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SoulMonster

1992.05.30 - Melody Maker - Knockin' On Britain's Door

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1992.05.30 - Melody Maker - Knockin' On Britain's Door

Post by Soulmonster on Thu Apr 12, 2018 6:01 am

As GUNS N'ROSES' gigantic European tour kicks in and their single, 'Knockin' On Heaven's Door' storms the Number One slot, the most talked-about band in the world are struggling with adulation and antagonism, truth and lies. CHRIS ROBERTS travelled to Ireland and got behind the illusion to talk to Slash about fame, relationships, rock'n'roll and tiger lizards.
"OH, I HAVE snakes and cats and dogs and an alligator and tiger lizards and all kinds of stuff. That's why I don't go home. It's busy in there. There's too much going on. I've got dinosaurs all over the place, too. Sculptures. Not reai ones. I couldn't find one. Apparently, no one has been able to for some years."
Guns N'Roses fascinate me, like all good opinion-splitting global phenomena. Reading their press cuttings is better than reading anyone else's press cuttings, and almost as good as reading something adult. Deciding to like Guns N'Roses because all your intelligent friends hate them and their lyrics are abhorrently sexist is pretty good fun, too. They are, in concept, the colours of heaven and hell. They trade on an attitude long ridiculed and thus often underestimated.
They are a great and reassuring slogan for outsiders too timid to be true outsiders themselves. Never as fashionable or upwardly mobile a T-shirt as NWA or Public Enemy, or as complacently acceptable a signifier as Carter USM or The Cure, they do, even in Britain, stand for something.
The reality (Beneath the useful illusion, obviously) is rather less than devastating. As last week's live review must have droned, they are now just another big and blunt stadium act, up there with the fatted turkeys. As long as you don't have to stand in a field all day actually watching them, this does not deny their immense interest value.

WHEN I FIRST see Guns N'Roses in the flesh, in Ireland, they are hiding their heads under coats in a long, lean limo. This is impressive. As first glimpses go, it lives up to the legend. Next I see them soundcheck in the field at Slane Castle. Slash, guitar hero and owner of snakes, keeps breaking off to play 'Rebel Rebel' and 'School's Out', which I find rather endearing, bearing in mind the scale of the shebang (pyrotechnics, gantries etc). Axl does not attend soundchecks. Axl is somewhere else. We never ever see Axl. Nobody sees Axl. Axl is, I am forced to conclude, a hologram.
I have been waiting a mere four or five hours when ultra-manager Doug Goldstein employs all his acumen and wisdom and experience in recognising that if I pout and sulk and cross and uncross my arms any more blatantly, the world as we know it will surely crumble. That was the gist of what I was attempting to convey, anyway. Within seconds Slash is demonstrating a handshake fit to pulp the Pentagon. "So," he says. "What's happening?"
Right. Like you're in the biggest rock'n'roll band in the world and I'm supposed to know what's happening. The pint glass of Jack Daniels in Slash's hand trembles happily. We retire to some sort of tent or caravan. There are brief interruptions at first, until Slash passes a decree that somebody is to tell somebody to tell somebody to tell people to stop f***ing with the door.
Slash is very amiable and makes a genuine effort to be, er, genuine. He evades my right-on feminist questions with the effortless grace of a just slightly drunken man. It passes the point where I give it up on the grounds that I was not born Andrea Dworkin. (Thank God. I can write a bit.)
Slash was named Slash in his teens by a friend of his father because he was always rushing around.
"It wasn't because I had a problem going to the bathroom, no," he explains. "It wasn't a bladder thing."
Slash has worked with everyone from Michael Jackson to Spinal Tap and is not without a sense of humour. He admits he is often confused.
"When 'Spinal Tap' first came out, we just thought it was cute. Then, as time went on, the movie had more and more significance, to the point where we related to the whole movie. It's funny."
With the snakes and stuff, is it that increasing fame makes you increasingly eccentric?
"The escapism thing? Well, I have all that going, I build models, anything I can do with my hands. That's why I smoke so much. See, working with Michael (Jackson), I've gotten to be good friends with him in the last coupla years, and I don't know how he handles it. His whole situation just seems so way out of proportion. Then he'll turn round and say something like he's got a sore throat today. And I'm like — wow, that does happen, huh? Back to reality.
"I don't judge people. For me, I'd probably do the same things if I wasn't in a band, if I was an accountant. I know what motivates me. I happen to love this whole thing, I wouldn't trade it for anything."
What attracted you to rock'n'roll in the first place?
"Oh, I grew up in a weird environment compared to most kids."
Stoke-On-Trent, yes?
"Yeah, but I grew up in this, like, rock atmosphere. I was always around eccentric people. I just thought it was normal. I had a great childhood. And then in LA. I didn't have any preconceptions about what you were supposed to do as a rock'n'roller. I didn't give it any thought. I had heroes as far as bands go, but I didn't get into the whole fantastical side of it. I didn't have any big dreams about being a womanising drug addict alcoholic. Ha! That wasn't my goal oranything.
"Luckily I went through different shades of that when I was really young, so I had the chance not to be some bitter 35-year-old still dealing with drug problems cos I'd thought I was having a good time earlier. I managed to get through it and see it. I've been clean now from heroin and all that for three years. I didn't wanna turn around and go through it again. I've learned that I can't sit, I can't have idle time, it doesn't suit me.
"Womanising is another thing; I just sorta grew out of that too. Most people, they're musicians but at the same time there's a lure to draw them into it — as many chicks as you want and as much dope as you want — I didn't come from that school."

SLASH HAS learned to fill his spare time, having differentiated "Between what's positive and what's detrimental. If I'm not busy, I go to extremes." He's been working with Carole King, Motorhead, and New Orleans jazz musicians. "I have to be out of LA, cos LA f***in' sucks. I hate it."
Because of the recent riots?
"That has nothing to do with it. Well, that was stupid in itself, on both ends. It was an irresponsible verdict and the violence was wrong. But on top of that it's just such a f***!n' phoney poser town. It's ridiculous. And y'know, people talk about me an' stuff when I'm gone, then when I come home everybody goes real quiet. I'd always considered myself, like, the guitar player, I can cruise in and out of places, have a drink or whatever, nobody's watching me. But now it's not like that. I find that 'friends' or mine have been trying to pick up on my girlfriend just cos I wasn't in town. Y'know? Really weird high school shit, kindergarten shit. And people making some sorta noise about what I do on the road, having a real ball. And I didn't realise we were that significant.
"I mean I expected it more to happen to Axl, just because he's the lead singer. But it happened to me and...f***! I can't walk around and it's a drag. My basic privacy is gone. I don't know, it's all so f***in' complicated."
You feel like you have no home?
"Each individual in the band takes it differently. I'm a road guy, I'm into it, I don't like to go home, there's nothing to do there. For Axl, he's so conscious of himself and working on himself that being on the road for a long time can be sorta rough sometimes. But he does it, y'know? But like me, he wants everything to be the best it possibly can. And when you're falling apart in one way or another it's hard to keep up that level of integrity. Me, I love it, I'm on some weird jet lag schedule, I never even know whether it's six in the morning or six at night."
You must have a problem with illusion and reality, Slash.
"Well that's what the whole name of the record was about."
Well, yes.
"Cos everybody's been talking about us for so long, it's like, use your illusion, whatever it means to you, otherwise don't waste our time."

YOU'RE OFTEN said to be rebellious, even anarchic. Can rock'n'roll still achieve this in any way?
"Oh I believe in that wholeheartedly! The industry itself is so f***in' safe and predictable at this point, most groups are just catering. From the very beginning we've had to go against the grain, with everything we've done. The fact that we've got to a point where we're acceptable — I'm not sure that's really where I wanna be. But then you see the kids who come down, and they've all had a chance to be exposed to it and liked it, and that means something; that we're turning people on to something nobody else would. So when we do get this big, we can't be pissed off about it.
"You can't just go, f***, we're not just asshole punk rockers anymore. It seems pointless to make a fuss about that. Like Nirvana's been doing that, like it's not cool anymore. Hey, keep your music end up, the rest goes with the territory." Do you ever do anything deliberately perverse to upset the apple-cart? Put the cat among the pigeons?
"No, that's just too much bullshit. There's too much thought involved. We seem to f*** up on our own anyway, we don't need to try."

THERE'S A song called 'Locomotive' on the second Use Your Illusion album which is disturbingly wonderful. There's more magic in it than in their entire corpus outside. It sums up their f***-you-bitch side and their come-to-daddy side (both, of course, comical tripe) with a gauchely unoriginal but exquisitely delivered 'Love's So Strange'. I put to Slash that Guns N'Roses songs can be very extreme when addressing the opposite gender.
"Well that's what we do. All this sensationalism and paparazzi stuff aside, on our own personal levels we go through a lotta the same things everyone else does. I think one of the reasons people think we're cool is because we say things that people wouldn't dare to mention in regular life. They appreciate that, it gives them a little strength of their own. We're very emotional."
Well, you don't water down your bile. ("Gotta peel the bitch off my back" anyone?)
"You can't hide from that side of life. Relationships with the opposite sex can be really f***ed up now, because of the position we're in. Everybody's trynna get a piece of something. It's either that or there's someone really genuine who loves you or likes you because of who you are, regardless of what you do. We're in that struggle now. It's either: f*** off, just leave me alone. Or, if you're trying to make it work with somebody, and you're playing the tour at the same time, the trains don't really meet on the same ground. It's difficult.
"I'm just realising all this and I'm 26 now. Everybody always wondered why I was such a f***in' nut, and all of a sudden I've started to see some of the things I'd ignored."
When do you get time to take a breath, to assimilate?
"I haven't. It's just now, the last coupla months has been a transitional period for me. I don't want to adapt to any normal kind of life, yet there are things that are really important to me that I'm trying to hold on to. Of course the way I am is: oh, up for this. So I try to explain, 'I've been in a rock'n'roll band since I was 15/16 years old. There's been one year in my life at home, and that's when you met me.'
"I just wanted to be back on the road, and it turned into the same old thing, and it blew her mind. Y'know? She heard about all the shit that goes on and she was just flabbergasted. I guess I'm trying to do what it is that I do, but at the same time make some semblance of a home life."
You crave some order?
"I guess. Cos I'm not going to be on the road every single day forever, you have to come home at some point. And I've been hotel-hopping for the last three to four years. Even when I'm home in town, I stay in hotels."
Has anyone close to you ever criticised you?
"Oh yeah, that comes up. Songs like 'My Michelle', which was about somebody we knew, we thought maybe it would hit too close to home for her. Then Michelle said it was cool! Then there's been, 'Oh why won't you let me be in your video?' I say, 'Because when you and I split up, I don't want to. have to deal with the relationship part of my life in this context.' A lotto that comes up. I went out with a girl from- f***, not Manchester — ah, Sheffield, for a while. All the guys had their girlfriends in the 'Sweet Child' video, and I cut all my scenes out. There was one picture of my hand on her ass and that was it. I'm not into drawing attention to the personal side.
"Things come up and you have to defend yourself, say why. The only thing that's important, from my end, is that I be really true and honest with myself about what I do. We never intended making any 'real statements', trying to change the world like Sting or any of that bullshit. To me it's only a rock band.
"How significant in the general scheme of things can that be? It can only be important for the moment. You put it on and there it is. Okay, maybe you can loosen up the confines of society, if there's enough of you around. But I get hassled for, like, drinking Black Death. Influencing the youth of America. What? I didn't know that was my gig!
"With the lyrics, a lot of them can be very serious about personal situations or they can be just sorta funny about shit in general. People read into it really heavily. Yeah, pretty soon they'll be wondering if we're Republicans or Democrats. I haven't even voted. There's no one to vote for. For me it's like, 'F*** it, does my amp work?'"
What about the constant reports of disharmony amongst the ranks? Every other day there's a "Guns N'Roses Split" headline.
"Well the obstacles are harder than they were. Because shit comes out of the woodwork you wouldn't believe! Anything to try to stop the wheels from turning. That part's harder. Sometimes you just want to go to sleep and forget. But the band as a unit is stronger, cos we've been through so much."
No metal fatigue? No blazing rows?
"No, we've never had that kind of relationship! People print that stuff and it really hurts. Because really the only family we have is between us. These guys, they're my sense of reality, they're the people I cling to, and people are trying to rip it apart so I don't have a f***ing home. But we bond together, because there's this thing tugging at us all the time saying we're getting real close."
How for can it go?
"I've no idea. We're here today, we start this whole thing, we deal with it. It's easier to live life that way than trying to build a space shuttle from a piece of clay. Ha ha ha! People get a little too tense."

SOMEBODY TELLS somebody to tell somebody to tell us to wrap it up. The Guns N'Roses story slithers on. Later, I overhear rhythm guitarist Gilby Clarke laugh: "But man, I'm not paid to think!" He is, I feel, well-adjusted.
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