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SoulMonster

1991.11.17 - Music Life - Slash Speaks

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1991.11.17 - Music Life - Slash Speaks

Post by Soulmonster on Thu Apr 12, 2018 5:46 am

THE PLUSH CONRAD HOTEL at Chelsea Harbour has for some reason (maybe it's the copious amount of Moet & Chandon champagne in the minibar!) become the favourite new hotel for the kind of rock 'n' roll bands who in the past were inclined to trash this kind of place as a matter of principle!
Guns N' Roses have just checked in. They're getting the same suites that Motley Crue occupied last week. It was considered prudent to keep this information from Axl Rose, who's still feuding with Vince Neil. Last night for instance, the DJ hired for a Guns N' Roses party unwittingly put on a Motley Crue number. Axl stormed off and a few seconds later there was the sound of a needle scratched violently across a record before the singer returned, smiling again.
Everyone – the record company, the crew, even – no especially the band want to keep Axl smiling. Guns N' Roses, currently the biggest rock 'n' roll band in the world, are playing huge sold-out shows on the back of two of the biggest, fastest-selling albums ever, and in spite of that, or maybe because of that, the atmosphere is electrifyingly tense and difficult; there were people – many of them insiders – who held their breath until the London show was over. lzzy Stradlin, some said, had no intention of performing; the day before the show no-one even knew if he'd arrived in London; and Axl – well, he was just being Axl, either a total sweetheart or a complete hooligan bent on wrecking the band, depending on his mood.
Axl right now is in his hotel suite, burning up nervous energy on the state-of-the-art exercise equipment he takes everywhere. Matt Sorum is off wandering the hotel corridors in search of more traditional rock 'n' roll 'exercise' – women and parties! Duff is playing back some of the tapes he's recorded for his solo album Believe In Me, lzzy's with his girlfriend; they're not even staying at the same hotel. And Slash is kicking back in front of a TV set with the sound off, with his girlfriend Renee, a pack of cigarettes, a hamburger and a bottle of Jack Daniels. He's telling me about the strange thing that happened after last night's show. He was backstage talking to Brian May, Queen's guitarist when an elderly man and a teenager approach them and say to Slash, 'Hi, we're your grandfather and cousin; can we have your autograph please?'
"I hadn't seen them in 15 years! When my dad finally decided to move to the States for work purposes (he designed rock album sleeves) I went along with my mum and everything and we never kept in touch. I was pretty much – not a tear away, but I was off tripping around, doing my own thing, and all this time has gone by and I sort of built up my own life in the States, so I was gone. And the only times I ever did have an opportunity to come back, I didn't know where they were.
"And then out of the blue I got a letter. One of my uncles is a rock fan – he turned me on to the Moody Blues when I was still living in England – and he was reading a Jethro Tull article in a magazine and he saw the names Ola Hudson (Slash's mother), Saul Hudson – Saul being me – and that's how they knew how their relative was.
"So I knew they were coming but I didn't know who they were. I was really nervous about It for a little bit. And when my grandparents – my grandfather; my grandmother has apparently passed away – after the show I was sitting there fucking exhausted going, okay, I'll just have a drink and I'll go out. And when I saw them, they had fucking baby pictures of me, the whole thing! Very bizarre!" Slash laughs. "But it was cool, It's just an example of how weird this whole fucking business gets."
It's no secret that since this tour began there has been a great deal of tension and conflict within the band. Minutes before the band is due to go onstage, it's not unusual to find at least one band member missing and the rest of you on the verge of killing one of the others – usually Axl! What's going on? Why are you like this?
Slash: "Because the main thing that I've seen going on Is with everything we stand for and the whole regiment of touring on this level, being the headlining band In these huge places with all this money and all this shit going on around It, It just builds up. It's like success has infiltrated what the band is about sometimes – a whole crew of people tugging on us from all different directions. And it comes to a head sometimes, it really does, like 'Fuck this!' But then at the same time you have got this responsibility. You can't just show up whenever you want because people will tear the house down – and I've seen what that's like.
"Axl – Axl's got all this pent-up stuff. Like he's really into doing everything perfect, so he's been working so fucking hard. I spend a lot of time with Axl and I can't even get into all the things that he's doing, but he's going through a lot of shit right now with his past personal life and stuff, and even though we're on tour and supposedly hugely successful, these 'rock stars', we're all deafeningly human, to the point where it's like, Jesus! You've got to try and maintain some semblance of security In your personal situation while at the same time you're being completely thrown to the sharks – and yet we wanted this, we wanted to be here. So here we are! (laughs).
"We're just a little more volatile than most bands, because we're not just willing to give in and go, 'Okay, whatever you want, we'll do that for you.' "
There are rumours that lzzy is going to leave – because of attitude. There were even rumours that new member Matt Sorum was threatening to go if Axl continued to be difficult to work with. Why not fire Axl? Could there be a Guns N' Roses without him – or is Guns N' Roses in effect Axl's band? "Losing one member – losing Steven was a blow in itself. If anybody in the band – including Matt, but especially within the four of us, Axl, Duff, lzzy and I – if any of us left there wouldn't be a Guns, it's the only band like it. Guns N' Roses is unique. You can't take pieces out of it. We're more like a family. It's not Bon Jovi, okay?"
You and Axl have a very close – albeit sometimes a love/hate – relationship. Are you close enough to be able to put in words why he is how he is?
"It's a hard one. The only thing I can say about it is I understand it. I understand how rough it is. And I spend so much time with Axl – to realise what he goes through to do that and to be able to sing every night. He's given me analogies – like, say, 'If you only had one guitar and you broke all the strings, how are you going to finish the show? Or when the monitors go out I'm fucked!' he's telling me. You know, we're playing Instruments, I've got replacement guitars, more strings. It's not as harsh for me to go through my personal situations onstage as it is for him. I've got something to hide behind. Him – if the entire system falls or he loses his contact lens or gets dizzy whatever – and being out there you're bigger than life. They don't want to see any fucking faults at all! And Axl's a very sensitive guy, and a lot of shit does go down onstage. There's always a bottle flying here, a bomb going off there. The other night I hear this crash, I'm like, 'What the fuck was that!' And somebody threw an M80 into the crowd!
"Maybe we're not so professional that we can just grin and bear it all the time. We have our moments where It's just like, 'This is fucked! ' Me, I just love it when everybody has a great time and they leave smiling."
That's rather a strange thing to say, since Guns N' Roses is not a 'smiley' sort of band. The attitude – Axl's especially onstage isn't 'fun fun fun'. It's hard and dangerous. And the song's lyrics are known for their anger and brutality.
"It's a pissed-off band. It always has been. But all the lyrics aren't like that. A lot of them are stuff you can actually stop and listen to. It's not all negative – it's more serious. The album goes through a lot of different subject changes. It's not all pissed-off and 'fuck this' and 'fuck that'. Some of it's really humorous. I think a lot of people fall to see that."
Are Guns N' Roses taken too seriously – or not seriously enough?
"I think we're taken too seriously and not seriously enough, and for all the wrong reasons! But fuck, at this point I'm not going to fight it that much!"
The Press, especially in America, takes you seriously as a threat to social order. Not just the rock press – everything you do rather everything you do that's not 'nice', is splashed over the front pages of newspapers.
"I don't even think they expect us to be nice any more. I think they now see us as their puppets. It's really just sensationalism, like if there's nothing to write about let's talk about Guns N' Roses' s latest antics. When you actually meet them face to face, some of them are a little paranoid, like I'm going to smash a bottle in their face or something. Some of them want you to! (laughs) I haven't been able to figure out the psychology behind that! And if there's nothing they can say they make it up. Those are the press people we're pissed off at, in 'Get In The Ring', the ones who make it up. Because what I'd been hoping would happen at some point In our career is that our musical ability – going out there as a rock band and kicking ass – would somehow surpass the hype some day. But as all this time has gone by, people are still digging for stuff. As soon as you set foot outside the door there's a guy watching you with a fucking camera. And on a personal level, I never thought it was anybody's business what we do, or whether we use toilet paper or not!"
Is rock 'n' roll supposed to be safe?
"No – that's what's wrong with the whole business. Everything's so predictable In rock – 'You can't say this and you can't do that, make sure that you sing to the little girls and do as much press as you can, and don't say anything offensive'. That's nothing to do with what rock's all about at all. Rock 'n' roll – my impression from growing up around it, and I was born in a rock 'n' roll hospital, rock was for freedom, rebellion, this sense of letting loose, getting away from the every day shit that you have to deal with. And it needs to be honest and a little bit aggressive and it needs to maybe shock a few people. It should go as against the order as possible."
Even if – at your gig in St Louis – it leads to riots?
"I think that totally opened our eyes to something we had no idea – I guess with that many people it's dumb to not realise that, but I really didn't know we had that much power. That was a little bit of a mind –blower. There were a lot of lives involved there. And all it was was a rock 'n' roll gig! You start to see how heavy this stuff is.
"The Donington thing [two fans were crushed to death at the Castle Donington festival in England during Guns' set in 1988] turned us around a lot too. And they've been saying we incited it (a warrant has been issued in Missouri, USA, for Axl's arrest) which we didn't. Everybody always points their finger at us because we're that rowdy, crazy, fucked-up whatever rock band that they think we are. If a woman came up to you in the street and said. 'I hold you responsible for turning my kids onto drugs'. What would you say? "My personal feeling is the band's never sent out any messages, We don't advocate what to do or don't do. What we sing about is our – own personal lives. If they're too stupid to realise that, then that's really not my problem – even though I'd feel horrible if I knew that happened. But I won't take responsibility for people taking it so seriously that they do something drastic, like that whole Ozzy situation or the Judas Priest situation (both bands were sued unsuccessfully in the US courts for causing suicides through something written in their song lyrics).
"It's just a band. A fucking rock 'n' roll band! And In the general scheme of things it really doesn't matter as far as what's going on in the entire planet. For someone to take their own life or somebody else's life or to do something really damaging over a piece of vinyl really sort of bothers me. I do realise that with TV and records and radio and magazines and things like that people do take it all too fucking seriously."
What, if anything, is a musician's responsibility?
"It's to yourself. Your own personal integrity, To satisfy yourself, to accomplish what your goal is, to be able to do that and not let that go – that's your first responsibility as a player. To the public? You can't think about that. It's too heavy. It sort of squashes your whole reason for being around, you know what I mean? As it is there's so much going on around you – I mean if you could do your own security, be your own roadie, build your own stage, It would be different, but that's fucking impossible, So you've got so many people involved that you sort of feel like you're in a whirlwind! And that's what you get for being successful – and like I said earlier, if you weren't, you'd be sitting here moaning, 'Fuck, why can't I get this across! '(laughs) So it's a vicious circle. What the fuck can you do? "People expect us to be responsible – and we're like the most juvenile, irresponsible thing going on that people flock to. It's like the circus. It's a bigger than life thing. I know I went through it too – I'd go see whatever band it was and I'd be like in awe. And they're just people, plugged into an amp – twanging away and prancing around!"
You've been called "a brutal band for brutal times". What do you think of this description?
"A lot of it has to do with even when we first started we had so much opposition and we really had to struggle Just to keep the band together and survive. Because the kind of band that we were wasn't anything that people were expecting. They didn't want us in their house, so to speak, even If it was on plastic! We were like, 'This is the way we're going to do It, so fuck off!' "So we made a record and we sang about all the shit that we've been going through as a result of our success, and situations that people would probably like to keep to themselves – everybody goes through them – and the drug situation, which was a result of us being off the road and being bored. And now that we're on the road, people are still trying to force us to do, to be certain things – and we just explode!
"We can't go out and do a good show unless we get really emotional. And if the shows start to get predictable, like to the point where it's just a job, the feeling behind why we're up there – we just wouldn't be able to express It. So we just go out and do our own thing, and if that makes us look pissed-off it's because we are! And these are brutal times."
Has rock 'n' roll lived up to what you expected and wanted when you first got into a band?
"I've always been in a band since I started playing at 14 or 15, but I never looked at it like I was expecting anything in particular, how it was going to be or what life was going to be like, because I always went through this whole thing in stages. I was trying to get to the next club. Yeah, maybe I tried to predict what the club was going to be like and I'd have my fantasies about that. And then it went from doing clubs to doing lots of clubs and it became predictable to where I knew it was going to be really dirty and we were going to sweat a lot!
"But from there It got to a point where we had no Idea what was going on) because it got so big. And I think we're very naive in the sense that we do everything so very much our own way, so we don't really have any expectations.
"I had a lot of warning signs from bands previous to us – the whole drug thing of course, the Aerosmiths, the Led Zeppelins, the Stones. But having gone through that without seeing it coming, really, at this point it – we're – nothing like I ever imagined it would be. We'd go out and keep getting on bigger stages with the same equipment!"
"The material side of it was never a thing with me. The bigger we got – not that I'm complaining because I'm not – the more of a pain in the ass money was. I was better off when I didn't have any money! I never carry cash anyway and I don't go shopping. I appreciate having money. I'm financially at a point where I can have room service without worrying! I can feed my cats, feed my snakes – I don't have to worry about little things like that.
"And I have one pair of jeans, and if they really do finally fall apart I can get another pair. These (his clothes) are the things which I've had since we did the last record! if they still work, I don't need any others."
Do you sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and not actually believe that you're the guitar player in the biggest most successful rock 'n' roll band in the world? That none of this is real?
"The biggest –? That's just something someone else says. I'm just a little kid when it comes to this stuff. I trip out when I see us in the paper and I change the channel when I see us on TV because it scares me. I really avoid the whole hype part of it. What freaks me out is when we get in front of that many people – to know they're there just to see us. That's really moving, you know?"
In a relatively short time. Guns N' Roses seem to have done so many almost mythical rock 'n' roll things: you almost broke up onstage during your opening set for the Rolling Stones: Clint Eastwood wanted you in a movie: Aerosmith's Steven Tyier and Joe Perry handed their 'Toxic Twins' T-shirts over to you when you toured with them; Motley Crue gave up drugs after partying with you! You've also personally, received a number of accolades from your fellow musicians: Brian May of Queen is a fan. Michael Jackson is having you play on his album, and artists as diverse as Bob Dylan, lggy Pop. Alice Cooper and Lennv Kravltz want you on their records as so much has happened to you so quickly, can you picture where Guns N' Roses will ultimately end up In Rock history?
"You've touched on something that lately I've thought about a lot. God, we have made a hell of a lot of fucking noise, but where down the road are they going to put us In the rock history kind of thing? I wonder if the ‘90s are even going to be significant, because so much nothing was happening as far as music goes. So what are they going to do with us? Are they going to 'Led Zeppelin' us? Or are we going to be one of those bands like they did to Aerosmith – a huge band they just like forgot about really quick? I thought about it. But I didn't come up with an answer, because I don't have a crystal ball!"
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