Slash on ‘Closing the Book on Guns N’ Roses’
Like most Guns N’ Roses fans, Slash hoped that the original line-up of the band would have been able to put aside their differences earlier this month at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony and perform one last time. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. A few days after the event Slash jumped on the phone with Rolling Stone‘s Brian Hiatt while on a train between Holland and France to share his feelings about the evening.
Did you ever consider just not going to the induction ceremony?
My whole thing was that I really, in my heart of hearts, wanted to have the whole original band get together and actually perform, which I sort of knew was wishful thinking. When the whole thing first came up, that’s basically what I wanted to do. It became apparent that that wasn’t going to happen. I was like, “Oh fuck,” and I was sort of disillusioned with the whole thing, but there was that commitment that was sort of made that I was going to go, and I thought Axl was still going to go, and it wasn’t until the last minute that I heard that he wasn’t coming, and that’s when we all decided we were just going to go ahead and play anyway. Early on, when it was probably more confusing than necessary, I have to admit, I was like, “Oh fuck, I don’t really want to go to this if we’re not going to play,” though I never said, “No, I’m not going to go.” But it was sort of a black cloud for a few months there. Before that I thought we were just going to show up and not play, which is what I was resigned to.
At what point did you decide to play?
It was literally two days before the actual ceremony. The day that the press release came out and Axl said he wasn’t coming, we had the Golden Gods awards, and it was in the dressing room there that Duff and I talked. We said, “OK, we’re just going to fucking get together and play,” and Duff goes, “We should get Myles.” I was talking to Duff about who was going to sing, I thought Duff would sing, him and Gilby, but Duff said, “What about Myles?” It hadn’t occurred to me, really. I talked to Myles about it, he was apprehensive about getting put in that position, so at first, he turned it down, but finally he said, “OK, I’ll do it.” We got it all together and we put together a little rehearsal the night before and did our thing.
What was it like rehearsing? Watching it, it’s not that different from Velvet Revolver, but it felt super different.
I hadn’t played with Gilby in a long time, and I hadn’t played Guns N’ Roses songs with Steven in fucking 18 years or something like that. It was all sort of a little bit foreign at first, the first five, 10 minutes of whatever the first songs were we were playing, it took a second, and after a couple of minutes, it started to fall into place. It was fun, I had a really fucking good time.
This had been weighing on Steven for a long time, and he said he feels like the chapter is closed and he can move on.
Yeah, I think it did that for all of us. I didn’t have any illusions or delusions of GNR getting back together for anything. I maybe tried to see it happen for this one particular event, I didn’t have high hopes for that, I didn’t feel confident it was going to happen, but having done this one gig, and for the event itself, when it was all said and done, it really felt like closing the book on the whole thing.
The other way of looking at is that with Myles, you sound good doing those songs. That could be a thing.
No, I don’t think it went that way. It’s way too complicated an idea at this point, but it was fun doing it. It was definitely a special moment for everybody involved, going up there and jamming those songs. I wasn’t totally sure, you’ve probably heard this a million times, the sort of whole concept of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction prior to doing it, it was like there’s so much bad blood that’s gone on over the last 25 years, it was hard to appreciate it. So it was hard to get excited about it, but once we were actually there, it was a really, really cool event, and there was a sense of accomplishment at that point, doing the actual acceptance and going out and playing.
Some people could say you played so well because it was a fuck you to someone who wasn’t there, but it sounds like it came from a more positive place.
Yeah, it had nothing to do with that. It might have come together because basically we felt a sense of loyalty to the enthusiasm from the fans. We’re proud of this moment, and I’m talking about legions of Guns fans who are really excited about the prospects of something happening so we can accept this fucking acknowledgement or whatever. I think that was really the glue that held us all together to get past whatever the differences were and just go up and be there. So it was a really good feeling for all the right reasons. It wasn’t because we were trying to wag our finger at anybody or try to be vengeful in any way. It was an homage to the fans, and then standing there and individually accepting the honor, you really felt we’d arrived at a certain place, the band as a whole, the records that we’ve made and all that stuff.
It’s what you were setting out to do from the beginning, you were aiming for that brass ring, you wanted to be one of the all time great bands. You weren’t trying to be a big hair metal band.
All things considered, yeah, we did sort of set out to be fucking the shit. We knew above all and any other bands around of our peers at the time that we were the baddest fucking rock & roll band around. I don’t know if we aspired to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, that was years later. One of the big issues about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and something that sort of gave me personally mixed feelings was how come Guns N’ Roses gets nominated and consequently inducted when a whole slew of other bands haven’t? That was always a really big issue, I think that was the only personal bias I had, was how we could beat out a band like Deep Purple? What is the criteria for getting inducted?
There was something about the event itself where the thing that stuck out to me the most was when they had the Blue Caps and Crickets and the Fabulous Flames and Comets and all those guys get up there and get inducted. That was a heavy moment for me. I was like, “Wow,” all these guys in their 80s and 90s, some in their wheelchairs, some not even there because they’re dead, all lined up getting this honor, this recognition. That really pulled at my heartstrings. That sort of erased for me all the questions that I have. I was like, “I guess everybody gets it in due time.”
Between that and the fact that Rod Stewart and your guy wasn’t there, it felt like rock was bigger than lead singers that night.
All things considered, most of the groups that were there were incomplete, from the Beastie Boys to the Chili Peppers to the Faces, and for us, as well, so it’s very interesting, that this whole thing goes on regardless. That was one of the things that came to me. We’re inducted already, it’s happening regardless of whether we show up or don’t show up or who shows up. It’s bigger than all of us.
Myles is in your band, could he also be in Velvet Revolver, or is that too complicated?
Initially, Myles came up in Velvet Revolver a couple of times. Once in 2002 and another time in 2008. The first time around, we sent him a demo and we never heard from him again, and in 2008, he was in Alter Bridge, and it would just be sort of a betrayal of his band to entertain the idea of performing with Velvet Revolver, which is actually the first thing, even though I’d never met him before. I didn’t know him, but the thing I admired about him then was his loyalty. Working with me, it’s a little bit more flexible, we juggled the whole Alter Bridge thing, but with Velvet Revolver, it would have been one or the other.
Seeing you play those songs so well, there’s a sense that you’re reclaiming your rights to these songs, reminding people that you have as much right to these songs as the singer does.
Yeah, it was never a question in my mind, because I know how much I had to do with those songs, so I just do them. It was really gratifying to meet Myles when I did, when I was starting to put a band together to support my first solo record, the last record I put out, then he came out at the very tail end and I thought, “This guy’s amazing,” we recorded a couple of songs on that record, then I asked him to do the tour, because I had a gut feeling he could handle the diversity of all the material I was going to do on the road, and that turned into a really successful tour, which turned was what prompted the record that we just completed that’s coming out next month.