Slash: "a decade of drugs was not money well spent"

Calling from Houston, Texas Slash is in typically laid-back, good-humoured mood as he discusses his rock’n’roll life and what he has learned along the way.

You’ve got a significant birthday coming up. How are you feeling about it?

It’s not that big a deal, but at the same time I guess it is. I feel victorious because I managed to make it this far [laughs].

Back in 1987, few would have bet on you making it to fifty.

I wouldn’t have put much money on me getting to thirty, really.

Are you happy in your life right now? Is the glass half-full?

The glass is always half full with me. Everything is really good right now. We’re having a great tour and my band is kicking ass.

Is that the cue for you to plug your new Live At The Roxy DVD?

Ha! Okay. We did four club gigs for the release of the album [2014’s World On Fire], and we recorded the one at the Roxy [in LA]. The DVD really captures the energy and the chaos that comes with that gritty kind of gig.

You’ve been a famous rock star for almost thirty years now. Is there anywhere you can still go unrecognised?

I’m not the celebrity type. My life in general is pretty quiet. If you’re going to clubs and restaurants where people are hanging out to see famous people, you can’t really be shocked when you’re recognised.

What is the price of fame?

I guess there are certain sacrifices, like losing a sense of anonymity. But you sort of knew what you were getting into, so why whine about it, you know?

What in your life are you most proud of?

My kids are great. That sort of goes without saying. I’m also proud to do something that I’m passionate about and that still makes me happy. Sometimes you can take it for granted but I try not to.

Do you believe in God?

I’m not somebody who practises any kind of real specific organised religion. But I’m willing to at least accept that there is a higher power of some sort.

The singer in your band, Myles Kennedy, says you’re a “dinosaur expert”.

I’m not necessarily an expert, but I know more than the average person about dinosaurs. I keep up on it, and have done since I was a kid. And actually I have a Google alert for dinosaurs.

You’ve had various snakes as pets. Can you really have any kind of meaningful relationship with a snake as you can with a dog?

Reptiles are not warm and fuzzy, so you have limited expectations. And once you’ve accepted that, you can recognise the snakes’ personalities for what they are. With a lot of different snakes that I’ve had there is some sense of affection there.

What was your biggest waste of money?

A decade’s worth of drugs was not money well spent.

Perhaps not wisely spent, but it was fun, right?

Yeah, it was fun at the time.

And when it wasn’t fun?

I remember being too coked out at a high-school keg party that I was playing. Halfway through the set I just put the guitar down because I couldn’t continue. That wasn’t fun.

What was the worst moment in your career?

There was a Guns N’ Roses show in Texas in 1989 where the band completely fell apart in front of this massive audience. It was desperate on stage, trying to keep everything together. I have nightmares about it.

Even now?

It’s a recurring nightmare. But I think that’s something that has driven me, actually, to be able to handle any kind of live situation.

What is your greatest regret?

I don’t believe in regrets. As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t hurt anybody or done any damage of any real note to anybody. And anything else that I’ve done to myself is just life. You move on. I don’t believe in carrying regrets around.

Here’s an easy one for you: what is the meaning of life?

Yeah, that’s a good one. I guess for me the meaning of life is to try to spend this limited time in existence being a positive and caring person, being good to people around you and doing something that makes yourself happy.

And what will be written on your tombstone?

I’d rather not be the one to say what would be written about me. It seems a little bit too self-important. So just the birth date and death date, I guess.

This article originally appeared in issue 212 of Classic Rock

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Paul Elliott

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2005, Paul Elliott has worked for leading music titles since 1985, including Sounds, Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. He is the author of several books including the first biography of Guns N’ Roses and the autobiography of bodyguard-to-the-stars Danny Francis. He has written liner notes for classic album reissues by artists such as Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and Kiss, and currently works as content editor for Total Guitar. He lives in Bath - of which David Coverdale recently said: “How very Roman of you!”