Slash is heading up a project of his own these days, a quintet he calls Slash’s Blues Ball. And unlike his old group Guns N’ Roses, this, he says, “is really just a good-time band.”
“It’s mostly all covers--and not necessarily a lot of blues,” the 31-year-old guitarist says. “There’s a lot of old-style rock in there as well.” The set list does include “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Crossroads” and “Key to the Highway,” but “this isn’t like the traditional blues cover band you see in clubs these days. There’s definitely a hell of a lot more decibel levels going on. Nobody should be expecting a nice, quiet B.B. King type of thing. It’s more of an approach of, say, like a Johnny Winter.
“And no two shows are ever the same.”
The Blues Ball--which plays tonight at the Galaxy in Santa Ana and Saturday at the Ventura Theatre--started as a lark last year when a Hungarian promoter asked Slash to headline a concert. Slash recruited GNR backup singer Teddy Andreadis to sing lead; Andreadis called a bunch of his friends--guitarist Bobby Schneck, bassist Johnny Gripack and drummer Alvino Bennett--and everybody headed overseas. They had such a good time playing that they’ve kept at it.
(Meanwhile, Slash also has toured and recorded with Snakepit and recently landed on the adult contemporary chart, of all places, with a song called “Obsession Confession” from the “Curdled” movie soundtrack.)
Born Saul Hudson in Staffordshire, England, Slash has lived in Los Angeles since he was 11. His parents were active in the music business as graphics and clothing designers, so little Saul grew up around such artists as Jimmy Page, Sly Stone, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie and Ron Wood.
“I heard a huge array of music when I was a little kid,” he says. “The first band I was turned on to was the Moody Blues. I was into the Beatles and the Stones and the Who and Led Zeppelin. Then there was Bootsy Collins and Chaka Khan, and my dad listened to a lot of Muddy Waters. I picked up a lot of stuff as the heavier bands started to come out, but I still like the old stuff.”
Playing in bands from the time he was in junior high, Slash became a mainstay of the L.A. hard rock scene in the early ‘80s. Guns N’ Roses was formed in 1985 and by the end of the decade had become one of the most popular bands in America, though it seemed to create controversy wherever it performed, largely the result of lead singer Axl Rose’s widely reported onstage temper tantrums and free use of racial epithets.
The group hasn’t released an album since “The Spaghetti Incident” in 1993 and rumors of a breakup have been constant, although GNR hasn’t publicly called it quits.
“In a nutshell,” Slash says, “Axl and I aren’t really seeing eye to eye as far as musical direction is concerned. Where he’s taking on a visionary direction, I’m still rooted in the original concept [from] when we first got together. We’re sort of butting heads on that.
“When I came back from the last Snakepit tour, I did go back to rehearsals [with Rose] to see if we could rekindle any kind of flame, but it just didn’t work out.” Rose could not be reached for comment.
“If we ever decide at some point that we need each other, that we want to get back together, if we ever get back in a room together and it clicks, that would be great,” Slash says. “In the meantime, I’m not gonna sit around and play rock star. I want to work.”
Slash always has been a favorite of fans and critics alike. “I don’t spend any time reading the write-ups,” he says. “I do a lot of press but I never go back and read it. But when people say something positive and I hear it on the street, that makes me feel good.
“As much as Guns just kind of got pigeonholed into this bad-boy, sloppy circus thing, I was actually trying to hone in on the guitar playing. I wasn’t trying to turn it into a Steve Vai, technical kind of thing. I was trying to play where my heart and soul were coming from. There was a conscious effort to play good.”
More and different stuff lies ahead. This week he is laying down tracks for a new album by the rappers Clown Posse. He also is looking over offers to score films and is overseeing the construction of a new studio, where he hopes to record with Snakepit later this year.
“Things just pop up all the time,” he says. “As long as you’re out there, you take advantage of whatever cool opportunities there are.”
* Slash’s Blues Ball plays tonight at the Galaxy, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, 8 p.m., (714) 957-0600; and Saturday at the Ventura Theatre, 26 S. Chestnut Ave., Ventura, 8 p.m. (805) 648-1936.