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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.


2024.03.21 - Classic Rock - Interview with Slash

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2024.03.21 - Classic Rock - Interview with Slash Empty 2024.03.21 - Classic Rock - Interview with Slash

Post by Blackstar Fri Mar 22, 2024 10:58 pm

Slash interview: Growing up with the blues, assembling Orgy Of The Damned, meeting Peter Green, and the crazy journey behind that Oscars thing with Ryan Gosling

Slash feat. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators start their European tour next week

By Dave Everley

When Slash calls, people pick up the phone. Fourteen years after his all-star self-titled solo debut album, which featured appearances from Ozzy Osbourne, Chris Cornell, Lemmy and future bandmate Myles Kennedy among others, the guitarist has hit the contact book hard once more.

For his upcoming album, the vividly titled Orgy Of The Damned, Slash has enlisted a whole new set of guest vocalists. The twist this time is that it’s a blues covers album, featuring everyone from AC/DC’s Brian Johnson, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes to Gary Clark Jr, Iggy Pop and Demi Lovato covering songs by such greats as Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Albert King, Wille Dixon and Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac.

Slash is a busy man right now. As if a new solo album wasn’t enough, he’s also about to embark on a UK tour with his regular solo band, The Conspirators (ft. Myles Kennedy). Still, he’s not so busy that he can’t carve out time to talk to Classic Rock about Orgy Of The Damned, collaborating with Iggy Pop and Demi Lovato, and that Oscars performance.

Why make a blues covers album now?

It really was very spontaneous. In the back of my mind, I’ve been wanting to do that for years. I had a blues band way back in 1998 [Slash’s Blues Ball], that was a fun, thrown-together blues thing with some really great blues musicians. But this was something I just didn’t get around to until now. I had weeks off between legs [of the Guns N’ Roses tour] and it was just a spur-of-the-moment thing.

What are your earliest memories of hearing the blues? Were those old records playing in the house when you were growing up?

Growing up, when I was in England [Slash was born in Stoke-on-Trent and spent his early years in the UK], it was all contemporary rock’n’roll that was happening at the time - The Kinks and The Yardbirds and The Moody Blues and The Who. That was a big deal, and it was all influenced by American blues.

But when I moved to the States, on my mom’s side of the family, my grandmother was the one that really turned me on to what you’d consider traditional blues records. There was a bunch of different artists, but the one that stuck out to me at the time was BB King. I had a thing for him back then. I had cousins that listened to the blues, so it was around a lot. When I got into playing guitar, I got excited by the whole energy of hard rock. But the stuff I was into was still firmly rooted in traditional blues influences, so I started going back and discovering all these great guys that the musicians I was listening to were into.

Were you all sitting round in the early days of Guns N’ Roses, cranking up Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf songs?

No, Guns N’ Roses was more of a combination of everybody’s immediate influences at that time - the Stones, the New York Dolls, Thin Lizzy, all this stuff. The blues undercurrent was firmly in there, but we weren’t covering Little Walter [laughs].

When it came to Orgy Of The Damned, how did you pick which singers would appear on which songs? Did you offer them a choice of which songs they could sing?

For the most part, I only thought of one singer for each song, and that’s just the way that it went. So Brian Johnson was the only person I thought of for Killing Floor – I didn’t have a back-up for that. But with Gary Clark Jr, I was toying around with the idea of Crossroad Blues from Robert Johnson or Crossroads by Cream. I just wanted an excuse to play with Gary.

You went with Crossroad Blues. He’s a great guitarist. Did he play guitar on the song as well as singing it?

Yeah. He’s one of the only other guitar players on the record. I had this idea and called him up to see if he was into it. He was part of the idea of doing that particular song. But then with Iggy Pop, he wasn’t even on the list of singers for me this record. I didn’t have a song for him. What happened was that I called him up because I heard he’d always wanted to do a blues thing. I’ve known Iggy for a long time, and I was not aware of that. And at this particular moment in time, that seemed really interesting.

So I called him up and said, “Is there a song that you’d be into doing?” And he said Awful Dream from Lightnin’ Hopkins. So I went and listened to that song. If you listen to the original, it’s definitely an outtake. It‘s like something they just happened to record, not everybody’s playing the same thing at the same time, it’s very loose, there’s no real specific arrangement, so that’s how we recorded the song.

It’s hard to believe no one’s asked Iggy to sing a blues song before. He’s got the perfect voice for it.

I think that he’s such the godfather of punk that they don’t think of that when they think of Iggy Pop. But that session was really cool, it was just he and I live on a couple of stools. His delivery was so sincere and so from the heart. He gave me the impression that he really relished this outlet to do this song. It was really a moment.

Demi Lovato sings on Papa Was A Rolling Stone. She’s a fantastic singer, but she’s not who you’d expect to hear on an album like this. What made you think of her?

Papa Was A Rolling Stone isn’t so much of a traditional blues song, it’s more of an R&B song. But it was a song I covered with the second iteration of Slash’s Snakepit, I had the singer, Rod Jackson, sing the shit out of it. So I wanted to do it, and Demi came to mind because I wanted to have a young girl’s perspective on her strange, philandering dad. I thought that would be really poignant. Demi just fit that bill.

I asked her about the song, cos it was real important that anyone who sang on the record had a relationship of some sort with the material - you can’t just cold-call somebody with a song they’ve never heard before and go, “Hey, can you sing this?”, because it’s not going to be delivered with any sort of sincerity or passion. And it turns out that the song really meant a lot to her and she related to it on some level personally, and she jumped on it right away. That’s one of the reasons why her delivery is so in your face and so emotional.

A lot of the people whose songs you cover are dead, but you’ve met and even played with a few of them. You jammed with BB King. What was that like?

Well, I jammed with BB a couple of times. Those are the kind of moments when a young guitar player meets his hero, an idol, and the guy takes the time to give up some of his time. He was really generous to me.

The first time I played with him, I was so drunk that I actually forgot I actually played with him. He had to remind me of it years later. But he was always particularly cool to me. As a young guitar player, you really appreciate those kind of moments where somebody you really look up to was willing to give the time.

You cover Fleetwood Mac’s Oh Well on the record, with Chris Stapleton singing. Did you ever meet Peter Green?

I did, actually. I met Peter at a German music expo, when they had first got him up and running again, so to speak. This was in the mid-90s, and I guess he had been incapacitated for a really long time. They just dusted him off and got him back up. He barely knew where he was, but they got him back onstage performing.

I met him at the first gig that he did, which was at that expo. He had no idea who I was, but I did meet him. It was huge, but at the same time, it was very surreal too, because he really was in a different place other than where we were standing.

What about Stevie Wonder? There’s a version of Living For The City on the album. Have you ever crossed paths with him?

Oh, yeah, I‘ve met him a bunch of times. He’s great. We’ve joked about me playing on one of his records, but it’s never happened. I’ll gladly take him up on that offer if it comes to me one day.

I grew up listening to Stevie, and one of the reasons we did Living For The City is that was my favourite song of his when I was eight or nine years old. I loved that record, Innervisions, and I loved that song and the story it told. Tash [Neal], is the singer and guitar player on the song, and he’ll be the singer when we tour this record.

You’re about to start your UK tour with The Conspirators. Will Myles Kennedy be singing any of these songs?

OK, so this UK tour is with Myles, and it’s on the record we did two years ago that we never got a chance to support internationally [2022’s 4 album]. It has nothing to do with the blues record.

You recently played the Oscars with Ryan Gosling, doing I’m Just Ken from the Barbie movie. What’s your favourite memory from the night?

Just getting through that song [laughs). I just showed up there the day of the event. I had two days off on an Asia tour with the Conspirators, so I flew to LA from Korea, got to the Kodak Theater, got rushed into this crazy mayhem situation which is the Oscars, and we did a quick run through with Ryan Gosling singing and all these guys dancing around, and then went backstage. I sat in the audience with all the other actors for the ceremony, then got up and played the song, got in a car, went back to the airport and flew to the Philippines.

Any plans to collaborate with Ryan Gosling any time soon?

No, no… Mark Ronson, who’s a dear friend of mine, asked me to record the song, which I did. The movie came out and it was massive, and the song did really well, and so he asked me if I would do the performance at the Oscars – which originally I wasn’t going to do cos I was in fucking Asia – but Hollywood managed to pull its weight and get me flown over there to perform this song.

Ryan was really cool, I had no idea what to expect. We hung out backstage, and he sung the shit out of the song – I’ve got to give him kudos, he made that whole production happen. But no, I don’t think I’m gonna do a record with him.

Orgy Of The Damned is released on May 17. Slash feat. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators tour Europe from March 28. Slash's S.E.R.P.E.N.T. Blues Festival Tour hits North America in July. All dates below.

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