Sunday, September 23, 2012

BACKSTAGE BRIEFS (Pt. I): SLASH

Slash at Henson Studios in 2007.
This is Part I of a week-long series
in which I will share various
behind-the-scenes short stories
from my dubious rock and roll
past. Some of these tales will be
excerpts from my books or pre-
vious magazine articles, while
others will be never-before-
published accounts. Over the
years, many of my backstage-
type experiences have been
crazy, funny or unexpected.
And some even have been heart-
breaking. But I hope that you 
will find them all compelling.
Today's kick-off installment is
an excerpt from my 2010 book,
A Shot of Poison. It comes from
Chapter Eleven, entitled, Poison'd.
________________________________ 
 
In February 2007 I found myself at the world famous Henson Studios. Located in the heart of Hollywood, the facility was built by silent screen star Charlie Chaplin in the early 1900s and was originally a movie studio. In 1966 it was purchased, remodeled and transformed into the legendary A&M Studios by music moguls Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss. In 1999 the property was purchased by the Henson family. Jim Henson created The Muppets, one of TV’s most successful kids shows. In May 2000 it officially re-opened as Henson Studios. During the A&M days, this was the facility where legendary artists like Carole King and The Carpenters recorded some of their biggest hits. As an admitted pop music nerd, it was hard to believe that I was so privileged to be within such hallowed halls.
 
Poison bassist Bobby Dall had invited me to accompany his 16-year-old son Zak from our mutual hometown in Florida to visit him for a few days in L.A. while he was in the studio working on the band's Poison'd record. Like countless times before while working for Bobby, my role on this trip was that of “Rock Nanny" — attending to and entertaining Zak. And although we did enjoy some leisure time — shopping, sightseeing and eating out, Bobby had a full workload. Consequently, most of our L.A. excursion was spent holed up in the studio.
 
During the long sessions, Zak kept himself occupied, playing with his assortment of iGadgets while relaxing in the studio lounge. These diversions afforded me extended nanny breaks — allowing me to hang out in the control room and experience the recording process first-hand. The record was being produced by Grammy Award-winning music biz guru Don Was. Don’s impressive résumé includes producing critically acclaimed records for the likes of Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt and Brian Wilson. For years, I had been paying my dues on an indie level, working in and learning my way around various recording studios from Florida to the Carolinas. So to actually be sitting at the mixing console, side-by-side with Don Was during a major label recording session had me awestruck to say the least.
 
While Poison worked in Studio B, Guns N’ Roses alumni Slash and Duff McKagan were in the adjacent room recording Libertad, the sophomore record for their current project, Velvet Revolver. Zak is a huge rock and roll fan and can’t get enough of the fast-paced lifestyle. He loves to be on tour with his dad and with his up-to-the-minute rock fashions, painted finger nails and expensive, ever-changing hair styles, it’s often hard to tell between father and son who is the rock star. Standing in the hallway of Henson Studios and hearing Slash’s signature guitar riffs buzzing through the walls was more than Zak could endure; he had to meet Slash. In fact, the prospect of meeting the rock icon was all I heard from Zak for days. Then one night during one of Poison’s sessions, Bobby finally gave in. He approached me with the official order, “Take Zak next door and introduce him to Slash.”
 
This was the night of the 2007 Grammy Awards and Henson Studios was hosting a lavish after-show party. From such current pop sensations as Christina Aguilera to retro hit makers like Taylor Dayne, the Henson party was an all-star event. Yet despite being Bobby Dall’s son, getting Zak to Slash was going to be no easy feat. I first introduced myself to one of Slash’s handlers. I was quickly instructed to have Zak stand by for a few minutes while Slash finished his session. Before joining Guns N’ Roses in the mid 1980s, Slash had actually auditioned for the guitar slot in Poison. Legend has it that Poison frontman Bret Michaels wanted Slash but was out-voted by Bobby and drummer Rikki Rockett who wanted C.C. DeVille. The possibility of lingering bad blood initially caused Bobby to be a bit skeptical about Zak meeting the guitar hero. But Slash couldn’t have been nicer. Wearing black leather pants, a lavender silk shirt and his trademark top hat, he was quite cordial and even displayed a sense of humor and patience when I had difficulty operating Zak’s camera. Although the meeting was brief, Slash proved to be gracious and completely unassuming. Zak got to meet his hero and we escaped the Grammy hoopla by slipping quickly back into the quiet comfort of Studio B.
 
Stay tuned throughout the week for more fun installments, as my Backstage Briefs series continues.
 
-Christopher Long
(September 2012)
 
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