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1995.02.03 - Chicago Tribune - Slashing Out (Slash)

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1995.02.03 - Chicago Tribune - Slashing Out (Slash) Empty 1995.02.03 - Chicago Tribune - Slashing Out (Slash)

Post by Blackstar on Thu Aug 22, 2019 6:12 am

1995.02.03 - Chicago Tribune - Slashing Out (Slash) 1995_019


Slashing out

Guns N’ Roses guitarist fulfills need to return to low-pressure musicmaking

Greg Kot

The mountain of curls and the snake tattoos, the leather pants and nose ring, the ubiquitous cigarette in one hand and the second afternoon cocktail in the other—Saul Hudson, aka Slash, aka Yin to Axl Rose’s Yang in Guns N’ Roses, is about as difficult to miss in a trendy North Side cafe as a train wreck.

Still, he offers a friendly I'm-over-here greeting as he pulls up a chair facing Rush Street along with his traveling companion, singer Eric Dover. About every other street passerby does a double-take. “Is that..."

The guitarist doesn’t appear to notice. He brings with him a ton of baggage associated with Guns N’ Roses. But his new group, Slash’s Snakepit, and forthcoming album, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” (Geffen), are his way of leaving some of it behind, at least temporarily. The album, due in stores Feb. 14, is not a solo project but a side group, he insists. And it’s a return to the low-pressure, friends-in-a-room musicmaking that becomes increasingly elusive for a stadium-size group like Guns IT Roses.

“With Guns, it got to be such a huge production—it was almost a cabaret act,” Slash says. “Axl and I we try to work together, and things started leaning over toward these fantastical Axl concepts, and I cruised along. We had horn players, then we did the acoustic set, big budget videos.

“When ‘Spaghetti Incident’ [an album of cover times released in 19931 came out, I wanted to go play clubs and get a chance to get toe to toe with people again. But Ax wasn’t into it. So now what? I thought we should play somewhere. We just never got a cohesive idea happening.”

Slash hastens to add that Guns has not broken up, though not even he knows when the band will begin work on its next album. “The typical fights between guys in bands, between Axl and I, have been blown way out of proportion,” he says. “There was a little bit of concern about me taking off to do [Slash’s Snakepit], but I really needed to do it. I need to get that vibe back. I don’t want to feel like some unobtainable rock-star character. This is grounding me.”

For Slash, time off is the enemy; it’s how heroin crept into his life during the halcyon rise of Guns N’ Roses. Now clean, and recently married, he finds his outlet playing with anybody, anywhere, anytime. Last summer, there was Slash with the Letterman band, on the second stage of Woodstock with Paul Rodgers and tinkering in his “Snakepit” home studio next to his reptilian menagerie of 300.

“There’s only one thing I’m really comfortable doing, and that’s playing,” he says. “I basically began jamming at home and [former Guns N' Roses guitarist] Gilby [Clarke] came by and we started writing together.”

The Slash-Clarke collaboration evolved into a band, with Guns drummer Matt Sorum and Alice in Chains bassist Mike Inez. Dover, who wasn’t even the main singer in his previous band, the pop-oriented Jellyfish, became the vocalist after Slash had filled up a “bag of shame” of rejected tapes from would-be singers.

“Doing the vocals on this album relieved years of pent-up frustration,” Dover says. “It was like playing in front of my bedroom mirror to Alice Cooper records.”

“The Wayward Second Fiddles—that’s what we should call this tour, because we all basically are,” Slash adds with a laugh. “There are no rock stars in this band. It was a real easygoing work process, not a heavy pressure writing situation like in Guns, where everything is scrutinized.”

“It’s Five O’clock Somewhere” is laced with grimy, pre-punk blues-rock and darkly tongue-in-cheek lyricism: the honking harmonica on “Neither Can I,” the stabbing Allman Brotherslike melancholy of “Beggars & Hangers-on,” the “La Grange” into “Bridge of Sighs” guitar excursion on “Jizz da Pit,” the overt Joe Cocker-isms of “Back and Forth Again.”

“I always used to say that I wished I was born a decade earlier, so I could’ve been a part of the early ’70s,” says the 29-year-old Slash. “Because that’s where all my main musical influences come from.”

That his new album sounds more than slightly removed from the current state of the MTV Buzz Bin is something the guitarist readily acknowledges. He’s above all a fan and a stu-
dent of rock rather than of trends.

“Musicians in earlier days were trying to perfect the art, with that rebellious rock attitude,” he says. “I thrive on that. It’s in my soap in the morning shower. I lather up in it”

So his recent brush with the Rolling Stones—“the key band for me”—was tinged by more than just professional courtesy. He hung out with Keith Richards while the Stones mixed their recent album in Los Angeles, and was invited along with his wife, Renee, to attend a Stones show there in the band’s guest section.

“We were saving a couple of seats for our friends who went to the bathroom, and these other people tried to take them,” Slash says. “I said, ‘These seats are taken,’ they start arguing, and we said, ‘[Expletive] you’ and left. The next day, Keith calls, all ticked off. Turns out the people we argued with are his in-laws.

“I can’t count all the magazines I’ve read, and how, whether true or not, that’s how we get to know about our rock star heroes. That’s all I ever expected as a kid. And now suddenly it’s gotten to the point where I’m getting yelled at by Keith Richards. One way or another, that’s sorta cool.”

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