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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.


2024.05.30 - - Slash talks new music, making ‘Appetite for Destruction,’ Allman Brothers influence

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2024.05.30 - - Slash talks new music, making ‘Appetite for Destruction,’ Allman Brothers influence Empty 2024.05.30 - - Slash talks new music, making ‘Appetite for Destruction,’ Allman Brothers influence

Post by Blackstar Fri May 31, 2024 4:09 am

Slash talks new music, making ‘Appetite for Destruction,’ Allman Brothers influence

By Matt Wake

Slash has always been a rock-and-roller with the soul of a bluesman. Four decades after “Appetite for Destruction,” the Guns N’ Roses guitar legend is wearing his soul on his sleeve.

His excellent new solo album “Orgy of the Damned” is a hot tight set of bluesy covers of artists like Muddy Waters, Albert King, Robert Johnson and Stevie Wonder.

Over live-in-the-studio badassery by Slash and his band, guest vocalists from AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson and Bad Company/Free icon Paul Rodgers to country superstar Chris Stapleton and pop powerhouse Demi Lovato howl at the moon. Mike Clink -- the studio genius who helped make the classic “Appetite,” “GN’R Lies” and “Use Your Illusion” records -- produced “Orgy of the Damned.”

During GN’R’s late ‘80s ascension, Slash’s bluesy feel is what set his guitar playing apart from the shred-happy hordes. No wonder. He’s loved the blues even longer than he’s been playing guitar. At an early age, Slash’s grandmother introduced him to the music of B.B. King, adding to the musical foundation Slash got from his parents’ The Who and Kinks records.

There are many great guitarists. What sets Slash apart, addition to his melodic sense, is he’s equally great at making one long note feel as blistering as shredding and making shredding soulful as one note. As the son of a white English album-cover artist and Black American stage costume designer, Slash grew up around creatives balancing complexity and simplicity in their work.

It’s easy to get into “Orgy of the Damned.” The music’s cool. The album title -- a play on blues being “The Devil’s music” -- is cool. The cover art -- a sultry juke-joint tableau by Toni Greis -- looks cool.

Famously fast-living back in the day, Slash has been clear-headed for many years now. “Orgy of the Damned” is surely one of the best party records ever made by a sober, certifiable rock god.

Besides an arthouse version of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Awful Dream” with proto-punk Iggy Pop on the mic, the songs Slash covers here are mostly well-known classics. But Slash didn’t make this album for obscurities-obsessed musicologists. The world’s most recognizable living guitar hero made “Orgy of the Damned” to bring blues back to the masses.

This summer, Slash will be touring the “Orgy of the Damned” material on his new S.E.R.P.E.N.T. Festival. The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer’s taking out a rotating lineup of bluesy artists, including the likes of Warren Haynes, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Jackie Venson and Samantha Fish as openers.

The tour launches July 5 at Montana’s KettleHouse Amphitheater. Here in Alabama, S.E.R.P.E.N.T. Festival comes to Huntsville’s Orion Amphitheater August 13 with Robert Randolph, Larkin Poe and ZZ Ward in tow.

For his headlining sets, Slash’s band is the same musicians who anchor “Orgy of the Damned”: keyboardist Teddy “ZigZag” Andreadis, drummer Michael Jerome, bassist Johnny Griparic, singer/guitarist Tash Neal. In the “Use Your Illusion” era, Andreadis was a touring musician with GN’R. Andreadis and Griparic were also members of Slash’s ‘90s live side-project Blues Ball, which covered some songs revisited on “Orgy of the Damned.”

On a recent afternoon, Slash and I connect on a video call. In conversation, he’s as articulate and heartfelt as his guitar-playing.

Checking in from his hometown of Los Angeles, shelves displaying dinosaur-related collectibles are visible on the wall behind Slash. He’s wearing mirrored aviators, black tee, necklaces and bracelets, and a backwards cap over his curly black locks.

The interview’s to promote Slash’s new solo album and tour, so in advance his publicist tells me no GN’R questions. But the band that made him famous, and with whom he’s been enjoying a highly successful reunion since 2016, comes up naturally in some of Slash’s responses to my questions. Edited excerpts below.

In addition to your headlining set, I was curious if, one, is there anything interesting you’re planning for the shows on this tour? Maybe some opening acts sitting-in with you and your band, or you popping-up during some opening sets to play a song. And two, anything cool about the tour’s stage design or production?

Slash: OK, so the jamming part is so wide-open. There’s nothing like, “Oh, we’re gonna do this, this and this,” specifically at this point, I just know there’s going to be a lot of it. And I’m also expecting in in different places, having guests from the record come up and singing. But it’s all very loose at this stage.

As far as the stage is concerned, nothing super complicated about the stage. It’s just, you know, there’ll be a big backdrop and all that kind of stuff, but no flash plots or anything -- not that I know of, anyway. [Laughs]

Speaking of singers on the record, I always thought you and Chris Robinson from The Black Crowes would be a good fit. And I don’t know if you remember this, in like ‘90 in New York you sat in with The Crowes and played a Jimmy Reed song together …

Yeah, I do remember that -- fuzzy, but I remember.

On the opening track on your new album “Orgy of the Damned,” Chris Robinson sings on the cover of “The Pusher” by Steppenwolf. Got a cool story about picking Chris for that track or recording with him?

Yeah, there’s a whole thing to that. Chris is one of my favorite singers, right, and he and I met way back when The Crowes first sort of came to L.A., and we hung out those guys then and we loved them and so on.

But we’ve known each other all these years. And I’ve jammed with [Crowes guitarist] Rich [Robinson, Chris’ brother] before, and we, you know, have a relationship, but I hadn’t seen either of those guys in a really long time.

And when I was putting this record together, and I wanted to do “The Pusher” and I decided I’m gonna get different singers, Chris was the first person I thought of. And so I got in touch with him, and I told him about it, and he was like, “Oh yeah, man. Love that song.” I could tell he was genuinely inspired by the idea of doing it.

So I have a studio in L.A., a small little studio, and I made a date with him to come down and sing it. And he showed up, him and his girlfriend [now wife], and he brought his harp [blues-speak for “harmonica”], and he f---ing just belted it out.

He only did two takes and they were both sort of different approaches, and that was the first thing that he did. That’s what’s on the record. And he did it live with the harp, so there was no overdubs or any of that. So it was really cool, and then, he and I’ve been really close since then.

The reason it’s the first song on the record is because that was the best song to f---ing hit you in the face with. It’s not even a blues track, really, when you think about it. It’s more of an old school rock and roll song, but it was just the best way to open that record.

I like how your approach to making a blues record was the blues is amorphous and not confined to certain parameters, because I think that’s what the blues is. And besides getting excited about all the singers that guest on here, seeing Mike Clink’s name involved also got me excited. People who really know your career and really know rock and roll know he has helped make some magic. What is Mike Clink’s magic as a producer?

Well, OK, Mike -- and this is all goes all the way back to when Guns N’ Roses first met him back in I guess 1986 or ‘87 -- he is a producer, but he’s not an intrusive, overbearing producer. He doesn’t want to try and take his ideas, his style, and his whatever and put it on the band and make the band conform to that, like say Mutt Lange or somebody like that. He hears the band, and he knows how to capture the band’s high points, you know, and get that without having really to say much.

And then the other thing about Mike is that he is an amazing [audio recording] engineer. He was such a great engineer working with … I’m trying to think of the f---ing producer’s name that did like Heart and UFO -- it will come to me. [That producer’s name is Ron Nevison.] So he really got great engineering chops.

So when Mike first recorded Guns N’ Roses, we’d recorded with a couple of different people at that point, trying to find a producer, he came in and we did a song called “Shadow of Your Love” with him. And he just captured what the band sounds like but made us sound like that much more professional just because of a good recording, and then just let us fly. And we loved him ever since that.

“Appetite for Destruction” has a lot of Mike Clink on it with you knowing that it’s Mike Clink -- you know what I mean? It sounds like Guns N’ Roses, and Guns N’ Roses sounds great on that record, you know. That’s us playing but he really knew how to make it sound nice, like a good version of us, I guess.

And he knows how to get a f---ing guitar sound, too, which is dying art right now. It has been for a while. It’s been dying a slow death I’d say ever since the ‘90s.

But anyway, so with Mike, I did one solo record with him, but the reason I don’t record with him all the time is because there’s always that Guns N’ Roses with like any hard-rock thing that I would do, you know.

But in this context, I was like the guy who could really capture this particular outfit and get these sounds as honest and pure and raw as I want them and make them sound good, is Mike Clink. And he did exactly that.

We recorded all the music live in the studio and with a minimal amount of takes. I mean, we had a couple of weeks of rehearsal to get the arrangements together, went in the studio and just played. And he captured it. He knows exactly how he wants to get the drums exactly how he wants to mike the guitars and just lets us play and makes it sound good. [Laughs]

Yeah, Mike Clink makes raw sound aerodynamic …

It’s hard to put a word on it. It’s raw and it’s real, but at the same time it sounds really good. It sounds professional, but it still has the heart and soul to it, so it doesn’t sound produced too much.

One of my favorite moments on the album is the version of [T-Bone Walker song] “Stormy Monday.” You play this intro that’s kind of flamenco-flecked, maybe a little bit of [Led Zeppelin’s] “Since I’ve Been Loving You” in there, too. And then Beth Hart just destroys the vocals. There’s even a cool kind of modulation in the arrangement at the end. One, did you improvise that intro? And two, got a good story from cutting that one?

Yeah, let’s get into it. [Laughs] The whole recording of that song and the whole arrangement is interesting. The actual beginning I did twice because I had those [improvised notes] and then I heard a melody thing – I said, “I gotta go back and do this thing I heard.” So that took two takes.

But the actual song itself, when we first started doing it was based off of the Etta James live version, which I think is from the ‘60s. And when I talked to Beth about doing it, she goes, “Yeah, I’d love to do it. But what if we did it in a minor key?” And I went, “Oh … Well that would be a whole different trip, but it would be cool.”

So the band got together -- she hadn’t come into the picture yet, physically come in [to the studio] -- and we worked out a minor arrangement. And then while we were doing that Ted the keyboard player goes, “Well, how about if we modulate at the end back into the original major key?” And so I said, “Oh that’s a great idea.” So we worked all that out.

We did that in the 11th hour of pre-production, so we went into the studio to record the song. We didn’t really know it that well, yeah, right. And Beth is supposed to come down, so we go to rehearse it – we figure, we’ll rehearse a couple times and Beth can sing it.

She was [already] in the studio, and we didn’t even know. So we started to play, and she just started singing, and I didn’t know she was behind me, and I was like, “Oh, f--- …” It was really sort of like flying by the seat of our pants, everybody looking to make sure that the changes were right, and we have that modulation thing and all that. And then also to know where she is gonna go, because she sings sort of loose, and we didn’t know where she was going to land all the time.

And so it was really sort of like a very impromptu take – it was the only take we did. When she was done, she collapsed on the floor, she said what she had to say at the end [”Oh god, that was f---ing badass shit”], which we kept. She was done for the day. She’d put everything she had into that take and that was it.

And that’s why we kept the candid stuff at the end, so you could really sort of get an idea of what that whole energy was like. I didn’t know this until afterwards, she had just come back from Jeff Beck’s memorial, and she landed and came straight to the studio. So she was super emotional. [Hart and Beck had collaborated both on stage and studio.] And it was one of those almost lightning in a bottle of moments.

Well, you all captured it. I got hip to that song “Stormy Monday” back in the day from the Allman Brothers. [Allmans singer/guitarist] Dickey Betts recently passed, and I always heard an echo of the Allman Brothers’ melodic blues in your playing. Do you have any thoughts on Dickey and his passing?

All right, so Dickey was amazing. And it’s really sad that we lost him recently – it really hit home – but as a player, man, he was a f---ing monster.

The thing was the Allman Brothers had a big influence on me without me really knowing that I was influenced by the Allman Brothers, because I was like a hard-rock guy and that was sort of a Southern kind of thing. But the melodic sensibility of what those guys did stuck with me, and it really put a stamp on my playing without me even knowing it.

So now, when I listened to Dickey Betts, I hear me. I hear his playing on my stuff all the time. But it was all very, very what you call subconscious. I don’t think I ever sat down and physically learned any Dickey stuff, you know, or even Duane [Allman, the influential late Allman Brothers guitarist]. But that sound was so prominent that it just influenced me without me even really paying attention.

Now, I’m a huge Dickey Betts fan like in earnest, like I listen to his s--- and I know everything note for note and I pay attention. But yeah, it was big.

Back to the upcoming tour, whenever I’ve seen your shows, back in the day with GN’R, then with Velvet Revolver and then back on the first solo tour with Myles [Kennedy, singer with Slash’s rock solo band, The Conspirators], you’ve always been set-up on stage-left. You, Joe Perry, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, a lot of guitar players I’m drawn to are on stage-left. Is it so you can see the snare better, since a lot of drummers are righthanded?

You know, it would make sense. Because the relationship to the drums is big for every guitar player that you just mentioned, including myself. [Laughs] So that would make total sense.

I think I ended up there just because all my favorite guitar players maybe were on that side -- I don’t know why I ended up on that side. But it was definitely like, “Oh, I’m just naturally going to be on this side, and Izzy [Stradlin, classic-era GN’R rhythm guitarist] is gonna be over there [on stage-right].”

But I’m sure that all those guys before me, one of them started out with just paying attention to the drums, and that’s where it came from.

A blues album is something you’ve wanted to do for a while, and now that’s finally fit into your bandwidth and scheduling. Is there something else you’ve never gotten around to do in your career that you’ve always wanted to do?

There’s stuff, I mean, I can’t think of off the top of my head. Right now, I’m so in the moment, and with the blues thing it is exactly that, because it’s been sort of percolating in my mind. I’m in the midst of this still, because we’re about to do the tour, and I’m putting the songs together for the set and all that.

So I haven’t been thinking much beyond that. I’m working on some [film] scores stuff for a couple movie projects, which has been something that I’ve been slowly really getting into.

But other than that, I can’t say that I’ve got anything else -- besides pedal steel, I’m working on that. [Slash makes his recorded debut on pedal steel guitar -- a country music instrument also used by some rock by like Zeppelin’s Page and The Rolling Stones’ Ron Wood – on “Orgy of the Damned” closing track “Metal Chestnut,” an instrumental and the album’s lone original composition.]

That’s my obsession at the moment. And I don’t know what I’m gonna do with it, but I just love the instrument. I’m digging learning how to play [pedal steel] because it’s such a complex thing. You can do so many amazing things with it once you get a handle on it -- getting a handle on it, that’s the hard part.

Two or three hours a day, at least, are dedicated to learning [to play pedal steel guitar]. And that came out of something that was in the back of my mind too. Like I always wanted to do it and finally broke down and went and bought a use one, and so that’s been going on for last couple of years, so there’s one thing.

Any surprises in your setlists for this tour? What are you going to play in addition to all the stuff on “Orgy of the Damned?”

There’s gonna be a lot of cool shit in the set, but I’m not going to tell you the names of songs and stuff. But the set, you know, there’s a lot of cool blues stuff that’s not on the record. The record will be on there. But we’ve got a full hour and 45 [minutes] or whatever it is to cover, so there’s a bunch of really cool blue stuff that covers a pretty wide gamut of artists, from Rory Gallagher to B.B. King in the set.

And then there’s also some more sort of R&B stuff, so it’s gonna be cool. Definitely some surprises, and I’m gonna bring the pedal steel. I’m not gonna name the song in case that particular song is not the one that we ended up doing – I’m pretty sure it is – but there’s a really cool slow blues that’s I’m gonna use the pedal steel for.

During your career, you’ve worked with a ton of great singers, including on this record. But I’ve always wondered if anybody, whether it was like a producer or management or colleague, tried to talk you into or suggest maybe you should sing as well as play guitar, a la Jimi Hendrix?

OK, when I was in high school and just after high school, I had a hard time finding singers. Trying to find somebody who really can genuinely sing rock and roll is … it’s not easy.

And so I got frustrated at one point and started singing myself. And so I can sing. I have a what you call a very sort of gruff rock and roll voice, you know, but I can sing in key, so it works. But it’s not my personality. It freaks me out to look anybody in the eye even if I’m playing guitar -- you know, you hide behind the guitar.

So for me, to write a lyric, which has a lyric has to have some emotional content in it, and then you communicate that to an audience to sing your song, f---k, I can’t even approach that wholeheartedly. I’m way too introverted to do it. [Laughs] So it’s come up a few times in passing, you know, but it’s not something that I can imagine doing.

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