys live like Slash does."

For his part, Slash returns the accolades and encomiums: "Leslie's one of those guys, cliché as it is, but you know who he is from the first note. He's a master at the big rock riff, and that's one of the first things I always responded to. He's got the sound and the touch. Those are the things everybody who picks up the guitar strives for."

As part of his interview series for Music Aficionado, West sat down with Slash, who had just returned from Dubai where Guns N' Roses wrapped the latest leg of their Not In This Lifetime tour.

Leslie West: I remember Rolling Stone had a list of the greatest guitarists of all time. I was number 66, and you came in at number 65. I told you about it and you said, "Hey, I'm just lucky to be on the list."

Slash: That's right.

West: I thought about it, and I said, "That's why Slash is who he is." You don't get caught up in all that stuff. Let me ask you, what was the first thing that got you interested in music?

Slash: It came from my parents, really. I was born in Hampstead, London, and my dad was a huge rock 'n' roll fan. His brothers, too. I was weaned on the Who and the Yardbirds, the Stones and the Beatles, the Moody Blues—everything that was going on over there. My dad and his brothers were very hardcore.

My mom was a big music fan in Los Angeles. Eventually, we packed up and moved there. Both she and my dad got in the business—my mom designed clothes for all these different artists, and my dad worked for David Geffen at Asylum. I went to the Troubadour and the Forum a lot with my parents, and I loved that whole thing. Whenever the bands came on, it was orgasmic.

Even though I was raised around all that, I had no aspirations to be a musician. I didn't pick up the guitar till I was 15, and I only picked it up because Steven Adler played guitar. We used to play air guitar to Cheap Trick and Aerosmith. Like kids do, we said, "Let's start a band." We had the whole fantasy. Because he played guitar, I decided to play bass. I went to a music school and talked to this teacher. He had a guitar on his lap and he started playing the riff to Sunshine of Your Love, and I said, "That's what I wanna do!" Then he told me, "Well, that's not bass. That's guitar."

My grandmother had a Spanish acoustic buried in a closet—I knew I'd seen it. It had one string on it, and I started to play on that. I took it back to the guitar teacher and he showed me how to put the other strings on. Then he started teaching me the basics—scales and patterns. But he told me that once I was done with my lessons, he'd teach me anything I wanted to learn. So at the end of each lesson, we'd put on a record and he'd pick up the riff by ear. I thought, "Fuck, I can do that." That's what I ended up doing.

West: My grandmother had a Spanish guitar too. Half of it was eaten away by mice or something. The thing had four strings on it. I tried to play it, and my uncle said, "Send him a ukulele." So I started playing the ukulele for a while.

Slash: There you go.

West: But you gotta play guitar to play things like Cream. So what was the first band you joined? Was that Tidus Sloan?

Slash: Yeah, that was the first band I put together. I didn't know what the name meant. I had a stoner buddy in high school who was way more advanced on guitar than I was. Philip Davidson—he had a Strat, he had an amp, and he knew how to play Deep Purple. He was like a god to me. His parents were never home, so we had keg parties and trashed the house. At one point, the name Tidus Sloan hit me as a great name for a band, although I can't remember why. I think it had something to do with what Philip said—I must've misheard it.

West: So when did you and Steven Adler put together Road Crew?

Slash: After I picked up the guitar, Steven migrated to drums. I hadn't seen him for about two years, but we got re-acquainted. He and I started a band that was short lived, but that's when we met Duff McKagan. We were looking for bass players, and he answered an ad I put in the paper.

West: You went Fairfax High School. I remember they were putting on a show for the homeless, and I thought, "They're homeless—how can they afford tickets?" I didn't realize it was a benefit for the homeless.

Slash: That's funny. Yeah, I went to Fairfax for most of 10th grade. A big metal scene had developed in West Hollywood. There was the Roxy and the Whiskey, and the Starwood was around.

West: There was so much music happening on the Sunset Strip at the time. So you auditioned for Poison, right? Why didn't that work out?

Slash: I was always starting bands and finding people to write with, but I could never find a singer. A bad singer can make a good band terrible. So I just played without one. At one point, this guy Matt [Smith]—he was the original guitarist for Poison, a band I had no affinity for—called me up and told me he was quitting and going back to Pennsylvania. They needed another guitar player.

I thought about it for a while, and finally I decided to put pride aside and go check it out. At least I'd be playing gigs—they were the biggest band on the Strip at the time. I learned four of their songs and went down to play with them, and I gotta say I kicked the shit out of 'em. We had a definite difference of opinion as to what it was all about—image issues, clothing issues. I knew it wasn't going to click. They asked me if I planned on wearing jeans and a T-shirt on stage, and I said, "Yeah."

As I was walking out, C.C. DeVille was walking in. He was dressed to the nines. He had makeup on, his hair was all done up—I knew he was the guy for the gig. Bobby Dall called me and told me they'd picked the guy, and I wasn't surprised. Had it worked out and I'd gotten the gig, it wouldn't have lasted long. I wasn't right for them.

West: A lot of those bands played dress up. But if you dress crazy but your songs suck, what do you do with that?

Slash: That whole time was interesting. The main focus for Hollywood glam metal wasn't about what I would call musical integrity. They were all about the clothes and the image, and that's what I hated about West Hollywood. Guns N' Roses was the direct result of us hating that scene. We were sort of drawn together because of it. We were into the Dolls and Bowie, Aerosmith and early '70s Stones. We weren't into the eyeliner and the clothes.

West: Now, you first played with Axl in Hollywood Rose. Is that right?

Slash: Yeah, that was the first group that we were in together. There were different incarnations of it before I was in it. Initially, Izzy was in the band, but there was a falling out and he left. So it was me and Axl, Steven Adler and Steve Darrow. We did a bunch of gigs, but it didn't last long. It was sort of the impetus for what came later.

West: Did any songs come out of Hollywood Rose that wound up on Appetite For Destruction?

Slash: There was one that came from way earlier. It's a song called Anything Goes. It's probably the most obscure song on 'Appetite,' and it was rewritten a lot of times before we did that record. Izzy and Axl had been playing it before I came around. Oh, but there's a song on the album, a really cool riff-based song called Rocket Queen, and the origins of that came from Road Crew—that was Duff, Steven and me.

West: When you were writing 'Appetite,' did you start with chord progressions or riffs?

Slash: It was always a riff. That was what really turned me on—riffs that were based on the bottom strings. You listen to anything from Cream to Zeppelin to Mountain, anything that had a great soulful groove, that was my thing.

West: Those riffs you came up with on Sweet Child O' Mine and Welcome to the Jungle are incredible. The rest of the songs —the verses, the choruses—seemed to blend with them so well.

Slash: I remember we were at this rehearsal space and Axl asked me about this riff I had, the one that would become "Welcome to the Jungle." I started out with it and I had three parts to it, it and everybody had input into it. It just became a song. It's a really strange arrangement. I don't think there's one orthodox arrangement on that record, and it's because everybody had input. I'd start out with a riff and maybe a verse part, and things would take on a life of their own. It was very spontaneous.

We could only pay for two or three hours of rehearsal time, so we'd finish a song inside a couple of hours. There was a riff that came from Izzy on 'Appetite,' and it became Out Ta Get Me. He played it off the cuff one day, and I picked up on it right away. It was that kind of inspiration between the five of us that would make songs come together.

West: It's always the best when it's the guys just jamming together. We didn't have that in Mountain.

Slash: Yeah, that's the way it starts out, with just the original members in a room doing it. It's hard to recapture that innocence as you start to become successful. You have people coming in from all over the place; they have ideas for the music or the show. It's inevitable. You don't know who it's going to be, but it's going to be somebody. You have to fight and claw to keep the integrity. A lot of the time you try to go along with stuff, but your gut is telling you this isn't right.

West: Well, you had the talent and the drive, and you had the songs. And what made it work was, you were a great fucking group.

Slash: When it was firing on all cylinders, I like to consider it a great rock 'n' roll group on its own merit. It wasn't because of gimmicks. Obviously, it was highly volatile. Now that we're back together, without getting too much into it, we're able to talk about it and identify people who got in the way. It's great to be past all that without having to listen to anybody's input—not managers, not business people. We just do what we're good at, and it's nice that it's been well received.
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