Slash is set to rock Claudelands Arena next month. Kirstin McNabb chatted with the former Guns N Roses lead guitarist ahead of his gig and found among other things he's
dying to see a tuatara outside of a zoo.

A lot of major acts touring New Zealand choose Vector Arena as opposed to Claudelands; what prompted a Hamilton gig?
You're looking for places that you haven't played before that has an audience that's never seen you. So I like to, as much as possible, get off the beaten path. Most promoters only have you travel the same routes all the time because it's just a proven, you know, this is where the crowd is and sometimes there's other places where, you know, there actually is an audience that's really into you that they don't pay attention to, so we just like try to make it cool going through NZ. I've been [to New Zealand] over the years a few times but not that many times and you don't always wanna play in the same place.

Well ,we're really pleased to have you here. It's a bit of a coup for us here in Hamilton. Speaking of Hamilton, many of us hold Devilskin close to our hearts - how did they come to your attention to be your support act?
Basically I didn't know anything about them, I was sent a couple of different packages of different bands to choose from and I just happened to like that one.

There aren't many female rock singers so how do you find Jennie Skulander, their vocalist, stacks up?
I've never seen her but it sounded good to listen to you know. I like girl rock singers 'cause they tend to be genuinely more emotional than the average guy rock singer. So sometimes they can be really expressive so she seems like that type, you know? She seemed interesting to me.

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Have you got any spare time while you're touring New Zealand at all?
It never seems like we do. When it comes down to it there are hardly any days off when we're on the road. We play six days a week, but when we're over there because we're doing more than one show we'll see what we get a chance to do.

Well I do hope you get some time to see New Zealand. It's a beautiful place.
Yeah I'm a big animal fan so there are obviously a lot of animals indigenous to New Zealand that can't been found anywhere else... it's really cool stuff. You know it's always frustrating for me to come in, jam and then leave the following morning but that's usually how it is.
I'm dying to see a tuatara up close and personal outside of the zoo.

You've worked with some industry heavyweights. Have any of them in particular invoked great musical chemistry with you?
The thing about working with a lot of different people is you work with some very established and very talented individuals and they're all different. And one of the reasons I do it is so you learn to adapt to different people's playing styles, to different personalities and different environments. And it keeps you from being the one trick pony and one dimensional.
So you sort of invent chemistry when you work with people like that. It's not like you know you go in and all of a sudden you find this sort of glorified God-given chemistry that's mind blowing.
It doesn't happen like that usually, but working with Lenny Kravitz that was something. We did a song together called Always on the Run that was really spontaneous and very much chemistry based. Michael Jackson was someone I had a lot of chemistry with. Ray Charles... he was somebody that basically took me under his wing at a certain point in my career when I really started branching out and playing with a lot of different styles and he recognised something in me that I didn't know that was there so there are different things that happen.

Your namesake and your father are artists and I understand that you've dabbled in art. Is that something you still do?
Yeah. My whole family actually paints. We're all artists and that's what I did all the way, I still do it but I never aspired to do it professionally but I use it like for designing album covers and logos and t-shirts and all the kinds of stuff for whatever band I'm in at the time. I did a lot of Guns N Roses stuff early on and stuff for Velvet Revolver. I doodle a lot but I'm not what you'd call a practicing artist, I just do it for the fun of it.

If you weren't a musician what would you be doing?
I probably would be an artist, I mean that's the only other thing I know how to do.

Is there anything in particular that inspires a song?
No, that's something that's very spontaneous. It could be any number of things. Sometimes you're inspired by hearing other music, sometimes you get inspired by ideas that just pop into your head at random, sometimes you just get inspired just by sitting around and playing guitar and doodling around. I'm not one of those people that sits there and because I play more music I don't like to write lyrics that much if I can help it. So music doesn't necessarily come from a mood or something like that and I automatically pick up the guitar as a result ... it's just subconscious when you do it. You can be in a mood pick a guitar and play something that is affected by that mood but you don't really realise it.

You have some of the most instantly recognisable riffs in the world that you have written. Is there a particular guitar riff that is your favourite?
There's so many great riffs I could go on for days but I couldn't pick you just one. It wouldn't be fair to do that you know. I could start and then we would be on the phone for an hour and then by the end of it you would only have a quarter of the great riffs I can think of.

How do fans in New Zealand stack up on a world stage?
The fans in New Zealand, ever since day one, the first time I went over there which was back in late 80s ... it's always been a great rock 'n' roll crowd ... really enthusiastic and in tune with the dynamics of the music.

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You can catch Slash's World on Fire concert at Claudelands Arena on February 17. Devilskin kicks off at 8pm. Tickets from Ticketek.