A Few Minutes With Slash

From playing clubs on West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip in the 1980s to becoming one of rock’s premier guitarists, Slash has had an extraordinary career. His band credits include Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver as well as his early 90s group, Slash’s Snakepit.

And he’s also an author. His autobiography “Slash,” co-written by Anthony Bozza, was published in 2007.

Slash released his first true solo album, appropriately self-titled Slash, in April 2010. Featuring an all-star collection of guest vocalists including Ozzy Osbourne, Fergie, Iggy Pop, The Cult’sIan Astbury, Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, Chris Cornell, Rocco DeLuca, Dave Grohl, Alter Bridge’sMyles Kennedy, Kid Rock, Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, Duff McKagan, Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows and Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale, Slash not only shot up the charts but hit No. 1 on iTunes in 13 countries.

Then there was last summer’s Sunset Strip Music Festival when organizers honored him for his Los Angeles music legacy.

The guitarist is currently touring with Ozzy Osbourne and has assembled a band filled with top-flight rockers, including vocalist Kennedy along with Bobby Schneck on rhythm guitar, bassist Todd Kearns and drummer Brent Fitz.

He’ll also show up at the Sundance Film Festival this weekend to announce upcoming projects for his horror film production company called “Slasher Films” that he formed with Michael Williams and Rob Eric of Scout Productions.

While Slash’s list of achievements and accomplishments is certainly amazing, perhaps the only person that doesn’t seem impressed by all the success is the guitarist himself. Off stage, Slash possesses an amazingly down-to-earth, regular-guy personality whose first and most passionate love is the guitar.

Pollstar recently spoke with Slash, catching up with him in Los Angeles one day before he left for Omaha and the Ozzy Osbourne tour. He talked about his life’s passion, choosing artists to guest on his album and the fans lobbying for a statue honoring him in the town of his birth as well as one of the rare moments he had to audition for a band.

Photo: David Robert
Grand Sierra Resort, Reno, Nev.

What can we expect on your tour with Ozzy?

It’s going to be a pretty kick-ass show coming from us. We’ve been putting the basic songs together this past week. It’s a great band. We’ve gotten experience from the last 11 months of touring where we started out good and got better. And Ozzy is just Ozzy. He’s fantastic. It’s a great rock ‘n’ bill, the likes of which you don’t see that often these days.

Any chance you’ll do something with Ozzy?

Right now it’s just the set. It’s hard to say what we’ll end up doing down the pike. I’ve talked to Ozzy about doing a song we did on the album, so we’ll see what happens.

It seems as if almost every band you’ve been in was formed between you and some friends. Have you ever had to audition for a band?

This [current band] is different. I didn’t form this band like, ‘Hey guys…’ This was very professional. I didn’t know Myles or Brent. But it turned out to have an amazing chemistry.

Did I ever audition? I auditioned for Poison way back in the day. When Matt (Smith) left the band, he suggested I audition. I was fooling around then, trying to figure out what I would do next. Poison was never my cup of tea, but at the same time, being sort of an opportunist, I thought maybe I should check it out. Another step on the rung, you know?

Anyway, I went down there and it was an interesting kind of affair. I played the shit out of the stuff, but I wouldn’t conform to the fashion standards. And C.C. [DeVille] came in when I was walking out one day, and I said, “That’s the guy for that band.”

A lot of musicians talk about being in “the moment” when playing on stage – those instances where you’re truly one with the music and can do no wrong. What’s a bigger rush? Experiencing those moments or walking off the stage after the performance knowing you nailed it?

I think the thing that keeps you doing it, especially someone like me who’s been doing it pretty extensively for such a long time because I love it as much now if not more so than I did when I first started, is it’s gotta be the high of having those moments on stage that are eclipsing everything else. And that couples with the feeling of having done a great gig in general. It’s what fuels the desire to keep doing it.

I’ve never been motivated by money, and the money’s great when you make it, but it’s never been a motivating factor for me, thank God. It’s really about that sort of passion and that’s what makes me fuckin’ keep at it, hell or high water.

How about when you’re alone, say at home or in a hotel room? Do you still find joy playing to entertain yourself?

I fuckin’ enjoy just being in a room with a guitar.

Photo: AP Photo
Revolver Golden Gods Awards, Los Angeles, Calif.

What do you play during those moments alone?

I just do whatever. I spend a lot of time playing in my room, on the bus, at home or whatever. I don’t really know what I do, it just sort of comes. And sometimes it doesn’t come. Sometimes you just pick up the guitar and noodle around with it. But I find you discover a lot more interesting things the more time you have the guitar in your hands than when you don’t. I just pick it up and go pretty much off-the-cuff.

Sometimes I’ll have ideas in my head when I don’t have a guitar and I’ll pick up a guitar as soon as I can get to it and start trying those things out. And that always turns one idea into something else. It’s an adventure.

So the guitar is your first and greatest love?

Yeah. You know, people ask me, “What are your hobbies?” I have things I like or interest me but I don’t escape music to go do something else. I’m pretty much the guitarist 24/7. The only time I do anything else is when, for the time being, there’s nothing having to do with music going on. But that’s pretty rare.

Shifting gears, how’s the search for a new Velvet Revolver singer going?

It was going great. It’s hard to say. It’s going one way or another until you make a decision and it’s done.

There were reports that you and the band had narrowed it down but you weren’t ready to announce anything.

There’s definitely somebody who’s [a candidate.] I’m about to take off on the road, so it’s on the burner at the moment.

Photo: Rod Tanaka
Performance at Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium.

What’s your take on the fans petitioning to have statues of you and Lemmy erected in Stoke-On-Trent?

Yeah, I did hear about that. It’s a small town in England where I was born and Lemmy is from. Also Robbie Williams. I don’t know why they don’t erect a statue to him. But I guess we’re the most famous rock personalities to come out of Stoke-On-Trent and they want to bestow upon us statues in our honor. I don’t know where it came from. It’s only hearsay, but it’s very flattering. I don’t know what to say. I appreciate the fact that the folks in Stoke feel that much love for us. That’s really cool.

And I have great memories of living in Stoke and I’m dying to go there. I think I’m going to hit there this summer. I’ve never played there. It’s such a small town. It would be great to go and play there this summer when I’m doing the U.K. tour. I have family there. But when you’re talking about statues I get very, very humble.

You’ve played with so many people on other people’s albums as well as your own recordings. Who stands out in your memories as perhaps the best singers or musicians?

I’ve had some great experiences with different artists. When you start saying who’s the best at this, it sort of defeats the purpose of what, I think, music, creativity and the arts are. It’s not really about that. It’s about great musical moments. Ray Charles was an amazing musician. It was a huge honor to work with him and have him sort of take me under his wing. But it was also working with Iggy Pop, who’s a completely different side of the spectrum. These are really fantastic people and writers who are inspiring. In other words, I could say there are a lot of great people I’ve worked with, but I’m not saying anyone of them was the best at anything.

But most of the people I’ve had the chance to work with have been great. Michael Jackson was great. [So was] Bob Dylan, although the session didn’t turn out the way I wanted it or how I thought it was going to turn out. I didn’t even know what to expect. I was a lot younger then and I understand the way I went into that session with all guns blazing with Dylan. But it was an honor to work with him and George Harrison that day. More recently, working with the likes of Ozzy, Lemmy and Fergie, it’s all good.

How did the guest list for your solo album come together?

I wrote a bunch of material. I casually wrote music that was more or less for me, not really for Velvet Revolver or for any particular session. It was just stuff I was writing.

When I decided I wanted to pursue this idea of having people guesting on my record as opposed to me guesting on theirs, I started matching up different singer ideas to the material. So the material sort of inspired who I thought should sing on any given song. That’s how I made the decisions.

So nobody approached you, asking to be on the album? No manager or label exec pitched an artist to you?

It was totally artist-to-artist. There were no record companies or managers involved. I would have a song that I thought so-and-so would sound good on. So I would call them up and at least send them a demo.

When you called other artists directly, did anyone react as if they thought someone might have been pulling their leg – that it really can’t be Slash on the phone?

A lot of the people on the record I already knew or had met at one point. But there were a couple of artists that I hadn’t met before. I’m a very laid-back, down-to-earth person anyway, so when I reached out to them, they were like, “Hey…” (laughs). I’m not sure what their internal reaction was, but we got on great.

Is there someone you’d love to play with but it just hasn’t happened yet?

I don’t ever have that kind of forethought. I’ve had really cool pairings that were circumstantial or maybe they needed a guitar for something. But there’s never been “ I want to work with so-and-so. How do I get in touch with them?”

But there are a lot of artists I haven’t played with that would be great.

Do you still find time to check out an unknown band at a local club?

I do every so often go to clubs in Los Angeles. It’s just that it’s a dead scene in Los Angeles, I sadly admit. The rock scene in the States is pretty dead. In Europe it’s pretty lively.

You’ve been doing a lot of press lately. After you finish an interview, do you ever find yourself saying, “I wished they asked me about this. I really wanted to talk about that?”

I can’t think of anything. For the most part, I’m one of those people who just answers the questions. I’m not outspoken, so I don’t have a lot of things I want to say to people. Everything I wanted to get out is in the book.

Photo: Andrew Markowitz
Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa / Music Box, Atlantic City, N.J.

Slash’s next performance on the Ozzy Osbourne tour is Jan. 22 in Kansas City at the Spring Center. Other appearances with Ozzy include San Antonio at AT&T Center Jan. 24; Phoenix at Comerica Theatre Jan. 26 and Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay Events Center Jan. 28.

Slash and his band also have a few non-Ozzy shows coming up – El Paso at the Speaking Rock Entertainment Center Jan. 25; Salt Lake City at The Depot Jan. 29; Grand Ronde, Ore., at the Spirit Mountain Casino Feb. 4; Chicago at House Of Blues Feb. 13 and Charlotte, N.C., at Fillmore Charlotte Feb. 17. For more information about Slash, click here for the guitarist’s website.