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2000.10.DD - Hard Rock (France) - Slash’s Snakepit: For The Love Of Art

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2000.10.DD - Hard Rock (France) - Slash’s Snakepit: For The Love Of Art Empty 2000.10.DD - Hard Rock (France) - Slash’s Snakepit: For The Love Of Art

Post by Blackstar on Tue Mar 17, 2020 5:28 am

Slash’s Snakepit: For The Love Of Art

By Philippe Lageat

The last time we saw each other, it was in 1995, in Paris, when you were promoting your first solo album, It’s five o’ clock somewhere. It has seemed like an eternity...

Yeah, I guess it must have seemed like a long time to you! Five years is not peanuts. But, to be honest, I haven’t felt time go by. Once I was done with recording and promoting the album live the way it deserved it, I came back to Guns N’Roses and tried my best to work and get along with Axl. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it and so I simply ended up leaving the band. I toured for a few months with Slash’s Blues Ball, which was not a serious project but something I made just for fun, and then I decided to reform Snakepit, with a revamped line-up. That took me a lot of time. I also took part in many sessions to record a few solos for some friends’ albums. So little by little, a new Snakepit started to appear. We wrote and recorded an album. Honestly, everything went really fast, I didn’t feel like I was hanging around at all. Besides, it took me forever just to leave Guns N’Roses. Contractual and legal questions…

I can imagine the decision was really hard for you to take...

Not so much actually. All in all, I was only a fifth of Guns N’Roses. I couldn’t go on like that. It just appeared obvious to me that I had to leave, it was a question of survival. It’s been four years already… I haven’t talked to Axl since. Now that I think about it, I remember I divorced at about the same time ! (laughs) Let’s say I went through a difficult period of my life. Now things are much more stable : we’ve just finished recording a new album produced by Jack Douglas, who’s got an incredible resume. As a matter of fact, at the time when we recorded Appetite for destruction, I wanted him to be our producer, but every Gunner had his say on the matter and it didn’t happen. So with Ain’t life grand, I’ve kinda come full circle!

Your schedule with Guns N’Roses was busy to say the least. But though you kept on working after your departure from the band, you hardly toured at all...

That’s true, and that’s what I felt the most frustrated about : I never stopped playing but I didn’t do what I would call touring, I just played a few shows here and there, just for… A simple question of survival, I guess.

How come that the current Snakepit line-up is completely different from the one who recorded the first album?

I gotta tell you something : It’s five o’clock somewhere was the result of friends jamming together, mainly members of Guns N’Roses. We were often jamming at my house, near my snake breeding: thus the name Snakepit sounded appropriate to us. Gradually, we recorded a few demos, then an album. And, very quickly, I came to think about who could come with me on the road. Because most of those people who had helped me in the studio had contractual obligations, Matt Sorum in particular. So I hired « temporary » musicians to help me out.

What’s up with your former singer, Eric Dover?

I met him recently. He was supposed to work with a member of Jellyfish in a band called Imperial drag.But it didn’t work apparently. In 1995, after touring with Snakepit, I thought I was gonna come back to Guns and put this solo project aside. You know how it all ended. So I decided to totally revamp Snakepit, and Eric just didn’t come up as a possible choice for this second line-up. His first participation was only a coincidence : he was in the right place, at the right time. And this adventure appealed to him. But when time came to think about things in the long-run, to get involved body and soul in a « real » band, it appeared he was not the right guy for the job. I wanted musicians who would be totally dedicated to Snakepit, who could really focus on that.

Can you tell us about your new line-up?

Right, Rod (Jackson) replaces Eric on vocals, he was the last guy to join the band: I auditioned an incredible number of singers before eventually finding the rare bird. The funny thing is that we’re practically neighbours in Hollywood! But, strangely enough, I had never heard of him, we had never even met each other. Johnny G is on bass, we were already playing together in Blues Ball. We both discovered Matt Laug (drums) by going to clubs. As far as Kerri Kelli (second guitar) is concerned, I first met him when he played with Alice Cooper. That’s it. Now you know everything!

How would you describe your new album, Ain’t Life Grand?

It’s exactly in the same vein than It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere. Good hard rock riffs, the type of music I’ve been loving since I was fifteen. Obviously, the main change comes from the new line-up, from this melting-pot of strong personalities. This new record won’t surprise fans but is necessarily different from the previous one, due to what I’ve just said. We spent quite some time learning to know each other. I would bring ideas and the other musicians added their personal touch. Like in a "real" band. Contrary to the first album that was nothing but what I considered a Guns N’Roses album.

Rumour has it that certain songs on Ain’t Life Grand were originally composed for Guns and that Axl rejected them...

That’s untrue. Always those rumours… Just like some of my compositions featured on albums by Lenny Kravitz or Michael Jackson, Snakepit’s songs couldn’t be played by GN’R.

It’s Five O’clock Somewhere was distributed by Geffen. This second album will be released on the label Koch. Why this change?

Geffen became Interscope that is anything but a rock label. So I left, took my mastertapes along, and searched for a record company that would work at a more human scale, that wouldn’t be affected by the corporate circus yet. Then I found Koch. They signed me even though Ain’t life grand was already recorded and I had chosen the title, the artwork, etc… Thus they didn’t have the opportunity to poke their nose into our business and will just release the album. We managed to step over this whole bureaucratic shit.

How did you manage to obtain the opening slot with AC/DC in the US ? A lot of bands - and not the worst ones - would give anything to have this chance...

Opening for AC/DC constitutes the fulfillment of a dream. We had signed for a deal with Koch, had finally managed to agree on a release date (our album was originally supposed to come out in February), and we were all eagerly waiting for a tour to begin. First, I split with all my former business relationships: manager, lawyer, agent, etc… I detached myself from all the people I had been working with for years, in order to definitely sever the bond I had to Guns N’Roses. I didn’t want to work with people who would have an idea at the back of their mind. That’s why I hired new employees and the first thing I asked them was to create a concert schedule. Shortly after, our agent gave me the list of bands who had planned to tour in the States this summer, and I was almost petrified when I noticed the name AC/DC. I sent our album to their management and they liked it, so they proposed the opening slot to us. It’s amazing! In Snakepit, we all practiced on AC/DC’s songs when we were starting to play!

What did you think of the first two shows you gave in Grand Rapids and Auburn Hills?

Everything went smoothly, even though it’s extremely difficult to open for such a band. Because AC/DC’s audience is quite exclusive. So we do our thing, without thinking too much, we go straight ahead. Then we join the crowd and watch AC/DC play, the best rock band I’ve ever seen. That’s good, because it forces us to give our best. I hate to talk about the business aspects, but there’s no denying that opening for such a big band is the best promotion I could ever have. So many people have the opportunity to hear your music… However, I’ll repeat what I’ve just said, it’s above all the fulfillment of my dream as a kid.

What do you think of Angus Young as a guitar player?

He’s amazing. I ripped him off for my best solos ! It’s funny, yesterday evening, the DJ played the cover of Whole Lotta Rosie that Guns had made live in between the two shows. A cover Angus has probably never heard about. I never told him about it. We met each other the other day, just said hi. But we’re gonna tour for two months with AC/DC, so we’ll have time to know each other. We’re all dying to jam with them!

On each of those nights, you played a Guns N’Roses song (It’s So Easy in Grand Rapids and Mr Brownstone in Auburn Hills). Do you intend to cover Appetite For Destruction in its entirety?

No! (laughs) These two GN’R songs are the only ones we’ll play on this tour because they blend with our repertoire. Unlike Sweet child O’Mine, which I can hardly see myself covering. Before hitting the road, we all listened back to GN’R’s discography in order to choose our own favourite tracks. But we were careful not to choose songs which obviously bore the "Guns N’Roses label": it would be impossible to play Welcome To The Jungle or Paradise City because, in people’s minds, these songs belong to GN’R. So we decided to merely play the songs you mentioned.

By opening for AC/DC, you find yourself on huge stages again. How do you feel about that?

It’s a strange feeling. Lately, I’ve mainly played in clubs or theaters. It’s great to be able to express yourself on a big stage again. But we know that in two months we’ll leave the arenas and go back on the club circuit. We tour with AC/DC in the US, but we’ll headline in Europe, without them. I miss Europe. But I know we’re getting closer to it and I just have to be a bit patient.

Isn’t it too frustrating to play only 40 minutes?

Yes, it’s hard. You’re just starting to warm up and it’s already time to leave the stage! But you gotta play the game, adjust to the situation and do your best during this short period of time. I don't want to hear anybody complaining. It’s a job. And we knew from the start that it wouldn’t be easy.

The hard-rock world has gone through multiple waves during these last five years. What do you think of the current scene, of the new bands?

I haven’t really had the time or the desire to check them out since I was focused on Snakepit. In L.A., there’s absolutely nothing exciting going on. The music industry is going nowhere. It’s exactly like in 1985, when Guns was just starting: no good band manages to get a deal and they end up disintegrating by lack of exposure, while record companies release loads of shit!

Recently, Guns N’Roses has been the object of several tributes, more or less successful. For example, the tribute-album Appetite For Reconstruction. Have you heard it?

I have an interesting anecdote to tell you on this topic: one day, a barman in New-York told me how much he loved Guns N’ Roses and asked a friend to buy Appetite For Destruction for him so I could autograph it. When the friend came back, he handed me this Appetite For Reconstruction that you mentioned. I hallucinated when I took a look at the credits and realised that all the washed-up has-beens of the West Coast, the losers, the ex-somebodys were all gathered on this shitty record! (laughs) Even Tracii Guns plays on most of the tracks. Fuck, this album is basically the record all these guys dreamed of making one day! So I didn’t even bother listening to these covers. It can only be crap anyway. It’s really fucked up. I don’t feel honored or flattered whatsoever. It’s all about money.

I’m sure, however, that you were curious to hear the new Guns N’Roses song, Oh My God...

Yeah, I heard it when I went to see the movie End Of Days. And I don’t have any real opinion about it. Here’s how I feel: I’m dying to hear anything that Axl will release, these songs which more or less accelerated the split of GN’R. I won’t systematically say anything bad or reject something I wasn’t a part of. After all, although Axl and I were often in disagreement, sometimes we shared the same points of view. But we tended to become unnatural when we messed up the line-up, when we introduced foreign elements to rock. That’s why I felt at peace with myself when I left the band. And when I heard Oh My God, it convinced me that my departure had been a wise decision and that Axl and I were definitely no longer on the same wavelength musically. I really can’t wait to hear what he has written since we split up. That’s his work, he lives for it and doesn’t do anything else. The other day, I met Izzy at my birthday party and asked him: "So, what’s up with him?". Everybody’s asking themselves the same question. (laughs) None of us has really changed over the years. Except Axl, of course...

When you look back on it, don’t you ever think, "What a waste!"?

No. Because I left the band when it was still cool. I don’t have time to regret anything, life is too short and goes on, with or without Guns. I still have a lot of things left to prove. Actually, the only thing that bothers me is what our true fans think: "You had everything to be huge. Why?" The problem is that behind this facade, there was a strong tension. It was easy for me to plug my guitar and play. It wasn’t so simple for Axl. He was always fucking everything up. It had gotten to a point when we spent all our time fighting and we went backwards musically. I felt it coming, I already felt it during the recording of Use Your Illusion.

Snakepit is a real breath of fresh air in comparison...

Yes. You can’t imagine how much fun I had on the It's Five O'Clock Somewhere tour. I felt like when Guns first started. I wasn’t trying to recapture a kind of magic, I just played with no holds barred, the way I like it. We toured for four months, I met thousands of kids and had a huge kick. So you can imagine how brutal the transition was when I came back to Guns. Very quickly, I thought: "Fuck that, it’s annoying. I want to play without torturing myself." Snakepit opened my eyes. It’s my band, but above all it’s a band, a real one. That wants to have fun and go forward. I left Guns out of love. Out of love of music and being on stage.

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Translated from French by Laura
Source:
http://www.heretodaygonetohell.com/articles/showarticle.php?articleid=34
Blackstar
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