|IT'S DUSK in L.A. A neonpink moon rises slowly in the darkening coppernickel sky. Seated at a table in corner booth of a cavernous downtown Mexican restaurant, where the service is nervous and slow, but the drinks are served strong, Slash pushes the hair out of his bloodshot eyes and surveys the scene.
"Me and the band used to live in a garage down the street when we first started out, and we used to come here all the time.
"We always used to sit here in the corner, right where we are now, because it's the best spot to get a blow-job without anybody knowing," he says matter-of-factly.
"I know this place is kinda seedy and run down, but I like it here. I feel comfortable," he shrugs.
Guns N' Roses spent most of the Summer of 1988 feeling pretty comfortable touring with Aerosmith in America, where their 'Appetite For Destruction' album spent most of the Summer months jostling with Def Leppard's 'Hysteria' album for the Number One spot in the charts. The tour became one of the two hottest-ticket-in-town draws of the year - only Leppard's own tour did comparable business in America.
"Aw, man, it was great... Some funny shit went down on that Aerosmith tour. We were so similar, and yet we made such a contrast. They're all 'straight' now; clean. And their whole operation runs like clockwork; they stay in one place for four or five gigs, then when the tour moves a little further up the road they move to another place and make that their base for the next five gigs, or whatever.
"The whole thing is kept well under control... Which is exactly the opposite, of course, from the way we usually get things done. we travel the whole time, and very little of what we do is done, uh, straight..." he says, scratching his belly.
"But it didn't seem to matter. They were exposed to us the whole time, and we got to hang out together a lot. Which was really cool, because those guys have all been heroes of mine since I was a kid and first started listening to rock 'n' roll."
Did they preach to you about the evils of drink and drugs?
"No, not once. They don't do any of that shit any more, but it hasn't turned them into preachers. I used to drink around them all the time and nobody said anything - though I did use a cup! But that was when I was still carrying a bottle of Jack around with me the whole time.
"There was one time when Steven (Tyler) came into the room I used to use for tuning my guitar. I'd stepped out of the room for a minute and when I got back there was Tyler standing there looking through my tapes and stuff. I had one empty, one half-empty, and one full bottle of Jack lying around in there.
"Anyway, I walked in and we started talking. And he says, 'Did you drink all that today?' And I was, like, yeah, I did. And he just gave me this look. He started to say something, but then he changed his mind. He's been through some scenes of his own, I guess.
"I remember Steven (Adler), our drummer, was very disillusioned about just about everything at one point, and he sat down and talked to Tyler about it, and Tyler gave him some sound advice."
Did you get up on stage and play together at any point on the tour? "Oh yeah, when we came to LA. It was a gas! We did 'Mama Kin' together...
"It was nice, too, because we were told by the people that worked for them that they would never go to the side of the stage and watch any of the bands that opened for them, usually. But for us they were there just about every night. There was always one or two of them there, and sometimes even the whole band."
Did that freak you out at all?
"The first time I looked over and saw them all standing there watching us play, yeah, that f**ked with me. It was weird...
"All of a sudden I look over and Joe's standing there watching me, and I almost froze. It was like, 'Wow! What do I do now?" he laughs.
"In the end, it was a real family vibe going on between the two bands. They used to watch us, we used to watch them, and the rest of the time we'd hang out together.
"We managed to earn a little respect just by being a half-decent rock 'n' roll band, just really going out there and f**kin' trying to kick some ass, regardless.
"I did a guitar solo one night - one of those finger-pickin' slow blues things - and after the show, Tyler got me to one side and said, 'That was amazing!'. I just stood there and said, 'Well, thanks', and couldn't think of anything else to say. I was blown away.
"Seriously, that's something I'll never forget... That, and a couple of other things he did, which I won't mention because it would get us both into too much trouble..."
WHEN 'APPETITE For Destruction' went to Number One in America this year - 13 months after its release in 1987 - Slash says he was as surprised by the news as anybody.
"I mean, did that really happen to us? It's like, there's that, and then there's regular life. The rest is just words and numbers that don't really mean a thing."
Why did it go to Number One at all, do you think?
"I'm not sure. I think the only reason it could have possibly gone to Number One is we're filling some sort of void.
"That's really the only thing I can attribute it to. It's not because the songs are all huge hits - that's the last thing they are, they're just a bunch of dirty rock 'n' roll songs.
"So I figure, we're just like the resident down and dirty rock band in town at the moment. Everybody wants to have that record because it's not really that safe... and it looks cool next to George Michael records in their collection," he sniggers.
"I mean, it's really nice to be able to afford an apartment, and know what my financial situation is and all the rest of it. But I don't need any of that to help me write songs, and that's really all that really counts for me.
"I mean, don't get me wrong. This is not some dumb muso telling you he doesn't care how many records he's sold as long as he's got strings on his guitar - I'm not that f**kin' humble! I'm very business-oriented when it comes to knowing what all the figures mean and making sure we don't get ripped off."
THEY SAY a rock band is only a phenomenon once, no matter how long their fame and fortune endures. For some bands it can come and go over the lifespan of one hit single. For most, the glow of the 'new' lasts for one album - or for as long as it takes them to deliver a grossly over-hyped 'follow-up', which, with very few exceptions, almost invariably turns out to be a disappointment on all levels for everybody concerned.
"Our next album will come out, and it'll sell a lot, but I don't think it will be like this, the way things are right now; crazy," he says with a crooked smile.
"But it doesn't matter. What matters is whether the next album is actually any good or not. As long as the material is all there, I'm happy.
"We'll just make the best record we possibly can, as sincerely and as honestly as everything else we're ever done, and that'' it. After that, it's not our problem any more...
"I know damn well that the reason 'Appetite...' is going where it's going is because we hit certain f**kin' particular place and time and the sparks just flew.
"But I'm not gonna walk around with my nose in the air thinking I'm hot shit, because if you think about it rock bands on the whole - with the exception of the Beatles and Elvis - are pretty insignificant. You're only there while you're there, and when you're gone there's somebody else... you know what I mean?
"Compared to what goes on in the world, a rock 'n' roll band is no big deal really.
"So we'll just go out and do another record. In the meantime, I'm just a guitar player in a band that's doing really well right now, and I'm gonna have the best time I can have while I'm here... doing it."
EVEN UP to last year, Slash was still living out of a suitcase, staying in hotels in L.A. Recently, though, he wised up and took some of that extra drinking money Guns N' Roses earned him, and bought himself an apartment in North Hollywood.
"It's five minutes drive from the Roxy and the Rainbow and all those other cheap dives I often find myself in," he says. "And if I get too out of it to drive myself home I can always roll myself down the hill…
"Other than that, it's just a little apartment already furnished. It came with this f**kin' couch and cheap table and a refrigerator and stuff - like one of everything.
"It's the first apartment I ever lived in that actually belongs to me… It's a whole new experience. I can't live off everybody else forever; if I can afford to have a place. I can't just keep being, like, a total f**kin' gypsy all my life…"
Aren't you ever gonna go for the full rock star's mansion?
"Mmmm… Well, I'm gonna buy a house. I don't think I'm gonna buy a car for a while, though… I'm too psychotic behind the wheel, I'd kill somebody.
"I lost somebody's car the other night. I borrowed a car to drive myself home from a friend's, and I was so drunk that I parked it somewhere, but I can't remember where. It's just gone, kaput! I have the keys sitting on the table in my living room, and I don't even know where it is.
"And the thing is, I always want to drive when I'm drunk. It doesn't really interest me as much when I'm sober. I get drunk and I want to drive fast, and I just know it's gonna get me into big trouble one day if I don't watch out…
"I've been through the experience once already of hitting somebody in a car… I hit a van, it was when we were recording the album. I realised pretty quickly then that one drunken night just isn't worth years in jail, or being responsible for somebody else's misery…"
WITH GUNS N' Roses now off the road for the first time in 18 months, Slash says he's going to be spending time sitting at home writing songs for the next Guns N' Roses album, in time for the recording to begin in 1989.
"In between all this other shit that goes on in my daily life I do write a lot. So I've already started writing. I've got an eight-track which I'm using to put down the best ideas on tape.
"I'm pretty productive, I work all the time. A typical day for me might mean getting out of bed at 8:30 or nine o'clock in the morning, going down to Geffen Records; talking on the phone to some radio stations that want interviews; doing all this other promotional shit… Then writing at night and, later, going out, maybe.
"One morning they woke me up at 5:30 am to talk to some guy on the phone from a magazine in Greece… But that's not every day. And it's a small price to pay, anyway - for not having to worry about your rent, and getting to work on time every day, and all these other horrors that our music has helped us escape.
"To pay for those privileges, you have to f**kin' be there for the few responsibilities you do have as a band member.
"Anybody can sit around all day just getting out of their heads… and I should know," he chuckles. "I'm still not very good at looking after myself in lots of ways, but I take the best care of my music I can, and my music takes care of me…
"Jesus," he grunts, reaching for his glass. "I'm starting to sound really f**kin' corny, man… What are you trying to do to me? Turn that f**kin' machine off!"