In 2001, former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash collapsed at a soundcheck, woke up in hospital and was given between six days and six weeks to live.
A pivotal moment in the hard-drinkin’, heavy-druggin’ Los Angeles native’s life, it marked a turning point that saw the legendary axeman get sober and eventually begin writing and releasing records of his own.
“I’ve gone through a lot of different stuff,” he says. “I was comfortable with a lot as far as when Guns N’ Roses was happening, but there’s been a lot of stuff I’ve had to go through to get to the point of where I’m at now, on my own. It was very hard. Maybe there were periods there when I probably had question marks in brackets around whatever I was doing, but I never really stop and specifically think about stuff like that. I just like doing what I do.
“It seems insane to people that I don’t have a specific motivation now other than just liking music. I like playing live, I like writing, I like touring and everything that goes with it. Making records and going out in front of audiences; this is what I picked up a guitar for.”
World On Fire is Slash’s third solo album, and the second on which the 49-year-old has worked with Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators.
“It’s exciting, we finished it in May,” he says. “We’ve been doing this for five years now. It started off as nothing; I didn’t have any plans for this. It was just really a band that I’d put together to support my first solo record, but it turned out to be such a great bunch of guys that I decided to work with them to make the next record following that, which was Apocalyptic Love. Basically, at that point, it had already turned into a band and was one of those sort of magical combinations of people that I didn’t see coming, but turned out to be really great.”
Produced by Michael ‘Elvis’ Baskette, World On Fire is 17 tracks of typically Slash hard rock, with plenty of big riffs and solos, and was recorded in double-quick time.
“Usually it’s one or two songs a day,” Slash says. “But with this record we ended up doing 17 tracks in six days. It was good. I write the stuff on the road, here and there, and then I work it up with Brent (Fitz, drums) and Todd (Kerns, bass) and start getting a real musical arrangement together. I then send it out to Myles so he heard.
“I grew up in a very rock’n’roll environment, musically, and guitar solos are a very important part of rock’n’roll songs. They’re just a really exciting part of a good rock song.”
An upcoming slot on the Soundwave 2015 bill will give Slash and co. a chance to play the new material to (East Coast) Australian audiences for the first time.
“I’m excited about it. We did it in 2011 or 2012 – I can’t remember exactly. We did the tour and there was Slayer and a bunch of cool bands on the bill. It was a lot of fun, and was one of the coolest sort of moving tours that I’ve ever done. We are really looking forward to it.
“Everything on the album is basically all recorded live. We don’t write songs with the intention of them being live songs, but when we go in to record it, we just play the songs live so much it just comes out that way. Everything on the record more or less comes from a live setting, so it should all translate great live, you know? We’re on tour now with Aerosmith in the States and then we start a world tour in November. It’ll basically run all the way through next year.”
Despite Kiss’ Gene Simmons recently claiming rock music is dead, Slash is quick to come to its defence.
“I’ve been hearing that same exact quote since the ’70s,” he says. “But anyway, I think rock music as a medium will never ever die or anything like that, but it’s going through a hard time. The way that the business has become is predominantly, if not 100 per cent, corporate at this point. When it comes to record companies and radio and all that kind of stuff, rock music doesn’t really have much of a place in it. But that’s what I love about what’s going on right now – there’s this really great underbelly of very genuine, spirited rock’n’roll happening. It’s starting to get that sense of rebellion back, which is really great. I think that’s important, and I think it should be us-against-them, you know?
“I sort of like the way that things are going and I don’t see rock being dead at all. I see it in Europe and a lot just recently in America. I can’t speak on behalf of Australia, but I do know certain bands over there who have that same attitude.”
With more than his fair share of hard living and dark times behind him, and his new band line-up set in stone, the only question that remains is whether one of rock’s great survivors is willing to drop the solo moniker and give his bandmates equal billing.
“I’m not going to,” he laughs. “Never.”