As a Guns ‘N Roses fan, this book was a no-brainer when it went on sale on Amazon. You will notice a trend on my book reviews in that I always get the books when they are on sale, dirt cheap. Best way to buy them. Slash has always been this larger than life Guitar God with his trademark black Top Hat, long curly hair covering his face and a cigarette sticking out of his mouth. And of course, that is why that picture is the cover of the book. You instantly know who it is.
The book came out in 2007 and it covers the periods of his childhood, through Guns ‘N Roses rise and fall, Slash’s Snakepit and all the way up to his band at the time Velvet Revolver. It is a journey filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. You get to see what influenced him in life and what drove him forward to succeed. I would say you get everything as he lays it all out on the table. He isn’t afraid to paint himself in a negative light either.
After reading this book, I am amazed that Slash is actually still alive. He started doing drugs, drinking and having sex at an extremely young age. His parental supervision was interesting as his parents were very artsy and lived a very bohemian lifestyle. At a young age, he was surrounded by famous people, including the late David Bowie. He started out skateboarding and eventually discovered the Guitar and then his focus changed. School was never important, but even less so when he started playing guitar.
The book spends a good chunk on his developmental years, but it really got interesting when he started playing. Slash had a huge drug and alcohol problem. Hell, the whole band did. Slash was on a constant rollercoaster of being on and off drugs and would jump from one vice to another. This is a main focus of the book as it was a main problem of his whole life. The constant drugged out stories and then quitting and then back on drugs again did get old after awhile and a little tiresome. And I am sure it did for the people involved, but the stories about the band is what saves the book and kept my interest.
It is great seeing how many false starts he had in the music business and then how the gang from Guns ‘N Roses came about being. The creation of the band and all the moving players was really interesting. I loved the parts on the songwriting, the album recordings and all the touring…lots and lots of touring. Finding out the timing on when songs were written and I really loved seeing how the band started as this cohesive unit and then became a dictatorship run by Axl Rose (this is Slash’s point of view). Slash hung in as long as he could, but eventually he left and so did everyone else. Axl became Guns ‘N Roses. Sadly, the book is from 10 years ago so no stories on the eventual reunion (partial as not all members are there).
The book isn’t all about Guns ‘N Roses, thankfully. It is about his personal life as well including his many relationships (which are all interesting) and his personal health issues related to his addictions (a funny story on his defibrillator). You get a true understanding of Slash as a person and how if left to his own devices, he is extremely self-destructive.
The man had another addiction that is unique. He loved his reptiles and most especially snakes. Snakes, Snakes and lots of Snakes. He kept hundreds and some were very dangerous. He is everything you would expect from a Rock & Roll Star. He lived the lifestyle.
Now after Guns ‘N Roses, Slash talks about his other musical outings including Slash’s Snakepit and Velvet Revolver. The Velvet Revolver stories were really interesting for me as my brother-in-law (Ryan) was involved during that time period. My BIL was not mentioned by name in the book, but Slash did mention the “Sound Engineers” so close enough.
Slash tells the story of how difficult and how long it took to find a lead singer. I believe it was almost a year long search and how Scott Weiland was one of the first people they thought of, but he was still with Stone Temple Pilots at the time. Eventually, no lead singer had been found and then STP broke up…again. The band was complete.
There are lot of interesting stories about Slash’s new band, but what I found most intriguing was how the tide can turn. What I mean is that during Guns ‘N Roses era, Slash felt Axl was the problem within the band. He was always late and an overall difficult person to work with. In Velvet Revolver, that problem was actually Slash. I won’t go into it, so read the book and find out for yourself why.
The book goes through to the 2nd Velvet Revolver album and up to the point where Slash actually gives up drugs and completely cleans himself up…finally! The book goes out with that great news, but we miss the break-up of Velvet Revolver (even though we see the crumblings beginning) so I am hoping there is another book down the road to pick up there and go through to the GNR reunion like I mentioned earlier. I would also love stories on working with Myles Kennedy as those two seem to gel.
Overall, the book was great. It was your typical book of sex, drugs and rock & roll; however, there is enough meat in here to keep your interest peaked. His stories are great, they are detailed and they are interesting. If you want insight in to GNR, you get it and then some. If you do like I do with all Rock Biographies I read, listen to the albums when you reading about them in the book. It adds another dimension and gives you a better understanding of the songs and the albums. If you enjoy these Rock & Roll Tales, then add this one to your list as it is a must read.
Now for some bonus material on Velvet Revolver from my Brother-in-law…
There was a part in the book where Slash didn’t like that Josh Abraham used these tiny speakers and that wasn’t going to work for him. The “Sound Guys” spent time renting different speakers until they found the right one. I asked Ryan about that and this is what he added to the conversation..
“…(Slash is) the only artist I’ve worked with in 22 years of doing this that wanted big speakers for control room recording and playback. The majority of people use smaller speakers and don’t listen at ear splitting levels. He did mention up front that he likes it loud so he can feel the music and always be recording on the first take because good stuff often happens that he may not be able to recreate. “In the moment” kind of stuff. The guitar solo in Sucker Train Blues is his first take and he was just screwing around. He tried additional takes and approaches but none were as good as the warm-up take.
Since we were talking about speaks, he talked about the Amps Slash used during recording…
“Once we started tracking guitars, we basically spent a week with just Slash and then a week with Dave Kushner doing their guitar parts. Slash brought all of his own amps along with his long time guitar tech Adam Day. For pretty much every song, we used his JCM 800, Slash model and a 1971 Super Lead (All Marshall amps) which were all combined to create one sound. A few songs saw the addition of a Vox AC30 which he had as well. The only amps we used that weren’t his belonged to me. There’s a Fender Pro Junior used for a verse overdub on Slither and then the clean guitar on Fall To Pieces was played through my 1966 Fender Super Reverb.”
And lastly, here is a picture of the band and crew during the recordings (this is not in the book) (This was used with the permission of Ryan Williams and can not be reproduced without the written permission from Ryan Williams – and maybe a small fee)…
I hoped you like the little bonus material. I am glad Ryan shared that with me.