Slash and Izzy Stradlin Discuss Life in Guns N' Roses in 1989 Guitar World Interview
Here's our interview with Slash and Izzy Stradlin of Guns N' Roses from the March 1989 issue of Guitar World. The original story, which started on page 50, ran with the headline, "Raunchy Guitars and Reckless Reps."
It's another perfect wreck of a Sunday afternoon in downtown Los Angeles. While thousands of dazed denizens attempt to piece together fragments of the previous night's misadventures for either themselves or some like-minded compatriots, the very object of many of their fantasies is polishing off his morning cocktail.
For the man known as Slash, Guns N' Roses' volatile, rakish lead guitarist, living the crude values extolled on the band's debut, Appetite For Destruction, has become something of a full-time occupation.
Sleep -- an increasingly rare indulgence for Slash – is a welcome but impractical notion. In just a few hours, Guns N' Roses is due to convene its first rehearsal in a month, in preparation for its maiden voyage to Japan. New Zealand will quickly follow.
And then there's the business of writing and recording the follow-up to Appetite For Destruction, the raging slab of backstreet howls and disillusionment that came from nowhere and managed to sell over six million copies in the United States alone (ranking it behind Whitney Houston and Boston as the third largest-selling debut of all time).
"Yep, the pressure's kind of on," Slash admits sheepishly. "Still, it's nothing we can't handle. What I try and do is act as if nothing has really happened. So we sold a lot of records -- big deal. It's not going to change the way we live or the way we try to make our music. Surface things will take a different course, sure, but the important thing for us is to just ignore it."
Slash's humble assertions notwithstanding, the fact is that indifference is something none of the members of Guns N' Roses appear particularly adept at. Pain and outrage have inspired some of rock 'n' roll's finest moments, from Elvis Presley right on through to the Sex Pistols.
In that spirit, Guns N' Roses' memory of a more squalid existence -- at one point, the band shared guitarist Izzy Stradlin's ratty studio apartment, its members relegated to floor space -- served as fuel for the dozen compositions that became Appetite For Destruction. Taken as a whole, the album is a beautiful mess: noisy, nasty and, at times, overtly brutal.
The roar of Les Pauls screaming through Marshalls (Slash's much-praised trademark sound) is nothing new, but the absolute conviction of execution, coupled with Izzy Stradlin's churning, Neil Young style rhythm guitar, constitute a whole far greater than its parts.
All too often, the efforts of guitarists in search of "the big sound" result in nothing more than forced, croaking rumbles. Stradlin's and Slash's sound is authentically vicious -- a reverent nod to the past and a watchful eye to the future.
There are some flabby spots. Some songs -- "You're Crazy" and "It's So Easy" -- seem dashed off and ready to collapse, while others -- "Out Ta Get Me" and “Anything Goes" -- promise much but, ultimately, spin their wheels. But the core of the album -- "Welcome To The Jungle," "Nightrain," "Mr. Brownstone" and "Sweet Child O' Mine" -- are fully realized evocations of late-eighties excess and despair.
Not since the glory days of the Eagles (whose message, sadly; was lost on most party-hardy fans) have the woes of the modern-day desperado been so palpably rendered. The songs set a high standard for future band efforts.
Guns N' Roses' impact is manifest on the dozens of L.A. stages brimming with chest-pounding, bandana-wrapped posers who parade their "streetwise" selves. Ironically, the more these wanna-be's huff and puff, the more the public seems to respond to the band they perceive as the real thing.
"It could be said that we have a pretty nasty history," admits Stradlin. "The thing is, I don't give a fuck about the image that everyone buys. It's all been blown out of proportion, the 'bad-boy' thing, how much we drink, how much drugs we do or don't do. It's boring. While everyone's talkin' about what we did or supposedly did yesterday, we're already working today on the music they're gonna hear tomorrow.”
Slash, for his part, sees the humorous side: "The image tag is an easy thing to finger us on. None of us are model citizens, I guess. But the musical end of it can get funny. Why, I'm already hearing people pulling out those wah-wah pedals, slipping 'em onto tracks and subliminally sounding a lot like us. That's a compliment, but it's kind of missing the point, isn't it?"