“Khun Slash wants a coffee. Khun Slash wants a coffee,” chanted a hotel staff in a demonic trance as she parted the congregating reporters like the Red Sea. Khun Slash, of course, got his coffee in a heartbeat but later jokingly asked ”no whiskey?”, and his local minders suddenly seemed agitated to please.
Born Saul Hudson, Slash unknowingly commands such frantic reactions from those in his presence. his fancy pedigree as one of the top guitar players of all time, and the debauched rock n’ roll behaviour that followed him and his Guns N’ Roses bandmates from their early days, must have this tendency to tend to intimidate those he comes into contact with.
Rock stars, especially guitar gods, travel with reputations as well as lawsuits, but to expect Slash to come to an interview session hammered and tongue twisted would be a tabloid wet dream and a tad too much.
Still, it somehow lingered in the back of everyone’s mind that ill behaviour might appear and must be tolerated. so when Slash jovially walked into the interview room, saying hello to everyone with a bright smile in his signature shades, top hat and frizzy raven black hair, mental sighs of relief were almost audible.
His soft-spoken, boyish tone further soothed any anxieties away. Always appearing as a looming figure, smoking cigarettes and hiding under a mane of hair, Slash projected mighty height and power, but in person, he is not as tall as expected. Medium in height, Slash’s husky fame radiates warmth rather than fuzz. he injected touches of humour here and there, and no questions were off the table _ even the one concerning his famous top hat.
”It just became a thing. I just got it from a store one day. a five-finger discount. Are you familiar with that? I’ve always liked hats, and I saw this one hat. I thought it was cool, and it just became something I started wearing all the time. I didn’t plan on it being stable part of my image. I just felt comfortable with it. I was 19 or 20,” he said.
Born in London in 1965, and relocated to the US when he was 11, Slash has gotten rid of any trace of a British accent he may have had as a child. his nickname, Slash, came from a family friend who felt that the young Saul was always in a hurry. he first picked up a bass guitar to accompany a childhood friend Steve Adler, who later became GnR drummer, but later switched to guitar, and has never looked back since. his grandmother gave him his first guitar.
”It was a one string acoustic guitar. I wish I still had it. I don’t know where that went. I carried it around for a long time. How did I play it? you know, how I like riffs!” he said.
Slash dropped out of school to concentrate on music. he formed a couple of bands, and made his name in the local circuit. he joined Hollywood Rose, fronted by Axl Rose who later invited him and Adler to join GnR together with Duff McKagan and Izzy Stradlin in 1985. the band slowly built up a following around LA area, and even before snatched up by Geffen, GnR had made a name for themselves.
Appetite for Destruction came out in 1988 and sold 20 million copies worldwide. Sweet Child O’ mine became the band’s first number hit, and two decades later, it’s still a timeless classic together with many other materials from GnR. Slash’s riffs and solo in the track are hailed as indestructible-the kind of creation that guitarists can dream about for years on end and can never achieve.
”Obviously, [with] Sweet Child O’ mine, I didn’t it was a big deal at the time. I just thought it was an interesting riff. I had no idea it was gonna be as iconic as it became. so you just have these riffs, and you just think ‘oh, that sounds cool’,” said Slash.
In 1991, use your Illusion I and use your Illusion II came out, and GnR was unstoppable. even before the big time fame, GnR was credited as ”the Most dangerous Band in the World”, and the boys lived up to expectation to the fullest. Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, you name it.
The fans loved GnR to be bad, and they couldn’t have been happier to oblige.
It’s a common knowledge that Slash consumed a half a gallon of vodka everyday for ten years. the lifestyle finally caught up with him, and now he’s living with an internal defibrillator.
”I think it was alcohol poisoning. they told me I had eight days or weeks to live. so they put it in. But I miraculously reversed the condition, and they’re gonna take it out.”
The Spaghetti Incident, a cover album of ’70s glam rock, came out in 1993. things had always been rocky in GnR camp despite their continuing popularity. Members came and went. Slash finally called it quite in 1996. Axl Rose still tours as Guns N’ Roses with none of the original nor classic line up. There are still legal matters and public fueds to be settled until the present days. so when the million dollar question abound concerning the possible reunion, Slash was firm that there would be none of that.
”Do you feel like you’re the only person in this whole room who’s thinking about that question on this planet?” he said, not rudely. ”No.”
”It’s been, what, 15, 16 years. no one in the original Guns N Roses ever said ‘let’s try to put the band back together.’ Also, it’s all about Axl. the reason that everybody left was because in the back of his mind I think that’s the way he wanted it. so the reason why there’s no Guns N Roses was because of him. I’ve got nothing to do with it. I quit for the same reason that everybody did. so it’s really his problem,” added Slash.
After his sojourn with GnR, Slash went back to his side project Slash’s Snakepit. In 2004, he formed a supergroup Velvet Revolver with fellow GnR members McKagan and Matt Sorum (who replaced Adler in 1990). so far, Velvet Revolver has released two full albums. Slash’s self-titled first solo effort came out last year.
Asked if he felt any pressure for his first solo after many years on the pedestal, Slash was quick to respond. ”I don’t really think about it like that. I just try to put together decent music. I don’t feel a pressure as a guitar player. I’m not as good in studio as I am live, so in the studio I try to loosen up and feel comfortable. That’s the biggest challenge for me. But I don’t think about my status as a guitar player. I just think about what is it that I want to be able to accomplish.”
On every track, there’s a guest singer and guest musicians. Slash has solicited help from friends and people whom he admires. big names include Iggy Pop, Fergie, Lemmy and Dave Grohl among many others.
Slash said that he’d come up with music, and then thought who would best fit the songs, and contact them to write lyrics. the working process was strictly live and in person as the guitar god insisted. All his collaborators would have to get in the studio with him. But it’s a different story when he tours his solo. Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy handles all the vocal works.
”Myles sings everything. it has to be a blessing. when I did the record, there were so many singers. so when I [first] had to go on tours, it was impossible [for anyone] to do all the songs from the solo record, let alone Guns N’ Roses songs. I had Myles coming to sing on a record for the very last minute, and I’m just blown away by his versatility and capability. so I asked him to come on the tour. He’s just miraculous,” said Slash.
Speaking of miracle, many view Slash as one. as long as the media makes the ”best guitarist” list, Slash is most likely to appear on it at some point. In 2009, Time Magazine put him on number two of the ”best electric guitar players of all time”.
”All things considered, it’s very flattering. But I was thinking today that there’re so many fantastic guitar players and I sort of feel humbled by them. when people put me on top of the list, I think it’s really nice, but I don’t like to talk about it because I know that there are so many guitarists who are better than me and I’m working really hard to be as good as [they are],” he said.
”I’m not a technique guitarist. I admire technique guitar players because they know a lot of stuff that I don’t. But the thing that affects me most, that I strive for is emotional content and melodic content. I feel it when I’m playing, and you feel it as a listener. That’s what I strive for.”
And that’s exactly what the fans receive, and possibly the reason why people are drawn to Slash while other guitar heroes often get ignored or left dusting in the corner. Slash’s guitar playing might not be complicated, but the end result is driven by universal communication. a model to younger generation, Slash himself seems perplexed by modern days, but has readied himself to go with the flow, be it musical styles and new recording technology.
”There are not a lot of guitar players that I listen to right now. But you know, the generation after mine, you got people like Jerry Cantrell, Tom Morello, Kim Thayil and more. Those guys are great guitar players. Now guitarists are kinda hazy. There are a lot of shredders in a lot of different bands, but I can’t really tell them apart. In this new technological age that we’re in, on one hand it’s amazing how convenient everything is, and how fast you can do it. so many different things you can do with a touch of a button. But I have to say that from an audio point of view, the sounds start to suffer as a result,” he said, adding that he’ll have to turn to protool for his next album now that analogue is completely obsolete.
”What are you gonna do, I guess?” One thing for sure, he can keep on being Slash.