IRVINE, California — Like Metallica cutting their hair and Enrique Iglesias removing his mole, Slash losing his signature top hat in the Velvet Revolver publicity shots has hardly gone unnoticed.
The legendary guitarist and his bandmates would like to make it clear, however, that journalists who have noted a total absence are not entirely accurate.
"It makes occasional appearances," drummer Matt Sorum said backstage at the KROQ Weenie Roast (see "Beastie Boys Serve Up Ill Classics At Weenie Roast").
"Sometimes it's just on the stage in the corner by itself, sometimes it's on me," guitarist Dave Kushner added.
"I just need it," Slash declared with a smile, hiding behind his long locks of hair, which have not changed. "I need it close by for security, in case I get overly shy, so I can pull it over my head."
The hat is traveling with Velvet Revolver on tour, but it's made few appearances, perhaps a sign of how comfortable the guitarist is onstage with his new band. And now that the group's debut album, Contraband, is in stores (see "Velvet Revolver Blast Usher Off #1 Perch"), Slash only expects to have more fun playing live.
"We started out last month just going out with a bunch of material that no one had ever heard," he explained. "Now that the album's out, we get to watch this whole new plateau of how people react to different songs and what people are into."
"As it is now, when we kick into 'Slither,' it really goes off," Sorum added. "That's really exciting for us."
"Slither," of course, is the first single and video from Contraband (see "Velvet Revolver Diggin' Tunnels — No, Not To Spring Weiland"), and the #1 song on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and #2 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart.
Slash said the song was one of the first pieces of music he, Sorum, Kushner and Duff McKagan wrote before Scott Weiland joined the band.
"It got shelved for a second, then it came back and we gave it to Scott, and Scott came up with the lyrics and all that," Slash said. "And 'Slither' was the working title, so he just made words that went along with 'Slither' and it just became our song. So when it came time to put the record out and pick a single, we didn't know what to pick because there was a lot of cool songs on the record. We said, 'Well, "Slither" is pretty indicative of just the band in general, and it's easy,' so we just put it out there."
Velvet Revolver have yet to select the follow-up to "Slither," but Slash, Sorum and Kushner agree that "Superhuman" is a front-runner.
"It's just got a lot of good texture," Kushner said.
"It reminds me of ... just sweaty, grindy, greasy sex stuff," Slash added.
"It's a bit of a booty-shaker," Sorum said.
Whatever Weiland's thoughts are on the next single, the media will probably never know, as the frontman recently declared on the band's Web site that he's no longer granting interviews in light of issues he had with Maxim and Revolver, which called him "the biggest f----up of them all."
His bandmates are supportive of his decision.
"In this band he's just out there proving himself as someone who is really serious about what it is that he does," Slash said. "And as soon as you get a really negative, opinionated thing from the journalists, it's like, 'You're just not getting it. I don't want to talk to you anymore.' And I totally understand it, because it's like we're out there and he's pulling it off and the last thing he wants to hear about is [what happened] six months ago or two years ago or three years ago. ... The rest of us all have pretty sordid pasts [as well — we] just never got caught."