Guns N' Roses' former manager on 25 turbulent years with Slash
Jack Daniels, drugs, trashed TVs and even kidnapping his own guitarist. Former Guns N’ Roses manager Alan Niven on 25 turbulent years with Slash
This article originally appeared in Classic Rock Presents: Slash.
My first impression of Slash was “Yeaarrrggggh fuckers!” A well-Jacked howl into a microphone teetering on the edge of the Troubadour stage as he lurched into Nightrain. Jack Daniel’s and Slash used to be very close friends. At the video shoot for Welcome To The Jungle in 1987, a frazzled grip came running up to me: “Ah, Mr Niven, you’ve got a bit of a problem.” There, outside the empty store we were shooting in, where Axl was strapped into a chair with a metal restraint around his head, was Slash stumbling around in the middle of the traffic on La Cienega Boulevard, brandishing a gallon of JD at the terrified rush hour motorists.
I grabbed him and took him around the back of the Winnebago we were using as a dressing room. I explained, in short syllable Anglo Saxon, and with a certain degree of firmness, that this was behaviour that was not suited to the circumstances. Slash looked me silently in the eye, then turned and walked home – some six or seven miles away.
Another night, in New York, Jack and Slash decided to wrestle the manager. Slash awoke the next afternoon, his face covered in rug burns, and Daniel’s was nowhere to be seen. When you went out with Slash and JD to, say, the Palace in Hollywood, they would disappear. I knew where to find them though. They would be sat on the floor of the Ladies’ toilets, slumped against the wall, just below the hemline, grinning with inebriated lechery at the girls coming and going.
Daniel’s and Slash threw a hammer through a window of Geffen Records, just for the hell of it. JD and Slash smashed a Gibson SG through the window of the band van. Jack Daniel’s and Slash trashed the apartment we stayed in on the band’s first trip to London, where Guns played the Marquee on Wardour Street. All the fragments of furniture were piled in a heap in the middle of his room.
Jack and Slash pitched a television down the stairwell of a hotel in Nottingham. “That television cost over £300,” wailed the hotel manager. The manager was informed otherwise. The television, as far as the band management was concerned, did not cost £300 – it cost £1,000! When Slash was informed as to the personal cost to him of the escapade, he was not very pleased with Jackie D. He never, to my knowledge, threw another one.
All things considered, I am really glad he chose to reconsider his relationship with Jack Daniel’s, and with other artificial euphoriants. ‘Euphoriants’? Yes, that is a euphemism for drugs. I will never forget Slash going through the pain and misery of ‘cold turkey’ in my spare bedroom; never forget having to clean up his vomit and count out the Valiums for him.
I will also never forget that on the day he finally surfaced, he left, early in the morning, calling for a Towncar to take him back to Hollywood. I called the limo company after he had left, to find out where he was going so early in the day – it was straight back to his dealer.
To get him away from such people I would have him kidnapped. “Hey, Slash, be at the office at noon tomorrow, you’ve got an interview with Guitar Player magazine.” Slash would arrive and be swept by [tour manager] Doug Goldstein into a limo and taken to LAX airport, where they would board a flight for Hawaii. There, surrounded by nothing but golf courses, Slash would have to get clean. All things considered, I am also very glad he survived to kick that habit.
We all, in some way, live with a huge monkey on our back. Guns n’ Roses was a magnificent and meteoric moment, one that millions wish to have reborn, revisited, and resurrected. That moment, however, has long since passed. To go back, to reform, without great new composing, would be a disservice to the legacy of the real Guns n’ Roses. They, the original band, should all be free to do whatever it is they wish to do today and tomorrow. Besides, the music lives, and so they all, Slash included, should be allowed to move on. All things considered, stellar playing comes from stellar writing, and I look forward to the day slash aligns himself once more with great writers, like Izzy and Axl. I’d love to see that.
A few years ago Slash and I sat in a Mexican restaurant in The Valley. “it’s good to see you and talk with you,” he said. “There aren’t that many people who understand what we experienced together.”
Absolutely, but first and foremost, I consider Slash a good friend, irrespective of Guns n’ Roses. He is someone I would have enjoyed the company of even if he were not a musician. Had he been, say, a graphic designer, he would still have been great company. He’s smart and he’s funny. He has a cool creative energy about him.
All things considered, Slash is a very cool guy. I never thought, when we first met, that he would morph into a global icon. Hell, I wasn’t even sure we’d get a record out of the band – they were so disorganized and dissolute when we first met.
The intention of Guns n’ Roses was to be a great rock’n’roll band, not to be infamous as the last great self-destructive rock’n’roll band, weighed down and ultimately destroyed by insurmountable expectation and over-pressured super-egos. Imagine too, having to live your life as an icon. All things considered, Slash does it all with grace and style, and all things considered, if he were ever to lose the top hat, I would still be pleased to know him as a friend.