Slash was born Saul Hudson in Hampstead, an affluent area of London. His mother, Ola Hudson (born Oliver; 1946–2009), was an African-American costume designer whose clients included David Bowie, and his father, Anthony Hudson, is an English artist who created album covers for musicians such as Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. Contrary to popular belief, Slash's mother was not Nigerian, nor is his father Jewish. Of his mixed background, Slash later remarked, "As a musician, I've always been amused that I'm both British and black; particularly because so many American musicians seem to aspire to be British while so many British musicians...went to such great pains to be black."
During his early years, Slash was raised by his father and paternal grandparents in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. When he was five years old, he and his father joined his mother in Los Angeles, California. His brother, Albion "Ash" Hudson, was born in 1972. Following his parents' separation in 1974, Slash became a self-described "problem child," and he was often sent to live with his beloved maternal grandmother. He was given the nickname "Slash" by family friend Seymour Cassel, because he was "always in a hurry, zipping around from one thing to another."
"My big awakening happened when I was 14. I'd been trying to get into this older girl's pants for a while, and she finally let me come over to her house. We hung out, smoked some pot and listened to Aerosmith's Rocks. It hit me like a fucking ton of bricks. I sat there listening to it over and over, and totally blew off this girl. I remember riding my bike back to my grandma's house knowing that my life had changed. Now I identified with something."
- Slash on his passion for rock music
In 1979, Slash decided to form a band with his friend Steven Adler. The band never materialized, but it prompted Slash to take up an instrument. Since Adler had designated himself the role of guitarist, Slash decided to learn how to play bass. Equipped with a one-string flamenco guitar given to him by his grandmother, he began taking classes with Robert Wolin, a teacher at Fairfax Music School. During his first lesson, Slash decided to switch from bass to guitar after hearing Wolin play "Brown Sugar" by the Rolling Stones. His decision to play guitar was further influenced by one of his school teachers, who would play songs by Cream and Led Zeppelin for his students. As a result, Slash stated, "When I heard him do that, I said, 'That's what I want to do.'" A champion BMX rider, Slash put the bike aside to devote himself to playing guitar, practicing up to twelve hours a day.
Slash joined his first band, Tidus Sloan, in 1981. In 1983, he formed the band Road Crew—named for the Motörhead song "(We Are) The Road Crew"—with his childhood friend Steven Adler, who by then had learned to play drums. He placed an advertisement in a newspaper looking for a bassist, and received a response from Duff McKagan. They auditioned a number of singers, including one-time Black Flag vocalist Ron Reyes, and worked on material that included the main riff of what would become the Guns N' Roses song "Rocket Queen." Slash disbanded the group the following year due to them not being able to find a singer, as well as Adler's lack of work ethic compared to himself and McKagan. He then joined a local band known as Hollywood Rose, which featured singer Axl Rose and guitarist Izzy Stradlin. Following his time with Hollywood Rose, Slash played in a band called Black Sheep and unsuccessfully auditioned for Poison, a glam metal band that he would later openly deride.
1985–1996: Guns N' Roses
In June 1985, Slash was asked by Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin to join the newly founded Guns N' Roses. Duff McKagan and Steven Adler completed the line-up. They played nightclubs—such as the Whisky a Go Go, The Roxy, and The Troubadour—and opened for larger acts throughout 1985 and 1986. It was during this period that the band wrote most of its classic material, including "Welcome to the Jungle," "Sweet Child o' Mine," and "Paradise City," As a result of their rowdy and rebellious behavior, Guns N' Roses quickly received the moniker "Most Dangerous Band in the World," causing Slash to remark, "For some strange reason, Guns N' Roses is like the catalyst for controversy, even before we had any kind of record deal." After being scouted by several major record labels, the band signed with Geffen Records in March 1986. Later that year, they began recording their debut album, but initially nothing was accomplished as Slash had developed a drug problem.
In July 1987, Guns N' Roses released its debut album, Appetite for Destruction, which to date has sold over 28 million copies worldwide, 18 million of which were sold in the United States, making it the best-selling debut album of all time in the U.S. In the summer of 1988, the band achieved its only U.S. No. 1 hit with "Sweet Child o' Mine," a song spearheaded by Slash's guitar riff and solo. In November of that year, Guns N' Roses released G N' R Lies, which sold over five million copies in the U.S. alone, despite containing only eight tracks, four of which were included on the previously released EP Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide. As their success grew, so did interpersonal tensions within the band. In 1989, during a show as opening act for the Rolling Stones, Axl Rose threatened to leave the band if certain members of the band didn't stop "dancing with Mr. Brownstone," a reference to their song of the same name about heroin use. Slash was among those who promised to clean up. However, the following year, Steven Adler was fired from the band because of his heroin addiction; he was replaced by Matt Sorum of The Cult.
In May 1991, the band embarked on the two-and-a-half-year-long Use Your Illusion Tour. The following September, Guns N' Roses released the long-awaited albums Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, which debuted at No. 2 and No. 1, respectively, on the U.S. chart, a feat not achieved by any other group. Izzy Stradlin abruptly left the band in November; he was replaced by Gilby Clarke of Candy and Kill for Thrills. Slash played his final show with Guns N' Roses on July 17, 1993. In November of that year, the band released "The Spaghetti Incident?", a cover album of mostly punk songs, which proved less successful than its predecessors. Slash then wrote several songs for what would have become the follow-up album to the Use Your Illusion twins. Axl Rose, however, rejected the material.
1994–2002: Slash's Snakepit
In 1994, Slash formed Slash's Snakepit, a side project that featured his Guns N' Roses band mates Matt Sorum and Gilby Clarke on drums and rhythm guitar respectively, as well as Alice in Chains' Mike Inez on bass and Jellyfish's Eric Dover on vocals. The band recorded Slash's material originally intended for Guns N' Roses, resulting in the release of It's Five O'Clock Somewhere in February 1995. The album was critically praised for ignoring the then-popular conventions of alternative music, and fared well on the charts, eventually selling over one million copies in the US alone despite little promotion from Geffen Records. Slash's Snakepit toured in support of the album with bassist James LoMenzo and drummer Brian Tichy of Pride and Glory, before disbanding in 1996. Slash then toured for two years with the blues rock cover band Slash's Blues Ball.
In 1999, Slash chose to regroup Slash's Snakepit with Rod Jackson on vocals, Ryan Roxie on rhythm guitar, Johnny Griparic on bass, and Matt Laug on drums. Their second album, Ain't Life Grand, was released in October 2000 through Koch Records. It did not sell as well as the band's previous release, and its critical reception was mixed. To promote the album, the band—with Keri Kelli on rhythm guitar—embarked on an extensive world tour in support of AC/DC in the summer of 2000, followed by their own headlining theater tour. Slash disbanded Snakepit in 2002.
2002–2008: Velvet Revolver
In 2002, Slash reunited with Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum for a Randy Castillo tribute concert. Realizing that they still had the chemistry of their days in Guns N' Roses, they decided to form a new band together. Former Guns N' Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin was initially involved, but left after the others decided to find a lead singer. Dave Kushner, who had previously played with McKagan in Loaded, then joined the band on rhythm guitar. For many months, the four searched for a lead singer by listening to offered demo tapes, a monotonous process documented by VH1. Eventually, former Stone Temple Pilots vocalist Scott Weiland joined the band.
In early 2010, Velvet Revolver began writing new songs and auditioning new singers. By January 2011, the band had recorded nine demos, and was reportedly due to make a decision on their singer. However, the following April, Slash stated that they had been unable to find a suitable singer and that Velvet Revolver would remain on hiatus for the next few years while its members focus on other projects.
2008–present: Solo career
In September 2008, Slash began recording music for his debut solo album. He described the process of recording by himself as "cathartic." Slash's wife Perla revealed that many different artists would appear on the album, saying, "It's going to be Slash and friends, with everyone from Ozzy to Fergie." The album, simply titled Slash, debuted at No. 3 on the U.S. chart upon its release in April 2010. It featured an all-star roster of guest musicians, including Ozzy Osbourne, Fergie of The Black Eyed Peas, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, Adam Levine of Maroon 5, Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead, Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge, Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold, and Iggy Pop. To promote the album, Slash embarked on his first solo world tour with Myles Kennedy on vocals, Bobby Schneck on rhythm guitar, Todd Kerns on bass, and Brent Fitz on drums.
In June 2011, Slash began pre-production on his second solo album; he plans to begin recording in October. The album, which will be a collaboration with his touring band mates Myles Kennedy, Todd Kerns, and Brent Fitz, is slated for release in March or April 2012. There are 3 unofficial song titles that have been revealed from the interview Myles Kennedy has done in France. The song titles are: "Bad Rain", "Halo", "Standing In The Sun". Kennedy had also stated that most of the record is aggressive and includes some 'dark riffs' by Slash, and he also stated that it's a dynamic record.
In 1991, Slash played lead guitar on the single "Give In to Me" off Michael Jackson's album Dangerous, as well as in the opening skit for the song "Black or White" off the same album. In 1995, he played guitar on "D.S.," a controversial song from Jackson's HIStory album, and in 1997 appeared on the song "Morphine" off the remix album Blood on the Dance Floor. In 2001, Slash played on "Privacy" off Jackson's final studio album, Invincible.
In 1993, Slash appeared on the album Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix, performing "I Don't Live Today" with Paul Rodgers and Band of Gypsys. In 1996, he collaborated with Marta Sánchez to record the flamenco-inspired song "Obsession" for the Curdled soundtrack. Later that year, he played with Alice Cooper at Sammy Hagar's club Cabo Wabo in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; the show was released the following year as A Fistful of Alice. In 1997, Slash appeared alongside rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard on BLACKstreet's rock remix of their hit single "Fix"; he also appeared in the accompanying music video. That same year, he contributed music to the soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown; several compositions by Slash's Snakepit can be heard throughout the film.
In 2002, Slash played on the title track to Elán's album Street Child. In 2003, he participated in the Yardbirds' comeback record Birdland; he played lead guitar on the track "Over, Under, Sideways, Down." In 2006, Slash played on a cover of "In the Summertime" on keyboardist Derek Sherinian's solo album Blood of the Snake; he was also featured in the accompanying music video. In 2007, he appeared on Paulina Rubio's single "Nada Puede Cambiarme". In 2008, Slash played guitar on the film score of The Wrestler, composed by Clint Mansell. In 2009, he was featured on Rihanna's single "Rockstar 101" off her album Rated R. In 2011, he contributed the song "Kick It Up a Notch" to the Disney Channel animation Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension; he appeared in both live-action and animated form in the promotional music video.
A self-described "film buff," Slash has had small parts in several films and television series. In 1988, he appeared with his Guns N' Roses band mates in the Dirty Harry film The Dead Pool, in which his character attends a musician's funeral and shoots a harpoon. He played radio DJ Hank in a 1994 episode of the horror anthology television series Tales from the Crypt. In 1999, he appeared as the host of the Miss America Bag Lady pageant in the widely-panned film The Underground Comedy Movie. He has also appeared as himself in several projects, including Howard Stern's Private Parts in 1997, The Drew Carey Show in 1998, MADtv in 2005, and Sacha Baron Cohen's Brüno in 2009. Slash voiced a recurring caricature of himself in Robert Evans' animated television series Kid Notorious, which aired in 2003 on Comedy Central. As in real life, Slash is Evans' close friend and next-door neighbor. On May 5, 2009, he appeared as the guest mentor for the rock 'n' roll week of American Idol. In 2010, Slash formed Slasher Films, a horror film production company. Its first film, Nothing to Fear, is currently in pre-production.
Slash is a playable character in the video game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, released in 2007. His performance was motion captured to record his movements for the game. Slash's character becomes playable after a player beats him in a one-on-one competition, which then leads to the player and Slash playing the master track of "Welcome to the Jungle."