Slash Speaks, Part I: “Music Is What I Do”
Los Angeles, 2004.
The interview is set for 2:00 PM. At a quarter ’til, Slash saunters through the management office’s front door, all black hat, cascading curls, and leather jacket. The receptionist raises her eyes from a computer monitor and is momentarily stuck to her chair. She fights through the awe and approaches. Her hand is extended in tremulous fashion but Slash ignores the shake and encloses her in a friendly embrace. He even apologizes for being late when he’s 15 minutes early. This is who Slash is.
Twenty years ago, back in ’87, when Slash recorded Guns N’ Roses’ debut, Appetite for Destruction, he set in motion the ritual beheading of the ’80s metal hair bands and almost single-handedly brought about the Renaissance of the Les Paul. With Velvet Revolver, he has synthesized the electric blues and R&B raunchiness of the Stones and Aerosmith. From the first Guns N’ Roses recording to the latest Velvet Revolver CD, peppered with legendary session work and gritty solo albums, he has created an incredible body of work.
Guns N’ Roses sold over 90 million records and Velvet Revolver’s first album, Contraband, debuted at No. 1. In 2007, Libertad, the follow-up, pulsed with the same organic thump that informed the early GN’R records but with a swirl of something modern. If Appetite for Destruction signaled the end of that ’80s style of metal guitar playing, then Libertad could very well be the bridge that modern, neo-hard rock/metal guitarists might walk over. But that is not something he would ever say.
When Slash talks about the footprints he will leave behind, or, more accurately, the handprints, he’s almost at a loss for words. He is the epitome of rock and roll humility: He is proud of his work but sees it as little more than a means to an end—the ability to continue cranking up an electric guitar and being paid to do so.
To this day, Slash is one of the relatively few who have truly made the transition from guitar player to guitar hero. It is a rare metamorphosis, and with it comes perks—fat bank accounts and hot stripper girlfriends. Through it all, though, one thing for Slash has stayed constant: His love for the guitar. He loves playing them and talking about them, and when it is time for the interview, that’s exactly what he does.
Slash sits across the table, and pulls a smoke out of the pack in front of him. He strikes a match. As he is about to light it, he looks across the table. He raises his eyebrows in a gesture intimating, “Is it cool if I smoke?” Then, reluctantly, he tries to do the impossible, to put all that music into words.
Slash Speaks, Part I: “Music Is What I Do” (Explicit Language)