Slash on Top Hats, Poison Audition, Fergie and Reality TV | Revolver

Slash on Top Hats, Poison Audition, Fergie and Reality TV

Guns N' Roses guitarist answers fan questions
slash2010getty.jpg, Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
photograph by Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Given the amount of lead-singer drama Slash has experienced in his years with Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver, it'd be understandable if his new solo album consisted of nothing but instrumentals. But the top-hatted one apparently hasn't learned his lesson, as he boldly enlisted not just one, but more than a dozen vocalists to join him on Slash, his first effort under his own name. And far from seeking out humble, undiscovered talent, Slash went right to the top, rounding up a slew of notoriously one-named singers like Ozzy, Lemmy, Iggy, and Fergie. Add to that some young rockers (Avenged Sevenfold's M. Shadows, Wolfmother's Andrew Stockdale) and a few oddballs (Maroon 5's Adam Levine, Pussycat Dolls' Nicole Scherzinger) and the result is a wild, and sometimes weird, ride.

While Slash plays some dates on the road in support of his solo album — including his stop at the Revolver Golden Gods — he still has another band to tend to. The guitarist says that Velvet Revolver, who parted ways somewhat acrimoniously with Scott Weiland two years ago, will reconvene in the near future to record a follow-up to 2007's Libertad. Although that group still hasn't found a new singer, Slash had a chance to mend fences with Weiland recently, as he tells an inquiring Revolver reader below. As for that other ex-lead singer in his life, Slash has words—or, make that one word—for him, too.

How did you go about choosing the singers for Slash?
—Frank V., Philadelphia

It all started with the music. I would write a riff or the basis for a song, and then think, Who would be the right voice for this? And that was it. After I established the person I wanted, I'd reach out to them. If they were interested, and fortunately pretty much everybody went for it, then I'd put together a presentable demo and that would be where we'd start working from together.

Was there anyone you tried to get but couldn't?
—Dani, Tornoto

There were a couple, but I'm not going to name names. With one guy it was a contractual thing, and then there was another situation where I actually got together with somebody but it didn't work out and I ended up going with somebody else. But all the singers that I really went for, and that I really thought, This would be the perfect person, I got. So there wasn't really any disappointment.

What was it like working with Ozzy on the song "Crucify the Dead"?
—Jeanette S., Missoula, MT

I've obviously been a fan since I was a kid, so it was great. And even though I've known him for a while and I've jammed with him at gigs and stuff, it was a whole different experience sitting next to him while he was working out his lyrics and singing into the microphone at the control board. It's that voice that you've been hearing for most of your life, you know?

Do you remember the first time you met Ozzy?
—Kurt, Colorado Springs, CO

I do. It was around '89 or '90, in L.A. at the Mondrian hotel. I was staying there with my girlfriend at the time. It was early in the morning and we were introduced in my room. I had a bottle of Jack Daniels by my head, and Ozzy said, "Hey, can I have some of that?" And I was like, "Sure." And I said, "Why don't we go downstairs to the bar. I'll take a shower and meet you down there." So he took off and I got up to take a shower, and by the time I was done someone came to tell me that Ozzy had passed out and they'd taken him home. And this was at, like, nine in the morning!

Is Fergie as hot in person as she is on TV? If so, how did you manage to concentrate while working with her in the studio? I would be drooling all over the equipment and walking into walls and shit…

OK. There've been a lot of rumors about me talking about how hot Fergie is. I don't recall ever saying that. [Laughs] More than anything, Fergie is a fellow musician. She's very attractive, but we're just good friends. So I don't really see her in that way. But that said, as a performer, she's very sexy. She's got a lot of charisma. But it's a very musical thing between us. It's not about how hot she is. Also, her husband, Josh [Duhamel], is a friend of mine, so I don't go there. And my wife and Fergie are friends, too, so we just don't have that going on. But she's very cool.

You've jammed with so many people over the years. Who is your favorite guitarist that you've had the opportunity to play with?
—Jon Unruh

There's so many. But one that comes to mind is [ZZ Top's] Billy Gibbons. It's funny, people mention all the great guitar players, and Billy's not someone who necessarily gets mentioned in the first breath. But he is one of the most fantastic guitar players to come out since the '60s. He's phenomenal. He's got such an amazing touch, and such an amazing sense of rhythm. Another would be [Aerosmith's] Joe Perry, who I always love playing with.

What is your best memory of working with Michael Jackson?
—Santos, Seattle, WA

I had a few really memorable experiences with Michael. But one of my favorites is when we shot a video for "Give In to Me" [from Jackson's 1991 album, Dangerous] in some little club in Germany. It was myself, Gilby Clarke on guitar, Muzz Skillings on bass, and Tony Thompson on drums. And it was a real live situation—no dancers, no choreography. To work with Michael in a sweaty club like that was so different from seeing him in his usual super-status kind of environment. And he was phenomenal. In general, Michael was as great as his popularity would suggest. There's nothing that was hype about his ability.

slash2010credittravisshinn.jpg, Travis Shinn
photograph by Travis Shinn

How did you get the nickname Slash?
—Andrea Cox, Salt Lake City

It was given to me by an actor named Seymour Cassel. He was my best friend Matt's dad. A bunch of us all used to ditch school and hang out at Matt's, basically because Seymour would let us. [Laughs] So there were always lots of people at his house. But when I was there, I was always sort of in a hurry — looking to hook up a gig, working on something. So I never really stopped to talk to anybody. I would just say hi and get going. So whenever Seymour would see me in passing, he'd call me "Slash" because I was always taking off. And it became sort of a high-school nickname among my friends, and just stuck after that.

As a guy who's part of a supergroup, what is your favorite supergroup?
—Lana Bernstein, San Diego, CA

At the moment, I'd have to say Them Crooked Vultures. That record is fucking amazing.

Have you talked to Scott Weiland recently?
—Ben Hubbard, Chalmette, LA

I have. I saw him recently on flight to Vegas. And we had a very friendly conversation. It was very cool. It was nice to see him, especially out of context. There was always this sort of "not sure" kind of feeling going on between Scott and I in Velvet Revolver, because we were just never really on the same page. But outside of Velvet he's a great guy. And I think he's great with Stone Temple Pilots, and they're just meant to be together come hell or high water.

I've always loved your top hats. When and why did you start wearing those? How many do you have?
—Jason Marshall, Los Angeles

I really only have one main top hat. And then I have another one that [apparel company] Chrome Hearts made for me, and a couple old hats that are just in a closet that I don't really wear. And that's basically it. I first got a top hat back in 1985 or '86. Guns had a gig at the Whisky, and that afternoon I went down to Melrose, where they have all these thrift shops and little clothing stores. I really needed to sort of get a look together for that night. I went into one of the stores and stole a Concho belt, and then I went next door to another place and saw the top hat. And I think I had seen it before but for some reason it sort of caught my eye that day. And so I thought, That looks cool. I went in, tried it on and it felt right, and I took off with it! And when I got back to my crash pad I cut up the Concho belt and put it around the top hat, and I've been wearing it ever since.

Before you joined Guns N' Roses, you auditioned for Poison. What do remember about that experience?
—Michael Graffin, Phoenix

I remember everything about that. I learned five of their songs from a cassette, went down to the audition, and fucking kicked the shit out of them! [Laughs] And those guys were like, "Wow." But at the same time, I was wearing, like, a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, and I think I may have had some moccasins on. So I came back the second day and they were like, "So what kind of shoes are you gonna wear?" And you just knew it wasn't gonna work out. And it's funny — when I was walking out, C.C. [DeVille] was walking in. And I had this instantaneous feeling that he was gonna get the gig, because he just looked the part. And that was it. The next day or something Bobby [Dall, Poison bassist] called me up and said, "You know, this is a really tough call." And I was like, "Yeah, save it…"

Would you want your kids to go into rock and roll?
—Neil K., Bangor, ME

I would want my kids to do whatever it is they want to do. So if it was rock and roll, sure. Whatever they were inspired to do I'd support them. Within reason, of course.

What has been your worst experience with drugs?
—David Bowman, Kansas City, MO

You know, all things considered, I didn't really have what you'd call bad experiences with drugs. The way I look at it, I took things way too far a bunch of times, but I can'' really say, "Oh, there was this time…" I did have a few situations that involved getting arrested. And that's always the worst thing. So my worst drugs experiences are the ones where I got busted!

Is it harder to work sober than it is under the influence?
—Fredrik Jansen, Gothenburg, Sweden

No. One thing I learned from growing up around the business is what to do and what not to do in rock and roll. There were so many musicians I knew growing up who couldn't play unless they had this substance or that substance. Their total existence depended on a chemical or booze or whatever. I never wanted to be at the mercy of my extra-curricular chemical intake. So for me, drugs were recreational; it had nothing to do with creative inspiration. I never found I needed to be high to be creative.

How is Steven Adler doing? Is he different from how he looked on Celebrity Rehab? What was it like working with him on Slash?
—Becky Rosenberg, Eugene, OR

Steven's way different now that he's cleaned up. About three years ago I went to Vegas to see him, and he was probably inches away from death at that point. It was knocking on his door. So we rescued him from that, and it was a long road to the point where he got to Celebrity Rehab and chose that outlet, which we all said, "Are you sure?" But at the end of the day it worked for him. And now he's doing great. And I promised him if he could stay clean he could play on my record. So he came down and we did the song "Baby Can't Drive." And it was really cool to revisit the Steve Adler spirit on drums. I always thought that he was underrated as a drummer in Guns N' Roses. Really, the way Appetite for Destruction grooves is all Steven.

Would you ever do a reality show?
—Lorenzo, San Antonio, TX

No. My wife would like to, but not me. We've been approached with Velvet Revolver to do a "find the singer" sort of thing. But I think there's no way around it — reality shows are just not cool. And anyway, the type of person who would go on a show to become a member of your band is exactly not the type of person you wanna have as your bandmate!