Top hat and tales

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 July, 2010, 12:00am

It is nice to see Slash still wears the top hat. The former lead guitarist of Guns N' Roses is still the embodiment of old-guard rock'n'roll - 15 years have not made a dent in his wild afro and demonic guitar solos.

But now he is teetotal, has a wife and children and is the face of his own iPhone app. He has even collaborated with mainstream pop stars such as Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas and Maroon 5's Adam Levine on his first solo album - names that diehard GN'R fans probably would not have expected to ever accompany Slash's extravagant, wailing riffs.

Another thing that has not changed since Slash's raw, sleazy Guns days is his sound. Fergie might cover Guns classic Paradise City (with Cypress Hill, and rather well), but half the vocalists on his long-anticipated solo effort are big names of hard glam rock - Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, Iggy Pop.

'When I was a kid, Aerosmith, Iggy and Ozzy had a huge influence, so I did okay,' Slash says. Throw on his eponymous album and you are back in a time when rock 'n' roll was the big, bad wolf, guitar solos lasted longer than a pop song, and fans wanted their stars without the vice airbrushed out.

'I miss the older attitude that made rock 'n' roll. It seems the younger generation that's coming along right now doesn't have those influences,' Slash says in a surprisingly mellow American accent. 'I miss the risk, the danger, the whole sex element. All that really exciting stuff is a bit diluted - almost non-existent.'

He is due to hit Japan for the Summer Sonic festival after his Hong Kong gig on July 29, and watching MTV on the road while he does the European summer festival circuit.

'We've lost a little bit of the grit,' he says, so many pop stars 'are trying to do these very elaborate sexual messages - and there's nothing innately erotic about it'.

Still, doesn't he play a part in the same machine as those hapless starlets mouthing sexual nothings - as a playable character in Guitar Hero III and the face of a brand-new iPhone app, Slash Arcade Rocker, complete with three solo Slash tracks? Would that have been something he'd have considered in his harder-living days? 'I have no idea. All this stuff was creeping up, and then it exploded and became the norm in contemporary communication,' he says. 'Getting involved with something that represented rock and roll the way Guitar Hero did, I would've done it - only because it introduced people to music they wouldn't be exposed to normally.

'Game apps are awesome. I do like mobile games - Slash Arcade Rocker is a bit like Guitar Hero, and I thought that was one of the greatest games ever invented.'

He still denies being a techie - despite having spoken about his 'CrackBerry' - and proves it by saying he did not get his first computer till 2006. 'I've started to embrace the technologies I can use - but I don't need 500,000 apps and I'm not looking for an iPad.'

His new album is 'totally not techie', having been recorded in analogue not digital format. 'Digital doesn't sound great for rock 'n' roll. It takes a lot of heart out of what a real rock 'n' roll band does,' he explains. 'Certain things, the old school way works best.'

Like the reason he cites for leaving the Guns N' Roses in 1996 - frontman Axl Rose wanted to take the band to a more industrial sound, while Slash wanted to stick with the traditional rock he felt had made the band successful in the first place.

It is not the whole story - which involves 'creative differences', heroin and a much-publicised feud between Slash and Rose - and since he left, Slash has not spoken to his erstwhile bandmate. Despite Rose calling him a 'cancer', Slash's 2007 autobiography describes their only interaction as a note Slash left at Rose's home while intoxicated to settle pending legal action.

Since Slash left the band, Rose has replaced the entire line-up of Guns N' Roses, and in 2008 finally released the studio album Chinese Democracy, almost nine years after the first track was recorded, and at an estimated cost of US$13 million.

Slash formed, then disbanded Slash's Snakepit and later on, co-founded hard rock supergroup Velvet Revolver with ex-Guns bandmates Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum. Last year, Time magazine pegged him at No 2 on a list of the 10 greatest guitarists of all time, and this April, he took the reins and released his own studio album.

'I just wanted to be in control of something. It occurred to me that I had exhausted all the band situations I could possibly do,' he says. 'I wanted to make all the decisions musically and I've been able to discover myself as a musician, a persona and maybe a producer and all that.'

There's family man in there as well. Slash has two children with second wife Perla Ferrar - seven-year-old London and five-year-old Cash. He's kicked heroin, stopped drinking and, as of last year, quit cigarettes as well. Now turning 45, he reflects on age, achievement and a career studded with excess.

'I have no big term goals, and I think I've accomplished a lot of things I didn't set out to do. I've never been cognisant of how old I get. The only thing I remember as being a big transition from 30 to 40 was when I decided it was okay to have kids,' he says. 'I was 38, I figured, if you're going to have kids, this is the time.' Then he adds: 'And she was pregnant.'

Slash performs at AsiaWorld-Arena on July 29



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