You gotta wonder what his mood will be like given the fact that the publicist says not to bring up any questions regarding the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and Axl Rose. And we've all read the gossip, so we won't bore you with anymore ugly, unconfirmed details. The former GUNS N' ROSES/VELVET REVOLVER guitar icon SLASH is in town (Toronto) for CMW (Canadian Music Week) and to talk about his upcoming album, Apocalyptic Love (due out in May) as well as kicking things off with a special intimate show tonight (Friday, March 23rd) at the Phoenix Concert Theater for a few hundred people. While we steer away from the ongoing RN'R HOF debacle, our conversation begins with Slash's apparent fondness for this city.
"It's a great city and the people are awesome," he says about Ontario's capital. "There's a very cosmopolitan mix of people. The best thing about it is it's a great rock destination and a great crowd here. I've had a history with Toronto that's always been positive ever since the '80s. I've had a great relationship with a bunch of the locals for ages, not just when we hit it big."
And you've brought your apocalyptic love to the city and you are ready to give birth!
"Yeah, I'm a little anxious now that it's finally done. We have until May when it comes out and I'm doing the right thing in setting it up. And we have our first of the next twelve months tomorrow here. This is like the equivalent of a warm-up show we'd do in Los Angeles, but we're doing it here. So that's kind of cool. Then a lot of stuff starts falling into place before we take off for the extended tour. It's exciting."
Jokingly I ask if he gets any pre-show jitters after all these years.
"I always get pre-show jitters," he says shockingly. "It's just the anticipation of the gig and the anxiety of wanting to play the best that you can and all that kind of shit. It makes you nervous. I've always had that and it hasn't shown any signs of going away. Fifteen minutes before the gig I start getting pretty uptight. It doesn't matter if I'm playing in a club and with somebody else's band or a theater, a festival, arena ... whatever."
And speaking of live, Apocalyptic Love kicks off with the tapping of drums sticks giving it that live, off-the-floor jam feel.
"It is very live," Slash agrees. "That was the intention. I mean, I've always tried to be as close to live as possible. I don't think I've ever been involved in a record that I was responsible or part responsible for that didn't have live bass and drums. And sometimes rhythm guitar. The issue with me is that I don't like wearing headphones. So whenever I play with a band during basic tracks I would always go and redo the guitars in the control room where it sounds bigger and natural. So we finally managed to figure out a way to do the guitars live on this record where I could play in the room with the guys in the band. Kind of like a room within the room where I could listen to monitors in there and not have to wear headphones and still be able to see the guys. This is the first record I've done where all the guitars are live. So that's pretty cool. It's definitely been a positive all-round experience. In this configuration it's been really exciting and a good extension for what we've been doing the last year and a half anyway."
Immediately Apocalyptic Love cranks that patented Slash guitar tone we've all come to know and love, the album a raucous, rebellious, raunchy return packed with memorable chorus lines and Slash wouldn't have it any other way.
"I think that's one of the coolest connections Myles (Kennedy; vocals) and I are on the same page. I like writing a really cool riff, then having a verse then having a big chorus. And Myles adheres to that 'cause he hears where the chorus is and he comes up with a great big melody for it. And we just gel that way."
And it's hard to keep a band (rounded off by drummer Brent Fitz and bassist Todd Kerns) together these days and you've succeeded.
"Yeah, I have thus far! These guys are really easy, easy to work with. With years of experience I've found that there's a lot of idiosyncrasies with different musicians and in a group situation they push and pull against each other all the time. Sometimes it gets to the extreme that it really will make the connections separate. That's a safe way of putting it. With these guys they are really sort of easy going and everybody just wants to play. And there doesn't seem to be any other type of agenda except for that. It really seems like one of those arrangements where it would be really hard to fuck it up. It would have to be me that would do it. I'm pretty tight with everyone, but Myles and I have a definite writing connection. But other than that, it's pretty much the same all around."
And you've allowed the fans to enter your world via Facebook and Twitter. It's this tiny little carrot that you're dangling in front of all of us! But we feel a little closer to you and your world.
"It's cool to be able to have a personal relationship with people that support what you're doing. Especially if you are making a record or doing a tour - that's more for them anyway. It's nice to have that interaction anyway. It's one of the coolest technological developments over the last 20 years what you are able to do with social networking. For people to sit and talk shit about whatever is something else altogether. In the beginning I took it way too seriously. On Twitter I was direct messaging fans and I was spending every waking moment texting these people and I realized this is something I can't keep up."
The artwork to put it simplistically is you.
"(Laughs) It started off with the sexual innuendo more in your face and I'm sure that will come out in another version. And because I realized I was cutting my nose off to spite my face, to force that as the cover, because there are very few records as it is and you have to take advantage of the ones you do have. So I was like 'ok'. I went to the artist (Frank Maddox) and told him the basic idea and what I wanted to have on it and we went through this long back and forth development process to get it right. But it came out cool. So the other one, the more lewd idea will come out in due time. I take music seriously, but I don't take myself seriously."
But the guitar world does, as we continue to see Slash in high profile circles, running with the dream as it were. But when the former Gunner mixes and mingles with the elite of the scene, garnering awards and accolades too numerous to mention, he remains a down-to-earth, recognizable spectacle.
"I never had any kind of a vision period," Slash admits. "When I first started branching out and jamming with certain people when the opportunity came up, I was so honored to be asked. From MICHAEL JACKSON to the early sessions with ALICE COOPER; just to be asked to play with somebody you respect and admire and listened to a long time. That was huge for me. But it's really become a thing of like, it happens when it happens, and I love doing it because it really teaches me something, it keeps me very humble. It also teaches me to think outside of my box. When you're in one group you become part of this little bubble. It's a huge honor to be able to do it. I never did have a picture in the early days. I think the only tangible image I had in my mind was maybe the audience."
We end things off early as I mention that there are some questions on my list that couldn't be asked.
"Yeah, I try to be nice about it," Slash interrupts, "but it gets all blown out of proportion."
Slash confirms that he'll be attending the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame ceremony, but questions the validity when some of the forefathers of the scene like RUSH, KISS, MOTÖRHEAD, JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN, CHEAP TRICK, BAD COMPANY, JOURNEY aren't even part of club.
"It seems unusually biased," Slash remarks. "It's hard for me to get excited because it's something almost embarrassing to be called into something when the guys that were toiling around way before you got there - people's records you have - don't get in there."
Guns N' Roses along with THE SMALL FACES, THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, THE BEASTIE BOYS and DONOVAN will be part of the class of 2012 at the 27th Annual Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Inductions, taking place April 14 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Continuing with Guns, we close with the news that the band's Greatest Hits continues to surge in sales due to promotions around the upcoming RN'R HOF awards.
"One thing that's a huge honor about Guns is that we have this ongoing appreciation," Slash says in a humble tone. "Nobody could ask for a better situation other than still being together I suppose. It's a constant generational turnover. Just to have generations of people that weren't around when we started, still freaking out over a record. It's nice to be included in that group of albums that will always stand the test of time."