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1988.07.30 - Kerrang! - Ramblin' Rose (Slash)

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1988.07.30 - Kerrang! - Ramblin' Rose (Slash) Empty 1988.07.30 - Kerrang! - Ramblin' Rose (Slash)

Post by Soulmonster on Mon Nov 12, 2018 9:42 pm

1988.07.30 - Kerrang! - Ramblin' Rose (Slash) KjPLBLcQzW3sVeaQDnuv+20181112_214017

1988.07.30 - Kerrang! - Ramblin' Rose (Slash) AUW1Xz8TK2HKzNhBrQtM+20181112_214041

1988.07.30 - Kerrang! - Ramblin' Rose (Slash) R5tgM4RyT1uawpDZUlNW+20181112_214048

1988.07.30 - Kerrang! - Ramblin' Rose (Slash) ZxaZ9erfTk2d12CBBKbZ+20181112_214102

Trancript:

RAMBLIN' ROSE

GUNS N' ROSES have just received their first big chunk of royalty dosh - $160,000 for the sales of their highly successful LP 'Appetite For Destruction'. Guitarist SLASH (pictured right) will personally receive around $16-17,000 of the total, but he ain't particularly bothered. He's just happy to have a roof over his head and a drink in his hands As the five GN'R guys prepare to play Donington, money-grubbing MICK WALL (last Kerrart! cheque - £4.83) wonders: are they about to become the most dangerously rich band in the world?

`Take me down To the paradise city
Where the grass is green
And the girls are pretty
Lord, won't you please
Take me home . . '
- 'Paradise City'

IF LOS ANGELES ain't the epitome of Paradise City, then tell me - where is?

The richest city in the wealthiest state of the most omnipotent nation on earth, it even has the best f* *kin' climate . . . LA is Tinsel Town run amok. Sodom and Gomorrah on a skateboard. Where the billboards dwarf the buildings (this month mainly advertising smut like `Rambo III' or, more prominent still, the Godawful `Crocodile Dundee II') and the girls' asses can block out every thought in your head . . .

LA is also home for Slash - "Or about as close to having a home as I'm going to get" - lead guitarist and resident Boss Man of Guns N' Roses, the band he first pieced together in 1985, once described in these very pages as The most dangerous band in the world?, and who have since gone on to sell more than two million copies (and still rising) of their debut album, `Appetite For Destruction', released last year.

Slash is in town with nothing to do because Guns N' Roses have had to pull out of the Special Guest spot on the Iron Maiden bill, just as the tour began its Californian leg, after singer W Axl Rose suddenly lost his voice and was ordered off the road for at least three weeks by his doctors.

"Man, it is a f* *kin' drag having to pull out of the Iron Maiden tour," says Slash, shaking his head. "But there's nothing we can do. We just have to sit tight for three weeks and wait for Axl's voice to heal.

"The trouble is, when I'm not playing, I'm not really doing anything, I'm kind of at a permanent loss . . . Wandering around LA, nothing to do except get wasted . . . Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don't."

THE POPULARLY received image of the Guns N' Roses guitarist - the mane of long, tangled dark curls falling down his face and back, and the sleek, skinny frame; the slightly swaying presence in the cut-down Led Zeppelin T-shirt, tight-arsed black jeans and scuffed cowboy boots, pulling hard on a bottle of Jack and peeling out one dirty riff after another like he could do it blindfolded - is close enough to the truth, all right.

But there are still some things about Slash that the videos, the records and the magazine pin-ups miss out. Stuff that doesn't register on a colour transparency or in the shiny surface of a CD.

His speaking voice, for example: it's quiet, the words rolling softly, evenly out of his mouth; not quite the full enigmatic Jim Morrison whisper, nor anywhere near as monosyllabic or mumbling, thank God, but without ever finding a reason to raise itself too far above the comforting background chink and rattle of glasses being drained in a bar.

When Slash talks, which he likes to do a lot, he keeps his conversation lucid but cool, warm without fumbling, setting his cards down carefully on the table.

And no, he doesn't walk around all the time with an open bottle of Jack hanging by the neck from his fist. Only most of the time. He's working on it, though...

"The afternoon we found out we would have to quit the Maiden tour I went around grabbing every bottle of Jack I could find stashed around our dressing room and took it all with me back to the hotel.

"That was five days ago and I've been living off it ever since. But now I'm down to my last bottle-and-a-half. After that, I guess I'll be back to buying my own," Slash tells me with an expression of comic dismay, meaning it, not meaning it.

"It'll be the first time I've had to go out to a liquor store for my own booze in ages . . . Maybe I won't remember how to do it," he titters.

A kid but not a kidder, he has eyes that never go out. Beneath the fell-out-of-bed hair and the Jack Daniel's smile, something less relaxed is going on.

At 22, Slash already has the demeanor of an old hand at this game he's in. He knows enough about the rules already, it seems, to blandly dismiss the astonishing success his band have enjoyed over the last 12 months with a wave of his hand...

"Oh man, what do I want to know about all that for? Sure, I like it that we're going places, doing being allowed to play and make the kind of records we want to. Beyond that, all you can talk about is money, and that's where I get lost," he says, rolling his eyes.

"You know, we got our first big royalty cheque the other day? It wasn't huge, but it's the most money I've ever seen . . . How much? I interrupt.

"...I don't know, $160,000, something like that. I think I got about $16-17,000, I don't know. But what am I supposed to do with that money? I ask myself that sincerely, and I don't know.

"I mean, look at me - T-shirt, jeans, boots, that's me, that's all there is, that's all there's gonna be . . . I don't even like the idea of going into a f**kin' dressing room and changing into different clothes just to go out on a stage and play! Gimme a roof over my head and something to drink and I've got everything I need. What difference is this money going to make?"

'I've seen everything imaginable
Pass before these eyes
I've had everything that's tangible
Honey, you'd be surprised...'
- 'Rocket Queen'

THE AFTERNOON Slash and I got together to tape this interview, it was a typical Saturday pm in downtown LA: the sun boiling like an egg in the blue saucepan sky, and an endless stream of flat-topped cars humping their aching gears up and down Sunset Boulevard, the sidewalks empty save for me and Slash and the other bums.

The previous night, he'd dragged me against my will to a party Poison were throwing over at a dive called the London Club.

"Come on; man, let's go and start a fight!" he laughed at me. "I'll take care of you." The much-publicised animosity that exists between Guns N' Roses and the members of Poison goes back a long way. The story goes that in the days before he had conceived Guns N' Roses, Slash actually passed an audition to join Poison in the spot guitarist CC DeVille now occupies, but turned the gig down eventually because it would have required him to dye his hair blond and daub his face with the Barbie Doll make-up.

"F**k that," he hissed, when reminded. "I didn't want to look like a clown."

In the early days before either band had secured a recording contract, Poison would occasionally open the show for Guns N' Roses on small club dates.

"Some nights they'd come on first, some nights we would," Slash recalled. "It really didn't matter which one of us came on first, neither of us had a really big following yet. A lot of people would just come down to the club to see what was going on and then split.

"Anyway, every time those assholes played first, Bret Michaels would end their set by announcing that Poison were having a big party somewhere, and everybody was invited, but those who wanted to go would have to come now because the band bus was leaving in 15 minutes!

"And man, the people who frequent the sort of dives we were playing in those days didn't need to be asked twice to go to some party somewhere, and within minutes the f**kin' club would be empty!

"We'd come on and play to half a dozen no-hopers who couldn't get it up in time to leave when everybody else did . . . I tell ya, they were always into pulling sneaky, shitty little stunts like that. Full of dirty tricks. And that kind of attitude sucks, man . . . I think it's because they're insecure about their talent.

"And then some time after that, when we both started getting some attention, I couldn't believe it when that CC DeVille started wearing a top hat onstage!

"Listen, I'm not saying I was the first rock and roller ever to wear a top hat onstage. But look, man, CC's the kind of guy who probably didn't even know what a top hat looked like until he saw me wearing one...

"You know, I caught up with him one night in the Rainbow, and I just told him quietly, 'If I ever see you wearing a top hat onstage again, I'm gonna shoot you!' I tell ya, he freaked, man!" he bawled with laughter.

"And I mean, I don't own a gun ... wouldn't know how to use one if I did. And I'm really not a violent guy at all. I just felt something had to be said to that f**ker ... Sometimes, you gotta draw the line for people."

So anyway, we went, but apart from a few chaste exchanges between Slash and Bret Michaels, nothing much happened. No fights, no real tittle-tattle. Slash's bottle of Jack Daniel's looked like it was doing all right, though, getting the attention of everybody's lips.

Walking up Sunset Boulevard towards my hotel the following afternoon, we're doing OK for apprentice vampires: red eyes hidden behind stark mirror-shades, only mild shakes, ready for the first drink and cigarette of the day. Two shadows looking for the right doorway to duck into...

We make the poolside bar of Le. Mondrian, where I am temporarily holed up, and get a couple of quick beers down before I take out the machine.

Out in the sun, belly-flopped or towels beside the pool, are a gaggle of teenage girls, all of whom had spotted the tall, rangey guitarist the moment he strolled into the shade of the bar and dropped his body into the nearest empty chair.

Two or three of them come over and press their baby faces up against the glass wall separating the bar from the pool.

Slash appears not to notice. He belches, lights another cigarette, fills our glasses, then signals for me to turn on the machine…

TO BEGIN with, what's the position as it stands right now with Axis voice? "OK, I'm no doctor, but what it is, he's got nodes on his vocal cords, like little bumps building up on them that touch when he tries to sing, so that his voice was starting to sound really painful, especially when he tried for the top register of his vocal range.

"I guess it's something that had been building up for some time. In the end he just completely lost his voice. Right now we're waiting to see if Axl's going to be OK to make the tour of Japan we have lined up, and I really wanna go. We've never been there before and we're, apparently, like really huge over there..."

What's the worst that can happen, though? Is there a possibility that you may not be able to play live for longer than just a few weeks?

"The bottom line is, if Axl has to have surgery, we'll have to wait a week for the swelling to go down, and then give it another week or so to heal. So it's feasible that with something like three weeks to go before we start the Japanese tour Axl could make it.

"But more than anything else I don't want anything to jeopardise us going out on the Aerosmith tour, which we're due to start in a couple of months. If rushing Axl into singing by going to Japan is going to f**k up his voice and make us blow those dates out, I'd rather forget all about going to Japan..."

You and Aerosmith on the same bill is a tantalising prospect.

"Man, it's gonna be the best! We're going out together for three months and, aside from the Monsters Of Rock tour that's currently going on, I think this will be the Summer show to see ... If I was a kid looking to go to a hot rock and roll concert this Summer, I know I'd be there."

Guns N' Roses have turned into a monster-sized band in their own right over the last 12 months. You're a famous person these days. A rock star, Slash. What about it?

"I don't feel any different, though. I get a lot more attention thrown in my direction, but it E .3 doesn't make me feel any „ different about myself.

"I mean, I get the 'phone calls - the album just sold 35,000 copies in one day, another day it sells 90,000 copies in one day, and the single's a breaker on such and such a radio station, and it's got a bullet in the charts, and so on and so forth - and if I sit and think about it, it just freaks my ass off, man!" he laughs.

"So yes, I guess we're turning into what you would call a `big' band. What's going to really solidify that vibe for me though, is to go in and do the next record and see where that one goes...

"Right now, there are Guns N' Roses records flying out of boxes all over America. But I'll start to think that's cool if the next album makes the same kind of impact."

Have you had a chance to write much new material yet?

"Oh, we've got lots of things written . . . different parts to different things already laid down on the road. We get a surprising amount done while we're actually touring.

"I'm relied on to come up with a lot of the guitar parts, the main chord changes and the so-called bitchin' riffs and shit, and then Izzy comes in with some real cool rock and roll guitar licks, and Axl gets pissed off at something and starts to write words ... Just making it up as we go along.

"It's really friendly, really easy the way we write together. We never sit around in a room some place waiting for something to happen. We don't have to. Axl will just grab me at a gig and take me into the showers and say, 'Listen to this!' And he'll stand there singing me a couple of verses to something he just made up that will completely blow me away."

So what's the new stuff like?

"It looks like it's going to be really good, but it looks like it's also going to be even more angry and bitter and twisted than the stuff on the first album, which everybody nearly had a heart attack over at the record company when they found out it had the word `f* *k' on it about 25 times!"

Do you have any titles worked out yet?

"Nothing really hectic. There's a song called 'Perfect Crime', then there's a song called 'You Could Be Mine'. That's really about it for actual titles. I don't concentrate that much on the lyrics anyway, until we come to lay the slit down on the tape."

And when will that be?

"Late October, I think is the plan right now. I can't wait.

"THE PLAN is to have the album out late Spring, early Summer next year, and then we'll maybe hook up with one of the big outdoor Summer tours that will be happening around America at that time-maybe the Monsters Of Rock thing, I don't know.

"Then after that we'll go out on our first headline world tour and we'll come home never wanting to open for anybody ever again!" he laughs.

What do you think it will be like headlining your own American tour? Somehow I just can't see you vying with lasers and pyro.

"Neither can I. We won't have any of that shit. All it means is that we'll all have acres of space to run around and go nuts in! If anything, we're gonna play down the whole idea of putting on some kind of dumb show with a Million stage props, and go out and just f**kin' kick some ass!

"Too many bands hide behind all that stagey shit, anyway. The bigger the band, the bigger the explosions at the beginning and end of their set. Well not us . . . None of that shit for us. We ain't faking it, we play take it or leave it rock and roll and if the kids want some of that they'll come  along. Try and f**kin' stop them..."

Your image makes a lot of people very nervous when they are in your presence ...

"Good."

Are you aware of the effect you might have on certain people when you walk in a room?

"Yeah, a lot of people think if I walk in a place, or Axl walks in place, we're gonna smash the joint up. But you've been out with me, you know I'm not that bad a guy. I do have a tendency to get drunk and boisterous sometimes.

"The only time, though, I ever really get out of hand is when I'm forced to deal with too many assholes at once. And there are so many assholes out there in he world waiting around to be shocked - it's like being eaten by a wolf, like the more scared you are, the more chance there is he'll smell your fear and attack.

"And so yes, we f* *k with people sometimes. I'm not one of those guys who sits at home, drinking tea and watching TV, all calmly, and then goes out and puts that leather jacket on just to go on stag..."

When you were growing up as a teenager, which guitarists influenced your attitude to rock and roll the most?

"Off the top of my head . . . Pete Townshend of the Who I dug a lot, he was great when he was in a bad mood. I liked Pete Townshend until he got sober, though he's still got the most nihilistic attitude in some ways.

"Keith Richards was always the coolest, he was great. His attitude in the Stones is what helped form the concept for a band like Guns N' Roses. I was always attracted to the more decadent side of rock, the people that really threw their souls down on the table.

"But the one guy that I've listened to consistently through all the years I've been listening to and playing rock and roll, is Jimmy Page. Can't get on a stage and play a note these days, but he's still the greatest! I didn't see that show they did at the Atlantic Records anniversary party, but I heard it was horrible ...

"I heard that Jason (Bonham) was great, though . . . If I ever start another band I'm gonna try and get him . . . He's got to be younger than me, even..."

You're both about the same age, and you'd probably make a hell of a team. Can you foresee a time already, though, when you won't be playing in Guns N' Roses?

"Not really. I don't look at things in those terms, much. I'm not the kind of guy that has a secret Plan B ready to swing into operation if anything should ever go wrong with this band. We love each other too much as friends for me to worry my ass off about whether we might split up one day.

"WHAT WORRIES me more is the fear of something happening to one of us, some awful accident or something, because I couldn't continue with this band minus one of these guys. No way.

"None of us are what you might call superior musicians, but it's the basic chemistry that we have that only exists when the five of us climb up on a stage together and let rip, that makes this band tick. You surround Axl and me with three top-notch, note-perfect musicians all blowing their chops off behind us and it'll sound like a bunch of shit! Whatever it is we've got, it only happens best when it's the five of us, and that's the way it'll always be."

(Just then, two of the teenage cuties who've been making eyes at Slash all the while we've been talking, pluck up the courage to enter the bar where we are seated and approach him for an autograph. Slash gets up, signs the bits of paper, stands there and smiles for their cameras, then sends them on their way with a big bear hug.

"We think you're just the greatest!" one of them cries, blowing him a kiss as they make their way back to the pool. "Hey baby, I like you too," he drawls back at her.)

You like all that?

"Oh, yeah! It's hard for me to go out and pick up chicks though, because I hate the fact that I'm getting laid because I'm in some band. Which is why every girlfriend I've ever picked has always been someone that didn't know who the f**k I am ...

"On the road of course, I have a tendency to bend the rules a little bit. There have been times when I've got back to the hotel, drunk out of my mind, and I've picked up the first chick I can lay my hands on.

"By this time it's usually six in the morning and the only girls left hanging around all look like something out of 'The Evil Dead', so you just know you're gonna hate yourself in the morning. But the trick is to just take 'em up to your room and keep drinking until they start to look good . . . "

On a serious note, do you ever worry about . .

"Getting AIDS? I knew that would be the next question. Yeah, that's a f**ked thing all right ... As I grew up, it's like my whole philosophy of life leant one particular way, and now I've got this little voice inside my head all the time, saying, 'Slash, you better watch out, you're playing roulette here with your life'.

"Going out and getting laid all the time is a dangerous f* *kin' game these days. But, you know, I really can't get into the idea of wearing a rubber again. The last time I used one it broke away!

"So what can I do? The whole situation is f**ked up. It's like, if the drinking doesn't get me, AIDS will. I shouldn't say this, but I have this underlying fear all the time. Anything goes wrong with me, anything at all, and I think, 'Shit, this is it!' But I guess if you talk to any young guy of my age these days he'll probably tell you the same thing. Welcome to the '80s, you know . . .

"Actually, the scariest thing of all about AIDS for me - and this is something no-one ever talks about in magazines - is that as soon as, say, Dave Roth, or Gene Simmons, or me, or Bobby Dall, or whoever, the minute one of us goes down with it, it's gonna be like a line of toy soldiers all being knocked over one by one.

"It hasn't happened to a rock star yet, but it will eventually, and then we'll all be in the shit, because we all play the same towns, go to the same places, and probably f* *k a lot of the same chicks.

"If you think about it, it's got to be like that. And when it happens it's going to take out a whole legion of rock and roll stars . . . It'll be recorded in the history books - 1989 or 1990, the year all the rock stars died!" he laughs.

Well if you manage to live long enough, how do you think you'll feel appearing on the bill at Donington in England this year?

"Oh, man, that should be the coolest! Originally, the idea was for us to come back to Britain and tour with Metallica in September or October. But it seems kind of redundant to keep on touring off the back of this one album. So when the chance to play at Donington came up we just grabbed at it! 'M TOLD they're expecting a really big crowd this year, too, so that should be awesome. I tell ya, this is such an important gig for us. I've always loved playing in Britain, f**kin' loved it!

"Also, have you heard how we're doing it? We're scheduled to play a gig with Aerosmith, then jump on Concorde and fly straight to the show at Donington. Then after we've finished playing, we're straight back on a 'plane and back out on the road in the States again with Aerosmith! F**kin' bang, bang, bang!"

You're taking Concorde? This is what having a double-platinum album does for you, is it?

"Something like that. Actually, it's all down to Alan, our manager. He's a really good manager, but the cool thing about him is he has a tendency every so often to break down and get indulgent . . . We'll get drunk and want to go on to somewhere else, and he'll turn around and say, `F**k it, let's take a limo!'.

"And we dig that kind of attitude, we need that. Just throw all the money into it, buy the tickets, and just go. We don't need the money. We just wanna make sure we play our part in making Donington this year a real motherf* *ker of a gig.

"There's the pinnacle of what this is all about for me right there..."
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1988.07.30 - Kerrang! - Ramblin' Rose (Slash) Empty Re: 1988.07.30 - Kerrang! - Ramblin' Rose (Slash)

Post by Blackstar on Fri Jan 03, 2020 2:17 pm

Longer/unedited version of this interview from the book:
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993

--------

TWO

Welcome to the Jungle

JUNE 1988

If Los Angeles ain’t the epitome of Paradise City, then tell me - where is? The richest city in the wealthiest state of the most powerful nation on earth, it even has the best climate - once the sun’s burned off the early morning smog, that is. LA is Tinsel Town run amok, Sodom and Gomorrah on a skateboard. Where the billboards dwarf the buildings (big on the hoardings along Sunset Boulevard this month were Rambo and Crocodile Dundee II) and the sculpted beauty of ninety per cent of the female population can block out every thought in your head. LA is also, of course, the home of Guns N’ Roses, and I was looking forward to seeing the band in action on their own turf. Since we had last met in England, eight months before, the band’s career had begun to skyrocket. Straight after the last English date they had returned to America and hooked up with their biggest, most pres­tigious tour yet: replacing Whitesnake as the opening act for Motley Crue.

[...]

Meantime, the Iron Maiden tour was not going as well for Guns N’ Roses as had been expected. The chief problem, it seemed, was that Maiden had experienced unexpected difficulty selling tickets for some of the earlier dates on the tour. Now, with the added spice of the most dangerous band in the world on the bill, suddenly they were starting to play to packed houses again and the feeling grew inside the Guns N’ Roses camp that it was they and not Iron Maiden who should be headlining their own tour. So unimpressed were the band by their new tour-mates, in fact, that Duff even took a week off from the tour to fly back to LA and marry his longstanding girlfriend, Mandy, leaving his pal, former Cult bassist, Kid Chaos - these days known simply as Haggis - to fill in for him.

By the time I caught up with the tour in June - I had planned to see Guns N’ Roses opening for Maiden over two nights at Irvine Meadows, a 17,000-capacity outdoor amphitheatre in Long Beach, California - things had degenerated to the point where the two bands were hardly speaking to each other.

And then at the last minute, to add injury to insult, the Guns N’ Roses camp announced that they would be forced to pull out of the remainder of the Maiden dates after Axl - who had been losing his voice periodically throughout the tour - had been ordered to his bed by his doctors. The diagnosis: nodules on the vocal chords, a painful condition familiar to people who scream their lungs out for a living, for which the only known cure is complete rest, or if that fails, surgery. Unfortunately, like a lot of other people there that night, I didn’t find any of this out until I was already at the venue. Slash was the one who broke the news to me. ‘Ah, man, it’s fucked.’ He threw up his hands. ‘The guy’s not even allowed to speak. Can you imagine that - Axl not being able to open his mouth?’ he shook his head in awe.

Ironically, the band drafted in to replace Guns N’ Roses on the hill were LA Guns. As a gesture to try and appease the disappointed Guns N’ Roses fans there, Slash and Duff got up and jammed with LA Guns the first night. The following night the whole band - minus Axl, of course - got up straight after LA Guns had finished their set and bolted through an impassioned if ramshackle version of ‘It’s So Easy’ with Duff handling lead vocals. 'I was never so fuckin’ scared in all my life!’ Duff declared afterwards, still visibly quaking.

With the band temporarily off the road, Slash - who had had no permanent home for the past year, he explained - had taken a room at the Continental Hyatt House on Sunset, which, as chance would have it, was practically opposite the hotel I was staying in at the time, Le Mondrian. The two of us agreed to get together over the coming days and talk. 'I’m staying under the name of Mr Disorderly,’ he smirked. ‘Gimme a call. . .' A couple of days later I did.

The popularly received image of the Guns N’ Roses guitarist - the mane of long, tangled dark curls falling past his shoulders and hiding his face; the slightly swaying presence in the top hat, cut-down Led Zeppelin T-shirt, tight-arsed black jeans and scuffed cowboy boots, pulling on a bottle of Jack Daniels and peeling out one dirty riff after another like he could do it blindfolded - is real enough all right not to be called a pose. But there are still some things about Slash that the videos, the record sleeves and the magazine pin-ups don’t tell you. The sort of stuff that simply doesn’t register on a colour transparency or the shiny surface of a CD.

His speaking voice, for example: it’s soft, quiet, never finding a reason to raise itself too far above the comforting clink and rattle of glasses being drained in a bar. When Slash talks, which he likes to do a lot, he keeps his conversation lucid but cool, warm without fumbling, setting his cards down carefully on the table. And no, he doesn’t walk around all the time with an open bottle of Jack jammed in his fist. Only most of the time. He’s working on it, though . . .

"The afternoon we found out we would have to quit the Maiden tour I went around grabbing every bottle of Jack I could find stashed around our dressing room and took it all back to the hotel,' he told me. 'That was five days ago and I’ve been living off it ever since. But now I’m down to my last bottle and a half. After that, I guess I'll be back to buying my own,’ he said with an air of comic dismay, meaning it, not meaning it. ‘It’ll be the first time I’ve had to go out to a liquor store for my own booze in ages . . . Maybe I won’t remember how to do it,' he tittered.

A kid but not a kidder, beneath the fell-out-of-bed hair and the whiskey smile, there was something far less relaxed going on. At twenty-two, Slash already had the demeanour of an old hand at this game he was in. He knew enough already, it seemed, to blithely dismiss the astonishing success his band had enjoyed over the previous twelve months with a nonchalant wave of the arm. ‘Oh, man, what do I want to know about all that for? Sure, I like it that we’re going places, doing things and being allowed to play and make the kind of records we want to. Beyond that, all you can talk about is money, and that’s where I get lost. ..’ He rolled his eyes.

‘I mean, look at me - T-shirt, jeans, boots, that’s me, that’s all there is, that’s all there’s ever gonna be. I don’t even like the idea of going into a fuckin’ dressing room and changing into different clothes just to go on stage and play. Gimme a roof over my head and something to drink and I’ve got everything I need. What difference is this money going to make?’

I was tempted to answer that one for him, but I figured he’d find out for himself soon enough.

The afternoon Slash and I got together to-tape this interview, it was typical Los Angeles summer weather: the sun boiling like an egg in the blue saucepan sky; an endless stream of traffic dragging its aching gears up and down Sunset; the sidewalks empty save for me and Slash and the other West Hollywood bums. The previous evening Slash had dragged me against my will to a party which LA Glamsters, Poison, were throwing over at a dive called the London Club. ‘Come on, man, let’s go and start a fight!’ he had laughed at me. I'll take care of you...’

The much-publicised animosity that existed then between Guns N’ Roses and the members of Poison went back a long way. One of the stories goes that in the days before Guns N’ Roses, Slash actually passed an audition to join Poison in the spot guitarist CC DeVille now occupies, but turned the gig down when he realised they’d expect him to dye his hair blond and daub his face in the heavy make-up that was soon to become Poison’s trademark. ‘Fuck that,’ Slash hissed, when I reminded him of it. I didn’t want to look like a clown . . .’

Slash also told me that in the early days before either band had secured a recording contract, Guns N’ Roses and Poison would occasionally appear together on small club dates in LA. ‘Some nights they’d come on first, some nights we would,’ he recalled. ‘It really didn’t matter, neither of us had a really big following yet. A lot of people would come down just to see what was going on and then split.

‘But every time those assholes played first, Bret Michaels would end their set by announcing that the band were having a big party somewhere and everybody was invited. And, man, the people who frequent the sort of dives we were playing in those days didn’t need to be asked twice to go to some party, and within minutes the fuckin’ club would be empty! They were always pulling sneaky, shitty little stunts like that. And that kind of attitude sucks, man ... I think it’s because they’re insecure about their talent.’

Slash said he felt particularly irked when, some months later, after both bands had been signed and released albums, CC DeVille took to wearing a top hat on stage at Poison concerts. ‘Listen, I’m not saying I was the first rock ’n' roller to wear a top hat on stage. But look, man. CC is the type of guy who probably didn’t even know what a top hat was until he saw me wearing one. You know, I caught up with him one night in the Rainbow, and I just told him quietly, “If I ever see you wearing a top hat on stage again I’m gonna shoot you ...” I tell ya, he freaked, man!’ Slash bawled with laughter. ‘And, I mean, I don’t own a gun ... wouldn’t know how to use one if I did. And I’m really not a violent guy at all. I just felt something had to be said. Sometimes you gotta draw the line for people.’

So anyway, we went to the party, but apart from a few chaste exchanges between Slash and Bret Michaels, nothing much occurred. No fights, no real tittle-tattle. Slash’s bottle of Jack looked like it was doing all right, though; as the guitarist crash-danced he swirled it around by the neck, then when he slumped up against a wall he cradled it in his arms like a baby.

Walking up Sunset towards my hotel the following afternoon, Slash was looking good for an apprentice vampire: tired red eyes hidden behind stark mirror-shades, only mild shakes - a long sloping shadow looking for the right doorway to duck into. We settled ourselves in the shade of the poolside bar at Le Mondrian and ordered Jack Daniels and beer chasers. Out in the sun, belly-flopped on towels beside the pool, were a gaggle of teenage girls, all of whom had spotted the tall, rangy guitarist the moment he strolled in and dropped his body into the nearest empty chair. Two or three of them tiptoed over to where we were seated and pressed their faces up against the glass partition separating the bar from the pool. Slash appeared not to notice. 'Well, man, where do we begin?’

By asking for an update on the news about Axl’s damaged voice, I suggested?

'I'm no doctor,’ he said, lighting a Marlboro. ‘But what it is, he’s got nodules on his vocal chords and he can’t hit a certain range - which is his whole high voice. The chords crowd each other because of these bumps or nodules or whatever. So he just can’t sing right now. It got to the point on stage where it just sounded awful. Trying to sing 'Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’, or one where he really screams it, he would get to this note and just go. It was like, where’s he going? It was like no key at all, it was really strange.

‘We did a date with Maiden in Palo Alto which was really bad, to the point that I was having to do guitar solos to fill the space ’cos Axl couldn’t sing. So he went to the doctor there and the rest of us drove to the next gig in Sacramento and set up our equipment. We sound-checked, everything sounded great. We were waiting for Axl to show up when our road manager gets this phone call saying that not only is Axl not going to be able to make the gig, but they didn’t think he’d be able to finish the tour!

‘The fucking thing is, what they did was go back out after the doors had been opened, after our banner was up on stage and everything, and start taking off the gear. The kids saw the gear going off and started freaking out. I had to go out in front of, I think it was like 22,000 kids, and go, “Axl’s voice isn’t working right at the moment, we’re not going to be playing tonight.” They just went nuts! Then Axl showed up about ten minutes later and we drove straight to LA.

‘Since then he’s seen another doctor here in LA who says the problem with Axl’s voice has been developing for a long time. So he’s going for a final opinion on Tuesday and we’ll know then if we’re going to Japan at the end of the month or not. ’

How long would they have to wait for Axl’s voice to heal?

If he has to have surgery, we have to wait a week for the swelling to go down before he has the surgery. Then we have to wait for that to heal. We’re looking at about two weeks - if the operation goes well and Axl stays out of trouble,’ he added meaningfully. 'Basically, we have three months on the Aerosmith tour coming up, so I don’t want anything to fuck up that. Of all the tours we’ll have done in the last year - besides the Monsters of Rock thing in England which we’re doing this year - that is the tour for us. Us and Aerosmith - that is really a great combination for a live show, doncha think?’

Undeniably, I told him, blinking just at the thought of it.

‘Man, if I was a kid and going to see a concert that would be the fucking one! I’m really looking forward to it. . . There’s one gig we’re playing on that tour, at the Giants Stadium in New York - it’s Aero­smith, Deep Purple and us. Fucking monster gig!’

Why not? Guns N’ Roses were, after all, rapidly turning into a monster band.

'I know,’ said Slash, hooded eyes staring blankly past my shoulder, his thoughts turned momentarily inward. Had it affected him, though, the huge, still-burgeoning success of the band and the constant high- profile attention that came with it?

'I don’t feel any different but I get a lot more attention thrown my way,’ he said. ‘Mostly ’cos I do all our press most of the time, so everybody is familiar with me. I have to take a security guard with me when I’m on the road now, though, ’cos they’re scared I’m gonna die, or something. It’s sort of embarrassing ’cos nobody can just walk around and hang out with you or whatever. So it’s a drag in that sense, but it’s also cool because when a flock of people come up and they all want autographs, I don’t have the personality to just say fuck off. So he’ll keep them off my back and make sure it doesn’t get out of hand.’

How about the business side of things: did Slash try and keep up with all the latest sales figures and all that?

‘We get all these phone calls - yesterday it was 35,000 record sales, today it’s 91,000 sales and we just got a breaker on the single ... It freaks my ass out! So I guess you could say that we are turning into what you’d call a big band. I think the thing for me, though - what would really solidify it for me - would be to do the next record and see where that one goes. If we’ve done two albums and we’re still going on that steady uprise kinda thing, that would be cool. The material for the next record, by the way, is great...’ he confided.

Though it would be another three years before the next full-length Guns N’ Roses album would finally be released - not that Slash or anybody else could have known that then - back in June ’88, Slash claimed the band already had ‘lots of new songs’ written.

‘We’ve been writing on the road. How it works is, I write a lot of the guitar parts and chord changes and the so-called bitchin’ riffs, and Izzy writes real good rock ’n’ roll chord changes, you know what I mean? Then Axl gets pissed off at something and starts writing words. He gets these melodies and these rhythms happen. Like, he’ll take me into the shower at the gig and say listen to this and start singing something he’s just made up.

'It looks like it’s gonna be really good, too. It looks like it’s gonna be even more angry and anti-radio and stuff. The first album, everybody was shocked by it ’cos it said “fuck” on it, like, twenty-five times. This one could be even worse. The subject-matter on this one is a little more . . .’ He paused mid-sentence to summon the cocktail waiter over and order himself another double Jack, then lost the thread.

I asked for the names, maybe, of some of the newly finished songs.

Slash scraped at the stubbie on his chin with the back of his hand and admitted that he wasn’t too hot on actual titles. 'I don’t really concentrate on the lyrics until we’re actually putting the shit down in the studio. I have to sit with Axl and see what the reality of the album is gonna be about.’ But he managed to pull a couple of names out of the hat. There’s one called “Perfect Crime”. Another called “You Could Be Mine” . . . 'Hey, that rhymes! And that’s about all I can remember right now.’

The conversation moved on to the slow but inexorable rise of the current Guns N’ Roses album in the U.S. charts. Almost a year to the day since its release, Appetite For Destruction had just entered the Billboard Top Ten for the first time. (Less than two months later it would be No. 1 and remain there or thereabouts for the rest of the year.)

Slash said he thought it was ‘the perfect way for a first album to happen. To me, it would be a great disappointment for it to come out and the record company ship, say, 500,000, so it jumps into the charts at fifty-something and then a week later it’s gone. It was the opposite for us. We went in the Billboard Top 200 at, like, 168 or something, and from there it just kept steadily climbing. The greatest thing for me was seeing it go from one side to the other - going into the Top Fifty.’

What about when Appetite sold its first million: that must have been a rare kind of thrill, to be told the first record you’d ever made had just sold a million copies?

‘At first, I didn’t really know,’ he said evenly. 'I'm pretty naive about all this stuff. I try to keep my wits about me in most things. But in this whole band there’s a certain naivety in the way we approach this whole business. When we went out in the beginning, it was like, we’re a rock band and we don’t know about any other shit. But we were playing so we knew how to book a gig. Then it was like, there’s all these record companies who want to sign us and our attitude was, well, fuck ’em. We’re only gonna sign to the one who gives us what we want.

‘So we went with Geffen and the next thing is we’re gonna go on tour, on the Cult tour. I was like, wow, the Cult tour! It must be huge! Then six months later we were going out headlining the same places those guys were when we were backing them. Then it was, ah, I guess they weren’t really all that big, were they? Now it’s moved up another gear again and recently we’ve had promoters coming up to us and saying, “You guys shouldn’t be opening for Iron Maiden, ’cos you could headline here.”’ He sat back and lit another cigarette. Inhaled, exhaled. Then shook his head and said he still found it hard to take in - the acclaim, the attention, the album sales that were now beginning to be counted in millions. ‘The concept of us headlining somewhere like the [13,000-capacity] LA Forum - I can’t swallow that. But the promoters risk a lot of money booking tours and if they want to do that maybe they know what they’re talking about, who knows?’

How did Slash think Guns N’ Roses would adjust to headlining for the first time at a giant American arena - was it an intimidating prospect?

‘No, it’s the greatest,’ he replied, no hesitation at all. ‘Headlining is always the best. You’ve got lots of stage space. I'm all over the place, I can go nuts. And we don’t have to worry about keeping the set tight as far as, vroom vroom vroom, song after song so you can squeeze it all in. We can go out and play for two, two-and-a-half hours. That’s comfortable for us.

‘I mean, when we’re on stage, that’s us, on tour. It’s like, all this work is geared to that forty-five minutes on stage. If we had two hours it would just be better. It would just be the best and I can’t wait. But first we gotta get another album out.

And then I asked it. The question I would find myself repeating in every subsequent interview I would conduct with the members of Guns N’ Roses: ‘When do you actually expect to start recording the next album?’

I even believed Slash - I think he may even have believed it himself at the time - when he replied earnestly, ‘We’re gonna go into the studio in, like, October, November . . .’ It seems risible now, of course, but at that point Slash said he believed the next album would be in the stores sometime in mid-1989. He even said he knew what he’d like to see the band doing after its release. ‘When the next one comes out then hopefully, if the spirit’s there, we’ll do a lot of summer outdoor concerts and festivals. We’d do that as a support, I guess, on a big bill like the Monsters of Rock thing. Then after that, go out and start headlining. And then I never want to open for anybody ever again,’ he said cheerfully, reaching for his glass.

I asked if headlining at arenas would mean the band having to change their act in any way. How did Slash think the essentially club-style live Guns N’ Roses experience - earthy, lurid, just one punch away - would translate over the wide-screen expanse of 20,000 people? Would they be tempted into going for one of those huge, spare no excess production numbers favoured by more ‘wordly' con temporaries like Iron Maiden, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, and the rest of the spangly gang?

He pulled a face. ‘Well, you know, we’re not really like that. I mean, my attitude is basically, fuck changing clothes to go on stage, I’m just gonna put on my jeans. My feeling about it is, if you can’t go out and kick ass, if you have to have stage props and lighting effects and this and that and the other, it’s probably because you can’t do it as a band. Like, Maiden is a good band, I guess, I don’t know, I'm not really into Iron Maiden. But if you strip them of ...’ he paused, then changed his mind. ‘No, actually, I can’t say that about Maiden, ’cos they have done that - they’ve done plenty of club gigs. OK, strike that one.

‘But there are a lot of bands that couldn’t just go out and strip away all that shit and kick ass. They get better every year ’cos their stage set gets bigger every year. Some bands it’s like they went out and bought the clothes first and then decided to start thinking about the music.’ He snorted derisively. ‘That’s what we’re really against. I know it’s a cliche but there are bands out there whose roots go back about three years, you know what I’m saying? It’s ridiculous, there’s no soul in it, there’s no dynamics in the music or anything. It’s just bland. They pick up a 4/4 beat and then it chugs away and then that’s it. But they look good. We’re just gonna go out and we’ll have a backdrop that says “Guns N’ Roses”, right? And just hammer our amps and just go out and play . . .’

We got onto the thorny subject of MTV. In the for and against debate, Slash said he was most definitely against - this despite the fact that MTV were then airing the ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’ video twice an hour, every hour, twenty-four hours a day, with the result that the single was now rising rowdily towards the No. 1 spot in the U.S. charts (though at the time we spoke that particular milestone was still a month or so away).

‘Yeah, I know, but whether MTV played our videos or not it wouldn’t change a fuckin’ thing about the way we play our music or why we play our music. But a lot of bands, you ask who their main influences are, if they were honest they should say MTV. Think of the future,’ he said, trying to attract the attention of the cocktail waiter again. 'It’s gonna be sick,’ he continued. There’s gonna be kids out there reminiscing over the last Poison video. Sad . . . The only effect I can think of that really enhances a rock show is really dramatic lighting, just to set moods. But all the other stuff is just bullshit. I don’t have the patience for it, my attention span is not that long. I couldn’t sit at a drawing table with the guys in the band and some execs and a couple of mindless painters going, “Duhhh . . . how’s that?” We just wouldn’t be able to do it. We’re incapable of it.’

But surely, I wondered, wouldn’t the fact that Guns N’ Roses’ music was now being rotated so heavily on MTV have a balancing effect on the audience: prove to them that there was life beyond the next Poison video, after all?

‘Hopefully. But what you’re looking at mostly, as far as I’m con­cerned, is this middle-class kid coming up into this corporation type deal and watching all the changes that happen. Everything flies by him and it’s like, “Wow, check this out!” Except it doesn’t really mean anything. But I go out to clubs when I'm on the road and I see bands playing our songs. I got up one night with a band who did “Paradise City” - completely wrong, on top of it!’ he grinned. ‘But I thought, that’s great, you know? I'm hoping people will be influenced by us because, whatever our image, whatever people see in us to make us as big as we are, I hope it’s more because we persevere, because we’re sincere and that we honestly get down and play and really try to be good. I would hope that that was what set the standard.’

But what if they did it for all the wrong reasons? Imitation is cheap whether it’s of Guns N’ Roses or anybody else.

'If people start going around in cowboy boots and top hats and still don’t give a shit how they play and just want to look like us, then obviously that’s totally a piece of shit. I’d feel real disappointed, I’d feel that I didn’t accomplish much.’

But what about the other side of the band’s image, the fuck-you attitude behind the funky clothes. Was Slash aware how nervous some people got when the band walked in the room?

‘Good,’ he chuckled. ‘There’s a lot of that goes on, yeah. Oh God, Slash is here, or Axl is here, they’re gonna smash the place up . . . But you know, you’ve been with me. I'm not that bad a guy. I'm sort of boisterous sometimes.’ He smiled disingenuously. The only time I ever use it, though, is on the fuckin’ assholes out there who try and fuck with you. It’s the same thing as being eaten by a wolf - we smell the fear. So we fuck with people sometimes. But I don’t go out of my way just to be . . . I'm not one of those guys who sits there with this complex and goes out and . . . That kind of shit happens because people ask for it. They ask you dumb questions and shit and that just pisses me off.’

Slash began to talk of anti-heroes; villains that became champions and blazed a trail that could never be erased from his mind, even if some of the best of them were now dead, and the best of the rest had long since begun to fade.

‘I used to dig The Who a lot, I still dig Pete Townshend a lot. He’s still got that nihilistic attitude. But the Stones as a band and as individuals is the shit that we grew up with. The seventies stuff. We happened to choose the more decadent shit. That was what was cool. Keith Richards was great . . . Jimmy Page, though, is the guy who I have listened to incessantly for the longest time. He can’t go on stage and play a note these days, but he’s still great,’ he twinkled wickedly.

I commented that for a lot of people Slash exuded some of the same charisma on stage as a Richards or Page; that the audience might easily spend just as much time ogling him as Axl, his frontman. It was the classic textbook rock partnership - Mick and Keef, Robert and Jimmy . . . Axl and Slash.

‘Really?’ he looked genuinely surprised.

‘You know, you’re the classic head down, no shit, bad man on guitar, aren’t you?’ I teased.

‘It’s some aggressive shit going out there all right,’ he agreed. 'I will see photos and I will watch video tapes of the band, and I see different things in it. I see me as sort of off the wall, like, here, there, here, there. Smoking and throwing up and shit. But Axl, if you really watch Axl, he’s got this really intense presence, very cool. Then there’s Duff . . . he’s real tall and he’ll have his bass real low. Every time he stands, his steps are like this far apart, and he goes “Grrrrr!” Duff's great, I crack up when I watch him on stage. Then there’s Izzy, who’s just sort of like . . . in the background most of the time. And Steven . . . Steven is like one of those David Lee Roth types ... Whenever I watch the band I always think there are lots of things to keep your attention. It’s all ridiculous, it’s like a circus, you know?’

And yet, the band always appeared as though it was on the verge of falling apart. It had, in fact, become a big part of Guns N’ Roses’ appeal, hadn’t it?

Slash nodded his shaggy mane and slurped noisily at his drink. 'I’d rather it collapsed,’ he stated flatly. ‘This might sound sort of negative, but I’d rather be as good as possible in the amount of time that you can do it, and do it to the hilt. Then fall apart, die, whatever. I’d rather do that than do five or six albums, ten albums, and end up like Kiss.’

Except that most of their fans now seemed more concerned that Guns N’ Roses might not even get around to making a second album, let alone a fifth or sixth. Axl, for example, had already left the band once...

'That was no big deal,’ Slash insisted. ‘Except when you cancel a gig it starts this whole big upheaval. Everyone freaks out and the press plays up about it. We weren’t scared that the band was gonna fall apart, we were pissed off at Axl. But we sat down and talked about it over a couple of beers and everything was fine.’

Axl, it was said, could be a notoriously ‘difficult’ character to deal with. I asked how the two of them got along as people outside the band?

‘We love each other,’ said Slash unequivocally. The whole band... we’re, like, real tight, so that kind of fear of someone leaving is not in the back of my head all the time. I don’t worry about it. It’s like, I would only worry if something happened to them, you know? ’Cos I couldn’t continue this band minus one of these guys. The whole reason this band works is because of the chemistry between the five of us. We aren’t what you’d call superior musicians or anything like that, but we work within the framework of Guns N’ Roses. It’s like, Steven changes the dynamics of the song and I know how to play with that. I know how it works. I’m used to playing with these guys, you know? I have a real strong bond with all of them. We have our fights and arguments but l wouldn’t try and stick somebody else in the middle of all this shit. Are you kidding?’ he joked, a wan smile on his face.

Their curiosity finally getting the better of them, the girls from the pool trotted into the bar, all their courage summoned, giggling furiously, and gingerly approached our table. ‘Are you Slash from Guns N’ Roses?’ squealed one of them, a blonde with blue ocean-wide eyes.

'I am...’ he answered, belching softly.

‘Can I have your autograph?’ she squealed again.

‘Sure, baby.’ Slash put down his glass and cigarette and, rising unsteadily to his feet, patiently signed the proffered bits of paper, T-shirt and skin... whatever the girls wanted and wherever they wanted it.  

‘I love you, Slash,’ breathed another who could have been a twin of the first. 

‘I love you too, baby,’ drawled Slash, leering theatrically. The girls dapped their hands and squealed in unison. They left the table walk­ing backwards, waving and blowing kisses.

Slash flopped down in his seat again and looked pleased with himself.

You like all that, I asked?

‘Oh, yeah... but it’s hard for me to go and pick up chicks sometimes, ’cos I resent the fact that I’m getting laid ’cos I’m in a band.’

It was clear Slash had little time or respect for the girls that follow bands - the ones that follow bands all the way back to their hotel rooms, anyway.

‘Ah... I shouldn’t really say this but I have a tendency to get really drunk and then I get to the hotel and I’ll pick the first chick up that I can get. You’d be surprised at some of the chicks I’ve picked up.

Sometimes you get to the hotel at six in the morning and there’s all this ...’ he pursed his lips in disapproval. ‘So what you do is you go up to the room and just drink till they look good...’

On a serious level, didn’t he ever worry about...

‘AIDS?’

I nodded.

‘I knew you were gonna ask that,’ he said quietly. ‘Yeah, that’s a fucked thing - because of the way that I was brought up, or the way that I brought myself up, ’cos it was at a time when I was figuring it out for myself. My whole philosophy was one way and now it’s like I’ve got a stupid thing tugging at me all the time saying, “Slash, you’ve got to watch out, you’re playing with death.” It’s fucked up because... I’m having problems with my girlfriend, right? I split up with her. I can’t handle having a girlfriend. I can get laid any time. Except for... It’s just a fucking drag.’

And using condoms, Slash said, was definitely not the answer. ‘I really can’t start wearing rubbers. I haven’t used one since I was thirteen - and then it split. What can I do? I guess it’s just part of the whole thing - if drinking doesn’t get me, AIDS will,’ he concluded, doomily. AIDS, said Slash, was ‘a ghost sent to haunt us. I have this underlying fear all the time. If anything - anything - goes wrong with me then I think, shit, this is it!

‘There was a point when we were in London, and I got sick one day.

I don’t get sick ever, for some reason. But what happened was I hadn’t been in London in ages, so I got to the hotel straight from the plane and I just kept drinking and drinking for four or five days. Plus the time difference and all that, that hit me and I got really sick. I was in bed. Then I went out to some pubs with some people and I couldn’t drink, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t hang out, I had to take a cab back to the hotel. And I was in bed for the next couple of days - this was right before the first gig. I thought, this is it. I’m dying.’ He smiled mirthlessly.

‘AIDS is just like this constant thing that’s on my mind now. Welcome to the eighties, you know? I mean, nobody has said this. I’ve never heard anyone say this, like, in a magazine. But I think that everyone should realise that as soon as David Lee Roth or Gene Simmons or me, or any of us goes down with it, then we all go. It’s gonna be like clockwork! What rock star do you know of that has died of AIDS? Nobody - yet.’ The conversation was getting morbid. ‘But as soon as one of us goes then ... ’cos Dave Roth fucked some chick that I fucked that... I think that it’s gonna take out a whole legion of people. It’s gonna be like, 1989, 1990 - the year all the rock stars died,’ he cackled.

Had Slash ever had an AIDS test? And if not, would it be a good idea, did he think?

‘No,’ he winced. ‘But, oh, man, I went out with a porno star for a while... I went to a party with the Metallica guys and got so drunk it got to the point where they were carrying me around, and I woke up the next morning in this chick’s apartment. It was just after John Rawls, the porno star, died of AIDS. But I was like in hell, and she had a flat tire and no phone. I was stranded with no money and it was just way fucked up. She used to do these things called lodes, which are the equivalent of heroin but they’re pills. So she was out of it the whole time and impossible to talk to. My first question to her the next morning was, “You haven’t fucked good old John have you?” I mean, no, she never fucked him. I found out so it was OK. But at first I was freaking...’

More drinks were ordered; Slash switched to beer chasers. Soon Guns N’ Roses would be returning to England: in August, to take part in that year’s Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington. Did it mean anything to Slash still, that he was bom in England?

‘Oh, yeah, yeah... When I was a little kid, they brought me out here to LA with my grandma and I wasn’t that fazed by it. Then I went back to England for Christmas. I went back and forth a few times. My earliest memories of America are, like, seeing King Kong on TV for the first time and noticing how it was always sunny... The English way is so different. You know, they know how to cook and the food’s just different, and everybody’s sweet, and it’s like you know everybody in that neighbourhood and the neighbourhood doctor and all that.

I said he made England sound like an old black and white movie and that things certainly weren’t like that in my neighbourhood.

‘Ah, yeah, but I’m talking about when I was a kid. I didn’t live in a big city. So when I first went back to England with the band, I was real happy. Now at this point it’s turned into an affection for the rock ’n’ roll crowd, because it made a big impression on me the first time I was there.’

What was the new bad boy of rock like as a child, I wondered? Was he good at school, for example?

‘I could add and subtract and shit. But when it came to matrix and algebra I was failing miserably at school, and mom tried to stick me in a summer school in an algebra class.

‘I’d go in every day and smoke cigarettes. It was just me and the tutor for the first week and a half... You know, I do honestly try. So I went and this boring fucking asshole was trying to shove this shit down my throat. I was so sick of it I just split. I wasn’t real good at that. But English was one of those subjects that my dad pushed on me at an early age, ’cos he reads and all that. Other than that I was just average...’

Did he still have much contact with his family in England?

‘I never went back to see my family, ’cos they hadn’t seen me since I was a little kid, anyway. Actually I never visit the family,’ he con­fessed. ‘So that’s sort of deleted at this point.’

How, though, did Slash explain the dizzying success of the band in Britain? From the Marquee, to the Hammersmith Odeon, to a place on the bill at Donington and hit single status in just two quick trips is a feat not many of their ilk had managed to pull off so quickly, or so convincingly. Not Motley Crue, not Bon Jovi, not Poison... why Guns N’ Roses?

‘I really don’t know. Right band at the right time, I guess. The first time we played the Marquee, there was such a fucking buzz. I guess the first gig was real sloppy and lax. But then I had a great fucking time. I was hanging out on the street, got drunk. I think I was the most obnoxious I’d ever been when I was in London. I got chucked out of every pub. You know the St Moritz club [in Wardour Street]? I smashed that whole window ’cos they wouldn’t let me in! I kicked in the whole window and the cops came and I snuck out of there. I got kicked out of the Limelight club, I got kicked out of the Intrepid Fox.’ He sighed, proudly reeling off the names like old war medals. ‘All those places in that area I got kicked out of, and I had a great time.

‘I fuckin’ stole [UFO vocalist] Phil Mogg’s drink and poured the glass over my head and threw it back at him in the Intrepid Fox. ’Cos I hate that guy,’ he whispered. ‘I hate anybody that pulls a rock star trip on me. He came and sat at our table. I just thought he was showing off. I don’t know, apparently he’s a pretty cool guy. But he sat down and ordered a drink on our tab, I guess, or whatever. The drink came and I took it and smashed the glass. Everybody was, like, shocked. It was so stupid, but I was having such a good time that nothing mattered... I was just running around those little streets in Soho yelling - it was a gas! We hung out with Lemmy from Motorhead at their studio. They let us play their gear. Motorhead are like heroes to us, so that was pretty cool.

'London to me is like... I want to feel close to that crowd, I want them to feel that we’re one of their bands. But we don’t play there enough. We’ve played there twice. We were gonna come back with Metallica, but that doesn’t start until October and we'll be off the road by then. Going back and doing Donington is the greatest, though. We’ve been told they’re expecting maybe 100,000 people. That’s just like the most important gig... Do you know how we’re doing it?’ he asked, leaning across the table conspiratorially. ‘We’re doing the Aerosmith tour, I told you, right? Well, we’re taking Concorde, playing Donington, then flying back. We’re flying back commercial, but we’re going business class,’ he said with undisguised glee.

‘See, Alan our manager is a really good manager, and the cool thing about him is he has a tendency every so often to break down and get indulgent. Like get drunk and suddenly decide to take a limo on to the next place. We need that kind of vibe,’ he explained with a straight face. ‘Just let’s throw all the money into the pot and let’s just go!’

Morning turned into afternoon. Outside the sun continued to blaze down on the pool, roasting the inert forms littered around its kidney-shaped curves. We returned to the forthcoming dates in America with Aerosmith. Had Slash met any of the band yet?

‘Yeah, I’ve met the whole band. I went to see them when they played here in LA last time. I got dragged into this room where they were all lined up against this table, signing posters and stuff. I got pushed in front of them and introduced by someone from Geffen. I was like, “Hi...” I couldn’t think of anything else to say. These guys have been my heroes for life, you know? But I didn’t get nervous, I got speechless and it was real weird. They were all looking at me - I had my top hat on, leather jacket and jeans - and there was this vibe like I was being checked out. The only one who actually spoke to me was Steven Tyler. He was like, “How’re ya doin’?” and “Where’s Axl?” He was real cool. He called us once when we were in Amsterdam. He called us from America and spoke to Axl - to apologise for something he’d said on radio or something like that, which was cool.

‘Apparently they’re real excited about having us out. I talked to their manager and he said they’re looking forward to it because we kick ass and we’ll make them kick ass that much harder. So now I’m thinking, I’m gonna have to go out and play my ass off if we’re gonna make any kind of mark on this tour.’

Was Slash a particular fan of Joe Perry’s guitar playing?

‘I’ve got nothing against Joe, I was into him a little while back. I think the main thing about Joe is he’s getting older basically, he’s done it all - yet he’s still trying out shit, doing all this new guitar stuff. It’s great. But I’m like a die-hard for the old Jeff Beck Les Paul type of stuff.’ He smiled. ‘Back when Jeff was doing that and when Joe was doing it, too. That’s what I’m into. So now I don’t really listen to Joe any more, but he still is responsible for a bunch of solos which became like trademarks. I had Aerosmith on the back of my leather jacket - not the new one, that says Guns N’ Roses - but I have one back at the hotel that just has a huge Aerosmith on the back. I was gonna wear it on the tour. I’ll wear it for a couple of gigs, maybe.’

The members of Aerosmith - notorious hellraisers in their own right back in the seventies - had, of course, since undergone a much-publicised clean-up programme and were now all teetotal, actively anti-drug and quite fanatically health-conscious. Rather limited the opportunity for any ‘partying down’ between the two bands, didn’t it?

‘It’s a drag,’ frowned Slash. 'I mean, I’m glad they’re clean and all that but I wish they hadn’t got as fucked up as they had, because we’re not allowed to hang out with them at all now. This happened to me with Nikki Sixx from Motley. Like, Nikki and me are pretty good friends. But after we did the tour with Motley Crue and Nikki got clean, he grew away from me, I never saw him. Then I ran into him in the Cathouse one night. I was sitting up in the VIP section, just sitting there. And I had four of these tall glasses filled with Jack, and Nikki came by and was sitting next to me. He said, “That Jack smells good.” I said, “Oh, do you want one?” Not thinking. He was like, “Oh, no, no...” That was so fucked, I shouldn’t have done that. So for a while I didn’t hang out with Nikki. And it’s that kind of thing with Aerosmith, it’s very strange. But I respect trying to clean up before you kill yourself.’

Would Slash ever consider anything so dramatic as a complete ‘clean-up’ himself?

'I don’t know what’s gonna happen with me,’ he yawned. ‘I don’t know what’s gonna happen in the future. Right now I’m just doing what I do...’

For how long, though? Wouldn’t there come a time for Slash, too, in five or ten years’ time, maybe, when he would also have to put a brake on things a little - not just to stay alive even, but to stay sane?

‘I don’t know if that would happen or not,’ he shrugged. ‘I don’t know how long my system will hold up. I could be superhuman and drink forever, you know what I mean? We are a young band and we’ve got a real hunger for... everything! And that will last as long as it lasts. I know anybody who thinks they’re gonna be king of the hill forever has got it wrong. See, I learned that, ’cos of my background with my parents and shit. I’ve seen everything. I’ve seen the worst. And I’ve never met a person who hasn’t quit while they’re ahead, or it’s fucked up their lives.

‘The thing about coke and dope and valium and shit like that, you have a great time and it’s the best, but eventually it catches up with you. And if it catches up with you and you don’t take notice and you get real arrogant about it, it’ll... you’ll be sitting in a rehab centre going to AA meetings every fuckin’ day. It’s just not worth it to go through all that shit.’

Why start using drugs in the first place, though?

‘Well, sometimes it’s just curiosity - or ’cos you think you’re Keith Richards. We started ’cos we had to try it. But there would be no Guns N’ Roses right now if I hadn’t stopped and Izzy hadn’t stopped.’

Stopped what specifically - one drug in particular or drugs in general?

‘Drugs in general but, like, heroin, too. That is one of the things that has fucked up so many people. It really has fucked up a lot of people. So you have to quit. But look at Clapton, he was really lucky, he did some good albums on it. The same with Aerosmith. They all did some great albums. If Keith had a fuckin’ buzz he’d probably still be doing it...’

Slash grew agitated, restless. The Jack was starting to kick in, perhaps, and the next album was back on his mind. ‘I’ve got to go and do another record,’ he said firmly. ‘I’ve got too much shit in my head. It’s getting to the point where I’m doing fifteen-minute intros to the songs because there is so much shit happening inside my head, so much shit I want to play. I couldn’t bear another six months of “My Michelle”. I love the songs and stuff but the new material is so much more... a lot of it’s meaner definitely - influenced by hanging out with Metallica,’ he quipped.

‘That whole James Hetfield attitude, I like, though. I spent a wild night with him and Jim Martin from Faith No More, driving out to the Valley just to get drunk. James was in this car throwing beer cans out on the freeway. James always plays at being this manly fuckin’... He always reminds me of a Ranger... Like, “Goin’ out to the mountains.” But he’s a really sweet guy. Basically, he’s not anywhere as mean as he makes himself out. He’s just great to hang out with, he’s got a great fuckin’ attitude. And Lars [Ulrich] is just a sweetheart, too. Those guys are genuinely cool.’

Slash obviously spent a lot of time hanging out with musicians from other bands, it seemed a peculiarly insular existence.

He disagreed. ‘Actually, there’s hardly any bands I can hang out with because there’s this constant “I gotta act cool” attitude. LA is the worst. Like that band Junkyard - they’re hilarious. Or... I went out with the Ratt guys, and Juan [Croucier] is a real sweet guy. But I was talking to Stephen [Pearcy] and it’s like, shut the fuck up, just go away, you know?’

Why?

‘People like that are always talking about now you’ve sold a million records you get to do this, you get to do that... It’s like, I don’t give a shit! Great, we sold a million records, I’m really glad we’ve suc­ceeded. To me it means I don’t have to go out and start from scratch again. I hate that “Now you’ve sold a million records it doesn’t matter how good the next one is it’ll still sell.” I get so sick of hearing it. Like, who cares, just fuckin’ play...’

And with the millions of records sold came the millions of dollars - or theoretically, at least.

‘We just got our first big royalty cheque the other day,’ Slash told me. ‘It’s the first real money we’ve seen, though it’s nowhere near as much as you might think. But now I’ve got it I don’t know what to do with it. Money has never been... There was a period after my mom and my dad divorced when she was going out with David Bowie. She was making all his clothes, and I hated it because he took the place of my dad. I was sort of young... Anyway, he [Bowie] had a little rented white Mercedes and this huge fuckin’ house up in Bel Air that he rented while he was in LA. At that time when I didn’t know fuck all about anything. I’d be thinking, what the fuck is this? Why do you have to have a big house? All the to-do he would put into everything was just ridiculous.

‘At this point in time I can borrow enough money to take limos everywhere or buy a Jaguar. But it’s like, what the fuck for? I don’t see any reason to flaunt it because you’re successful and you’re a so-called rock star.’  

Didn’t money also buy you an increased sense of security, though - the freedom to cut loose and do whatever you want?

'It doesn’t buy you freedom at all,’ Slash demurred sourly. 'It brings responsibility, and you have to start making choices you were never asked to make before. Because you’ve got money now, if you have any brains at all you put it somewhere. If you don’t put it somewhere and rock out and spend it all then it’s just another obstacle because you’re gonna go broke again...’
 
And that’s when bands who have hated each other for years suddenly decide it would be a good idea after all to get back together (and make some money).

‘Yeah. We’d be back in no time, I tell you!’ he laughed. ‘Pete Townshend is great... I heard him talking on TV one night and he said, “Yeah, we’ll probably reform, we need the money.” I thought that was pretty funny. I don’t know, money is weird. Like, if I went out and bought myself a three-hundred-thousand-dollar solid gold stand to put my TV on - I mean, no one is going to notice but I like it, so fine. But if you buy a three-hundred-thousand-dollar solid gold doormat then that’s a different thing...’

Slash couldn’t make up his mind whether to have one last glass of Jack or not. He was going on to a tattoo parlour on Sunset straight after the interview. He had a design he’d drawn himself - some skulls, a guitar, the obligatory roses and the words ‘Drink Til You Drop’ scrawled across. Maybe the Jack would deaden the pain, he said. He ordered one, anyway, and thought about it. I asked if he had any other hobbies outside of guitar playing and drinking Jack Daniels?

‘Uh... I like reading. But the problem with me is I won’t take a risk on buying a book that I see just ’cos I like the look of it. I read what people give me. The last batch of books I read were those Anne Rice vampire books. And I read Islands in the Stream by Hemingway, which was really boring. Another bad habit of mine is to read books, take it all in and toss them. I read just to read.’

Did he have a favourite author?

‘Celine - I read a bunch of his books which were just the best! He’s got probably one of the most bitter fucking, most negative outlooks on life I’ve ever read. It was a great, I read a couple of his books. That was another thing that my dad turned me on to... I love reading when it’s good, I hate reading when it’s crap. That Shaun Hutson guy, a lot of his books are funny. That one about the slugs... the part where the couple are squatting - it’s fucking great! There’s a part when his bum starts getting into a piece of fruit that’s been thrown away... oh God...’ he groaned, clutching at his stomach in mock agony.

‘I need this shit to go on the road with otherwise I just sit on the bus and go like this.’ He slumped his head. T am 125 per cent band- oriented. Everything I do is geared to that. When we’re on time off I just can’t focus on anything else. I used to collect snakes. But I haven’t got time to look after the snakes now so I just go out and get drunk all the time and wait for the next gig. We have a manager so there’s not much else for me to do. So I don’t have any real hobbies. I play my guitar. I don’t like to practise but every so often I’ll sit down and I’ll work on something - I'll write songs. The only time that I really get off
is if I write  a song and it feels good so I’m playing it. Or being on stage. 'Cos I get really lazy. But on stage, you know, you can just fuckin’ wail...

We both said amen to that.
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