Slash finds new purpose, freedom in solo career

SHARE Slash finds new purpose, freedom in solo career

BY SELENA FRAGASSI | FOR THE SUN-TIMES

When Slash appeared on “CBS This Morning” last week for a special announcement, those hoping for breaking news of a Guns N’ Roses reunion were thwarted — again. The guitarist was in the studio to discuss a different elephant in the room, the ongoing slaughtering of the world’s pachyderm population and the ivory trade that has put the species at risk of extinction. The longtime animal advocate, who sits on the board of trustees for the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, premiered a new song, “Beneath The Savage Sun,” and an accompanying music video produced in collaboration with the International Fund for Animal Welfare — the first time his two passions have ever merged.

SLASH Featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators When: 7 p.m., May 18 Where: Concord Music Hall, 2047 N. Milwaukee Tickets: $39.50 Info: (773) 570.4000; clubtix.com

“I wanted to be able to say something on a level that would cause global awareness before it might be too late,” Slash enthuses. The song is already gaining traction as a single from “World On Fire,” his most recent album with his current band featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators. It will be re-celebrated in June with the release of “Live at The Roxy 9/25/14,” a DVD/CD package filmed in the storied L.A. club where the guitarist got his start.

“I have a lot of history there,” Slash recalls of the famed venues along the Sunset Strip that were the backdrop for Guns N’ Roses in the ‘80s. Though “the most prestigious of them all,” The Roxy, was eventually chosen for the recording, there were also special sets at The Whisky A Go Go and nearby Troubadour where Slash hadn’t stepped foot in 30 years. It was a ghostly experience as he and Kennedy, bassist Todd Kerns, drummer Brent Fitz and rhythm player Frank Sidoris ripped through their new material as well as a series of GNR classics like “Nightrain,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Paradise City.” Slash has only started to reintroduce those songs into his set in the past five years after a period of distance. and eventually finding Kennedy (initially considered for Velvet Revolver) whose hair metal howl could fit the range.

“Live at The Roxy” is the band’s second live album, which has always been an important marker for Slash after growing up devouring Aerosmith’s “Live! Bootleg,” “Get Yer Ya-Yas Out” by The Rolling Stones and “Live At Leeds” from The Who. “They had a big influence on me as a kid. It’s how I chose what bands I liked,” he recalls. “I could never afford to buy the whole catalog so I would just get the live record.”

Slash | TRAVIS SHINN PHOTO

Slash | TRAVIS SHINN PHOTO

The guitarist, born Saul Hudson in London in 1965, spent his formative years in the fertile playground of the ‘60s British rock scene. “My dad and uncles were major rock and roll fanatics, like full-on rock nerds,” he jokes noting that they introduced him to a healthy diet of The Yardbirds, The Moody Blues and The Beatles. His mom, Ola Hudson, was also a costume designer for artists like John Lennon and David Bowie (her work was recently on display at the MCA Retrospective).

Though the family eventually moved to the States, Slash admits, “ I think my whole [journey] would have been different had I not started out in England.” That bloodline helped him become one of the greatest living instrumentalists, recently named by Time magazine as No. 2 on its “Ten Best Electric Guitar Players of All-Time” list, just behind Jimi Hendrix.

While Slash’s signature riffs have become as iconic as his top hat and helped make Guns N’ Roses one of the best-selling bands of all time, leaving the group behind in 1996 is something he doesn’t regret.

“I didn’t spend a lot of time looking back,” he admits, nor has he spoken to singer Axl Rose since. Mutual friend Marc Canter (of Canter’s Deli) has been part of a recent mini-documentary called “One Man’s Plan to Reunite Guns N’ Roses,” but Slash says don’t believe the hype. His solo career has been an “exercise in freedom” and much like his hope for his animal friends, Slash is quite content to roam free.

Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.

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