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2018.08.10 - The Times - The Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash on 30 years of hell-raising (Slash)

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2018.08.10 - The Times - The Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash on 30 years of hell-raising (Slash)

Post by Blackstar on Thu Aug 09, 2018 2:52 pm

The Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash on 30 years of hell‑raising

The legendary guitarist talks about his unlikely British childhood and reuniting Guns N’ Roses for a record‑breaking tour

Will Hodgkinson

It isn’t hard to spot Slash. He’ll be the one that looks like Slash. The top hat may be missing, and the once ever-present cigarette has not dangled from the side of his mouth since he quit smoking a decade ago, but otherwise it’s all there: the mirrored aviator shades, the cascades of curls, the basic rock wear of black T-shirt and blue jeans.

He also has a semi-permanent grin, suggesting the man behind Sweet Child O’ Mine, Paradise City and other classics guaranteed to drive the owners of guitar shops crazy does not take himself entirely seriously.

“The guitar always turned me on,” says Slash as he settles into a room in a discreetly luxurious hotel in Reykjavik, Iceland, where Guns N’ Roses are to play the final European date of Not In This Lifetime; a tour named after singer Axl Rose’s 2012 summation on the chances of the original line-up reuniting. Now it is the fourth highest grossing concert tour in history, at $480.09 million so far. “The guitar break in any given rock song was always the bit I looked forward to. If you’re lucky, you can come up with a few riffs that have so much character they last a lifetime. That’s when you have something magical.”

We’re meeting in slightly strange circumstances. Guns N’ Roses have granted no interviews during their two-year reunion tour of the original members of Rose, Slash and the bassist Duff McKagan, presumably for fear of someone saying the wrong thing and sending the wheels of this mammoth but delicate juggernaut spinning out of control. But Slash has a riff-heavy album coming out, Living the Dream, with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, and he has a day off before the Reykjavik gig. So here we are, on Slash’s 53rd birthday, talking about his lifetime in rock’n’roll while an enormous Samoan man called Kimo waits outside. When you are as wealthy and as recognisable as Slash, you need someone like Kimo.
It is easy to forget, given his image as the archetypal LA rocker, but Slash was born Saul Hudson in Hampstead, north London, in 1965. He spent his early years in Stoke-on-Trent with his father and grandparents, while his mother, Ola, an African-American costume designer to rock and pop stars including David Bowie (whom she dated briefly), Ringo Starr and Joni Mitchell, moved to Los Angeles for her work. His father, Anthony Hudson, an English artist who designed album sleeves for Crosby, Stills & Nash and Neil Young, followed in 1972.

“The big thing for me, which I didn’t recognise then, is that my dad and his two brothers were ardent rock’n’roll buffs,” says Slash in a quiet, laid-back tone. “They had all the albums, they analysed the covers, and I grew up on a heavy diet of the Kinks, the Who, the Stones and Gene Vincent. Then I moved to the States and we were in Laurel Canyon with a whole environment of artists living in the woods. It was a magical and inspired time and the people were cool, intelligent musicians doing their own thing. They were from the counterculture, but they were holding it together.”

Unlike the tormented Rose, whose biological father was murdered and who grew up in an ultra-religious household with a violent stepfather, Slash came from a loving and supportive family. That’s not to say that it was a particularly stable one. With his father believing that children should be raised as equals, Slash was allowed to run wild.

“My childhood was tumultuous. My parents separated when I was eight, both of them were living pay cheque to pay cheque, and it was an artistic environment with one and then two kids [Slash’s brother Ash was born in 1972]. We never lived in any place more than a year. I went to every school in LA. Plus I was British, I was half black, I had long hair and wore jeans and rock T-shirts . . . where did I fit in?
“How could I be the only whacked-out hippy kid around? It was totally fine in Stoke, but then we moved to LA and there was all this pressure on me from all different directions.”

Slash found a belonging of sorts as the youngest member of a delinquent BMX gang, before discovering the guitar and, soon after, the buccaneering life of the rock’n’roller. In the summer he turned 15, his schoolfriend and the future Guns N’ Roses drummer Steven Adler invited Slash to his grandmother’s house in Hollywood to check out his new Sears electric guitar and listen to Alive II by Kiss.

“We had some air-guitar moments,” says Slash on this pivotal experience. “We decided to form a band and, since he played guitar already, I would play bass although I didn’t actually own one. I found a music school, the teacher played me some Eric Clapton licks, and I discovered this thing called lead guitar. I knew my grandmother had an old flamenco guitar with one string on it, so I learnt to play Sweet Emotion and Dazed and Confused on that. At the same time I was stealing a lot of records and, since I couldn’t steal an artist’s entire work, I went for the live albums. I discovered how much I loved the seat-of-your-pants spontaneity of a rock show.”

As with so many successful artists, not to mention ones who have sold more than 100 million albums, Slash is nostalgic for the early years when the five members [with Izzy Stradlin, the rhythm guitarist] of Guns N’ Roses led druggy, poverty-stricken lives with no responsibility for anyone but each other. Slash and McKagan were the only ones with day jobs. When an offer from Geffen Records came through, the band members used it as leverage to get free dinners from all the other labels. They developed a punk-inspired attitude at odds with the commercial glam rock dominating Los Angeles in the mid-1980s.

“It was us against them and we were our only support system,” says Slash, looking amused at the memory. “We found a little storage unit with a sliding door that faced an alley and that was our band lodging. We were in a very different place from the LA glam bands like Poison.

“They were all about appearances, while we were street urchins who weren’t intimidated by anybody. We knew we were the best at what we did, even when we were doing the opening set on a Monday night at the Troubadour. We just had the chemistry, and if that happens once in your life, you’re fortunate.”

Damaged individuals tend to make the most interesting music, but that doesn’t make them the easiest people to be in a band with. I ask Slash to describe the various personalities in Guns N’ Roses. “Now we get into . . . er . . . an area where it’s hard for me to make a description in words,” he says, sounding uneasy for the first time.

“Duff was the responsible one. He answered an ad I put in the paper, showed up at Canter’s Deli in LA, had his own apartment and car, and was kind of jovial. Steven Adler was happy-go-lucky. Izzy was like the Artful Dodger. And Axl is an immensely talented but not very predictable individual. I don’t know what I was about — still don’t — except I wanted to play rock’n’roll. Somehow these personalities were drawn to each other.”

Rose’s lack of predictability was a problem. In August 1989, not long after offending pretty much everyone with the racist, homophobic song One in a Million, the singer locked himself in a Japanese hotel room for days, and fired a staff member for having the temerity to wake him up when he had asked them to. This came after countless late arrivals and no-shows and, before he walked off stage halfway through a St Louis show after attacking a photographer, inciting a riot and getting a lifetime ban from the city. Not that Slash was always the voice of reason. In January 1994 he moved into the Four Seasons hotel in Marina del Rey with a mountain lion called Curtis.

Slash cites Rose’s constant lateness as his own reason for leaving Guns N’ Roses in 1996, after which he formed Slash’s Snakepit (he’s a big snake fan) and then Velvet Revolver, leaving Rose as the sole founder member. Velvet Revolver fell apart in 2008, with Slash citing his own and the singer Scott Weiland’s “chemical issues” for the dissolution. He had a defibrillator fitted to correct a heart conditon resulting from his years of excess and, by the time he formed Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators in 2010 he was clean. That helped to pave the way for the Guns N’ Roses reunion few thought could ever happen.

“There is not a lot for me to say about it except that it’s been a huge f***in’ weight off my shoulders,” says Slash. “As soon as we started the rehearsals Axl and I got past a couple of decades’ worth of bullshit and found the camaraderie again. It was only meant to be two shows and a couple of warm-up gigs. Now we’re touring the world.”

I went to the massive Guns N’ Roses show at London Stadium in 2016 and was amazed to find a band starting on the dot of 7.30pm, Rose and all. “There was a rumour going round that we gave him an ultimatum, but actually Axl showed up on time from rehearsals onward,” Slash says on his lead singer’s new-found punctuality. “It’s a trip for me because we had a lot of issues with that back in the Nineties, but he came in so professional and in great spirits, even after he broke his foot and did the first two shows in a chair.”

Now Slash is touring the world’s biggest stadiums with Guns N’ Roses while doing theatre shows with his own band, whose latest album is filled with the kind of big, heavy riffs that make you want to learn guitar; bluesy, ballsy and exciting. “Doing these two bands is like having a mistress and a wife,” he says. “With Guns N’ Roses there were four and a half leaders [the frequently drugged-out Adler presumably being the half] whereas this is my band but I don’t dictate. I write the music, Myles comes up with the words and we’ll sort out the songs through jamming. It all goes back to my love of live records. I never wanted to sit around and be a soloist. Having a bunch of guys around you and bashing out a song is what makes it rock’n’roll.”

Slash’s life may still be driven by rock’n’roll, but the drugs, booze and wild adventures are a thing of the past. These days he leads a relatively stable existence in Los Angeles, with his two sons by his ex-wife Perla Ferrar, his girlfriend Meegan Hodges and his pinball machines. “I’m working on a Guns N’ Roses pinball machine, but I’m not a big collector. They take up too much space and the missus is always, like . . . ‘Really?’ ”

He also has a horror-movie production company, the inevitably named Slasher Films. “I like The Last House on the Left, The Exorcist, The Wicker Man, all those great Seventies films that are psychologically unnerving rather than gore-focused,” he says. “I want to create tension.”
Having lived through so much tension for so long, it seems fair enough.

Living the Dream by Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators is released on September 21

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Last edited by Blackstar on Sat Oct 13, 2018 9:57 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: 2018.08.10 - The Times - The Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash on 30 years of hell-raising (Slash)

Post by Soulmonster on Thu Aug 09, 2018 7:15 pm

That's a good read. Thanks!

Seems like things are going well in the triumvirate. Hope people don't think Axl started going on time first when the semi-reunion happened. Shows started on time years before that. But great Slash has got to experience a punctual Axl Very Happy
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