Slash, the wild-haired guitarist who has played with everyone from Michael Jackson to Fergie to Iggy Pop, knew the perfect name for his new horror production company: Slasher Films. There was only one problem. He hates slasher films.
"I'm not into violence," he insists. But he's no wimp. Born in London to two artists who believed in the Dr. Spock approach of treating their son like an equal, Slash was weaned on adult scares. No matter the movie, his parents brought him along: The Exorcist, Night of the Living Dead, The Omen, even Fritz the Cat. At night, he read Poe and Lovecraft and Bradbury, and shaped his love for slow-burning, near-bloodless nightmares, which would guide him 40 years later in producing his first horror film, the newly released, small-town Satanic thriller, Nothing Left to Fear.
When Slash and his family left England for Los Angeles, he plunged into his two passions: BMX racing and movies. In middle school, he'd bike all day, and then at midnight convince his grandmother to drive him downtown for raunchy triple features.
"Horror movies, blaxploitation movies, kung fu movies, porno movies that were rated X, but they were sort of soft-core — I hit puberty pretty quick," Slash says with a laugh. "She would go in and fall asleep. She was very cool."
At 15, the same year Slash formed his first band with friend Steven Adler, he cut off his hair and convinced the manager of the art deco Fairfax Theatre to give him a job, even though it meant over-watching Airplane! and dressing like a nerd.
"Fucking slacks and a white shirt and a belt. No underwear. No bow tie. I hated the bow tie. When I became a manager myself, I was, like, 'Fuck that.' " But then rock & roll beckoned, and Slash was ready to commit. Besides, horror movies had gotten gory and dumb.
"Freddy Krueger and Mike Myers and Jason, those were great villains," he says of the post-Halloween ascent of the slasher flick. "But it changed the genre completely. 'OK, we're going to go out to the woods and there's going to be a fiend and he's going to use one of three instruments of death and there's going to be boobs.' I just lost interest."
As part of Guns N' Roses, Slash starred in MTV's most legendary mini-movies, stalking out of Axl Rose and Stephanie Seymour's wedding to deliver an epic guitar solo in the "November Rain" video, driving a car off a cliff in "Don't Cry," even staring down Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator in "You Could Be Mine." But tensions within the group kept him from investing much creative energy in their music videos. Besides, he shrugs, "I'd rather just see a band play."
Slasher Films gives him more control. Slash wanted to produce horror flicks ("I have absolutely no interest in doing a romantic comedy or a serious drama or an action movie") but found the post-millennium fad for torture films like Saw and Hostel even more sadistic than the Sorority Massacre flicks of his teens. "I hated the '80s, but the '80s are fucking brilliant compared to this period," he sighs. "Sometimes you wonder, 'Thank God these directors have that outlet.' "
He chose the script for Nothing Left to Fear, for three reasons: It was simple, supernatural, and set around a good, old-fashioned monster.
Set in Stull, Kansas — a real-life hamlet rumored to be one of the seven gateways to Hell — the movie features Anne Heche as a preacher's wife who can't protect her family from a hungry demon. Kansans protested the film in their local papers, as they dreaded giving the legend more attention — before they fenced off the town's oldest graveyard, it was a macabre tourist destination. "All these horrormongers were going out there, getting drunk and having sex and whatnot, sacrificing themselves to Satan and doing all sorts of unmentionable things," Slash says. "I'm not an inconsiderate person, so I feel for the town."
He and newbie director Anthony Leonardi III agreed on a vintage vibe, but scheduling conflicts forced Slash to supervise the shoot and compose the soundtrack while on his solo tour. He'd get offstage, get back to the hotel, sync the dailies to his computer and play along to what he saw.
Despite three decades recording music, recording a film score was mind-altering.
"Writing for a band, you're thinking within the confines of a rock & roll song, trying to keep everything from going over four or five minutes," Slash notes. "Writing for visuals, you just go off. I'm not constrained to what type of music it is, I'm not worried about the drums. Everything just has this openness."
What's next? How about a classic animal-attack flick? "I think animals need to get theirs in," grins Slash, who's on the board of the L.A. Zoo along with Betty White.
Before the birth of his sons, he stocked his house with nearly 80 snakes, including a 22-foot python. "I saw Anaconda back at one of the last drive-in theaters in the state. I just love anacondas, I don't take it personally."
Down the line, Slash is open — but not eager — to direct. But he's definitely not getting back in front of the camera unless he's holding a guitar.
He vows, "I'm not an actor. Although ... there was the idea of doing my shadow like Hitchcock."
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