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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.


2022.03.DD - Total Guitar - Slash: The Return Of The Guitar Hero

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2022.03.DD - Total Guitar - Slash: The Return Of The Guitar Hero Empty 2022.03.DD - Total Guitar - Slash: The Return Of The Guitar Hero

Post by Blackstar Sun Feb 13, 2022 2:04 am

The Total Guitar Interview

Slash made his new album with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators in just five days. He’s also working on the long-awaited new Guns N’ Roses record. But the guitar hero admits: “I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel the pressure in this age of technical expression and fluidity...”

Interview: Jenna Scaramanga
Photos: Austin Mitchell

He was just 21 when Guns N’ Roses’ debut album Appetite For Destruction was released - the record that made him famous as a guitar hero. And all these years later, as Slash speaks to TG via a Zoom call from his home in LA, it’s evident that his love of rock ’n’ roll is as strong as it’s ever been. When he talks about 4, the new album from Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, he’s thrilled about how it turned out, with an energy created from having the whole group playing together in the studio. “Recording live is something I’ve always wanted to do,” he says. And when he talks about how things are working out in Guns N’ Roses – seven years since he and bassist Duff McKagan reconciled with singer Axl Rose and rejoined the band – he says he couldn’t be happier.

4 is also the first release on Gibson Records, a fitting honour for a player who has been synonymous with the Les Paul since Appetite For Destruction defined Guns N’ Roses as the greatest rock band of the late 80s.

In that era, when hard rock music was getting increasingly slick and safe, GN’R sounded genuinely dangerous. Slash’s lead playing had a grind that over-polished shredders couldn’t touch, but his melodic hooks in Sweet Child O’ Mine and Paradise City were irresistible. 35 years and 30 million sales later, it’s quite probably the greatest rock debut of all time.

After exiting from Guns N’ Roses in 1995, Slash found success second time around in the 2000s with the supergroup Velvet Revolver, co-starring Duff Mckagan, ex-GN’R drummer Matt Sorum and former Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland. And again, it was thanks in no small part to more unforgettable Slash melodies on hits songs such as Slither and Fall To Pieces that Velvet Revolver became a multi‑platinum act.

In the wake of that band’s break-up, Slash’s self-titled 2010 solo album saw him collaborating with an array of superstar vocalists including Ozzy Osbourne, Motörhead’s Lemmy and the Black Eyed Peas’ Fergie. But it was his chemistry with Alter Bridge singer Myles Kennedy that really turned heads, and soon they coalesced into Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators. This is now the most stable group line-up of the guitarist’s career, and his commitment to this project is such that he never considered giving it up when the Guns N’ Roses reunion happened. He just has to juggle the two as best he can – and right now, he admits, “it’s pretty busy”.

GN’R’S latest tour wrapped in October 2021 and there are more dates this summer, including massive outdoor shows in London and throughout Europe. A new EP is released this month featuring Hardskool, one of two recently released tracks originally recorded during Slash and Duff’s absence for the 2008 album Chinese Democracy but re-recorded with the current line-up. They have also begun working on a new album – the first since Chinese Democracy, and the first with Slash and Duff since the covers album, The Spaghetti Incident?, in 1993.

With so much riding on a new Guns N’ Roses album, this is one subject on which Slash remains tight-lipped, stating simply and diplomatically: “We put two songs out already and there’s more stuff coming.” But for the rest of our conversation he is open, energised and passionate as he discusses his dual roles with GN’R and The Conspirators, his gear and inspirations, and this new album on which his guitar tone is possibly the cleanest and most direct he has ever recorded, revealing all the detail in his ferocious chops.

You’ve now played for longer and made more albums with this band than any other line-up. How do you feel about that?

That’s funny! I’ve never thought about that. New milestones, right? I hooked up with these guys in 2010 and we’ve just had a great time of it. Even when I got back with Guns N’ Roses, which was a pretty monumental thing, I didn’t want to let that go. I just managed to thread the needle and keep it going.

Apparently you recorded the album in five days?

Yeah, it was quick. When we started looking for a producer I had a very short list of potential rock ’n’ roll guys. Dave Cobb was one of those. He’d done Rival Sons, which is a band I really like, and a bunch of really cool down-to-earth country stuff. We discussed how we liked rock ’n’ roll performed live and the energy with that. It was like it was a meeting of minds. We went out to Nashville, set the gear up and just started playing. We did two songs a day over the course of five days and that was basically the whole record sans overdubs and background vocals. We used wedges as monitors and it was just like playing in a club. Myles was in a booth right next to us, but I could actually see him and he just sang along. There would be two or three takes and that was it. I think Myles thought, ‘I can always go back and redo this or that’, but then he was the first one to test positive for Covid. The vocals were great so there was no need to go back and redo them. One of the reasons I wanted a different producer was because Elvis [Michael ‘Elvis’ Baskette], who produced the last two Conspirators records, also did both of Myles’ solo records and all the Alter Bridge records. I didn’t want another record coming out in such close succession that had the same sound. It turned out that you couldn’t get a more different approach to vocals.

How was this album written?

A lot of it was written on the road in 2019, at sound checks and stuff, which is how we normally do it. When Covid happened it stalled our routine. Normally we come off the road, do some work on the songs, then get into pre-production and go back in the studio and do the record. Covid delayed all that, so I did demos of all the material that we had plus a lot of new material. I did the computer drum machine kind of deal, playing them with my fingers, sent it out to Myles and he put down some vocals. Todd (Kerns) finally flew in and put bass on the demos, so that’s how the stuff came together.

Was any of it written in the studio?

When I do demos, all my arrangements are never completely finished. You’ll have an intro and a verse and a chorus. You might have even a middle. Whatever, it’s always open to change. When we go into pre-production we’ll jam everything out to the point where I think this is reasonably finished. Once we get in the studio and you’re playing the arrangement in earnest some things will change. There was a couple different things that happened. Fall Back To Earth really developed. April Fool was only three parts that really weren’t fine-tuned and Dave Cobb helped us do that.

Your guitar tone on this record sounds a bit cleaner. Was that deliberate?

There’s a big difference in sound when you play with the band compared to when you mic up an amp in a booth and go into the control room and dial the sound in that way. It was just a much more direct, raw approach. The sound was cleaner just because of the way that I set up, standing right in front of it.

You don’t need as much gain because the sustain comes from the volume and closeness to the amp.

Yeah, it’s just a different trajectory, the way that the sound is coming out and the way that you’re perceiving it. Plus on a couple songs I used a Flying V which I love because it’s got great output but it is demonstrably cleaner than my Derrig guitar [the Appetite For Destruction Les Paul]. C’est La Vie and Actions Speak Louder Than Words were both played with the Flying V. It’s a Hendrix ’69 reissue Flying V. It’s f*cking great, and it works great for the talk box.

You and the talk box have a great history going back to Appetite For Destruction.

It was fun to break it out. It was sort of an afterthought. I wrote it like on regular guitar and in pre-production it dawned on me that that riff would be great with a talk box. The first talk box I ever got was when I was about 16. A friend of mine’s mom who in a band had one in her garage, and she gave it to me. The first thing that I ever heard the voice box on that really stuck out to me was Peter Frampton (on Show Me The Way), and then it was Aerosmith, a live version of Walk This Way off the Live Bootleg record. I came up in an era where talk box was around. A lot of people over saturate it now, and it’s just more of a tonal effect as opposed to really enunciating with it. I definitely like a cleaner, buzzier old-school sound.

The reverb sounds great. How did you get that?

That was just the room! We discussed Glyn Johns and some of the records he engineered that were really live records, like Led Zeppelin II. That was basically it, going in and just setting up live in the room.

What was the amp?

Just a [Marshall 2555] Jubilee 100 watt into straight cab with [Celestion] Vintage 30s. I go through phases. I used the Jubilee for a long time with Guns N’ Roses and then I sort of went off it when I was working with Velvet Revolver. I went through a couple different Marshalls, and then I really came back around to Jubilees on the last tour.

On April Fool, the two guitars play variations on the same riff, panned left and right, similar to how you used to play with rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin in Guns N’ Roses’ early days. How do you develop those parts?

I’ll come up with an idea and start jamming it with the guys. Unless I have a specific part, they just make up whatever. Frank [Sidoris, Conspirators rhythm guitarist] just goes along with it in his own fashion. We don’t spend a lot of time analyzing the guitar parts as long as it works. Sometimes it inspires different ideas for syncopation, but for the most part we just start playing and people make up whatever they want until it starts to jump.

Is that a sitar on Spirit Love?

That was the first time I’ve had the electric sitar. I can’t remember what the brand is but I might have had it since the 90s. I’ve definitely had it since Velvet Revolver. I just never used it because the sitar has become such a cliché in rock and roll that it’s very iffy whether it’s gonna work. I recorded it on my Les Paul, but then I went back and overdubbed it with the sitar, through the Marshall exactly the way my guitar was set up. It sounds like the speakers are about to blow up! It was a cool sound and it doesn’t sound like the Beatles or anything.

Is the riff on Fill My World a nod to Sweet Child O' Mine?

I know what you mean now that you’ve said it, but it didn’t come from that. It’s that kind of single note riff that’s got a rotation thing to it, but it wasn’t intended to sound like anything in particular. I was not sure if I was going to show it to the band because it was this ballady type thing, but I sent it to Myles and he came up with this really great melody so it became a song. The riff is a mix of open strings and fretted notes and there’s little bends in there, too.

The album is the first release from Gibson Records. How did you hook up with them?

I have no idea how long Gibson was thinking about starting a record company prior to us coming together for this record. I’m my own record company and I find distributors in different territories to put the record out. I was talking to my manager about who we’re going to use this time around and he mentioned Gibson wanting to do a record company. I had to think about it for a second because that almost sounds too good to be true. I couldn’t think of any negative side to it. I know the people at Gibson so I know how much they put into it and how much integrity the company has. I just couldn’t go wrong doing it through Gibson. We partner on it an equal share, so we both have to work hard to make it happen. I’m actually very excited to see who else they sign.

Now you’re playing with Guns N’ Roses again as well as the Conspirators, do you use separate gear for each band?

There’s definitely guitars that I use with Guns N’ Roses that I don’t use with the Conspirators because they’re signature guitars for certain Guns songs, but there’s not a conscious effort to separate the two. I use what I need to do the gig, so I take a lot of the same stuff out with both bands, especially effects-wise because it’s such minimal effects anyway. Jessica, my ’87 main Les Paul, I use primarily with Guns just because that’s such a Guns N’ Roses thing. I experiment with a lot of different stuff with the Conspirators.

How is it different playing your old songs with Guns N’ Roses again versus playing the same songs with Conspirators?

There’s a certain chemistry that Duff, Axl and I have that goes back to the very beginning. That’s the magic ingredient that nobody could necessarily put a finger on what it is. That happens instantly when I’m working with Guns. I have great chemistry with the Conspirators but when we do a Guns N’ Roses song it doesn’t have that particular spark to it. I realised that as soon as we started rehearsing. There really is a magic that happens with that combination of people that is different than doing the same material with Myles, Todd and Brent [Fitz, drums], even though those guys do play the sh*t out of the Guns N’ Roses stuff. As soon as I rejoined Guns I didn’t have that need to play Guns stuff in the Conspirators. We only play one Guns song in the set now. I don’t know what song we’re gonna play this time around. The Conspirators holds up on its own, which is great.

Have you put your own stamp on the Chinese Democracy parts?

Yeah, if there’s a signature part like the hook or something, I want to be recognisable, but the way I go about playing it is probably entirely different from how the original guys played. It’s definitely my own interpretation.

You’ve said in the past you weren’t the biggest fan of shred guitar. You can play extremely fast but you don’t sound like a shredder. Do you have any thoughts on why?

I don’t have an issue with playing fast. When I’m talking about Eddie Van Halen or Alvin Lee, there’s a lot of great fast guitar players but they have an emotional quality. It feels like it’s they’re doing it for a reason, there’s a there’s a feel to it, and it’s part of the energy of the tune. It’s not playing fast for the sake of playing fast, and it’s not playing technical for the sake of playing technical. Like, ‘how many tricks and how many techniques can I put into this?’ sort of loses the plot for me. When I play fast, it really is an energy thing. I would actually like to tone it back sometimes, especially when I’m doing solos live, but I get so taken away. Things get sped up because you’re just really aggressive and you’re emoting, like an emotional thing that just calls for that. That’s where it comes from. I don’t have a problem with playing fast as long as there’s an emotional content to it.

Your lead playing has always sounded so distinctive. Why is that?

I take that as a compliment. I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel the pressure of all these kids standing in front of you or listening to your record and expecting you to f*cking keep up with the Joneses in this age of a lot of real technical expression and fluidity. I’ve seen some amazing f*cking techniques. They remind me of BMX tricks, and the time it must take to execute them. It always has been like that, especially in the 80s man. It was shred city in LA. I mean, f*cking Yngwie came to town and it was like, okay... I just don’t feel like I want to go that direction. I wanna still feel like what turns me on when I listen to other people playing. I want to stick to what excites me rather than trying to conform to what might be popular at the moment. I’d rather keep it rock ’n’ roll.


Slash on his magical partnership with GN’R’S Izzy Stradlin and with his current GN’R foil Richard Fortus

On Appetite For Destruction was it planned that you an Izzy played variations on the same riffs?

No, it never was. I think playing with Izzy is what started the trend to have one guy playing his main part and the other one playing something off of that. That loose thing was just the way that I play with other guitar players. The other guy does his thing and I do my thing and hopefully the twain meet on the same ground somehow. Izzy was such a unique guitar player unto himself. Everything he did was so simplified that if he had a riff I would take it into another place. My approach to it, inspired by whatever he was doing, would make it a bit more complex or more driving. If I had a riff he would just find an off-the-cuff way of playing it without having to play all the notes. It just worked. There was never much discussion or sitting around working stuff out, and I just never have done since then.

Do you play differently with The Conspirators’ Frank Sidoris compared with current GN’R guitarist Richard Fortus?

I mean, I play the way I play with Richard as well. He just does his thing, so it’s the same dynamic. Some things are a little bit different when it comes to Chinese Democracy stuff. I learned parts from listening to whoever was playing, Bumblefoot or Buckethead. If there’s a particular part, I want to play it to sound like that. Richard would come up and go, ‘Actually, this is how he did it.’ Other than that I mean we just do our thing.


Thinking of buying a Les Paul? Take Slash's advice on finding the right one...

"I’ve learned to be really flexible with a guitar: neck, weight, to some extent hardware — I’m a little fussy over pickups but basically a good, functional Gibson, whatever model, is something I can probably be comfortable with. The biggest issue for me is how each one of them sounds. I really admire people that can pick up any guitar no matter what it sounds like and feel comfortable with it. I can have 10 of the same model, same year – I’ll pick out a string of guitars and they all sound different. I can pick one up and go 'no, that doesn’t work'. I can do that for five guitars and then find one and go 'oh, this one!'

"A good example of that was when Gibson did the Joe Perry ’59 reissue, the Slash/Joe Perry guitar that he owned and that I gave back to him. They did a replica of that. I went down to the showroom to get one. They had 30 or 40 custom shop guitars at the showroom in Hollywood. I played probably a dozen of them to find the one that sounds right. It’s a specific sound. If it’s too bright it will bother me, or if it’s too muddy on the bottom.

"It’s a myth that weight is the most important thing. You can find a light one that sounds great, or you can find a light one that sounds terrible. Same with the heavy guitars. A really heavy Les Paul, you pick it up and think, ‘A really dense guitar, this is going to sound huge?’, and it can sound really thin. It’s really hard to predict what a guitar is really gonna sound like."

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