The mythos of Slash is a dense fog of debauchery and musicianship. Widely considered one of the best rock guitarists on the planet, the man best known for his bombastic riffs and trademark top hat will return once more to San Francisco when he plays the Warfield on July 15 (under the name Slash Ft. Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators).
Despite the fact that residents don’t seem to adore the Warfield in the same way they lavish praise on other local venues, it remains a special place for Slash.
“The Warfield is probably one of my favorite venues in the country,” he says. “It’s a little bit of a second home.”
The days of Slash fighting Axl Rose for elbow room during a van ride from Los Angeles to a gig in San Francisco may be long gone, but his affinity for the Bay Area as an escape away from Los Angeles remains. Recalling road trips that he used to take with his mother and “all of her hippie friends,” Slash says journeying up to Big Sur and then on to San Francisco was a regular pastime.
When Guns N’ Roses was just starting out in 1985, the second show they played outside of Los Angeles took place at the Stone — a defunct rock venue in North Beach that’s now the Penthouse Club. Slash’s personal favorite Bay Area memory occurred while GNR was in town for a gig at the Warfield in 1988.
“I’d been using these two guitars that were these really nice, handmade Les Pauls,” he explains. “One of them I’d use on the records and the other one was a backup. I was thrashing the shit out of them. Gibson sold me, at cost, two brand-new Les Pauls. I retired the old ones and those two new Les Pauls ended up being my main guitar all the way up until … I still use them.”
Although Slash will always be best known as the lead guitarist for Guns N’ Roses, his output includes tenures with numerous bands. In 1994, he formed Slash’s Snakepit in the wake of his departure from GNR. Later, he teamed with former bandmates Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum to form Velvet Revolver. Featuring Stone Temple Pilots’ Scott Weiland on vocals, the band was active from 2002-08.
Since then, Slash has been playing with singer Myles Kennedy, bassist Todd Kerns, and drummer/keyboardist Brent Fitz. As Slash Ft. Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, the group has released three albums, including 2018’s Living the Dream. In 2016, Slash also returned to GNR alongside McKagan for the “Not in This Lifetime” reunion tour. As of December 2018, it stands as the second-highest-grossing tour of all time.
Given Slash’s rock star pedigree, he’s often asked by the press to serve as an unofficial spokesperson for the health of rock ’n’ roll. It’s not a role he ever wanted.
“I’m not one of those people,” he says. “I’m not a big, outspoken advocate of anything, really. I just quietly do my own thing. I do get asked a lot of questions about things that I feel like I have to comment on but I don’t feel comfortable in that role at all, no. I don’t even know the answers half the time.”
Despite his lack of enthusiasm for the subject, Slash does admit that he’s not entirely sure all of the fervor proclaiming the death of rock is actually such a bad thing.
“I do dig that rock is the underdog and the underbelly of the whole music business — which sucks,” he says.
Overall, chatting with Slash is a surprisingly low-key affair.
For a man who once famously hid a mountain lion cub in his room at the Four Seasons, he’s remarkably reflective and thoughtful in conversation. Asked if he’s seen Leaving Neverland — a recent HBO documentary that focuses on two men who allege that Michael Jackson sexually abused them as children — the pop singer’s one-time collaborator concedes that he has not but sounds genuine when he adds that he plans to soon.
His tone gets excited when talking about a forthcoming GNR pinball machine (“nothing has ever come out like it”) but sits at even keel when discussing the circumstances that led him to get sober in 2006.
“I had so many fucking near-misses and that just didn’t seem to faze me,” he says. “It came to a head for me after a pretty tumultuous 2005 with Velvet Revolver. I was just falling down that black abyss again and I was like, ‘I can’t get high anymore. This just doesn’t work.’ So I put myself in a facility for a month and got my head together. I haven’t done it since. I haven’t had the urge to do it since.”
Luckily for fans, it’s an urge to make music that’s survived alongside the man himself.
“As you know,” he adds, “I didn’t go anywhere — and it doesn’t look like I’m going to.”
Slash Ft. Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, Monday, July 15, 8 p.m., at the Warfield, 982 Market St. $45-$75; thewarfieldtheatre.com