Interview With Slash from Guns N' Roses.
Slash from Guns N' Roses shares his interest in snakes and reptiles.
By Phillip Samuelson
My phone rang shortly after 8 a.m. as I was feeding my various animals and planning to leave for the REPTILES office. I was pleased to hear Slash's voice on the other end, responding to a letter I had mailed to him a few days earlier asking about his reptile interests.
As it turns out, Slash's fascination with herps – boas and pythons, especially – is very intense. As we were talking, it soon became apparent to me that I wasn't just talking to another guy who owned a pet snake and had a casual interest in reptiles, but rather to someone who had a thorough knowledge of numerous species and their proper husbandry. Our conversation was not too unlike the discussions I have on a daily basis with reptile owners around the country. We talked about herps that are on our "wish lists"—animals we do not own now, but would like to someday—and I promised to keep my eyes open for a few species Slash has an interest in.
Music has never been the primary focus of our discussions. Although I genuinely appreciate Slash's music, a strong interest in reptiles is the common ground we both share.
Slash reads REPTILES magazine and enjoys it, and he was perfectly happy to meet me for an interview. Since we both had busy, conflicting schedules, we postponed the interview and photo shoot until our agendas were less hectic. After speaking a couple more times over the next month, we decided to meet at Slash's Beverly Hills home in late November. Once we met, we were able to speak in more detail about his collection, and I was able to meet firsthand several of Slash's cherished pets. Earthquake damage from Los Angeles' January 1994 quake was evident at his home, and plans to rebuild were underway. Regardless of the damage, the house was beautiful.
As I entered Slash's front door, a very large (over 22 feet) reticulated python greeted me from its cage beneath a stairway. Indeed, custom cages built into the walls of the home itself are a common feature at this residence. A majestic pair of rhinoceros iguanas occupy cages in the living room. Off of the garage is a colubrid room where Slash and his caretaker house an impressive number of captive-bred kingsnakes. The patterns on these captive-bred snakes are particularly nice, and the colors extremely vibrant. The species being captive-bred include banana California kingsnakes, Blair's gray-banded kingsnakes, Lampropeltis ruthveni, L. mexicana mexicana, L. m. greeri, L. zoonata algama and L. pyromelana. On the landing of the stairway, a built-in cage houses a stunning pair of carpet pythons. Upstairs, a room-sized enclosure, complete with running water and tiling, houses a variety of large pythons. These cages are large, attractive and functional. All reptiles should live so well! I was truly impressed with the number of species Slash kept, and I was even more impressed by their condition.
After making the rounds and talking pythons for a while, Slash and I sequestered ourselves in his recording studio, away from other household activities. There, huddled on the floor around my feeble "voice activated" tape recorder, we managed to put together Slash's REPTILES interview.
How long have you had an interest in reptiles?
I started with the whole reptile, dinosaur and monster fascination as far back as I can remember. When I was young and lived in London, I think that one of the biggest thrills that I had was going to Crystal Palace. Crystal Palace is a big park, and it had huge, life-size sculptures of dinosaurs. The figures they had, though, were completely anatomically incorrect. I kept going there and looking at the sculptures and was very much into that.
I started keeping snakes and reptiles when I moved to California with my mom. I remember keeping a cage full of garter snakes. They were beautiful, and I kept a whole lot of them in one tank. Since then, I've been keeping snakes around, and I've always been studying up on them and learning more.
A lot of my snakes have been really good friends of mine. Some of them are snakes that I've taken on the road-even though that is something that I would never want to subject a snake to, or any living animal to besides the crew guys-but I didn't really have a place to live. So they would go with me, or I would have them stay with friends who didn't know anything about snakes. I'd try to teach these friends the ropes, and then take off for a couple of months.
A lot of my snakes have been around for a while. I was talking to you earlier about Pandora, who is the boa in our "Patience" video, and one of my big Burmese pythons. I've had these snakes for ages, and I can remember coming home from touring and seeing them, and realizing that I've really become attached to them.
Now I'm able to build really decent facilities for my snakes so that people don't bother them-because you know how snakes are, they want to be left alone. At my old house, I had all kinds of snake cages built into a room that also had an indoor Jacuzzi.
Have you ever taken snakes onstage during shows? The only person I can really think of that does that is Alice Cooper.
No. We toured with Alice, and he lost about four boas during that time – and it was a very short stint that only lasted about six weeks. I remember this one guy who worked for Alice who would parade the snakes around. This guy was supposedly the "snake handler," and he would take these poor boas out backstage and use them to attract girls. The poor boas just kept dying. So, no, when I say "going on the road" with my snakes, I mean moving from place to place, not taking them onstage.
I'm glad you said that, because being irresponsible about displaying snakes in public is something that we constantly try to discourage. It can unnecessarily frighten people and lead to exotic animal bans in certain areas.
Yeah. Already there are laws in some places that prohibit the keeping of snakes. If you happen to own a reptile, then you have to treat it as such. It's not a cat or a dog or a horse, or whatever. Reptiles are not very social pets, and people use them for sensationalism. They take them out around town and take them down to Venice Beach, and I think that's really sad.
Actually, most of my snakes are orphans. People call me up and say, "We've got this snake. Do you want it?" I had one situation in this house where I got a phone call from a large T-shirt company. The company owners had called the Guns N' Roses office, and the office called me and said that these people had a 12-foot albino Burmese and wanted to know if I would like to have it. I said okay, so these T-shirt guys drove from Sacramento to here with the snake. I was expecting them to come, but I was thinking there would only be one or two people. So the doorbell rings, and I look out the front door at something that looks like it's right out of a commercial. There were all these guys and girls piled into this convertible, an Oldsmobile convertible. They hadn't bothered to put the snake into a bag or any sort of container-all the way from Sacramento to here! So the snake had climbed up into the dash, as all snakes will do, and it took three of us to take the dash apart and sort through the wiring to release it. It was just pathetic. Their attitude was, "It's just a snake, so it's cool."
Most of my snakes, with the exception of the big ones that you can see in the rooms with built-in cages, are off in separate rooms where it's very quiet for them.