Re: Guns N' Roses -"We Ain't Dead Yet" (Kerrang, 09/21/96)
GUNS N' ROSES -"We Ain't Dead Yet"
September 21st 1996
He's played 400 gigs around the world in last three years, he can't wait to start the next GUNS N' ROSES album - and he's amazed that he's lived to be 31. In the second part of our world exclusive interview, Slash tells Jason Arnopp how he survived a decade of drink, drugs and decadence...
LOS ANGELES. The midafternoon sun is furnace hot, and the ashtray on our table is overflowing with French cigarettes which have been smoked right down to their butts. Slash lights another Gitane, adjusts his sunglasses, orders another vodka and cranberry juice from the waiter in the freshly-ironed white shirt, fiddles with the peak of the baseball cap that's perched atop his head, and furrows his deeply-tanned brow.
He's sitting in the Sunset Marquis hotel's poolside cafÃ©, negotiating his way around his first Guns N' Roses interview for two years. He's already revealed that the band are finally writing new songs together, that he and singer Axl Rose are currently on civil terms, and that he'd really rather like them to make a 'simple, kick-ass hard rock record.
So far, so good. Except for the small matter of one Paul Huge, Rose's choice to replace Gilby Clarke and a guitarist who Slash insists he cannot, and will not, work with. So Guns N' Roses are still the reigning 'World's Most Dysfunctional Band', heavyweight division, and as such could fall apart in a spectuacular storm of vitriol and legal writs at any given minute.
But does anybody, anywhere still care any more? Since Guns N' Roses last released a proper, all- new record we've had a Nirvana grunge, Green Day punk, Terrorvision and Bitrock. Have they in fact, been away so long and cried wolf so many times that the world in general no longer remembers or cares?
Another cigarette. Another drink. Another furrow of the brow...
"I'VE NEVER cried wolf," says Slash. "Axl hasn't said anything, and Duff has been working his ass off on other things. It's only been other people saying we were going to do something. I always felt they should say nothing until the band says so.
"Have we left it too long? Nah. F**k, we came from nowhere in the first place. The first couple of shows will decide whether it's going to fly or not. That's it. I don't care so much about keeping up appearances; I care about the band going out there and gelling with the audience.
"See, it's not about wanting to sell 25 million records and being disappointed when you don't," he insists. "It's about puting out a record that we can stand behind, and performing our show. It's not like we have to re-conquer. I wasn't into that conquering concept in the first place."
But Axl Rose was, surely?
"I'm not speaking on his behalf," he shrugs. "But it was never my deal. I dig playing the songs, the immediacy of it, and making up the set as you go along.
"But we've disappeared before. They keep us alive in the press, while we're going through our personal traumas."
What sort of personal traumas?
"Relationships, home, just getting us all back into one room. F**kin' dealing with the whole public visibility thing. But I swear to God, it's nothing compared to how much you get when you play. It's a really small price.
"The more you hide from people, you turn into a recluse and you can't get off your f**king ass. If I don't play, I'll be a junkie in a hotel room somewhere. That's the honest reality."
Contrary to popular belief, Slash has been playing, all over the world. And not just with his Snakepit band. He estimates that he's done around 400 shows in the past three Guns-free years with "jazz musicians and horn players, and people like James Brown and Les Paul.
"I was actually chased after some TV guy who said all I do is sit around. You saw me here this afternoon relaxing out by the pool, but I had a nine-hour rehearsal yesterday. Tonight, I've got to go home, pack and get on a plane to Hungary. Don't ever f**king say I just sit around."
SOME THINGS you should know about Slash. He smiles a lot more than you'd expect. He's a Very Nice Man - which he says is down to having been "born into this business". He considers displaying your own gold and platinum discs as being "an insubstantial shrine to yourself". He says he's never listened to any Guns N' Roses records once it's been released. He still thinks of Axl Rose as a "family" and insists there's a "serious ongoing affinity" between the two of them. He is amusingly vague on details like when he last saw GN'R's original guitarist Izzy Stradlin' ("We went to an Alice Cooper show in Mexico. Then, I just didn't see him again..."), and he admits he can't hang out with his friend Gilby Clarke "because it might upset the others".
He regrets the bad blood that erupted between GN'R and Metallica in the wake of the infamously excessive US co-headline tour the two bands undertook in Â´93.
"It wasn't their fault. It was ours. The whole thing was so over the top, we didn't make a dime," he claims. "That's embarrissingly senseless. Everyone was trying to keep up with the Rolling Stones. I can see naked girls in a G-string for free - I don't have to pay 20 grand to have 600 of them coming over!"
Slash has no children - or so he believes - but he is married. He describes this as: "Enough in itself. I love my wife dearly, but it's hard for me to measure this all out. She's my first and only wife. If anything should ever happen in this marriage. I'll never get married again."
HE ALSO enthuses about the new material Guns N' Roses have been writing. Apperently, the band members are currently trading tapes amongst themselves. "It's amazing stuff," he says. "The songs are really good, and I have a good vibe about it. I wouldn't want to go out and do a bad Guns N' Roses record."
In terms of no-nonsense attitude, are we talking about the modern equivalent of the band's classic, 17-million-selling Â´87 debut, `Appetite For DestructionÂ´?
"Well, I think everyone's so pissed off and frustrated at this point that it's inevitable," he smiles. "It's gonna be an angry record, but that's what we were built on.
"We'll see where it goes. I haven't rehearsed with them, or even been in the same room with them, since before the Snakepit record came out (in Â´95)."
Isn't that scary? You're supposed to be a band.
"I know, but the only thing that really draws us together is once we get in synch as players. Then you get to that earthy, 'all for one, one for all' thing, where you start hanging out together.
"I don't care what Axl might say - this band was formed on the camaraderie between a little gang, against all odds."
But you're clearly not a gang now.
"Well, we have to re-establish that," he says. "We have to say, 'We're gonna do this, because nobody else is'. It's almost like starting over again. "Guns is like a family thing, but we've gone through so many changes - just going through the monstrosities of the business. Contracts, legal stuff, management... This whole huge conglomeration dealing with a stupid bunch of punk kids. It gets over the top."
FOR THE first time in more years than Slash probably cares to think about. Guns N' Roses have plan for the future. Naturally, it's liable to collapse at any stage.
"The plan," announces Slash, "is for Duff (McKagan, bass) and Matt (Sorum, drums) to take off their band, Neurotic Outsiders, for a while., leaving me and Axl to write stuff. If that spark gets rolling, then great. If it doesn't and we get into a fight, I'll just carry on playing gigs and jamming -with Snakepit or whatever.
"It's not complicated. At least, I don't see it that way. Axl and I could've done this sooner, if we'd just made a few compromises. But I guess that when bands get so big indecision becomes everything.
"There's no sense of, like, finite reality with Guns. It's just a matter of everybody coming together and the magic happens. I hate to sound silly about it, but I've found it's the same with a lot of the older bands I've got to know over the years. I talked to (Rolling Stones guitarist) Keith Richards, and he said he'd had more drastic but similar problems with Mick Jagger."
So that Guns N' Roses in 1996: an older, if not necessarily wiser, rock n' roll band.
"After being together for 12 years? Compared with Pearl Jam? Yeah, we're older," Slash chuckles. "But I'm happy about just be on the f**king planet. When I was 18, I never thought I'd be 31, like I am now."
Slash's fag packet is nearly empty, and our drinks are getting low. But are we any nearer to knowing where Guns N' Roses go next? Slash seems to think so.
"The records that Guns have left behind are great," he concludes, before heading off to meet a friend in the bar. "But we haven't blown our f**king wad yet."