Slash Talks Guns N’ Roses’ Future, New Album ‘Apocalyptic Love,’ and More
On April 14, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame held their 27th annual Induction Ceremony. Despite the sell-out crowd of 7,400, the mood was iffy from the get-go.
Adam “MCA” Yauch, one of the three members of inductees the Beastie Boys, was too ill to attend. He died just three weeks later. But stealing the front-page headlines was Axl Rose: Just days prior to the event, Guns N’ Roses’ fiery frontman sent a bizarre letter to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame refusing his induction, and accusing his former band mates of “a seemingly endless amount of revisionism and fantasies.”
For the band’s former guitarist, Slash, this latest stunt closed the book on a Guns N’ Roses reunion once and for all.
“That last Rock and Roll Hall of Fame thing was it,” says Slash in an interview with The Daily Beast. “I’ve been entertaining the idea for other people for years, but it’s never been my inclination to get back together. Given the opportunity for us all to show up in one place, that was the only reasonable platform for us to do it, and it didn’t happen. I’m really sick to death of even entertaining the concept.”
Slash ended his tenure with Guns N’ Roses in 1996 amid escalating tension between himself and Rose.
“When Axl took over the name and the partnership, which we sort of allowed to happen, I decided not to continue on,” he says matter-of-factly.
On the surface, not a whole lot has changed with Slash. At 46, the man considered by Time to be No. 2 Greatest Electric-Guitar Player ever still sports his signature obscured look: hat resting atop long, black curls, shades, nose ring, and crotch-suffocating jeans, his relaxed monotone oozing rock legend insouciance.
Since his departure from Guns N’ Roses, Slash formed the supergroup Velvet Revolver in 2002 with singer Scott Weiland. When the band went on indefinite hiatus in 2008—rumored to be because of Weiland’s diva-like antics—Slash decided to go solo, releasing his eponymous self-titled debut in 2010. Slash featured an all-star cast of vocalists, including Ozzy Osbourne, Adam Levine, and Fergie, and received positive reviews. His sophomore solo album, Apocalyptic Love, isn’t an experimental LP, but a full-fledged collaboration between Slash and singer Myles Kennedy, formerly of Alter Bridge. And yes, there are killer guitar riffs aplenty.
“The title’s a tongue-in-cheek joke about what you’d want to be doing on the eve of the apocalypse, so it’s basically ‘sex before the end of humanity,’” says Slash with a chuckle. “All things considered, I would imagine that you’d want to get one last one in before it all came down.”
Born Saul Hudson in Hampstead, London, his mother was an African-American costume designer who once dated David Bowie, and his father, who was white, designed album art for musicians like Joni Mitchell. When he was five, the family settled in Los Angeles. His childhood friend, Steven Adler, used to crank his amp up and jam along to Kiss’s Alive II, and pretty soon the two decided they should start a band—with Slash on bass guitar.
“I went to a local music school and said, ‘Okay, I want to learn how to play bass,’” recalls Slash. “The teacher had a guitar while he was talking to me and he played a Cream solo, and I said, ‘That’s what I want to do!’ And it turned out to be lead guitar.”
He soon received the nickname ‘Slash’ from actor Seymour Cassel, who was his best friend’s father.
“I was about 15 or 16 years old and I’d always be running around putting different bands together, so he always saw me in passing and started calling me ‘Slash.’ It’s a nickname that stuck with all my friends,” he says.
After forming the band Road Crew, with Adler and bassist Duff McKagan, and then joining Hollywood Rose, which featured singer Axl Rose and guitarist Izzy Stradlin, Slash unsuccessfully auditioned for Poison. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because in 1985, Slash joined Rose and Stradlin in Guns N’ Roses, with McKagan and Adler rounding out the group. Around this time, Slash established his iconic look: Top hat and shades.
“None of it was pre-planned,” he says with a laugh. “The hat I picked up in ’85 because I just thought it looked cool. It was something I felt comfortable on stage with and could hide behind it. And I adopted sunglasses because I’m not a fan of the bright lights.”
Guns N’ Roses played L.A. nightclubs like Whisky a Go Go and The Roxy for nearly two years before releasing their debut album, Appetite For Destruction, in 1987. Featuring the hit songs “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” and “Paradise City,” the album went on to sell 18 million copies in the U.S. alone—making it the best-selling debut album in the U.S.
Thanks to their hard-partying, hell-raising reputation, Guns N’ Roses was branded the “Most Dangerous Band in the World,” and several of the band’s members—Slash included—developed addictions to heroin.
“The ‘80s for me, I didn’t feel that strongly about what that represented,” says Slash. “A lot of it was very transparent to me—musically and stylistically. But that was when my time was, so I think Guns N’ Roses was very much the antithesis of that particular scene, which is what made us so cool.” He adds, “We took all the stuff we’d heard about from other bands before us, and we took it to eleven.”
After releasing four more studio albums, culminating with the low-selling 1993 cover album The Spaghetti Incident?, Slash officially parted ways with the band in October 1996. He was followed out the door by Adler’s replacement on drums, Matt Sorum—who was fired by Rose—and bassist Duff McKagan, who quit in 1997. While Slash returned to prominence with Velvet Revolver, Rose would take 13 years to produce Chinese Democracy, the first album under the Guns N’ Roses name since The Spaghetti Incident? With production costs totaling close to $14 million, it remains the most expensive album to be produced in history, and sold less than one million albums in the U.S. By contrast, Velvet Revolver’s 2004 debut, Contraband, sold close to three million copies stateside.
Prior to creating Velvet Revolver, Slash was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy in 2001—a form of congestive heart failure caused by years of substance abuse, and was originally given just six weeks to live.
“The prognosis wasn’t good but I was able to rehab and get myself back together,” he says. “It was pretty close there, for a second.”
Slash is a lot happier these days. He’s been sober since 2006, and has two young sons with his wife, Perla, who he’s been married to since 2001. A huge film buff, Slash formed the horror movie production company Slasher Films in 2010, and their first movie, Nothing to Fear, stars Anne Heche and will be released next year. While many of his favorite movies are of the horror variety—including Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, and The Exorcist—he “thought Bridesmaids was great!” and though he laments “the lack of rock n’ roll guitar players these days,” he still thinks, “Jack White, who’s very current, is awesome.” Meanwhile, he’s having a ball on tour with his new band mates, dubbed Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators.
“This lineup of people has been a hassle-free, fun endeavor,” he says.” These guys just want to play.” He pauses. “There’s no unnecessary baggage.”