Slash: 'Les Paul Is Something That I Gravitated Towards From Day One'

artist: Slash date: 10/08/2010 category: interviews
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Slash: 'Les Paul Is Something That I Gravitated Towards From Day One'
Epiphone Guitars has just released a new Slash model Appetite Les Paul Standard that embodies all the elements of the more expensive Gibson Custom Shop and USA models but at a much more reasonable price. It features the guitar player's favorite Seymour Duncan Alnico II pickups but these come with a slight wrinkle these have been personally re-fashioned to sound exactly like the man in the black hat's original pickups from his original Les Paul played on the Appetite For Destruction album. In a very tight schedule that only allowed for about 10 minutes of conversation, Slash talked about the new guitar and why he loves Les Pauls. And what would happen if he ever stopped playing one. UG: Does the Epiphone limited edition Slash Appetite Les Paul Standard compare favorably to the Gibson Signature guitars you've endorsed? Slash: The whole reasoning behind the Epiphone is that Epiphone is a quality guitar manufacturer; I mean they make great stuff. My first really good guitar that I ever had like a brand name guitar was an Epiphone. So the thing about Epiphone is their relationship with Gibson. They make a guitar that is priced reasonably but the quality is great. That's one of the reasons every time I do a Slash model that I want to make sure there's an Epiphone model as well just because the Custom Shop is a pretty expensive guitar; there's no two ways about it. The USA is less priced but it's still up there and so the Epiphone is what I would consider as good a quality guitar and more reasonably priced. It's just a cool thing to do. I was out in Europe and the prototype Epiphone came out and I got a chance to play it through my live rig alongside my Custom Shop and my Epiphone which makes up my whole guitar arsenal right now. And it stands up perfectly with em. To me it just makes it one of the biggest bargains you can possibly get. And I was looking at the specs on it and stuff and all things considered it's almost identical to the USA model. You mentioned being able to road test the Epiphone while on tour. As a matter of course, are you able to try out a new Signature model on the road while it's being developed? It's hard if you're not on the road the only thing you can do is go into a rehearsal room. Which is how I went through the Custom Shop guitar and the USA as well. If you have a one-off gig or something or if you can go into a club and jam with somebody and take em with you; that's basically how I road test an instrument. It's just find a live situation to get into.

"The whole reasoning behind the Epiphone is that Epiphone is a quality guitar manufacturer; I mean they make great stuff."

The Epiphone has Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro pickups which you've used in virtually all of your guitars. These are actually Slash ones. I went in with Seymour Duncan and basically replicated the 1986 Alnico II because the pickup has evolved over the years and little bits and pieces of it have changed. So we went back and we reinvented the 1986 Alnico II and put my name on it. What is it about the Alnico II that has kept you around for all of these years? It's a lower input pickup believe it or not. Technically I don't know that much about pickups; all I do know when I first heard the Alnico II was in the Appetite guitar in 1986. And it just sounded great and I've been using the Alnico IIs ever since in every Les Paul that I have. And so basically when we did this replica guitar, this Slash model/Appetite, I wanted to replicate that sound all the way down to the pickups. So we went in and rewired some Alnicos and basically rebuilt them to be exactly like the model that I used in 1986. It was amazing because I had to go through all these different pickup sounds that they sent me and be able to pick which ones I liked best. And the two that I picked were exactly the two '86 pickups. We did an interview a while back and I asked you if you could walk into a room blindfolded with various Les Pauls and pick out your guitars. Obviously your ears are pretty well tuned at this point. Going in blindfolded and playing a bunch of guitars and picking out which ones are mine? I think I'd be probably able to be pretty spot on. I talked to Billy Gibbons a while ago and he said he wouldn't know what to do if he suddenly wasn't able to play his '59 Les Paul, Pearly Gates. How do you think your playing would be affected if tomorrow you could no longer play Les Pauls? I think it would change a lot about me. You do? Well because the Les Paul is something that I gravitated towards from day one; that was the first good electric guitar that I went for was a Les Paul copy. It wasn't even a real Les Paul [laughs.] It was a Les Paul knockoff. I naturally was gravitating towards obviously that shape and the look of that guitar which I attributed to some of my favorite guitar players at that time who used Les Pauls. Who were your favorite Les Paul guitarists? I remember recognizing Mike Bloomfield for one; I remember Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards and Mick Taylor. I was sorta goin' down that road; Joe Perry and Brad Whitford both had one. So I was recognizing it on guitar players that I liked and I liked their sound because I didn't know jack about guitars obviously. Anyway I went to a Les Paul and then over the years I went through the whole sort of trial and error of all the different models and types of guitars: Tellys; Strats; Flying Vs and B.C. Rich's and this and that. And I ended up always back at a Les Paul. So if all of a sudden you were to take the Les Paul away, not only would my look change but my sound would change. I think I would still have a handle on my playing; it wouldn't cripple me completely but it would change things. The Slash record has been out for several months now and you've been touring behind it and playing tracks from that album live. How does it hold up for you? Has it garnered the kind of reaction you hoped it would? The same as when the album was released, I wasn't expecting it to come out the way it did; that really surprised me. And on tour it's the same kind of thing: we play like five songs off the new record and everybody knows the songs. And that's more than you can possibly ask for; it just makes your job that much easier [laughs.] But it's a lot of fun to go out in front of an audience and have them sing along to whatever songs you're playing. So it's been great and we've only just done a two-month tour of Europe; we're about to go to Asia and Australia and we have a US tour coming up and South America. The overall anticipation level from the fans seems to be pretty high so it's good. On the tour you play those five songs from your solo record and you also do stuff from Velvet Revolver and Guns and Snakepit. When you were rehearsing these songs and running through them, did they take you back to the moment when you first wrote and recorded them? Could you see how you were a different kind of guitar player for each project? Not really; none of that stuff comes mind really when you're doing it. I think you're concentrating on just getting it all together and I don't really reflect much. I'm not that sentimental of a person; I don't dwell on past stuff at all. I'm really sort of in the now and not too far in the future and I definitely don't look backwards. So I'm just like, Let's just learn the parts [laughs.] You know and it's fun playing em. It's weird because I can be playing Sweet Child O Mine or Nightrain or something, any of those old Guns songs or Slither for that matter or a Snakepit song and it does not remind me of playing it back how many years ago or anything. It's really just in the spirit of the moment now. It's really, yeah, an interesting kind of thing.

"We went back and we reinvented the 1986 Alnico II and put my name on it."

In your touring band you work with rhythm guitarist Bobby Schneck. You've tended to always work with a rhythm player: Izzy and Gilby in Guns, Dave Kushner in Velvet Revolver and Keri Kelli in the last version of Snakepit. You obviously like the idea of a second guitar player. Yeah. Every so often it crosses your mind for whatever reason, Well, what if I just do it all myself? But I think I'm one of those guys that plays very tight rhythm and is very sort of on top of it. But I just like the feel of having the weight of the sound of another guitar. And Bobby was the first guy I thought of when I was like, I've got to put together a backline. He was the first guy I thought of. I spoke with Steven Adler the other day about his new book, My Appetite For Destruction. Have you read it? I just got back into town the day before yesterday; I gotta get the book. A lot of the book is really about you and your relationship with Steven. One of the main themes he writes about is desperately seeking your approval. I told him I talked to you a while ago and how you said it was amazing working with him on your album. That really meant a lot to Steven. Well he and I sort of grew up together and between the two of us, I would take care of things. Steven would just do what he wanted to do and have a good time or whatever. And I would always keep things together so he knew that he could trust that shit was taken care of. And so I've always been that guy for him and so he sort of looks to me for that. And I think in all the chaos and everything that happened over the last however many years, he knows that we have this relationship at this point that we're back to friends again or reacquainted so to speak. And that he still knows that I play that role in his life so that he feels comfortable with everything. There was a limited edition CD that came out called Live In Manchester. Is this a record that might come out with bigger distribution? No, we just did this one thing. But I think we might actually work with that company and do a series of shows which will be available at the venue for fans to be able to pick. Sort of like an official bootleg. Whether they'll be released in a commercial [way], I don't know. I have a deluxe set coming out with all 19 songs off the solo record, all the recordings, and we might include some of the material off of one of these live recordings. I wish we had more time. I'm sure I'll be talking to you again soon. I'll be in the US in late August and I'm sure I'll be talking to you again. Cool? Thank you, Slash. Have a good one. Interview by Steven Rosen Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2010
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