Slash

Slash (CP Images)

His self-titled solo debut album comes out April 6, but Slash is no rock & roll virgin. Better known to his parents as Saul Hudson, Slash has become a musical icon thanks to virtuoso guitar-playing, his tenure in two big rock bands (Guns 'N Roses and Velvet Revolver), that top hat, and a history of drug use and debauchery that would have killed a lesser man.

With the guitar hero himself set to participate in a special one-hour celebrity interview Thursday, March 11, as part of Canadian Music Week in Toronto, we thought we would take a look at ten of the most notorious moments, facts and stories in the life (and near death) of a rock & roll legend:

HOW HE GOT HIS NAME
He was born Saul Hudson, but he's better known to the world as Slash, a nickname bestowed upon him during his teen years by character actor Seymour Cassel, probably best known these days for his supporting roles in several Wes Anderson films, although he made his name starring in director John Cassavetes' early work. Saul, who was friends with Seymour's son, Matt, became Slash after Seymour asked the on-the-go youngster, "Hey, Slash, where ya going? Where ya going, Slash? Huh?" "I never stood still for more than five minutes; he saw me as someone who was always working on his next scheme," he explains in his autobiography Slash.

HISTORY OF THE HAT
Without it, he'd still be an incredible guitarist, but with it, Slash is Slash. Of course we're talking about his top hat, the look that has become the man's trademark. He's rarely seen without it in videos, photos or on stage, and often wears it pulled down so far that, as he admits in Slash, "I could see everything but no one could really see me." Slash stole his first one from the now defunct Hollywood clothing store Retail Slut the afternoon of Guns 'N Roses' first headlining slot at the Sunset Strip rock club Whisky a Go Go. Ironically, he has had several stolen from him over the years.

SEX ON RUGS AND ROCK & ROLL
It may (or may not) be as important to him as drugs and rock & roll, but there's no doubt that sex has shaped the character that is Slash. He lost his virginity at thirteen and cut a swath through the Hollywood groupie scene when Guns 'N Roses took off in 1985, sharing girls with his band mates and attending X-rated parties with the even more depraved members of fellow Hollywood heavy metal hooligans Mötley Crüe. Since then, Slash's extracurricular shenanigans have seemed to taper off. He married model Renee Suran in 1992 (they separated and divorced in 1997) before marrying Perla Ferrer, the mother of his two children.

OVERDOSE OF REALITY
He's allegedly smoked crack with Megadeth's Dave Mustaine and got so drunk that he once woke up in a Canadian hotel lobby having wet his leather jeans. But for pure, unadulterated, chemical-related insanity, the nadir of Slash's drug use has to be the time he ran naked and bleeding across an Arizona golf course, gripped by cocaine-induced hallucinations of Predator-like monsters chasing after him. As detailed in Slash, the strung-out guitarist had gone to the Venetian resort to dry out for a week, after a series of successful GNR concerts opening for the Rolling Stones. Needless to say, Slash was still dancing with Mr. Brownstone.

A ROCK ICON AND THE KING OF POP
One of the odder collaborations in rock and pop history was the long-standing working relationship between Slash and the late Michael Jackson. The King of Pop first contacted the GNR guitarist back in 1990, inviting him to work on songs from his then upcoming album "Dangerous." Slash played on two tracks, "Black or White" and "Give in to Me," appearing in the video for the latter. Slash also made several appearances on the "Dangerous" world tour, and provided solos on two other Jackson songs, "D.S." (from the 1995 album "HIStory") and "Privacy" (from Jackson's final solo album, 2001's "Invincible").

TELLING (NEARLY) ALL
Former Rolling Stone staffer Anthony Bozza had already proven his ability to help rockers tell their stories in print, having co-written autobiographies of Eminem and Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, so it wasn't a surprise when he was chosen to help Slash recall his drug- and booze-addled early years. Slash, released by HarperCollins in 2007, detailed much of the degradation, debauchery and decadence of Saul Hudson's life thus far, although too many stories are prefaced by the phrase "...but we'll get to all of that in just a little bit" - and then he never does! Consider this fascinating but frustrating reading.

ABOUT THE SNAKES
There's a reason Slash named his post-Guns band Slash's Snakepit. As depicted in the GNR video for "Patience," where the guitarist is seen in a hotel bed paying more attention to the python wrapped around him than the brunette undressing nearby, Slash loves snakes and has owned several over the years. He's reported to have had as many as 80 at one time, favouring pythons and boas, but gave them up with the birth of his first child, son London, in 2002, recognizing that such a collection might not be the safest environment in which to raise a newborn.

A REAL GUITAR HERO
Every kid who ever picked up a tennis racket over the last 20 years to play air guitar in front of his bedroom mirror has, at some point, mimed Slash's Guns n' Roses solos. But for those wannabes unwilling to put in 10,000 hours of practice to become their own guitar hero, you can now become Slash - at least virtually - by playing him in the video game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. But first you have to beat him in an original piece he composed especially for the game. Do that and he becomes an unlockable character. Talk about bits (and bytes) of patience!

VELVET REVOLVER SHOOTS BLANKS
The news that Slash was rejoining his Guns 'N Roses brethren Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum in a super-group to be fronted by Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland came as a surprise and a delight to rock fans when it was announced. Velvet Revolver's debut album, 2003's "Contraband," recalled much of the ferocity of Guns' "Appetite For Destruction," while 2007's "Libertad" was less immediately successful. But cracks in the band's solidarity soon became evident, with Weiland announcing during a March 2008 concert that this would be the band's last tour. Weiland left the group the following month, the remaining members searched for a singer, and Slash began forming a plan of his own.

SLASH RELEASES SLASH
Slash is no singer. Fortunately he knows this so when he decided to take a break from the frustrating search for a singer to replace Weiland in Velvet Revolver, he turned the microphone over to the professionals for his solo debut. Slash, out April 6, features a wide array of guest vocalists from the worlds of pop (Black Eyed Peas' Fergie, Maroon 5's Adam Levine), metal (Ozzy Osborne, Avenged Sevenfold's M Shadows), punk (Iggy Pop) and rock (Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl, The Cult's Ian Astbury), among others. First single "By the Sword" features Wolfmother's Andrew Stockdale shrieking to some tasty Slash-delivered riffs.

Slash's Canadian Music Week Celebrity Interview happens March 11 at 11:15 a.m. Go to www.cmw.net for more information.