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Arts

Slash reloads

The former Guns N' Roses guitarist says fatherhood has sobered him up for a second shot at rock success with Velvet Revolver.

By JANET ZINK
Published May 22, 2005


Notorious rock 'n' roll party boy Slash says the celebration hasn't stopped. But it has slowed down.

Why?

Well, first he realized that being drunk and drugged-out all the time is "not conducive to getting anything done," said the Velvet Revolver guitarist, who first found fame with Guns N' Roses.

And then maintaining the habit became a major pain in the neck.

"You spend a lot more time being sick and fatigued and desperate. It just becomes miserable," he said in a phone interview last week. But for Slash, who'll be in Tampa on Tuesday for the band's show at the St. Pete Times Forum, the turning point came three years ago when his wife became pregnant.

"It gave us a sense of responsibility that neither of us were really used to, but at the same time if I was going to be a father I wanted to be a good parent," Slash said.

The couple now has two sons, ages 3 and 1, and Slash said they've taught him about putting someone else first.

"We still party," he said. "But only when we have a babysitter."

Stepping out of the nonstop party haze has also taught him something.

"You end up realizing what a (expletive) selfish self-centered person you've been all your life," he said. "I spent my entire life as a no-holds-barred rock 'n' roll musician with nothing to lose."

Before kids, all that mattered to him was music.

"Now I have something that I care about which is not about myself," he said.

These days, Slash finds himself contemplating morality, and what's right and wrong so he can pass that on to his sons.

"It's something I never had to think about before," he said. "It's very grounding."

Even Velvet Revolver lead singer Scott Weiland, whose drug problems have been blamed for the demise of Stone Temple Pilots, has changed his behavior, Slash said.

When the two began working together in 2003, Weiland was "at the tail end of a downward spiral," Slash said.

That spiral included arrests for cocaine and heroin possession, jail time for repeatedly violating his probation and pleading guilty to domestic violence charges.

But Slash and his soon-to-be-Velvet-Revolver bandmates had been auditioning singers to help them fulfill a contract they had to write a song for The Hulk movie.

Then they got the news that Stone Temple Pilots had split up.

"We hunted (Weiland) down and asked him to work on the movie project," Slash said.

Weiland and the band wrote Set Me Free, which appears on Velvet Revolver's 2004 release Contraband, but originally was included on The Hulk soundtrack in 2003.

The collaboration went well, and Weiland was asked to join Velvet Revolver.

That seems to have been Weiland's turning point, Slash said.

"He had come to terms with the fact that he needed to straighten out or he was going to die," Slash said. "Also if we were going to do this band we needed to even things out." Weiland resigned himself to cleaning up and his new bandmates provide support, Slash said.

"The rest of us in the band have all been through that exact same thing," Slash said. "There's no better group of guys for him to be around."

Guitarist Dave Kushner found Alcoholics Anonymous 15 years ago, and still goes to 12-step meetings regularly. Bassist Duff McKagan, formerly of Guns N' Roses, has two young children and has been drug-free for 13 years. Drummer Matt Sorum, also a Guns N' Roses veteran, and Slash both have cleaned up, too.

Fans of the band's other projects will be glad to know Velvet Revolver plays at least two Stone Temple Pilots songs at every concert, sometimes Sex Type Thing.

But the two Guns N' Roses songs they play are not the ones you'd expect. No Welcome to the Jungle or Sweet Child O' Mine.

"They're very anthemic, and they're songs I can't see anyone else doing," Slash said. But Velvet Revolver's music is earning its own accolades.

Contraband, a platinum seller, scored Velvet Revolver a Grammy win in February for Best Hard Rock Performance. In 2005, nearly 20 years after Guns N' Roses debuted, Rolling Stone readers picked Velvet Revolver as Best New Artist.

"The thing that's kept us around for a long time is this unbridled passion for what we do," Slash said. "We never thought about trying to do anything else or throwing in the towel. I couldn't imagine not doing it. We are very genuine in that sense. Through and through musicians - we love rock 'n' roll. It never changes."

PREVIEW: Velvet Revolver performs with Hoobastank, 8 p.m. Tuesday at the St. Pete Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. $36.50-$49.50. (813) 287-8844 or (727) 898-2100 or (813) 301-2500.

[Last modified May 19, 2005, 10:42:03]


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