While Slash and Axl Rose were the two most iconic members of Guns N’ Roses during the 1990s, the pair had a tumultuous relationship despite their incredible success at the time. One of the main problems between the two was their vastly different personalities. While Slash was known for his easygoing attitude, Axl was known for his erratic behavior and volatile temper.
Another major issue between them was creative control over the band’s music. Rose usually had a very specific vision for the band’s sound and direction, which bothered Slash at some points. This situation often led to clashes between the two musicians, with Axl pushing for more elaborate arrangements while Slash preferred a more straightforward approach.
It is known that Slash was fed up with Axl’s controlling attitude over the rest of the band members and also their creative works. So, he eventually decided to stand up against the singer’s dictatorship during the mid-1990s after his discontent over guitarist Paul Tobias‘ presence in the band. Tobias, who was a good friend of Rose, joined GNR in late 1994 to replace rhythm guitarist Gilby Clarke.
He appeared on the band’s cover version of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Sympathy for the Devil.’ However, this led to tension between Axl and Slash when Tobias recorded a solo over the guitarist’s part. Yet, Tobias continued working with the band while they were working on their sixth studio album. Because Slash had both personal and creative differences with Tobias, it started to become increasingly difficult for him to stay silent.
According to a 2001 interview, Slash told his bandmates in 1996 that he would give an ultimatum to Axl Rose to remove Tobias from the band. Otherwise, he would leave the band. In a 2002 interview with Jon Hotten of Classic Rock, Duff McKagan also reflected on this issue and said that their musical direction was going in a direction that favored Tobias.
Besides that, Rose had brought in the guitarist without asking others’ opinions in the band, which had really pissed Slash off. They thought that there was no democracy in GNR, as Axl intended to make almost all the decisions by himself. The singer also used to come to rehearsals whenever he wanted, which bothered the others.
McKagan speaking on Slash’s anger towards Rose:
“The music was going in a direction that was completely indulgent to his friend [Huge] … And another factor is this guy that Axl brought in and told us, ‘This is our new guitar player’ … There was no democracy there. And that’s when Slash really started going, ‘F*ck this. What, this is his band now? or something?’ … It was ridiculous. I’d go down there to start rehearsal at 10, and Axl would show up at four or five in the morning. That sort of thing was going on for a couple of years.”
This incident was followed by other ones, eventually leading Slash to leave the band in 1996. The guitarist must have thought he no longer had the right to speak his own opinions due to Axl’s controlling behaviors. So, parting ways with GNR would be the best option to pursue what he really wanted to do musically.