Slash says that the original Guns N’ Roses lineup “just stopped rocking”



By Steve Newton

Guns N’ Roses may well be the most popular hard-rock band in the world. It’s certainly one of the most controversial, having made headlines recently with the much-publicized inclusion of an uncredited Charles Manson song on its latest recording, The Spaghetti Incident?

There’s also singer Axl Rose’s penchant for starting riots by ending concerts way before his typically rowdy fans want him to. Add to that the group’s image as a bunch of foulmouthed, booze-addled punks and its predilection for mixing themes of sex and violence—as heard on tunes such as “Pretty Tied Up” and “Anything Goes”—and you’ve got a band with a lot to answer for when interview time comes around.

But when lead guitarist Slash calls from the frostbitten realm of Toronto, I pass up any muckraking queries about Axl-induced riots or psycho songwriters and get right to the important stuff.

What I want to know is why they call him Slash!

“Oh, I was in junior high when that started,” says the 28-year-old rock hero. “I must have been about 13, 14. Do you know who Seymour Cassel is? He’s an actor, and his son was my best friend—he’s still a close friend of mine. Anyway, his dad Seymour always used to call me Slash whenever I’d come over. It was an inside joke at one point, and then all of a sudden people were calling me Slash at school. And now my mom calls me Slash.”

In 1994, Slash’s sharp-sounding name is as widely recognized as that of other singularly titled gents like Sting, Prince, and Hammer. But unlike them, Slash is not a singer—although he did break down and share the mike with Rose on The Spaghetti Incident?’s version of T-Rex’s simplistic stomper from ’73, “Buick Mackane”.

“I won’t do it again if I can help it,” Slash says of his one foray into the singing spotlight. “I only did it that one time because Axl didn’t want to sing it. Beyond that, I’m not the singing type.”

Slash sure is the guitar-playing type, though. In the last few years, his riffs have found their way onto recordings by Iggy Pop, Michael Jackson, Lenny Kravitz, Paul Rodgers, Alice Cooper, and Bob Dylan, as well as a CD tribute to guitar pioneer Les Paul, which is fitting, since Slash is rarely seen on stage or video without his paws on a beautiful sunburst Les Paul guitar.

The other ingredients of the rocker’s Joe Perry–inspired look are a lean, bare chest and a mop of outta-control black hair leaking profusely from a tall black hat. And if you look close enough, you’ll probably find a half-guzzled bottle of Jack Daniels lying around nearby as well.

Slash seems to exemplify the freewheeling, anything-goes rock ’n’ roll lifestyle as epitomized by ’70s groups such as the New York Dolls, the Sex Pistols, the Dead Boys, and Iggy and the Stooges—all of whom the Gunners cover on The Spaghetti Incident?

“We didn’t think about who we were gonna cover on that,” says Slash. “It was just stuff off the top of our heads. Actually, the way the songs came up was, like, I went, ‘Well, I’d like to do this Fear song,’ you know, and ‘I want to do this Nazareth tune,’ so those were mine.

“And then Axl wanted to do the T-Rex song because it was my favourite T-Rex song, so we did it together. And then Duff wanted to do ‘Memory’, and Mike Monroe wanted to do ‘Ain’t It Fun’. So no one put a list of titles on the table. We didn’t really negotiate about the whole thing.”

Slash admits that The Spaghetti Incident? was mainly conceived as a quick fix to tide GN’R’s fans over until the band has completed the real sequel to its two Use Your Illusion releases, which have sold a whopping 27 million copies worldwide since their simultaneous release in September of ’91.

The band actually recorded one of the tracks from Illusion II, the provocative “Get in the Ring”, right here in Vancouver, but it didn’t ask either of the local big-shot producers—Bob Rock and Bruce Fairbairn—to get behind the console. Since Day One, the Guns have stuck with Mike Clink, and Slash doesn’t expect the band to change its ways.

“You have relationships with people that relate to what you’re all about,” he says, “and those initial people that you worked with when things were really tough—when no one else would give you a second listen—you’re loyal to them throughout your career.”

Guns N’ Roses’ incendiary rise to hard-rock supremacy started in 1985, when the band came together in Hollywood. Two years later, the group released its major-label debut, Appetite for Destruction, which spawned three top 10 singles, stayed on the Billboard chart for nearly three years, and, at last count, had sold more than 17 million copies worldwide.

Slash claims that he had “no fuckin’ idea” the band would scamper to the top of the rock heap so quickly, but says that his mind doesn’t boggle at the group’s astounding success.

“I don’t think anybody has the time to figure out whether it’s mind-boggling or not,” he says with a laugh. “There’s too much going on. And we’re just trying to keep on with being a band, regardless, so that takes a lot of work because there is a lot of outside pressure and a lot of distractions. It’s definitely more work now than it was when we started.”

One aspect of being a Guns N’ Roses member that certainly appears to require hours and hours of attention is the filming of the band’s epic videos for songs like “November Rain” and “Don’t Cry”. But Slash says the clips aren’t really as time-consuming as they appear to be, at least not for him.


“Those videos don’t have a lot to do with me, per se. I mean the playing on the songs that I do is serious, and then I just write my own part for my guitar solo. All the rest of it is Axl getting into the whole story and all that. So I’m not there for the whole thing. But even my own parts, I have to admit, are a bit of a pain in the ass.”

At this point in the conversation, Slash develops a hearty case of the hiccups, which he attempts to stifle with healthy swigs of vodka and cranberry juice. Strangely enough, the thirsty rocker isn’t nursing the trusty 26er of J.D. he’s noted for, which is what he offered this scribbler a sip of backstage at the Pacific Coliseum a number of years back.

At that warm-up gig for Iron Maiden, Rose previewed his riot-causing habit of stopping concerts when he threatened to walk off the stage unless the crowd took it upon itself to “make some fucking noise!”

“Well, he’s the lead singer,” says Slash with a chuckle, “so if he stops the show, there’s not a whole helluva lot for us to do. I mean, the last time he jumped off a stage was in St. Louis, and we played while he was out there in the crowd. Then when he came back, he walked off. That’s when we stopped playing.”

If the uppity Rose ever got furious enough to leave the concert stage for good, his bandmates would be hard-pressed to find a singer with the same intensity and gift for stirring up shit. The group has managed to overcome the departures of original drummer Steven Adler (who was fired in 1990) and original rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin (who quit in ’91), but Slash doesn’t take the band’s evolution lightly.

“I’m really close to the new guys,” he says in reference to drummer Matt Sorum and rhythm guitarist Gilby Clarke, “and we’re very tight. It’s a great lineup that we have, but I’m not gonna say anything against the lineup that we had before when it was rocking. It just stopped rocking.”

To hear the full audio of my interview with Slash from 1994 subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can also hear my conversations with:

Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, 2003
Pepper Keenan of Corrosion of Conformity, 2001
David Ellefson of Megadeth, 1992
David Lee Roth, 2003
Grant Walmsley of the Screaming Jets, 1991
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 2012
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1993
Fernando von Arb of Krokus, 1984
Gary Holt of Exodus, 1985
Scott Ian of Anthrax, 2012
Rudolf Schenker of Scorpions, 1992
Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, 2001
Jeff Keith of Tesla, 1988
Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton of Arc Angels, 1992
Marc Bonilla, 1992
Robert Randolph of the Family Band, 2003
Keith Strickland of the B-52s, 2008
David Johansen of the New York Dolls, 2005
Nathan Followill of Kings of Leon, 2003
Todd Kerns, 2016
Robbin Crosby of Ratt, 1989
Tommy Shannon of SRV & Double Trouble, 1998
Billy Duffy of the Cult, 1989
Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, 2006
Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, 2005
Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, 1992
Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
Jeff Healey, 1988
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Roy Buchanan, 1988
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joe Satriani, 1990
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1994
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, 1998
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers Band, 1992
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Mick Ronson, 1988
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Rob Hirst of Midnight Oil, 2001
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1985
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Roy Buchanan, 1986
Gary Moore, 1984
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
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Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
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Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001
…with hundreds more to come

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