Slash's place amongst the upper echelons of hard rock guitar icons is assured, having cemented that position during his time with Guns N' Roses, who issued 1987's "Appetite For Destruction" as well as the two "Use Your Illusion" albums in 1991. Favouring a Les Paul Standard in live concerts, Slash has also enjoyed latter day success with Velvet Revolver, who have two studio discs under their belt in 2004's "Contraband" and 2007's "Libertad". With that being said, it's surprising to think that Slash waited almost a quarter of a century to release a solo disc. Now he has though, he's certainly wasting no time in making waves on that front.
Originally titled "Slash & Friends
", Slash issued his self-titled, debut solo album in late March 2010 through EMI in North America, Roadrunner Records in the United Kingdom and Germany, Universal in Japan, and Sony in Australia. The record featured a slew of guests, includin: Ian Astbury
(The Cult), Chris Cornell
(Soundgarden / Audioslave), Rocco DeLuca
(Rocco DeLuca and the Burden), Fergie
(The Black Eyed Peas), Dave Grohl
(Foo Fighters / Nirvana), Myles Kennedy
(Alter Bridge), Kid Rock
, Lemmy Kilmister
(Motörhead), Adam Levine
(Maroon 5), Duff McKagan
(Velvet Revolver / ex-Guns N' Roses), M. Shadows
(Avenged Sevenfold), Ozzy Osbourne
(Black Sabbath), Iggy Pop
(Iggy and the Stooges), and Andrew Stockdale
(Wolfmother). Entering the Billboard 200 at position three, "Slash" shifted sixty-one thousand copies in its inaugural week of release in the States.
To promote the album, Slash formed a live touring group consisting of himself, vocalist Myles Kennedy, rhythm guitarist Bobby Schneck, bassist Todd Kerns, and drummer Brent Fitz. From late May to mid July, the outfit toured all across Europe, subsequently touring Asia until August. Late August until early October will witness the ensemble tour across North America. During early August, a music video for the song "Back From Cali" - featuring Kennedy - surfaced.
On July 20th at 00:30 GMT, a Slash representative telephoned Hit The Lights' Robert Gray to put him through to the aforementioned guitarist, so that the man's solo career and plans could be discussed.
Hey, what's happening?
How are you Slash?
I'm good. How are you?
I'm quite well. Would it be ok if I began the interview?
Yeah. Let's do this.
You've obviously had a long musical career, so why do you feel that it wasn't until now that you recorded and released a solo album?
It's simple: I just never felt the need to. I'm quite content being in bands; I've been in a band since I was sixteen, and I was influenced mostly by bands. I just kept striving to keep playing in groups, and then at some point - at the very end of the Velvet Revolver tour - I felt that some of the dynamics within Velvet Revolver, mainly Scott... I just decided after that was over, I really needed to do something where I was the captain of my own ship, and that was it. I already had the idea of doing my own album with a bunch of my friends.
Did what occurred between Velvet Revolver and Scott Weiland burn you out on the band concept for a bit?
No. The band concept is fine, but we had to find a new singer, and I knew that wasn't gonna be the easiest thing in the world to get. I just wanted to take that opportunity to just clear my own head, and just do something by myself. It's as simple as that. I'm still a member of Velvet Revolver.
You've obviously been as part of a solo group for several months now, so how would you describe the differences between being in a solo group compared to when you're usually in a band set up?
In the studio, it was obviously something that I had to do on my own from the ground up; getting the material together, calling the different singers, getting the material to the singers, setting all that up, finding a producer, hiring a backline - everything. That's way different from doing it with a band, because in a band, you've got the other four guys and you all work together. It's more of a team effort, whereas this was just something where I was responsible for putting the whole thing together. I hired new management to help work out sales and that kind of thing. At this point, I'm on the road and I'm back to the band situation. Although I'm sort of labelled the boss, I still - at this point - treat it like a group. I call the shots, but at the same time, I think of what's best as a whole. It's actually interesting going from doing a solo record to then getting a band to tour, and getting all the material together and going out, and being in a group again.
How are you finding being the boss, so to speak?
I'm not really the kind of person, in no way, shape or form, to play the dictator role. I think everybody I'm working with is very professional, and they know exactly what their roles are. They carry their own weight, and they know what they have to do. I just guide the whole thing, and make some of the decisions (laughs), but I definitely don't treat it like I'm the boss.
The album 'Slash' was released in late March 2010, so has been available to purchase for several months now. Now you've had time to digest the record and have a certain amount of separation away from it, what are your thoughts on the album?
I haven't listened to it since it was finished. I know it was a good record when it went into the stores, but I don't really bother driving around listening to it. It's sort of weird for me to listen to myself, unless it's on the radio or something like that (laughs). I don't really go back and hang out with any of my old records after they're done, because I put so much time into getting them finished. I was really happy with it though, and I'm very glad I did what I did. It was a great self-discovery thing for me to have to go in and write all this material, and to do what I just wanted to do and have fun with it. It was a cool experience, and I'm having a blast on the tour as well. It's nothing complicated or complex: it's just making music (laughs).
You said that writing 'Slash' and so on was a journey of "self-discovery", so what do you feel you've discovered thus far?
"I discovered that I can do what the f-ck I want to (laughs)."
I discovered that I can do what the f-ck I want to (laughs). I mean really, that's all it is; I just write some songs, and see where I'm at as a songwriter without leaning on any of the other guys like I normally would. I usually come up with a riff, a hook, and then the band gets together and we all write it. That's the way Guns N' Roses was, that's the way Velvet Revolver was, and that's the way Snakepit was, but in this context, I really had to rely on myself to get all the music together and then get it to the singer, who I let do their own thing. We would then come together, and maybe work on some arrangements. If not, maybe just use the ones I already wrote, and just see what I was actually capable of. Also in the studio, I just did things the way that I think they should be done as simply as possible, and as raw and basic... Doing it to tape as opposed to digital, and just doing what I wanna do without having to answer to anybody. It was good for me to do it, and now that I've done it, I know that I can do it again and I can do whatever the f-ck, and still probably come up with a good product.
Was contacting potential vocalists for your solo album quite daunting?
Was it daunting? Well, when I got into doing this, I had different singers in mind for each song, and the guys that I went for were probably the toughest to get. The first guys that I went for - Ozzy, Lemmy, Iggy - were guys that very easily could've just said no, but because I'm friends with them, they were kind enough to at least listen to the material. The one thing I thought I did a good job with on the record was matching the right vocals to the material, so when the artist heard the demo, they were like "Oh yeah..." (laughs). It was very easy; I didn't have anybody say "I don't really relate to that", and then after I worked with the most intimidating of the bunch (laughs) - once I got past that - I then started talking to people that I was more acquaintances with. The people that were a little bit more contemporary that I've known over the years, but didn't know that well. I worked that same angle with them, and it just seemed to roll along.
What musical directions on your solo album do you feel are quite different for you as an artist?
I can't say my solo album is different for me as an artist per se, but I can say it's different than the catalogue of stuff I've come out with. I always throw something odd in when I can, but I think everybody recognises me as the hard rock guitarist that's responsible for "Welcome to the Jungle", shit like that. That's very much me, but at the same time, on a musical level I do a lot of different things and get into a lot of different grooves, but it's all rock 'n' roll. I got to express myself however I wanted on the album, and that was another very key element to doing a solo record, being able to do whatever style I felt like without having to deliver it to others for approval (laughs). I guess on this record, you can say that from a listener's point of view there might be certain musical elements that sound different according to people who're familiar with me, but for me, it all feels very natural.
Are there certain styles that you play at home, styles that people might not associate with you?
No, not necessarily. There's definitely a background to everything; sometimes it can go into a Spanish type of flavour or whatever, but I don't really do what you call free-form jazz or anything like that (laughs). That would probably surprise people, but some of the more delicate stuff I probably play a lot I think that people don't necessarily see me play all the time.
In an interview, you said that two singers you would've liked to have worked with for your solo album were Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Megadeth's Dave Mustaine. If you had the opportunity, what type of tracks would you potentially record with them two?
Actually, I worked with Steven for a second, but it was just a huge conflict of interest with Aerosmith. The song hasn't been used with anybody else, but there was no chance that the record company was gonna allow us to release it, so we had to let it go. I might go back and revisit that with Steven. The song that I did with M. Shadows was originally an idea that I thought would be great for Dave, but Dave was on the road. I like to work quickly, so I never even pursued the idea because I thought M. Shadows would be cool. He's very melodic as far as heavy metal is concerned, so it just went there. I think Dave is probably one of the metal riff masters though. I think that with a lot of the shit he's done, he's naturally a genius. I used to jam with him back in the day, and with the style of riffs that he does, it would've been an interesting thing. I'm sure Dave and I will get together at some point and do something, but schedule wise, it wasn't possible at the time. I don't even think he knows (laughs), but I knew he was on tour, so... Anyway...
Are there any other vocalists you'd like to work with in future?
Really, when it came down to it, I ended up working with everybody I had pegged for the material that I wrote. There's probably a lot of vocalists I could work with if I had the material for them, but I'm not gonna start naming names. Otherwise, things'll blow out of proportion, but there's a lot of people that I admire. It's not like I got every single singer that I like. It was just that the music that I wrote I got the right singers for. If I was gonna do another one of these records, depending on the material, names'll probably spring up.
You recorded a video for "By the Sword". What are your thoughts on that video, considering you've expressed a dislike for music videos?
I don't know. I saw it the other day; I was somewhere in Europe, and it was on MTV. "By the Sword"'s music video is a cool video; it's a simple, live kind of thing, which is more my style. The big concept videos I'm hard pressed in liking. Videos have always been a medium that I never one hundred percent got into. I love the music aspect of it; I love recording and I love touring, but I've never been huge on the big productions, and all that's involved with that. I've always liked something that's just stripped down. We have a new video coming out for a song called "Back From Cali", which is just a bunch of clips really from a bunch of live shows that we just did on our European tour. That's it, simple and to the point. Just play the f-cking song (laughs). We're gonna be doing a video with Fergie coming up, and that's gonna be more of a concept thing. At that point, I just leave it to the director to f-cking get it all together.
Speaking of Fergie, what were your thoughts on the fan reception regarding that collaboration ("Beautiful Dangerous")? When it became public knowledge that you'd been working with Fergie and how much a fan you were of her vocal abilities, it divided opinion.
"It's actually interesting going from doing a solo record to then getting a band to tour."
When the record came out, everybody loved it. Before that though, everybody was very sceptical about how that would sound because nobody had ever heard Fergie sing like that, so not in their wildest imaginations did they expect the chick from The Black Eyed Peas to sing the way she actually does on the record (laughs). "Beautiful Dangerous" surprised a lot of people. I took a lot of flak, but I said "Just don't worry about it. When you hear it, you'll get it". When it came out, everybody was really surprised (laughs). It's been fine. I haven't seen any negative responses.
Alter Bridge's Myles Kennedy sings on "Back From Cali", a track you mentioned. How did he become the current vocalist for your live group?
I had two songs that I had written that I really liked, and I couldn't think of who to sing them, so I made the whole record before I tracked those two songs. Here I am, the record's finished, and I've got I guess about seventeen songs done. I still had two songs lying around. I should've just forgotten about it, but I really liked the material, so I was running all these names in my mind, and Myles' name came up. I had never met the guy; I knew he was a good singer, but I wasn't really familiar with his style inside and out. I knew he could sing though, and his name had come up in Velvet Revolver's search for a new singer. I just thought "Well let's just see what happens", because I couldn't think of anybody else that I really knew with a suitable vocal style. I called him up, and I sent him a first demo. He sent back the song, which ended up being "Starlight", and I was just floored when I heard that. It was really an amazing, kind of personal discovery for me, so we did that song. He flew out to L. A., and we met. I really liked him as a person; just his whole vibe was cool, and he did an amazing performance in the studio. He then flew back to Washington, and I thought "Well, what about that other song?". Meanwhile, the record's being mastered, and I'm just thinking about this other song. I called Myles, and I sent it over. He sent it back, and that was "Back From Cali". I was like "F-ck, great". I flew him back to L. A. sort of in a rush, because the record was in the studio and being mastered (laughs). We recorded the song and sent it to the mastering lab to piece it into the record, so at that point, I thought "Would this guy, with the live range that he's got..." and I was looking for singers to do this tour. I just thought "Well f-ck, might as well just take a chance and ask him. What's the worst he'll say? No?" (laughs). It turned out that he was on a break from Alter Bridge. I asked him and he said "Yeah", and that was the f-cking best news because I just knew that he could sing all the Guns N' Roses songs - I'd actually seen him on YouTube singing "Sweet Child o' Mine", so I just knew it was gonna work. I put a backline together for the tour, and rehearsed with those guys for really about a week and a half. Myles then came out for another week, and we put the whole thing together, and did our first show at The Roxy in L. A.. It just f-cking gelled; the whole chemistry of all five guys was really something you don't necessarily get when you're just throwing bands together that quickly. So yeah, that's how it all happened.
What do you feel the other three members of your live solo group bring to the table? Bobby Schneck, Todd Kerns, and Brent Fitz?
Bobby I've worked with for a pretty long time; we've jammed together, and did a couple of blues type tours back in the day, so I knew he would be perfect. Probably the key element in any backline is the drums, so I had a few guys in mind I've worked with before. The word was out that I was looking to put a band together, and I was doing auditions and so on. I started getting these audition tapes from lots of different people. Brent lives in Las Vegas, so when I went to Vegas, I contacted him there. We hit it off and flew out to L. A., and he turned out to be the best drummer for the job. He was there and in line, and ready to go. I then had a bassist (Dave Henning) I was trying out who was a great bassist, but just didn't gel with us as far as style was concerned. After four days with him, I thought I needed a change of bassist. Brent turned me onto Todd Kerns - or Todd "Dammit" as we call him - and he is a f-cking great bassist, a great guy. You know, it's funny, because you can't find a better bunch of guys. All everybody wants to do is f-cking play well and do it every night, so this particular tour that I've been doing has been the first tour for me for a long time where everybody just f-cking does an ace job every single night, and there's no complaints. Everybody carries their own weight and f-cking loves doing what they do. It's actually been quite a fun ride for me.
How do you go about choosing the live setlists for your solo concerts? Generally speaking?
I just pick songs that I feel like I want to play. Regardless of all kinds of musical directions I might go into when I write, when it comes to touring I just wanna play the strings and that's it. I don't f-ck around when it comes to that; I just pick songs that I know rock, and we had some different ideas for which songs that would fit. I just picked material that I wanted to do.
Is there certain live gear you're currently using on tour?
Well, let's see... I have these new Les Pauls out, which are replicas of my recording guitar. I've got a couple of custom Appetite guitars, and a couple of USA guitars, and a couple of Slash Model standards, which are remakes of my old touring guitar. That way, I don't have to take my shit on the road (laughs). I use Marshall Amps. Nothing really complicated.
In future, is it possible you might tour with other vocalists aside from Myles Kennedy?
As far as touring is concerned, no, I haven't really thought about it. We've had singers do guest spots, like Iggy, Lemmy, Alice Cooper and so on, but as far as touring is concerned, I don't have any plans to tour with other singers.
Will you record a second solo album?
Well, let's see... I'm writing now, and I'm gonna be touring this record for awhile. At some point, I'm probably gonna sit down and take all the pieces that I'm writing now, and start forming them into songs. We'll see what happens with Velvet Revolver; if we find a new singer, we'll be ready to go into the studio. If that doesn't happen, I might do another solo record.
Do you have a timeframe in mind where you, Duff, Matt and Dave will get together once again, and actively attempt to find a new vocalist for Velvet Revolver?
We've been trying; I've been listening to potential singers, and everybody's been very quietly listening to what's out there. We're probably gonna need to get together at some point, and see if there's anybody out there who's the right guy.
You obviously can't name names, but are there any vocalists you've worked with for your solo album who you felt might be suitable candidates for the vacant Velvet Revolver slot?
Everybody on my solo record is very well known and established. We don't necessarily want someone like that, especially after what happened with Scott. Scott was a chameleon. Actually, it worked pretty well with Scott as far as Scott sounding, but most times when you get a well known singer, you end up sounding like the band they were previously with. We want someone who you'd probably consider a local, hometown hero who's got the experience, but hasn't reached his potential yet. We wanna discover somebody who's really talented that nobody's heard of - that's the ultimate hope, I think.
You've previously mentioned that you already have material written for a potential third Velvet Revolver album. How would you describe the sound of this written material?
"I'm still a member of Velvet Revolver."
When Velvet Revolver first got together, we wrote a certain way, writing mostly pretty heavy, straight ahead cool hooks and all that. Basically, it was brazen, in-your-face stuff, and a lot of that stuff didn't make the first Velvet Revolver album. And so, I think one of the things that we personally want to do is make what we'd consider a proper Velvet Revolver record that sounds the way we collectively want to. The new material is basically pretty heavy and driven, and we wanna find a singer that can sing that way.
In June 2010, it was announced that you will be inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame. What are your thoughts on that?
I don't know. It sort of came out of nowhere, so I guess I haven't really digested the news yet. So yeah, I mean it's an interesting kind of thing. I was speechless about the whole thing (laughs). Having my own star in Hollywood is sort of an honour. What else am I supposed to say (laughs)? It's not quite getting knighted, you know? Getting I guess some sort of appreciation from the town that I basically started in.
Sir Slash does have a good ring to it.
Yeah... That would be pretty cool, yeah.
In closing, do you have a message for your fans?
Everybody's been so hugely supportive, and I appreciate the fact that they have been for so long. Also, all of the new people that have come along in the last five to six years, and have just really been into whatever I've released, or whatever we as Velvet Revolver have released, or this record that I just did. I've just had tons and tons of support, and out on the road on the last European tour, we had the best response possible. I just wanna say "Cheers" (laughs).
Thanks for the interview Slash.
All the best.
Ok man, cool.
Interview by Robert Gray
Ultimate-Guitar.Com © 2010
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