I interviewed Slash and three of his Velvet Revolver bandmates in separate sessions at the Chateau Marmont in June 2007, a few days ahead of the release of their second (and final) album, Libertad.
Only Matt Sorum (pictured at far right when they won a Grammy for the song “Slither” in 2005) escaped an interrogation, although the drummer was sitting around the bungalow that had been booked for the day. I’ve already published the interview with Duff (missing from the photo). I’ll get to Scott Weiland and Dave Kushner.
Here are highlights from my chat with Slash, who was wearing his customary top hat and mirror shades, along with a Debbie Does Dallas t-shirt and military pants.
I SAW VELVET REVOLVER AT THE AVALON THE OTHER DAY, AND THERE DIDN’T SEEM TO BE MUCH INTERACTION ON STAGE BETWEEN THE MUSICIANS AND SCOTT. IS THAT THE SAME OFF STAGE AS WELL?
I never notice that. I always go into my own little world when I play, in any band I’ve been in. And Dave and Duff are on the same side. And there’s interaction between Matt and I on occasion because of the timing. Scott and I actually do have places that we interact because I sing background vocals on a couple of things in his mike. I don’t know if I did it in L.A. though because that was the first show. I think everybody was just really concentrating. We didn’t have any rehearsal. We didn’t have a soundcheck. We had a soundcheck, but Matt had a car accident so he wasn’t there. And so we really went into that first gig just holding it together. It was a pretty sloppy show. And as we got more familiar with the set, it turned into a lot more cohesive kinda thing.
OFF-STAGE DO YOU HANG OUT TOGETHER? PLAY PINBALL, OR MONOPOLY?
If there’s a pinball machine. No, we hang out in the dressing room together a lot. That’s probably the one place where we do the most hanging. Sometimes at the bar of the hotel, or whatever. It’s one of those things where, when you’re touring and you’re gonna be touring for a long time, you have to learn how to pace yourself. I’m real reclusive. I don’t go out very often. I just usually stay in, play my guitar and watch TV. I don’t get out much. Scott’s sorta the same way. Matt’s out every night. I go out some times with Matt. Since I haven’t been drinking as of however the last many months it’s been, when I go out with Matt without a drink in my hand it’s sorta hard. It’s pointless. Without booze, unless you’re seeing somebody you haven’t seen in a while and can have a great chat, you sorta realize why you used to drink so much! … I haven’t had a drink in 11 months. Or anything else for that matter … I’ve gone through this period a couple of times where I just gave up drink and then I realized, Yeah it’s pretty much cigarettes at this point. Cigarettes and sex. There’s no real shagging groupies anymore, right. If I’m not doing drugs and I’m not drinking, it’s all about music. And then you become really even that much more absorbed in just playing, and realize that’s the only reason why you’re here.
WOW! NO GROUPIES AT ALL. I GUESS YOUR WIFE’S HAPPY ABOUT THAT?
Actually it’s gotten sorta old anyway. The crazy groupie days that were the holdover from the ‘70s and the ‘80s, we took full advantage of that. And I remember up into the ‘90s I did that thing to the bone. And then finally I just ended up with one girl who was exciting enough to make me give all that up.
THAT’S VERY SWEET (I WIPE AWAY A FAKE TEAR). ARE YOU IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL WITH THIS BAND?
Well, yeah. It’s all a matter of survival. It’s a matter of tenacity. It’s a matter of infinite patience in a lot of ways. There is that bond of being able to create together. And that in itself is what really holds you together. The cards were totally against us from the moment (Grammy-winning debut album) Contraband came out, all the way up until just recently. Naysayers were predicting our demise in some way, shape or form, and we just stuck it out. We had our hard times where it was really iffy whether we were going to keep it together because we had so much unnecessary outside pressure. But we hung in there. Now we’re that much stronger because we managed to get through that. We’ll do this tour. I think we feel pretty solid. We’ll hold onto that and see what fuckin’ life brings us as we go … I would imagine making the next record’s going to be an interesting experience. In the back of my mind I know that now.
ARE YOU REALLY THAT SENSITIVE TO OUTSIDE PRESSURE THAT THE BAND COULD ALMOST DERAIL ITSELF? DO YOU REALLY CARE ABOUT THE CRITICS?
It’s not the critics. It’s not like that. This is like guerrilla-style outside pressure, rumors that I had quit the band and rejoined Guns N’ Roses, to the point where my band thought I did. And I had to do explain to them that I had nothing going on there. That was a little iffy. There was just constant tugs that the band couldn’t necessarily ignore, It was tedious. You just get tired of it after a while. Sometimes the only thing that you could think of to make you feel any more at ease was just like, “Fuck it, I don’t want to deal with it.” It’s just a human reaction. But we know better, so we just hung in there.
ALL FIVE GUYS ARE CREDITED ON ALL THE SONGS. IS THAT OVERLY GENEROUS? I KNOW YOU DID IT (WITH GUNS N‘ ROSES) FOR APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION, BUT NOT FOR THE USE YOUR ILLUSIONS ALBUMS.
We would have done it for Illusions, except for there was a lot of outside writers that came in. There were certain songs that we dug out of the past, songs that we’d written with West Arkeen and a couple of other songs like that. That was also during the fuckin’ weirdness. It was an Axl thing.With this band, it’s pretty safe to say that everybody had a lot of input on any song that we did. It didn’t matter whether I brought it to the table for Duff or Matt or whatever.
ON THE ILLUSIONS RECORDS, YOU’RE THE ONLY PERSON WHO DOESN’T HAVE A SOLE SONGWRITING CREDIT. I GUESS THAT SPEAKS TO YOUR ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER?
Right. Like, “Coma” and “Locomotive” and “Bad Apples,” those songs I wrote the music, and that’s the way it was. There wasn’t a lot of outside writing on those particular tunes. I don’t need the attention: “I need my name on it.” Fuck it, I can’t deal with all that. It’s really a drag when you get into that issue with bands. And it happens. I just like to ignore it.
I KNOW YOU PLAY “MR. BROWNSTONE” ON THE VELVET REVOLVER SET. WOULD YOU THINK ABOUT GOING DEEPER INTO THE GUNS CATALOG? DID YOU EVER PLAY “COMA” LIVE WITH GUNS?
We played “Coma” early on in the Use Your Illusions tour. We probably played it about six times in total. It’s a very long, complicated song. More than anything, it was a little vocal-challenging because there was so much vocal going on. There’s no air, vocally, on there. I think it was a little bit hard for Axl to keep up with that song every single night.
I THINK PART OF THE PROBLEM WITH VELVET REVOLVER IS THAT WHEN YOU FIRST CAME AROUND WE WERE STILL MOURNING GUNS N‘ ROSES AND MAYBE HOPING FOR A REUNION. BUT THEN I SAW GUNS LAST YEAR, AND THOUGHT, “OH, GOD…”
I’m a bigger rock fan than anything. I got into this as a musician. But before that I was a huge rock fan. I love everything that is rock ‘n’ roll and what it stands for and the bands that were good at it. And I have been disappointed countless times by bands that split up, all that kind of shit — people dying, whatever the situation was. I guess maybe Guns N’ Roses were one of those bands that really meant so much to so many people, that I can put myself in their shoes. But you know what? Had I stayed in the band past when I left, they would have ended up being really disappointed.
IT WAS GOOD TO GO OUT ON A HIGH NOTE
I just wanted to go while it was still cool, y’know?
YOU THANKED (DRUG COUNSELOR) BOB TIMMONS IN THE NOTES. HE’S THE ONE WHO GOT YOU BACK ON THE WAGON?
I’ve known Bob for a long, long time … like from ’89 to the present. He’s seen me in the lowest of lows, and when I finally got my shit together and all that kind of stuff, I ran into him. Yeah, he was very supportive.
SO, FINALLY, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH DUFF OVER THE YEARS? WHEN YOU GOT BACK TOGETHER IN VELVET, DID YOU HAVE TO RE-ESTABLISH YOUR KINSHIP?
No, we saw each other a whole bunch and played together a whole bunch before Velvet started, here and there, played with his band a few times. He wrote something on one of the Snakepit records with me. So we’ve always been in contact, but for some reason we had this innate instinct to separate ourselves from the whole Guns thing. We didn’t want to do anything that made it seem like that was going to happen. So we just kept a certain distance on a certain level. The only thing that we really had to re-establish when Velvet started — it wasn’t even re-establishing — it was working in a new configuration, a new band, and learning how to drop the old habits, or what felt instinctive from the old days, and reinvent certain things for a new band, which isn’t much. It wasn’t really what I’d call a conscious effort. But you’d run into little obstacles and work it out and realize that old thinking doesn’t necessarily work in this situation. It’s an interesting thing. There’s a lot of subtle dynamics that aren’t as subtle as they seem.
NOTE: The above interview does NOT appear in my gossipy rock bio, Strange Days: The Adventures of a Grumpy Rock ‘n’ Roll Journalist in Los Angeles, but the book DOES include a riveting Q&A with Slash’s former bandmate, Steven Adler. It is available here. For more info, go to strangedaysbook.com
Copyright © 2003, 2013 by Dean Goodman. PLEASE DO NOT CUT AND PASTE THE WHOLE THING