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1995.03.04 - NME - Appetite For Constriction (Slash)

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1995.03.04 - NME - Appetite For Constriction (Slash) Empty 1995.03.04 - NME - Appetite For Constriction (Slash)

Post by Blackstar on Sun Mar 29, 2020 4:40 pm

1995.03.04 - NME - Appetite For Constriction (Slash) 1995_058
1995.03.04 - NME - Appetite For Constriction (Slash) 1995_060
1995.03.04 - NME - Appetite For Constriction (Slash) 1995_059

Transcript:
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APPETITE FOR CONSTRICTION
 
Stoke’s hellchild SLASH has temporarily slithered away from GUNS N’ ROSES to seek out his solo lair. PAUL MOODY braves Slash’s Snakepit to meet the rock monster who literally came back from the dead.

Snake eyes: STEVE DOUBLE
 
So he’s sitting right there, Slash, the most famous rock survivor of his generation, stuck in a hotel room with yet another journalist wanting to get a fix of life on the dark side, when he comes to the sticky subject of his own death.
 
You see, Slash checked out for a whole eight minutes a few years ago, whilst on a ping-pong series of visits to Betty Ford’s place.
 
So what's it like to be dead, Slash?
 
"Uh... I didn't realise at the time, but when I came to it was, like, cool! Ha ha. I woke up in the hospital, signed a release form and hailed a cab. It didn't mean shit to me."
 
And for a moment those slow cobra eyes lighten up, and he veers off into everyday easy-going mode, like we're discussing a change in the weather.
 
"I never think ahead. I'm a day-to-day person. At the end of the day I don't think about the next day. (He pauses) I was going so hard at it at 21. I didn't think I'd live to even be 25 and I didn't care..."
 
IT ALL starts like this. You're in Marylebone being ushered into a lift by a grey-suited porter (the staff of the Regent Hotel are so well versed in the idiosyncrasies of their guests, the local winos are no doubt treated like royalty, just in case they're the eccentric millionaire in 233. The next thing you're knocking on the door of a suite on the sixth floor, being greeted by a nervous-looking press officer, and then there he is in front of you - Slash! - coiled around the back of a chair wearing a T-shirt and a hundredweight of bangles, looking just as gonzo- stoned as you'd imagine.
 
The exploding haircut is pulled back from those pitch black eyes, but the bee-sting lips are still pulling on a Gitane just like in all those photos where he's standing barechested on the brink of the stage. Les Paul against the world. He's the size of an ox, too, like a high-school football hero who got sidetracked in tenth grade by booze 'n' drugs 'n' good times, and fancied a trip into some real debauchery...
 
Today, it seems, despite it being only 11am, Slash is feeling fine, and quite happy to meet his fifth stranger of the day.
 
"Hey! Haven’t I seen you before somewhere?" he drawls, half-interested, as he untangles himself from the chair.
 
No.
 
"Uh... I'm getting to do that a lot lately... it gets confusing."
 
While the photo shoot continues I'm led through to the next room, where Eric Dover, Slash's latest counterpart and former singer with Jellyfish, is sitting ready to commence the interview. Eric, it must be said, wears the hangdog expression of a man who hasn't seen daylight for weeks on account of the darkening effect of Slash's shadow. It transpires that wherever the duo go on their promotional tour for Slash's Snakepit (a little more than mediocre solo blues album from the top-hatted one), all people really want to talk about is Slash's life in the fast lane with Guns N' Roses. How he feels about Axl. What he thinks of Duff. What it's like to come out the other side of an addiction to both alcohol and heroin. The last thing anyone really wants to delve into is Slash's Snakepit...
 
Not surprising, as, the music aside, even the most cursory examination of the lyric sheet, proves the album to contain some classic howlers (choicest of all, perhaps, being the Tufnell-esque 'Be The Ball', a song written from the viewpoint of a pinball).
 
In front of Eric on the bed are a dozen CD sleeves of the album (so named after Slash's infamous pets and in-house studio, and most remarkable for its brazen cover illustration: a snake in a top hat curled around a bone so as to make the shape of the dollar sign). Eric idly signs his name on each one. None of them are moved until Slash comes back in and scribbles his elaborate moniker on each in thick black marker pen.
 
While he's doing just this, Slash saunters in from next door with manager Tom Maher. Eric, who was bravely about to explain his interpretation of the lyrics on the album, tails off in mid-sentence.
 
"Y’know." drawls Slash, "doing all this stuff reminds me why I joined a rock band in the first place."
 
A long disbelieving second elapses.
 
And then everyone laughs.
 
SO WHAT do we care about Slash anyway? After all, his band were pretty much the embodiment of everything that turned mainstream rock ugly in the pre-grunge boom of the late '80s, when Los Angeles pulled the shutters down around it and became one self-contained Westworld of dumb riffs and easy lays, of cocaine groupies and a big middle-fingered f— you to responsibility.
 
John Lydon may have exiled himself amongst it all like a nihilist talisman, high up in Beverly Hills, but this was a world of anti-punk, with Guns N' Roses the biggest anti-punks of all. Dripping arrogance and dumb insolence, they might have been (the original sleeve art for ‘Appetite For Destruction' depicted a distressed groupie having been raped by a Guns-loving robot), but they still sang about the eternal LA good life, of sweet-hipped girls and dreamy far-off paradise cities.
 
They were about as punk as Slash's biggest heroes: Mick Taylor, Aerosmith, Free...
 
But let's face it, as hell-raising legends go, the one Guns N' Roses created still goes pretty much unsurpassed. Just consider it: a schizophrenic, PC-baiting hellchild of a singer in Axl, replete with banshee-wail and legendary wild temper; Duff, a dumb-pretty peroxide Sid on bass; Izzy, a hollow-eyed dark-horse of a songwriter chugging away on rhythm; and a series of Spinal Tap-esque exploding drummers for added comic value. Nasty, and sure-as-hell no good, but mesmerising with it.
 
And then there was Slash, a fully-fledged West Coast Keith Richards on lead. New York might have had Johnny Thunders, with his geeky subterranean smack cool, but Slash was Keef with all the beach bum surfer chic of California thrown in; a walkin', talkin', all-American guitar hero. The combination couldn't have been more perfect.
 
And besides, no other rock group on Earth hoovered more drugs or caused more suburban American kids to tell their parents to screw themselves, making at least three brilliant records in the process.
 
SLASH IS stretched full-out on the bed now, glass of self-sponsored Black Death vodka at his side, as comfortable here in room 636 as any place else in the world (he hasn't got anywhere that qualifies as home - the LA earthquake having seen off his only permanent address). He's so attuned to the interview process that whatever the topic, he's always ready to toss out the first vaguely rational thing that comes into his mind in response. The trouble with this is that his grasp of everyday reality seems so shot to pieces by the years of excess that anything he says tends to be at best surreal and at worst dripping in rock star corruption.
 
So, is it a relief to be free from the circus that revolves around the Gunners and actually meet the people who are buying the records?
 
"Yeah," he nods. "When you're a kid and you start playing guitar, you have a good time, even if it sounds like shit, and I've got that feeling again. But the whole thing's fun, even doing things like this, because Guns has been sheltered for so long, and taking the chance and doing gigs on my own is good because it stops you feeling so f—ing insecure. And in a positive sense, there's only one in ten people you meet who are actually assholes."
 
What, the fans?
 
“No, I'm talking about the business end of it, the promotions people.”
 
Most of the songs on 'Slash's Snakepit' seem concerned with the baggage around being famous, most notably 'Lower', pretty obviously a reference to heroin use. Was it written with Kurt in mind?
 
"That just happened to be going on the week that we were recording. I didn't even know him, the song's not dedicated to him. I sort of wonder what the f— he could possibly have been going through to do that, you know. Being married to Courtney probably did it. I would have shot myself too, ha ha!"
 
He pauses.
 
"I don't know Courtney either, so perhaps I should shut up."
 
Self-destruction has always been a part of your image though...
 
"Well, there's a thing with me, not exactly a written rule, but I believe there always has to be a certain sense of rotten in you, and you have to keep a handle on it or it will take you over...
 
“In other words, I've slept with girls whose boyfriends are waiting in the lobby just because they're such big fans. But I can understand it. I had a girlfriend once and we went to the Rainbow in LA one night and when I got back from having a piss Lemmy was sitting there with her chatting her up. And I was so starstruck by Lemmy I just left him to it. When he finally left, my girlfriend said to me, ‘Why didn't you get him away from me,' and I said, 'Hey, y'know, that was Lemmy!' “
 
Poor starstruck Slash. Born and raised plain Saul Hudson in Stoke-On-Trent, he arrived in the booming LA of the mid-'70s following his parents' separation (graphic-designer father Tony following mother Ola, a costume designer, to the music biz gold coast). The contrast to his first 11 years couldn't have been greater. Freed from the gritty class-conscious school playgrounds of Stoke, where Slash and his brother Ash had stood out from the beginning for their dark good looks (Uh? - Ed) and oddball demeanour, he found himself on a yellow-brick road of all-year sunshine and pop star uncles, where Iggy Pop and David Geffen became house guests and David Bowie even briefly became a surrogate stepdad, having fallen for Ola on the set of The Man Who Fell To Earth.
 
Such full-flow music biz hedonism soon became second nature to the adolescent guitar hero. While normal kids were spending weekends playing park football and discovering the horrors of homework, Slash would be experimenting with drink and enjoying, in his own words, "total freedom".
 
On weekend visits to see Ola he'd spend long afternoons in the back of her VW as she headed out for Laurel Canyon to take in the view and get slowly stoned. Through the hash haze something became crystal clear to the boy in the backseat. This was most definitely the life for him. Here was a way to spend your entire life taking things easy.
 
Slash, voice still barely above a low, strung-out drawl, now seems almost too West Coast for words. Does he ever think about how life might have turned out if he'd stayed in Stoke?
 
"Yeah," he says, slightly indignant. "But I haven't changed a bit. Whenever I'm in England I ring up my uncle and I go and see him. I'm not on such a rock star trip like people think. I just hang out with people. It doesn't matter if I sold a million records yesterday... It's like, when was the last time you spent the whole evening in a rock star's hotel room? If you did, you'd realise that everybody's very real."
 
Isn't he aware his image borders on self-parody?
 
“Sure!" he declares, suddenly animated. "I've been to plenty of Halloween parties when someone comes along wearing the top hat, but the reality of my life isn't important to people. If I f— some girl in a bar it makes the cover of People magazine. The fact that I have a good marriage doesn't matter. If someone caught me through my window whacking off, that would be cool, they'd love that!"
 
Don't you think, then, that perhaps you could use your fame to some good purpose?
 
“I’m not a politician, I’m not here to give messages to the public. I’ve things I believe in, but I’m not gonna tell you them just so you can write it down in a magazine.”
 
But your fans might become interested in a particular cause if you believe in it...
 
“I know but... more people will sit around reading it than doing anything about it.”
 
THIS IS Slash’s world-view in a nutshell. When it comes down to anything other than the twin fundamentals of his life (by his own admission, playing and hanging out), his eyes just slip back behind a haze; impenetrable and miles off. Just like Viv Savage, he’s intent on having a good time all the time. When he’s asked about whether he has any hard and fast moral code, he back-peddles and repeats this dictum almost like a mantra:
 
“I don’t take myself very seriously. I see certain things I do and I think, ‘Oh shit’, but that’s what I do. I’ve done a lot of stupid things, but I think it’s basically about just having a good time.”
 
So when you look back into Guns N’ Roses history and examine Slash’s thoughts when something goes wrong, like the disaster at Donington where two fans were killed in a crush stage-front, you find he’s still left with the same platitudes he churns out now: “When people get hurt, or somebody dies from it, then you feel responsible, and you just hate to, because a rock ’n’ roll show is really supposed to be about having a good time.”
 
As befits a man who’s had his eyes obscured from view for nearly ten years, Slash doesn’t really like the idea of seeing anything but the cigarette in front him, the Les Paul draped around his waist and the girls at the stage door. Has he got any opinion then, as a mixed-race star himself, on the treatment the media has dished out to OJ Simpson and Michael Jackson, a man he's recorded with?
 
"I think the OJ thing is a f---ing farce," he says, eyes suddenly blazing. "I can’t believe that people are so involved in it. Just because he’s a football player. It’s the same sort of thing that makes people slow down when they see a car crash, they can’t get enough of that stuff.”
 
But ask him what he actually thinks about it and you’re faced with complete shutdown. Stonewalled.
 
"You’re asking me an almost political thing there. I don’t care. I haven’t got shit to do with that. I’m not interested.”
 
The most telling thing Slash says all afternoon, having skirted around the future of Guns (“I can’t say anything until I talk to Axl, everything else you hear or read about are just rumours”), his own drug use (“I stopped doing dope because I needed to. I never did it in the first place to be cool, I got pulled into it by some chick”) and his rootlessness (“If I weren’t married I’d be happy living in a hotel room”), is when he talks about the earthquake that dismantled large parts of LA as well as his own house.
 
“I pretty much lost everything with that, except the stuff I really care about. All I had left when it ended was the tape of this album - that we’d just finished that morning - my wife, the snakes, and the cats, but everything else was pretty much totalled, and I never really cared for that shit anyway. I remember, I started to try and f— my wife, and I thought I was doing really well, like the house started to shake, and then it turned out to be an earthquake. And when the dust cleared that was it. Pretty much everything had gone. I had one bottle of Jack Daniel’s left. It was a great awakening.”
 
THE FUNNY thing is, amidst this rubble of cliches he’s just trying to be Saul Hudson, a nice enough guy. It’s just that he’s had so long being thanked by people for just being Slash, he finds it difficult to realise he’s becoming pretty much irrelevant for a generation of post-Nirvana fans. Rock diehards’ mag Metal Hammer voted Axl ‘Dick Of The Year’ in its year-end poll; what odds Slash next year?
 
For him, the ’80s never ended - just like the 70s never ended for Keith - and Guns N’ Roses never ceased to be the most important band in the world because no-one told Slash they weren’t. He doesn’t read anything that’s written about him, which rules out any likelihood of change. Which is a drag, because when you see Slash’s slow snake eyes now and hear him rambling about his solo album - something he vowed he’d never do - you’d never guess he’s not yet 30.
 
You can just tell it’s not the joyous teenage guitar hero of before looking back at you, but a slow, cautious Lizard King, having his good times all the time, but slipping further and further away from reality with every step.
 
And falling ever deeper into the snakepit.
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