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APPETITE FOR DISCUSSION
Welcome to Appetite for Discussion -- a Guns N' Roses fan forum!

Please feel free to look around the forum as a guest, I hope you will find something of interest. If you want to join the discussions or contribute in other ways then you need to become a member. We especially welcome anyone who wants to share documents for our archive or would be interested in translating or transcribing articles and interviews.

Registering is free and easy.

Cheers!
SoulMonster

2004.04.DD - Total Guitar - Velvet Revolver (Slash, Duff)

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2004.04.DD - Total Guitar - Velvet Revolver (Slash, Duff) Empty 2004.04.DD - Total Guitar - Velvet Revolver (Slash, Duff)

Post by Soulmonster Wed Mar 18, 2020 12:35 pm

Edit by Blackstar - Images of the original article - thanks to @Surge:

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Images from a later reprint:

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Transcript (by htgth):
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Velvet Revolver

THE EAGERLY ANTICIPATED RELEASE OF VELVET REVOLVER'S DEBUT ALBUM IS FINALLY UPON US. AFTER MONTHS OF DELAYS, SCANDAL AND REHAB, THE 'ULTIMATE' ROCK SUPER GROUP ARE READY TO FACE THE WORLD. AND THEY HAVE A LOT OF EXPLAINING TO DO . . .

WORDS: STEVEN ROSEN
PICTURES: JOHN McMURTRIE


Finally, after all the hoopla, drama, relapses, and false starts, in a rehearsal studio on the outskirts of LA, four-fifths of the band known as Velvet Revolver - Slash and former Guns N' Roses bandmates Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum, and relatively unknown guitarist Dave Kushner - enjoy a rare moment of calm before the storm.

Many people (one Mr. A Rose among them) will be amazed they got this far. A band of former alcoholics and drug addicts fronted by troubled former Stone Temple Pilot vocalist Scott Weiland, things haven't run smoothly. Charged with possession of heroin, domestic violence and drink driving, Weiland's been confined to rehab for months now, delaying the release of the album. (Not that the rest of the band haven't been very supportive - they've all been there at some point.) Which makes the finished product, Contraband, all the more amazing and triumphant.

Set for a UK release on 17 May (with the band's debut single, Slither, scheduled for the end of April), at an exclusive listening party to let us hear the album a BMG spokesman announced this was an 'important' record. He many be right. With the dying embers of nu-metal still smouldering and the rock scene looking for a new direction, Velvet Revolver may be just what we're waiting for. Contraband is suffused with muscular guitar riffs and the bluesy undertones that were a Guns N' Roses staple.

But produced by Limp Bizkit and Staind technician Josh Abraham and mixed by Nirvana and Linkin Park figurehead Andy Wallace, this is much more than a record reliant on former glories - it's one that manages to infuse modernity, a hip frisson, into the Big Rock format.

Contraband echoes that raucous, running-off-the-rails style of guitar that defined Guns N' Roses, yet at the same time it has a very contemporary feel. It's like a bridge linking the old to the new. There's also a new texture in your playing - something more powerful.

SLASH: "The album is pretty aggressive, which came from that thing of us all getting together. It's kind of inexplicable, but I was very passionate about it and as far as the writing was concerned, everything was very spontaneous, and it went on the record that way. By the time we picked the songs we were gonna do, there was only a couple of months before we did the album. It's all first-take stuff."

Was there a different dynamic t how you felt playing guitar behind Axl?

SLASH: "Every time you play with someone different, you get a different energy, although there was obviously an underlying familiar core for me: Duff and Matt. I love playing with different people, I always have, but at the same time there's a certain vibe I like, and I don't find it with everyone I jam with."
"Guns N' Roses was way cool when it was in its proper setting - it was killer - but then it went through a lot of crazy changes. And then Snakepit was just an outlet for me - but I didn't hone in on what makes me tick. It was just good timing, because I think everybody was trying to avoid any sort of combination of the Guns members, we just wanted to get away from the whole thing."

Now you play with Dave. What do you look for in a second guitarist?

SLASH: "In the same way that Izzy (Stradlin, GN'R second guitarist) did his own thing, so does Dave. As long as he's got his own thing together, I don't worry about what the other guy's doing and I can concentrate on myself. It's like I had a hard time working with the guitarists in the two Snakepit bands, because those guys were so aware of what I was doing it made me self-conscious."

"Also Dave doesn't feel threatened by me telling him what to do, and vice versa. I mean, it's not like we're a two-guitar band where we do harmonies. With Izzy it was the same; very rarely did we sit down and have the patience to work out guitar parts. Instead, we just sort of improvised. Dave and Izzy are the only two guitar players I really mesh with."

Dave, how exactly did you see your role in the band?

DAVE: "I bring a lot of pedals to the music, it's a kind of texture thing. Although you've got to find a balance, use them subtly. I don't want to be like, 'Hey, check me out over here, I've got all these fancy pedals.'"

"I think the key to playing with a guitarist like Slash is knowing what he's playing and then do something completely different. Like, if he's playing open chords, I'll play barres; if he's playing a melody line, I'll play chords. We try to offset each other, so it's not like two guys in stereo. That's what was great about Appetite For Destruction - both guitarist played off each other, so I came in thinking like that."

Did Stone Temple Pilots have an influence on things?

SLASH: "I wasn't really aware of STP until Scott joined the band - and then I didn't like to listen to them because I didn't want to be influenced. When we started working on jams, I started being more uninhibited about what sound I was going for. I usually think 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it,' but that becomes boring. Especially when everybody around me is tripping out on this and that. Now I feel like I'm a sort of fuckin' unpacked suitcase."

You mean moving away from the classic Les Paul and Marshall combination?

SLASH: "That set-up has always been the underlying theme to my sound, but now I've started using different Fender amps. For this album I used a combination of three different Marshall heads and the AC30, which we toggled between. In a couple instances, I'd use a Marshall head and the AC30, then a combination of two or three heads. We re-recorded one of the songs (You Got No Right) with my live head, which I'd never recorded with before. It's the Slash model (Signature) Marshall."

"This is the most interesting fuckin' record I've done in my career, yet it's the one I've paid the least attention to as far as gear's concerned. I even switched guitars around, which I don't normally do. My regular recording guitar is a handmade Les Paul Standard copy, which I've had since Appetite… There's a guy who made an amazing 1959 copy that's better than anything Gibson can make. Unfortunately, he's no longer alive. But I have a couple of those, and they're my main guitars."
(Note: In the mid-80s, Alan Niven, then manager of GN'R contacted friend Jim Foote, owner of the Music Works guitar shop in California, about Slash's problems finding a good sound in the studio. Foote introduced Slash to Kris Derrig, a luthier who built Les Paul replicas. The guitarist experimented with the instrument, and made it his mail too. The custom piece is a replica of a 1958 Les Paul with a mahogany body and neck, a top capped with flame maple, and a fretboard constructed of Brazilian rosewood. Pickups are Seymour Duncan Alnico IIs.)

"I also have a couple of other re-issues, but I didn't pull out any vintage guitars except a 1954 Les Paul. I used it for the beginning of Fall to Pieces, that clean guitar sound, and for the bridge in You Got No Right. I also used a Strat and a Telecaster for a couple sections."

"There's a song called Sucker Train Blues where all the rhythms are done on a '56 Tele. I have three old Strats and I used a '65 for the solo. Although I think they're the best sounding guitars, Strats are so inconsistent and I don't have the patience to mess around with them. You just get used to playing on different necks - when you change guitars you have to adapt. For the most part, Les Pauls are pretty easy to use. And although a Strat is real light, I just can't bang on it the way I do with a Les Paul. Strats are too fuckin' sensitive. And when they sound bad they sound horrible. That's why I tend to stick to playing Les Pauls."

DAVE: "I used a Fernandes, which I've played for 10 years. Their guitar shapes are unique - mine has the thickness of a Les Paul and looks a bit like a hybrid of a Les Paul and an Iceman."
(Note: According to Mike Cassidy and Pete Skermetta from Fernandes, Kushner plays Ravelle Elite models. They're fitted with Fernandes Sustainer neck pickups, and Seymour Duncan bridge units. The neck and body are mahogany and the top is a 5A Carved Canadian piece of maple. Grover tuners are fitted. Dave's newest axe sports an ivory finish, and he also has a custom metallic blue model. These are all individually built for him.)

"I used my Bogner amp (an Ecstasy 101B mode. A 100Watt EL34 amp with three channels: clean, crunch and solo sitting on two Bogner straight cabs fitted with Vintage Celestion 30s), and for some rhythm stuff I used a Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier with this modified Marshall head. And a shitload of pedals, Dunlop wahs: bass wahs, regular wahs, the Dimebag wah, the Rotovibe."
(Note: Slash's amp modifications were done by Mike Morin, an amp guru. The amp, an early/mid 80s Marshall JCM800 was fitted with a gain mod. Morin changed all the components, installed new tubes, tones controls, and put in a tube stage. An extra knob acts as the gain control to allow the amp to go from "brown to screaming.")

Talk us through the construction of a track. For instance, on Slither, do you double your rhythms t create that wall of sound?

SLASH: "No, I don't believe in using that kind of stuff. That's one thing about having two guitarists, you can do it without having to fake it."

DAVE: "When I went in the studio, Slash'd already done his rhythm parts, his solos, which was great because I could then go my own way with it, fill up the holes. In the intro, there's this wall of wah-wah and delay, I used the Line 6 Delay and right where it stops before the verse there's this trail-off and that's the Line 6 Delay. Halfway through the verses you can hear it thicken up. I used a Hyper Fuzz pedal straight into the board, not through an amp, to double my rhythms and in the breakdowns it's like a wah and delay."

DUFF: "We're all playing the same riff in that, the verse riff. That's three fat instruments playing the same thing."

SLASH: "For the most part there was a lot of quick experimenting going on. Very rarely did we pick up something and go, 'That doesn't sound right.' Usually I'd think it out first. Mostly I'm playing my Les Paul. All the heavy stuff, with the exception of Sucker Train Blues, is basically my Les Paul copy, a Marshall and maybe the AC30."

There are a couple of acoustic tracks on the album, aren't there?

SLASH: "Yeah, the tune You Got No Right is played on a Takamine (it's actually a Taylor cutaway, says guitar tech Adam Day) recorded via microphone and pickup. Just to make it sound more electric. That was the only song I wrote on acoustic. The demo we did, I cut with a Les Paul which has a Piezo pickup and it sounded really interesting. The only thing about electro-acoustics is they tend to have a very synthetic sound, so we mixed it up and made it sound more pure."

How would you compare yourself to today's rock scene?

SLASH: "None of us sit around and try to be master musicians, which is what a lot of people do. I'm into making up a really cool riff or rhythm pattern, but it's got to be in a song - not something you'd listen to for technical prowess. There are very few musos who I can get into for more than five minutes. Jeff Beck is one of the few guys where I can sit and listen to a whole record…"

What about the likes of, say, Linkin Park and Korn?

DUFF: "At least Linkin Park can write a chorus that sticks in your head. And Korn are cool - they started a whole thing on their own."

SLASH: "I didn't used to like Korn, but I went to see them and I have to give them credit. They're one of the few new bands I've seen with attitude."

DUFF: "But musically, we're a fuckin' rock band and there's no comparison between Limp Bizkit or Korn and us. We're straight-up fuckin' rock."

SLASH: "I was listening to The Faces on the way over here - they're a good rock'n'roll band. Duff and I are influenced by different stuff, but it does have a common core…"

DUFF: "Yeah, we could all listen to a Faces record together."

When did the music really take on a definite form?

SLASH: "When Scott joined the group. Every singer brings something different to the music. I learned a long time ago that, chances are, a good singer will come up with a better idea than me, unless I want a really strong melody to come across.

"There's an interesting chord change on the song You Got No Right, and it sounded really simplistic but really interesting when I first wrote it. Then we gave it to Scott to play with - and he wrote this amazing vocal for it. I wouldn't have come up with anything like that. That's one of the great things about being in a band - we all come to this with our own ideas."

Did you know you wanted Matt and Duff beside you as a rhythm section?

SLASH: "No, this project came out of nowhere. At the beginning I was starting a band with Steve Gorman, the drummer from the Black Crowes, and a bass player when Randy (Castillo) died. Then Matt asked if I wanted to jam at the benefit for Randy's family. Everybody had their own things going on, but everybody just dropped what they were doing, Duff rented a house out here in LA and we just focused on it."

Duff has spoken about an intangible connection between the three of you. How would you describe it?

SLASH: "Duff's always been a real unique, great sounding bass player. And the first time I saw Matt I knew we had to get him into GN'R. He caught my ear as one of the most amazing drummers I'd ever heard.

"Before this, me, Duff and Matt hadn't been in a room together in six years, and we'd forgotten how well it works. I think Axl really took it for granted how great the four of us - including Izzy - worked together, because it was hard for him to replace us. When the three of us walked into the rehearsal studio, we all had a real feeling about it. All of a sudden I didn't feel like your regular Joe fuckin' off the street guitar player. And as soon as we all started playing, there was a real powerful vibe going."

Conceivably, if Guns had stayed together and kept that original feeling from the early days, do you think this an album they could have made?

SLASH: "I got so disillusioned with Guns that I even stopped being able to write for the band. That was in '95 when I started doing Snakepit. I remember Axl threatening to sue me because he thought that material should have been for GN'R. I just didn't see Guns doing it so I slapped it all together for a solo record. But, the stuff we're doing now, I've asked myself, 'I wonder if Axl thinks this should have been his?' But when this comes out it's gonna be a lot better and sound more together than he was probably hoping it would be."

Another new element on the album is the fact you recorded first, then Dave played his parts. With Guns, Izzy would lay his rhythm tracks, then you'd follow. Any reason for the change?

SLASH: "It's really no big deal. Dave asked to go in after me, and I said yeah. In Guns, I'd do my scratch (guide) tracks with Izzy, and we'd keep Izzy's takes, because they were about as involved as he'd get. We tried to use some of Dave's scratch tracks, but for the most part I just listened to myself, the drums and bass, which left a pretty good template for Dave. I try harder when I'm by myself. I came back to hear exactly how that influenced him and if all of a sudden it made my stuff seem too sparse or naked, but it worked out great."

But your solos were put on after everything else was recorded?

SLASH: "No, I usually put the solos down before the vocal is recorded. When we did Appetite… I didn't have much experience, but I kinda had it mapped out how each part would sound. I'd put my (rhythm) guitars down, then the harmony, then the solos. We did it like that, because back then Axl hardly sang at rehearsal, we had to play as a band without vocals. When Axl finally put the vocals on, we really didn't know how the songs were gonna turn out. We knew how the song sounded live and that was it. At that point, we'd rehearse really hard to make sure we knew the material without vocals, so we didn't use that as a crutch.

"But it's nice to have vocals to work with, so now we try to get Scott to do scratch vocals, I do the solo, then the real vocals come on afterwards."

Do you have a good idea of what the solo will be before entering the studio?

SLASH: "This record was a little different in that respect, because we wrote the material so quickly. When it came to solos, there's either something melodic singing in my head right away or on the first run at the solo, then I'll go back and see if it works. Sucker Train Blues has a one-take whammy bar solo. There are a few songs on this record that don't have any real planned solo. Sometimes I'll play a song through enough times I feel the same exact thing every time I get to the solo section. But I never actually went out and played it live, so I had to do a lot of improvising."

The solo on Spectacle?

SLASH: "That was definitely made up on the spot! In fact, that was the first song we recorded guitars on. I went to Josh's (Abraham, producer) studio and played in the control room - I hate doing overdubs, so I stand in the control room with huge speakers, crank it up and play like I'm in a live situation. When I got there he had these two little Yamahas (monitors) and that was it. I mean, how can you recreate a rock and roll environment with just these little NS-10s? We had the NS-10s cranked up as far as they'd go, and I'd brought in a tiny Fender and a distortion box, and we did the solo. That was leftfield for me."

DAVE: "I've worked with Josh since he first started producing, and he has some great ideas. I did a demo with him ages ago with the guys from Orgy (Lit, which later turned into the Lit of My Own Worst Enemy fame). He's a guitar player too, he understands it all. He gets rock and the modern thing like with Orgy. He gets the balance."

What about Superhuman? That opening riff sounds similar to your phrase on Sweet Child O' Mine, but twisted, on acid.

SLASH: "That's cool, it just came out of nowhere. I think the Sweet Child O' Mine influence pops up because it's a single-note style of mine, especially when I do this octave thing around a melody. I have to give Axl credit, because if he hadn't recognized it as being great, I wouldn't have used it, I thought it was a joke. It was just me doing a lick with chord changes underneath to gave it some movement. Then Axl came in and started singing it. I hated that song until after '88 or '89. We were touring with Aerosmith, and it was such a huge hit you couldn't ignore it."

Now that it's all done and the record is ready to be released, is Contraband the album you wanted to make?

SLASH: "This is the first time I've had a real feeling of being in a band. I had such a blast, and I learned a lot, we're all real comfortable with each other. With us, we're all just so in sync, and there's no real arguing or ego problems. And the ideas just come like that (snaps fingers), we just have a certain kind of energy. So I'm real excited about the record. When I hear the album I find it really compelling, it really makes me want to listen to it.

"I'm just happy we got to do our thing, and do it the way we wanted to. The cool thing about this band is we put it all together, we went through all the fuckin' bullshit, we had no fuckin' support from the very beginning. Everybody thought it was a complete fucking failure waiting to happen. Now we've done it, it's a huge feeling of accomplishment, it reminds me of the old days."

DAVE: "This did end up being a perfect marriage of all the best elements of the Appetite-era Guns N' Roses, early Stone Temple Pilots. I was comfortable with those guys coming in with what they do. We didn't play it safe."

SLASH: "The album just sounds so original, so finished, like a real band and a real record. It's just like, 'Wow,' you know? I'm blown away by it."

***

HOW THEY DID IT…
GUITAR TECH ADAM DAY REVEALS THE GEAR BEHIND THE BAND'S SOUND


The professional reputation of Adam Day is unquestionable. He's been Slash's guitar guru for over 16 years, having previously worked with Dokken and Lynch Mob axeman, George Lynch. He knows better than anyone what the Velvet Revolver boys are picking, stomping on, and playing their guitars through, so we caught up with the guy.

For the new record, Adam cut all the instrumental pre-production demos on a Midas recording console at Lavish, singer Scott Weiland's rehearsal facility. The tracks were then transferred to a ProTools system so that Weiland could get his lyrics together and run through his parts in the studio's control room.
Slash's main rhythm sound was achieved with a combination of three Marshall heads: his Slash Signature Series model, a regular JCM800, and a 1973 model 1987 four-input non-master volume head. This mix was then run into a Marshall 100Watt cabinet loaded with 25Watt Celestion Greenback speakers. A classic Vox AC-30 valve combo was added for some sonic variation.

Adam: "In the past we've used three or four Marshalls and blended them together to create one voice. However, this time we tried the AC-30 in the mix."

Clean rhythm sounds on the album were created with a 1956 Gibson Les Paul plugged into the Vox, which is also fitted with Celestion Greenbacks.

In the past, Slash's amps used to be screaming in the studio. But during the recording of Guns N' Roses' Use Your Illusion albums, he switched to an old JCM 800 with 65/50 output, setting the preamp on 2, the master volume on 8, and ran it through a Marshall 100Watt 4x12 cab. The result was essentially all output distortion and output gain - a very different sound for the guitarist. This setup led to the development of a Marshall Slash signature head, based on the JCM800 model. He first used this amp with his Slash's Snakepit project.

All guitar overdubs on the Velvet Revolver record were cut directly to ProTools at Pulse, Josh Abraham's studio. The band co-produced the tracks alongside Abraham, but he took charge and worked on timing problems.

Slash was initially uneasy with the working environment at Pulse, but ultimately, the studio was set up to his liking. All cabinets were recorded with Shure SM57 mics.

Live, all the rigs are bigger and louder than ever. Slash's sound is a mix of an incredible six Marshall heads: two Slash Signature 25/55 tops provide his distortion sound feeding two Marshall 4x12 cabs on the back line. An additional pair of signature Marshalls modified with KT 88 output valves handle his clean tones. A further head is used to power his Heil HT-1 talkbox. The cautious rocker also carries yet another Marshall Slash head as a spare.

All his cabinets are straight Marshall 1960-styled units fitted with Celestion Vintage 30 speakers. While the guitarist has experimented with different cabs and speakers, he ultimately returns to this familiar setup.

While Slash always takes to the stage with a variety of guitars, his main instrument for Revolver will be his new Gibson Signature Series Les Paul - a replica of a classic 1959 model (still considered the very best) with an aged tobacco sunburst finish. The guitar is fitted with a Fishman Power Bridge Piezo for an acoustic guitar tone - it has an onboard switch to select the Piezo pickup, humbuckers or both. He will also travel with a pair of custom-made BC Rich guitars - a 10-string Bich, set up for six-strings, and his famous Guns N' Roses-era Mockingbird. He will play his Guild Crossroads double neck guitar on stage too - a unique combination of an acoustic and electric guitar that he helped design. Slash will perform all of his acoustic parts live on this amazing guitar.

Slash's pedals are run though the effects loop of his dirty amp and include an MXR 10-band graphic EQ and a Boss DD-5 digital delay. The latter is kicked in for soloing - the EQ provides a midrange boost to enhance feedback and to boost leads.

The only effect that Slash will operate himself onstage is a custom-made rack-mounted Dunlop Crybaby wah system. This also enables him to run up to four pedals at various locations on the stage. Adam typically handles all effect and amp switching offstage, including a Heil HT-1 voice box.
Dave Kushner plays the new Fernandes Ravelle guitar through an array of effects pedals. All his pedals are run straight into the front of his amps - only a Hughes and Kettner Rotosphere (Leslie rotating cabinet simulator) is used through the effects loop. In the near future Kushner hopes to use a Ground Control switching system that will allow him to use combinations of his effects with the help of a programmed footswitch.

***

SLASH'S SET-UP

THE ROCK LEGEND'S KILLER SET-UP

2x Marshall JCM Slash Signature series Jubilee heads (for dirty tones); Marshall JCM Slash Signature series Jubilee head (for clean tones); Marshall JCM Slash Signature series Jubilee head for talkbox; one Marshall JCM Slash Signature series Jubilee head as backup talkbox head; 2x JCM Slash Signature Marshall 4x12 cabinets.
Gear in rack: Peterson strobe model 590; Cry Baby; dbx 166; Yamaha SPX90.
Boss Digital Delay, MXR M-108 Ten Band Graphic EQ

DUFF'S STUFF

THE ORIGINS OF THE BASS SOUNDS

Fender Aerodyne Jazz bass; the white Fender Precision Special bass he used in Guns N' Roses.
2x Gallien Krueger 800 RB heads (live he will be playing through the 2001 model); GK cabinets.

KUSHNER'S KIT

DAVE SURE LIKES HIS TECHNOLOGY…

Fernandes Ravelle guitars.
Pedal board: Boss Chromatic tuner TU-2; Boss Flanger BF-2; Boss Super Phaser PH-2; Boss Chorus Ensemble CE-5; Boss Digital Delay DD-3; Rotovibe pedal; Dunlop Cry Baby wah (rackmount).
Gear in rack: Line 6 Filter Pro; Dynacord CLS222; Hush II CX Noise Reduction System.
Guitar rig: Bogner head; Bogner cabinet; Marshall JCM 2000 Dual Super Lead.
Ernie Ball strings; Dunlop Tortex picks.
Additional pedals: Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeller; Line 6 DM4 Distortion Modeller; Line 6 FM4 Filter Modeller.
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2004.04.DD - Total Guitar - Velvet Revolver (Slash, Duff) Empty Re: 2004.04.DD - Total Guitar - Velvet Revolver (Slash, Duff)

Post by Blackstar Fri Sep 02, 2022 10:47 pm

An extended (and slightly different) version of this interview was published on Ultimate Guitar in two parts, on Feb. 10 and 11, 2006. I have marked the additional parts in red:
--------------------------------------------------------

Velvet Revolver: 'We're Straight Up F--kin? Rock'

By Steven Rosen
February 10, 2006

Finally, after all the hoopla, drama, relapses, and false starts, Velvet Revolver is here at the Chateau Marmont, a gilded reminder both of Hollywood’s seamy and golden past and at the same time an arty retreat for many of the industry’s up and comers. For that reason it is perhaps a fitting setting for the media’s introduction to Slash, Duff McKagan, Matt Sorum, Scott Weiland, and Dave Kushner on the occasion of their debut album, Contraband. Like the hotel, the record provides a balance between what has come before and where things may be going.

A day earlier, at the Rainbow club just a few miles westward down Sunset Boulevard, a BMG mouthpiece announced at the premier listening party that this was an “important” record. He may be right. The record industry has all but consumed itself alive, running down dark alleys in search of a way out, a band or style to resurrect flagging sales. Velvet Revolver may be that light in the shadow. The album is suffused with muscular guitar riffs and the bluesy undertones that was a Guns ‘N’ Roses staple. But produced by Limp Bizkit and Staind technician Josh Abraham and mixed by Nirvana and Linkin Park figurehead Andy Wallce, this is not a retro record – in ex-Stone Temple Pilots vocalist Scott Weiland they have managed to infuse modernity, a hip ripple, into the Big Rock format.

Sparkling waters in hand, the cricket chirp of cameras firing, and a fine Los Angeles sun beaming down on the well-tended private bungalow landscaping, the musicians seated themselves on a very expensive leather sofa. Slash, Duff, and Dave talked about guitars and Guns, recording and Revolver. Tape machine switched on, they spoke honestly and openly and with a barely disguised sense of urgency – no one in the compound understood the ‘importance’ of this moment more clearly than the three musicians seated here.

Ultimate-Guitar.com: Contraband echoes that sort of raucous, running off the rails style of guitar from the Guns ‘N’ Roses period, and at the same time there’s this contemporary feeling of drama and passion. As if it is some sort of bridge from the old to the new. And there’s a new texture in your playing, a wrinkle showcasing a bigger sound.

Slash: It is pretty aggressive, this new record, because all of us getting together had this unified thing going. Everything coming out is sort of inexplicable for me. But I was very passionate about it and as far as the writing was concerned everything was very spontaneous and it went on the record in the same fashion. By the time we picked which songs we were gonna do, there was only a couple of months before we actually went in to do the whole album. It’s all what you’d consider first take stuff.

Was there a different dynamic than what you felt playing guitar behind Axl?

Anytime you play with anybody different it’s a different energy but there was an underlying sort of familiar core with me and Duff and Matt. I love playing with different people, I always have, but at the same time there’s a certain type of vibe I like to have and I don’t find that with everybody I go and jam with. I can put my stamp on something but it’s not necessarily the be all, end all thing that I want to be doing. Guns ‘N’ Roses was way cool when it was in its proper setting, it was killer, but then that went through a lot of crazy changes. And then in Snakepit that was just an outlet for me, I didn’t hone in on what it is that makes myself tick. It was good timing too because I think everybody was trying to avoid any sort of combinations of the Guns members just because we were trying to get away from that whole thing.

How did you see your role in this band?

Dave: I bring a lot of pedals and I’m always looking for new pedals. I’ve just always been into pedals. It’s kind of a texture thing. I think part of playing with someone like Slash is see what he’s playing and not play the exact same thing. If he’s playing open chords, I’ll play barre chords; if he’s playing a melody line, then I’ll play chords; if he’s playing chords, maybe I’ll try and think of a melody or some octave thing. To try and offset each other so it’s not just two guys in stereo. That’s what was great about the Appetite record, that they kind of played off each other so I kind of came in thinking like that.

The thing with this band is it’s really a case of finding a balance of using pedals but using them subtly. I don’t want to be like, ‘Hey, check me out over here, I’ve got all these fancy pedals.’

Duff: Dave came in and wasn’t outwardly afraid of being the muse to Slash.

So you didn’t change your approach to accommodate what Dave brought to the music.

Duff: Yeah, he did. Just as an objective [observer], Slash in a lot of ways reinvented himself. He was already and amazing player but he had to almost morph along with this thing and at the same time still be Slash. How the f--k do you do that? But he did it.

That harkens back to my opening statement about the marrying of two styles. Do you agree with what Duff said?

Slash: I don’t know, it’s all about making it work. There was a lot of real cool shit going on, some of it I’m real familiar with, some of it I wasn’t real familiar with. You just do what you do.

Duff: You’re too humble, dude.


That’s exactly what we’re talking about – the idea of marrying the old and the new.

Slash: I started being a little bit more uninhibited about what sound I was going for. I would just use something as opposed to having something a certain way. I’m one of those guys, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but it can also get a little bit boring. Especially when everybody around me is tripping out on this and that and the other, then I tend to like go, ‘Well, let’s just see what this sounds like.’ More so than I ever have been. Now I’m sort of a f--kin’ unpacked suitcase.

When you talk about doing things a ‘certain way,’ that means the Les Paul and the Marshall?

Slash: That’s basically the underlying theme always but I started using a couple different kind of Fender amps. That was the only conscious thing that I hooked up. And I used a combination of three different Marshall heads and the AC30 and we sort of switched around between all of that. In a couple instances, I used I’d use one Marshall head by itself, and the AC30 by itself, and then we’d use a combination of two heads or three heads. We rerecorded one of the songs [‘You Got No Right’] and I used my live head which I never actually recorded with. It’s the Slash model [Signature] Marshall.

This time around, this is the most interesting f--kin’ recorded record that I’ve done and it’s the one I paid the least attention to as far as what I was using. I even switched guitars around which I don’t normally do. My regular recording guitar is a Standard, a Les Paul copy which I’ve had since Appetite … it’s handmade, a copy. There’s a guy that made an amazing’59 copy and he’s no longer alive; it’s better than anything Gibson can make. I have two of those and they’re my main guitars. And I also used it in ‘You Got No Right’ for the middle section, the bridge. And I used a Strat and a Telly for a couple different things.

That’s a new wrinkle.

Slash: There’s a song called ‘Sucker Train Blues’ and all the rhythms are done with a’56 Telly; I have three old Strats and I used one of them for the guitar solo [a 1965 Fender contends tech Adam Day]. I think there’s only one song I ever used a Strat on. As far as I’m concerned they’re the best sounding guitars but they’re really inconsistent and I don’t have the patience to mess with them. That’s the reason why I don’t use them really because Les Pauls are just way too reliable.

Does it require a different touch?

Slash: You just get used to different necks and you have to adapt. For the most part, unless it’s really f--ked up and the action is way way way too high, you can usually get around it [on the Les Paul]. I have to admit a Strat is real light and I can’t bang on it the way I can with a Les Paul. The main thing is Les Pauls are way too consistent compared to Strats which are too f--kin’ sensitive. And when they sound bad they sound horrible.


Dave: I used Fernandes which I’ve used for ten years. The shapes are unique; the one I used has the thickness of a Les Paul and looks like a hybrid of a Les Paul and an Iceman. I used my Bogner amp [an Ecstacy 101B model; a 100-watt EL34 amplifier with three channels: clean, crunch, and solo sitting atop two Bogner straight cabinets fitted with Vintage Celestion 30s] and for some of the rhythm stuff I used a combination of a Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier head with this modified Marshall head [Mike Morin, an amp guru based in Reseda, California]. And a shitload of pedals. I used Dunlop wah pedals: bass wahs, regular wahs, the Dimebag wah, the Rotovibe.

Can you talk about how you construct a track? For instance, on ‘Slither,’ do you double your rhythms to create that wall of sound?

Slash: No, I don’t believe in any of that kind of stuff. That’s one thing about having two guitarists; you can sort of do it without faking it.

Dave: When I went in there [studio], he had already done his rhythm parts, his solos, and it was great for me because then I could really listen and not do the same thing or put on my effects. I could fill up the holes. In the into, there’s this kind of wall of wah-wah and delay, I used the Line 6 Delay and right where it stops before the verse there’s like this trail off and that’s the Line 6 Delay. Halfway through the verses you can hear it kind of thickens up? I used a Hyper Fuzz pedal straight into the board, not through an amp, to double my rhythms and in the breakdowns it’s like a wah and delay.

Duff: We’re all playing the same riff in that, too, the verse riff. That’s three fat instruments playing the same thing.

Slash: For the most part there was a lot of quick experimenting going on; very rarely did we pick up something and go, ‘You know what, that doesn’t sound right.’ Usually I would think it out first. But for the most part it’s just my recording Les Paul; all the heavy stuff with the exception of ‘Sucker Train Blues’ is basically my Les Paul copy and a Marshall and, or not, the AC30.

Since this is the first single release from the album, did you set out in any way to establish this kind of new Slash sound circa 2004? Were you trying to make any sort of musical statement?

Slash: We just thought that it was the most indicative song of the band; it was an easy, all encompassing shot of it. Because there’s something different about all the songs that might throw you for a loop – obviously you don’t want to have a slow song for the first song, and some of the songs were so fast and the subject matter so aggressive, we thought, ‘Maybe not that.’ We had three songs that were real simple Velvet Revolver songs and we narrowed it down to that one. It has a guitar solo in it, it has our sound to it, it has Scott’s vocal sound, and it sounds pretty much like us. It was also one of the first songs that we wrote and we played it at the El Rey [for the Randy Castillo benefit] and it’s been on the internet, a live version, and so that was basically that.

No, I’ve never had that kind of feeling like, ‘OK, here I am at this particular point and here it goes.’


There are some acoustic tracks on the album.

Slash: On ‘You Got No Right,’ that’s a Takamine [in fact, says Day, it’s a Taylor cutaway] and it’s recorded via microphone and also the pickup. Just to make it sound a little bit more electric. That was the only song that I actually wrote on acoustic. The demo that we did, I cut with a Les Paul that has a Piezo pickup in it (see Day side piece] and it sounded really interesting that way. The one thing about electric acoustics is they tend to have a very synthetic sound so we sort of mixed it up and more it a little more pure.

What makes you as a player different than a lot of other guitarists is your ability to create these huge guitar parts, write songs around guitar riffs, but at the still time manage to support the song and not overshadow it. A lot of bands will play these licks and grooves, very competently, but what they’re doing is shoving your face into a wall of sound to hide the fact that the song itself is pretty weak.

None of us sit around and try to be master musicians which is what a lot of riff people and people who write a lot of music do. They may not necessarily be good songs but they get really technical about how they approach one note to the next and go, ‘Oh, this is really interesting!’ They’re really mathematical that way. Whereas I’m into making up a really cool riff or a really cool rhythm thing pattern or whatever but it’s really something you’d want to hear in a song and not something that you’d just listen to for technical stuff. There are very few musos that I can get into for more than five minutes and just acknowledge how technically efficient they are. I think Jeff Beck is one of the few guys where I can sit and listen to a whole record; that and a movie soundtrack. We do write songs.

Do those types of musicians – the Korns and Limp Bizkits – who are working essentially from these technically driven riffs inspire you in any way?

Duff: You’ve got to appreciate Linkin Park because they can write a f--kin’ chorus that sticks in your head, with the DJ and the stuff. They play down in low A or some shit. And Korn is cool, they started a whole thing on their own.

Slash: I didn’t used to like Korn but I saw them so I have to give them credit. Because actually there are not too many f--king bands that have any attitude these days. And they’re one of the first new bands I’ve seen with an attitude.

Duff: I guess that was what I was getting at. As far as musically, I mean, there is a lot of synth, synth guitar, synth this, synth that, synth whatever. We’re a f--kin’ rock band and there’s no comparison between a Limp Bizkit or Korn like you were saying and us. We’re straight up f--kin’ rock.

Slash: I was listening to The Faces on the way over here and that’s a good rock and roll band. Duff and I are all influenced by individual stuff but it does have a common core. So, that being the case …

Duff: …yeah, we could all listen to a Faces record together.

Slash: And at the same time there is a lot of new stuff that comes out that is pretty interesting but it’s not really influenced by the same stuff we’re influenced by. All things considered we have a little bit of a different sound than what’s coming out right this second. But it’s still, I hate to say it, very new sounding at the same time.

https://web.archive.org/web/20110314051022/http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/news/interviews/velvet_revolver_were_straight_up_f--kin_rock.html

*

Velvet Revolver: 'We're Straight Up F--kin? Rock'. Part 2

By Steven Rosen
February 11, 2006

Ultimate-Guitar.com: Again we reference the opening statement of our conversation of how Velvet Revolver and the album [Contraband] represents a link from the past and a direction, perhaps, into tomorrow. Because there was certainly the danger of making a Guns N’ Roses circa 2004 album which may have been met with some disdain.

Slash: It was this instantaneous sort of chemistry that happened and I think it was one of those things that was meant to happen. It wasn’t real thought out once it was going; it just felt good and I didn’t know exactly what it was going to sound like. I really had no idea. We were just throwing it together and everybody was just doing what it is they do or how they felt at the moment and that’s basically what came out. I’m really f--kin’ proud of it at this point.

So there was a point in time when you were recording the album that the project took on a life of its own? And in a way, the music guided you?

Slash: Yeah, it definitely took on its own direction and became focused. Before we were just writing and writing and writing musically and throwing stuff together and just coming up with our own idea as to what a complete song was without having any lyrics or playing bridge this many times.


When did the music really take on a definite form?

Slash: When Scott came into it somehow we had an idea as to who we were writing for. In a piece of music, I can hear guitar melodies and f--king different kinds of chord changes underneath whatever the melody is all day long, but every singer brings a different thing to it. I learned a long time ago that chances are a good singer will come up with a better idea than mine. Unless it’s a really strong melody that I want come across with. But normally I’ll come up with a good hook or what I think is a good hook or a good guitar hook and see what comes of it. There was an interesting chord change on the song "You Got No Right’ and it sounded really simplistic but interesting to me when I first wrote it. And I was shy to even bring it in because it was so simple but I heard something very dramatic in my head. We recorded the idea one day, taped it rehearsal and didn’t do anything with it for months. And then I went back and revisited it again. I think Matt had brought it up, he thought, 'You know that thing you were doing the other day?’ We put it all together and gave it to Scott pretty much complete and he wrote this amazing vocal for it. And I said, 'Wow, who would have ever thought?’

And that’s one of the great things about being in a band with a bunch of people who all have their own ideas. Because you never would have thought up what those guys thought up. I didn’t want to ever do any kind of solo thing because I don’t want to dictate to other people what to play because it’s one-dimensional. And this is the proof of how that works, some amazing things I never would have come up with come from working with these different people.

But did you specifically know you wanted Matt and Duff there beside you as a rhythm section?

Slash: No, this thing came out of nowhere, this was really a fluke. When this first came down I was starting a band with Steve Gorman who is the drummer from the Black Crowes and a bass player. It wasn’t necessarily Snakepit, just writing and rehearsing when Randy [Castillo] died and Matt came to me and asked if I wanted to jam at the benefit for Randy’s family. Everybody had their own things going; Duff was in Seattle, Scott was still in STP and we had no idea we were going to go there. And everybody just dropped what they were doing. Duff rented a house out here in L.A. and we just focused on this thing.

Duff spoke about what this intangible connection is between the three of you, how do you describe it?

Slash: Duff’s always been a real unique, great sounding bass player, he’s always had certain kinds of chops most bass players don’t have. And the first time I saw Mutt was what made me decide to get him into Guns N’ Roses when I lost all hope for finding a drummer after Steve Adler. He caught my ear as one of the most amazing drummers I’d ever heard. It was at the Universal Amphitheater [Los Angeles venue] with The Cult and this was way before Steve was out of the band. It blew my mind that everybody that plays instruments, they’re all over the place and you take it for granted, but the good ones are so few and far between. I was just a little bit too young and inexperienced to know and I’ve been learning about chemistry and learning about players and what works and what doesn’t and how hard it is to find the right. Anyway, so I see Matt and it was a year later that Steve got kicked out and I was like, 'Who is the best drummer that’s alive?’ I didn’t care if he was in a band or not. I remembered Matt and when Guns N’ Roses was doing its thing, Matt was handed a lot of already written material. Me and Duff had already established the chemistry and when the band broke up, Matt was always one of my favorite drummers after that.

Me and Duff and Matt hadn’t been in a room together in six years and we just forgot how classic a thing that is. And Axl really took it for granted how great the whole four of us, Izzy included, how good that was. Because when it got dissected or torn apart, it was hard for him to replace that. There was a feeling for Duff, Matt and me when we walked into Mates, this rehearsal studio out here, to do these songs for this gig, all of a sudden I didn’t feel like your regular Joe f--kin’ humble guy off the street guitar player. But as soon as we all started playing there was a whole tougher than thou kind of vibe. It was weird, like guys in a gang getting together, a very tough feeling. Real powerful and that was what started it.

Conceivably if Guns had stayed together with that original feeling from the early days, is this an album they could have made? Would you have presented this type of guitar music to Axl to write over?

Slash: I got so disillusioned with Guns that I stopped even being able to write for Guns. That was in ’95 when I started doing Snakepit. I remember Axl threatening to sue me because he thought that should have all been Guns ‘N’ Roses material. I just didn’t see Guns doing it and it was too complicated to even go there so I slapped it all together and put it on a solo record. But, the stuff we’re doing now, I can honestly say a couple times it’s crossed my mind where I’m going, 'I wonder if Axl heard that he’d think it should have been his?’ I can’t help that because some of the songs are really good and whether or not any of us individually have done anything that he thinks is f--kin’ great or not, when this comes out it’s gonna be like a lot better or a lot more together than he was probably hoping it would be.

A sort of reverse jealousy on his part?

Slash: I don’t mean it like that but I definitely know that during the time solo records were coming out, it was like [Axl was feeling], 'It’s good but it’s not perfect.’ Which is true. By myself I have a very short attention span so I need to play with other people to get rolling or otherwise I’ll take one riff and wrap a lead around it and go, 'There you go.’

Dave: I ran into Slash at the Hamburger Hamlet during the day when Guns was going sideways. I think the thing that I got out of the conversation, the thing that he was most frustrated about, is that he just wanted to play. He didn’t want to deal with all the politics.


Another new element on the album is the fact that you recorded first and then Dave came in and put on his parts. With Guns, Izzy would lay down his rhythm tracks and then you’d follow him and fill in the spaces. Any reason for the change?

Slash: It’s really no big deal; Dave just wanted to go in after I did and I went, 'I guess it will be alright.’ I really wasn’t sure what to think. In Guns I’d go in and do my scratch tracks with Izzy and we’d always keep Izzy’s parts because Izzy’s scratch tracks were as far involved, as he wanted to get. It was already there and I’d come in and lay my guitar down. So we tried to use some of Dave’s scratch tracks but for the most part I just listened to myself and drums and bass. And then it left a pretty good template for Dave. I came back to hear exactly how that influenced Dave and if all of a sudden it made my stuff seem a little too sparse or naked but it worked out great.

The first time we recorded though, and I meant to mention this before, we did a demo of a song called 'Headspace’ called Josh Abraham [producer] when we were first trying him out. And we went in and did it the other way around - Dave put his guitars on and then I put mine on. And you know what, it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. I try a little harder when I’m all by myself.

But your solos were put on after everything else was recorded?

Slash: No, I put the solos on before the vocal usually. When we did the Appetite For Destruction record, I didn’t have much experience. I sort of had it mapped out how each part would go. I’d never read any books on it or anything but also I was with Mike Clink [producer] and he’d say, 'OK, we have the scratch tracks, how do you want to do this?’ I put my [rhythm] guitars down, then the harmony parts, and then the guitar solos. We did all this because back then Axl hardly ever sang at rehearsal or anything. So the band just played as a band all the time without vocals in mind. So when Axl finally put the vocals on we didn’t even know how half of them were gonna really turn out. We knew how the song sounded live and that was it. So it was interesting. But at this point, we rehearse really hard to make sure that we know the material without vocals so we don’t use that as a crutch. But it’s nice to have vocals sometimes if you need it for a f--kin’ certain dynamic, the ebb and flow of the song sort of going with the vocals. So we try and get some scratch vocals in there where Scott does do [some singing]. So we would have [scratch] vocals beforehand but I do the solo and the real vocals come on afterwards.

Because you’ve been rehearsing the song live, do you have a pretty good idea of what the solo will be before entering the studio?

This record was a little bit different in that respect because we did this one so fast, we wrote the material so quickly. What we do is we find the solo section and there’s either something singing in my head that’s melodic that comes right away or the first spontaneous take, the first run at the solo, if something in there has a structure I’ll go back and try it and see if [it works]. On 'Sucker Train Blues,’ that has a one-take whammy bar solo. There are a few songs on this record that don’t have any real planned out solo. Sometimes I’ll play a song enough times to where I always feel the same exact thing every time I get to the solo section. And that was pretty much the case with this. But I never actually never went out and played it live so there’s a lot of improvising on this record.

The solo on 'Spectacle?’

Slash: That’s pretty made up on the spot, too. That was definitely made up on the spot because I had no idea what I was going to do. That was actually the first song we recorded guitars on. I got to the studio, Josh [Abraham, producer] had his own studio, and I got there and one thing that is a standard for me is I like to play in the control room. If I’m going to do overdubs, I hate overdubs, so I stand in the control room with huge speakers and crank it and play like it’s in a live situation. And I got there and he had these two little Yamahas [monitors] and that was it and it just blew my mind. 'How can you recreate a rock and roll environment with just these little NS-10s?’ And that’s how we started the first few days until we managed to lease out some big monitors. It was like these little NS-10s cranked as far as they could go and I was also, all of a sudden for some strange reason, I took a tiny little Fender and a distortion box and that’s what the solo was done on. Which is way left field for me. But I remember I did that solo really fast one night and I heard it the next morning and I said, 'It just sounds too spastic’ and I went back and came up with the way it is now.

What about the track 'Superhuman?’ That opening riff harkens to your phrase on 'Sweet Child O' Mine,’ but twisted, on acid.

That’s cool, it came out of nowhere. I think the 'Sweet Child O' Mine’ thing pops up here and there because it’s a single note style of mine; it pops up a lot in guitar solos where I do this octave thing around a little melody. I have to give Axl credit if he hadn’t recognized it as being great. Because I thought it was a joke; it was just me doing a lick and chord changes underneath it gave it some, some …

…movement.

Slash: Movement, yeah. I still thought it was a joke and Axl came in and started singing it and I hated that song all the way up until after ’88 or ’89. We were touring with Aerosmith and it was such a huge hit you couldn’t ignore it. Now I still come up with things off the top of my head that are some sort of repetition thing. That thing in 'Superhuman’ was the first thing that popped into my head over the bass and drums.

Now that it’s all done, is Contraband the album that you wanted to make?

Slash: It’s the first time I’ve had the feeling of what I would consider a band sense. I had a blast with all this other stuff going on, I definitely learned a lot and I’ve played with some great people, but I haven’t had that kind of thing with all your guys where the camaraderie is such that everybody is real comfortable. And you all are just so in synch as players together and there’s no real arguing or real ego problems. It’s a very economical band especially for who everybody is. And the ideas just come like [snaps fingers] when we’re together has a certain kind of energy to it. When we started working on writing songs, we never even looked back. So the record I’m real excited about.

I have a copy of the mixes in my car and I have a five-disc player and I’ll be listening to the Faces like I mentioned and all of a sudden it will switch over to our record and it’s really compelling, it makes me really want to listen to it. Although I try to avoid actually listening to it too often. But as soon as it comes on, it’s very compelling. There’s a mix of 'You Got No Right’ in there and it just sounds really cool.

So I’m just happy we got to do our thing which is totally the way we wanted to do it and it was totally our sound. The cool thing about this band is we put it all together, we went through all the f--kin’ bullshit, we had no f--kin’ support or even faith in it from the very beginning. Everybody thought it was a complete f--king failure waiting to happen. And so at this point we actually managed to do the record and we’re going on from there. It’s a huge feeling of accomplishment and it reminds me a lot of the old days.

Dave: This did end up being a perfect marriage of all the best elements of the Appetite-era Guns N’ Roses, early STP, and it’s evident in the music. I was comfortable with those guys coming in with what they do. Nobody said, 'I want to do more of an Appetite style thing’ or 'I want do more of an STP thing.’ We didn’t play it safe.

When you mention you feel that tingle up your spine like you do hearing a Faces album or a Zeppelin album or a Humble Pie album, that must be the real reward. That sense of maybe creating a truly 'timeless’ record.

Slash: I haven’t really talked about this so I have no idea, I didn’t really know exactly how to put it but when there was the listening party [a listening party took place two days before this interview and held at the Rainbow Bar & Grille, a hip watering hole for rock’s elite], I sort of avoided the whole pressure of standing there while everybody was listening to it [Slash arrived late for the soiree and wandered uncomfortably amongst the invited legions]. But I’ve had a chance to listen to it a couple times with people around at the record company and the thing is it’s so original sounding and it sounds so done, like a real band and a real record. It’s just like, 'Wow, you know?’


https://web.archive.org/web/20100130111927/https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/interviews/interviews/velvet_revolver_were_straight_up_f--kin_rock_part_2.html
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