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1995.03.04 - Melody Maker - Slash: Snake Some Action

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1995.03.04 - Melody Maker - Slash: Snake Some Action Empty 1995.03.04 - Melody Maker - Slash: Snake Some Action

Post by Blackstar on Mon Aug 19, 2019 11:08 pm

Slash: Snake Some Action

By Andrew Mueller

Slash is probably as close to a rock'n'roll animal as we've got. He's also a rock'n'roller with a lot of animals – specifically cats and snakes. Andrew Mueller speaks to Guns N' Roses' mad axeman about his new project, his love of Absolutely Fabulous and how to separate cobras from moggies

THIS IS HOW it was supposed to work. I was going to go to London's epically swish Regent Hotel to meet Slash to discuss It's Five O'clock Somewhere, the debut offering by his side project, Slash's Snakepit. Also present would be Eric Dover, the guitarist in Jellyfish, who sings on the album. What would obviously happen is that Slash would be hideously late, and when he arrived would be either unwilling or, given his reputation, unable to talk at all beyond a couple of platitudes while Eric would not be silenced by anything less than bullets. I could, I reflected ruefully as the lift bore me silently upwards, have had that job in the lumberyard.

True to expectation, Slash is late. Well, poor sod had to be up early to do The Big Breakfast, only understandable. Eric is on time, however — hooray! — and is terrifyingly pleasant and unstoppably chatty. Oh, good. Someone from the record company goes and wedges the door open, because, when you're as famous as Slash is, your mind is obviously always on higher things than the mechanics of operating a door handle. The clip for Guns N' Roses' 'You Could Be Mine' appears on MTV. Before I have time to wonder if this is as close as I'm going to get, Slash appears in real life, which is very Warhol of him. Eric indicates the stack of Absolutely Fabulous videos he has bought this morning. "F***in' excellent!" exclaims Slash, launching into an impressively authentic recital of a short tract of Edina and Patsy's dialogue, before introducing himself, sitting down and spilling coffee all over his lap. Suddenly, everything is going to be all right.

There's probably a really cool French phrase for the disorientation engendered by seeing a face you know well but have never really seen in the flesh for the first time. If you'll excuse the carpet-bombing of names, today there's the same compulsion I've previously experienced in the company of John Lydon or Robert Smith, to reach over and grab their chin and say, "F*** me, it's really you, ha ha." I don't, but I can report that Slash, unlike a lot of famous people, looks exactly like he does in photographs, which is to say you can tell when he's talking — which he does softly, accompanied by a lot of blinking — because you can see the cigarette twitching through the hair. Also, unlike a lot of famous people, especially in his line of work, Slash has no meaningful objections to being famous.

"It depends how you handle it," he says, soaking up the small lake of coffee the table with a napkin. "Sometimes it gets uncomfortable if you're on your own and you want to take a walk or go to the record store and you can't browse without people breathing down your neck. That can be a drag, but… you know, I was driving through the streets this morning, pretty much shagged out of my mind and going to do some promo thing for Snakepit, and I see a guy with a jackhammer drilling in the street. Nothing I do is that hard a job. And musicians take themselves so f***ing seriously and think the world is on their shoulders, and that's where I draw the line. I can complain about this or that, but I'm not that guy on the street, I'm not one of the guys I saw working on the Thames Barrier this morning. I mean, that's hard work, and I'm about to do, what? — get into a bed with some chick for TV. What have I got to complain about, really?"

Pressed on the subject of angst-ridden rock stars, Slash diplomatically shrugs that it's "Not for me to judge" Kurt Cobain, and carps amusingly about Axl Rose, much like half of an elderly couple who have come to rely on each other's idiosyncrasies. Slash certainly doesn't shy from my increasingly less tactful suggestions that the band that comprises his usual day job are delightful chiefly because they are so unutterably ludicrous ("Yeah, I can see that"). He even appears to start guiltily at my observation that he seemed to spend the entirety of the hysterically overwrought 'November Rain' video trying to sneak out of shot.

"Uh, yeah. Well spotted. That wasn't a conscious thing, but I know what you mean. The concept videos I wasn't into. I wrote my own scenes. The car off the cliff, that was mine. Playing outside the church, that was me, because I wanted to get away from the wedding, ha ha. The only time I really lost a battle on a video was on 'Since I Don't Have You' where I came out of the water. That was something I had nothing to do with, but Axl refused to finish the video unless I did it. But those videos and all that stuff are Axl's way of expressing what's going on with him. I still look at Guns N' Roses as just being more or less a nasty rock'n'roll band, whereas he's got visions of grandeur I just don't relate to."

If Slash proves unexpectedly self-effacing and likeable when discussing his work, when he talks about his hobby he's a positive joy. Slash collects snakes. He has hundreds of them, currently residing in a Los Angeles warehouse after the earthquake destroyed his home, and discusses them with passion, authority and a lovely schoolboy enthusiasm.

"We're sort of like a very discreet mail-order business," he explains. "I've got some amazing stuff, albino boa constrictors, exotic pythons, all sorts. You know the reptile house at London Zoo? Well, imagine an even more complex set-up than that. Mine isn't open to the public or anything like that, but there are other similar set-ups around the US that I keep in touch with, and we kind of buy and trade snakes, more or less to keep them from being taken out of the wild. We reproduce them ourselves, so if anyone wants to get hold of something really off the wall, you know, a left-field exotic snake, well, instead of some bushman going out and ripping one out if a tree, you can call us up and we'll get you one."

Do they still feel like pets or do you have too many maintain that kind of relationship with?

"Cats and snakes are the two things I've had as far back as I can remember, and it's probably because of the fact that I never wanted what you'd call pets. You know, cats take care of themselves and snakes, for the most part, are very independent and don't want to be treated as pets. I mean, I love dogs, but… we have a dog now, and eight o'clock every morning she'll start barking at anything that moves around, you know, the gardener coming over or something like that."

A common problem. The trouble with dogs is that they're not fussy, though. If you smack them across the head with a plank, they'll love you for it. But cats have got this great withering contempt for humanity.

"Exactly. There's a certain sense of adventure to being around something that still has a wild side to it, that can't be completely domesticated. We have some interesting cats."

Do the snakes and the cats get on?

"Well, no. When Renee, my wife, and I first started going out together… in fact, I think it was the first time we'd slept together, and we were over at my house up in the loft, and Ronnie, who's our tour manager for the Snakepit thing, was taking care of the snakes. We'd converted part of the bathroom into a snake room, see, and it was a walk-in room with a sliding glass door. So Ronnie was working with the snakes, and one of our cats, Sushi, who is fascinated with anywhere where she's not supposed to be, went into the snake room because she's never been allowed in there. And one of the bigger snakes came out from the ceiling and grabbed her, and it took three of us to get them separated."

A question I thought I'd never get to ask: how do you actually go about separating an angry viper and a confused cat?

Oh, you use a chemical, like Chlorox, or bleach, and you put it up to the snake's nose, because snakes don't like chemicals at all. So that's how I did it. But, at the time, Ronnie didn't really have any idea about how to separate a cat and 15-foot snake."

Ah. Slash draws an ornate picture of a cobra on the back of a Glen Baxter postcard for a friend of mine who I pester with sketches of farm animals by celebrities when she hasn't written for a couple of months — her collection also includes a fish by Kristin Hersh and a pig by Bob Geldof — and glowers impressively through some pictures. He delivers another crushing handshake and thanks me for my time. Rarely can a received media image of a person have been so comprehensively subverted.
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