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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

2007.07.DD - Total Guitar - Velvet Revolver (Slash)

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2007.07.DD - Total Guitar - Velvet Revolver (Slash) Empty 2007.07.DD - Total Guitar - Velvet Revolver (Slash)

Post by Blackstar Fri Mar 05, 2021 3:27 am

VELVET REVOLVER

AS VR RELEASE THEIR HIGHLY PERSONAL SECOND ALBUM, SLASH AND DAVE KUSHNER TALK EXCLUSIVELY TO TG ABOUT HOW LIBERTAD IS THEIR MOST CREATIVE WORK TO DATE, THE ACE NEW GEAR THEY USED AND THE TOUGH TIMES THEY FACED.

WORDS: CLAIRE DAVIES
PHOTOS: NEIL ZLOZOWER


"We’re done with the bullshit. That Guns N’ Roses/Stone Temple Pilots crap we had to deal with on our first album was so fucking tiresome. I’m finding that I don’t have to deal with the bullshit questions so much any more.”

Whether it’s intentional or not, Slash is laying down the ground rules for our interview about Velvet Revolver’s second album. Luckily for us, we’re not here to talk about the bands that Slash, Dave Kushner, Scott Weiland, Matt Sorum and Duff McKagan were previously involved with. Nor are we here to ask clichéd questions about groupies, booze or dig up dirt about whether Slash will ever tour with GN’R again. You see, TG’s got a one-track mind… We’ve spent the day listening to VR’s new album Libertad on constant repeat and we’re hellbent on draining Slash and Dave of every last crystalline drop of knowledge about their new album, the writing and recording process and why those guitars sound so damn good.

There’s been a lot of talk surrounding Libertad. A Spanish word for freedom, VR’s second album was originally billed by frontman Scott Weiland as a dark concept album along the lines of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, but he later changed his mind: “There’s been too many [concept records] recently,” he stated.

American music mags were also convinced that N*E*R*D mastermind Pharrell Williams was in the producer’s chair for VR’s most individualistic album yet, but they were later set straight: “When we were trying to get all of us in one place to start work on the album, there was some talk about Pharrell,” says Slash. “I wasn’t around for any of those discussions – I heard about it through word of mouth – but Scott did record a track with him [Happy, taken from Weiland’s forthcoming solo album].” In other words, forget what you think you’ve heard about the new Velvet Revolver album.

In our exclusive interview with Slash and Kushner, TG discovers why Libertad is the most fulfilling project Slash has ever been a part of; the tragic circumstances the band found themselves in toward the end of the recording process and why Slash and Dave’s guitar partnership is stronger than ever.

Your debut album Contraband was huge, so how does Libertad compare in sound and style – does it live up to your expectations?

Slash: “We all had a lot to do with the sound of this album, but I wouldn’t know how to describe Libertad. It’s easier to take it at face value than to analyse it or dictate an essay about what’s going on. It’s a great record that I’m very proud of. It’s got a lot of diversity, has some great songs and it’s pretty loose. You can tell we had a great time making it. It’s very different to Contraband. There’s been a lot of growth since that album in the collection of experiences we’ve had together, which makes for a natural progression in the writing and recording stages, but the only way in which this was a difficult second album was because it was so hard to get us in the studio.

“Everyone wanted to start work on the album but each of us had built up a personal agenda, although when we got in the studio things moved along quickly. I wouldn’t change anything about this album because I enjoyed the time I spent with the band and we became such good friends. It was a very inspiring, very creative experience and one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever been a part of.”

Dave: “We recorded 20 songs for this record compared to the last record where we used every song bar one we had written, so there was a lot more creativity on this album. Libertad is much more individualistic in the sense of who each member is; it’s deeper than Contraband and stylistically it spins off in more directions. As for changing any of it… When you work on a project for that long and there’s certain aspects that aren’t in your control, such as mixing or songwriting, then there will be a part of you that wishes some things had been done differently. But Libertad is an amazing record that pushed us to our limits and as a guitar player it has taken me places I’ve never been before.”

Was there anything you did differently on this album compared to your last album?

Slash: “Libertad has a real spontaneous feel because for the first time we were all in the studio recording live together, so there was a great camaraderie. A lot of stuff I hadn’t done before was used on this record, such as my scratch tracks being kept. I’m used to going into the studio and laying down the basic tracks with the band and then going back into the control room to re-do the guitars, just because I hate headphones so much (I play like shit when I’m using them), but I ended up keeping a lot of the stuff that I did with the headphones on, which was a first for me. On top of that I didn’t go back in to re-record rhythm parts underneath my solos like I usually do, instead I left that to Dave.”

Dave: “Yeah, I now understand what bands mean when they talk about growth and maturity on their second record. We’re still a new band, but on this album everyone was a lot more involved with writing and recording. Libertad is a record where everyone’s individual contributions are more exaggerated compared to our first album. We spent more time writing individually and you can really hear everyone’s style and personality coming through. It’s definitely more organic sounding than Contraband and, for me personally, I went for guitars that were less processed sounding and that were just about the steel and wood of a guitar.”

What are your favourite tracks from Libertad and which are you most proud of for your guitar playing?

Slash: “When you make a record you get up close and personal with each song, and for a song to make it onto the record you have to like it in the first place, so it’s hard to pick a favourite. We wrote 20 tracks for this album and 18 of them made it. We’re releasing five of those tracks as an EP [released 4 June, including a cover of Psycho Killer by Talking Heads], but there’s also a cover of Can’t Get It Out Of My Head by ELO on the album. The cover was our producer Brendan O’Brien’s idea, but I wasn’t into it at first. It’s a great song but I just couldn’t hear the band doing it, so I refused to do it at that time. After we’d laid down an acoustic track with bass and drums I went back in and put a bunch of heavier guitars on there with Dave, and when Scott put his vocals down it sounded great. When we were mixing the record in Atlanta I bought Brendan a 1960 Les Paul reissue, which I used along with this killer new Marshall Vintage to play the solo on that track. I did it in one take.”

Dave: “I’m most proud of Get Out The Door because I wrote the entire thing at home on Pro Tools. I love the weird melody line that Slash put over the chorus and what Scott did vocally on the track. I also used some Smashing Pumpkins type ideas in the chorus of Mary Mary, so that was pretty cool too. “Did I want to play more lead guitar? Sure there was a point where I said, ‘Hey Slash, if there are any solos you don’t wanna play…’ but I never heard about it again! I guess I would like to have played the solo on Get Out The Door because it was my baby, but the original version had no solo, it didn’t even have that section – after the bridge on the original track it went straight into the last chorus. The solo was a suggestion made by Clive Davis [RCA Records] at the time when we were considering releasing Get Out as the first single from the album. Clive wanted a trademark Slash solo on there, so we did it.”

But you eventually chose She Builds Quick Machines as the first single. Why did you pick that track?

Slash: “Quick Machines was my first pick, but there were so many songs with single potential that it took a while before we all agreed on what the first single from the album should be. It was decided that She Builds Quick Machines was most indicative of the band that everyone was familiar with.” Dave: “That track was brought to our attention as a potential first single from the record company. I can only speak for myself, but I didn’t see it as a first single. I would have gone for Get Out The Door or She Mine because, as a band, we were talking about one of those songs as the first single. “It wasn’t as though we were forced by the record company; that song just struck a chord with them so they ran listener tests with all three songs and Quick Machines supposedly tested the best. Maybe it reminded them of Slither [taken from fi rst album Contraband]? Anyway, we kept listening to the song but we still disagreed. The record company did more tests and in the end we had to concede because of the response it was getting.”

OK, tell us about the guitars. Did you have complete freedom to go wild with your playing?

Slash: “Yeah, it was basically a free for all to make each song sound interesting and it was a very loose recording environment. When the songs were first written it was a real simple process with regards to what sounds I wanted. I thought it was going to be a lot more complex than it ended up being, but I just used my Marshall, my Les Paul and maybe a couple of other guitars for a few different things. I didn’t physically do all that much equipment-wise, but for some reason it came out sounding a lot more interesting than what I intended on doing. I haven’t got a favourite solo from the album as such, but the solo on She Mine is pretty interesting because it has a remake of an old device from the 60s called an Octavia. It has a real cool distorted sound and we didn’t use it for the application it was intended. Instead it was pushed way over the fucking top so it sounded real nasty, which I liked.”

Dave: “For me, I’ve always had the freedom to do whatever I want, which is the beauty of my role within this band. I came in doing that and I created my own freedom in that sense because I didn’t start off thinking that I had to just hang back in the shadows. “I’ve always tried to do stuff that you wouldn’t expect from a second guitarist and I’ve always been invited to do that, but there’s a fi ne line between using that freedom to be creative as opposed to just messing around with some funny little sounds to get everyone’s attention on the right hand side of the stage. Creatively, we’ve always given each other a lot of freedom. I’ve been in a lot of bands where I’ve written something and within the first 20 seconds someone says, ‘That sucks!’ Velvet Revolver has never been like that. Even if someone brings in something that we’re reluctant about, we’ll still give it a chance. I’ve never been in a band with this much latitude.”

Do you feel as though there’s a real guitar partnership between both of you now or has that been there since the beginning?

Slash: “I thought it was pretty cool from the beginning, but it’s expanded into something more tangible now and we’ve got a great chemistry going between our guitars. I understand where Dave’s coming from and he understands where I’m coming from. We have a natural way of writing different parts that work well together for the same song. Sure it takes time, but by the third album we’ll be even that much better.”

Dave: “There were certain times on this album where I tried to not just play rhythm. Like on Mary Mary where I came up with a melody for the bridge section and Scott loved it so much that he cut it up and made it the chorus before the bridge. If I was just a rhythm guitarist then I wouldn’t be doing stuff like that. I know that Izzy [Stradlin] and Slash played a lot of stuff that was similar, but they had a way of playing off each other and I think Slash and I have naturally developed the same thing. You can hear it in the pre-chorus of She Builds Quick Machines, where Slash plays a guitar part that’s very distinctive and I play a three-note chord thing over it. They couldn’t be more opposite parts but yet they still work so well together.”

Talk us through your songwriting dynamic and how you think it has evolved since your first album…

Slash: “Everyone had an equal input into this record, which is where we were heading on the last album but we weren’t as focused as we are now. We were getting used to each other’s personalities and character nuances on the last record, whereas now we’ve established a feel for the band and each other. We may be more focused with our writing on this album but we’re still impatient – we want everything done yesterday. We’re much more relaxed around each other now, which made for a real casual approach to writing because we didn’t have the pressure of feeling inhibited.”

Dave: “We had been on tour for nearly two years before starting this record and we needed some time apart. While we were recuperating we started writing songs on our own and bringing ideas into the band, which we then developed together. We didn’t work these songs up in a rehearsal studio to begin with, so everyone had time to prepare individually, which was vastly different from the last record.”

So what was the vibe like in the recording studio?

Dave: “The vibe was great for most of it, but towards the end of the record it became sombre because Matt found out that his 11-year-old brother, who was sick with cancer last year, became ill again and passed away toward the end of the recording of the album. Scott’s brother also passed away from an overdose around the same time. They both happened within a week of each other, so there were some real heavy times towards the end of the record. It’s hard when you work with someone you care about because you’re not sure how to console them – it’s such a different dynamic when there’s a bunch of guys trying to console each other. But, you know, there was still a lot of fun during the early recording of the album. There’s a small documentary that comes with the album, so you will be able to see us in the studio.”

What was your relationship like with producer Brendan O’ Brien?

Slash: “There’s not a lot of producers out there that I’m interested in, but as soon as Brendan walked through the door it was straight to work. There wasn’t a second wasted, which is the way I like to work – I like to bust my ass. We worked well together and I had a great chemistry with him. He also had a great chemistry with Scott and it was important for all of us to feel comfortable and inspired, which can sometimes be hard to do. With the guitars on Contraband I was definitely not inspired because of the guy we were working with at the time, and whenever I think of that album, that forced situation of recording guitars will always come to mind. Working in a environment where you feel comfortable is essential to creating a really cool record.”

Dave: “There was a big difference between Josh Abraham who produced our first album and Brendan. I’ve known Josh since he was 15 and he’s a really talented guy. Brendan is just a different kind of producer: he gets in there and becomes a sixth member of the band, so he’s very opinionated but in a good way. He had a lot more input than Josh did on the first record. I don’t think Brendan necessarily had a definite idea of what he wanted Libertad to sound like, but I remember him saying that we needed to sound like ourselves rather than just writing our second record.”

Do you feel like you’ve achieved a distinctive Velvet Revolver sound with this album?

Slash: “You tell me. I can spot other bands from the first few bars of their songs, but with my own band it’s hard to make that summation.”

Dave: “I think we have, but I thought we had on the first record. Knowing the talents and capabilities of everyone in this band, it’s anyone’s guess where the next record will go because, artistically, we have a lot of ideas and we have a lot of different interests. There are five individuals in this band and there are five distinct characters, so there’s a lot of stuff that has influenced me personally without taking into account the other guys and their personal influences. So I think that combining so many interests and the capabilities to do pretty much whatever we want to do creatively, the sky is the limit on the next record and our sound will constantly evolve with us.”

Finally, do you feel as though you’ve gone beyond the supergroup tag to become an established band in your own right?

Slash: “We have always been an established band in our own right. I’m finding that on this record the general consensus is that we are who we are. People are understanding that now.”

Dave: “I never thought of Velvet Revolver as some kind of supergroup, but then maybe that’s because I’m the unknown guy in the band. We looked for a singer for 10 months and tried out countless unknowns. If your kid brother could sing we would have tried him out, but Scott was the best guy for us. Are we at the pinnacle of what we’re gonna do as a band? No, there’s a lot more growth to come.” ..

GUITAR PORN - SLASH AND KUSHNER WALK US THROUGH THE GEAR USED ON LIBERTAD

SLASH: “I used this new amp called a Marshall Vintage Modern Series that theyve only just brought out. I didn't get it until the very tail end of the album so I only used it for a few tracks, but it was killer. For the rest of the album I used what I always use: a Slash model Marshall, a JCM 800 and the '50s replica Les Paul I've used since forever. I also used the Dunlop Slash wah-wah pedal, the new Dunlop distortion/gain pedal for solos and an Octavia. I used a Gretsch guitar on The Last Fight, a Rickenbacker 12-string for a track on the EP, a Gibson Les Paul Junior, a Strat for the rhythm tracks on Gravedancer (which I also used for the solo at the end of the first and second chorus of that song) and a Les Paul on the outro solo.”

KUSHNER: “On Contraband I used Fernandes guitars, Bogner heads and modified Marshall heads. On this record I used Mesa/Boogie combos and a 1966 Gibson ES-335 that Brendan rented for me. The 335 was his vision for me and he really seemed to know what I needed. Friends of mine used to sit around talking about vintage guitars, but I never understood where they were coming from until I played that Gibson. I just got the concept of playing a 40-year-old piece of wood.”

SLASH ON BC RICH - TG SPEAKS TO SLASH ABOUT HIS RUMOURED BC RICH MOCKINGBIRD ENDORSEMENT DEAL

When TG asked Slash about his alleged BC Rich endorsement deal, we surely hit a nerve...“How did you find out about that?” Asks Slash. “Listen, the first real quality guitar I ever had was a BC Rich Mockingbird and I've been using BC Rich guitars ever since. They send me a new guitar every 15 years, but I'm still a prominent Gibson Les Paul guy. “I play 75 per cent of our set on a Les Paul. There is one song where I use a BC Rich for the tremolo bar because it's got a Floyd Rose on it, but I have to make an adjustment each time I play that because my amp is set up for the Les Paul.”
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