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2000.03.DD - Player Magazine (Japan) - Interview with Slash

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2000.03.DD - Player Magazine (Japan) - Interview with Slash Empty 2000.03.DD - Player Magazine (Japan) - Interview with Slash

Post by Blackstar on Mon Mar 16, 2020 7:14 pm

SLASH BURNS ON NEW SNAKEPIT ALBUM, "AIN'T LIFE GRAND," AND REFLECTS ON GUNS' GLORY DAZE

~by Hitomi Irie~

Where'd you find some of the musicians featured on your new album, Ain't Life Grand? And what happened to Snakepit's previous lineup?

Slash: Well, in as much as Guns N' Roses has been my "home" band for the longest time, I've always played with a lot of other musicians and I've done a lot of other people's records. I just enjoy playing. And actually, when it came to putting Snakepit together the first time, it was really just for fun. It was during the hiatus between the end of the Guns N' Roses Illusions tour, and whenever we started the [next] Guns record.

And actually, that first Snakepit record [It's Five O'Clock Somewhere] was initially ideas that I had for the [next] Guns record. But at some point, Axl and I had a falling out over what kind of music would be on the album. I played him a demo of some of my songs, and he said, "I don't want to do that kind of music." And I was like, "But it would be an awesome Guns record, done Guns' way!" But he wanted to do industrial music, and he wanted to do "Pearl Jam"-[type] stuff.

So I kept playing the songs with my friends-I already knew [bassist] Mike Inez from Alice in Chains, and I already knew Gilby [Clarke, guitar] and Matt [Sorum, drums] because I'd gotten them into Guns. Then Axl and I had such a major falling out that I just said to the guys, "Well, let's make a record." So we recorded the whole album-just to finish something, just to have something to do-but we still didn't have a singer. And I met Eric [Dover] after auditioning all these singers, and when Eric came in, we wrote the lyrics the day we recorded [vocals for] the song-it was like that fly-by-night. And we were having a really good time.

So then when that was done, Axl and I were in no better shape as far as the relationship was concerned, so I booked a tour. But, consequently, Matt was contractually bound to Guns, so he had to go, and Mike Inez was supposed to go back to Alice in Chains. So eventually I had to get a whole new rhythm section [drummer Brian Tichy and bassist James LoMenzo], and we went on the road and we did 80 shows and four continents in four months.

When it came time to come back, I still wanted to keep touring for another couple months, but the record company was like, "No, you need to come back. Axl wants to make a record." But Axl and I still couldn't see eye to eye, so when we came back I ended up quitting Guns [in late October 1996].
       
Then I got a phone call to play a gig in Hungary; our manager Tom [Maher] goes, "We got this offer for headlining this festival in Hungary, and it's a big, seven-day event in a stadium." And I was like: "I don't have a band! How am I gonna do that?" I had to put a band together, but they had to be the right players-people who would consider Snakepit a permanent "day job." So I got Teddy "Zigzag" Andreadis, who played keyboards and harmonica in Guns, and we hooked up with musicians that he knew. That's how I hooked up with Johnny [Griparic, bass]. So we put a band together and called it Slash's Blue Balls-it was a joke, because in Hungary they'd think it was funny, but we changed it to "Blues Ball" later-and we went out and headlined the last day of this festival. We played some really cool old stuff, and the whole place went nuts, so we just kept booking gigs after that. And I kept changing drummers, changing rhythm guitar players, and this and that until Blues Ball became a permanent entity.

And finally I said, "You know what? We've been doing this to kill time. I need to do Snakepit now. I have to start getting this rolling." I already had a keyboard player and a bass player, and I got introduced to Ryan [Roxie, guitar] through Alice Cooper. When I first played with Ryan I was like,"This guy is great!" He was like a better version of Gilby, and also had some of Izzy [Stradlin] in him-that "other" style that I've never really been able to do myself, but I relate to it because of playing with Izzy for so long. And I had been going through drummers like crazy, but when we met Matt [Laug, drums] playing at the Baked Potato [legendary jazz/rock club in No. Hollywood, CA] one night-I got up and jammed with him-I was like, "He's a good drummer." So we all got together, and once again, it was a four-piece [band]; we were still looking for a singer. And then Johnny introduced me to Rod [Jackson], who is an awesome singer. So that's how we all came together. Then we just started writing songs together, and in July of 1999 we went in [the studio] to do basic tracks.

Should your new Snakepit album's optimistic title, Ain't Life Grand, be taken as any sort of statement on your part?

Slash: It's not a "statement." We had a song called "Ain't Life Grand" which is actually the first song that Rod and I ever wrote lyrics together. So when it came time for a title... I mean, I take the band seriously, but I don't want it to be one of those things where it's a "statement"-like, "It's soooo heavy," and you put all the lyrics in the [CD] booklet saying, "We are 'this.'" Basically "ain't life grand" is sort of a tongue-in-cheek kind of saying that could apply to anything. It's sort of like the title of the previous Snakepit album, It's Five O'clock Somewhere. I got that phrase, "It's five o'clock somewhere," from a bartender. I went to a bar one time at the airport-I was going to England-and it was 10 o'clock in the morning. And I was like, "I know in-your-face kind of thing, but we like to have good tones, and so on.

When Jack came around, we'd done so much writing and pre-production that we got to a certain point where it was starting to become redundant. There was something missing-we needed to tie a knot on the thing, so it could be "signed, sealed, and delivered." So when Jack came in, he totally tied the whole thing together. He has a good understanding of a "rock and roll band," and we related on that level. So we didn't have to change anything; he just added to it by helping us figure out if we're gonna do 12 bars of the last figure at the end of the song, or maybe we could get by with just doing six. Or if I was getting shy about punching a certain guitar part really loud, thinking maybe it was too obnoxious, he would tell me, "No. Do it! It sounds good that way." So he gave us that inspiration to be able to do what we do, and not feel inhibited about anything. He really encouraged us. And it was great to work with one of the producers that we respected so much. He produced half the great rock and roll bands of the '70s, and John Lennon as well.

Is there an easy way to tell which guitar parts Ryan Roxie played on the new Snakepit record?

Slash: For me, yeah, but probably not for the average listener. Basically, Jack's production style is to keep the guitars [panned] left and right, so you know where those are. You can tell Ryan and me apart sound-wise. There's a song called "Rusted Heroes," which has got a slide solo played by me, and then Ryan's solo is at the end of it. My style is a lot looser on this record-more impromptu than say Use Your Illusions, and even Appetite for Destruction. My parts in Appetite were kind of "set" because we'd been playing those songs for so long that I knew pretty much what I was going to do for every solo-with the exception of "ParadiseCity"- from playing them all the time.

It's a great process for making a band's first record, but it gets a little more complicated later on when you're making the second one because you haven't played the songs that long. So my playing is pretty loose on this one, whereas Ryan usually plays like a "set" melody, or some sort of "set" three-string chords [panned] on the left side. And there's not really too much single-note stuff from him.

What kind of guitar does Ryan Roxie play?
       
Slash: He plays one main guitar, as well, and the company that makes it is called GMP [www.gmpguitars.com]. He's endorsed by them, and he's got his own Roxie Model, which he designed. It's sort of a Tele body, and it's got humbuckers on it, but the guitar sounds thinner than my Les Paul does. I also had a guitar made for him for his birthday-a custom GMP leopard skin/sparkle Flying V that's also on the record.

You've always seemed to favor the Gibson Les Paul.

Slash: I'm very loyal to Gibson, and I'm really particular about what guitars I use to go out and play live. I only need one guitar to do a whole show. I don't need six guitars-I can't do the [Cheap Trick's] "Rick Nielsen thing" [e.g., different guitar for every song]. I have to have one guitar, and a backup. And in the studio I'm the same way. Gibson built me some "Slash" models. They would give me a guitar-they'd go, "Here, try this out." And I'm real particular about guitars, so I'm going, "No, man. I don't like it." And we went through a whole bunch of them before I found a signature model one that I was comfortable with.

Can you tell us about your Marshall signature amp?
       
Slash: Sure. It doesn't say "Snakepit" on the amp, it just says "Slash Model," but it's got the Snakepit logo on it and a snakeskin cover. And they sound really good. I'd been using Marshall Jubilee Series amps, the silver ones, for years. They're 50-watt and 100-watt; you can switch them back and forth. But then we had this riot in St. Louis [at the infamous Guns N' Roses show on July 2, 1991] and all our shit got busted up. And I was like, "What am I gonna do?" And that's when Marshall came to me and said, "You'll be the first person we ever endorsed. We want to make you an amp, and we want to design it to your specs, around the Marshall amps that you've been using." And when they gave me my first one I was so nervous. I thought, "If this doesn't sound good, what am I gonna do? I have no backups!" But it came out sounding great; I was really proud of it. And those amps sold out immediately. Now I've got different amps stationed all over the place-I've got some in Japan, some in Europe, some in New York,
and some in LA-so that, no matter what happens, I've got those [laughs].

How did you approach creating the layered feedback that occurs at the beginning of "Life's Sweet Drug (Inc.)"?
       
Slash: Oh man. That's a question that I wouldn't even know how to answer. What happened was: we started the song out and we played it live, but I just couldn't get the feedback that I wanted, so I said, "You know what what? We'll play the whole song, and I'll come back and fix it later." And after we finished recording the whole record, I was like, "So what haven't I fixed yet?" And I really only had two fixes that I had to do, but I couldn't remember what the second one was. We're done with the record to the point where we ready go to New York to do the mix. I went to the airport, flew to New York, and we got to the studio and I was like, "Uh oh! I forgot!"

This is the second time that this has happened to me! On the first Snakepit record there's an instrumental song called "Jizz da Pit," and the guitar solo got erased when I went to go mix. I was like, "What do you mean it's gone? It just disappeared? It's not there?" Luckily I had my guitar with me, so I rented an amp and I re-did the guitar solo, which came out great, for me, as far as I was concerned. So ever since then, I always make sure I have my guitar with me.

But with "Life's Sweet Drug (Inc.)," we had to go in and fix it. It was one of those kinds of things where it was like, "We want the major Marshall [feedback] swell. But I don't want to wear headphones, so just cue me; count me in. And I'll hit the note, just tell me when to stop." That's how it happened, basically.

Are you using some kind of open tuning for your slide parts in "Rusted Heroes"?
       
Slash: Yeah. That's only slide song that I played with an "open tuning" on the record; it's just open-G. If I'm going to be soloing with a slide for a long time, or improvising or whatever, I break out my Travis Bean guitar. Before Kramer became an independent company, Kramer and Travis Bean were together. They didn't stay in business together for very long; they split apart. And Kramer became a really big thing. I got turned onto Travis Beans from Joe Perry of Aerosmith. They have solid aluminum necks, and they're just awesome slide guitars. I used that guitar for all the slide parts on the album, except for "Shine." I have a backup Les Paul that I use for slide for some stuff, which is set up for slide in regular tuning, so the strings are raised high off the neck.

You've achieved massive success with Guns N' Roses and Snakepit, but you've also done your share of recording sessions and sideman performances, working as a "hired gun" for other artists like Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Lenny Kravitz, among others. How do you get approached for those types of gigs?

Slash: There are certain people that you just admire and love, and you'd give your left arm to play with them. Michael Jackson calling you up in a hotel room one day going, "Would you play on my record?" It's like, "Yeah! I'll play on your record!" Producer Don Was hooked me up with Iggy Pop, but I knew Iggy Pop when I was a little kid because he was friends with David Bowie, and David Bowie went out with my mom. Bob Dylan was a Don Was thing as well. Or somebody calls you up and you're like, "Oh yeah. Your music's cool. I'd love to do that." I just did a bunch of stuff with Chic, with Nile Rodgers and the late Bernard Edwards-I actually played with him the night he died. He is the "big daddy" bass player of all time, rest in peace; I love that guy. But we did three shows in Tokyo, and it was cool because I got to play with those guys, and Omar Hakim, Stevie Winwood, Simon Le Bon, and Sister Sledge-all together. It was like a big, huge "pop star" orchestra. That was a great experience.
       
But these are all things that happened by chance, just because I'd hook up with somebody that I like playing with. Like after I jammed with Bootsy Collins, I ended up playing with James Brown on his birthday - and that's just from meeting Bootsy at the Rainbow [laughs]. That's how these things happen; that's how you get the gigs. There's really no one "rule" on how it happens, it just happens by chance. Either someone likes you or you like somebody else, then one day you both meet, and then you pursue working together.

Guns N Roses recently released a live record, Live Era '87-'93. What was your role in the release of that record?
       
Slash: Well, the concept of the live record came up and, from a business point of view, I know it was the record company trying to fill the quota for the simple fact that there's been no new, original material from the band since we all broke up. But as far as the "band of old" is concerned, I'm always there to make sure that at least somebody's paying attention so things don't get messed up. Back then, we only had mobile [recording] trucks at certain shows, and we had some board tapes from '87 - like from when we played at the London Marquee, which was one of our first road trips that we ever took. So we just picked out like an average night's set list-those certain songs that we played all the time.

Once that was done, rather than sit there and analyze each individual take of a particular song, I just said, "Just grab this song, this song, and this song from whatever shows you feel like," because I wanted it to be as honest [a representation of the band] as possible. And I've never listened back to anything we've ever done after it was recorded and mixed, but [after listening to the tapes], I realized how good the band was. For the most part, it's one of our almost three-hours-long shows, just assembled from different places and different years.

Were some of the shows taped in Tokyo?
       
Slash: Yeah. I know there's three, but I don't know which ones they are. We didn't put any details on [the CD]. I know there are songs that were recorded in Las Vegas, Minneapolis, England, Japan, but I don't know which ones. There's a photo inside [the CD sleeve] from Tokyo Dome too.

I understand, as far as the new Live Era record is concerned, that your song "Coma" was only released on the Japanese and European versions of the disc.
       
Slash: Yeah. You have to hear it. We only played it probably two or three times that whole tour, because it was just so involved. Izzy used to have a "cheat sheet" for the chord changes on it - like the size of a table-onstage when we played that song. It's got a mathematical chord structure at the end, where the chord progression stays the same, but it's transposed to different keys. You have to pay attention because the chords are skipping all over the neck. So Izzy would follow it by reading the chords off his sheet. And I think the version of "Coma" that's on the record is the first or second time we ever played it live. We'd just go out there and go, "Let's try this!" And then Izzy would bring out the big piece of cardboard and tape it to the stage [laughs]. So it's not perfect, but it's got attitude.

Your unaccompanied guitar solo, "Theme from the Godfather," is not included on the live disc, although it was in almost every Guns N' Roses concert.
       
Slash: I've had a couple passing thoughts about that, after the fact, because when we were making the record, it didn't even occur to me to use that. But a little bit later, I was going, "I wonder if we should've put that in there?" But there are so many different versions of it. It's so inspired by the night, and it's such an impromptu thing-you never knew how long it was gonna go, it wasn't like a "set" thing. So, it being that spontaneous, I was like, "If you were there at that time, then it meant something to you at that moment." But to put it on the record would signify "that's how it went," and none of them were the same. And also, I never got into that big "guitar solo" thing. Eddie Van Halen's great at it, but I just never got into that. The only reason that I ever did it was to give Axl some time to cool out, basically. I didn't think it was more important to put on there-and kill time on the record-and have to lose another song.

The first pressing of the live album contains many printing errors, and is likely to become a collector's item once a replacement is issued. What are some of the mistakes on that disc?
       
Slash: Now you have to be a really fuckin' fanatic to find some of this shit. But, originally, we had guitars going in the wrong direction. I said, "There's no left-handed players in this band!" I mean, it was really that green. I was looking at the picture of the Tokyo Dome in the CD sleeve, and I was going, "I could've sworn the red tapestry was on the other side of the Dome." But it's been a long time, so I let it go. Someone got a magnifying glass and found out that Marlboro and Coca-Cola signs were spelled backwards [laughs]. And I was like, "I knew the blue tapestry was on my side of the stage!" Other than that, there's this picture of Axl that's the other way; someone brought to my attention that his tattoo is on the other side of his body. But the only problem I could relate to was which direction the guitar necks were going. Other than that, everything else is flyers from the old days, most of which I made. I remember poster-boarding those things all over the place when we were doing gigs, and going out and handing them out [laughs].

But the main problem on the first version of the live record was that the sequence was backwards. And when it came out-800,000 of them went out-Disc 1 was Disc 2, and Disc 2 was Disc 1. And then there was a loop on "Paradise City," where it just kept saying, "Las Vegas." [Laughs] And I found out about it when I was in Miami. I get this phone call, and I'm like, "You're kidding me!" A one-in-a-million shot that that would ever happen, and it happens to us [laughs]. But it is a collector's item, because when they made the new one they changed the new cover around a little bit, so anybody who has the old one, hold on to it.

How are the audiences in Japan different from those in your American homeland?
       
Slash: Well, the first time I ever went to Japan for a tour it was a total culture shock for me. At that point I thought that the rules were a little bit too strict; I thought their security was a little too restrictive, let's put it that way. But the audience was so loyal, and the fans were-and still are-so devoted and so into what you're doing from one step to the next, following your every move. They bought us toys; they made die-cast models of us, drawings of us, posters that they made at home. They really put effort into it-like something you'd put into a Christmas present for a loved one. Ever since the first trip, I've looked forward to going back.

Now as far as American audiences are concerned, it depends on which city you're in. If you're in a major city like New York or Los Angeles, those audiences can be really reserved, just because they've seen it so much. They're just like [speaking with arms folded across chest], "Well impress me, motherfucker!" But then you go into the mid-West or the part of America where a lot of people don't really see shows that much-not huge metropolises, but they're big cities - those are amazing audiences. But there's a difference: you're in a completely different environment in every city you go to. You go from Dallas [Texas] to Fort Worth [Texas] and there's a difference. So you go from Fort Worth to Japan, and there's a huge difference: you're whole surroundings are different, the language is different. It's the same with Europe and South America.

So, to get back to your original question: a Japanese audience is a Japanese audience. It's a great audience, but it's its own thing unto itself. It's cool; I can't wait to get back over there. This whole thing about getting the record done and then going out and setting up the tour is the most exciting thing in the world. I can't wait to get out of [Los Angeles].

When is Snakepit going to be touring Japan?
       
Slash: We're going out on the road as soon as the record comes out. The record's supposed to come out February 22, 2000, but it could come out the first week in March. So when the album comes out, I figure if we start in Japan, then we'll be there in March. If we start somewhere else, it'll be in April. But I'm gonna try and pull off the typical "two years straight" thing. It took me a year to get the band together; I've never been home for a year straight. Even during that year, I would take off and go to gigs. I did a gig in India-I just got on a plane and went to India, played for one night, and came back [to Los Angeles]. I'd go to England, Washington, and New York just to do one show-just to get up and play in front of an audience. And then of course every Tuesday I was going to the Baked Potato to jam with people. I still pack up my guitar go to clubs and stuff in between shows when we're on tour. You meet people that way, and there are some great players out there. That's how I found my band. You can't lock yourself up in a closet and wait for people to come to you.

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