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2001.03.20 - Nude As The News - A Man Called Slash

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2001.03.20 - Nude As The News - A Man Called Slash Empty 2001.03.20 - Nude As The News - A Man Called Slash

Post by Blackstar on Mon Aug 26, 2019 1:27 pm

Thanks to @Surge for sending us this article!
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A man called Slash

March 20, 2001 from Nude As The News

Jeff Vrabel/Staff Writer


About six or seven seconds into our conversation, Slash hangs up on me.

In fact, several times during our hour-long interview, Slash's cell phone, without warning, shuts right off. And this forces one of the biggest guitarists of all time, the driving force behind one of the biggest rock n' roll bands of all time, the man whose tales of success and excess with Guns N' Roses exemplified the rock n' roll lifestyle in all its twisted glory, the man who's played with Dylan, Iggy, Ozzy and Michael Jackson, the man who once graced the American Music Awards with a string of acceptance speech profanities, and the man who will be spending the summer on the road with a band named Snakepit, to call back somewhat sheepishly and apologize that his phone won't let him move around the house much.
"OK, um, I have no idea what the hell that was," he says, amusingly exasperated, after the third time this happens.

He still dons his black top hat, still drags religiously on his ever-present cigarettes, still thrashes away at his Les Paul through a towering mop of black curly hair. In fact, in many ways he's the exact same guy that burst out of Hollywood in the 1980s with the glorious train wreck that was Guns N' Roses. And while the remnants of that shattered juggernaut are scattered all over the globe, and the comically rotating cast of characters that calls itself GNR decides whether or not to release an album sometime during the Bush presidency, Slash hasn't quite slipped out of the spotlight like, oh, say, his former band's singer.
In fact, this spring brings a new, revamped version of Snakepit back on the road, touring behind their recent release Ain't Life Grand, a sprawling slice of primal guitar-and-groove rock. After a brief headlining tour of clubs and theaters, the band -- which also includes vocalist Rod Jackson, bassist Johnny Blackout, drummer Matt Laug, and guitarist Keri Kelli -- will spend the summer opening for AC/DC. Needless to say, many roofs will be blown off many dumps.

NATN recently caught up with Slash by oft-faulty cell phone from his California home.

NATN: So how are the snakes?

S: The snakes are doing fairly well. We're moving them around the house, and they're taking a little bit of time to get adjusted, but they'll be alright.

NATN: Tell me a little bit about your songwriting process.

S: There's really no formula at all. It's one of those things that's never-ending, it just is always happening. But it's funny you mention that, because last night I spent the better part of the evening working on this new song. But it's all in my head. I don't write anything down. If I work on something and don't remember something the next night, it's non-existent to me.

NATN: The Snakepit that put out the debut record (1995's It's Five O Clock Somewhere) was a completely different group of guys than the current lineup. Why the decision to revamp everything? (Note: the first Snakepit lineup included Guns guitarist Gilby Clarke and drummer Matt Sorum, bassist Mike Inez from Alice in Chains and Jellyfish vocalist Eric Dover).

S: A lot of people don't understand how the first Snakepit record came about. It's more or less a glorified demo, what I happened to be writing at the time. Because Guns was in a state of ... we weren't doing it, and since I have to keep busy all the time, I just ended up working with friends. Five O'Clock was just me, Mike Inez, Sorum and Gilby just writing music with one of those electronic drum kits. And while Guns wasn't doing anything, we toured for four months in clubs all over the world, playing for just hundreds of kids. We had the best time sort of reinventing what it is that makes me love what I do.
But this new Snakepit is really the first group we put together from scratch.

NATN: Was it a conscious decision, with the new Snakepit, to include an all-new non-Guns bunch of guys?

S: No, there was no conscious effort to do anything other than be inspired by the idea, or by, you know, "You're a really cool bass player, and we get along, so let's do it." It wasn't really, "Oh my God, we gotta do this" - it was very casual.

NATN: What kind of sets will you be playing? Do you do any older, Five O'Clock tracks?

S: No, we're doing all new material. When we first starting touring in August, opening for AC/DC, the record (Ain't Life Grand) wasn't out yet. And getting in front of a stadium audience and playing material they've never heard before, or don't even know is out really, can be a test for the band, to see how hard you can rock. It basically comes down to how much balls you have.

NATN: When you broke with Guns in the late 80s, rock and metal were huge, and about 180 degrees away from the current musical situation -- your Britney, Backstreet stuff, R&B, etc. Where do you see yourself in the current musical climate?

S: It's the same scenario I've been through before. In the mid-80s, it was New Kids on the Block, Debbie Gibson, Boy George -- all that kind of crap. I've always been involved in the antithesis of whatever's going on. I think life'd be dull without it. (laughs)

NATN: Do you think real, guitar-groove rock will ever make a comeback in the mainstream, or does it even have to?

S: Not that it has to, but the one fact that maintains itself all the time is that rock n' roll is always there, in some way, shape or form. No matter how you twist it around or bend it this way or that, when you do the genuine article, people always love it.

NATN: Speaking of the genuine article, you've spending the summer with AC/DC, which is a personal dream of like 30 friends of mine. What's it like hanging out with those guys?

S: We were pretty intimidated the first time we went out with them.I know I didn't know what to expect, in my history as a rock fan, I don't remember any band ever opening for AC/DC. But we go out there and do our thing, and by the end of our set, the audience is all up standing and yelling.

NATN: Do you guys ever just hang out after concerts?

S: Not really. We're pretty much a survival machine. We see each other in the elevators, or a little bit at gigs. But everybody's so focused on the show itself, it's probably a little bit less of a party than the average layman thinks. Everyone thinks it's all champagne and girls and drugs, and, you know, there's some of that, but not as much as people would probably guess.

NATN: Do you prefer big stadium-sized gigs over the club, smaller theater setting?

S: I like all of 'em, as long as you don't have to turn the amps down. The intimate gigs can be sometimes priceless, but the really big ones can be the same thing. Each kind has its own quality to it, its own vibe.

NATN: A lot of your influences are obvious -- Zeppelin, Stones, you know, Aerosmith. Who are some of your influences that might surprise people?

S: Wow. There's a lot. I'm like a sponge, I pick up stuff a lot when I don't even realize it. When I'm watching TV and playing guitar, I'll riff off of commercials and stuff. I'm not studious -- I don't actually hit the books -- but I'm very focused, so if I hear something that I like, I keep it all in my head.
Wow. Well (pause), there's Bob Dylan, of course, Aerosmith, Joan Baez, Neil Young, AC/DC, Sabbath, the Pretenders, the Pistols, Jeff Beck.

NATN: You've spent a lot of time working with and guest-starring on tracks with a magnificently varied list of people -- Michael Jackson, Ozzy, Dylan, Iggy, Blackstreet, recently Cheap Trick, Rod Stewart, etc. There aren't a lot of guitarists that can keep up that kind of variation. What do you get out of putting in cameos or guesting with people?

S: You know what's cool about that? It was never something I initially set out to do. The varied artists that I hook up with are just people I met somewhere, or hung out at a bar with, or happened to be at the same club as me on some night. But it's complimentary for me that anybody would wanna do something with me in the first place, and when it does happen and it sounds right, it's just icing on the cake.
It's a humbling experience, and the bonus is, having done it, you make one more friend. And you work in an environment where you have to learn to adapt to different people, different writing environments and so forth, and it makes you a more well-rounded musician.

NATN: Anybody you want to work with that you haven't?

S: Hmm. Well, I just ran into Macy Gray last week, I'd love to do something with her. Um ... (pause) ... um, I'm having a Slash blank spot moment. Well, Stevie Wonder is a very cool one.

NATN: Not that you weren't in one of the biggest bands in the world or anything, but is it still weird to look across a stage and think, "Jesus, that's Michael Jackson?"

S: No, I think that was Axl's take on it. (laughs) Not really, I did it just for the honor to be playing with them, really. I just got asked, actually, to play with Britney Spears at the American Music Awards, which I said no to. There is a line. There's cool and that fine line of uncool.

NATN: Do you ever get any down time?

S: Yeah, I hate it. I don't know what to do with myself. When we're not doing something in particular, like rehearsing or going out on the road, I have to be working in between. Like I have no idea what holiday it is, ever. I'm like, "Who gives a hot fuck if it's President's Day, let's go into the studio!"

NATN: What role did you play in compiling the Guns live record?

S: I had a big role. I hired the original mixing guy, and I sat in on the mix to make sure it was honest and accurate, and got across that, yeah, we were actually that good.
I'm very proud of that record. I was raised on live albums back in the '70s, when if you didn't have any money, you had to beg borrow or steal the live records, because they were the ones that had all the cool songs on them.

NATN: What's your feeling listening to those songs now?

S: I get a reaction, in the same way that I get a reaction listening to anything. I don't listen to any of my own records. My girlfriend has a couple … excuse me, my fiancé … has a couple tracks I've played on, and sometimes she'll play them when she doesn't know I'm here, and ... well, I won't call it a misty-eyed reminscence but it's just like, "That was cool."

NATN: It's an odd situation when a band like that breaks up, its members move on and go on with their new things, but it seems like it's harder for fans to let go --- like you're moving forward with Snakepit, but I'm sure you get slammed with GNR questions all the time. Do you have a problem with people not really wanting to let you move on?

S: I don't really have a problem with it, no one's ever not let me. When I left GNR, it was pretty clear to any bona fide fan why. But it's just a drag for them. Being more of a rock fan myself, and growing up listening to bands that broke up, I know that fans don't understand a band's personal problems, they just have the records. It's very inconvenient when one of the guys fuckin' dies, or they break up for personal problems, or lack of musical unity, or the overall focus, or drugs or whatever it is. People think, "Ah, it's just a rock n' roll band, it couldn't be that hard."
But it was a very volatile kind of situation with us, it was a systematic tearing away from the actual thing that got us started in the first place. We held it together longer than we should have. So many times we weren't even in a position to be able to look around and go, "What about our future?" We had many more splits than the big one.
After Izzy and Steve left, it was me, Duff and Axl. And then we found Matt and Gilby. And then we had that big expensive tour, and when it was over, we were all over the place like, "Hey, the gang's not here."

NATN: Looking back now, many years removed from all that, what do you remember from the Guns days?

S: It was fucking cool, man. No regrets whatsoever. Well, my only regret is that the ending of that partnership, that whole crazy fucking reality that was Guns for 12-13 years, caused the fans to wonder why we broke up. I don't like to talk about the band in a bad way. I'm sorry it's not still there. We could have tweaked around all the edges to try to make it work, all five of us could have done that, but we'd have spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week trying to just make it work.

NATN: Do you keep in touch with any of those guys?

S: I talk to Duff a lot, Izzy a lot. I saw Steven recently. I haven't talked to Axl since the split.

NATN: Have you heard any of the new GNR? Do you have any desire to?

S: I have heard some of the new band, and it's exactly what Axl wanted to do. It's the exact thing he was working on when I quit. It's finally immortalized.

NATN: Did you learn any lessons, glean any wisdom from the Guns days that you can apply to Snakepit?

S: Just the obvious. A lot of business stuff. A lot of been-there-done-that stuff. The most important thing is just the raw passion for plugging it in in front of an audience and fucking jamming. That's where the beauty of what it is that I love doing really shines, getting out there and going toe-to-toe with the people you're playing with, when the band works as a band and you just sweat it out together.

NATN: I'd be remiss if I didn't ask -- are there any scenarios in which some form of a GNR reunion would be even possible, or is that just too far gone now?


S: Without a couple of years of psychotherapy, I don't see it coming. It's been six years for me, and longer for others. Izzy -- I won't even bring Izzy into the whole thing (laughs).

NATN: So did you ever have any idea what the hell the "November Rain" video trilogy was all about?

S: Only sort of in a voyeuristic kind of way. I didn't get involved in the content. I just wrote my own particular guitar solo and didn't have much to do with the rest of the video, which made it a bit more interesting and/or confusing. Trust me, if you talked to Axl, he'd know definitely what it was all about.

NATN: The Guns days are well chronicled, and they've provided some of the more legendary tales of the rock n' roll lifestyle. You're engaged now, some years have gone by. Would you say you've mellowed a bit over the years?

S: No, that's my big problem (laughs). I just live for this fucking thing it is that I do. I'm sort of an overgrown teenager. I try to avoid the police as much as possible, avoid the things that I know are instant hazards to my health. And the rest of it really is driven by fucking playing. I'm more focused on that aspect of it than when it was, "We're in a band? I can play my guitar? Wow!" But there's some of that left in there, you know? I really love doing it.

NATN: You're in a very odd spot for the industry, in that you've already made a really strong name for yourself and can do whatever the hell you want, really. What comes next?

S: Well, that's bullshit. I am lucky, being one of the few guitar players that's, you know, just a guitar player. I am able to maintain some sort of profile, although I'm not fucking Ricky Martin. But I've got a public profile enough where people know who I am, and I can work a lot.
But it gets harder and harder, and you have to not mind work. That's the reality. There's no glamour there. We have a gig on Tuesday, and a rehearsal today, and those are my priorities, really.
It's a day-by-day survival thing. Every time we play a song better than the day before, or every time we manage to pull off the impossible, that's basically what rock n' roll bands are all about. That's when you can walk away feeling like you've accomplished something, and when and if you lay your head down that night, you can go, "Yeah," and then get up and do it again.
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