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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

2024.05.17 - Le Monde - Slash: "This album of blues covers is cathartic for me"

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2024.05.17 - Le Monde - Slash: "This album of blues covers is cathartic for me" Empty 2024.05.17 - Le Monde - Slash: "This album of blues covers is cathartic for me"

Post by Blackstar Sun May 26, 2024 4:03 am

Original article in French:
https://www.lemonde.fr/culture/article/2024/05/17/slash-guitariste-de-guns-n-roses-ce-disque-de-reprises-de-blues-est-cathartique-pour-moi_6233903_3246.html

Translation:
__________

Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash: "This album of blues covers is cathartic for me".

With "Orgy of the Damned", the musician offers himself a sixth solo escapade, a collection of covers of blues standards, surrounded by the likes of Iggy Pop, Brian Johnson and Billy F. Gibbons.

Interview by Franck Colombani

He's one of the last of an endangered species: the guitar hero. Saul Hudson, better known as Slash, is a rock personality with over 100 million albums sold, and a luxury soloist for Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Chic, Rihanna... The English-American guitarist, born in London in 1965 and raised in California, owes his fame to his band Guns N' Roses, formed in 1985, which he left ten years later. Since then, Duff McKagan, the band's original bassist, and Slash have reconciled with singer Axl Rose. In 2019, hard rock's former enfants terribles embarked on one of the most lucrative stadium tours in rock history.

Barely had his last date with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators come to an end, on April 29 at Le Zénith in Paris, when the man with Les Paul released his sixth solo opus, Orgy of the Damned, on which he tried his hand for the first time - at least for the duration of an album - at his other favorite devil's music, the blues. This stripped-down collection of covers of standards (Hoochie Coochie Man, Born Under a Bad Sign, Oh Well...) features contributions from legends (Iggy Pop, Billy F. Gibbons, Brian Johnson) and rising stars (Gary Clark Jr, Dorothy, Tash Neal...).

Let's be clear from the outset: the subject of Guns N' Roses, as desired by management, will be avoided during this interview. Stripped of his famous top hat, but still wearing his Aviator glasses that show nothing of his eyes, Slash, relaxed and affable, welcomes guests to a private room on the Boulevard des Capucines in Paris, the showroom of the Gibson guitar brand, of which he is one of the emblematic ambassadors.

You've just recorded your first blues album, at the age of 58. Wasn't the idea conceivable at the age of 30?

I always thought I'd record an album of blues covers. I'm a rock guitarist, but blues is one of its foundations. This album is cathartic for me. I formed my first blues cover band, Blues Ball, around the age of 33, in 1998. We only played in bars and clubs. At that time, I was no longer in Guns N' Roses, and I was trying to think about the direction of my career. At the same time, it was fun not to take ourselves too seriously. The band sounded really good. I even thought we'd make a record, but I just couldn't do it. And here we are, twenty-five years later...

As a teenager, then an apprentice guitarist, were you already receptive to blues music?

Yes, long before I started playing guitar. I remember, at the age of 8, hearing B.B. King for the first time. His music spoke to me, even though I had no aspirations to become a musician at the time. I always identified with the blues, because I loved its rawness, the alternating rhythms and the storytelling aspect of the lyrics. It was all very visceral. And when I took up the guitar, the first thing I wanted to learn was a blues pattern. When I managed to hit those notes - eureka! - it was as if the heavens had opened.

This music has always been a cornerstone of my style. In the early 1980s, when I was 15 in California, everyone swore by Eddie Van Halen [virtuoso guitarist with the hard rock band Van Halen]. I personally preferred old-school blues, while dreaming of forming a fucking hard rock band, loud and noisy. Blues was a big part of my favorite bands, Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones and AC/DC.

This element gradually faded with the emergence of heavy metal...

Definitely. The funny thing is that the band that founded metal, Black Sabbath, was also heavily influenced by the blues. It’s sometimes surprising what later generations retain of the music. Look at Eddie Van Halen. Blues was one of his influences. Everyone wanted to copy his tapping technique [a guitar technique that involves tapping a string rather than strumming or plucking], but without retaining its emotive quality. And yet that's what made him great, mixing his virtuosity with his fluid, blues-infused playing. And it's the same with Black Sabbath: most of their followers only remembered the power and heaviness of their music. But it's also their melodic structures that make the band great.

"Orgy of the Damned" has a rather raw sound, in stark contrast to your more produced previous albums. How did you go about creating it?

I'm not a big production person. Our album with The Conspirators [4, in 2022] was recorded in a live setting, in Nashville [Tennessee]. And yet it doesn't sound like Orgy of the Damned, which was conceived in the same way. The difference lies rather in the equipment: this time, I played two Les Paul guitars, as well as Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster, and a Gibson ES-335. The 50-watt combo amp I used had a very raw sound, and its impact is undeniable. There's also the work of [Guns N' Roses producer] Mike Clink, whose approach is very dry and lively. We hadn't worked together since my old band, Slash's Snakepit, in 1995, but we'd stayed on good terms.

It's a blues album, but there are also soul and R'n'B covers, such as "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" and "Living for the City"...

Absolutely. But it's not really a blues record. I'd say it's more "blues-influenced". Blues records are really to be taken seriously. I'm not Joe Bonamassa, who's known for that. I've been playing in a hard rock band since I started out, so it's hard for me to claim that I do the blues.

The cast of guests is impressive. Was it difficult to bring them all together?

No, it's just a long process. The studio sessions with my band only lasted a week in Los Angeles. But it was impossible to get all the singers together in that time. Only Beth Hart and guitarist Gary Clark Jr. recorded with us in the same room. For the rest, we had to be patient, depending on everyone's availability and the location. Most of the time, I'd catch a plane to join the singer and work in a studio close to their home. With Brian Johnson [AC/DC], we did it in Florida. For Paul Rodgers and Billy Gibbons, it was in Palm Springs [California]. Demi Lovato has her own studio in Los Angeles. And then Steven Tyler [Aerosmith], Chris Robinson [The Black Crowes] and Dorothy [Martin] recorded in my little studio in California.

Paul Rodgers performs "Born Under a Bad Sign". In 1993, you took part in his "Muddy Waters Blues" album, your first official foray into this style...

That's quite possible - I'd never thought of it before! It was an honor to take part with Jeff Beck, David Gilmour, Gary Moore, Brian May... I also recorded a Jimi Hendrix cover with him the same year [I Don't Live Today, on the Stone Free tribute album]. I ended up playing a lot of gigs with him, even when he joined Queen.

Another of your old acquaintances, Iggy Pop, covers Lightnin' Hopkins' dark, little-known "Awful Dream". How did he end up on the project?

I hadn't chosen all the songs for the album yet, and my bassist mentioned to me that Iggy Pop had always wanted to do a blues project. I called him, and he confirmed that he'd simply never had the chance. Then, spontaneously, he suggested this Lightnin' Hopkins track. I listened to it, and a week later we ended up doing an impromptu acoustic version.

Another notable presence is on "Killing Floor", AC/DC singer Brian Johnson, whose collaborations are rare outside his band... How did you talk him into it?

I've been friends with Brian for a long time, and he's a lovely guy. I'm sure he doesn't do a lot of collaborations, because nobody probably dares to ask the singer of AC/DC. Yet his singing style is very blues-influenced, particularly by Howlin' Wolf. But I asked the boys [AC/DC], and they gave me the green light. And Aerosmith's Steven Tyler also plays harmonica on it. Bringing them together on Killing Floor, which influenced us all, was important for the 15-year-old kid I once was.

The Gibson Les Paul guitar was created in 1952. How do you explain the fact that it's still a benchmark model, seventy-two years later?

I've always played mainly on a Les Paul Standard, but I didn't have an official contract with Gibson until 2010, for my first signature model. It's simply a very good guitar, great sounding, beautiful and solid. Many new brands continue to be inspired by it. In fact, when Gibson tried to change the model a little, during the first half of the 2000s, people said, "Don't mess with what works well!" You can't mess with a thing that works.

You appeared at the recent Oscars to perform the solo on "I'm Just Ken", with Ryan Gosling. If you had to choose just one of your iconic concerts, from those with Michael Jackson, the Freddie Mercury Tribute in 1992 or the Super Bowl in 2011, which one would it be?

There have been many, but of the ones you mention, I'd probably choose the Freddie Mercury Tribute, which was a very special day. Playing with Michael Jackson was great too, but the Freddie Mercury Tribute, the event itself, at Wembley [in London], and just being part of it was really, really cool.
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