Former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash must feel as though he’s living in a time warp these days.
On one hand, he’s about to hit the road with a new touring band headed by Alter Bridge singer Myles Kennedy in support of his forthcoming solo album, “Apocalyptic Love.” On the other, Guns’ landmark album “Appetite for Destruction” turns 25 later this year, and the influential crew was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
Somewhat unexpectedly, the band even performed at the April ceremony minus a couple key cogs: the media shy Izzy Stradlin and pugnacious frontman Axl Rose, who has publicly feuded with his former mates for years.
In a recent phone interview, Slash, who visits the Orpheum Theatre for a concert on Wednesday, May 16, opened up about reuniting with Guns, having the drug talk with his kids and how he thinks he’d fare against his avatar in “Guitar Hero.”
How did it feel getting up onstage recently with most of the Guns N’ Roses guys at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions?
It was a really nice event all around, and it was a special moment for all the guys that showed up. It was a nightmare going into it, but when it actually happened it was like, “This is pretty cool.”
At what point did your attitude change? Was it when you all finally got onstage together?
Going up there you feel very much part of something that is bigger than…all the stories, drugs, the fights and this and that and the other. There was a body of a music that had a significant impact. When you think about where we come from, which is really like sort of the back alleys of Hollywood and being just scourges of the neighborhood…it was like, “Wow. It was a pretty big thing we ended up doing.”
What was your initial reaction after reading Axl Rose’s open letter to the Rock Hall (in which the frontman refused induction)?
The funny thing is we never would have played had he never written it. I think at one point he alluded he was at least going to go, and so we hadn’t really prepared to play at all. We were just going to show up as almost an obligatory thing — more for the fans than anything. But that letter set a fire that was like, “Okay, (bleep) it. We’re going to go play.” So it really almost didn’t happen. And if it hadn’t been for that special letter it wouldn’t have.
In a 1988 interview Axl described you by saying you were quiet, but then you pick up a guitar “and your heart and soul seem to pour out.” Has it always been easier for you to communicate with a guitar in your hands?
I would say that is my main source of communication (laughs). I find I’m more direct and heartfelt with a guitar. It definitely doesn’t come verbally. That’s actually a chore for me.
That seems to contrast with the whole rock and roll lifestyle. Was it hard for you to adapt?
You have a lot of different chemical influences to help you out of your shell, and I’m sure that helped me along with it. But for the most part I think what you do as a musician onstage is completely different from the personality offstage.
The song “Not for Me” (off “Apocalyptic Love”) sounds like it could have been written in response to those wildest years in Guns.
It’s an interesting take on those subjects of drugs and booze, because usually we’re promoting (that lifestyle). It’s a song about the morning after when you sort of decide you’re tired of the whole thing. It’s something everybody feels at one time or another.
What was that wake-up call for you (the guitarist has been sober since 2006)?
I’ve had many wake-up calls (laughs). You take it so far and then you have that feeling the next day when you look at the waste you left behind the night before and you start thinking, “God, I’m done with this.” But it’s really hard to get off that train. For me, it really took a long time to get to that point where I finally said, “I’m done.”
When the time comes, how will you handle the drug talk with your two children?
We’ve had one already because I have a 9-year-old who hangs out at the skate park, so he’s seen a few things over there. He’s got a great attitude, so it wasn’t an extensive talk. I didn’t need to try and influence his thinking because he was already there.
Have you ever faced off against digital Slash in “Guitar Hero III?”
No, I haven’t. I’ve seen it, though. They have these stand-up “Guitar Heroes” in arcades and I’ve walked into those a couple times and seen kids playing with my avatar. It’s very unsettling (laughs).
Do you think you could take him?
As soon I knew I was in the game I stopped playing it. But when I was playing “Guitar Hero II” I was pretty damned good, so maybe.