|Interview by Chaunce Hayden
"I'm the antithesis of anything that was popular in 1985... and now it's come full circle..." - Slash
So says the single greatest guitar legend of the past decade. And if he has his way, of the next decade as well. Since Slash quit Guns N' Roses in October 1996 he's had more recording and performing opportunities than ever. Recently, he's contributed his edgy guitar style to the albums of artists ranging from Iggy Pop to Bob Dylan, and unleashed his incomparable live energy in performances with goovemeisters Puff Daddy and James Brown. To top it all, on millennium night the guitarist literally rocked the White House before throng of thousands- and millions more who witnessed on TV. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Slash about his life as a guitar legend, his bright future with his new band Slash's Snakepit and his latest CD, "Ain't Life Grand."
Chaunce Hayden: So how are you feeling? I understand you're getting over a pretty serious illness.
Slash: Yeah, I had pnuemonia. It hit me at a bad time. I was doing the shows but I just wasn't feeling 100 percent. So a hospital just happened to be next to where we were doing a sound check, so I went in and they said, "Jesus Christ!" They didnt let me leave. I was pushing myself too hard and I guess what I had was walking pnuemonia, and the doctors said to me that I have to slow down. I didn't want to because I was right in the middle of a tour, but the doctors said I had to. It was unfortunate, because this all happened right before we were supposed to go on tour with AC/DC. The timing was just wrong.
How are you feeling now?
I'm feeling great now. I just needed a little bit of time off. Now we're retooling and we'll be going on tour this summer right through next year.
What kind of crowd turns up at your shows?
The album came out in October. We went on the road with AC/DC last August, and up until the time we had to stop it's really been awesome! We really had picked up speed when we stopped. But as far as the crowd goes, everyone know I quit Guns N Roses ages ago. Most of the crowd that comes to the show is Snakepit people. In fact, people are actually acknowledging us as the opening band for AC/DC. That's amazing! I've seen those guys enough times, never once can I tell you who opened for them.
What's been the reaction to Snakepit?
Everything's been killer so far. I really haven't heard anything negative about the band at all.
Your name means a lot to hard rock fans. Would you call yourself a rock icon?
(Laughs) At the moment I don't feel very much like a rock icon! I never look at things from that point of view. But from the public's perception, they probably think, "There's that guy doing that thing again, and he's one of the few guys that does it." So maybe i ger singled out that way. But personally, I've been doing the same kind of shit and hustling the same game since I was 15 years old. I see everything from a very realistic day-to-day, moment-to-moment point of view
Guns N' Roses was one of the last bands that could consistently sell out a stadium. You don't see that much anymore.
Yeah, I saw a special on VH1 the other night for a brief second. It was hair bands of the 80s on VH1. And I just laughed. But we were so not a part of that scene. We were a breakout band for the 80s because we were the only band like us around. I think that is what made us so popular. We hit a certain nerve that nobody else was really doing. When the 80s came and went, we were so out of the loop as far as trends go. I know there was that grunge thing from Seattle. We saw that stuff from afar. But it never really mattered to me or any of the other guys what anybody else was doing. We just listened to the music. We never cared about being in a popularity contest with anyone. We just did what we did good. It's not about being in a contest.
Do you miss Guns N' Roses?
No. We had a fucking great time. The Guns N' Roses days were a blast! But you can't recreate it after a certain point. The lineup in the band had depleted so much. I just realized I couldn't keep doing it anymore. So I just split while it was still cool. (Laughs) You know?
What's your opinion of Axl Rose?
I haven't talked to him since I quit. That puts that concept to rest.
There has to be more to the story than that.
No, its pretty simple. He was heading in one direction and I was heading in another.It was actually a slow progression from the days when we first made a record all the way up to the final record. When our last tour ended, he made it clear which way he wanted to go musically. I tried to hang on and stay with the band as long as I could, but there was definatly limitations. It just got to the point where we couldnt work together anymore.
How do you feel about Axl continuing to tour as Guns N' Roses?
Axl is making the call for whatever his 3 percent of the band is worth. He's making the call these days. My life was just miserable then. I couldn't deal with it. So I just left. So when he wanted to use the name Guns N' Roses I said sure, I didn't want anything to do with it.
Are you satisfied with whats being played on the radio these days?
They're pretty confused. Radio has never been good to us. I don't think we've ever been radio friendly. That goes for Snakepit and Guns... I don't think that some of the bands I listened to in the 70s and 80s have ever been radio-friendly. We just constantly toured and forced our way into everybody's face. Radio today is very typical. It's just whatever is the flavor of the month. Thats what is on the radio and thats what is on MTV.
What goes through your head when you turn on the radio and you hear Britney Spears?
I think of the days when it was New Kids on the Block and Tiffany. It was the same shit then. I've been through it. Everybody likes to single out these new pop and bubblegum bands. But it doesn't mean anything as far as trends go. It only means something if you're only 16. All those bands keep coming and going. What was that little blond chick's name?
Yeah! Nobody goes back and checks out her roots or Christina Aguilera's roots. That stuff has always been around. Right now there's a market for that stuff and I think thats cool. But its not necessarily what I listen to. There is always room for all kinds of different shuff. I just hate labeling shit.
How into the net are you?
Yeah, I got ya. I'm not really what you could call computer-savvy. But it came to my attention that there is a whole world of information that is coming through the internet. There was one individual who had a website just focusing on Guns N' Roses and Snakepit. At the time, I wasn't really that interested. But finally someone said check this out, and I found everything in the history of my career there. So i hooked up with them and even though I still don't have a computer now, it turned out to be my lifeline. That's really what has kept us all going.
What's your stand on Napster?
Napster is just one of those things that before it got attacked for what it was doing, I thought it was sort of cool. I've always been a bootleg fan. But at the same time, Napster is selling the entire catalog of stuff that hasnt been released. However, they got to be so successful for doing nothing, and I realized that somebody better put a cap on it before it turns into MTV and nobody gets paid. Napster became a big media event that nobody had control over. I mean, your lucky if you get any kind of royalties or publishing from MTV, and that's just an understood thing at this point. I question how that really happened. So Napster really needs to be controlled. I don't think it should be eliminated. But I think it should be controlled.
Be honest. Have you ever downloaded any music from Napster?
My girlfriend was on the computer the other night and she's way into it. She was showing me some Napster stuff and there's all kinds of really cool shit on there. There's Dave Grohl doing a Creed song that is just hilarious! "With legs wide open' I think it was? (Laughs) I mean there is some crazy stuff on there you wouldn't get anywhere else. It's just so easy. But like I said it still needs to have some sort of cap put on it. It needs to be controlled.
Did you ever see the movie "This is Spinal Tap"?
Yeah. Thats every tried-and-true rock band's worse nightmare. The older you get and the more you do this, the more significant that movie becomes. The funny thing about that movie is its so fucking accurate! There was one time during the stadium tour with Guns N' Roses where we had the worst show I think we ever had. We were in the dressing room before we went on, watching that whole movie before Axl was ready to go on stage. Then we went out there, and I'll tell you that I would never watch Spinal Tap before a show again... ever! I actually like those guys, I recorded on their last album.
Was there ever a moment during your time with Guns where you couldn't find the stage?
Yeah! Looking back, I know that it's funny and that you have to have a sense of humor about it. You just don't like it when its happening to you. We always joke about that movie!
There was a period of your life where you were addicted to heroin.
How did you kick it?
We all have vices that somehow get into our lives for some reason or another. Either through peers or influences, or even our own heroes that are into certain things. Anyway, it all depends on your upbringing. We all start for different reasons. I've had a lot of vices that I've been through and its all about choices. The AIDS thing is what got to me. At one point, heroin will either kill you or ruin your life. At some point it will. Trust me. That stuff us the demon drug right there. It's funny, all these years later, all us ex-dope addicts still love to talk about our fucking escapades.
Is it still a problem for you these days?
You know what, I've slipped a couple of times over the last ten years because I've run into the wrong person at the wrong time. I've ended up in a hospital a few times. And you know what, while I was in the hospital I thought, "It wasn't even a good high." So I'm really over it now. Its too much bother and too much of a pain in the ass. It's too non-productive. Especially if you're like somebody like me who has a lot going on. I have too much I want to do. You can't sit in that funky kind of place for too long a period of time and expect anything good to happen your way. You just get tired of it after a while. If it doesn't get tired of you first.
Did Joey Ramone's death have any impact on you?
For that last couple weeks, I'm just sitting around telling people, "Wow, what about Joey Ramone?" The last time I saw Joey, we were both guests on Drew Carrey's TV show. He is what I would call the perfect pop icon, because he doesn't take himself too seriously. He's just one of those guys. Joey Ramone is too punk rock what Jerry Garcia was to the whole free love thing.
If you were trapped in an elevator with Axl Rose, what do you think you would both say to each other?
We've been trapped in a room before and we really didn't have much to say to each other. But if it were to happen right now, I don't know what we would say. I would be pretty relaxed and just say, "hi" and just see what his reaction would be. Everything from there on would be up in the air. I don't know how it would go to be honest.
Sounds like a great Pay-Per-View event.
(Laughs) Right! My guess is the elevator would be very quiet. Then you would find us three or four hours later, sititng across from each other playing jacks.
Finally, Is it better to burn out or to fade away?
Um... I never actually got that one in the first place. I think it's better to burn out than fade away, though. Fade away or burn out? It depends on your timing. If you feel like burning out then go ahead. But fading away is something we really don't have any control over.
Transcribed by Dan