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1989.04.15 - Kerrang! - Tales from Paradise City (Slash)

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1989.04.15 - Kerrang! - Tales from Paradise City (Slash) Empty 1989.04.15 - Kerrang! - Tales from Paradise City (Slash)

Post by Soulmonster on Sat Jun 11, 2011 1:33 pm

Transcript:

TALES FROM PARADISE CITY by MICK WALL

ONE IN A MILLION
That's what SLASH'S mum calls him. Not that he's got 9,999,999 brothers and sisters y' understand, but cos he's a good boy an' e loves his mum . 'WHAT? Shurely shome mishtake' you cry. Not at all — read on here (and again next week) for the shocking truth in yet another MICK WALL exclusive two-parter. The GUNS N' ROSES guitarist may be universally infamous for his hideously hungover alter-ego 'SLOSH' but behind that image (and that fringe) is a thoughtful, caring and modest young chap. . . even after midnight.

IT'S 'ROUND midnight when the f**ker finally calls. I have spent the second successive evening holed-up at the West Hollywood abode belonging to Arlett Vereecke, Guns N' Roses' flamboyant 'n' freewheelin' publicist, waiting for word to filter down from the hills that Slash is finally 'ready' and 'able' to sit down with his old mate the snake-charmer and talk.

Originally, our taped rap was scheduled to have taken place the previous evening... 1 am, to be precise, when Slash got off rehearsal. That is, as far as anything can be 'scheduled' with the errant lead guitarist, at the moment, "Right now, he's into staying up for three days straight, then crashing out for the next two. It all depends which cycle you catch him in," explained Arlett, with a nervous laugh, the first night.

Deadlines are terrible things...and I have suffered enough of them to know when to hit the panic button. After another long evening of falling asleep at the wheel in front of the TV I was ready to give myself until midnight before I allowed my system to go into fun panic mode. Arlett had called him up during part two of 'Dynasty' and been told by his roadie that Slash was still sleeping... "That could mean anything," grimaced Arlett. "He could sleep right through 'til tomorrow night, or he might wake up at any time... What do you wanna do, Micky?"

Micky ripped open another can of Sappuro and thought about it...

When the 'phone rang just after midnight, I was in the bathroom staring into the mirror at a face I didn't recognise and still thinking about it ... What the hell was I going to ask him this time?

I was tired, of course, and not thinking straight any more. rd had my arse parked in an armchair in front of the TV so long my brains were scrambled and rd let my grasp on the story start to slip ...

The sound of Arlett's piercing voice yelling through the bathroom door was just the jolt I needed to snap me back to the present.

"Micky, I just had Slash on the 'phone! He says to come over right away ..."

Boots on, jacket ... cigarettes, keys, beers, tape-recorder, we throw all the essentials into the car and crank her up. 10 minutes later, were out on the freeway, merging with the late-rtite traffic that crowds Sunset, headed like a slow-moving crab for the steep brown Hollywood hills that smother the neon-encrusted skyline to the north.

"Let's get there before he changes his mind and goes back to sleep," I say, jokingly, to Arlett, but she just nods grimly and stares straight ahead, putting her foot down hard on the gas pedal ...

SLASH IS living in a rented house at the top of a narrow dirt road wound high into the Hollywood hills. With only enough room to support one vehicle at a time, and a sheer drop of several hundred feet down one side, it's not a comfortable drive to make at any time, let alone in the middle of the night.

The view is something else, of course ... all of Toytown splayed out beneath our feet like a coat of stars ... I just don't want to become part of the Goddamned view...

"Taxi drivers refuse to take me here," Slash tells me later, with a genuinely puzzled expression on his face. "The last part of the road is so bad it makes it easy for your tyres to skid, I guess ... We had a limo nearly go over the side the other night.

"But it doesn't seem to stop people just comin' by whenever they feel like it," he shrugged.

Indeed ... Slash opens the front door for us when we arrive and leads us into a spacious living area, replete with half a dozen miniature red Marshalls stacked against one wall, even more guitars both in and out of cases scattered about the floor, and, curled up asleep in a ventilated glass case in a corner of the room, one of three snakes that Slash owns - Pandora, an eight-foot python with, Slash assures me, "a heart of gold".

Another python and a boa constrictor are being looked after by friends until Slash moves into the new house he has finally bought himself, which was then still in the process of being decorated and made ready for the arrival of its exotic new owner.

For the time being, however, this is home for Slash ... 'King Kong' flickers silently on a TV screen; on a shelf beside the TV are stacked a pile of VHS cassettes with titles like 'A Clockwork Orange', 'Richard Prior Live In Concert', 'Scarface', and 'Animal House' ... There's also what must be a bootleg video -'Aerosmith Live 1977'.

With the exception of a copy of 'Separated At Birth' and an unofficial biography of Frank Sinatra, the only books in evidence are the ones that came with the lease of the house.

Slash fixes himself a tall Jack Daniel's and Coke ("I gave up on the vodka and went back to the Jack," he says by way of explanation as I eye the 'family-size' bottle he's pouring from in the kitchen) and I say good evening, or good night, or good morning or whatever the hell it is, to another of my friends the cold, cold Sappuros.

"Is this breakfast for you?" I ask him as we settle ourselves down in a couple of easy chairs next to the snake case.

"Uh...I'm not sure. It's either an early breakfast or an incredibly late lunch, I can't make up my mind," he says, with a weary smile.

Shoeless, dressed in white socks, black jeans and a black Misfits T-shirt, Slash is in a more mellow mood tonight than I am used to seeing him. He looks tired, shagged out. And though at first he does his best to conceal it, it becomes apparent before long that Slash's nerves are jangled right now...

He's jumpy as a cat. Why, I can only guess. I wait for him to talk about it but we only circle in those directions a couple of times. It's everything and nothing, he says.

Halfway through the interview the doorbell rang. "I'm really not in the mood for company," he mumbled under his breath as he went to answer the door. It was lzzy and a few friends -including Billy Squier -just back from the Cheap Trick show that night over at the Forum.

Slash let 'em all in and showed them downstairs to another room, with drinks and guitars in their hands, to wait for him to finish his interview with me ... "I'm really not in the mood for company tonight," he repeated, as if to himself, when he sat down again.

Later, after Arlett and I had left the house and driven home, I snatched a few hours sleep, got up again, showered and breakfasted on some solids for a change. Then the 'phone rang and it was Slash.

It was 11.30 are.

"What are you doing?" he asked me.

"I just got up," I replied. "What are you doing?"

"Oh, I'm still at it," he said with a throaty chuckle that made me think of sandpaper and glue. "Everybody's still here and we're all going strong ..."

"I thought you weren't in the mood for company?" I teased him.

"Ah, shit ..." he croaked, and we let the subject drop.

WHAT FOLLOWS is a 90 per cent verbatim transcript of that interview with Slash. After all the waiting around and the on-off-on-again 'phonecalls in the middle of the night - all begun weeks before my actual arrival in LA - it was, in spite of everything (or maybe just because of everything), a good time to catch the thoughts of the kid who plays lead in what must be right now the most sought-after rock 'n' roll band in the world ...

When we'd last met, at the end of last year, Guns N Roses had just finished touring with Aerosmith, and Slash and the rest of the band were off the road for the first time in 18 months.

Back home in LA for the first time since their album, 'Appetite For Destruction', went to Number One in the Billboard charts, Slash appeared to be revelling in the first honest flush of multi-platinum success, still alive with the smell of the road -and particularly those Aerosmith dates - clinging to him.

Since then, he's had another four months to get used to being off the road and to facing up to the boring particulars of everyday life.

"The thing about being on the road constantly is that you never really have any big problems hanging over you the whole time," he says, at one point. "When you're moving around from city to city all the time you don't think about anything except getting to the next gig.

"Then when you come off the road, it's like this whole other world that you thought you'd left behind, but that's been waiting for you to come back to so it can start f* *kin' with you. I mean, I hate having to deal with normal day-to-day shit. It leaves no time for anything else ..."

Slash slots a tape into a machine of his own and soon the familiar sounds of the Sex Pistols, Rose Tattoo, Motorhead and others fill the room with their own peculiar brand of background noise.

Then I fish out my little portable job from under my chair, hit the bright red 'record' button, and we begin like this…

HOW LONG have you been shacked-up in this house?

"What happened was, the last time I saw you I had an apartment, but that got so hectic and crazy that I ended up having to sort of sneak out of there ... I had the cops there every day, and a lot of heavy traffic, and it was just a bad scene after a while, y'know? Everybody knew where it was...

"SO I snuck out of there, then I spent a little bit of time sleeping on people's couches again. Finally, my broker found me a house to lease until I can get into my own house, right?

"I had this place for about two weeks, though, before I actually moved in. The day I got the keys I was sick - I had strep throat or something - and I just didn't have the patience to deal with it. So I left and went back to someone else's house and slept on the couch for a few days, then stayed with someone else for a few days...

"So I've only actually spent about a week sleeping here. I couldn't adjust to it, at first, at all..."

Do you live here on your own, mostly?

"Well, no . . . Downstairs there's Adam, my guitar tech. He's been staying here.

"I have to leave here in about a week anyway. Then I'm back to sleeping on couches again while my house is being decorated and everything. I don't have the patience to Live there while people are f* kin' corning in and out all day long and all that shit .. ."

What are the band doing at the moment - rehearsing and writing?

"Yeah . . . supposed to be. There's a lot of songs that I've written that Axl's heard and that he's real excited about. I still have to teach them to the rest of the guys in the band, though . . . And that's basically what I'm supposed to be doing right now.

"Izzy's got a few songs, too .. . I had him over here for a few days, and managed to get those songs on tape. In a couple of
weeks we'll be ready for Axl to come down and start putting melodies and lyrics to the stuff. Hopefully, we'll be in full-blown pre-production in about a month-and-a-half."

It's very different from the way the songs were written for 'Appetite...'

"The whole thing now is completely different. A lot of those songs were written over a space of time, y'know? There was no real deadline, or feeling of pressure to have to come up with something.

"There's a couple of songs, though, that were written while we were in pre-production for the album ... 'Mr Brownstone', 'Sweet Child O' Mine', and a coupla others ... So we've already had all the different sort of songwriting scenarios.

"I don't think this is going to be too foreign, you know -writing all the songs and then going straight in and recording them. Plus, we have the rehearsal studio block-booked 24-hours-a-day so we can hang out there whenever we want ..."

DO YOU still all socialise together as much as you used to?

"Yeah. Same as we always have."

Then this roaring success you've become hasn't interfered with the personal relationships within the band?

"No. Actually, because the success has f**ked with everybody's heads so much, we're sort of like clinging to each other for support, and to keep some sort of mental balance, y'know?

"I mean, I was thinking about it the other day ... The success has just sort of exaggerated everybody's personalities. And for me it's, like, being anti-social and, er, you know, whatever you want to describe me as ... It's just made me even worse."

Have you got over the initial rush of adrenalin that seeing your debut album go to Number One must bring? Or are you still riding it in private moments?

"Actually, there hasn't really been a real high ... The initial high was doing those first couple tours, y'know? That was it. Getting off the road and then realising you're as successful as you are, doesn't really make me feel all that excited.

"To me it's like, well now you're off the road and you have a lot of money and you can do anything you want ... But there's nothing that I wanna do except play. I just wanna get back on the f* *kin' road ...

"I envy all the bands that have their new albums done and are getting ready to go out. I'd love to have the album finished already and go back out. That's life as I know it, y'know?"

Do you find you can't move around as freely as you used to?

"No, I can't move about as freely as I used to, and I find it very mentally trying. I feel sort of like a cartoon character. People come up to me and it's always like, 'Hey dude, drink this beer, dude'. Or they wait for you to do something crazy, or a whatever ... People don't see you as a real human being, and they're constantly trying to grab at you and sit down with you and be your buddy for five seconds.

"It's just really awkward. And I find that going out to clubs, which is something I used to do, you know, every single night and get trashed, isn't something I can really do and enjoy any more. It's actually at the point where when I go out to a club, I end up leaving just totally depressed. It really brings me down.

"And everybody wants to have your undivided attention. And if you don't give it to them they act like you're an asshole who's on some rock star trip ... Which I think is something that everybody goes through.

"But you just can't do it ... It's like, they never wanted my attention before ... It's really a pretty traumatic experience sometimes."

What's the answer then? How do you propose to deal with it?

"Well, I just don't really go out any more ... So, you know, there's been a real downside to all this. I'm only just now realising. I don't go out that much; I don't have that many close friends. And what close friends I have, the times I get to see them are usually few and far between ..."

Do you get lonely?

"It gets to be a little bit lonely sometimes, yeah. And then there's the situation with women .. Of course, that's completely f**ked up because all the girls you run into that are interested in you, are usually interested in you because you're in a band. And so that tends to be pretty ... er I don't know ... pretty low."

Do you have a steady relationship with anybody at the moment?

"Not really, no."

Is that something you'd like to have?

"Well, I'd like to have one with the right person. Somebody who has their own career and has a life of their own that was active, y'know? My old girlfriend ended up being so dependent on me I couldn't take it, it nearly drove me out of my mind.

"Then after we split up I realised that, you know, everybody else is just sort of like .. I don't know, you just need to find somebody really special, and it's not that easy."

I met my future wife in the toilets of the Rainbow . . .?

"Yeah ... that sort of thing. Anyway, so all those things have a sort of bleak aura round them. It's a weird feeling ... It does fuel the fire for some emotional material, though."

HOW MUCH has your present situation influenced the new material you've been writing?

"Like I said, in a pretty emotional way ... It's like, the songs we wrote before were written when we were nobody and being f**ked with all the time and we were the outsiders and the underdogs and all that shit.

"Now it's like, the amount of bullshit that you have to put up with and the amount of crap that you have to take from people, and the fact that you can't just, like, find people to be close with and maintain any kind of normal lifestyle; starts to make you very bitter...

"And that's when' you start sitting down and writing things in that vein ... So it's not like there's a lack of material, you just sort of like shift from one f* *ked thing to the other,"

You said the last time we spoke that the new material was even more bitter and twisted than the songs on either 'Appetite . .' or 'GN'R Lies'... Some would say that's hard to imagine.

"Don't forget, since we wrote those songs we've been on the road for a year-and-a-half. There's a whole lot of new things we want to look at and want to communicate…

"First album wasn't all that good, I don't think."

Tell me about the decision to finally shoot a video for 'It's So Easy' . . . Are you going to re-release it as a single?

"Yeah, well ... we're gonna have a home video, at some point. So we wanted to do some stuff that was, like, no-holds-barred, uncensored things ... Not worrying about whether MTV's gonna play it, y'know? Just go out there and do a f* *kin' blown-out realistic video ..."

Do you think MTV will show it anyway, because it's Guns N' F**kin' Roses - and just bleep out the 'F' words (like Kerrang! does)?

"I don't know. I have no idea. I mean, I don't really give a shit, to tell you the truth ... I mean, we've done three videos already- four videos now, with 'Patience' - and this is more or less just for us, so we're just gonna put the harshest stuff in it, you know, and leave it like that.

"I really don't care if MTV or anyone else plays it or not, it'll just be there all the same, and if people wanna see it bad enough, they'll find it . .."

To be continued next week...
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1989.04.15 - Kerrang! - Tales from Paradise City (Slash) Empty Re: 1989.04.15 - Kerrang! - Tales from Paradise City (Slash)

Post by Blackstar on Thu Jan 09, 2020 8:13 pm

Longer version of this two-part interview published in Kerrang! (the second part here: https://www.a-4-d.com/t523-1989-04-22-kerrang-gun-in-a-million-slash ), from the book:
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993

------------

FOUR
 
High In the Hills after Dark
 
MARCH 1989
 
It was round midnight when the fucker finally called. I had just spent my third successive evening holed-up at the apartment of a friend in West Hollywood, waiting for word to filter down from the hills that Slash was finally ‘ready’ and ‘able’ to sit down and talk to me. Originally, our taped rap had been scheduled to take place forty-eight hours before. At 1.00 a.m., to be precise, when Slash got off rehearsal. That is, as far as anything ever could be ‘scheduled’ with the increasingly errant guitarist.
 
‘Right now, he’s into staying up for three days straight, then crash­ing out for the next two,’ I was reliably informed by a mutual acquaint­ance. 'It all depends what cycle you catch him in,’ he had added, with a nervous laugh.
 
And so I had waited. I didn’t dare leave the apartment in case Slash chose just that moment to call, and so I sat it out in front of the TV, nibbling takeaway pizza and imbibing cheap supermarket beer. After another slow evening falling asleep at the wheel in front of the game- shows and soaps, I was ready to give it until midnight before I called the whole thing off and booked myself a seat on the next available flight back to London. After all, what the hell was I supposed to talk to him about this time, anyway? I pictured the scene...
 
‘Hi, how’s it going?’
 
‘OK.’
 
‘Sold many records lately?’
 
‘Yeah. Millions.’
 
‘Made a new album yet?’
 
‘Well, no...’
 
‘Going to soon?’
 
‘Maybe.’
 
‘OK...’
 
‘Yeah...'
 
‘Well, see you around!’
 
‘Yeah, see ya...'
 
But with Guns N’ Roses having recently made history as the first act for fifteen years to have two albums - Appetite For Destruction and GN‘R Lies - nestling in the Billboard Top Five simultaneously, and a new single, ‘Paradise City’, already shooting like an arrow into the bleeding heart of the American Top Ten, the world’s rockzines were in a feeding frenzy for more hot Guns N’ Roses copy, and who was I to argue? All the same, it was Friday night in LA - party hearty capital of the known planet - and what was I doing? Watching Dynasty. I had called Slash’s number during the first commercial break and been told by Adam, his guitar tech, that his young master was still sleeping. ‘So what does that mean?’ I asked wearily. ‘Am I wasting my time here?’
 
‘It means he could sleep right through till tomorrow night, or he might wake up at any time,’ said Adam, doing his best to be helpful, even if what he had to say wasn’t. ‘What do you wanna do, man?’
 
I ripped opened another can of beer and thought about it...
 
When the phone rang just after midnight, I was in the bathroom, staring at the mirror, still chewing it over. The sound of the guitarist’s slurred voice telling me to come right over snapped me out of my reverie. Two minutes later I was out on the road, merging with the late-night traffic on Sunset, headed like a slow-moving crab for the steep brown Hollywood hills twinkling in the gloom beyond the neon-encrusted skyline to the north.
 
Slash had moved from the small apartment he was living in the last time we met, and was now renting a large house at the top of a narrow dirt road wound high into the very heart of the hills. With only enough room to support one vehicle at a time, and a sheer drop of several hundred feet down one side of the road, it couldn’t have been a comfortable drive to make at any time of the day, let alone in the dead of night. The view, though, was something else... all of Toy Town splayed out beneath me like a dark coat of stars. I was just anxious I was about to become a part of that view...
 
‘Cab drivers refuse to take me here,’ Slash told me later, a genuinely puzzled expression on his face. ‘The last part of the road is so bad it makes it easy for your tires to skid, I guess. We had a limo nearly go over the side the other night... It doesn’t seem to stop people just comin’ by whenever they feel like it, though,’ he added ruefully.
 
The front door of the house led directly into a spacious living area, which had half a dozen miniature red Marshall amps stacked against one wall, about the same amount of guitars both in and out of their cases scattered around the room, and, curled up in a ventilated glass case in one corner, one of three snakes Slash had recently purchased - Pandora, an eight foot python with, Slash assured me, ‘a heart of gold’. Another python and a boa constrictor were being looked after by friends, he said, until he moved into the new house he had finally bought himself, which was then still in the process of being decorated and made ready for the arrival of its exotic new owner.
 
For the time being, however, this was home for Slash: King Kong flickered silently on the TV screen; on a shelf beside the TV there was a stack of video cassettes, including A Clockwork Orange, Richard Prior Live in Concert, Aerosmith in Concert, Scarface and Animal House. With the exception of the books that came with the lease of the house - mostly medical encyclopaedias, oddly, as far as I could make out, and geographical directories - the only books in evidence that Slash actually claimed to have read were a well-pawed copy of Separated at Birth and an unofficial biography of Frank Sinatra.
 
I followed Slash into the kitchen and deposited the beers I had brought with me in the refrigerator while he fixed us both a Jack and Coke. ‘I got bored with the vodka,’ he explained over his shoulder as I eyed the family-size bottle he was peeling the cellophane from. ‘Is this breakfast for you?’ I asked as we settled ourselves down in a couple of armchairs next to the snake case.
 
‘Uh... I’m not sure.’ He smiled weakly. ‘It’s either an early breakfast or an incredibly late lunch, I can’t make up my mind...'
 
Shoeless, dressed in a black Misfits T-shirt, black jeans and white socks, Slash looked like a man who hadn’t woken up properly yet; like he’d much rather believe he was still asleep in bed and this really was all just a dream. He looked impossibly tired, all played out, done in. And though he did his best to conceal it, it was apparent immediately that Slash’s nerves were jangled. He was jumpy as a cat. Why, I could only speculate. Was it just the sleepless nights catching up? By his own admission, I knew his coke intake had risen considerably in order to give fuel to those sleepless nights. But that was nothing new: Slash liked to binge periodically, everybody knew that. And so far, he’d always come out of those binges unscathed, untouched, the wisest, tightest ass in the room. Now there seemed to be something else eating into him. I would try to coax it out of him, but he only allowed the conversation to circle in those directions a couple of times. It was ‘everything and nothing’, he said, burying it before I had a chance to even brush away the earth from the casket.
 
The phone, typically, never stopped ringing and more than once whatever Slash was hearing on the other end of the line threatened to scupper the whole interview. Nevertheless, after all the waiting around and the on-off-on again phone calls in the middle of the night - all begun weeks before my arrival back in LA - it was, in spite of everything (or maybe just because of everything), a good time to catch the thoughts of the kid who played lead guitar in what was then, after all, the most sought-after rock ’n’ roll band in the world - not to mention the most dangerous...
 
When last we’d met, Slash had spent a good deal of the time complaining about how difficult it was adjusting to being off the road again after eighteen months of solid touring. Since then, he’d had another five months to get used to it, but he still wasn’t entirely comfortable with the situation, he said.
 
'The thing about being on the road constantly is that you never really have any big problems hanging over you. When you’re moving around from place to place the whole time you don’t think about anything except getting to the next gig. Then when you come off the road, it’s like this whole other world that you thought you’d left behind, but that’s been waiting for you to come back to it so it can start fuckin' with you again. I mean, I hate having to deal with normal day-to-day shit. It leaves no time for anything else...’ He got up and slotted a cassette into the tape-deck and soon the familiar, raucous sounds of the Sex Pistols, Rose Tattoo, Motorhead and others filled the room with their own peculiar brand of background static.
 
How long had Slash rented this place for?
 
'A couple months, till I get into my own place. What happened was, when I had the apartment I was in last time I saw you, it got so hectic and crazy that I ended up having to sort of sneak out of it. You know, I had the cops there every day and there was a lot of heavy traffic,’ he said, in a voice as thick and slow as oil. ‘It was just a bad scene after a while - everybody knew where it was. So I snuck out of there and spent a little bit of time sleeping on people’s couches again. Finally my broker found me a house to lease until I could get into the place I’ve bought. But I got really sick and when I came up here to get the keys I was so sick I didn’t have the patience to deal with it. So I left and went back to somebody else’s house and slept on their couch for a few days, then stayed at somebody else’s place. So I had the house for two weeks before I even slept in it.
 
'Not all this shit’s mine,’ he added, waving an arm heavy with bracelets in the direction of the bookcases and furniture. ‘The Marshalls, the stereo, the magazines, the TV set and the guitar — that’s all that’s mine, that I care about. So I’ve only spent about a week sleeping here. I couldn’t adjust to it at all at first...’ the words disappeared into another oilslick as the phone by his side rang for the first time. Slash was either badly out of it or he was sleep-walking his way through this one. Both, probably. But, he said, he ‘wanted to get some shit down’. And so we did...
 
He hung up the phone and I asked if he lived in this big house all on his own.
 
‘No, downstairs there is Adam, my guitar tech. I have to leave here in about a week or so, anyway.’ He passed a hand across his forehead, mopping at a thin sheet of sweat that had gathered there. He wiped his hand on his jeans. ‘Then I’m back out trying to find myself a place to stay, because my house is being decorated and painted and this and that. So it’s gonna be about a month and a half before it’s actually livable. I don’t have the patience to live there while people are coming in and out all day long and all that shit. I’ve been trying to figure out where I’m gonna stay. I’m gonna stay at Alan’s house, maybe. Or Steven’s house...’
 
What were the band ‘officially’ supposed to be doing at the moment, I asked hopefully - already anticipating the answer.
 
‘Writing and rehearsing,’ he said without a trace of irony. The eyes remained expressionless. ‘Supposed to be, anyway. There’s a lot of songs I’ve written that Axl’s really excited about. I have to teach them to the rest of the guys in the band. That’s basically what I’m supposed to be doing now. But I’ve missed rehearsals with them. They’ve missed rehearsals with me... Izzy’s got a few songs. I had him over for a few days and we managed to get them onto tape. Then in a couple of weeks Axl’s gonna come down and start putting melodies and lyrics to this stuff. Hopefully, we’ll be in full-blooded pre-production in about a month and a half...'
 
I reminded Slash that that was what he’d said last time.
 
He sighed wearily and padded off to the bedroom to find his cigar­ette lighter. The phone rang and he took the call from there. When he came back, ciggy torched, he asked: ‘Where were we?’
 
I tried putting it another way: had it taken this long to write the songs for the first album?
 
‘The whole thing now is completely different. A lot of the songs on Appetite were written over a space of time. There was no kind of deadline or anything. But there was a couple of the songs which were written right during pre-production for the album - like "Mr Brownstone” and “Sweet Child”. So we had all the various song- writing scenarios on the first album. But I don t think this is gonna be too far off - writing all the songs and then going in and doing it. It’s just getting us all in the same room at the same time that’s the hard part...'
 
At one point, Slash said, the band had even discussed moving into one big house together and trying to write that way. ‘Axl was keen on the idea, but I was... hmmm. But I got to the point where I was very seriously thinking about it - because the situation that we’re in now, we tend to get too distant. So, I was getting to the point where I was going to live at Izzy’s house, or maybe with Duff or Axl, or something like that. The main thing was, Axl and I were going to get a house together - if it was big enough, right?’ he added, acknowledging the obvious naivety of the plan with an indulgent smile.
 
It would have to be a pretty big house to hold the pair of you comfortably, I remarked.
 
He kept smiling but he didn’t take the bait. ‘I went and looked at this house with him, but it was too posh and ritzy for me. Anyway, so now we’re all basically living in the same area, so that’s good enough. And we have the studio block-booked twenty-four hours a day so we can hang out there and stuff...’ Another echo from our previous meeting. The phone rang again.
 
I sat there and considered. All this talk of twenty-four-hour block bookings and an allegedly increasing stack of ‘bitchin” new tunes, yet the band seemed to be spending less and less time actually together ‘in the same room at the same time’. Why? When they had nothing they at least had each other. Now, with the world at their cowboy boots I wondered if the success - and with it the means to be entirely self-sufficient (if not necessarily the ways; you can’t buy those, you have to learn them) - had conspired to drive Guns N’ Roses further apart than was perhaps good for them at this stage of the game, at least for the purpose of writing and recording together?
 
'No, actually,’ Slash insisted, the phone temporarily back in its cradle. ‘Because the success had fucked with everybody’s heads so much, we're, like, clinging to each other for support, just to keep some sort of mental balance. I mean, I was thinking about it the other day.
The success has basically just exaggerated everybody’s personalities...'
 
If that was the case, which aspects of his personality did Slash think had been exaggerated the most?
 
'Erm...  for me, it’s sort of like being anti-social, I guess. Basically, whatever everyone’s described me as, it’s just made me worse.’
 
Was he over the sheer rush of having a No. 1 single and album first time out?
 
He paused again, eyes slitted as though listening to a voice down deep inside. ‘Erm... actually, it hasn’t really been a real high. The initial high was doing those first few tours, that was the best of it. Being off the road and realising you’re as successful as you are doesn't really make you feel... at least it doesn’t make me feel all that excited. Because to me it’s like, well, we’re off the road and now we have a lot of money and we can do whatever we want. Except there’s nothing that I want to do but fuckin’ play. I just want to get back on the road. I envy all the guys who have their new albums done and they’re ready to go out,' he added, wistfully. ‘I’d love to have the album finished already... We spent eighteen months on the road, and it’s been a real trying mental thing trying to get back to what other people would consider normal.'
 
Slash went on to bemoan the fact that he couldn’t move around as freely in public as he used to. ‘Because the band are sort of like cartoon characters now, you know, people come up to me and it’s like, “Hey dude, drink this beer... do something crazy!" They're constantly trying to grab at you, you know, sit down with you and be your best buddy for five seconds. It’s just really awkward. I find that going out to clubs - which is something I used to do every single night and get trashed - isn’t something I can really do and enjoy any more.
 
‘It’s actually at the point where I go to a club and end up leaving totally depressed. It really brings me down. Everybody wants to have your undivided attention, and if you don’t give it then they act like you’re an asshole - turned into this big rock star now, you know... It's something everybody goes through, though, I think.’ He shook his head balefully. ‘You just can’t do it, you know? And it’s like, they never wanted my attention before... It’s really a pretty traumatic experience.’
 
So how did Slash deal with it then: what was the answer?
 
‘I just don’t really go out,’ he said flatly. ‘There has been a real downside to all this. I don’t go out much, I don’t have that many close friends, and the few close friends I do have, the times I actually see 'em are few and far between. It gets to be a little bit lonely after a while...’ The phone rang again.   
 
For someone claiming to be lonely and short of friends, I commented when he’d finished the call, he’d certainly given his new phone number to a lot of people.
 
‘Yeah, but those aren’t friends, they’re just people who got the number from somebody who got the number from somebody else, you know?’ He gave a huge sigh as the phone rang again. This time Slash ignored it and padded off to the kitchen to refill our glasses.
 
When he returned, I asked about a girlfriend: was he seeing anyone regularly at the moment?
 
'Ah, not really, no,' he stuck his nose into the glass of Jack and inhaled deeply. 'The situation with women, of course, that’s all fucked up, too. The girls you tend to run into - the ones that are only interested in you ’cos you’re in a band - they tend to be pretty erm... pretty low, I think. I don’t know.’
 
Was a relationship something Slash would like to have in his life right now?
 
'I'd like to have one with the right person,’ he said quietly. ‘Somebody who had their own career and had their own life. My old girlfriend ended up being so dependent on me, I couldn’t take it. It got to the point where her dependency on me sort of drove me out. Then when we split up I realised that everybody else is sort of ... I don’t know, you need to find someone really special and it’s just not that easy. Basically, in the kind of places I would be known to frequent, the kind of girls there are just more of the same. It’s depressing. There’s just a bleak kind of aura around them...’
 
As indeed there appeared to be gathering around this whole conversation. I had never seen the young guitarist so downcast, and worse so tinged with bitterness. But why? What did Slash really have to be so bitter about?
 
'I don't know.' He looked away. ‘It’s a weird feeling. It does fuel the fire for some pretty emotional material, though,’ he said, trying to inject something positive into the conversation. ‘It’s like, the songs we wrote when we were nobody and being fucked with all the time and hassled and we were the outsiders and the underdogs - those experiences provided us with all the material we needed for the first album. And the first album wasn’t all that bitter. Some of Axl’s lyrics are fuckin' hilarious.’ He plucked a smile out of nowhere. ‘Now, though, it's like, the amount of bullshit that we have to put up with and the amount of crap we have to take from people has changed. It’s more to do with the fact that you can’t just find people to be close with and maintain any normal sort of lifestyle. It just starts to make you very bitter, and then you start to write about things in that vein. So it’s not like there's a lack of material. It just sort of shifted from one fucked thing to another...’
 
In the days - seemingly aeons ago now - when Guns N’ Roses were making their first hard-bitten recordings, they must have wondered what it would actually be like to make it so big. Now that they were, how did the reality compare with the dream? ‘I don’t know, ’cos I never used to think about it. For me, anyway, it’s always been the complete opposite. Fame and what might or might not happen in the future was never part of the trip for me. I’ve always focused on now, the present. I never try to suss things like that out or try to plan them. But everybody in the band has different personalities and they would all answer that question differently. That’s just how it was for me in the beginning, when we first started playing.
 
'The only times I’ve kind of come face to face with how the outside world sees us is when... Like, I was sitting at home one night, in my old apartment a few weeks back, watching an Aerosmith video. It was from the Cow Palace in 1975, or whatever, and it was like I was fourteen or fifteen years old again - just totally getting into it, you know? Then it dawned on me that that’s where we are at this point. That’s it! It was just like a total mind blow!’ Slash looked sincerely animated for the first and only time of the night. ‘Unless you walk around seeing yourself as some fucking rock star all the time, then you’re just another humble guitar player, the same humble musician that you always were - who happened to be fortunate enough to be successful,’ he said, reaching for his glass.
 
‘Basically, having achieved success and done it without selling out to anybody, though, it’s kind of pointless to complain about the other little things. Thank God we’ve gotten what we’ve gotten, you know. So I don’t like to sound like a prissy little brat going, “Oh, I can’t go out any more!”’ he feigned a hysterical whingy voice. ‘But, I mean, it does affect you in an emotional way. When you sit around and think about it too much you can get a little bummed out.’
 
The phone rang again and this time Slash answered it, then made a face to indicate he wished he hadn’t.
 
Apart from the seemingly endless rounds of ‘writing and rehear­sing’, Guns N’ Roses had also set aside time recently to shoot some new video footage, some of which I’d heard was to be edited down into a promotional clip of them doing ‘It’s So Easy’. Why would the band want to do a video now for a single that was first released almost two years ago? Were they planning on re-releasing it?
 
‘Yeah maybe,’ Slash said, but he seemed vague on the point. 'We always wanted to do a video for that song. It’s got that sort of punk attitude to it - especially since Duff was majorly into that, you know, being a former punk rocker and all. And we just wanted to... Well, we’re gonna have a home video at some point, so we wanted to do some videos that were, like, completely no holds barred, uncensored type of things. Just live shooting, instead of worrying about whether MTV is gonna play it. Just go out there and do a fuckin' blown out live, real risky video...’     
 
Guns N’ Roses were so hot by then, I said, MTV would probably show it anyway and just bleep out the fucks...
 
'I don't know, I’ve no idea. I don't really give a shit, to tell you the truth,’ he said, glaring at the phone, almost daring it to ring.
 
Video-making, in general, however, didn’t seem to be a process Slash had a lot of time for.
 
‘It depends... We’ve done three videos already - four now, with the new one we’ve just done for “Patience”. That was OK. Easy enough... I just sat in this bed playing with my snakes. It was kind of cool. There’s something about all our videos I like. I just don’t like the boring side of actually making them. I’d always rather be doing something else... The video for “It’s So Easy” should be cool, though,’ he continued in a voice like pennies rolling across a polished floor. ‘It’s not finished yet, though, we’re just going through the final edits. We’re supposed to see it Tuesday. It’s more or less just for us, so we’re gonna tend to put the harsher stuff in and then leave it like that. I don’t care whether MTV plays it or not,’ he repeated. ‘Plus, I want some special stuff on the home video anyway, that’s just ours and that you can’t get anywhere else.’
 
What else did they have planned for the home video, I asked? Would it include any of the rough footage shot of their gigs in the days when they were about to sign with Geffen? (I had been shown some once and it was quite breathtaking; the band ravishingly raw, baroque almost, Slash lurching violently across the stage like a disjointed marionette with its strings all cut.)
 
'Erm... I really haven’t got a clue at this point. I want... I mean, the next album’s got to come out first before we even start to focus on that.’
 
Here we go again then, I thought. So when will the...?
 
Slash shook his head once more and began to say the same words over again that I’d already heard twice before... how the band was still writing, still rehearsing, still recovering from the exertions of the last tour... only this time he wasn’t smiling as he said it. ‘We’re not adhering to any kind of plan at all,’ he explained, in case I wasn’t getting the picture. ‘There are no deadlines or anything any more. So that being the case, the way we’re writing now... it’s the beginning of March, right? April, May, June, July... Maybe June or July.’
 
Maybe June or July what? Starting the album or finishing it, I prodded.
 
'Oh... starting,’ he replied earnestly.
 
So there was, in fact, little chance, then, of there being a new Guns N’ Roses album before 1989 was out?
 
He nodded solemnly. ‘But then that’s all in a purple glow. We shall see... he said, putting his foot firmly in his mouth,’ he kidded. The phone rang...
 
I told Slash that a new rumour had been doing the rounds in LA; that the band were abandoning the idea of making one whole album and were instead considering putting out a series of EPS — each in a different style: rock, rap, acoustic, electric... Was there any truth in it, I wondered?
 
‘We were talking about doing an EP of cover songs,’ he confessed. ‘I don’t know... B-sides and stuff like that. It’s just that there’s a lot of stuff we want to record. So we’ve been flipping through ideas, yeah.’
 
Almost unbelievably, the phone rang again. ‘This is the last call, I’m taking the fuckin’ thing off the hook after this!’ Slash growled, snatch­ing at the receiver.
 
It was Izzy on the line. He had some ‘friends’ he wanted to know if he could bring by. I checked my watch. It was nearly 2.00 a.m.
 
Slash slammed down the phone, his patience gone. ‘They want to come to my house for some after hours drinking,’ he grumbled. ‘That’s always the way it is. They go to the clubs until two in the morning and then it’s always, “Let’s go see Slash. Slash is always still up..."'
 
So, I enquired gently, you told them no, they couldn’t come over? He lit a cigarette and angry white clouds of smoke fumed from his nostrils. ‘No, I told ’em it was OK. I don’t like saying no... Shit, what can I do?’ he said, studying his toes. ‘They’d only come over anyway...'
 
We got back to discussing the idea of a Guns N’ Roses EP of cover versions. Which songs would they choose?
 
‘There’s lots we’d like to do, it’s which ones we’re still trying to figure out. We were talking about doing “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, and a Steve Jones song that he wrote and sang in the Sex Pistols called “Black Leather”. And a Misfits song too, maybe. Just a couple of different things, I don’t really like to get into talking about things too much, I just like to let it happen.’
 
While Slash had been answering the phone I had picked up a copy of RIP magazine, with Axl on the cover, which I’d found lying on the carpet in a heap of newspapers and magazines underneath the coffee table. Inside, the singer talked frankly and quite wilfully about a number of controversial topics; particularly drugs, listing heroin as his favourite, though admitting you had to be ‘careful’.
 
‘There’s some stuff about drugs in there I wish he hadn’t said.’ Slash chuffed intently at his cigarette when I mentioned it. ‘Because, I mean, at this point in time, being that we have such a bad reputation as it is and having run-ins with the cops all the time, I just don’t think it’s a good idea.’ Slash admitted he was paranoid that a fleet of black-and- whites were gonna show up on his doorstep one night - or more likely early one morning - and raid the place, just for the hell of it, just to show who was really boss.
 
'Because of quotes like that, it’s really gotten to the point where everybody’s sort of very wary of the police. Just everyday living could be... you never know what could happen. Did you know the Feds are after Sam Kinnison?’ Slash explained in hushed tones how the Hollywood-based comedian was being hounded by the FBI, who, he said, were determined to pin something - anything - on Kinnison because of certain ‘controversial’ statements he’d made to the press in interviews and certain ‘outlandish’ scenes from his live stage act which, in the Bureau’s view, were far too ‘pro-drugs’ and likely to subvert the nation’s youth etc etc blah blah blah... The upshot being, according to Slash, that Kinnison now had to watch his back wherever he went.
 
'Anything to do with drugs, you have to watch it,’ he said seriously. 'And we’re prime targets. Luckily I’m not in West Hollywood any more, so that helps. But as far as I’m concerned you just don’t say anything about drugs - just don’t talk about them.’
 
It’s funny, I said, how no one mentions the music in connection with Guns N’ Roses any more. The public - the media - demanded more from them than that now, it seemed; they had a ‘legend’ to live up to. Which was why, apparently, no one from the band was doing inter­views any more. At least, not at present.
 
'I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve gotten to understand what the press and media are all about. Some people are serious hounds for the dirt to the point where you just sit there and look at them and you just see them as pathetic. Then there are the ones who are a little more subtle, and they just want to have something interesting to write down. It’s different. I tend to be pretty calm about it. I sort of take the assholes with the nice guys and just try to, like, weed them out. It doesn’t shock me any more, though. There’s nothing left that’s shocking about it. I can understand why somebody wants to write stuff like that because it makes for interesting reading, and interesting reading makes for decent sales.’
 
One particular magazine - a doyen of establishment rock ’n’ roll in America and self-styled arbiter of good taste - had recently put Guns N' Roses on its cover for the first time. The story within was predic­table enough fare, littered with various pronouncements on such things as Axl s 'mood swings’, and peppered with the buzzwords ‘sex’, ‘drugs’ and ‘violence’; the band captured mid-flow on the road with Aerosmith the previous summer. 'I mean, it was basically focused on Guns N’ Roses’ chemical intake, and violence, sex, groupies and all those sorts of things,’ Slash said with dismay. ‘The guy who wrote the article was on the road with us for a while on the Aerosmith tour, and there was a lot of other things going on. But he used quotes that were, like, just made in passing, just bits of conversation and somehow he managed to pull them out of context and put them in the article the way he wanted. It was just me going. “Oh, you know... blah blah blah”, it was a conversation, it wasn’t part of the interview. But he managed to take that and put it in the magazine. It was sort of a drag to read that and see how you can be had so easily,’ he said with an exasperated shrug.
 
Reading it myself, I said, it struck me the guy already knew what kind of story he wanted to write - he just needed the quotes to colour the picture in a bit.
 
‘Yeah,’ Slash agreed. ‘You can’t really trust them. You sort of, like, want to, you really want to. But when you’ve got a journalist with you and you’ve sort of taken him into your confidence and you’ve allowed him into your surroundings, it’s only because you think you can trust him, you think maybe he’s cool. So you expose stuff to him that normally you wouldn’t expose, and it’s a drag when one of those guys turns round and kicks you in the ass and makes you feel like a fool.
 
‘I’m not totally anti-press, though,’ he was swift to reassure me. ‘The only reason we’re not doing any American press at the moment is because so much American press has been done, we don’t want to get to the point where we’re over-exposed. We don’t want people to burn out on us. It’s got to the point lately where we’re almost on cereal boxes. The magazines are gonna put out stuff on their own anyway, they really will. They make up shit all the time. We just have to lay back a bit. Which is cool, ’cos I don’t really feel like talking to anyone right now. I feel I sort of have to get my life in order. Try and, try and ... I don’t know.’ He pushed the hair from his eyes. ‘Just try and get comfortable living off the road.’
 
He got up to fix some more drinks. He didn’t look very comfortable, I called after him - hidden away in his house in the hills, cursing the phone when it rang, probably wondering why when it didn’t...
 
‘I don’t know,’ he said, returning from the kitchen. ‘I’m at a point where more and more I’m starting to get comfortable. Because it’s obvious, whether I like it or not, that we’re gonna be here till the next record’s finished. There’s nothing I can do about it,’ he said, dropping back down onto the armchair. ‘So if that's the case I've got no choice. I might as well, like, adjust...'
 
Meantime, while Guns’ Roses languished in the rehearsal studio 'getting it together', everybody else was lining up trying to steal their thorny crown away. Or at least trying to come out with a semi-credible version of their own - Poison, Bon Jovi, Ratt, Motley Crue, all had now toned down the make-up drastically and allowed their stubble to show through. In fact, they’d made a point of it in all their latest press shots and videos. Slash had not been slow to make the connection either.
 
'The cool thing is, I think that’s great, ’cos it’s like we’ve broken new ground for rock ’n’ roll. Most bands weren’t really doing anything like that before we came along, before we broke through. Everybody was doing very pretentious sort of formularized stuff. Formula rock. Then we came out and it sort of broke that mould. So now after everybody else’s album has come out, we get to come out with something that is gonna be us but different again,’ he boasted. ‘Lots of acoustic stuff, lots of really hard-edged shit, some experimental stuff... ’Cos time has gone by, but we’re just gonna do whatever it is we feel like doing. People might expect only one particular thing from us - it might be completely different from that, though. Which is cool, sort of like turn the corner on everybody, you know what I mean? I’m really excited by it.'
 
And so, it would seem, were a lot of people; not just the fans but pundits inside the music industry as well. Which was rare - especially for a so-called ‘heavy metal’ band. For example, the manager of U2 had recently gone on record as saying he thought Guns N’ Roses were 'the most important thing to happen for years’. How did Slash react to a statement like that?
 
'Well, I’ll tell you, there’s a weird thing that happens, for me, anyway. It’s like, certain compliments come from different people and l take them in different ways. Like getting voted best guitarist in a magazine like Kerrang! - that is like one of the all-time greatest compliments for me! I mean, that’s something that’s real, that you can see. Now Gibson say they want to put together a Slash model Les Paul, with a special Slash pick-up and shit like that. That, to me, is another amazing compliment. It actually means something to me, you know?   
 
'But instead of letting it go to my head, the way that I feel about it is, like, I really don’t see my playing as really being worth that. I put it down to record sales and because it’s hip to like Guns N’ Roses at this time. It would be a real joke for me to go, “Oh, wow, I’m the best guitarist in the world!” ’cos that’s just not true. Although I do like the playing on Appetite, I think it does have some feel to it. I would hope I’m better now, though,’ he said, sticking his nose back in his glass. ‘Ultimately, when I get a real big compliment it gives me the energy and the motivation to play my ass off on the next record, so that I can at least prove to myself that I’m worthy of it. And also, to, er...'
 
Prove you’re not a flash in the pan?
 
‘Yeah, exactly. It’s like, all this attention and energy devoted to one album, it’s scary. It’s almost like this one album has taken us as high as you can possibly go - on one fuckin’ record! So you've gotta fuckin' look out, you know? You can’t be complacent. I told Gibson I won’t let the guitar come out, or the pick-ups, until this next record is out and the tour starts. Because we could be given all this great stuff and not even come out with a second album. Then I’d feel like a real putz, wouldn’t I?’
 
I had a notion that part of the reason why Slash complained about the relative constraints of his own peculiar stardom was because he was desperate not to let it appear as though any of it had gone to his head.
 
And nor would it; he was firm on that score. 'It’s just that people always focus in on the predictable stuff. Like, Duff hasn’t gotten anywhere near enough recognition as a bass player, nobody ever talks about how good a guitar player Izzy is. People notice me and Axl a lot ’cos we’re out there at the front. We’re highly recognisable and all that shit. But Duff is like one of the best bass players in rock ’n’ roll. Duff is an awesome bass player, and he doesn’t get any recognition for it at all! So it becomes obvious to me, it’s not so much how good a player you are, it’s how cool you are.
 
‘And you have to understand where all that’s coming from. There are people I know that walk around believing their own hype. Then all of a sudden it turns to the next flavour of the month and they get left standing there looking on wondering what the fuck happened, you know?’
 
Slash said he was already mentally preparing for the almost inevit­able Guns N’ Roses backlash that would begin sooner or later, he felt sure. ‘I personally leave room for that to happen, yeah. It’s like, we’re really big right now, we’ve sold a lot of records. The next record will be as good as we can possibly make it, so we’ll be happy. But whether it will be flavour of the month when it comes out, I don’t know and I don’t care. Some people might not be as interested, but, you know, so what?’       
         
Back then, in March ’89, with Appetite For Destruction and GN'R Lies both still clogging up the world’s Top Tens, back when you could actually see the legend of Guns N’ Roses growing on an almost daily basis, it was difficult to imagine a time when anyone might not be interested.
 
‘I don’t know, it does and it doesn’t,’ Slash said.
 
Really? Did the whole thing still feel as fragile and as unpredictable as that - that things might just change overnight?
 
'Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. It’s happened to enough bands. I mean, look what happened to Aerosmith. They were huge at one point, and then all of a sudden...’ He snapped his fingers. ‘Gone. I’ve said this so many times before, but no matter who you are, one band doesn’t make the world go round, and you can’t take yourself so seriously to think it does.’
 
I commented that for me and a lot of other people the last band that generated the same kind of excitement and appeal as Guns N’ Roses was probably the Sex Pistols.
 
'I know what you’re saying,’ Slash nodded thoughtfully. ‘I think maybe we share a lot of the same attitudes. Not necessarily musically, but in what that music represents to the average kid on the street. The Sex Pistols were a brand new concept, though. It wasn’t like sort of rehashing a bunch of little things and putting them together and putting it out, exposing it to people,’ he pointed out modestly. ‘Punk rock was like this whole deal in itself, and it still lives on, you know? I was into the Pistols when I was in school, they were always cool.’
 
I asked if, having been this far down the road himself now, Slash could relate to why someone like Sid Vicious might go on stage and slash his own chest open with the broken end of a beer bottle somebody in the audience had thrown at him?
 
Well, first you have to get into the frame of mind Vicious was in...’ he said slowly.
 
Or do the same drugs, I added dryly.
 
It raised a knowing smile. ‘Yeah, right... But there’s a certain type of physical aggression that you get on stage. Especially for me. Like, you're out there and you have a capacity for pain that you normally don't have. It's because of all that high-strung energy that you get in times of extreme emergency, you know? Pure adrenalin. And it’s such a physical thing...
 
'But I would never be at the point of wanting to slash myself. It doesn’t interest me. I put up with some pretty intense degrees of pain when I’m on stage some nights as it is. You know, when I’ve fallen off stage and got back up and kept going. And there’s times I’ve burned myself on stage pretty badly, too. I like to smoke when I’m on stage, right? Well, there’s been a lot of times I’ve been playing with a cigarette between my lips, and I’ve let it burn all the way down and the hot coal has dropped down my pants.’ He pulled a pained expression. ‘But when you’re playing there is no way you can stop and do something about it. It goes out eventually, but it leaves a scar. Here, do you wanna see?’ he enquired salaciously.
 
‘Out there, on tour,’ he continued, ignoring the phone which had begun to ring again, ‘you get hit by things when you’re on stage, you jump into the crowd. It’s like, no holds barred, relentless fuckin' rock ’n’ roll. To me that’s what high-energy rock ’n’ roll is all about. I punch my guitar when we play and I come out of shows all bloody...’
         
Axl said something in either the RIP interview or the piece in Rolling Stone, to the effect that at certain gigs you’ve done the audience has almost been on the edge of a riot, where he felt personally threatened. He said there was a certain thrill to be had in itself during moments like that. I asked Slash if he agreed.
 
‘Well, I read something in a magazine where I said I liked seeing people in those tense situations, where everybody’s about to beat each other up. That I got off on the fact that the band had generated that much excitement, that much energy. But to correct myself on what I might have said,’ he cleared his throat, ‘I don’t really want to see anybody beating themselves up, or beating each other up, because crowd violence is not a pretty sight. Any individuals getting hurt at one of our shows is not what it’s all about at all. You know, it’s a fine line you walk because you do generate that kind of power, where you can get people to go crazy like that. It makes you crazy and it’s like the whole world is about to explode. If it gets so intense, though, that someone’s gonna get hurt, then you have to stop the show. Donington, of course, being the ultimate example of one of those times...
 
‘And there was a gig we did with Aerosmith at a place in upstate New York. After we got off stage, the medics booth outside, where they take all the casualties, was just loaded with kids. It was like, man, they were fuckin’ dropping out there! I remember back to when I used to go to gigs. I’d go to festivals and it was heavy. You have to be strong. It’s sort of like you against the rest of them. For each individual person it’s like that, because when the whole crowd sways you have to hold onto your own and go with it. It’s rough, and that’s what came back to me when I saw the kids in the medics booth.
 
I said I could just imagine the teenage Slash as the typical rabble rousing headbanger, right down the front of the gig, fist in the air... Was he?
 
'No,’ he said, stubbing out his cigarette and dispelling all my precon­ceptions in one fell swoop. 'I was always calm and I’d stand there and watch the band, ’cos I was really into it. But I go to Slayer gigs now, or Megadeth gigs and get a little drunk and go and slam-dance down the front and, like, dive into the photographers’ pit. I have a ball doing it, and that’s pretty violent. You just do it for an hour till you’re dripping. I remember going to a Ramones gig in New York and just jumping right into the pit. It was intense...’
 
Didn’t it concern him that behaving like that in public was almost an open invitation to the one asshole in the room in any given public situation just itching to put themselves up against a member - any member of the most dangerous band in the world?
 
'Not when I’m in that state, no...’ A smile flickered then died on his lips. 'I think that as a concept, though, yeah, it’s popped into my head a couple of times, when I’ve been sitting round the house wondering. You know, there’s been things that we’ve said recently that I realise could offend some people...’
 
Which brought us on to the still unresolved controversy over the lyrics to ‘One in a Million’. Slash, clearly, had his own misgivings about Axl’s choice of words, though he said he was prepared to defend the singer’s right to say them if he really felt they were necessary.
 
'There's a line in that song where it says, “Police and niggers, get out of my way...” that I didn’t want Axl to sing,’ Slash said, choosing his own words carefully now. ‘I didn’t want him to sing that but Axl’s the kind of person who will sing whatever it is he feels like singing. So I knew that it was gonna come out and it finally did come out. What that line was supposed to mean, though, was police and niggers, OK, but not necessarily talking about the black race. He wasn’t talking about black people so much, he was more or less talking about the sort of street thugs that you run into. Especially if you’re a naive mid-western kid coming into the city for the first time and there’s these guys trying to pawn this on you and push that on you...
 
'It's a heavy, heavy, heavily intimidating thing for somebody like that. I’ve been living in Hollywood for so long I’m used to it, you know? But I didn’t want the song to be taken wrong, which always happens.’
 
The trouble was, a lot of people did take the song ‘wrong’ - indeed, still do. And it was going to take a lot more than just Slash’s vague assertion that the word ‘niggers’ could be applied to any number of unsavoury characters regardless of their race, before the majority who were, and remain, offended by that song would be prepared to con­sider it otherwise. What about the ‘immigrants and faggots’ that come to ‘our country and spread some fuckin’ disease’? What was the song supposed to be saying to those people, I asked?
 
‘Yeah,’ he said grimly. ‘I know, but in the context of the song those are the character’s true feelings - his mind is just blown away by what he sees. But there’s been a couple of instances where I've decided I was gonna do like an international press release to try and explain what some of this shit is about. Then I thought, no, fuck, that’s a waste of time...
 
‘But that kind of thing does bother me. Me, in particular. I mean, I’m part black. I don’t have anything against black individuals. One of the nice things about Guns N’ Roses is that we’ve always been a people’s band. We’ve never segregated the audience in our minds as white, black or green, you know? But with the release of "One in a Million” I think it did something that I don’t think was necessarily positive for the band, and it put us...’ he threw up his arms, grasping for the right words.
 
In a doubtful light, I suggested?
 
‘Right, right ... whenever given the chance I try and say my piece about that, because it really isn’t... It doesn’t even have to be about blacks. The term ‘nigger’ goes for Chinese, Caucasians, Mexicans... blacks too, sure. But it’s just like a type of people that, you know, are street dealers and pushers. And that’s what it’s supposed to mean,’ he repeated. I wasn’t sure who Slash was trying to convince the most: me or himself. ‘It’s definitely something to attack us with,’ he went on, still wrestling with it. ‘It’s a bona fide, real thing that they can actually say, you know, “Well, what about that?”’
 
Presumably, I enquired, Axl would argue that it was OK to make a statement like that on the grounds of ‘artistic license’?
 
‘I guess...'
 
But Slash didn’t agree?
 
‘Personally, no. I don’t think that that statement served any good. I think that should have been kept at bay altogether. But Axl has a strong feeling about it and he really wanted to say it. But then... God forbid that any of us should get arrested and end up in county jail. Can you imagine?’ he shuddered. “‘Yeah, that’s the guy who wrote that song!” You could be in some serious trouble with some of the guys in there. Much more trouble than just the cops.
 
‘Actually, that dawned on me a few days ago... We’re always in trouble with the police, that’s nothing new. And, you know, we’re not the only band to ever say something derogatory about the police. But there’s a point where you do things that make a statement, that are cool, and there’s another point where you do things that just aren’t necessary and you’re just asking for trouble. To ask for trouble and to intentionally put yourself in a position like that, to me, is not cool. As an artist you’re expected to make statements. But you’re supposed to make statements that make sense and come across clearly. You don’t want to make statements that are so, you know, so blatantly out of proportion, so blown out of proportion that it’s ridiculous, no subtlety in them at all.
 
‘My mom - who is black, right? - was in Europe and I talked to her on the phone a little while back, it was the first time we talked for ages. And I asked her if she’d heard the EP yet and she told me, no. But my little brother was out there, and when he came back he told me yeah, she had heard it. But she was so shocked that she didn’t know what to say to me on the phone. I thought about that and I thought, you know, I can understand that. So, ultimately, I can’t say... there’s nothing that I can say in the press that’s gonna cover it up.’
 
One thing was for sure, the public recriminations had already begun in earnest; from the press, from other musicians, from the fans themselves. (Shortly after this interview took place Guns N’ Roses were unceremoniously dumped from the bill of an AIDS benefit event they had agreed to appear at in New York.)
 
I recounted the controversy that still raged over a comment Joe Elliot, the singer of Def Leppard, was quoted as having made on stage in El Paso in 1983, concerning some ‘greasy Mexicans’ in the audience. And that how, on Leppard’s 1988 tour of America, a show had nearly been cancelled one night in New Mexico when somebody in the audience was spotted wielding a small pistol just before the band came on stage. They held up the show for forty-five minutes before the security guards located the kid and arrested him. They never found the gun, though. He’d ditched it before the guards got to him. And that was after the band had spent the previous five years apologising for a quote which, according to Joe, was little more than a bad joke taken completely out of context.
 
'That’s harrowing.’ Slash narrowed his eyes. ‘It sort of makes me think about how, yeah, you can say things, you know, that you feel need to be said. But at the same time you have to really think about what you’re saying. So that it’s not taken, you know... I mean, the band has so far probably made so many statements that we could have just about everybody after us.’
 
There was another loud ringing. Not from the phone this time: it was the doorbell. My watch said it was 2.48 a.m. Izzy had arrived. He pranced into the room like a man trying to navigate a minefield, floppy cap yanked down over his eyes, cigarette smouldering between thin pale lips, the face and the hands as grey as a ghost's. He had four or five people with him; one of them, Billy Squire, had once been a well-known rock star himself - back in ’83, '84. Which was about the last time Billy had had a hit record.
 
Pretending not to notice the tape-recorder, Izzy spun on his heel and made straight for the kitchen. He’d been to the house before and knew where most of the goodies were stashed. Slash showed the rest of his ‘guests’ - most of whom he’d plainly never met before - downstairs to a separate den where he told them they could drink and 'hang out until I get done with this shit’. His concentration broken Slash picked a bright cherry red Gibson out of its case and stood there cradling against his hip for a moment while Izzy fixed drinks for himself and his friends in the kitchen.
 
‘You got any more vodka?’ Izzy called out.
 
Slash pretended not to hear and started talking about the guitar. 'It's a nice guitar... Gibson sent it to me. But like all my new guitars I have to have it taken apart and refurbished. I don’t like stark-looking brand new guitars, I just don’t like ’em,’ he mumbled, strumming chords aimlessly, silently, unplugged.
         
‘It’s all right!’ called Izzy from the kitchen. 'I found it...'
 
Slash sat back down with the guitar; continued strumming. 'Any­way, Gibson are doing a limited edition Slash Les Paul. This one's sort of what it will look like, only I’m gonna make it more of a blood red with more of the black hardware and stuff. It’s gonna be a really good looking Les Paul...'
 
‘Yeah, and it's gonna have an Afro on top,’ cracked Izzy returning to the room carrying a tray with glasses and some bottles on it.
 
Slash ignored that, too. Izzy disappeared down the stairs muttering to himself.
 
Slash told me a story about how he and Izzy had been asked to interview Keith Richards for a magazine - he said he couldn't remember which magazine. ‘I don’t know what they had in mind.' He looked baffled. ‘I wasn’t interested. For some reason people are always trying to put us together with them... the Stones. There’s even talk of us ... oh well,’ he began, then thought better of it. ‘Oh, that's it, I didn't say anything... Forget that, OK?'
 
I shrugged. OK... but forget what? In retrospect, it’s clear now Slash was referring to the offer the Guns N’ Roses office had already received from the Rolling Stones to open the show for them when they hit LA on their comeback tour of the States later that year. I was puzzled, but I let it go. From elsewhere in the house came the sound of guitars and singing. Izzy and Billy had obviously wasted no time in getting acquainted.
 
Slash appeared to cock an ear to the distant hum, frowned, then got up and padded back to the kitchen to see if they’d left him his bottle of Jack. They had. He returned with it in his hand, sat down again, and started talking about how he’d like to get clean out of LA for a while.
 
And go where, I asked?
 
‘I don’t know... just out. I’d like to go to England again...’ He never did make that Christmas trip over there he’d talked about the last time we spoke. ‘I know, but I really wanna play there again, too.’
 
Why? What was this thing he had for England - for the British audiences?
 
'Let’s put it this way, for me personally, and for Izzy - I can speak for Izzy, I know he feels the same way - but there’s playing the States, you know, which is great and all. But then there’s going over there and playing, and that’s the ultimate. The British crowd is so fuckin’ balls out! That, to me, is the epitome of what the rock ’n’ roll gig is all about - packing up your gear and going over to England...’
 
He looked so long-faced and sincere as he said this I couldn’t help but laugh. For someone like me - born in England - the ‘epitome of what the rock ’n’ roll gig’ was ‘all about’ had nothing to do with going to England. Quite the opposite: it had everything to do with escaping from the place... I tried to explain this but Slash looked unconvinced.
 
'No, man, seriously... if you can be good in England, if you can go to England and be well received, you can play anywhere else in the world, you know that I mean? The fact that we’ve won so many awards from the magazines over there this year is pretty eye-opening for us. It just makes me feel like they feel the same way about us as we do about them. And yet it seems like out of everywhere that we’ve played we’ve sort of cut England short. We haven’t given it enough. Just that tour two years ago which, apart from a couple of shows, I thought was pretty half-assed. When the next record comes out, we are adamant about going to play in England first...’
 
Izzy re-appeared in the room, searching, he said, for Slash’s twelve-string guitar. The phone rang again and I turned the tape-machine off and got ready to leave, thinking, ‘When the next record comes out,’ indeed. And when would that be? Not tonight, that was for sure. As we said our goodbyes at the door, Slash’s last words to me that night were: 'I'm really not in the mood for company tonight...'
 
I drove back into West Hollywood, grabbed a few hours' sleep, got up again, showered and breakfasted on some solids for a change.
 
Then the phone rang and it was Slash. It was 11.30 a.m.
 
‘What are you doing?’ he asked.
 
'I just got up,' I replied. 'What are you doing?'
         
'Oh, I'm still at it,' he said with a throaty chuckle that made me think of sandpaper and glue. ‘Izzy and Billy are still here and everybody's going strong...'
 
'I thought you weren’t in the mood for company?' I said.
 
‘Ah shit...’ he croaked and we changed the subject.
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