How Slash Became SlashTHE ROCK POLYMATH ATTACKS CAREER DECISIONS WITH GUNS BLAZING AND COMES OUT SMELLING LIKE ROSES. WE PLAY OUT HIS GREATEST HITS, FROM THE MEAN STREETS TO ARRIVING IN PARADISE CITY.
Saul “Slash” Hudson is born in the U.K. His mother makes rock-star outfits and his father designs album covers. They separate after a move to L.A. Slash gets focused: “I got jobs so I could get cigarettes, beer,” he said. “That’s how I see money. It’s never been a motivating factor.”
A tumultuous childhood is channeled into music. He quits school, and his education becomes recalibrated—Slash is reported to have practiced guitar for up to 12 hours a day. “Guitars are like women,” he later explained. “You never get them totally right.”
Slash goes accessory shopping—and makes history. The serial shoplifter swipes the infamous top hat, later wrapping it in a belt (also stolen) and joining the handful of celebrities recognizable by shadow alone, so unique becomes his silhouette. Also joins an upstart band called Guns N’ Roses.
The band ignores critics and soon gets signed to Geffen Records. “Being told no was the big thing ever since I can remember,” he said. “And that was always getting in the way of creativity.” The following year, Appetite for Destruction takes GN’R into the stratosphere.
High-flying success continues. But despite the launch of the much-lauded two-disc album Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, the band’s wings are clipped when rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin departs. Follow-up The Spaghetti Incident? —the last album to feature Slash and bassist Duff McKagan—flops and GN’R crashes to Earth. Slash leaves the band in 1996.
Following a near-death experience and a poor prognosis, Slash yet again turns his life around, completely cleaning up after years of alcohol and drug abuse. His rock-solid willpower sees him through, beating both medical odds and the Grim Reaper.
Rock regains popularity. Slash makes his comeback, forming supergroup Velvet Revolver. He keeps himself relevant with a string of guest appearances with artists from Michael Jackson to Rihanna. “The only thing in rock’n’roll that’s survived the test of the millennium has been metal,” he said. And Slash himself, natch.
Slash calls in some favors, collaborating with friends such as Dave Grohl and Motörhead’s Lemmy on his eponymous solo album. The record garners huge commercial success and Slash yet again finds himself in the limelight. Rock god he may be, but with room for business acumen.
The axeman and his erstwhile bandmate Axl Rose bury the hatchet and reform Guns N’ Roses after a feud spanning 20 years, and music fans couldn’t be happier. “It’s become more exciting as I get older. The passion and desire to do it is really strong.”