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2000.12.11 - Getsigned.com - A Conversation With Slash

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2000.12.11 - Getsigned.com - A Conversation With Slash Empty 2000.12.11 - Getsigned.com - A Conversation With Slash

Post by Blackstar on Tue Apr 14, 2020 6:54 pm

SLASH
An exclusive Getsigned.com interview

by Gerri Miller


Getsigned.com Presents A Conversation with SLASH
:copyright:2000 Getsigned.com. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Just back from a tour of Asia and about to leave for England for the start of a European run, Slash is spending a day off in Los Angeles doing interviews at his manager’s office. Clad in leather pants, an open-necked flannel shirt, mirrored sunglasses and his trademark leather top hat perched on his mass of curls, with a cluster of silver bracelets on his wrists, he looks every bit the rock star. A hint of gray in his beard is the only indication that time has passed since the world first came to know him as the ultra-cool lead guitarist in Guns N’ Roses.

His departure from that superstar band was a long and protracted process, and to keep his sanity he began jamming with friends for fun. Out of that grew Slash’s Snakepit (named for his serpent collection, now numbering around 40), now in its second incarnation and touring to promote its second album and first for Koch Records, Ain’t Life Grand.

Chain-smoking cigarettes and drinking vodka and cranberry juice, Slash talked candidly about his life and career.


G: You made a lot of changes this year--new band lineup, new label, new management. Was it a conscious decision to do all of that at once?

S: It was like this. When I did the first Snakepit record I had no idea what I was doing, it was just fun, hanging out with the guys--it was a glorified demo tape. We did it before we even had a singer. I kept pushing the envelope to where I took it on tour. I had such a great time and "It's Five O' Clock Somewhere" meant something--a bartender said it to me at the airport one time at ten in the morning and I always remembered it. But we all had to go back to our respective jobs.

G: You looked at it as a side thing then, you were still in Guns N’ Roses.

S: I came back from that first Snakepit tour—we did 110 or so shows in four months, everything from clubs to stadium, it was a shot in the arm for me. And I came back to the studio and there was nothing but ADAT machines and ProTools and I did 11 days of rehearsal and woke up suicidal one morning, [saying] “I can’t do this anymore.” Leaving Guns N' Roses was legally, technically one of the hardest fucking things to do. It shouldn't have been that hard. Divorce wasn't that hard.

G: And you know from experience.

S: Right (laugh). So when we put Snakepit together it wasn't something I had planned, it was a gradual thing, different musicians I was playing with; I had that Blues Ball thing and it sort of developed. It was one of the few rock 'n roll bands around…it's not the current trend. The first Snakepit record was a building block, making it and having a good time. It was something to look forward to every day. I had jammed with Teddy ZigZag and he introduced me to Johnny, who we call Johnny Blackout. That was the nucleus of the next Snakepit. First we found Matt [Laug, drummer] and I met Ryan [Roxie, guitarist on the record but not on tour] at Irvine Meadows but we still didn’t have a singer. We were writing all this material. I never write entire songs—I think “Coma” was the only one I did like that—I had a bridge, maybe a cool chorus, whatever but I like to work within the confines of a band, that’s what makes it a band. So we started writing together and auditioned I don’t know how many singers. We put some music on tape and would hand it to prospective vocalists to put vocals on. Johnny took me to see Rod [Jackson] at the Roxy one night and I wasn’t sure, but Johnny gave the tape to Rod and he put some amazing vocals on it. From that moment on he was the guy. Unfortunately [that song] is not on the record because we never finished. We have so much stuff we didn’t finish, not to mention everything written since then. We just have to finish the arrangements on some of them. This band is a permanent thing for everyone. Everyone dropped everything else to do this. I called the record Ain't Life Grand, the sarcasm and all that, but I do love it. Making the record with Jack Douglas was against all odds. Changing management, finding stuff out. I've always been on top of it in my whole career but there was a point there that I didn't realize that I trusted people I shouldn't have.

G: Were you screwed?

S: Not screwed, I don't want to make it sound like a big Beatles story or something. It was just bullshit that was going on so I had to make a lot of changes, new managers, new attorneys. And consequently a new label because I ended up at Interscope, a hip-hop label. That whole [Universal Music] merger, the developments in the music industry happened at that time and I sort of just went with the flow, I'd been doing this all out of pocket anyway. I didn't get any money from Geffen 'till Jack Douglas came in. I'd paid for the salaries, the studio, the equipment. Take what you make and put it back into it. But at least it's mine. What I ended up realizing was we weren't going to have a cohesive relationship; then it was a matter of looking for another record label.

G: Was it easy to get out of the deal?

S: Yeah, it was very amicable, which was cool.

G: Did Koch Records come into the picture right away?

S: No, we went looking. All these mergers and everyone getting hired and fired, I didn't know who 75% of these record companies are and also they don't have any signed acts I listen to.

G: So how did you hook up with Koch?

S: There was someone there I knew from the old days who was cool. I went to a bunch of different record labels, a series of meetings, and I had one at Koch. I liked them because they were independent but at the same time they were international. There were a bunch of different factors, but for the same reason I liked Geffen in the old days, every department there's one person and an assistant. When I make a phone call I know who I'm calling. I almost ended up at Warner Bros., great staff but the heads of the department, you don't talk to them again.

G: Now with the label and new support system in place, are you free to concentrate on being an artist?

S: You know what, because there's so much change in the industry we'll see what happens.

G: Where do you think it's going?

S: I have to say one thing, as much as I hate computers--this thing's a pain in the ass (holds up cell phone)-- I stop at the fax machine, I have no problems with the advancement of technology.

G: But you're old-school?

S: Yeah.

G: So no ProTools in the studio?

S: No I hate that, I use an old Studer and an old Trident board, manual board. There's some equipment you pick up here and there that's digital, but the stuff that Axl [Rose] got into, you know what, you spend more hours trying to sort that shit out. I did a recording with Rod Stewart and it was the first time I ever recorded in a ProTools situation. Rod's really cool, but the process-- it took two days to do two songs and it would have taken me seven or eight hours. It was very un-spontaneous. As far as the industry is concerned and the approach is concerned of making a record, to me it's still you go out and play in front of the kids. I managed to make a record, my way, and so far everything's been going real well. You go out and perform for human beings, that's the saving grace in this business for me, that will always be there. I just have to do the record my way and have it distributed properly. And then the rest of the work is the band and the audience.

G: Are you one of those musicians who considers making records an excuse to get out there and play?

S: No, I love the process of making records but I know what I'm making them for. I couldn't do one without the other. Even before Ain't Life Grand was done I started booking these one-off gigs around Southern California, we'd do songs that weren't even arranged in front of an audience just to see if they could stand up. That's what I think a rock ën' roll band is. Just to get out there and do it. Then we went on tour with AC/DC and it was phenomenal. Rod had never been in front of an arena audience before.

G: Was he in a band before?

S: He was in a band called Shady Tree when I met him. He had another band called Dominic Rooster. We're both the same age, born at the same time. It's a trip watching him, he's doing the same thing as I did when I started, just throw yourself out there. Opening for AC/DC was one of those situations, the album was finished but wasn't coming out till October and I knew if we weren't working we wouldn't survive so I asked what was out there between now and October and they gave me a list. AC/DC was on the top of it and I thought for sure we couldn't get it. I crossed my fingers. I got a call from Malcolm [Young] that they loved the record. So we went out to open for one of one of the best rock bands of all time playing a whole set of songs no one has ever heard before, but we had them standing at the end of every show. We're going back out with them again.

G: When?

S: Not exactly sure.

G: In the States?

S: I think so.

G: You're off to Europe now.

S: Yeah and then we're gonna do South America, and then if everything works out contractually and financially we'll go with them to Australia and do the States. They were so good to us. I've been seeing AC/DC since I was a kid. The first time I saw AC/DC they were opening for Aerosmith, 1977, ‘78. Since then every AC/DC show I've been to I don't remember who the opening band was. So when we went out there it was very intimidating because I didn't want to be like that. We turned it into something else. The coolest thing is, the tour was sold out on rock and roll merit alone. It was slam packed, but they didn't have a single on the radio and we didn't have shit.

G: You come from one of the biggest bands in the world and then find yourself in the position of having to start again, do it on your merits, sort of reinvent yourself as a solo artist. Is that scary? And how do you approach the responsibility of being the leader of your own band?

S: It's the same as it always has been. Even at GN'R's highest point, I've always booked gigs and jammed between shows on days off. I've always stayed at ground level. I tried so hard to club tours because of the intimate thing. So doing anything myself, it’s still just bands. It's not a solo project. My name's on it, everyone knows who I am, but I never forgot where I came from. I never lost that. Even doing a stadium in Germany for 60,000 people, me and Duff [McKagan] and Izzy [Stradlin] were always rooted in where we came from. So starting a band is fun. Reinventing yourself really isn't the idea. It's going out there and experiencing what makes it all worthwhile in the first place. I won't knock playing in a stadium, but I like to break it up a little bit.

G: You’ve been known to get up and jam in clubs.

S: Lately it's been few and far between but yeah I like to do that. I was in New Orleans for Mardi Gras with my girlfriend and went to this club, there was a killer band and I got up there. I've always done that. It doesn't make the paper but I love doing it.

G: What was it about music that hooked you? When did you know you wanted this for your career?

S: When I was 15 I started playing guitar, and I started a band before I turned 16. I’ve always been in a band. Whatever I get out of it, I can’t verbally tell you what the whole lifestyle and the whole reason is--I don’t know. If I could answer it I think I would have it too analyzed. When I was a little kid I remember going with my mom or my dad to sessions; my dad was an album cover designer, my mom designed clothes. I would see the equipment set up or a guitar on a guitar stand and I was just turned on by it. But I never had any aspirations to become a musician until I met Steve Adler. He had a guitar. He used to play to KISS records. He didn’t know what he was doing, but he would crank the amp up…we’d ditch school, I think we ditched the whole seventh grade. We got on this whole vagabond life thing, which was a continuation of my upbringing anyway. But until I picked up a guitar I didn’t know what it was.

G: What was your first one?

S: My grandmother gave it to me. It was a Spanish-style acoustic and it had one string on it. She pulled it out of a garage or something. I learned most of the shit I know now on that one string. I thought I’d take guitar lessons so I showed up at this local music school. I was very ignorant about the difference between a guitar, a violin, a bass. I just knew whatever it was had to be strings. I was ignorant but I knew what I liked to listen to on record. That’s the key ingredient. The stuff I play now is influenced by the stuff I liked when I was a kid. The Stones, The Who, The Beatles. So when I went to take guitar lessons the guy had a guitar and played me the solo to “Sunshine of Your Love,” and I said “That’s what I want to do.” So I got an instrument… my very first functional guitar was this Les Paul copy.

G: How many do Les Pauls do you have now?

S: I got ripped off but I got some back, I’d say between 75 and 80. I use all of them. They’re all functional.

G: You don’t use the valuable ones on the road, do you?

S: No, in the studio. But to be honest I used the same guitar on this record and on "It’s 5 O’ Clock Somewhere" and on "Appetite". Use Your Illusions, because there was so much material, I thought I’d change the sound around and the guitar styles, but since then it’s been one electric, one acoustic, one with a tremolo bar and something funky like a mandolin or a sitar.

G: You mentioned Steve Adler before, do you ever talk to him now?

S: I just saw him, I saw him when we played the Whisky. I saw Izzy recently. I just haven’t talked to Axl. When I quit the band it was for a reason. I haven’t talked to my ex-wife either. All those changes happened at the same time.

G: With Guns, was it really a case of appetite for destruction? Was it destined to go the way it did?

S: It’s really simple how it all started. We were the only five guys in L.A. at that time who could have made up that band. The musical climate was just as f*cked up then as it is now. We became more like a gang, we were the black sheep. I never had any preconceived notions of anything. The only thing I’m aware of looking back is that I’ve always been ambitious. We just progressed from one step to another and if there was any opportunity… it was about how to promote things, whatever.

G: How did you learn, by trial and error?

S: It was natural, I’m like that. It’s exciting to me to see what challenges there are. With the band it was kind of a fluke, all things considered. But the building process was the most fun.

G: Was it less so later on, when you were successful?

S: It turned into playing nothing but ballads. I started to get bored with that. Then it was more internal stuff having to do with Ax and myself.

G: What kind of advice did you get early on in your career, good and bad?

S: One day Steve Adler and me were walking down the street and we helped this guy put his hard top on his Mercedes. In the process he asked what we do and we said we were musicians. When I said I played guitar he said, “Don’t play guitar, play bass, there are too many guitar players around.” I’ll never forget that. This guy turned out to be the owner of Valley Sound, which fixes equipment and I got a job there. The other thing was my dad telling me, during the Guns crazy days, “Watch out, don’t let that guy take you down.”

G: Axl?

S: Yeah. It’s always been difficult. And that was a piece of advice I always kept in the back of my mind. Incoming information in some shape or form is always a form of advice. Life in general is.

G: Do you have any specific advice for young players?

S: If I was starting a band right this second I wouldn’t know exactly how to go about it. I guess just go out and do the same things I did before, book a gig if you can get one, make a demo, do whatever your own intelligence tells you to do. In this day and age if you submit a rock ‘n’ roll demo to somebody chances are it’s gonna end up in the circular file because nobody’s buying [rock]. From my experience, you go out and do it in front of an audience. It’s the audience that makes it happen. Then there’s the Internet. But I must admit I hate computers.

G: Do you have an official site?

S: I almost do now. An official unofficial web site. Linda Scott does it. Snakepit.org. She did it for two years but I didn’t know about it. It’s authorized now but I didn’t know about it until somebody told me about it. It had everything but the last time I went to the bathroom, it was so detailed. It was intimidating, it had the history of every single thing I did, even stuff I don’t remember. It was sort of fanatical. I thought, better friend than foe so I called her up and we got to be friends. I have her print everything up and send it to me because I don’t go on there. I answer questions for fans, it’s cool. I have this whole fan base I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

G: How important is image? You have a pretty strong one—the top hat, cigarette, Les Paul. Without all of that would you be as recognizable as you are?

S: I don’t know. I can tell you this much. When I first get into this, I was an outcast in elementary school for having long hair and wearing hole-y T-shirts. The only reason I was aware of it was I got hassled for it by other kids so I used to fight a lot. Half the clothes I have are from way back when. I used to wear hats even when I was a kid, I thought they looked cool. My mom had a really cool hat and I borrowed it for a gig at the Troubadour. There’s a picture in Appetite where I have no shirt and a top hat on, pulled down low. I’ve always been really shy. I stick my hair in my face and hide behind a hat. That’s been my trip. But I didn’t know that would be my image.

G: These days, rock guitar soloists and stylists like you are a rarity. Does that bother you?

S: Over the years I’ve watched the music business get so sterile, a techno kind of approach with keyboards and sampling and so on and guitars are in the background. They’re not the vehicle for the music. It’s not frustrating to me because I don’t have, I never had anybody to compete with. I just do what I do and I don’t give a shit what everybody else is doing, but it is odd.

G: Is there anything you’d do differently knowing what you know now?

S: I have no real regrets and I don’t like to look back. The only real regret I have is getting married.

G: Would you ever marry again?

S: It’s not a question in my mind. Am I thinking about it? No. Would I do it? If I did it would have to be majorly different. I don’t think it’s necessary especially in this business. It’s just another contract.

G: In the future, what do you want to accomplish?

S: Basically the same thing that I’ve always done. Get on with getting on with things. Always be moving forward. Never getting stagnant. Having a good time and having those magic nights more often than not, and not getting bored or losing interest. There are a hell of a lot of things to do.

G: You mentioned recording with Rod Stewart before. Who else would you like to work with?

S: It’s good you asked me that because maybe he’ll read it. I’m dying to play with Stevie Wonder. I can’t really think of anyone else off the top of my head.

G: What are you proudest of?

S: All things considered, just being here. Having the wherewithal or the business sense to function on a regular basis and not have to compromise or bend to anybody else’s rules or have them make decisions for me. Just being able to do what I do. I love doing it.

Gerri Miller has been a music journalist for 20 years, most recently as the executive editor of Metal Edge magazine, a post she held from its inception in 1985 until the end of 1998. Concurrently and since, she has edited and written six special-issue magazines on KISS and one focusing on the 1998 OzzFest. Born and raised in New York, she now lives in Los Angeles, where she contributes daily news reports and video interviews to the Metal Edge Web site, features to KNAC.com and Japan’s In Rock magazine, writes bios and liner notes for bands, and is collaborating on two book projects.

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