Ever wonder how rumors get started?
It’s actually pretty simple. Start with something true, like the fact that the Guns N’ Roses guitarist has just started a five-month club tour with his side project, Slash’s Snakepit, and their album, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.” Then add another truth - for instance, that the rest of Guns N’ Roses have started rehearsals for the band’s next album.
Now leap to a conclusion: Slash is leaving Guns N’ Roses because he and singer Axl Rose can’t agree on the band’s direction. Voila! Instant rumor.
Of course, it isn’t even close to being true. Slash is still a part of Guns N’ Roses, has attended rehearsals for the new album, and is no more at odds with Axl than usual. But facts never seem to stop a hot rumor, do they?
Maybe that’s why Slash seems so resigned to being gossiped about. “There are so many bad rumors around,” he says, over the phone from his record company’s L.A. offices. But that kind of stuff doesn’t really bother him, he says, “because I’m so comfortable with understanding (the way gossip works), and understanding myself, and then understanding Axl.
“I don’t have any beef with Axl. We may not see eye-to-eye from time to time, but I don’t look at it like, ‘Forget you, dude.’ It’s like, ‘OK, well that’s the situation we’re in.’ You know? The stuff I go through with Axl is the same kind of stuff that I go through with my wife. But unfortunately it gets blown out of proportion because of the fact that it’s in the press. Someone picks up a tidbit of gossip, and off it goes.”
As Slash sees it, the main difference between the two has to do with their relative roles. “I’m basically a player,” he says. “I’ll write a cool riff, and the band jams. That’s where I come from. Lead singers are more visionary kind of people, and that’s just the way it is. I’ve seen it. I hung out with the Stones when they were doing this last record. I saw it there. I saw it with Aerosmith. I was, like, ‘Thank God I’m not the only one.’
“Lead guitar players and lead singers get into these things where the lead guitar players just want to play, and the lead singers want to do … something. We’re not sure what.” He laughs. “Sometimes it’s anything but sing.”
It wouldn’t be too far off the mark to say that Slash put together the Snakepit simply because he wanted a band to play with, and was hungry for the spontaneity of living-on-the-edge rock ‘n’ roll. “We did the basic charts in, I don’t know, six days or something,” he says. “We wrote the lyrics and the melodies for the lyrics the night we recorded the vocals. So that was that.”
Well, not quite. Slash had no trouble finding players to work with him on the instrumental tracks; he started with Alice in Chains bassist Mike Inez (“He’s an amazing, original bass player,” says Slash), then added GNR cohorts Gilby Clarke, Matt Sorum and Dizzy Reed. Nor did he have any difficulty getting the arrangements together. “We’ve all been players for enough time that it more or less comes natural to put four bars here and think, ‘Well, here’s the this part, and here’s the that part,”’ he says.
Finding a singer was another matter entirely. “We recorded the whole album with no vocals, and then we auditioned like 40 singers, trying to find the right kind of vibe,” he says. Slash had ceded control of his home studio to guitar technician Adam Day, who handled the audition process. Says Slash, “He’d give them one out of three songs, and say, ‘Just try this, and make up whatever.’ And we’d tape it.”
Eventually, somebody suggested former Jellyfish guitarist Eric Dover, so Slash had Dover visit Day. “I gave him a piece of music, which at the time it was called ‘Song in D,’ and he wrote ‘Beggars & Hangers-On.’ That night. The whole song. And I hadn’t even met him yet. So it was cool, because it was very spontaneous. It’s not perfect or anything like that, but the feel’s there.”
Guns N’ Roses started out pretty much the same way, putting songs together on the spur of the moment. “When we first got together, that was more or less the way we had to do it,” says Slash. “But we had a couple of years to play these songs in clubs before we recorded the album, and so the songs were more or less established, you know what I mean? Even the guitar solos. As spontaneous as they were when I first played them, I got used to playing a certain melody.
“That’s why the difference between ‘Use Your Illusion’ and ‘Appetite for Destruction’ is so apparent,” he adds. “As much as I love (‘Use Your Illusion’) and all the material that is on there, there was just a little too much thinking going on.”
Which side of GNR will come through in the next album? Don’t ask Slash. “I don’t know where Guns is headed,” he admits. “I mean, Axl at one point said he was going to do a solo record, and he had all these guys in mind. He was naming off names from different people - I won’t say who - and I was like, ‘Cool. Do that.’ Because Axl has been branching into different areas for ages now….
“Then all of a sudden, he decided that his next solo album would be Guns N’ Roses. And I went, ‘Whoa! Hello? What does that mean?’
“I still don’t know what direction he’s headed in, but that’s the reason I needed to go and do this. I haven’t changed since when we first started, but Guns is obviously a lot bigger band, and there’s more pressure surrounding it than there used to be, and I think everybody’s a bit concerned with that.
“So I just went off and did my own thing, just to get a shot in the arm before I go back and deal with the next Guns situation. That way it’ll replenish whatever my enthusiasm is for Guns N’ Roses, so that I don’t pull a Joe Perry and take off altogether.”