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2000.12.DD - Total Guitar - Slash: The Last Guitar Hero?

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2000.12.DD - Total Guitar - Slash: The Last Guitar Hero? Empty 2000.12.DD - Total Guitar - Slash: The Last Guitar Hero?

Post by Blackstar on Tue Mar 17, 2020 8:15 pm

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Transcript:
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An unlikely combination, maybe, but former Guns N' Roses drummer Steven Adler and Slash's Grandma have a lot to answer for. Were it not for them, a knackered old Spanish guitar and a copy of Kiss Alive II, then arguably today's biggest six-string hero might have never ended up a guitar player.

Childhood buddy and former bandmate, Steven Adler was the first Gunner to lay his hands on an electric guitar and amp, and its power so impressed the young Saul Hudson that the touchpaper for a lifelong obsession with all things rock 'n' roll was lit. "Steve used to put on a Kiss record, blast it at lull volume and then he would fucking bang away at this electric guitar and amp cranked to ten," remembers Slash. “And it was such a turn-on for me." The young Slash wanted in on the act. He sought out a local music school and when he happened upon a guitar teacher noodling around with old Cream and Led Zep riffs on a Les Paul, he ditched his fledgling idea of being a bassist and decided that lead guitar was for him. There was only one problem: he needed a guitar.

"I went back home and my grandmother had an old Spanish-style acoustic guitar with one string in the garage somewhere. So I started on that - everything you can possibly learn on one string," he laughs. It wouldn't take long for Slash to grow tired of stunted one-string renditions of Smoke On The Water so it was back to the music school. "I went back to same guy who had the Les Paul and asked him how to string the guitar, and basically he taught me a couple of fundamental things about how a guitar works and from there on I just started learning from records. And I've been doing that ever since."

And along the way he also managed to make records that thousands of people having been copping licks from, including GN'R's Sweet Child O' Mine - whose infectious intro has remained the scourge of the music shop since 1987. These days, however, the single-string Spanish guitar is but a distant memory. Slash is a confirmed Gibson Les Paul man, possibly from the first time he spied his former teacher playing one. “I have a whole bunch of them," he admits. "There's been a lot of trial and error in getting guitars," Slash reveals. "From the time I started to working fulltime to support the habit [Er, he means buying guitars, okay? - Ed.]. You pick up guitar magazines and you see advertisements for this and that and you start going through the gamut of trying different things out. And I ended up playing a Les Paul." Ever since, we've not seen Slash without three trademark accessories: the ubiquitous top hat, the smouldering cigarette and the thing we're most interested in - that low slung Les Paul.

With that last item he forged a sound that was equal parts sleazy rock riffs and ferocious solos, becoming a true guitar hero for the late 80s. That he arguably remains today's sole light for rock guitar, says a lot about the current depressingly sanitised, synth-drenched pap-pop climate. But Slash doesn't see his new Snakeplt release Ain't Life Grand?!, an album dominated by high-octane, bluesy-rock guitar, as a reaction against the hi-tech, no soul material that has left the humble rock guitar sadly marginalised.

“It's not what I would call, like, deliberate," muses Slash. "I've just been trying to record the same kinda shit I liked when I got into this whole thing, you know? I've always been on this straight and narrow path and that's the motivation behind whatever the record sounds like. I never really thought to do anything differently, even when I split from Guns N- Roses."

Ah yes, GN'R, the band that's remained sadly dormant ever since Slash picked up his Gibson and walked out the door. "One of the main reasons I actually ended up leaving is because the ideology behind Guns N' Roses all of a sudden took up a more preconceived turn than what we originally set out doing. I’m still working on being a rock ‘n' roll band and when I realised that I didn't have much control over the outcome of the way Guns was gonna sound, I went on to do the next thing which was to start my own band, and doing what it is I'm still trying to do - good old genuine rock 'n' roll.”

It's this authenticity of music and respect for his chosen Instrument that shines when Slash considers today's popular musical climate. "Have you heard the majority of stuff that's on the radio these days? The guitar has really taken a back fucking seat. It's become a textural kind of thing as opposed to the stuff I was influenced by, which was a real guitar technique and a real human application."

Weaned on the hard rock of the early 70s, Slash cites the Stones, Kiss, Zeppelin, UFO, AC/DC and Ted Nugent as huge influences, players who are miles away from today's cut-and-paste studio technology - players who didn't have to rely on Pro Tools to get a great guitar part down on tape - in a nutshell, players who could actually play. And it's a theory Slash subscribes to: "Technology is a little bit foreign to me," he admits. “I'm exposed to it all the time as I'm working regularly in an environment where people are telling me what the latest computer development is, and I just don't have any interest in it. I'm still trying to get the basic hard rock guitar thing down, so that when I go to pick a guitar up and go and play it I can actually do it - just me and the guitar and an amplifier," adding as a footnote, "I have no problem with technological advances. I think it's all very fascinating... but from a distance!"

So is he The Last Great Guitar HeroTM, the last player to truly matter, the last recogniseable, world famous player? He's too modest to answer, but we think he could be (Marr, Squire, and Morello may be/have been great but they never hit the heights Slash did and In terms of iconic status, none of them would be recognised by Joe Public). What does Slash make of the current state of rock guitar? "In context with everything that’s going on musically, I don't think guitar playing in the classic sense is even all that necessary as the music doesn’t lend itself to it," he says. "That just seems to be the trend that’s been going on because everybody's so involved with sampling stuff and not really having a central guitar vibe. I mean, even if you listen to something like Green Day, it doesn't need a guitar solo, you know?" he says, before recalling that music has been this way before. "But the Sex Pistols sounded great with Steve Jones playing like he did, and that was still a very simple approach to a guitar sound. It wasn’t like Led Zeppelin or something like that where you've got all this orchestrated stuff going on, and I suppose that’s similar to the state of music right now.

"And if I remember correctly, when Guns started there was no guitar playing going on then either. I wasn't paying attention or wasn't influenced by what was going on in 1984 or '85 as that was all like Cyndi Lauper, early Madonna and all that shit. The whole Van Halen wave had gone by and when I started playing a Les Paul and doing leads and stuff, everyone went ‘Oh yeah, I forgot about that'. So my current approach is basically the same. I'm not really interested in why there are no other guitar players doing what it is that I was weaned on, it's just not the way the industry is right now."

But if all this sounds a bit worrying for fans of good old-fashioned rock guitar, Slash reckons we needn't worry. "When we were playing with AC/DC we had me doing my thing, Angus doing his thing: it was like a total guitar onslaught [Now there's a good name for a magazine - Ed], It was probably the best fucking bill going around the States at the time. We did 37 gigs and it was a real shot in the arm in this day and age as far as rock ‘n’ roll is concerned."

Since Slash's last album, the US has seen the emergence of the Nu Metal scene, the voice of disenfranchised youth. Not that he noticed. "I wasn't aware there was a new metal," he laughs good-naturedly. "I'm an old school kinda guy." And he seems genuinely bewildered by the ‘angry young man’ syndrome with which all nu metal bands seem to be afflicted. "I really don't get it, they're just not old enough to have that hard a life," he pauses. "Or perhaps I've just been real lucky.

"Although I'm a really aggressive guitar player, if you listen to Snakepit play - or even Guns - it's totally in-your-face, but we don’t have any real issues and so don't take things too seriously. We're not pissed off at the world compared to most other bands today." One modern player that Slash does admire is Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello. "At least he's trying to do something new with the guitar, getting all sorts of weird sounds out of it. but not relying upon a sampler. He makes the guitar do it for him."

Countless great bands have come and gone, and often the singer has gone on to great success while the guitar player seemingly vanishes into the musical ether - think of The Smiths. The Police, and even, possibly to a slighter lesser degree, Led Zep. Slash, however, has remained the constant while his erstwhile bandmate Axl Rose has all but disappeared from sight. "I've been really lucky as a guitar player to have a career separately from the group I was successful with," he admits. "Whether I can be as successful on my own, or with my own group compared to Guns I don't know. I never really look at it like that, it's never been my priority. My thing was just to get through the night and to be happy with what I accomplish that evening. It's not like 'the Slash project' - I really don't see it that way, we're a band In our own right. I've always been in bands, I've never got off on practising or sitting around to see how technically proficient you can become - it was always all about putting a band together, making it work and then going out and playing in front of an audience. I really didn't want a solo career based on my guitar playing. I'm not convinced I'm technically good enough and I think that bands focused around one guitar player tend to be a little bit boring anyway."

In the dozen or so years that Slash has been wowing us with his guitar prowess, he feels his playing has definitely changed for the better. "I'm very conscientious about my intonation these days," he explains. “It was something that my old manager mentioned to me, because in the early Guns days it was so haphazard. He said, 'just keep your ear on the intonation', and it really stuck in my mind. So where I'm at now is just trying to get better and better at the original format in which I started, as far as rock ‘n’ roll guitar is concerned. I’m just a little bit more conscientious about things when it comes to bending, or when it comes to not playing too many notes and just relaxing.

“As I’m a very aggressive player, I play really fast for no real reason except that the energy level will just take me there. Within reason, that's cool, but you don't have to go through this whole flurry of notes - just sit on the one, stay on the one note, it sounds good - and then start to branch out in the next couple of bars. I'm more aware of that now than I was back when I was 19, 20 years old."

If his manager gave the young player some vital words of wisdom, Slash offers some similar sage advice to today's fledgling players. "Basically go for what you know and strive to do whatever it is you want to do and work at that. And also the most important thing is to learn how to play the guitar before you get fucking 50,000 dollars worth of fucking complicated gear," he laughs. "Try to apply whatever is in your head to your fingers on just the instrument itself before you start embellishing it with all this other bullshit."

So take heed, as this is one guy who knows what he's talking about. After all, we are talking about the guitar hero who started out playing his Granny's acoustic...

SLASH ON SOLOING

I usually write the lead parts based around the song. I never write a solo or lead break to be the mainstay of the entire song — it's boring, you know?" says Slash, rather refreshingly. "I’d rather hear a song with a good lead section that works with the tune as opposed to basing the entire song around your lead prowess."

"There's a real basic in-your-face one-take guitar solo on the album which sums up my style if you were going to catch me on a second's notice, and that's Been There Lately - the first track. It's all over the place. I don't even know how to play it live exactly, I don’t know what I did, you know? But that's very indicative of my in-your-face rock 'n' roll style.

"And then there's the song called Serial Killer which is a more mapped out song-orientated guitar solo and I guess in a way, even though it was spontaneous when I wrote it, it was written In so far as I worked it out with the guitar changes and the chord changes.

"Solos usually come right away," he says. "Sometimes a song will be a lick that I was working on and I'll put it down to a lower register and it becomes a really good riff. And then the solo will basically mimic that and extend itself or something. I'm actually really not that technical, usually It's just wherever the song takes me.

“If I'm writing with the band, as soon as the solo section starts I'll Instantly go for some-thing off the top of my head. But sometimes I'll hear one note and hear an exact melody and have to try to find where those notes are - but it's usually spontaneous from the outset."
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