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SoulMonster

2018.12.02 - Stuff Magazine - Slash: Sex, drugs and tiny bicycles (Slash)

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2018.12.02 - Stuff Magazine - Slash: Sex, drugs and tiny bicycles (Slash)

Post by Soulmonster on Sun Dec 02, 2018 7:00 am

Grant Smithies wrote:Slash: Sex, drugs and tiny bicycles

I expected a slurring, drawling knucklehead.

I assumed I'd be getting one-syllable answers, punctuated by grunts and sighs.

Good on guitar, but bad with life, I thought.

I read his autobiography years ago, which led me to believe this man might be a right drongo: a snake-collecting former junkie drunk who gets around in tight leather pants and top hat, his mind addled by decades of heavy intoxicants, loud rock'n'roll and the relentless LA sun.

Slash, that is an unfortunate nickname which endlessly evokes the act of going for a pee.

But it turns out he's something of a charmer.

Friendly. Thoughtful. Polite. What can I tell you? The dude was lovely.

"Hey, how you doin'?" he says, sounding implausibly chipper after a long flight.

He's just arrived in Hong Kong, where he has a big show tomorrow with Guns N' Roses. You may have heard of them.

"Man, I can't believe it. This tour has spanned two whole years, and now we only have five more gigs. It's crazy! It all started out with us agreeing to do just one show, then turned into this whole huge thing."

Huge, is right. Guns N' Roses' current monster tour began on April Fool's Day in 2016, reuniting the fractious core trio - Slash, Axl Rose, Duff McKagan- for the first time since 1993.

It has ground on ever since, with extended breaks between territories so the members can pursue other projects.

Does he have his own dedicated top hat roadie? I forgot to ask.

But we can safely assume Slash is now richer than many small countries; this is the fourth-highest grossing concert tour in history, hauling in US$480 million so far.

And nobody thought it was ever likely to happen, given that many of the principal band-members spent years slagging each other off and mainly communicating via lawyers.

There have been other tours with ring-ins, of course, but fans wanted the "classic line-up", and that's eventually what they got, with former drummer Stephen Adler also guesting on some shows. Rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin declined to rejoin because the others "didn't want to split the loot equally".

Like The Eagles' infamous "Hell Freezes Over" tour, this current Guns N' Roses marathon has a sly reference to their former antipathy right there in the title: the "Not In This Lifetime" tour.

"What can I tell you, man? It's been a gas. I was the last person you'd expect to rejoin this band if you'd talked to me a couple years ago, but it's been one of the most amazing experiences I ever had. Just so much f…ing fun, you know?"

But Slash is on the blower to promote two New Zealand shows by his other band, which goes by the cumbersome title of Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators.

Also front-man of Florida hard rock band Alter Bridge, Kennedy has featured on all four of Slash's solo albums, including this year's Living The Dream.

The other Conspirators - bassist Todd Kerns, drummer Brent Fitz and rhythm guitarist Frank Sidoris - are also seasoned stadium rock veterans and no strangers to our shores.

"I've been down to New Zealand twice before with The Conspirators, and we're always received really well. When we first got together, we all just had instant chemistry, you know?

"It's a great, straight-ahead rock'n'roll band where everybody plays hard. Technically, Myles has great range and power, but he's also a very soulful and emotive singer, whether he's singing our own songs or doing some of my older Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver and Snakepit stuff."

Whatever the band, Slash still routinely appears in those "best guitarists in the history of the universe" lists beloved of rock-nerd magazines and websites.

It's easy to see why. Listen to the dying bars of Paradise City and your jaw drops at the speed, audacity and inspired foolishness of what he is playing. November Rain, Sweet Child 'O Mine, Nightrain and Out Ta Get Me also set high standards for widdly-widdly plank-spanking.

Slash is a shredding machine, a riff monster extraordinaire. But he hates those "best player" lists.

"I get real uncomfortable when people put me in any sort of ranked line-up, because that's not what it's about. The most important thing is that a guitar solo has a sense of melodic purpose and conveys some strong emotion. Usually it's either fight or f…, you know? It's aggressive or it's sexy, but the sound of it has gotta make you want to do something. A good solo doesn't have to be fast; it just needs to take you somewhere, and just like the vocal, it should have a distinct voice and its own individual personality."
Also, there have always been amazingly fluent and technically gifted guitar players, he says, from Chet Atkins to old blues guys like Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters.

"I grew up listening to that stuff, and the rock players that followed after. But ever since monster guitarists like Eddie Van Halen came on the scene, there's been a real focus on new, flashy techniques, and sometimes the music loses its emotional value somewhere along the way. I mean- it's great to know how to do all that stuff, but for me, the main thing is that the music moves me in some way."

Slash says he still gets a tremendous sense of emotional release whenever he plays guitar, which is most of his waking hours.

"Man, I love it! In fact, I probably love playing now more than when I first started. Just now before I picked up the phone, I've been sitting in my hotel room, playing the guitar. I dig it so much! Whether I'm about to go on stage or not, I'm pretty much always have a guitar on my person, and if not, then it's on my mind."

Those keen for an enjoyably lurid romp through this guitar god's formative years are directed to 2007's Slash: The Autobiography, co-written with Anthony Bozza.

Slash comes across as a great deal less articulate than he is today on the phone, but the book offers vivid insights into the junk-heavy LA hard rock scene of the 80s, and is scattered with splendid quotes, like this one: "That's the wonderful thing about leather pants: when you pee yourself in them, they're more forgiving than jeans."

Another revelation is that Slash not only had an "appetite for destruction" but also an aversion to undies. "I've never been the type to wear underwear," he confides. What type, exactly? Hygienic?

Trashed hotel rooms, pliant groupies, drunken benders and syringes of smack. Meteoric rise followed by explosive blow-out. Bitter enmity between hot-shot guitarist and dictatorial lead singer. Hefty addictions followed by getting clean.

The bio brims with the expected rock star clichés in its later pages, but the early chapters are fascinating.

Now 53, Slash was born Saul Hudson in London to an English Jewish artist father and an African American costume designer mother, then grew up in LA in a bohemian household where Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Iggy Pop all hung out. His mum once dated David Bowie after his parents split up.

The book follows his apprenticeship in a succession of dodgy LA bands before a fateful meeting with Axl Rose in 1985. Then, well…world domination, really.

After a few years as the biggest band in America, booze, cocaine, heroin and ego clashes took their toll and Guns N' Roses spectacularly Crashed N' Burned.

But here's what got me: it turns out the young Saul Hudson almost fell into rock'n'roll by accident. What he really wanted to do was ride tiny push-bikes over rough terrain at high speed.

"Oh, yeah, man! Absolutely! I was a pro-BMX racer as a kid, and my main aspiration was to eventually become a moto-cross champion. I was obsessed! But then I inadvertently picked up the guitar and everything switched gears inside of 24 hours, and before long, my career took off."

He's almost sighing as he says this, like it's a bit of a bummer. Here he is, a multi-millionaire rock star, suddenly wistful for what might have been.

"I still follow the BMX stuff, you know? It's evolved so much now. I thought we were pretty crazy back in the day, but those riders have taken it to a level I never even dreamed was possible…"

It's oddly boyish and sweet, hearing him talk this way. He's, like - Damn! Who knows what I might have achieved on those wee fast-pedalling trick bikes, if only a gargantuan music career hadn't got in my way?

And he's still going. "I don't know if I would ever have gotten as good as those guys, you know? That sport has changed so much, man. I love watching it, but they do some pretty intense stuff these days."

Slash has done some pretty intense stuff himself. He's survived multiple fearsome addictions, for one thing, though they've taken their toll.

The years of excess with Guns N' Roses have left him with a tiny defibrillator implanted in his chest to give his heart an almighty jolt whenever it threatens to lapse back into drug-damaged arrhythmia.

"Oh, yeah. That thing is a testament to the wreckage of my past! Really, I'm fortunate to have survived. I just didn't care at the time, but it feels like someone's been lookin' out for me, because I definitely shouldn't still be here.

"The fact that I walked away from so many near-death experiences, well… I don't take any of that for granted. I'm really appreciative that I managed to walk away from all that stuff."

The way Slash tells it, he's gotten a second chance. He's been through the fires and come out the other side: a happy, healthy, creative soul, touring with two bands he loves - his solo project with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators and of course, his old comrades Guns N' Roses, the rest of whom are scattered around the same Hong Kong hotel as we speak, resting up before tomorrow night's show.

"I feel blessed, for sure. After these last Guns N' Roses shows, I'll be back down in New Zealand with my own band, and it's always really good to get back together with those guys. The two projects are inter-related, but it's hard to say how one complements the other. I just love the fact that I got my own band as well as that other huge one, and it's all going on at the same time. It's amazing man, and pretty unexpected. I've been in other band set-ups over the years as well as solo, but the Guns thing has just been, like… Wow! What can I tell you, man? It's been a trip!"
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