Any guitarist knows that being successful, given the skill required and the daunting competition, is extremely difficult. Replicating that success is even more challenging. But to do it with three different groups is just about off the page. With Guns N' Roses, Slash's Snakepit and Velvet Revolver, that's exactly what Slash did.
Born Saul Hudson in London, the future Slash (a name given by a family friend because Saul "was always in a hurry, zipping around from one thing to another") had an English dad and an African-American mother. His mother was a costume designer who worked for David Bowie. That fact by itself explains Slash's top hat and decadent appearance.
The family relocated to L.A. in the mid-70s but Slash's parents split a short time later. That was probably life altering but Slash was about to face an even bigger force of change. During his freshman year in high school Slash was over at his girlfriend's house. They were alone - a perfect time for Slash to make his move. Unfortunately, the girl's choice of make-out music undermined any potential sexual encounter. She put on Aerosmith's "Rocks." Slash was transfixed, and by this own admission he completely forgot about the girl. A short time later Slash's grandmother gave him his first guitar. When the choice came between practicing or school, academia lost and Slash dropped out at age 16.
A couple years later ('83) Slash and childhood friend Steven Alder auditioned for Poison. Though Poison passed, the two decided to form Road Crew. The group added bassist Duff McKagan but eventually folded. Slash's next stop was an outfit called Black Sheep. This band and another L.A. group, Hollywood Roses, opened for the Christian band Stryper. Backstage a mutual friend introduced Slash to Hollywood Roses' frontman Axl Rose. The two hit it off and it wasn't long before Slash and Alder were invited to join Rose, McKagan and Izzy Stradlin in Guns N' Roses. Of course, Guns N' Roses went on to fame and fortune, thanks largely to Slash's soaring solo on "Sweet Child O' Mine." Selling 15 million copies "Appetite For Destruction" became the second best selling debut album of all-time (behind Boston's self-titled debut).
In '90, Slash, following in the footsteps of Eddie Van Halen ("Beat It") played guitar on Michael Jackson's "Black Or White." He even showed up on Jackson's tour.
Slash wrote several songs for the group's follow-up to "Use Your Illusion I & II." All were summarily rejected by Rose. So Slash founded Slash's Snakepit with support from GNR drummer Matt Sorum and guitarist Gilby Clarke. Their debut was "It's Five O' Clock Somewhere."
As a result of major battles and behind the scenes moves, including having his solo on a cover of the Stones' "Sympathy For The Devil" removed by Rose and replaced by another guitarist, Slash left GNR. The official word came from Rose via a fax to MTV in October '96. This turned out to be yet another chapter in the long and sorted Slash/Rose feud.
Post-GNR, Slash kept the Snakepit rolling and worked extensively as a session musician. And that might have been where the story ended with the world anxiously awaiting a possible Slash/Rose/GNR reunion. But that didn't happen. There was a one off charity event that featured Slash, McKagan and Sorum. The three realized there was still some juice between them. Their search for a rhythm guitarist included Stradlin before they landed David Kushner. But the quartet was in need of a lead singer and the inability to find a suitable one nearly derailed the project. As it turned out, Stone Temple Pilots imploded leaving Scott Weiland available. He joined and Velvet Revolver came to be. The group released two albums with Weiland, "04's "Contraband" and '07's "Libertad." Both were critical and commercial successes. While touring Europe in '08, Weiland went sideways and announced he was done with Velvet Revolver.
"This band (Velvet Revolver) is all about its fans and its music and Weiland isn't 100 percent committed to either," said Slash in a statement. "Among other things, his increasingly erratic onstage behavior and personal problems have forced us to move on."
Weiland returned to Stone Temple Pilots.
Slash was universally seen as one of Rock's premiere guitarists so it was of little surprise that he was on hand with Aerosmith's Joe Perry for '07's Guitar Hero III launch events in L.A. and N.Y.C. The next year custom Gibson's designed to look like guitars played by Slash, Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, Rush's Alex Lifeson and the Sex Pistols' Steve Jones were introduced at the NAMM music-equipment trade show in Anaheim, CA. Pretty heavy company.
Also in '08, Slash received the MusiCares' From The Heart Award at the Hollywood event which raised money to help musicians fighting addiction. Slash had gone through the drugs and alcohol ringer in his GNR days. A couple months later, his bio snagged the Outstanding Literary Achievement honor at Spike TV's Guys Choice awards in L.A.
The next year, Slash kept busy working on a song by Brit R&B singer Estelle and was heard on the Bruno soundtrack. Slash even made a cameo (playing guitar in the film ending "We Are The World" type inspirational song that included Bono, Sting, Elton John and, of course, "Bruno") in the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy.
Slash's eponymous solo debut, "Slash & Friends," dropped in '10 with a supporting tour already underway. "I just needed to do something where I was calling my own shots," Slash told LA Weekly. "I needed to be able to do whatever music I wanted to do without having to worry about the other guys nitpicking it to death or rejecting it entirely."
Dave Grohl (Nirvana/Foo Fighters), Ozzy Osbourne, Iggy Pop, Lemmy Kilmeister and Fergie (Black Eyed Peas) contributed to the album. "Beautiful Dangerous" featured Fergie's lead vocals. "Not too many people have heard Fergie sing Rock & Roll but she sings it better (than) most dudes I know," said Slash. "She's a screamer at heart."
"Driving around listening to the analog mixes of my solo record, I gotta say it sounds awesome," tweeted Slash.
As Velvet Revolver continued their extended search for Weiland's replacement, GN'R was selected for 2012 induction into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame. Immediately, everyone wondered whether the band's best and most famous line-up would perform during the ceremony. Rock Hall CEO Joel Peresman claimed "everyone said they're coming." By "everyone" he was referring to Rose, Slash, Stradlin, McKagan and Adler, plus Dizzy Reed and Matt Sorum (who joined in '90). Using Twitter again, Slash wrote, "For the record, I didn't RSVP, or in any way commit to attending the RRHF."
Many people take vacations during the holidays but in December, '11 Slash remained on the job laying down tracks for "Apocalyptic Love," his sophomore solo album - one that appeared to have 'old school' elements. "The '70s called & asked for their cowbell back. We said 'screw u, we're keeping it'," stated Slash in a tweet.
Though not generally associated with philanthropic activities Slash received the inaugural Tom F. Mankiewicz Leadership Award from the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association at its 41st Annual Beastly Ball in '11. The honor recognized Slash's longtime contributions to establishing environmental welfare programs.
A year later, Slash and actress Betty White appeared in a series of commercials promoting a new exhibit, The Lair (featuring reptiles), at the L.A. Zoo. At nearly the same time, the single, "You're A Lie," from "Apocalyptic Love," went to radio.
Next, Slash began a six-part BBC program that looked at his influences and development. AC/DC, Aerosmith and Metallica were among the groups discussed in the six-hour radio program.
Slash was there, but to no one's surprise, Rose was a no-show when GN'R was inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame at Cleveland's Public Hall. Green Day handled the actual honors and frontman Billie Joe Armstrong came close to replacing Rose when GN'R performed. But in the end, it was Slash's vocalist, Miles Kennedy (Alter Bridge), who stepped in.
"Apocalyptic Love" dropped in May, '12. "Myles and I basically collaborated on the new material," said Slash. "The main thing is we wrote these songs together which is a big difference from the last album where I wrote each song with all of the different collaborators." The album's release came one month after GN'R's induction into the Hall of Fame but before another major honor.
Slash received the 2,473rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in July, '12. "Slash is widely considered one of the greatest Rock guitarists of all time," said Ana Martinez, producer of the Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony. Well, that was nice. But leave it to one of the few people who made G'NR's frontman look normal, actor Charlie Sheen, to put the event in the proper context. "Slash is getting a star on the very street Axl Rose will one day be sleeping on," said Sheen. And just to put a fine point on the ceremony, Sheen added, "That star is going to be stepped on more than the coke we did in the '80s."
As a fan of Angry Birds, the video game franchise, Slash created a revised Angry Birds Space theme song. In addition, he had a Birds avatar in the '13 edition of the game.
"Started the demo process for the next S/M & the Conspirators record last night," tweeted Slash, indicating work had begun on his third solo album. "Lots of material to work up. It's going 2 be good."
Like "Apocalyptic Love," Slash was backed by Kennedy & The Conspirators (bassist Todd Kerns and drummer Brent Fitz).
2010 Slash & Friends
2012 Apocalyptic Love
Slash is a guitarist - not a singer. So his options were record an instrumental album or bring in guest vocalists. He chose the latter. When you look at the talent assembled for "Slash & Friends" it's staggering. Ozzy, Iggy and Lemmy would be enough for most albums but there's also Chris Cornell (Soundgarden), Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge), M. Shadows (Avenged Sevenfold) and Andrew Stockdale (Wolfmother).
The set opens with Jim Morrison wannabe Ian Astbury (The Cult) handling "Ghost" - a very promising start. Ozzy gets a power ballad, "Crucify," while Lemmy roars through "Doctor Alibi." Cornell takes "Promise" and sinks his teeth into it. All this shouldn't be a surprise since these singers work in Slash's comfort zone.
Maroon 5's Adam Levine, Kennedy and Stockadale get lumbered with the downtempo material and do a serviceable job. But the gems are Fergie, Kid Rock and the Dave Grohl, Duff McKagan (ex-GN'R/Velvet Revolver bassist) and Slash workout on "Watch This."
Fergie was originally slated to perform a cover of GN'R's "Paradise City" but "Beautiful Dangerous" gives her a little more room to show her strengths. That it's a good song only helps. But leave it to Kid Rock to deliver the album's best pop effort, the mid-tempo, "I Hold On." Who would have thought?
"Apocalyptic Love" is neither apocalyptic nor very romantic but it does have Slash and Kennedy, returning in a far larger role, and that's more than enough. As expected, the set has plenty of guitar - especially the wah-wah on the title track and the 'how close can I get to GN'R without getting sued' "No More Heroes."
For his part, Kennedy nails Classic Rock vocals, including a stunning Doug Ingle (Iron Butterfly) on "Standing In The Sun." Needless to say, the 'cut-loose' moments are the best, whether it's arena Rockers ("No More Heroes" and the title track) or "One Last Thrill," a pure romp where the song has the lift to take flight.
Also see Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver.