Hitfix Interview: Slash: guitar god and budding movie mogul
If Slash never picked up his guitar again, he’d already go down in history as one of the most inventive electric guitarists in rock history. Time Magazine put him at No. 2 on its 2009 list of the 10 Best Electric Guitar Players of All Time, behind only Jimi Hendrix and in front of such guitar gods as B.B. King, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page.
As part of Guns N’ Roses, Slash is responsible for sales of more than 100 million albums worldwide and that great, instantly recognizable lick that opens “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and many more.
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After GNR imploded, Slash and his fellow bandmates Matt Sorum and Duff McKagan formed Velvet Revolver, eventually bringing in Stone Temple Pilot’s Scott Weiland as lead vocalist. The group has released two studio albums, “Contraband” and “Libertad.” Weiland left in 2008.
With Velvet Revolver on hiatus, Slash went to work on his first solo album, “Slash,” though he hardly went it alone. The set, which debuted at No. 3 on The Billboard 200 album chart last year, featured vocal collaborations with Ozzy Osbourne, Fergie, Iggy Pop, Dave Grohl, Maroon5’s Adam Levine and many more.
More than anything, Slash likes to play guitar. He’s played on records for everyone from Bob Dylan and Michael Jackson to Rihanna and the Insane Clown Posse.
On Jan. 16, Slash started a five-week tour opening for Osbourne, but he’ll take a night off from that outing to pop into the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 23. Hitfix talked to the very genial Slash about Sundance, his next solo record, the update on Velvet Revolver, his first meeting with Lemmy and why he’ll never do a reality show.
You’re headed to Sundance Film Festival this week. Does this have to do with your new film production company?
We’re announcing the production company and the first film that we’re doing.
I’m a life-long horror movie fan and horror movie critic and from the generation that really appreciates the great horror movies before we got into what we developed in the ‘90s and now—a low-grade genre where the sensationalism aspect of blood and guts has become the forefront of why people go to the fucking movies. I hooked up with a guy from Scout Prods. We had a conversation one night and he provided me with an outlet through his company to do some horror movies. We call it Slasher Films. After a year, we got the first great script. Now that we are up and running, we’re going to make a big press conference [at] Sundance. The first movie goes into production in March.
There’s a movement in Stoke-on-Trent, England, where you were raised as a young boy, to erect a statue of you and Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister. Thoughts?
It’s very flattering and sort of an honor that the folks in Stoke are trying to get that to happen and have Lemmy and [me] memorialized. I haven’t been back since I was a kid...it’s such an obscure little place. I’ve driven on a tour bus that passed it or a train, but never stopped and gone back. I’m going to go this summer anyway, they have a venue we can play now.
Speaking of Lemmy, you appear in the new documentary “Lemmy” and he is on your album, “Slash.” What’s his significance to you?
I think really when it comes down to it, it starts off with Motorhead for me. I loved the attitude, his voice and his whole demeanor. I saw Motorhead open for Ozzy in the early ‘80s when Randy [Rhoads] was still around. I was at Long Beach (Calif.) Arena. The show starts, out comes this band, the loudest, most static, hard core... it’s past obnoxious, with Lemmy just standing there, screaming at the mic and I went “wow” and it stuck with me to this day.
I first encountered him at [Los Angeles club] The Rainbow. I went to the bathroom and I came back and he was sitting with my girlfriend chatting her up [laughs]. He eventually left. She said, “Why did you let him pick up on me?” I was like,“That was Lemmy!”
The next time we met was in 1986. Guns N’ Roses was in London doing some gigs at the Marquee before the [first] album came out and someone asked if we wanted to go over to the Motorhead session. At the point we were going to be introduced to Lemmy, he didn’t know who the fuck I was. We went to the studio and met these really scruffy, polite English gentlemen. All things considered, not what the image portrayed, but well mannered and well behaved and we just hit it off. Lemmy and I went out clubbing that night. He’s just an entity unto himself, he’s a very astute, well read, intelligent kind of guy.
I moderated a panel when I was at Billboard that featured Lemmy. His one request— for the 10 a.m. panel— was that needed two Jack Daniels and Cokes waiting for him.
When we used to be meeting with [non-musicians], we’d each have a bottle of Jack in the middle of all these suits and now that I’m not drinking anymore that’s one thing I miss [laughs].
You are on tour with Ozzy Osbourne for the next month. What’s your relationship with him like?
Ozzy is a hero of mine. He’s sort of like the maverick heavy metal guy from back in the day. He’s been surviving in this business all this time and keeping himself above water. i just think it’s a great bill. It’s nice to be working in the company of people you’re friends with. I know all his people and Sharon [Osbourne], and the crew knows each other. It’s just a good copacetic kind of pairing.
Myles Kennedy is the vocalist on your tour. I first became aware of him from Alter Bridge. How did you get to know him?
When I did my solo record, I had a very focused list of people who were singing on particular songs. I used the music to tell me which person should sing on any particular song. I had two songs [with] no ideas who the vocalists would be. I kept procrastinating. By the time I finished, I still had two fucking song with no idea of who would sing them. All of a sudden Myles Kennedy popped into my head. I didn’t know him. All I knew was the guys in Velvet Revolver like him and Jimmy Page was aware of him. It was a shot in the dark. I sent him the songs and he sent back demos with vocals and that was it... [Later], I was getting ready to go on the road and I was auditioning singers and then asked him if he’d be available and he said yes. He’s just so fucking phenomenal.
You’ve said he’ll be the sole vocalist for your next album. Will that still be under Slash or are you forming a group?
I don’t know. It’s a little early to say right now. I’m going to play him some demos [on the road].
“Slash” came out on your own Dik Hayd label. What are the pluses and minuses of running your own record company?
You own your own shit; the expense of making the record is obviously your own. You have to get funds together for the marketing and getting the team in place to handle it is an epic job, getting the music in people’s hands. I don’t mind doing it, but it is a task. The way I did it was I went to different distributors and that’s who put the record out. We made arrangements to do it here [through EMI] and Europe. We had a different person in Australia and Japan. I made myself available to do all the press.
You’d always been in a band. How did it feel to be solo?
Making the solo record was very liberating for me. As much as I like being in band, being in a band can have restrictions.
You remain in Velvet Revolver. What’s the update there?
We’ve been auditioning singers. We haven’t etched anything in stone. I had to get away from it after [former lead singer] Scott [Weiland]. That was a very tedious last year with Scott.We auditioned singers, but no one turned up that would really make the grade. At that point, I took off and scored a movie and started a new record. We’ve been auditioning singers again.
I don’t know when we’re going back into the studio. I couldn’t tell you if [my new] record with Myles will happen first.
I was watching the video of you and Myles for “Back From Cali” and you look so happy on stage. What pleasure do you get out of playing live now that you didn’t used to?
The years with Velvet, there was some cool stuff that happened. It was very hard at the end, not just because of Scott. There were issues with management, everyone ended up falling off the wagon, we went on the road and lost touch with Scott.
When I went and did [my solo] thing, I just went and got a bunch of guys who just want to go out and play. They’re dying to go out and play. There’s no excess bullshit, there’s no unnecessary stuff to navigate. Being on the road is hard enough as it is. You don’t need to bring excess baggage to it. There’s two hours that you get to go out and jam and it shouldn’t be more complicated than that.
Your GNR and Velvet Revolver band mate Duff McCagan is on a reality show, “Married To Rock,” with his wife, Susan. Any plans to do a reality show yourself?
When that particular show started off, my wife was involved with it. I’m not a fan of reality shows, to say the least. However it worked. There are certain formats that reality shows have—it’s very predictable and scripted and people seem to love it. We ended up not getting involved. I know [“Married to Rock” is] courting my wife to do something. As long as I’m not involved, it’s all good.