His discovery of guitarists Joe Perry and Jimmy Page put teenager Saul Hudson on the musical path.
When the band he played guitar for, Guns N’ Roses, very quickly became the world’s biggest rock band in the late 1980s, Hudson’s household name was Slash.
Now his iconic riffs have inspired new generations to pick up an instrument and aspire to the annals of rock immortality.
Despite the continued reverence that music lovers reserve for him, the man himself is a humble, friendly and unaffected guy.
When he answers the phone and is asked how his day is, he casually replies, “I’m not too bad. I’m just at home. I’m in my little studio working on riffs”.
While this in itself isn’t out of the ordinary for an enthusiastic guitar player, it has greater significance when offered by someone who wrote the iconic guitar parts to songs like 'Sweet Child O’ Mine', 'Paradise City', 'Welcome To The Jungle' and 'Civil War'.
Since departing the Guns N’ Roses juggernaut in October 1996, Slash hasn’t demonstrated a desire to wind down his career.
He has formed the popular supergroups Slash’s Snakepit and Velvet Revolver, composed a full film score for an independent Mexican movie and also become a sought after session musician, working with Bob Dylan, James Brown, Rihanna, Alice Cooper, Michael Jackson and Ray Charles.
Slash is now touring the world as a solo artist and has released a debut, self-titled record that features a roster of guest musicians that includes Ozzy Osborne, Fergie, Iggy Pop, Chris Cornell, Adam Levine, Dave Grohl and Kid Rock.
“I get restless if I’m not playing. If I’m not doing something productive. So it’s good to satiate that for me, because if I don’t, then I end up getting in trouble,” says Slash, whose definition of ‘trouble’ is a little broader than most people.
“I’m a busy body. I can’t really relax. I just took my first real vacation with my wife. It’s the first time we’ve taken a vacation for more than 48 hours in eight years.
“But I was so exhausted from this last eight month tour, that I actually did appreciate it.”
Slash’s downtime will be short-lived – next month he returns to Australia after sold out performances Downunder in 2010.
“When Guns N’ Roses was really big, obviously we had a huge, massive crowd, but I never felt a graciousness from the Australians like this. It’s been really, really cool,” says Slash of his recent trips to Australia.
“I’ve been having the best time over there, so I’m looking forward to coming back in February. It’s going to be awesome.”
Slash’s relationship with Australia stretches back to January 1993.
He came here with Guns N’ Roses, who despite their growing profile in America and Europe, were still relatively unknown on our continent.
“My very first trip to Australia ... I’ll tell you, that first was the stepping stone into an ages long drug binge,” chuckles Slash.
While they had already built a massive following overseas, Guns N’ Roses were quite anonymous on their first Australian trip.
“Obviously we’d never been there before. We had been cruising around the States and become sort of well known.
“But when we got to Australia, they weren’t having it. They were like, ‘We don’t know who you guys are’.”
It was on an Australian stage that one of their classic songs was formed.
“The most important memory I have from the first trip to Australia was that we were playing in a tent – it was in Melbourne, I think,” recalls Slash.
“It was this big, outdoor tent. At soundcheck we actually put the music to 'Civil War' together.
“I wrote the music at home in LA and the first time the band ever played it musically was in Australia.”
Over the past two decades, Slash has become one of the most instantly recognisable icons of rock music.
With his trademark top hat, long hair and wide sunglasses, few artists have defined themselves in such a potent way.
While he has created a set of riffs that can instantly illicit an air guitar showdown in most packed bars around the world, Slash says there’s no great secret to writing a memorable riff.
“There’s no secret to any of it,” says Slash.
“Sometimes I make up stuff in my head and then go and pick up the nearest guitar and see if I can translate what I’m hearing in my head – if it’s the same thing. Sometimes I’ll just be noodling around and stumble on something.
“Whenever you sit down to try and write a riff is when you have the biggest problem. It’s always good to have a guitar around and maybe something you can record with – try not to push it and just let things happen.”
But things certainly have happened for Slash and his songs continue to inspire awe in new generations of listeners.
While guitarists like Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix captured Slash’s attention when he was a teenager – Slash moved to Los Angeles from West London when he was 11 – the guitarist is now admired by a whole new crop of would-be rock stars.
Slash admits that it’s hard to imagine millions of kids sitting in their bedrooms, trying to learn his songs.
“It’s so surreal that I don’t have a mental picture of it – as far as I’m concerned, it’s more heresay,” he laughs.
“There is a reality when I’m out signing autographs for kids, or whatever it is, and people say that they picked up the guitar because of me.
“I mean, that’s a huge compliment. But I don’t focus on it enough to really picture what that means, because it’s overwhelming to me.”