SLASH GUNS FOR BESTSELLER CHART:
November 29, 2007
TORONTO — When celebrities need to set the record straight, all many of them have to do is pick up the phone and call Larry King. In a little under 60 minutes, the affable talk-show host lets Hollywood’s tarnished have their mea culpa and everyone goes home happy.
But in one corner of his Yorkville hotel suite, where he has just arrived after having flown the red eye in from Los Angeles, legendary guitarist Slash figures he’d have needed about a week to explain himself. So he did the next best thing; he wrote his autobiography.
“It was the only format that I could find where I could get some of the facts straight about Guns N’ Roses,” he says, pointing out that the media is responsible for most of the misconceptions. “A lot of the stuff that’s been going around is just wrong, and people have been asking me a lot of stupid questions.
“I would never write an autobiography just to talk about myself,” he goes on. “That’s not my personality. But it got to this point where, because Velvet Revolver (the band he formed in 2002 with ex-Gunners (bassist) Duff McKagan and (drummer) Matt Sorum, Stone Temple Pilots vocalist, Scott Weiland, and veteran rhythm guitarist, Dave Kushner) is so high profile, and I’m doing so much press with them, I’m faced with having to deal with Guns N’ Roses stuff 20 per cent of the time.
“So I said, ‘Let’s do a book and I’ll get all this s— straight.'”
Detailing his mischievous youth, spent BMX-riding and thieving in Hollywood, Slash captures his younger self’s delight in spending hours learning the guitar.
“It shows where I come from, how I started playing guitar, the different types of bands I was in, but it’s probably only about half of what really happened,” he says, flashing a smile “It’s not the whole story, but it does explain the Guns N’ Roses thing and it’s clear cut. It’s my side of it.”
Reliving Guns’ lofty highs was a bittersweet experience, he concedes. “It’s flattering and it’s annoying,” he says, as a burst of light dribbles into the room, reflecting off his grey-tinted aviators. “It wouldn’t be annoying if the band was still together, but I quit Guns going on 12 years ago.
“I’m so much in the now that having to be forced to go back, and not necessarily dwell on the upside of things, but only the darker recesses of the history of the band, is tiring. It’s tedious. But at the same time,” he pauses, “the phenomenon that is Guns N’ Roses is bigger than any of us, and the way that that continues on is flattering and surreal.”
An L.A. bar band formed in 1985, the multi-platinum rockers achieved iconic status following the release of their debut disc, 1987’s “Appetite for Destruction,” going from opening for the Cult and Motley Crue to headlining their own shows in a few short months.
Typical rock-star behaviour ensued, and Slash doesn’t minimize his battle with drugs and alcohol, which ended in 2006. “It’s not that dark, it’s just who I am,” he says, sipping the first of two coffees he downs over the next 21 minutes. “So, to me it’s all laughable; even the darkest parts.”
Remarkably lucid throughout, he recounts the recording of “Appetite” and the group’s massive follow-ups, “Use Your Illusion I and II.” He even lets us in on an incident when he tried to get Axl Rose (the band’s frontman) to change the lyrics to “Paradise City.”
“I wanted him to sing, ‘Take me down to the Paradise City where the girls are fat and they’ve got big titties,'” he says.
Portraying himself as an artist that needs to stay busy, when the “Illusion” tour ends, he covers off the band’s last full-length record, “The Spaghetti Incident,” and their rendition of “Sympathy for the Devil” from 1994’s “Interview With the Vampire.”
But back in the studio to record what was supposed to be the band’s sixth studio album, the yet-to-be-released “Chinese Democracy,” the wheels come off. Endless contract wrangling and Axl’s non-appearances force Slash to quit.
“My own demise was something I could see coming if I hung in there,” he says, casting a glance around the room. “I can’t just hang out to just hang out. It’s very detrimental to me. We had so many really loose ends that we had no meeting of the minds on whether it was not having guitar players or Axl not singing. For long stretches, I’d have no idea where he was at. I haven’t heard him sing since the last tour.”
He continues, “It was a conflict of interests in terms of personalities between Axl and I that made us take the roads that we took.”
Recalling his decision to leave Guns N’ Roses on paper was hard, he says because he doesn’t like to dwell on the past. “It wasn’t cathartic; it wasn’t eye-opening; it was almost like writing some half-assed diary.”
And to this day, despite reports to the contrary, he hasn’t looked back. “I’ve never seen (Axl’s reincarnated Guns) live, and I’m not on the Internet checking out all the stuff that’s on there,” he says, referencing leaked tracks that found their way online last year.
He’s much more excited about being a part of Velvet Revolver.
“We came together and it was a natural thing that happened. Duff, Matt and I have a history and play well together. Dave Kushner came in and fit perfectly. But Scott was the guy that I thought could be a great singer for us. I didn’t see it happening, but when he left (Stone Temple Pilots) I really went out on a limb to try and get him over to see what we were doing.
“We did one live gig at the El Rey in L.A. (in 2003) and from the moment we got onstage everything clicked really naturally.”
As the days go by, he’s thinking about the amount of shows Velvet has left (they’re heading Down Under next month) and is already sketching ideas for their next album. “We’ve managed to put together a set that represents the band, and what we’ve done,” he says. “The Guns stuff that we play is more like an entertainment factor.”
He’s also planning a “Slash and Friends” album, though he won’t say who’s on it. “I’m talking to people,” he says stretching. “We’ll leave it at that.”
Which brings us to the ill-fated “Chinese Democracy” and whether it will ever see the light of day? “It will come out,” he says. “The ‘Chinese Democracy’ thing does not surprise me. But, I have to defend Axl. Whereas I’ll go out on a limb and I’ll put a band together, he has been faced with the daunting task of having to find and replace what was organically one of the best rock n’ roll bands ever.
“That’s not an easy job.”
“Slash” by Slash and Anthony Bozza is in stores now.
Courtesy of jam.canoe.ca