25 Years Ago: Axl Rose Confirms Slash Is Out of Guns N’ Roses
On Oct. 31, 1996, Axl Rose ended months of speculation by confirming Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash had left the lineup.
A shroud of uncertainty had hovered over the group for some time. Although 1991's Use Your Illusion albums had widened the scope of GNR's artistic ambition — and enjoyed the sales to match — personal tumult shadowed their success, chipping away at the lineup along the way. Drummer Steven Adler was fired in 1990, guitarist Izzy Stradlin left the following year and by the mid-'90s, it was apparent that Rose had more or less completely seized the reins, leaving the band's future subject to his seemingly unpredictable whims.
Slash, in the meantime, had burned off some artistic steam with his side project Slash's Snakepit, which included fellow GNR alums Matt Sorum and Gilby Clarke as well as Alice in Chains bassist Mike Inez and former Jellyfish member Eric Dover on lead vocals. The band's first album, It's Five O'Clock Somewhere, arrived in February 1995, and although its release couldn't help but encourage rumors of Slash's impending departure from Guns N' Roses, many fans didn't realize just how strained things had gotten in the band.
Part of the problem stemmed from Clarke's dismissal from GNR, which Slash later claimed happened at Rose's behest without the consent of the other band members. Now in need of a new rhythm guitarist, Rose allegedly insisted on bringing in Paul "Huge" Tobias — over the objections of Slash, who maintained he had no chemistry with, and no musical respect for, the new addition. Slash's frustrations only increased when the band found itself committed to recording a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" for the soundtrack to the movie Interview With the Vampire — a film Slash later alleged he hated and Rose loved.
Feeling dragooned into cutting the song at all, Slash later said he was further enraged when he discovered Rose had directed Tobias to shadow some of his guitar parts on the track. "That was it — having another guitar player record over me without telling me was as much disrespect as I was willing to handle," Slash recalled in his memoir. "I washed my hands of that song, I washed my hands of Guns for the moment, and I focused my energy on my own songs and my own project."
Although Slash's Snakepit wasn't about to — and wasn't designed to — approach GNR's level of commercial success, it provided a much-needed outlet during a time of increasing tension in the band. Unfortunately, the two acts shared a label; as Slash later pointed out, Geffen Records' primary allegiance was always to Guns N' Roses, and once the Snakepit project recouped and Rose was ready to get to work on the next Guns album, the record company pulled tour support, leaving Slash feeling like he'd been ordered back to work.
Unfortunately, tensions hadn't improved during Slash's downtime from GNR, and the sessions following his return weren't ultimately terribly productive; in the meantime, Rose continued to assert control. Something was bound to give, and on Halloween in 1996, MTV reported it had received a fax from Rose letting the world know Slash was out of the band — and making it fairly obvious fans wouldn't be hearing any new music in the near future.
LIVE!!!! From "Burning Hills", California...
Due to overwhelming enthusiasm, and that "DIVE IN AND FIND THE MONKEY" attitude....
#1. There will NOT be a Guns N' Roses tour.
#2. There will NOT be an official Guns N' Roses website.
#3. There will NOT be any NEW Guns N' Roses videos.
#4. There will NOT be any new Guns N' Roses involved merchandise.
#5. There will NOT be a Guns N' Roses Fan Club.
#6. There will be a new Guns N' Roses 12 song minimum recording with three original "B" sides.
NOTE: If all goes well this will be immediately repeated.
#7. However*******Slash will not be involved in any new Guns N' Roses endeavors? as far has not been musically involved with Guns N" Roses since April 1994 with the exception of a BRIEF feel period with Zakk Wylde and a 2 week initial period with Guns N' Roses in the late fall
of '95. He (Slash) has been "OFFICIALLY and LEGALLY" outside of the Guns N' Roses Partnership since December 31, 1995.
Nothing here is Subject To Change
Without A PERMANENT SUSPENSION
Of the "Pseudo Studio Musician Work Ethic"
W. Axl Rose
Big FD Ent., Inc.
Mike "Duff" McKagan
The news, while not entirely unexpected, was nonetheless one of the bigger stories of the year in spite of the fact that neither Rose nor Slash were willing to comment with much more than a press release. "Axl and I have not been capable of seeing eye to eye on Guns N' Roses for some time. We recently tried to collaborate, but at this point, I'm no longer in the band," Slash responded. "I'd like to think we could work together in the future if we were able to work out our differences."
Even at the time, everyone was aware there was more going on behind the scenes. According to Slash, the final straw was a revised contract drawn up and forced upon himself and bassist Duff McKagan by Rose's lawyers. "It wasn't even me necessarily leaving the band," Slash told Piers Morgan years later. "It was not continuing on with the new band that Axl put together, that he was now at the helm of. The new Guns N' Roses. I was given a contract to basically join his new band, and it took about 24 hours before I decided this was the end of the line."
As GNR fans would become painfully aware, the two sides' differences were destined to persist for many years to come. In defiance of constant (and occasionally quite lucrative) pleas to reunite, the classic Guns lineup stayed split; after McKagan left the fold in 1997, Guns N' Roses was well and truly Rose's band — and one that would remain holed up in the studio for over a decade working on the next GNR LP, 2008's Chinese Democracy. Various ex-Guns members pursued their respective solo careers, with Slash, McKagan and Sorum even reuniting to form Velvet Revolver with Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland. But no matter what they did, it wasn't the GNR fans wanted to recapture.
"Oftentimes the public perception centered on Axl and me as the core of Guns N’ Roses, and I think Axl agreed, but the success GN’R had garnered up until that point was the result of five guys working together, where nobody was more important than anyone else as far as I was concerned. But that idea was becoming ancient history," Slash wrote in his memoir. "It didn’t seem like there was anything I could do about it."
Fortunately, time — and the promise of a big payday — heals most, if not all wounds, and fans finally got (most of) the reunion they'd long hoped for when Slash and McKagan returned to the lineup for GNR's Not in This Lifetime tour in 2016. This reformed version of the band has continued touring together harmoniously ever since. And while the only "new" material to come out in that time has been reworked tracks from the Chinese Democracy sessions, there is renewed hope that GNR may turn their focus towards a new album.
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