|Former Gunner Slash assembles new band for second Snakepit album.
It's the homestretch of the NetAid New York concert, and on the Giants Stadium stage Sting is trying to coax the remaining crowd to get a world groove on following high-energy sets by Puff Daddy and Jimmy Page. In a tiny dressing room tucked beneath the stands and just off a long corridor lined with Puff Daddy security and hanger-ons, former Guns n' Roses guitarist and current Puffy-VIP-for-a-night Slash is sprawled out on a small couch, looking for all the world like no one but Slash. Take away the couch, stick a bottle of whiskey and a black top hat between legs and surround him with four other straggly, long-haired skinny dudes, and you'd have the back cover photo of Appetite for Destruction.
He's alone now, though, and the trademark hat's nowhere in sight.
"People keep stealing them," Slash explains, his tone suggesting a mix of bewildered amusement and weary frustration at the phenomenon. The one he just wore on stage during his cameo on Puff's "All About the Benjamins" -- Slash's only performance during the eight-hour concert -- has already been safely packed away and loaded up. As for the other four guys missing from the picture, well, we won't be going there. "Don't ask me for dirt on Guns," he warns, laid-back but firm. No comment, then, on a certain new industrial metal screamer called "Oh My God"? Slash half smiles and shakes his head, the bait untouched.
Instead, Slash holds forth on his own baby, the new Snakepit album he's just finished recording in Los Angeles and is currently mixing in New York. "It's a hot knife through butter kind of record," he says proudly. "Actually, it'll probably kick your ass."
The still-untitled Jack Douglas-produced album, which is set for release on Geffen in February, features an entirely different lineup frm the one Slash used for his 1995 Snakepit debut, It's Five O'Clock Somewhere. Gone are singer Eric Dover and Slash's fellow GN'R vets Matt Sorum, Gilby Clarke and Dizzy Reed; replaced by drummer Matt Laug, bassist Johnny Griparic, rhythm guitarist Ryan Roxie and vocalist Rod Jackson.
"The singer we have is the f---ing awesomest singer in the world," Slash declares, admitting that he's tried singing himself but knows he doesn't have the personality for the gig. "[Jackson] was under my nose without me knowing it, after two hundred singers I must have looked at. I can't verbally characterize his voice, but he's got amazing control, amazing volume...he's just f---ing awesome."
From the beginning, the new Snakepit came together as a much more focused band-affair than Slash's first foray out of Guns' formidable shadow. "The first band was just sort of a make-shift, throw-together band just to kill time, because I was still in Guns and it was just fun," he explains. "For that, I loved it, because it gave me a chance to go on tour and really work my ass off, to get back on my own and to what it was that I appreciated about being in a rock band -- how it starts, and how much you have to work, how many gigs you do in a month... hustling like eighty-two something shows in four months on four continents, just really getting down in the thick of it."
Despite the freedom Snakepit allowed him, Slash says family loyalty pulled him back to the GN'R fold, but it wasn't to be.
"I sort of made a half-assed attempt at going back to Guns," he says. "But at the end of the day it was half-hearted, and I realized it wasn't going to happen, so I came back and I just started jamming with lots of different people and I accumulated what I thought was the nucleus of a whole band without having giving it any pre-thought. I just started jamming with certain people all the time on a regular basis. And then I found a singer, and decided to just do the Snakepit thing again, but, like, do it for real. This one we took a little bit more time, as opposed to it being a guitar record for guitar's sake, or it being just one of those throw-together bands where God knows what's going to happen at the end of it because we all have other jobs."
Slash says he has every intention of returning to the road for what he hopes will be a one- or two-year tour behind the album. "If it's got legs," he says, "I'll use them." But his eagerness to hit the road has nothing to do with wanting to reclaim the larger-than-life status he experienced as a member of one of the biggest groups in the world.
"It's not really like that," he explains. "I like doing what I do. It's pretty much all I do -- I don't have hobbies, or kids or a wife to go home to or a vacation period, s--- like that. It's really 24-7. I don't ever not want to play stadiums again, I don't not want to ever be in a band that's at the center of attention again, but Guns was an awesome fluke. Right place, right time, right attitude, f---ing very genuine -- it was a one in a million type of band. So to try to recreate that is an impossibility. But you do what you can do, do what you like doing, do it as best you can and try to take it as far as it will go. You just keep going in a forward direction."
For Slash, that means sticking to what he does best, trends be damned. "The Snakepit record's not like what everybody else is doing," he says matter of factly. "I don't know what the f--- everybody else is doing anymore -- it all sounds like s--- to me. But as far as rock & roll music is concerned, it kicks ass."