By Carol Anne Szel
Slash is a guy who has worn an awful lot of hats in his day — and no, we aren’t talking about his ubiquitous collection of top hats. Slash (aka Saul Hudson) helped to propel Guns N’ Roses to top of the hard-rock heap with his fiery guitar licks and gritty riffs showcased in such hits as “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Welcome To The Jungle” from the band’s 1987 debut “Appetite for Destruction.”
After the original incarnation of GNR imploded and left nothing but Axl Rose and the band name behind, Slash moved on to new endeavors. First came Slash’s Snakepit (featuring GNR mates Gilby Clarke and Matt Sorum, Mike Inez of Alice in Chains and Eric Dover of Jellyfish), followed by Velvet Revolver (again with Sorum and GNR alum Duff McKagan, plus Stone Temple Pilots’ vocalist Scott Weiland).
Although Slash’s current venture is considered to be a solo outing, its billing as Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators (consisting of bassist Todd Kerns and drummer Brent Fitz) sure makes it sound like a super group — especially considering Kennedy was lead vocalist of Alter Bridge, Kerns was bassist for Age of Electric and Fitz had supported artists including Vince Neil and Alice Cooper. But we’re not going to split hairs with the certified Guitar Hero over the term — especially given the collective’s compelling new release, “World On Fire,” on Slash’s own Dik Hayd International record label. And yes, it is also being released on vinyl.
GOLDMINE: Your new record “World on Fire” and the title single are hot on the charts! How did you and Alter Bridge frontman Myles Kennedy team up with Brent Fitz on drums and Todd Kerns on bass to work on this project?
SLASH: Well, I did a solo record that came out in 2010, and we had a lot of different singers on it. It was a crazy project, but it was a lot of fun. So when I finished that album in 2010, there were two songs left over that I hadn’t figured out who should sing.
I’d been hearing so much about this Myles Kennedy guy literally for years, as a matter of fact, and I never met him. I’d never actually heard his voice. But at that time he had just been asked to possibly sing on this Led Zeppelin tour that they were going to do without Robert Plant at one point. And I heard about that, and I thought, “This guy must be good. So I’ll just take a shot in the dark and call him up and see if he’d be interested in singing one of these songs and see what happens.”
I called him up and told him what the project was, and he said, “Send me the material,” so I sent him a demo of an arrangement and a few days later it got sent back with a vocal on it. So, I was very trepidatiously pressing play, and all of a sudden this voice came on, and I was really blown away. So I flew him out to L.A., we met for the first time, and we just hit it off right away, just personality-wise.
GM: How many guitars do you own, and how many do you take on the road with you?
SLASH: The thing is, I have probably about a hundred guitars that are like different old Les Pauls, Stratocasters and Telecasters and BC Riches and Gretsches and whatnot. And I have a lot of other guitars, because I’ve been working with Gibson doing Slash models for so long, so I’ve got a lot of the same guitars that they give me every time I do a model for them. Plus, a lot of things I pick up here and there. So there’s probably 200 guitars altogether. I have six or seven on the road right now.
GM: What do you think about the resurgence of vinyl records these days?
SLASH: Well, it’s a big thing for me, because I was raised in obviously the golden era of vinyl. My parents were both big-time music people and both in the music industry. My dad made album covers, so I had a big appreciation for album covers, the album package.
As we sort of progressed technologically into digital, you know the first thing I saw go was the album sleeve — you know, the jacket. And it was sort of a sad transition going from the full-size record then going to the long-box CD covers; then it just seemed like a waste of paper. Then we went back to the shrink-wrapped CDs, and now we’re in this era where everything is right on your computer screen. It just doesn’t have the same kind of sort of ... There was something very personal and very poignant about an album cover, the inside sleeve, the liner notes, that kind of stuff. Even now if something pops up on your computer, you don’t have the same kind of sentimental thing for me, so it’s been sort of a drag.
The other thing that happened was that everybody was going into recording digitally, so there was no more tape left. I’m a tape guy; I like the way tape sounds. So it was like trying to find any tape that was left over because they stopped manufacturing it.
But this sort of resurgence in vinyl — all of the sudden, they’re manufacturing tape again. The last three albums I made, they were on tape. There’s just a certain sound that you get, also just really going in and recording as musicians where you don’t have the luxury of using digital to fix every single element on a recording, you know what I mean? Where you just have to go in and be good enough to do it.
And that was important to us as musicians, to learn how to play and to get to that point where we could play a song properly. It’s the way everyone we were influenced by did it. So I think we have a certain standard as musicians to be able to do that. And digital just isn’t that appealing.
GM: Who were some of your musical influences?
SLASH: I was born in England. So what my dad was into was what I was sort of raised on from the crib up until I was like 6 or 7 years old. It was Stones, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, The Who and some Beatles, but my dad wasn’t a huge Beatles guy. He was more into the aggressive stuff, to understand where I got my sort of thing from.
I remember the record that the Moody Blues had out at the time that had the song “Nights in White Satin.” I can’t remember the name of the record. But the album had this great, really ominous fold-out jacket that had this really trippy, really dark painting on the inside. I remember “Who By Numbers” — that was a great record with a great cover. Anyway, that was what I sort of cut my teeth on as a kid.
When I moved to the States, it was a really cosmopolitan sort of musical landscape that I was introduced to. I remember moving to L.A. and The Doors were everything at that time. Then there was Led Zeppelin, and there was Stevie Wonder. And my mom made clothes for entertainers, so there was a whole myriad of different musicians that we used to listen to a lot that were really good —Joni Mitchell, a lot of Bob Dylan. I could go on and on!
GM: How has your music evolved from Guns N’ Roses to Slash’s Snakepit to Velvet Revolver to today?
SLASH: I think I’ve been sort of chasing after achieving whatever it was that turned me on when I first picked up the guitar, which was basically hard rock that has a little bit of soul to it, and bluesy, and like that — definitely aggressive, and there’s some slow stuff. And I definitely have a feel for different flavors and things like that. But as a whole, all the groups I’ve been in are basically going after a similar thing, which is a good, original hard-rock kind of vibe that has some heart to it. GM