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1991.12.27 - St. Petersburg Times - Slash Cuts Loose (Slash)

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1991.12.27 - St. Petersburg Times - Slash Cuts Loose (Slash)

Post by Blackstar on Sun Jan 20, 2019 9:59 am

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Slash
CUTS LOOSE


The Guns N’ Roses guitarist speaks his mind about the band’s reputation, life after hard drugs, his music and his relationship with frontman Axl Rose

By ERIC SNIDER
Times Pop Music Critic


Try this on: Slash — the guitarist for Guns N’ Roses with the thick, dark locks that shroud his face — is not the wacked-out, dangerous, drug-addled, one-foot-in-the-grave mess that his media composite says.

Far from it.

The telephone interview is scheduled for Saturday night at 8. Slash calls at five-of. He stays on for nearly 90 minutes, discoursing freely on music, but also tackling the controversies, the rumors, the misconceptions and the frightening truths surrounding the world’s biggest rock 'n' roll band. He is, quite simply, a nice guy. Articulate in a street-style way. Unabashedly honest.

Slash is no altar boy. He still parties — back-stage beers, occasional pot — but says that he has put serious drug use behind him. More than anything, he sounds like a 26-year-old guy who has begun coming to terms with life as a rock 'n' roll star.

"A lot of our drug problems stemmed from getting off the road after our first tour,” Slash explains. “We were seriously alienated from the street life we were used to. We had to grow up, to learn to live in society. We had been on the road, we got back at the airport, and they left us on the curb. On our own. I literally had nowhere to go.

“We were no longer going to be babysat like on tour. It took time to establish a life. For me personally, once I grasped the responsibility of life on my own I was okay, although it took a year and a half, and at times it got pretty scary.”

While Slash appears to have gotten his personal life together, Guns N’ Roses is a band in flux. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing musically. The group’s popularity certainly hasn’t suffered. Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, the twin albums that the Gunners released not long ago, are still hot sellers. In a year that has been a box office nightmare for the touring biz, Guns N’ Roses has been a consistent bright spot.

Yet recently, charter member Izzy Stradlin, the band’s rhythm guitarist and prominent songwriter, departed the band. Slash is not pleased.

“Izzy just let me down really badly,” Slash says. "The guy’s a great songwriter. He’s got his own style. He's a cool character. But I'm so ambitious about what I do that I’m always a mile ahead of myself. He’s so not into doing anything. He could be so potentially awesome if he would let himself get totally involved in the band trip, or even his own thing. But he’s so laid back he’ll probably never get around to it.

“It’s strange, but when he got high, everything was cool. He got clean and he couldn’t hang out in the Guns N’ Roses element, or whatever.

He didn’t wanna do any videos, hardly wanted to show up in the studio. When we ended the last leg of the tour, he didn’t play guitar for three months. He was riding his bike in Indiana or whatever.

“When he showed up at rehearsals for this leg, he sounded like he hadn’t played in three months. The next day he didn’t show at rehearsal at all. Me and Axl were at the end of our f—ing rope. He wasn’t contributing. He was equal partner in the band, so we told him, ‘Until you start doing something you’re not an equal partner.’ He resigned. Didn’t even tell us. Sent notification to the office, the accountant.”

The Gunners needed a quick replacement. They found it in L A. rocker Gilby Clarke, a hungry musician, Slash says, whose enthusiasm counters Stradlin’s lethargic stage presence and rudimentary guitar work. In concert, at least,

Slash figures Guns N’ Roses to be an even more formidable outfit.

Most cities hosting a Guns N’ Roses concert usually brace for an evening of potential mayhem. This both concerns and amuses Slash. He feels it’s unfair that the band’s reputation for carnage stems from one incident in St. Louis this summer. The group made international headlines when lead singer Axl Rose jumped into the crowd and attacked a crowd member who would not stop taking his picture. It sparked a riot that caused major damage to the amphitheater and destroyed $700,000 worth of the band’s equipment.

Although Slash would prefer to put the imbroglio completely behind him, he does not mind clearing up a few things. “We had already played an hour and a half,’’ Slash says, his voice rising. "And we wanted to go back on stage. Axl is a volatile character. If people in the crowd f— with him, he’ll f— back. It goes back to our club roots. I appreciate it.

“I’ve seen him jump in the crowd a million f— in’ times. So I didn’t expect anything heavy as a result. But they attacked the band like we’d just shot somebody. What the f— was wrong with these people? I have a video of the whole thing, and it’s the most unsettling thing I’ve ever watched.”

Nevertheless, Guns N’ Roses was roundly blamed in the media for the riot. Since the incident, Slash feels that the advance anxiety felt by many communities takes the focus away from the music.

“We’ve tried to spend a lot of time, although it’s not a conscious thing, trying to stress how serious we are about the music,” Slash says. “Because we got so overhyped so early, it totally overshadowed what we were supposed to be as a band. Guns N’ Roses: not a kick-ass rock ’n’ roll band, but a bunch of alcoholics. We try to stress our conscientiousness about the music.

“Now, if we get to a town and there’s that nasty little excitement in the air, a little bit of fear, we’re all into it,” he adds with a chuckle. “Because we can only be so serious about what we do.”

Another criticism that has followed the tour is that the band has a penchant for hitting the stage late. Slash pleads guilty. "I have to say we’re pretty self-indulgent when it comes to going on stage,” he says. “Coming from a club background, we would go on from 11 to midnight. We're a nighttime band, and it takes us a while to get it together mentally and physically to go on stage. We just sort of cruise into the moment. We don’t go on until 10, at least, which is not to say that’s necessarily right.”

The same relaxed approach held true for the Use Your Illusion sessions. “Wherever we go as a unit, we sort of take our own little trip with us,’’Slash explains. “We go in some time in the afternoon, hang out a lot, tell funny stuff about the night before, have a few beers, then go in and start jamming. It’s not as professional as one would think for the level we’re at. Sometimes it takes all day to get a track right. We take breaks, go over to the strip joint across the street and have a couple drinks.

“We don’t argue or have writing battles. We appreciate everyone in the band’s interests. It’s a loose vibe. Even when we were into the drug thing, we never mixed it with making music in the studio. A lot of bands that will remain nameless, who can’t play until they get their fix, we don’t have that.”

Despite a lingering reputation as an unstable character, Slash has definitely earned respect as a musician. His soulful guitar work is not as reliant on technique and tricks as other six-string heroes. During the time between the band’s megahit Appetite For Destruction album and the sessions for Illusion, Slash turned up on a lot of sessions. His most high-profile cameos have been on Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album.

“We were never really thought of as a band that was musically gifted,” Slash says. “We were just another one of those loud rock ’n’ roll bands that fall over on stage and they’re funny. At this point in time, I think we’ve gotten past those hurdles, where we can express ourselves and people are actually listening.

“I’m no longer just the guy that said f— on TV,” Slash adds, referring to his intoxicated, expletive-spewing acceptance speeches during last year's American Music Awards. “I’m a guy who can actually play.”

Right now, the clear-headed Slash is great for Guns N’ Roses public relations, not that he wants to paint halos around members’ heads. Axl Rose still gets into beefs. His actions and reactions are based, for the most part Slash says, on pure emotion. Rose’s combustible personality is probably a key ingredient to Guns N’ Roses’ power. As de facto co-leaders, Axl and Slash complement each other.

The guitarist insists there is no hatred or round-the-clock strife between the two. All the Gunners, it seems, have grown up a bit. Slash, for one, recognizes the good life when he lives it. “Rock ’n’ roll has to be the shakiest gig in town,” Slash says. "And I want to keep on doing it. I’m in this thing. We really have graduated from being that f—ed up heavy metal band.”
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