Slash is sitting at the table in his Los Angeles home where he "always writes." Next to him are his headphones, an electric and acoustic guitar. His multi-track recorder waits to absorb the seeds of the next Velvet Revolver album.
First, however, he's got an interview to do to promote his band's new tour, their first at arena-sized venues. And he's happy to do it. Running late, he missed our first interview. "I told our publicist that day that we had to do your interview-had to get it done," he explains.
This is the new Slash, same as the old Slash, but with a more lucid sense of priorities. He's gained a tepid rock 'n' roll efficiency that derives only from a motivating force the iconic top-hatted guitarist says he hasn't felt since his first days in Guns N Roses: desperation.
"We were just all at the right place at the right time," he says of his second band to reach the top tiers of rock success. "Fuck what bands we used to be in, or what plateau any individuals in the band had reached. It doesn't matter-when you're not doing anything, one of the most aggravating things is to only be known for a thing you did in the past. I was desperate to find something new to do, but with people who knew how to do it."
The nothing Slash refers to could have been Snakepit, which he calls a "fuck-around thing." In 2002, things came to a head. He was reportedly running out of money. He had worked with Carole King, Iggy Pop, Boz Skaggs and with Ray Charles for two years preceding Charles' death.
But those projects weren't his own. Slash needed something "a little bit more serious... a career move." Then a few events brought his life into sharp focus, one being fatherhood.
"When Pearla"-his wife-"got pregnant, it was a real grounding experience," he says. "I really wasn't sure what I was going to be doing next. And my extreme chemical abuses kept coming and going. I needed something that would help me [get grounded] because I was really self-sabotaging and self-destructive. It was never going to be AA, it was never going to be God...."
Slash recalls the night things changed. He was on his way to an Aerosmith concert, "completely fried out of my mind." Pearla was pissed; she told him she was pregnant.
"I still went to the show, but I had that evening to dwell on the subject, and then I came home and it really sort of turned me around. And it was right at that time that I was putting another band together and everything started to funnel into a positive direction instead of being all scattered and shit. Nobody could've ever tried to tell me that."
Velvet Revolver's debut, Contraband, is nearing 2 million copies sold. The band was nominated for three Grammys, winning one for Best Hard Rock Performance. At the ceremony, Slash directed an ensemble performance of the Beatles' song, "Across the Universe," with Velvet Revolver as the band and Bono, Brian Wilson, Alicia Keys, Scott Weiland, Billie Joe Armstrong, Tim McGraw and Steven Tyler all taking turns on vocals. When Stevie Wonder whipped out his harmonica, Weiland got chills and Slash says the moment became "classic."
"When it was over, it completely belittled the whole aspect of winning a Grammy. For the most part, with the exception of some death-metal bands, musicians tend to be pretty sensitive, very empathetic people. So when you get a bunch of guys together to do something for a cause like that, it just makes you realize how simple it can be to help other people," he says of the fact that the song's recording has been selling at a brisk clip on iTunes for tsunami relief.
"It's nice that even though from a political level nobody's ever hitting the mark totally, get a bunch of fuckin' musicians together and it's like, bingo."
The band's spring tour-in a tour bus that's been retrofitted for the safety of the band members' kids-will take them through May. During a short break in April, they'll start pre-production on a second album.
Permanence is an abstract in the form of a question mark for the people in this band. Slash is stable, although you can usually find him in the hotel bar around 7 p.m. each night, chain smoking. Drummer Matt Sorum remains old-school, drinking till the wee hours and regularly missing soundchecks. Bassist Duff McKagen has been sober since his doctor told him to start making funeral plans. He's in the gym early every morning, but he now suffers intense panic attacks. Guitarist Dave Kushner stays in his own little world. And Weiland, though reportedly sober for a year, is still Weiland.
Yet even with an arsenal of X factors, Slash says he doesn't see any end in sight.
"At the end of the day, once you find that situation where everyone's like, "Oh, thank God,' the last thing you want to do is pack it up and go back to the wife and kids.' You wanna do it for the long haul. You're lucky if you've been able to make a career out of it once, let alone twice."Velvet Revolver plays with Hoobastank at Coors Amphitheatre, 8 p.m. on April 12. $65. 619-220-8497.