It’s 9pm and five minutes before my telephone interview with Slash, I was told that I have precisely 10 minutes on the phone with him. Woah. I quickly realised I wasn’t going to be able to cover all the questions I had prepared for the legendary rocker, one of the greatest guitarists of all time who is heading to Dubai later on this month to perform with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators at the Aviation Club. But Slash, real name Saul Hudson, is surprisingly charming, and ready to sing Dubai’s praises as soon as he comes on the line.
“The last time I was in Dubai was in 2008 for Velvet Revolver’s final tour,” he says, excitedly. “I didn’t really get the chance to see much of the city the last time around as we were pretty much in and out of the country. I just remember looking at how it was going through a lot of changes, but it looked amazing – I bet that has all developed now!”
Prior to co-finding Velvet Revolver, Slash found fame as the lead guitarist of Guns N’ Roses, with whom he achieved worldwide success in the late eighties and early nineties. But things turned sour after his relationship with frontman Axl Rose deteriorated. Having quit the band in 1996, it was only around 10 years later that Slash spoke about the feud in his 2007 autobiography, Slash, stating that his decision to leave the band was not based, as widely believed, on artistic differences with Rose, but on other issues caused by him, such as Rose causing the band to almost always appear on stage late during the Use Your Illusion Tour; plus how Rose demanded legal ownership of the band name.
To this day, Slash maintains that he has not spoken with Rose in person since 1996, and the last time he spoke of him was in 2009 in response to a public statement by Rose in which he referred to Slash as “a cancer”.
“It doesn’t really affect me at all,” he says. “It’s been a long time. The fact that he has anything to say at all, it’s like, ‘Whatever, dude.’ It doesn’t really matter.”
Back to the present, and since Velvet Revolver went on hiatus in 2008, Slash has been keeping busy with various projects. In 2010, he released his first solo album, a self-tilted effort featuring a number of guest musicians, such as Ozzy Osbourne, M Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold, Dave Grohl, and even Adam Levine of Maroon 5. In 2012, he started recording his second album, Apocalyptic Love, with singer/guitarist Myles Kennedy, along with rhythm section Brent Fitz and Todd Kerns, also known as The Conspirators – Slash’s current tour mates.
“During the last Dubai show, I really didn’t know what to expect,” he continues. “I mean, we had been put up in an amazing hotel and treated really well, but we weren’t really sure what the show would be like. But then when it happened, it was amazing.
“This time around, it’s the first show in the tour, so it’s going to be pretty special for those that come out. Fans can expect a mix of music: some from the last solo record, some from Velvet Revolver, and of course, some from the catalogue of Guns N’Roses – two hours of music!
I point out that it’s quite refreshing for Dubai music fans to witness a show that hasn’t been played anywhere else yet. At least we haven’t seen any of it on YouTube for instance.
“But that’s the thing; I try and make it a point to have every show seem like it’s the first show of a tour,” Slash says. “I do not rehearse what I am going to say, and repeat what I say every night. We even mix up the songs. The set lists change from show to show.
“I have seen other artists and bands do this, and it really turned me off. It’s important to feed off the vibe, because every show is going to be different. It’s important to have the freedom to change it around a little bit so that it feels right for yourself. Otherwise, the audience picks up [on the fact the performance is not genuine].”
When Slash is not on the road or recording, he’s a self-confessed movie buff, even posting about the titles he watches (such as “My 8-year-old just completed the Lego Hobbit – it’s much better than the movie!”)
It also seems that he is currently following the news in Dubai, recently tweeting: “Contrary to rumour, @astonmartin did not deliver by helicopter to Dubai, a new Vanquish for me. I wish I were that cool. (sic)”
But don’t expect him to see your tweets.
“I hardly check my replies”, he confesses. “I just post things that come to mind.”
Speaking of a recent question he tweeted to Kiss frontman Gene Simmons (“Random thought; I wonder if @Genesimmons dog still barks at him when he puts his Kisstume on?””), he says: “He’s probably not seen it! The reason I posted that was because there was a photoshoot going on at my house, and once I had dressed up, my dog started barking at me, because they didn’t recognise me. So I was wondering if the same happens with Gene.”
While on the topic of social media, we discuss making it in the industry in this day and age. And from his response, it’s very clear that Slash knows he wouldn’t be touring if he wasn’t an already established musician.
“For me personally, I would say that it is easier nowadays; however, I feel bad for young musicians these days. A lot of things have changed. I think it is more difficult to make it big now.”
Just as he finishes this sentence, we’re warned that our time is up. I try and push for one more question, and despite the fact the nice lady monitoring the call is less than happy about this request, Slash tells me to go ahead and ask him.
Anyone who lived in the Middle East in the nineties or before would know that most music albums sold in stores were not legal copies, purely because no copyright laws existed. I ask him whether he’d prefer that we had bought those copies, listen to his music, and be familiar with his material, or we had avoided doing so completely.
“I’d definitely prefer fans listening to the music. It’s great that our music has reached so many people around the world, and if this was the way it had to be done, then so be it,” he replies.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a true musician for you.
* Slash will perform at the Dubai Tennis Stadium on January 31 alongside Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators as part of the closing weekend for the Dubai Shopping Festival 2013. Doors open at 8pm, show starts at 10pm and tickets, priced Dh300 and Dh500, are available at platinumlist.ae and at all Virgin Megastores.