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1992.07.18 - The Washington Post - Fans N' Roses: A Heavy Metal Diet (Slash)

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1992.07.18 - The Washington Post - Fans N' Roses: A Heavy Metal Diet (Slash) Empty 1992.07.18 - The Washington Post - Fans N' Roses: A Heavy Metal Diet (Slash)

Post by Blackstar on Tue Jan 22, 2019 10:33 pm


By Richard Harrington

"I didn't get into this to be a {expletive} role model."

Slash, the man casually resisting responsibility, is sitting in the bar at the Four Seasons, one of Washington's most expensive hotels, drinking steadily, double Jack Daniel's and Coke. On the little table in front of him sit two brown bags with more Jack Daniel's, bottled, waiting to be sent back to his room. One is a gift from a fan of his band, Guns N'Roses. The other is a token from the reporter, after a publicist suggested that this might loosen Slash's tongue.

The guitarist, hirsute in the manner of "The Addams Family's" Cousin It, laughs on hearing this, because it takes him back to a time when Guns N'Roses was staying in sleazy hotel rooms and Slash himself was living out of a duffel bag.

"I used to ask for vodka because I didn't have any money then," he says. Now, of course, Slash could drain every bottle in the mini-bar back in his room and not wince at the bill -- his band sold 15 million records last year and made an estimated $26 million. Which is another reason to stay at the Four Seasons, though the prestigious hotel chain only recently lifted its nationwide ban on allowing Guns N'Roses to stay at its properties -- something about the condition of the rooms after the band's stay a few years back.

"I don't think we're a lot worse than the average person," insists 26-year-old Slash (given name: Saul Hudson). "It's just because we're in the public eye that we get so much media attention. Granted, we've done our share of bad stuff, stuff that wouldn't be considered acceptable. ... But we're like a bunch of teenagers ... just touring and having a great time."

Until this week, Guns N'Roses also was a band on the run. Volatile lead singer Axl Rose (a k a Missouri's Most Wanted) was arrested on a fugitive warrant Sunday, charged with provoking a riot last July that caused 34 injuries and $300,000 in damage to a new stadium. He entered a not-guilty plea Tuesday, which allowed him and the rest of the band to embark on the 26-stadium tour that kicked off at RFK Stadium last night.

Although Rose was facing only misdemeanor charges, St. Louis prosecutor Dan Diemer had sworn to chase him down at every one of the group's stops until justice -- and Rose -- was served. But it's hardly surprising that Diemer had an Axl to grind: Something about Guns N'Roses provokes people -- adults and authority figures in particular -- to paroxysms of rage. Seven years into its history, Guns N'Roses has earned its reputation as rock's most exciting and excitable band.

Rising from poor Hollywood club rockers to wealthy stadium stars -- their "Appetite for Destruction" sold 18 million copies, most ever for a debut album -- they seemed to embrace a full menu of abusive and self-abusive courses, including the band's generally misogynist lyrics (and the occasional racist and homophobic one) and Rose's violent encounters with his now ex-wife, Erin Everly, and his generally boorish and debauched habits. Slash himself has danced with death, with a heroin habit resulting in a number of ODs (frighteningly portrayed in the song "Coma"), and he's also stumbled in drunken stupor, most publicly in an expletive-littered acceptance speech with bassist Duff McKagan on the 1990 American Music Awards telecast.

"Those experiences we've had that were negative -- we've learned from that," says Slash, taking another sip on his drink. He looks genially handsome, with a surprisingly boyish face despite the debauchery of recent years. Slash says he's mending his ways: He's three years clear from heroin and he even seems to be cutting back on alcohol, though he makes no apologies for his continued support of assorted distilleries around the world.

"There was a point where I used to drink a bottle of this a day," he says, pointing to the Jack Daniel's. "But that's not too conducive to being productive as far as I'm concerned. I've grown up a little bit in that sense. I may be out late at night and get toasted off my {expletive}, but for the most part I try and watch myself... .

"After a while, it gets boring, to be honest."

The guitarist, who always keeps handy a "Slash Survival Kit" (a carton of cigarettes, a couple of bottles of Jack Daniel's), sees himself as a survivor.

"I'm lucky," Slash says. "I'm 26 years old, going on 27, and I went through my big drug thing -- heroin and coke -- comparatively early. And it was good for me to go through it and be able to look back on it now and go, 'This doesn't have anything to do with music whatsoever, it's just the lifestyle and the people I attract and people I hang out with because I'm on the street all the time.' Drugs and sex go hand in hand when you're a rock-and-roll musician. Whereas if I were a violinist, it might be a little different."

(Then, of course, it would be drugs, sex and violins.)

"I don't have any {expletive} regrets. I don't feel embarrassed by any of the stuff that we've gone through or any of the stuff that we've done or any of the girls I've {slept with}. ... It's a wacky lifestyle in general. The thing is to be proud and smart enough to get through it and still end up standing, and then you learn from it."

Though Rose remains everybody's favorite target, Slash has come in for his share of criticism recently -- notably from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and parental groups for his endorsement deal with Black Death vodka, whose logo features a top-hatted skull (a look Slash himself has been known to flesh out).

"They look me in the eye and say, 'Don't you feel guilty?' Hey, I'm not a saint," he points out helpfully to those who would call him an irresponsible role model for youth.

Slash's own experience with role models is very different indeed.

He grew up in California's neo-hippie Laurel Canyon in the late '70s with Joni Mitchell as a next-door neighbor. His mother, Ola, was a costume designer for acts as disparate as the Pointer Sisters and David Bowie; his father, Anthony, was a graphic artist who designed album covers. As a result, musicians and industry folk were always around when young Saul was growing up.

"I saw these temperamental, wacked-out people who happened to be friends of the family," he recalls with a chuckle, "and it was par for the course as far as I was concerned. I grew up as a music fan, and as far as the lifestyle was concerned, I didn't realize it was all that different until I got into public elementary school and I realized I was waaay different from the kids there."

As for the excess associated with what he calls that "ridiculous lifestyle," he explains, "I was around it pretty much from day one and I had to make my own decisions about what was okay for me as far as drugs and alcohol and sex. I expect kids to take care of it themselves."

Slash was a 19-year-old kid when he and his fellow band members evolved from poor aspirants to platinum knuckleheads, and no matter how many bands had paved the way, it was apparent that the Gunners were no more prepared for success and stardom than the average lottery winner. And rock-and-roll is a lottery.

Some things seem to have changed. In the past year, Rose has told of going to intensive therapy to resolve childhood traumas. The turbulence following the forced departure of heroin-addicted drummer Steven Adler and the sudden departure of rhythm guitarist-songwriter Izzy Stradlin seems to have settled. In between, the band embarked on what will be a two-year world tour and simultaneously released the "Use Your Illusion" albums (which opened at No. 1 and No. 2 on the Billboard charts -- a first and probably last).

Slash says he will soon be marrying a model-actress named Renee, his companion for the last three years.

"It's a stretch of the imagination for me to get married in the first place," he admits sheepishly. "I've been the most intense womanizer for so long -- I like women! I finally had to weigh them out -- stay with this girl or go out with all these girls? So I'm getting married and, honestly, I feel good about it."

Is Guns N'Roses losing its appetite for self-destruction? Will therapy still Rose's wild ways?

"When Axl and I first met is when we had the biggest problems," Slash reports. "But he's opened up so much now and that's made me a lot more sensitive with Axl. ... We communicate great and I've been having a ball with this whole thing. We trust each other more than anybody else and I feel really close to him.

"No one can kick our {expletive} -- that's how tight our bond is."

As is that between Guns N'Roses and its fans.

"We play to as many as 100,000 people on any given night," says Slash. "Do you know how that feels? The feeling between us and the crowd is so simple and innocent, such a gut feeling. All the other crap that goes on around us is a thorn in our side, and a small price to pay for being good and successful at what we do. It's only between us and our fans that this happens -- the rest is basically garbage."

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