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2004.04.DD - Gitarre & Bass (Germany) - Interview with Slash

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2004.04.DD - Gitarre & Bass (Germany) - Interview with Slash Empty 2004.04.DD - Gitarre & Bass (Germany) - Interview with Slash

Post by Blackstar on Fri Aug 21, 2020 6:34 pm

While Axl Rose is still working on the everlasting comeback of Guns N' Roses, his old bandmates Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum are already a full step ahead: With 'Contraband', they present a debut album that unites the best of metal and grunge - and and still stands under a bad star.

The legendary 'Rainbow' on Sunset Strip in L.A.: a shabby combo of bar, restaurant and club, that's been known as the biggest drinking place of Rock N' Roll for the past 30 years. Why? No one knows exactly. Probably also not Lemmy, who sits here at the Flipper machine all night with a glass of Whiskey-Coke, waiting for the big love. Which will probably never find him in this environment. Especially not in 2004, with the many tourists that mistakenly come into the rotting wood of the place.

Or also Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum, the former heart of Guns N' Roses. Three gentlemen in their early 40's, who present the first samples of their new band in this historical place, and of whose faces one very probably reads the excesses of the last two decades. They are still very slim and with full hair, but nevertheless with shaky hands, collapsed face structures and deep laying eyes. Late consequences, which cannot be hidden easily with dark sun glasses and a lot of black leather. Nevertheless, these Zombies breathe fresh air thanks to Velvet Revolver, their first band since they collectively left the Gunners - a move which they paid with more or less unsuccessful and/or weak solo albums, unsatisfactory session jobs and numerous private problems. "I won't make a secret of the fact that the last years weren't easy ", says Sorum. "Finally we were in the biggest rock band in the world, and all we did was sit at home and stare at the ceiling. Clearly you can't process that very easily. And secretly I've always waited for Axl's call, which never came. Fortunately enough: what I saw last year with the MTV Awards, was horrible."

A realization, which suddenly transported the drummer into reality and made him realize the necessity for a new formation. And something, that doesn't have its anchor in the cloudy 80s and 90s, but sounds up-to-date and modern. He also inspired Slash and Duff as well as two other old acquaintances: Dave Kushner, who toured with Dave Navarro and Suicidal Tendencies, and Scott Weiland, the former frontman of the Stone Temple Pilots. A lean, stick-thin guy who once ranked among the most fabulous persons of Grunge, but caught more attentention with his recent drug issues and is currently on trial for possession of heroin and hit-and-run. It's not what gives a band confidence, especially when they want to do a club tour in Europe in April and want to release their debut album 'Contraband' on June 7th. An explosive mixture of Gunners-rock, post-Grunge, psychedelic 60s Pop and impetuous Punk, which does not have anything nostalgic about it, but rather sounds like a young, hungy band. Which is what the five are, at least according to Slash.

G&B: With the last Gitarre & Bass interview in the summer of 2000, you just put together a new Snakepit lineup, signed an indie-deal with Koch and recorded a new album. But you can't have been very happy with that - eventually nothing of all that lasted.

Slash: That's right. And to be honest: that was one of the worst parts of my life. Cause when I left Guns N' Roses, it took very long before I even knew again what I really wanted. That was simply because I had so much political shit going on, it wasn't funny anymore. And while I knew deep inside that I did the right thing, everyone was giving me the feeling that I had gone totally crazy. Even worse: really everyone tried to take advantage of me. I had problems with my management and my lawyers, and everyone tried to make a profit out of my situation. It was a really horrible time. That I landed at Koch Records was simply the result of me running away from the whole Geffen / Interscope record label machine, which I didn't want to do any business with anymore. I recorded the album at my home studio and was very happy with it - also with the band. But the rest, the whole business part of the deal, was a nightmare. Especially when Koch didn't do any promotion for the album. I went on tour, played in some town, and it appeared to me as a Spinal Tap-movie: I did signing sessions in record stores that didn't even carry the CD. And the kids who did have the album, had to order them on the internet, cause it wasn't available anywhere else. That was crazy. You're playing sold out shows, and no one knows your record.

G&B: You were on tour with AC/DC - that was a good promotion.

Slash: Yes of course, but the shows were all we had. There was no other support from the label. Of course it was fun to be one of few bands who managed to open for AC/DC and not be boo-ed off the stage. That was really cool. But there wasn't even something like a break in the tour schedule - and the point was to play some club shows in a row - when I got sick and even had to go to the hospital. From there I had to cancel the second half of the AC/DC tour. And when I was finally ready again to start anew and put a new band and crew together, I ended up with a bus filled with fucking little cowboys who wanted to do the whole 'Rockstar' circus - they basically wanted to be more wild than they expected me to be. And that's something you have in you - or not. But you don't fake it. It's something that's forced upon you and it's guaranteed to cause trouble. And that's what happened. Two of them did the whole circus every night and created a big chaos. I tolerated it at that point, but for myself I closed the door for it very quickly. After the last show in San Francisco I went straight to the airport and I've never talked to them since. I was so powerless, empty and frustrated. I knew at once how lonely you can be in this business, no matter how successful you once were.

G&B: Nevertheless you are working again in another band - and again with people that aren't known as being 'easy'.

Slash: That just happened - it came straight from nowhere. I was actually getting ready to start a band with Steve Gorman from Black Crowes. We did some auditions for bassists and I wrote a load of new material. But then I got this call from Matt (Sorum), saying that Randy Castillo (Motley-Crüe- & Ozzy-Drummer) died, and that was a really big thing. Especially since I had just met him on the Snakepit-tour, and he was doing really good again then. But then he had a relapse and died, a really traumatic event. After that, all the rock people in Los Angeles joined together to go to his funeral and organize a benefit concert in the Key Club, where we all wanted to jam together. Something I am known to always do.

Now we needed a bassist, and that's why we called Duff, and also Keith and Josh from Buckcherry, and we met at our rehearsal space. We practiced a Guns- and a Buckcherry song as well as a couple of cover songs. Nothing really special. But, what can I say: it had an unbelievable energy. Just cause of Matt and Duff being there, I suddenly noticed a force in me again, that had not been there for a long time - like a solid kick in the ass. And this vibe, I'll admit that honestly, I missed for a very long time - even without knowing it. When we came to the Key Club, the venue was loaded with people. Steven Tyler was there, and we played 'Mama Kin', which was unbelievably intense. The next day Duff and I spoke on the telephone and realized that we would have to try something together again. If only because of the incredibly great feeling we got on stage. So we worked with Josh and Keith for about three months, but for some reason that didn't really work out. That's when Duff brought in the guitarist of his other band Loaded - and I've known him since highschool. We're talking about Dave Kushner. He was supposed to be a quick fill-in but appeared to be the right man for the job. Especially since he gave us a brand new, own sound.

G&B: And how exactly did you get Scott Weiland as the singer?

Slash: Well, he was the first guy we thought of. But at that time, he still sang for Stone Temple Pilots. Even though he was interested and liked the music, he couldn't do it. So we tried out different singers for about eight months, and listened to about 200 people every week. Of all those people, only about two were so good that you would invite them back later. That was very stressful. Honestly: we were often at the point where we would throw the whole thing away cause it was so frustrating. But we worked on nevertheless, until Scott came back at one point and told us about the end of the Pilots. Ironically enough, we had some offers for various soundtracks at this point, which was a pretty good test to see if we fit together and how it would sound. So he came in, and we played. What should I say: It fit wonderfully - the classic combination of five guys who understand eachother immediately.

G&B: Allegedly you even tried out female singers - including actress Gina Gershon...

Slash: No, Gina only jammed once with us, simply because she is a good friend. The media have blown that really out of proportion again...

G&B: And what was up with Courtney Love? Wasn't she also talking to you guys?

Slash: That was a joke. I mean, I love Courtney to death, but I would never start a band with her. You know, people always think that Scott must be God knows how difficult, but that's total bullshit. If you want someone who's difficult, take Axl or Courtney - she's probably ten times worse. That's how it was a joke. I'm a fan of hers, but I never thought of playing in a band with her.

Although: We really tried out a girl - Beth Hart. Mike Clink, who already produced Guns N' Roses, thought at one point that he had found someone for us. But he didn't say who it was, and if it was a guy or a girl. Until she appeared in front of us one day, and that was very interesting. Cause it didn't really matter to us if it was a famous person or a nobody - it just had to click. And among the famous guys, there was really only Scott. He had the right voice, but appeared to be unavailable. Don't get me wrong: of course we found more than enough great singers - but they didn't fit the bill. Cause the weird thing is: when someone else besides Scott sings these songs, they sound very different. Only he interprets them the way we imagined them. And as soon as he was on board, we booked a gig. We played two original songs, one from STP and one from Guns, as well as a few covers. We performed those six songs at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, and that was just incredinble. I had never seen Scott live and had no idea who I was dealing with. I was the only one of the guys in the band that didn't really know him, except for his songs that you hear on the radio. But when we finally were on stage, I only thought "That's it!, and I don't care if we have to go through hell - it's worth it."

G&B: But you're aware of the uncertainty a junkie as your singer brings?

Slash: Oh, he's doing much better now than in the last few months. Simply because he wants to make it with this band. He worked his ass off to record this album. And to be honest, the sessions were much easier than, say, the 'Use Your Illusion' records. I don't want to get to close to anyone, but that was really hard - and with someone who was fully sober. You can take that from me...

G&B: During which you experienced all similar alcohol- and drug phases, like Scott.

Slash: Right, we have been through it all. And that's probably also why Scott feels so good with us - cause no one points a finger at him. And I remember very well how pissed I was about things like that back then.

G&B: What can people expect from Velvet Revolver? More than just a coverband?

Slash: That's for sure! The only one who plays in a coverband is Steven Adler. He just brings old Guns N' Roses songs, under the name of Adler's Appetite - the poor guy... Not too long ago, Izzy and I played with him - just for the fun of it, which was very interesting. We went to the show and listened to the whole set. With guys from various L.A.-bands, and that was really funny. If only because of the involuntary realization that Guns N' Roses must have been damn good - cause the covers simply sounded like shit. Honestly. The songs were OK, but something about them was off . You know what I mean. Nevertheless we went on stage and played a few songs. That was nice. And also in this new band, we won't neglect our past. We will play all songs from Guns or STP that we feel like playing. A little bit of both, then some new, original songs and a few covers. But we won't be playing a full set of old material from our past bands. There's stuff I would never touch without Axl.

G&B: For example?

Slash: 'Paradise City', 'Welcome To The Jungle', 'Sweet Child O' Mine', things like that. That's Guns N' Roses, and I feel that they shouldn't be covered by anyone else. I at least don't want to live in the past.

G&B: Is that the reason why this album sounds so very modern?

Slash: Yes, but at the same time it's a very old-fashioned Rock N' Roll album, which is crazy.

G&B: You must have been aware of that, when you hired Josh Abraham. He isn't known as Mr. Nu-Metal for nothing.

Slash: You know what? I'm not really up-to-date anymore, as far as the people in this business go. Of course I know which bands are around and what they sound like. And I know that there are only a few cool acts, like Queens Of The Stone Age for example, Foo Fighters, Jet, or the Strokes. But I never look who produced them, mixed them or whatever. I just listen to them. And as far as producers go, there's a whole bunch of guys out there who are very young and ambitious. The only reason why I thought Josh was cool, was because he played me some things that he had just produced, and those were really heavy, right in-your-face. Without big effects - just the way we wanted it. We already tried to achieve that with a couple of other producers, without being too lucku with them. But when we finally tried it with Josh, we thought: "That's it, that sounds cool!" And of course we co-produced it, to be sure that it would turn out exactly the way we wanted. To that extent we simply needed someone who could keep our live-sound, and that's also exactly what we did with Guns N' Roses.

G&B: Put bluntly: it wasn't your goal to jump on the Nu-Metal bandwagon?

Slash: Never! I really didn't want to make a record that would sound like we were a bunch of 20-year-old kids. And I also didn't want to go retro. That's not my thing. Listen, I'm a rock'n'roll guitarist, and there's nothing that could make me change my style! If it did, the sound came from Matt, cause this was really the first time that he had an artistic influence on the band. And he brought himself in very strongly, just like Duff and Dave. And in that respect even Scott is much more than the typical hard rock or heavy metal singer who just screams around. All that together made sure we made something that's very oldschool, but sounds very modern at the same time. Technically I can't explain to you how that happened, but I know it wasn't a conscious or calculated thing. Something like: "We have to sound hot now, man." That's really not how it was...

G&B: And the whole thing still has the characteristic Guns-moments - especially in your guitar playing. More than once, you're pulling the 'Sweet Child'-riff from the box.

Slash: There are just some things, that you can't change. But you know what: I am very proud to have a style that one can recognize instantly. And I'm not planning on changing that. But it's most likely just the combination of people who are playing on this record. When Duff and I play a riff together, you will automatically think of Guns N' Roses, just because it sounds like that. That's simply the sound. And both of us haven't really changes. We are who we are.

G&B: How are you dealing with the high expectations that your management and label put on this album?

Slash: That's not my problem, but the record label's. In the end we made the cd our way and we presented it to the label as some finished product. They seem to be supporting it with everything they have, which is nice. Cause up until now, there has been no-one to really support us in a big way. It was a 'we against them'-situation from the start. But fortunately that changed, probably cause people saw us live. Cause when we're onstage, it speaks for itself. And with that I couldn't really imagine recording an album, without presenting it live immediately. That's always the main goal. I love writing, recording and working in the studio. But those are really just steps to another level. And as far as this talk about platinum and gold awards go, I don't listen to that stuff anymore. It really turns me off. Not that I wouldn't like to be successful. If it really happens - great. But I won't sit down in my kitchen at night and study the sales numbers. That's not who I am. We'll wait and see what happens. As long as we're booked for gigs and the record is really available in stores, there's a start. And that's all I'm currently working on.

G&B: And there's 100 other songs waiting in addition to the 12 that made it on the album, right?

Slash: There are 15 songs that we recorded. And as far as the rest goes, that's about 60 songs we started over a stretch of a few months, and never finished. It's all just music, no vocals. Cause when Scott came on board, we started from scratch again. And the first song we finished, 'Set Me Free', was also the first we worked on together. Like that, without problems. Scott came in, and we just played him the first song that came to mind. Then we had some other stuff on tape, and we gave it to him. He just took what he liked best, and wrote lyrics to then. The others we later wrote together.

G&B: Does that mean that the next album is already done, at least at a basic level?

Slash: Right. But that's said very easily. And I don't really like to mess around with old stuff that has been left over. But on the other side, there are some really cool tracks in there. Perhaps we should really put our hands on those again sometime.

G&B: Has Axl heard the record?

Slash: You know what? When 'Set Me Free' was released, I got a call from Jimmy Iovine from Interscope and he really wanted a copy of the song. I wondered all the time what he wanted to do with it, but then I realized: "Oh, Axl wants to hear it too."

G&B: And can you laugh about calls like that?

Slash: Of course, what else can I do? Of course this is a very serious business, but one shouldn't take themselves too seriously. You should always try and have fun while you're at it, even when you have to work very hard. The most important things are a good work-attitide and a lot of energy. Play well, and give everything you have. The rest is bullshit and a waste of time. It eats your energy.

SLASH GEAR

"Basically these are the same Marshall amps and the same guitars that I've been using for years," Slash says about his instruments. "But for the first time I also used different amps for different sounds. A couple of smaller Fender Deluxe and a Vox AC30, which I never used before. And then I also brought a few different guitars - for example a Strat and a Telecaster, which I took for one song each. From there on, I was already much opener than before. Cause in the past, I just went in the studio with an amp and a guitar and played everything with it from start to finish - at the most I added something with an acoustic here and there. But this time I really consciously wanted to create different sounds. From there, we experimented and played through different amp-combo's - this way, then that way. That was very interesting. But nothing really complicated, and nothing you could call technically outstanding. I was just more opener in regards to the different equipment.

On the quiet songs with the psychedelic parts, I only just play around with the knobs of my guitar. For example there's this song called 'Loving The Alien', where I play a Gibson ES-335 through a Fender amp with some reverb. Nothing special. And I read a lot of magazines in which Jimmy Page tells about the old studio sessions with Led Zeppelin, and I think it's incredible that he even remembers so many details. For me it's rather that I use whatever I have at my disposal in the studio. And this case I had a couple of old effects pedals, which we used for echo, or a wah-wah pedal. So nothing revolutionary, that would ensures that everyone would run into the next store and purchases themselves some equipment that no one has used before. That's bullshit anyway, and irrelevant for a real musician.

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Source:
https://web.archive.org/web/20050208004323/http://belowempty.com/vr/articles/2004/0404xx_Gitarre_und_Bass.php
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