He grew up in a bohemian enclave where Bowie was a house guest and Carly Simon popped by. Then he formed Guns N’Roses and became an icon in his own right. Now, as he moves into film production, Slash reflects on his life in Hollywood. “I’m at the epicentre of it all,” he tells Phil Alexander.
SOMETIMES IT’S difficult to remember exactly where home is,” laughs Slash. “Even when I come home to LA, I stay in a hotel. The pace on the road is so different, I find it really hard to adjust. I’d rather just stay in a hotel room where I can throw shit around the room, spit on the walls and relax a bit.”
Step back in time to a February evening in 1992. Slash is enjoying a brief break in LA before heading to Japan to resume touring, and the guitarist is reflecting on the events of the last five years. In that time Guns N’Roses have been catapulted from the Hollywood club scene onto a global stage. Officially the biggest rock’n’roll band on the planet, they’re midway through the Use Your Illusion world tour that will eventually extend across 28 months, encompassing 194 arena shows in 31 different countries. Success, according to Slash, comes at a price.
“I would hate to live in a place that’s way out of harm’s reach.”
“The bigger you get, the harder it is to retain any sense of normality, you know,” he says. “Normal things suddenly become a a fuckin’ chore. Going back to LA used to allow us to keep things together, but I am not sure if that happens anymore. It’s funny, sitting here in a hotel room but being close to the old neighbourhood where I grew up, where we used to live when the band started out. It’s bizarre.”
The neighbourhood in question is West Hollywood where Guns N’Roses formed in 1985. There, they honed their sound, setting up their rehearsal studio in a storage building off Sunset Boulevard and Gardner Street. There the five-piece of Slash, frontman Axl Rose, guitarist Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Steven Adler played, shagged, drugged and occasionally slept, re-christening the place The Sunset And Gardner Hotel And Villas in reference to the more salubrious hotel-to-the-stars, the Sunset Marquis And Villas, where Slash would later become a habitué.
As the band began to forge a reputation playing Hollywood clubs such as The Roxy and The Troubadour, their notoriety around the burgeoning Sunset Strip scene grew. If their own excesses fuelled the music, so too did the environment they lived in – a point borne out by the material that graced their debut long-player, Appetite For Destruction. Night Train, for instance, was written in tribute to the fortified wine of the same name while the band were wandering drunk down Palm Avenue one evening. For Slash, however, Hollywood was home long before he became interested in music.