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2000.12.DD - Guitar Player - Slash & Burn (Slash)

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2000.12.DD - Guitar Player - Slash & Burn (Slash) Empty 2000.12.DD - Guitar Player - Slash & Burn (Slash)

Post by Blackstar on Tue Mar 17, 2020 7:42 am

Slash & Burn

By Lisa Sharken

The Archetypal ROCK STAR BLAZES ON Ain't Life Grand

"I always knew what kind of sound I wanted," asserts Slash. "I remember how cool it sounded when I was learning `Cat Scratch Fever' on my B.C. Rich Mockingbird with an MXR Distortion+ pedal plugged into a Fender Twin. That's where it all started for me. Then I started making up my own riffs and I formed a band. Everything else came from there." * Raised on blues-influenced groups such as Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, and Aerosmith, Slash's ears eventually led him to the rig that emulated the sound of his heroes: a Les Paul and a Marshall. * The guitarist reached hero status himself after his band Guns N' Roses released Appetite for Destruction in 1987. The overwhelming success of that album established Slash as one of rock guitar's premier soloists, and GNR's influence annihilated the Floyd Rose fixations that fueled mid-'80s shred kings and steered players toward a simpler, more bluesy approach. To his surprise, Slash was credited for repopularizing the Les Paul and was honored with his own signature model. Likewise, Marshall presented Slash with the company's first-ever signature model amplifier in 1998.

When his alliance with GNR frontman Axl Rose fizzled over disagreements about the group's musical direction, the guitarist took a hiatus and put together Slash's Blues Ball--his realization of the ultimate touring garage band. The jamming inspired new material and a new band, Slash's Snakepit, which delivered its 1995 debut It's Five O'clock Somewhere.

Now officially divorced from GNR, Slash and his Snakepit recently completed Ain't Life Grand [Koch]--a collection of hard-edged rockers recorded in Slash's home studio and produced by Jack Douglas (Aerosmith, Lou Reed, Cheap Trick, John Lennon). The album packs the same kind of grit, power, and punch as Appetite-era GNR and showcases Slash's ability to create tasty melodies and savory solos.

What drew you to the Les Paul?

All the guys I dug played Les Pauls, and I ended up using them because they looked cool and sounded right. I had a Memphis Les Paul copy when I started playing, and then I went through a million other guitars before coming back to the Les Paul--which, by that time, was a real Gibson.

You're often credited with bringing the Les Paul back to prominence.

To me, the Les Paul never went away! It's just that people got twisted on the whole Van Halen thing and the tremolo bar for awhile. It's flattering that people gave me the credit, but, at the same time, it's embarrassing because there are a million Les Paul players out there, and I'm just another guy who is working on it like everyone else. Okay, I can play, but I'm not Les Paul and I'm not Jimmy Page. It was the media's attention to my image that was responsible for making the Les Paul popular again.

What is your main Les Paul?

My main live guitar is one of two Les Paul Standards that I bought in 1987--just after Guns N' Roses got signed. That guitar just sounds good and feels right. It has been broken and put back together, and I'm still playing it. The other '87 Les Paul was recently stolen from my house. I lost a lot of stuff--mostly all practice guitars--but losing that one really hurt. For the Ain't Life Grand sessions, my main guitar was the same Les Paul reproduction I used on Appetite for Destruction and for the basic tracks on Use Your Illusion I and II.

Did you try some other guitars for different sounds?

For the tremolo bar stuff on "The Alien" and "The Truth," I took out my B.C. Rich Mockingbird. For the slide sound on "Shine," I used a Travis Bean and a brass slide. There was also a Gibson ES-335 that I used for a clean tone on "Back to the Moment." Everything else is the Les Paul.

What was your amp setup?

I used my Slash Marshall head and one 4x12 cabinet--the same rig I always play through. I use two heads onstage and two 4x12s to switch from clean to dirty sounds, but only one halfstack is used at a time. The head for the clean sound is set up with Groove Tubes KT88s, and the settings are: Presence 0, Bass 9, Middle 3, Treble 5 1/2, Output Master 10, Lead Master 0, and Input Gain 4. The "dirty" head is loaded with Groove Tubes EL34s, and the controls are set: Presence 7, Bass 7, Middle 4 1/2, Treble 7, Output Master 6, Lead Master 10, and Input Gain 6 1/2.

Do you record with effects or add them in the mix?

I really wanted the record to have a live ambience and [producer] Jack Douglas captured the band in its purest form. I kept things pretty raw, and Jack helped to shape my guitar sound in the mix. For different parts, I'd tell him what I was looking for, and he'd add the right amount of reverb or delay to get the ambience we needed.

Has your interpretation of great guitar tone changed throughout the years?

It hasn't changed at all. I've always thought the guys with the best tone are the ones who just grab a guitar and make it sound like something solid. Jeff Beck comes to mind--he has amazing control over his playing and his tone. I also think of Malcolm and Angus Young, Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, and, of course, Jimmy Page. Those sounds are cemented in my head! Certain Zeppelin songs have that kind of pure, raw thing that I want to hear in my own sound. I've got my guitar and amp sound sorted out, so now it's really a matter of when the magic happens.

Has your approach to playing changed since the '80s?

I don't think anything has changed, but I don't listen to myself on a regular basis. Once I've recorded something, it's done. I don't like to go back and relive it unless I have to relearn it for some reason.

But I will say that I think my playing is more spontaneous now. At this point, I just go for the throat. I didn't work out any set solos for Ain't Life Grand--I just put them down live with the band. A long time ago it was harder for me to do that. I'd have an idea about what I wanted to do, but the time it took to apply that idea from my head to the fretboard was a little slower than it is now.

So Ain't Life Grand was pretty much recorded live in the studio?

We do everything as if it's a live gig. We record the drums while we're all playing together, and I'll play the solos live. Then I'll overdub the rhythm guitar in the solo sections. If there are any guitar parts I want to do over, I'll sit in the control room and overdub them. But I've gotten to the point where I usually keep a lot of the stuff we do live. In the old days, I'd redo all the guitar parts in the control room because that's where I was more comfortable. But now, when I listen back to our live tracks, I usually can't find a reason to fix anything--we play the parts pretty good.

Do you document your ideas on tape before going into the studio?

I'm not into carrying around my guitar and a tape recorder. As soon as I break out the tape recorder, that's when I don't have any ideas. I also don't like to do too much fussy preproduction. If an idea is good enough, I'll remember it. In the studio, I'll go over things with the band to make sure everything sounds right, but then we just go for it and make the record.

What's your typical songwriting method?

From the beginning, I've always written songs to play with a band. But there isn't any one formula for coming up with songs. A song usually starts from jamming alone, then bringing an idea to the band and playing around with it. As long as I can find a good riff or a melody, we can piece it together and create a song.

How does it feel to have other players look up to you?

Scary! It's weird because, although I've grown as a player, I still feel like I'm just trying to get up to speed. I'm still going out there every night and making sure I play the licks right. So when kids come up to me and say things like, "I started playing guitar because of you," I just think it wasn't that long ago that/was doing the same thing they are. I feel flattered, but it's very humbling, When I walk onstage, I feel the pressure of people expecting so much from me.

What advice do you have for players struggling to develop their own sound and style?

Follow the music that you love, and work on what comes natural to you. Don't try to shadow anybody else's style or jump on what's trendy. Just figure out what you really want to achieve as a player and then pursue it. If your playing doesn't reflect what you truly love and believe in, you'll never be happy and you'll always be searching for something that isn't there. Be honest to yourself and the rest will come with practice. Just keep working on it.

Grand Tones

Guitars: Gibson Les Paul Standard. Les Paul copy, B.C. Rich Mockingbird. Guild Crossroads 6/12 doubleneck electric-acoustic. (All stage guitars are equipped with Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro humbuckers.)

Amplification: Marshall JCM Slash Signature Model heads and Marshall 4x12 cabinets with Celestion Vintage 30 speakers. A Marshall JCM 2555 Silver Jubilee head is dedicated for the Talk Box.

Effects: Boss GE-7 g EQ and DD-5 digital delay, Dunlop CryBaby rackmount wah, Heil Talk Box, Bob Bradshaw switching system.

Strings & Things: Ernie Ball RPS .011-.048, Dunlop Tortex, 1.14mm picks, Monster Cable, Nady 950-GT wireless.
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