Re: Slash Interview - 'Rock Hard' Magazine 03/2000
Slash Interview - 'Rock Hard' Magazine 03/2000 (Germany)
Interview by Samuel Hill
When Guns N' Roses released their debut album 'Appetite For Destruction' in 1987, their raw rocksound from L.A., together with the spectacular liveshows en filty scandals made Axl Rose (v), Slash (g), Izzy Stradlin (g), Duff McKagan (b) and Steven Adler (d) superstars in one day. Their refreshing, solid, retrosound hit the right nerves of that time and made the road clear for other late-eighties 'rootrock'-bands like Skid Row and The Black Crowes. Their legendary party-lifestyle overrun the Gunners eventually, and almost every original bandmembers left the band in the beginning of the nineties or were thrown out of the band. These days - with the new live-album "Live Era '87 - '93" lying in stores - of the original band only frontman Axl Rose is left.
His former guitarist Slash, who would sink to the bottom if he had to give up on his sleazy rock n' roll for one year, went into the studio in July '99 with a new Snakepit line-up. Six months later, the second album "Ain't Life Grand" is finished and will be released by the end of February.
Slash, where did you find your new Snakepit line-up? And what happened to the old line-up?
"After the first Snakepit-album "It's Five O' Clock Somewhere", which I recorded in '95 with Jellyfish singer Eric Dover, Alice In Chains bassist Mike Inez and my GN'R colleagues Gilby Clarke and Matt Sorum, I wanted to book a tour. Mike however had enough to do with Alice In Chains, and Matt was legally bonded to GN'R. So I couldn't count on both of them. That made me searching for a new rhytmn-section (Tyketto/White Lion bassist James Lomenzo and Vinnie Moore drummer Brian Tichy, red.) and together we played 80 shows in four months on four continents.
This all happened in the brake between the end of the "Illusions"-tour and the proposed beginning of recordings for the next GN'R album. On the first Snakepit-record I used some ideas which were really planned for the next GN'R-record, but Axl and I disagreed on the future direction of the band. I played Axl a demo with some of my ideas for songs, and all he said was: "I don't feel like playing this kind of music." I answered: "But this could be a excellent Gunner-record, hundred percent in GN'R style." He didn't really care 'cause he only wanted to play industrial and Pearl Jam-sounding crap.
So I kept the songs for myself and went on the road with my friends to do the Snakepit-tour. Playing in small clubs and opening for bigger acts in stadiums gave me a lot of pleasure. When the moment came to return, I rather wanted to tour further with my Snakepit for a couple of months, but the record-company sort of held a gun to my head: "Slash, get off the stage, Axl wants to record the new album." When Axl and I got together, we still couldn't see eye to eye however, which made me decide to leave GN'R in October '96.
After that I wanted to put a new Snakepit together as soon as possible, this time with the right people, who would see the band as a fulltime-job. I teamed up with Teddy "Zig Zag" Andreadis, who played keyboards and harmonica with GN'R, and we met a couple other musicians who Teddy knew. That's how Johnny Griparic became our bassist. We worked with several rhytmn-guitarists, until we were introduced to Ryan Roxie through Alice Cooper. The search for a drummer was a same kind of long-lasting event, until I saw a guy named Matt Laug on certain night, while he was hitting the drumskins pretty impressive in the legendary jazzrock-club "Baked Potato" in northern Hollywood. I joined him on stage and jammed with him and things were settled. All we needed then was a singer. Johnny dragged the right guy in at one moment - Rod Jackson - and in July last year we locked ourselves up in the studio to record the basic-tracks of the new album".
In which 'sound-temples' have you recorded "Ain't Life Grand"?
"The bass- and drumtracks were recorded in the Ocean Way Studio in L.A., the rest was eventually recorded here in my house. For weeks we sat on the couch in my living room and worked on the songs. The entire band lived here and almost ate the hair from my head with their sickly urge for food. But we had a hell of a time, played pool billiards, listened to old Bob Marley records and watched Channel 80, one of those nasty pornchannels, which can be received via satellite. And when a song was ready to be recorded, we just walked down the stairs to the studio and pushed the record-button".
Is there a connection between your home-studio and the name of the band?
"Yes. In the house, in which I Iived during the recording-sessions of the first Snakepit-record, I had a huge snake-cage with a visitors-tunnel. That thing was equipped with huge sliding doors of glass and housed some pretty impressive 8 meters long pythons. Because my studio was situated right next to this snake-cage, we called it the Snakepit-studio. The band adopted the same name, because we were just too lazy to think of a new one. The house however was badly damaged after the heavy earthquake in January '94, so I had to look for a new home. When I saw my present 'shed' for the first time, it was full of mirror-walls, in one of the rooms one of those trashy seventies disco-balls was hanging on the ceiling, and in the bathroom heaps of underwear with women's names stitched in were laying around. No questions asked, because I still had to buy the palace and had to install the studio in it (laughs).
Now that the new record is finished, I'm gonna remove all of my equipment and gonna build things up again somewhere in an industrial zone. I learned my lesson regarding studios in your own home: they are very practical and easy, but it frequently messes up your interior. We had a few outrageous parties in here and numerous objects have disappeared. At one moment someone broke into my house as well, someone I know pretty well. Shit, I don't want that anymore! I'm gonna find a proper new housing for my snakes too, because they drive my mother crazy."
It is said you own 300 of those animals, is that true?
"300 not anymore, but I still have a lot of them. Through a door in my kitchen you can enter the snake-rooms. One is full of pythons, one houses the boa's and in an other room I've placed the iguanas. Besides that I have frogs and toads - about 20 - and in a fishtank I have a bunch of lizards and salamanders. I also had five piranhas once, but unfortunately they died during a unforeseen incident".
Besides exotic animals you have a love for pinball.
"Yeah! I started with pinball when I was 27 nevertheless. Hey, that means I never had a pinball-match before marriage (laughing). With Christmas we always visited my wife's parents in Chicago, and outside in the suburbs the temperature in winter is always about 15 degrees Celsius below zero. Besides that it's snowing all the time, so you get bored pretty fast. Therefore in Chicago there's a pinball-machine in every second home. It didn't take long before I too was standing in front of such a machine.
After one of my Chicago-trips I bought an Adams Family-pinball-machine for my mom, who turned me into a total pinball-maniac in no time. One machine became three, three became nine, nine became twelve. At a certain moment I created the GN'R pinball-machine, which resulted in a call from the guys of Sega. They wanted me to compose the music for their pinball-model "Viper". One of the "Viper"-tracks is on our new album: "Speed Parade" with these odd car-sounds".
Which music liberties, which are not possible in GN'R, are you enjoying with Snakepit?
"I can do whatever I want to, I only have to be at one with the members in my band. I would like to pretend, that I do a lot of experimenting, but probably my music always would sound the same without the input of my brothers-in-arms. I watch closely what the others are doing, so that I keep growing and maturing as a musician.
The difference with when I was in GN'R? Well, all bandmembers had wide scattered stylistic likings, but basically for every on of us, these leaded back to our musical roots, which lead us to be musicians. Izzy for example was into the Rolling Stones and Mott The Hoople, while Duff was totally into punkrock. Steven on the other hand loved Kiss and good popsongs. "When your feet tap and your hands clap to the rhytmn, it's all good" was his motto. I on the other hand am mainly influenced by boogie-guitarstuff and really hard riffs. And last but not least there was Axl with his piano-shit, the gospelsongs and a lot of Rose Tattoo, AC/DC and Nazareth. From these bands he
also had the rage in his vocals.
There were never any problems really about the stylistic direction of the band, untill Axl started disagreeing with the rest of us at one moment. It clearly became harder for us to be ourselves, as long as we were working together with him. Can you imagine how sick we were, suddenly having to play ballad-sets with songs like "Estranged", "November Rain", or "Don't Cry". Duff was the first of us who didn't feel like doing that anymore and the whole thing became an essential problem for the band, because we, accomplished musicians, needed to be changed just because of 'stylistic self-circumcision'. At a certain point it was just a war, because Axl didn't like anything anymore that came from us, the others".
GN'R just released the live-2CD "Live Era '87 - '93". How much influence did you have on the composition of this record?
"The original idea came of course from the record-company, who slowly starting panicking, since Axl hadn't give them any new material since the band fell apart. It was important for me to keep an eye on things, because when it comes to the classic GN'R lineup, I want to make sure it doesn't get turned into crap. The oldest recordings, which were used for the album, date from the time when only at a few shows we had the disposal of recording-trucks. Next to that we were able to use a couple of soundboard-recordings, for example the one from the Marquee in London, where we played four shows in a row. This was our first tour, and back than we really kicked major ass.
Referring to the planning of the album, we first had to figure out some kind of setlist, which would represent all of our standards. After that, instead of discussing every recording of a specific song,
I just said to the guys in the studio: "Hey, we need this and that track, just take them from any show you come across. It was important for me, that the album would present the band as honest and pure as possible. I've never heard our albums before after they were recorded and mixed, and when I went through this bunch of tapes this time, I realized how good we were back then'.
How are things going further now with Slash's Snakepit?
We're going back on the road. I can hardly wait to get the f**k out of L.A. There's nothing more interesting for me, than to arrange a tour after the final mixing of an album. And this time I also got a complete new band coming along. Besides Ryan, who has played numerous shows with Alice Cooper, none of the guys has been on the road for so long as we're gonna do right now. They don't know what to expect, and that makes the whole thing even more exciting. "Ain't Life Grand" will probably be released by the end of February (In Germany on March 13th - red.). After that we'll immediately hit the road. Let's see if I can manage again, constantly being on the road for two years".