Double Jack Daniel’s and Coke, easy on the ice, with finger sandwiches. Five-fifteen Saturday afternoon at Le Chardonnay, the Los Angeles restaurant modeled on a Parisian art nouveau bistro, and there sits Slash, lead guitarist for Guns n’ Roses, calmly talking in an ornate side room.
“Try these, they’re good,” he says as a waiter brings over a plate of pastries. He nibbles the little tarts and slowly nurses his drink while speaking quite lucidly and soberly, in contrast to his infamous reputation as a Dionysian waste case. But Slash, who recently turned twenty-five, remains an outsider in this upper-crust environment. Despite his new found millions and sterling position in L.A.’s rock hierarchy, he still can’t get a last-minute dinner reservation at this ritzy restaurant after the interview session is over. No big deal. He and his steady girlfriend eat somewhere else that night, then stop by a decadent sex shop called the Pleasure Chest to pick up some Christmas presents, including a straitjacket for the band’s singer, Axl Rose.
The last few months of 1990 have been hectic for Slash. In addition to putting finishing touches on Guns n’ Roses’ second album, he has been rehearsing with the band for an appearance at the Rock in Rio II concert this month in Brazil. In fact, Slash has been working almost nonstop for the past year. The group did a gig at Farm Aid III, contributed material to the Days of Thunder soundtrack and the Nobody’s Child charity project and recorded more than thirty Guns songs for the new album. In addition, Slash has played sessions with Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson and Lenny Kravitz, among others. This year should be even more intense: Once Guns n’ Roses’ album is finally released, the band plans to embark on a monstrous worldwide tour, the group’s first trek since 1988 and — amazingly — the first time the Gunners have played arenas as headliners.
It’s been a long time coming. Slash, whose real name is Saul Hudson, has been a resident of Los Angeles since his parents moved to America from England in the early Seventies. Slash’s mom, a professional costume designer named Ola Hudson, tailored outfits for such acts as John Lennon, Diana Ross and the Pointer Sisters, while his artist father, Anthony Hudson, created album covers for clients that included Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. Raised in the neo-hippie environs of Laurel Canyon — which he still calls home — young Saul’s own creative instincts were nurtured early on. He was an enthusiastic artist and even contributed a series of animal illustrations to The Bestiary, an unpublished book of verse written by Joni Mitchell, who was a neighbor.
“He was drawing from the time he could pick up a pencil,” says Ola Hudson, who adds that he was weaned on her Led Zeppelin albums and raised in a very loving household. “I’ve been shocked at a lot of things I’ve read where it sounds like I left him on somebody’s doorstep in a basket. They make it seem as if he never had a family and grew up on the streets like an urchin, but that’s not true. It’s just part of his image. He’s not all leather and tattoos.”