The good news: Slash's photo appeared on the August 9 cover of Rolling Stone just as his current band, Velvet Revolver, was releasing a new CD, Libertad. The bad news: The image pictured him with Guns N' Roses, whose most famous album, Appetite for Destruction, hit stores 20 years ago. And inside the mag, the Gunners received feature treatment, whereas the Velvets wound up with a sidebar.
It could have been worse. After all, Slash managed to embody the first half of the phrase emblazoned on the T-shirt he wore in that 1988 photo — "Live Fast, Die Young" — without succumbing to the second. Not that it wasn't touch-and-go on occasion.
"Most everyone in Guns has been pretty close — at least four of us," he says. "The calls have been so close to the point that there's no reason I should still be here. I've been clinically dead and all this other shit."
Still, Slash waited until he was "around 39 or 40" before he got serious about cleaning up. After getting hooked on OxyContin, which he discovered upon growing bored of the Vicodin he was given after surgery for a torn rotator cuff, he says, "I checked into rehab and said, 'Let's try and rethink this.' " A few weeks later, he concluded, "Someone's trying to keep me here, and I'd better not fuck it up."
The "clarity" Slash says he gained as a result benefited Libertad, a modest improvement over Contraband, the 2004 VR debut he made with former Stone Temple Pilot Scott Weiland, guitarist Dave Kushner, and GNR vets Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum. But the band's survival was threatened after rumors surfaced about Slash rejoining Guns alongside frequently unhinged frontman Axl Rose — a situation Slash made worse by initially claiming that a late-night visit with Rose hadn't taken place. "I didn't really intend to lie for any other reason than that I didn't feel like explaining everything. Which is the reason most people lie, I guess," he says, laughing.
Today, however, the Velvets are moving forward again, and Slash is anticipating two new projects. The first is his debut as a playable character in the forthcoming Guitar Hero III, a video game he loves but has had difficulty mastering. "It's actually a lot harder to play as a guitar player," he allows. "You put something in your hands that's remotely similar to a guitar and you approach it a certain way, and Guitar Hero doesn't necessarily work like that." In addition, he's written an autobiography that he hopes will set the record straight about his past and present. Trouble is, he admits that he "can't remember three-quarters of what went on."
Maybe that Rolling Stone article can refresh his memory.