Caught on Tape: Slash and Burn

Written by Caught on Tape, Music

slash[1]The interview is set for 2:00 PM. At a quarter ‘til, the black hat, cascading curls, and nose ring saunter through the management office’s front doors. The receptionist raises eyes from a computer monitor and is momentarily stuck to her chair. She fights through the inertia of awe and approaches. Her hand is extended tremulously, but Slash ignores the shake and encloses her in a friendly embrace. He sees me sitting on the couch, walks over, and shakes my hand heartily. He even apologizes for being late when he’s 15 minutes early.

This is who Slash is. He understands the importance of keeping business appointments and hugging the people who work for you. Twenty years ago, back in ’87, when he recorded Guns N’ Roses’ debut, Appetite For Destruction, he set in motion the ritual beheading of the ’80s metal hair bands. With Velvet Revolver, he has synthesized the electric blues and R&B raunchiness of the Stones and Aerosmith and almost single-handedly brought about the Renaissance of the Les Paul.

At that moment in time, he made the transition from guitar player to Guitar Player God. With the metamorphosis came perks – engorged bank accounts and burning hot stripper girlfriends. Through it all, though, one thing stayed constant: His love for the guitar. He loves playing them and talking about them, and when we finally made our way to one of the conference rooms, that’s exactly what we did. 

He lights a cigarette — but not before asking my permission.

Slash has already created an astonishing body of work. Guns has sold over 90 million records and Velvet Revolver’s first album, Contraband, debuted at Number One. Libertad, the follow-up, pulses with the same organic thump that informed the early GNR records, but there is the swirl of something modern here. If Appetite For Destruction signaled the end of that ’80s style of metal guitar playing, then Libertad could very well be the bridge modern, neo-hard rock/metal guitarists might walk over.

After all, who is creating the next Are You Experienced? Blow By Blow? Where is the next Stevie Ray Vaughan or Ritchie Blackmore hiding?

Whoever these musicians are, they have no real sense of what they might be creating. When Slash talks about the footprints he will leave behind, or, more accurately, the handprints, he’s almost at a loss in finding the appropriate words. He is proud of the work but sees it as little more than a means towards an end — the ability to continue cranking up an electric guitar and being paid to do so.

He pulls one last smoke out of the pack, strikes a match, and as he is about to light it, he looks across the table. He raises his eyebrows in a gesture intimating, “Is it cool if I smoke one more?”

The last great guitar hero with a heart …

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