Say you manage to get 20 minutes on the phone with Slash, the legendary Guns N’ Roses, now Velvet Revolver, guitarist—what do you ask him? Chances are you could think of plenty of stuff.
When it’s an “interview,” however, there’s only so much you can ask the guy. He doesn’t want to discuss Guns N’ Roses—“I don’t talk about Guns N’ Roses,” he tactfully, calmly tells City Weekly when the subject is broached. Obviously, he’s obligated or even wants to pimp Velvet Revolver (a band that just happens to contain two other former Guns, plus Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots and ex-Dave Navarro sideman Dave Kushner); that’s why he’s on the phone.
As rock supergroups go, Velvet Revolver amazed most everyone by not sucking. They managed to put out an album (the cheekily-titled Contraband) that doesn’t sound like warmed-over GNR or Stone Temple Pilots. It’s a pretty exciting record, 13 songs of righteous rock & roll that does draw from its members’ previous work, but also reaches back into early punk without sounding overtly retro, and sounds contemporary without VR appearing like flickering stars desperate to regain their brilliance.
Still, as good as Velvet Revolver turned out to be, when you get Slash on the phone, you naturally want to ask about Guns N’ Roses (“How about that Axl Rose, huh? Do you think the Chinese Democracy album even exists?”). Knowing that’s off the table (and knowing better than to ask trite wish-you-were-reuniting questions), you might resort to goofy ambush-interview questions and hope the guy has a sense of humor (“If we flipped you upside down and shook you vigorously, what would fall out of that mop?” “What’d it feel like to say ‘f—k’ on live national TV?” “Would you do it again?”).
All of these options are preferable to asking about Velvet Revolver. What is to be known about the relatively new band (which isn’t much beyond all the melodrama of their formation and Weiland’s addiction problems) has already been disseminated in TV specials and interviews, then repeated on the Internet ad nauseam.
So maybe there’s some new angle to try—surely anything would be better than just pimping the album and promoting the show. But what? Does Slash fish? Maybe he scrapbooks or spends downtime coloring new ashtrays at Color-Me-Mine? Does he secretly yearn to record an album of sitar ragas? Who is the guy underneath the mop?
That idea seemed to have some juice. The hirsute dude on the line is just doing his job. For him, doing tour-related local-paper interviews are probably like working the drive-thru after you’ve been promoted to manager. Guys like Slash don’t have to talk to papers in every town to big-up their shows. They can reject interviews and still roll into town to play a packed house and be on their way.
Still, here he is, on the phone with a Salt Lake City alt-weekly, gamely pimping the new stuff. Nice guy … maybe he’d appreciate something different. Hell, how about letting him dictate the interview?
“I don’t have the imagination to pick something I wanna talk about at this point in time,” he said. Fair enough. We both tried to go a different route with the interview, just talking about what it’s like being Slash. It didn’t work.
The idea was to take Slash out of context, try to see him as more than a hairy, profane (he dropped several f-bombs in our conversation, but that’s hardly news) and profanely talented rocker. City Weekly has already perceived this, in part: Slash showed in the first minute of conversation that he was a mellow, agreeable guy. That was the most insightful thing to be gained from the discussion was that he’s not a drunk jerk-off—had he been, that would’ve been more interesting.
So the concept of painting a different picture of Slash is moot. We can try to scrutinize Slash, poke and prod to find something interesting to talk about, but who really cares what Slash does or who Slash is beyond what we already know?
Could we get deeper into the music? Nah. It’s nothing to wax analytical about, either (to be fair, that’s my opinion). But that’s the cool thing about Velvet Revolver. They just rock; you can’t reduce them to any simpler terms. When you spin Contraband, you don’t think of anything but the feeling you get from cranking good, loud music. It’s not groundbreaking stuff, and trying to make it so would cheapen the experience.
Funny how this brings us back to pimping the album and promoting the show. The very thing we tried to avoid is, in the end, the only thing that matters. So check out the record. Get a ticket to the show. That’s where you’ll find Slash and Velvet Revolver to be most compelling.
VELVET REVOLVER E Center, 3200 S. Decker Lake Dr., Monday April 25, 8 p.m. 800-888-8499