INTERVIEW: Slash

IK Multimedia's MODO BASS

Slash’s live juggernaut is soon to hit Australia for Soundwave Touring (as well as New Zealand’s G-TARanaki festival), and the legendary top-hatted one is riding high on the success of his self-titled solo album. It’s not Slash’s first solo project, of course – there was of course Slash’s Snakepit – but it’s his first under his own name, and this particular set of songs, performances and guest vocalists has captured old and new fans in a way not seen since Santana’s Supernatural-led revival. I caught up with Slash to discuss his forthcoming Aussie shows. Incidentally, if you missed out on tickets, Slash has been confirmed for the 2011 Soundwave festival!

I caught the MTV Classic show here in Melbourne recently. That was really cool!
Yeah! That was actually this band’s second live performance. We’d done one a couple weeks prior to that at the Roxy in Los Angeles, and the band had been together for two weeks. It was ‘here’s the songs, learn them and we’ll just go.’ I think that’s the way I like to do things. But it was a cool show!

It really felt like a band already.
I know! I was very fortunate. When I made the record I knew that at some point I was going to be touring on it, and I didn’t know exactly how I was going to put that together. It was going on in the back of my mind as I was putting together the album. At the tail end of the record I met Myles Kennedy, and he did a couple songs on the record, and I was just completely blown away at his vocal abilities, and also as a person. I asked him to do the tour and he signed on. So I knew in myself I had a really capable frontman, and so the most important element in any rock band, aside from the vocals, is the drums. I started looking for drummers, and I got all these references for this guy named Brent Fitz. I took a few drummers into the studio to see which one I wanted to use, and I also met Brent Fitz and had him come down, and he just turned out to be a great drummer. And it was just ironic, getting these references for him from unrelated sources, different people from all over that suddenly knew I was looking for a drummer and recommended this guy. Then I had a bass player in mind, and he came down and did about four rehearsals and I realised he wasn’t the guy, and it was only going to be about a week before our first gig at the Roxy. I was sort of in a pinch, and Brent recommended this guy that he knew from Las Vegas, and Todd Kearns showed up the next day, and he was perfect. And he could sing. And they’re all really, really good blokes. They’re like, f**kin’, great work ethics and obviously great players. We had a chemistry instantly, and that’s really what gave me the confidence to go and do that sort of impromptu Roxy gig then to come to Australia and do the MTV launch. And now we’re 11 gigs into the tour and the band is just pristine. And that to me just seems like a blessing, because you never know what’s going to happen.

That was pretty ballsy, to take your second gig and broadcast it all over the world!
(Laughs) See, a lot of people misconstrue and confuse ballsiness with ignorance! (Laughs) No, I’ve always been like that. You just go for it and see what happens. And maybe it might be ballsy, and a lot of it has to do with just the eagerness to get out there. If you think you have it together to do whatever it is you want to do, just go for it.

The response to your solo CD seems huge.
Yeah, it’s one of those things where I didn’t have any major expectations, I didn’t try to figure out any kind of numbers or anything like that. I just was happy with the record and put it out. But I have to say, in the first week, to get that kind of response on a global level is really way better than having the opposite!

And you’ve got a lot of metalheads listening to Fergie, and she kicks ass on that track!
I know she does, I knew she would! I got familiar with her voice a few years back and I knew she was going to be awesome for this. And she brings a certain amount of sex appeal to a sort of rock n’ roll song, not only because she’s a girl, but because as a person she’s innately got that sort of … I don’t want to put the wrong light on her, but she’s got a certain amount of street smarts and she’s got a certain amount of sex appeal. And her mentality is a little more dark than maybe you might think of her in the Black Eyed Peas, so when she does rock n’roll it sort of drips of lusty sex as opposed to more romantic sex. And that’s her personality for real. I knew it was going to work, and when she delivered the lyrics I was like, ‘wow, that’s perfect.’

Let’s talk about guitar stuff! Could you tell us about your new Seymour Duncan signature pickups?
Yeah! Seymour Duncan is one of those discoveries, that, f**k, it was in 1986 that I first discovered the Seymour Duncan Alnico II, right? And I was familiar with the DiMarzios and Bill Lawrence pickups, and also Seymour Duncan’s, but I hadn’t really picked a favourite at that point. When I got the Chris Derrig Les Paul it had the Seymour Duncan Alnico IIs in it, and that was just one of those sounds, the combination of the guitar and the amp or whatever, that I was really, really pleased with. After the record was done, that guitar became my guitar. It was great sounding, and that was the only guitar I had! And later on, whenever I put a guitar together, like I ended up getting these two Les Paul Standards in 1988, and I put those same Seymour Duncan Alnico IIs in it, and it’s been my main pickup ever since. But I’ve never had a Slash model pickup because I really couldn’t conceive of anything to do to the Seymour Duncan Alnico II design to expand on that. So I never did a Slash model until just recently, when we were doing the Gibson model of the Derrig guitar. I had the idea of going in and re-inventing the original Alnico II from 1986, because everything evolves over time, and now theyr’e using a couple of different components and what-not. So we put together these old-school Alnico IIs, and that became the Slash model, which are really, really great. So when you buy a Gibson ‘Appetite’ guitar, that’s what’s in them: the USA and the Custom Shop, and they’ll be in the Epiphones when they come out too. But you can buy them separately now too.

I saw you using a Les Paul with a Floyd Rose live.
Oh the Axcess! Yeah! The tremolo bar is something I don’t use all the time, but there’s always one song per record where I’m like, ‘I need a tremolo bar!’ And I’d been using a BC Rich Mockingbird for years for that particular purpose, and the only thing about the Mockingbird is it’s not as thick or aggressive volume-wise as the Les Pauls, so I’ve always felt from on stage that there was a dip in the overall attack of my guitar sound as soon as I put on the BC Rich, and I always sort of grinned and bore it, for years, just because of the tremolo bar. Anyway, Gibson came out with the Axcess Les Paul, and I always felt it was kinda sacrilege to rout out a Les Paul for a Floyd Rose, but since they had done it themselves, y’know, I thought I’d give it a shot!

What can you tell us about your ‘Brauerburst,’ the modified Les Paul you bought from Andy Brauer?
He sold me one of his reissues, which was a specific year for a certain kind of reissue which was very spot-on with the original guitar. It’s a really nice Les Paul Standard ’59 reissue. It was set up great, and it’s actually one of the only times I haven’t replaced the pickups with Seymour Duncans [ed. note: the guitar has Sheptone AB Custom humbuckers). And it has a really nice, old school kind of feel to it. And that’s the main guitar from him that I have. I had him set up a couple of guitars when I was in the studio. He’s really good.

How’s the new Marshall AFD100 coming along?
It’s great! It’s basically done but I had a couple tweaks I wanted done to it. It’s ready for me to hear now but I’m in the middle of this crazy festival tour so I haven’t had a moment to sit with it. So I’m going to hear it at some point between now and the middle of July. [NOTE: A week after the interview was conducted, Slash got to try the latest version of the head, and liked it so much he used it on stage that night]. It sounds f**king amazing. Santiago over at Marshall really outdid itself. The whole reason for the AFD amp and the Appetite guitar, it was a novelty for all these super fans who a really gear-heads who are trying to emulate the sound from the Appetite for Destruction record. We did it for the guitar but the key component to that sound was the amp. And back in the day it was just an amp that sounded good. Amps really are inconsistent when it comes to time. It might sound good at one point, and sound completely different, not having changed a thing about it, five or ten years later or even in a different venue. So I never really treated amps the way I’d treat a particular guitar. So I knew that all these people were trying to recreate the sound from the Appetite record, and the thing about that record is it was a particular amp with a particular studio with a particular studio and particular guys at a particular time, and it is what it is. But there is a recognisable tone that comes directly off of the amp that I decided, let’s have Marshall go to the source and try and recreate what that identifiable tone is. So I stripped some tracks off of the actual Appetite masters. I used ‘Night Train’ and ‘Welcome To The Jungle,’ and I used those as a reference and gave it to Santiago, and he delivered an amp that has this particular harmonic structure, and a gain structure that has a particular harmonic value to it, and a certain kind of a midrangey thing, and also a certain kind of a gain that gives it a sort of …it’s hard to verbally describe but it’s a very attacky, but very midrangey and soft-sounding, honky-sounding tone which really sounds great. He managed to reinvent that, and he’s really succeeded. The final tweak was I wanted more bottom end. It’s already got a really tight bottom end and I wanted to get a little thicker-sounding without getting muddy. And then it’ll come out. It’ll come out some time before the end of the year. It’s going to be a limited edition, I’m not sure to what extent but it’s not going to be as limited as the Custom Shop Les Pauls are, but the last time I did a run of limited Marshalls they did a sizeable run.

And finally, could you tell us a bit about your signature Crybaby?
The key thing about the Slash model Crybaby is it’s got this boost in it, a gain button which is really an ‘out of control’ button. You really have to be set up right to be able to use it without taking everybody’s heads off. But it’s wonderful in the studio. I did a recording with Alice Cooper recently and I did a song called ‘Vengeance Is Mine,’ and the guitar tone is just my Crybaby into a Marshall, and it’s really f**king intense sounding, and it’s just that boost button, which is adjustable – you take the plate off the pedal and adjust those frequencies and that kind of stuff. But without the boost it’s really more of an adjustable Crybaby. Pretty cool tone though!

Well that’s our time up. This has been really cool, thanks so much!
I know, it’s good talking to you, it’s been really cool to do a guitar interview in the midst of all these other f**king publications! I enjoyed it, thanks.

 


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