Slash And Duff: Back In The Ring

Former Guns N’ Roses members Slash, Duff McKagan and Gilby Clarke recently reunited onstage, prompting speculation that a GN’R reunion could be closer than ever.

The trio played together in Buenos Aires, Argentina on March 7 during a show by Slash’s solo band, featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators. McKagan, whose band Loaded were the opening act, joined his old bandmate for a cover of It’s So Easy, while Clarke, who played in the band during the Use Your Illusion era, pitched in on a version of Paradise City. “It’s been an amazing couple of days, jamming with Duff McKagan and Gilby Clarke,” Slash tweeted after the show.

Their appearance in Argentina isn’t the first time the three of them have played onstage together since the mid-90s – Slash and McKagan were part of Velvet Revolver, and the pair joined Clarke and ex-GN’R drummer Matt Sorum in all-star supergroup Kings Of Chaos. But it comes at a time when the future of the current Guns N’ Roses’ incarnation is shrouded in mystery, potentially paving the way for a lucrative reunion.

The Axl Rose-led GN’R last played live in June 2014, following a successful residency in Las Vegas, and no shows have yet been announced for 2015. “Guns does seem to be on a hiatus now,” said current bassist Tommy Stinson last year, while guitarist Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal expressed frustration at the band’s inactivity. “I’m focusing on my [solo] stuff,” he said.

Reunited: Axl and Duff in LA, April 2014

“I’ve tried to do both and it’s been really difficult. You can only be in one place at a time and that kind of gets in the way of things. You have to start making choices.”

An obvious sticking point for any potential reconcillation is the long-standing bad blood between Slash and Axl, with the latter once stating: “What’s clear is that one of the two of us will die before a reunion.” However, the guitarist recently hinted at something approaching a détente on his part when he tweeted a ‘Happy Birthday’ message to his old sparring partner.

If anyone could bring the warring parties back together, it’s Duff McKagan. The bassist is one of the few people on good terms with both Slash and Axl Rose. He rekindled his friendship with the singer in 2010 when he found himself checked into the same London hotel as his former colleague, leading to a surprise guest appearance during Guns N’ Roses’ show at the O2. When current Guns bassist Tommy Stinson sat out a South American tour last year due to commitments with his other band, reunited alt.rockers The Replacments, McKagan stepped in to cover him. “I’m just glad he and I were able to get together and talk about some stuff, then laugh about a lot of other shit that happened,” said McKagan after his reunion with Rose.

But the future of Guns N’ Roses is held in the hands of Axl Rose, and as ever, the reclusive singer is keeping his cards close to his chest. The singer has suggested that he’s sitting on a stockpile of songs left over from sessions for 2008’s Chinese Democracy, while guitarist Richard Fortus recently claimed the band has been working on material that stretched back even further. “Some of the stuff comes from nothing, and some of the stuff we’ve been working on were ideas that were already there,” Fortus said. “Some of the stuff Slash did – it was the beginning of the seed of the song that’s been around for a while. There’s three albums worth of material, easy.”

Given the 15-year-gestation period of Chinese Democracy, it’s anyone’s guess when a new Guns N’ Roses album will materialise. And given Axl Rose’s seemingly intractable view of his former guitarist, the closest we could get to a reunion anytime soon may be the big screen biopic of Marc Canter’s acclaimed GN’R book Reckless Road, which is currently in pre-production. But the prospect of a paycheck that could easily run to north of $100 million could eventually melt the hardest of hearts. And if nothing else, Duff McKagan has refused to rule out working with Axl again. “I never say never to anything these days,” said the bassist recently. “You never know what’s around the corner.”

Dave Everley

Dave Everley has been writing about and occasionally humming along to music since the early 90s. During that time, he has been Deputy Editor on Kerrang! and Classic Rock, Associate Editor on Q magazine and staff writer/tea boy on Raw, not necessarily in that order. He has written for Metal Hammer, Louder, Prog, the Observer, Select, Mojo, the Evening Standard and the totally legendary Ultrakill. He is still waiting for Billy Gibbons to send him a bottle of hot sauce he was promised several years ago.