Legendary guitarist Slash rolls into Dublin town with The Conspirators on 10th November, stopping at 3Arena. Ahead of the first gig of his European tour, Philip Cummins spoke to Slash about his record label, life on the road, his empathy for frontmen, and Guns N’ Roses’ epic, 1992 gig at Slane Castle.
Words by Phil Cummins
Speaking with Slash is exactly what you’d expect when speaking with a Californian guitar hero born out of 1980’s hard rock. Pregnant pauses, a laid- back in tone, and the occasional chuckle all feature in our conversation, during which I elect to avoid all questions of a Gun N’ Roses reunion with Axl Rose, which have been asked of Slash, time and again, and to which the same answer has been given, time and time again. Interestingly, Rose and other members of Guns N’ Roses are never referred to by name and he is, understandably, reluctant to talk about Guns N’ Roses’ past.
Instead, I open by asking about the release of World On Fire, Slash’s latest record with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, which was released on Slash’s very own Dik Hayd International. How does released work independently compare with being on major, as Slash was with Gun N’ Roses during Geffen’s best years.
“Well, World On Fire is now our third record that we’ve released through my label. It’s empowering, for sure and, certainly, you do have more control. It’s a different game, now. I think the only artists who you would expect to sign to majors, now, and the artists that majors would be interested in are rap and Top 40. The industry, now, for guitar bands is pretty much dependent on live.”
That the industry is so dependent on live shows and bands are playing more shows on the road than ever before, I ask Slash if this puts increased pressure on artists like Slash who, previously, have fallen into the age- old traps of life on the road: drink and drugs, namely. Unexpectedly, I’m met with a wall of silence, even more so when I ask if the guitarist had a “waking up” moment since abstaining from alcohol and narcotics in 2005.
In an effort to stay on the same line of questioning and, at the same time, open up the conversation, I ask Slash about some of the frontmen with whom he has played and who have, clearly, buckled under the pressure of the limelight; notably, Guns N’ Roses’ Axl Rose and Velvet Revolver’s Scott Weiland. I wonder does he feel any empathy- or sympathy, even- for frontmen like Rose and Weiland who, clearly, have been burned by fame and the pressure of fronting such huge bands.
“Absolutely, I do. I mean...it’s scary as shit to get up there and sing in front of so many people, like the crowds that we’ve played and...it’s something that I couldn’t ever imagine doing myself. So I have empathy, sure. Sympathy? I don’t really know. I think it’s a good gig if you can it. I’m lucky in the sense that I can hide around the stage and I don’t always have to be in view. I always just loved playing.”
I ask him about his new band and Bostonian frontman Myles Kennedy who seems to more professional, more reliable and with less baggage and ego than the aforementioned Rose and Weiland. All that said, I still get the feeling that as harmonious and professional as his partnership with Kennedy seems to be that the legendary guitarist is just as happy on his own as he is in the company of a band.
“I am, y’know, I just find it easier just to play around with ideas on my own. I record any ideas that I’ve got on my phone. After that, it’s just a matter of taking it to the guys and jamming out the arrangements for the song. It all happens very, very fast and it a way that I like to work. The guys are great to work with.”
For such a solitary player, playing during Guns N’ Roses’ heyday, at a time when the band’s notoriously excessive tours led to the band imploding more times than anyone can count, must have been difficult and disillusioning. I ask Slash what fond memories, if any, he has of Guns N’ Roses’ epic 1992 gig at Slane Castle, still one of the most remarkable headline shows at the Meath venue and one that is still spoken of in mythic undertones amongst live music fans of a certain age in Ireland.
“Y’know I definitely remember that show at Slane because of where it was and because of the size of it; I think it was definitely one of the bigger shows on that tour that we did. I just remember it being a great show. A lot of stuff happened on that particular tour [the 1991 - 1993 Use Your Illusion Tour, on which Rose got into episodes of agro with fans, culminating in the Riverport Riot: a showdown with fans at the Riverport Amphitheatre in St. Louis, Missouri, when Rose stormed off stage after security failed to respond to Roses that a fan recording the gig be ejected from the venue. Guitarist Izzy Stradlin later left the band after their Wembley Stadium show]. That show kinda made up for all the other stuff that went on”.
Slash plays 3Arena on 10th November with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators.