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1995.05.DD - Guitar Player - Snake N' Bake: Slash's New Band Shakes Up the Ranks

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1995.05.DD - Guitar Player - Snake N' Bake: Slash's New Band Shakes Up the Ranks Empty 1995.05.DD - Guitar Player - Snake N' Bake: Slash's New Band Shakes Up the Ranks

Post by Blackstar on Mon Aug 19, 2019 10:07 pm

Snake N' Bake: Slash's New Band Shakes Up the Ranks

By Chris Gill

Forget the rock star persona that has dominated slash's image ever since Guns N' Roses hit the big time. Slash is a musician first and foremost. He may be accustomed to Lear jets and limos, first-class hotels, and four-star restaurants, but when he talks about playing guitar it's obvious he'd be just as happy if he were still sharing a Hollywood apartment with four other bandmates, sleeping on the floor, eating macaroni and cheese, and riding the bus.

In the middle of Guns N' Roses' struggle to determine the direction of its next album, Slash decided to form his own band, make a record, and set out on a small-scale tour that will take him to clubs instead of sold-out arenas. He sounds genuinely thrilled as he describes a whirlwind promotional tour where he crossed the country in a van and visited as many as three radio stations a day to play acoustic versions of his new songs. His enthusiasm is so overwhelming that it's easy to imagine him stuffing envelopes in the record company's mailroom, sending copies of his new album to radio and the press.

Slash has good reason to be enthused. Slash's Snakepit, featuring Guns bandmates Matt Sorum on drums and Gilby Clarke on guitar, ex-Alice In Chains bassist Mike Inez, and vocalist Eric Dover, formerly a guitarist with Jellyfish, is a tight, hard-hitting band. Their Geffen release It's Five O'Clock Somewhere is raw, simple, and direct, with melodies you can hum--not unlike classic Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, and Appetite-era Guns N' Roses. Although Slash's rock-solid riffs and tasteful, bluesy solos form the record's foundation, the album is a true group effort.

Kicking back in a New York hotel suite on Super Bowl Sunday with a drink in one hand and a phone receiver in the other, Slash flashes his characteristic grin as he completes one of a seemingly endless string of interviews and prepares to start the process all over again.

What made you decide to do a solo album?

Everybody thinks this is a solo record, but that's not what it is at all. It's a band. It was initiated by me because I'd written the quitar parts, but then Matt and I got really involved with arranging stuff. Mike wrote his own bass parts, and Gilby wrote his own guitar parts. It's not what you'd call a wham-bang fuckin' guitar solo record. It doesn't have the blistering licks from hell. Unfortunately I think some kids might expect that. I've never been one of those guys who wants to solo for longer than he should. My solos complement the song, which is the most important part. But having said that, it's a very guitar-oriented record.

Is the album's title a reference to happy hour?

I picked that up from a guy at an airport bar on the way to London to do the Donnington festival about seven or eight years ago. It was ten in the morning, and we were all shagged, beat to shit, and in bad moods. I went to the bar and asked for a double Jack and Coke. I said, "I know it's only ten o'clock." The bartender leaned over and goes, "It's five o'clock somewhere, pal," with a big smile and sincere eyes. All of a sudden it dawned on me, "That's the quest! Where is it five o'clock?" [Laughs.] I never forgot that. Because all of us in this band are second fiddles in all the bands that we're from, when it came time to title the record that popped into my head. That's basically what it is for us. It's not just about a bar, and it doesn't have to relate to alcohol. It relates to life in general. We're doing everything day by day. It's my way of handling everything--getting up in the morning and handling what you have to do that day. Make some plans for the next day and keep going forward, but not to the point where you plan out the rest of your life. You just keep working towards a hazy goal until it starts to come into focus. Then you find it's a lot easier. Then you just have to deal with the 24 hours that you're in the middle of at the time. It takes a lot of pressure off.

How did this record come about?

When I started, there was no concept of Snakepit--that was the name of my home studio. I was just recording stuff, like a kid in a candy store, fiddling with knobs. That whole home multitrack thing can get you a little excited. I was writing stuff, and Matt would come over, not so much as a bandmate, but because we're friends. We'd hang out, sort of like how attorneys and managers will hang out on the golf course, but we'd be playing. We started recording some cool shit, and we had 17 songs, almost all of them in their entirety. Then Gilby came over and then Mike Inez popped up out of nowhere and got involved. All of a sudden I said, "We've got a cool band here." So I booked some time over at Conway Studios, and we went in and whipped out 14 of the songs in 12 days. Then we looked for a singer and finally found Eric. He was the 41st singer we auditioned. The first song that he wrote the lyrics to was what we called "Song in D," which was a work title, and he wrote "Beggars And Hangers-On." You know that magical feeling of "this is it"? There was no more searching.

Wasn't this material supposed to be for the new Guns N' Roses record?

I was just writing the way that I write. A lot of stuff that I wrote for the Use Your Illusion records, you don't even know it's there. The kind of material that I like is on this record, which I would have loved to have been a Guns N' Roses record, but that's not the direction that Axl wanted to go in. I was really amazed that Axl was like, "No. I want to sound like Pearl jam." I was like, "Okay. I'm going to keep this stuff." That's where I got the concept of making a record out of it. I didn't know where I was going. I never seem to know that. I just stick my foot somewhere and take it from there.

Your performance sounds spontaneous and natural.

I didn't have any prewritten solos. When we did Appetite, we had rehearsed those songs and played them live for so long that it was easy to reproduce them. I didn't have to write a whole bunch of new stuff when we went into the studio because we had played all that stuff live. But when we did Use Your Illusion I pretty much improvised, except I wrote solos for "Estranged" and "November Rain" because they're ballads, and they needed it. For this one I just winged it.

Did you use different guitars on each song?

No. I used what I consider my main guitar, which is the zebra-striped Max Les Paul. The only time I used anything different was for a song called "Back And Forth Again," where I used a Strat for the solo. And I used a couple of custom Strats made by Sammy Sanchez in LA. that I played on the road with Guns. I used one for the end solo on "What Do You Want To Be." Aside from the acoustics, everything else was just the one Les Paul, which is really refreshing because when we did Use Your Illusion I acquired so many guitars that I was just toying around with all of them. On this thing I went straight back to one guitar, although I also used my Guild acoustic on a few songs. This record is really basic. There's nothing odd on there--the wah-wah pedal and the voice box is a standard that I always pull out somewhere. The same with Gilby. He just used one guitar--a Zemaitis--and his Voxes. He might have hooked his Voxes up to his Marshall, and that was about it.

Did you play the slide on "Beggars"?

Yeah. I play it with a lighter when I do it on acoustic at these radio stations. For the record I used an old Gibson lap steel made of korina wood from the days of the old Vs and Explorers. Adam Day [Slash's guitar tech] bought me that for my birthday. I played it with an Ernie Ball steel.

"Be The Ball" has a Sex Pistols rhythm. Was that inspired by the punk covers you played on The Spaghetti Incident?

Some of these things came up so quickly that I never gave it much thought. To us it sounds like Cheech and Chong. Just to give credit where credit is due, I used a Crybaby on that, which is one of the newer Ernie Ball released Crybabies. It's fully adjustable. The ones I used to use onstage with Guns N' Roses had a mike cable in them, and I had five of them onstage. I hated them only because they were so big, and the depression width was really weird. Instead of being subtle it was very extreme, which was great for "Civil War." These new ones are fully adjustable tonewise, gainwise, and so on, so I actually got to execute what I would consider a good wah-wah pedal sound with a regular fickin' wah-wah pedal.

There's not too many ballads on this record.

No. One ballad for me is always enough. Zeppelin's records in the old days were filled with acoustic stuff--that's a style they're good at. I love to write music like that, but only one or two at the most on a record. I concentrate on the more aggressive approach. For example, "I Hate Everybody But You" is the closest I can get to a love song. [Laughs.]

Have you done any other side projects?

I did a soundtrack for a movie called The Black Panthers. It's not virtuoso guitar playing by any means. I played my version of "The Star Spangled Banner." I played it note for note, as opposed to trying to do the Hendrix version, although you can hear some influences of Hendrix in some of the note choices. There's some blues stuff in there, but it's very slow, and I played the exact melody from the original so I held a standard for the movie. It sounds really strong the way it is without any guitar dive bombs or all that shit. Everybody's tried to do that. I ended up adding a couple licks here and there that are very mellow, but they sound good. It's got a lot of vibe to it.

Other than that I didn't do much of anything other than dealing with Guns and Snakepit. I did Michael Jackson again, but with Michael you never know what's going to be on the record. I've been talking to Iggy Pop about writing with him, but my schedule is such that I might have missed that one by now. It's a good thing that I've been doing so many outside projects where I'm so adaptable that I can play with almost anybody, within reason. All that experience of working with different people, in different studios, with different engineers and producers, not to mention musicians and so on, really is worth it. You might not think about it at the time. It just seems like fun. Looking back on it, it's really important for you to be able to take that experience and use it to your advantage.

Why did Gilby get kicked out of Guns?

I got a phone call from Axl after Gilby, Duff, Matt, and I had come home from rehearsal. He was adamant that he didn't want to write with Gilby, and he wanted to explore some other kind of writing approach He's always had this vision of teaming me up with a guitar player that's going to stretch my boundaries, whereas I still come from the old Guns N' Roses school where I do what I do and he does what he does. Getting two lead players to meet eye to eye is difficult, not to mention overflowing the record with self-indulgent guitars. I told Gilby about this. He was never officially kicked out of the band, but I think the feelings were so strong, and Gilby was so taken aback by the whole thing, that he was a little confused. Then he had words with Axl and Duff, and that more or less cemented his position out of Guns N' Roses. Then he went on to do the Gilby Clarke project. Gilby and I have always been the closest of friends. I will never really understand why that happened, and that was the first thing that instigated a separation between Axl and me. And that's why there's still a hole in the band to this day.

The next Guns N' Roses record is going to be interesting because of all that's happened since Use Your Illusion.

Everything is interesting. [Laughs.] There's no cohesive concept between us as to what a Guns N' Roses record is supposed to sound like. Guns is something that's dose to my heart. I'm loyal to the day I die, I suppose. After touring for two-and-a-half years it was really nice to get back to where I'm at right now, which is more or less street level, dealing with things off the high-profile rock star concept that Guns is. It's nice to be here. I went to a bar the other night, and there was some band playing. I got up and played with this other guy's guitar, and Eric started singing. The kids were going nuts. That was a hell of a lot of fun. Guns misses that. Unfortunately we can't do that We could if we all wanted to, but when Guns is on the road and we have a day off, I'm the one who goes and finds some bar band to jam with-duff as well. Matt usually comes with me. But Guns as a whole can't do that.

It's amazing that Guns has lasted for almost ten years.

Can you believe it's been around so long? As far as Guns' material goes, I'm still very enthusiastic and loyal about doing Guns, but the band is such an institution at this point that I don't see any need to affect the creative process by adhering to the time schedule and pressures from the record company--and public, for that matter--and putting out a shitty record. It's not like Guns has to make a record next week. The band is already established. hi August after I get back from tour, I'll go back and see where Guns is at and where our relationship as a functioning band stands. If we all missed each other and the music happens and the work flow is going and everything pours out, then we can make a natural record. I don't believe in anything other than that.
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