LOS ANGELES—At the height of Guns N’ Roses mania, lead guitarist Slash was a train wreck within a train wreck. The band showed up late for concerts night after night. The fans rioted a few times. Slash drank so much that he finally had six weeks to live. He and Axl Rose fought and did not perform together on stage for 23 years.
“I really shouldn’t be here,” Slash said in an interview at his home studio in the San Fernando Valley.
Neither does Guns N’ Roses. Yet the band, which reunited in 2016, is now a portrait of reliability, starting their shows on time and delivering reliably and with little to no controversy.
“It’s always been great working with Axl, but there have been times when it’s been really, really difficult… That hasn’t shown in the last six years,” says Slash, 56. “He was amazing, damn professional and even less moody than me. And I’m not the moody type.”
Duff McKagan, Axl Rose and Slash of Guns N’ Roses performed in 1988.
Larry Marano/Getty Images
The new “drama-free” Guns N’ Roses has been a boon to a pandemic-stricken live music business. The band’s 2016-19 reunion tour is the third-highest-grossing concert tour in music history. They grossed nearly $50 million in 2021, and plan to resume this summer.
Now her attention is shifting to new music.
Slash has a solo album, 4, out February 11, featuring singer Myles Kennedy and the conspirators. On February 25, Guns N’ Roses, which also includes bassist Duff McKagan, will release its first collection of songs since the reunion – a four-track mini-album, including two songs from Mr. Rose’s vault, edited by Slash and remastered became Mr. McKagan.
More material from Mr. Rose’s Guns N’ Roses is coming, along with a reissue of 1991’s two-and-a-half-hour double release “Use Your Illusion,” which includes songs like “November Rain” and “Don’t Cry.”
A Guns N’ Roses representative did not respond to requests for comment.
Guns N’ Roses’ surprising resilience as a touring juggernaut owes much to the rekindling of Mr. Rose and Slash’s friendship.
Slash recorded his new solo album live in the studio, complete with vocals and guitar solos – a bold approach in the digital age.
Shayan Asgharnia for the Wall Street Journal
For Slash, it all started with an examination of footage from the band’s two-and-a-half-year, 194-show “Use Your Illusion” tour – a treasure trove he once called “the Holy Grail of Guns N’ Roses.”
“I spoke to Guns N’ Roses management to make sure all this stuff was intact,” says Slash. “And then I had thrown out the idea, ‘It would be great to find a producer to put this together'” as a film.
As Slash and Axl’s people spoke more to each other in the 2010s, Mr. Rose’s team brought up the idea of a reunion. Guns N’ Roses manager Fernando Lebeis met Slash while on tour and “said there was something going on,” says Slash. The guitarist shrugged. “I hadn’t come around yet – not at all. I was really ‘anti’ for years.”
One of Slash’s grievances, which he discusses in his autobiography, is Mr. Rose’s acquisition of the Guns N’ Roses name in the 1990s. Slash viewed this as Mr. Rose seizing control; Mr Rose argued in a post on a fan website that he wanted to protect the name because he feared being fired.
Later, when Slash was in Peru, he got a call that Mr. Rose wanted to talk to him. The two exchanged pleasantries over the phone. That led to a home-cooked steak dinner at Mr. Rose’s Los Angeles residence. After that, according to Slash, one of rock ‘n’ roll’s oldest feuds quickly ended.
“Over time and through lack of communication, gossip and media… all of those things built up this storm of negativity. But it was like a cloud – you could put your hand through it,” he says.
When asked what they had to work through to bury the hatchet, Slash disagrees. What happened to the Guns N’ Roses name is a “dead matter.”
“Needless to say, my version is the correct version,” he says. Everyone’s version of things “is their own version, their own reality”. He, Mr. Rose and Mr. McKagan remain shareholders in the business partnership that began in the 1980’s. “We’ve always been partners.” (In a bit of ongoing drama, Izzy Stradlin, the band’s original rhythm guitarist, who left the band in 1991, played no part in the reunion.)
Slash’s new solo album 4, starring Myles Kennedy and the conspirators, is out February 11.
Shayan Asgharnia for the Wall Street Journal
Reconciling with Mr. Rose has lifted a huge psychological burden, Slash says. “You don’t even realize how heavy the weight of so much bad blood or negative energy feels until you get rid of it.”
He regrets making public vents when promoting projects like his 2000s band, Velvet Revolver. “I remember being extremely arrogant for the longest time,” he says. His statements about Guns N’ Roses “aggravated every type of problem we had. And I take the blame for it.”
The reunion is just one way Slash has returned to his Guns N’ Roses roots.
In recent years, the guitar hero has reconnected romantically with a girlfriend he dated during the band’s heyday.
For his new solo album “4”, Slash hired producer Dave Cobb, who grew up with Led Zeppelin and AC/DC like him. Slash and Mr. Cobb recorded the guitarist’s new tunes live in the studio, an unusual strategy reminiscent of the rawer, more organic production techniques of the 1970s and 1980s.
“It was really liberating to do that,” says Slash. “It’s important for a rock ‘n’ roll band to get the kick out of the material…so that everyone is actually working together.”
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At the same time, Slash helped Mr. Rose remake unreleased songs from the days when Mr. Rose was the only original member of Guns N’ Roses. The hope is that these songs will help get Mr. Rose and Slash writing and recording new tracks in the studio.
“One of the things Axl wanted to get rid of was a bunch of material he recorded,” says Slash. “So we thought, ‘Well, that’s a good way to get our feet wet.'” The upcoming material may arrive in bits and pieces before being pieced together into an album. Work on a completely new record hasn’t really started yet.
And there is no official music release strategy yet. “There are no ready-made answers,” says Slash.
“This is Guns N’ Roses.”
write to Neil Shah at [email protected]
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