You undoubtedly recognize our May cover artist-the inimitable Slash! Following the success of his first solo album, 2010's Slash, he's reformed the group with Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge handling all the vocal duties and his touring band backing him up. Slash invited us to Barefoot Studios in Hollywood during the recording of his new album, Apocalyptic Love, where we asked him questions submitted by Musician's Friend customers. Don't miss our exclusive video interview and tour of the studio-guided by Slash-for the lowdown on how he records, the gear he uses to craft his signature sounds, his practice regimen, and much more. YOU provided the questions and we got the answers, so watch now to see if your questions made the cut!
You Interview Slash
By Ara Ajizian, Musician's Friend Managing Editor
Few artists are as instantly recognizable both visually and sonically as Slash. Since storming onto the scene with Guns Nâ Roses in the â80s, Slash has never rested for long, releasing albums with Slashâs Snakepit, Velvet Revolver and under his own name with 2010âs self-titled Slash. Through it all, Slash has remained true to the bluesy, melodic roots that were apparent from the start on the classic Guns Nâ Roses albums Appetite For Destruction and Use Your Illusion I and II. Slash recently invited us to his studio, where he was finishing up tracks for Apocalyptic Love, the follow up to Slash. Once again we asked you to provide questions for this iconic player, and you delivered. Read on to see if your question made the cut!
MF: Howâs the new album coming along?
Slash: At this point weâre nine songs into it, so we still have another four to go. Itâs going great! Itâs been a really awesome session. The guys Iâm playing with are fantastic and the material is great. Weâre doing everything in as live a setting as possible. Iâve always been partial to doing everything live, but this time Iâm playing live and keeping all the rhythm tracks. I used to go back in the control room and redo them all. Itâs been a lot of fun doing it that way, and itâs relatively quick. The album should be out in April or May.
MF: Youâre working with the band you toured with for the last album right?
Slash: Right. Itâs still going to be under the Slash moniker, but the band is the same band that Iâve been playing with live. I figured Iâd just keep it the same as what people are used to. So itâs Slash featuring Myles Kennedy, and Iâm calling Brent (Fitz, drums) and Todd (Kerns, bass) The Conspirators
MF: Did the response to the last album and tour make it a natural decision to stick with the same guys to make the next record?
Slash: From the first day that the five of us got into a room Bobby Schneck was playing guitar with us at the time and started to rehearse for the tour, we had a certain chemistry. The guys are all great players. Theyâre all great rock and roll musicians and fans, and Myles is such a terrific singer. We started playing gigs and it all came together so naturally. So the chemistry was there from the very beginning and for me, having so much experience working with different people, thatâs a rarity. So we kept touring and touring and the demand for the band was really good. At some point it occurred to me that I should just make a record with these guys, so here we are..
At your level of playing, do you find it necessary to practice as much as you used to? Ed Konopka â Las Vegas
Slash: I love that question! I hear it all the time do you still practice? As if Iâve eclipsed some point and I donât have to practice anymore. I probably play as much as I ever have. The longer Iâve been at this the more I find I need to work at it. When you call it practicingâ¦Iâm not a studious guitar player who sits there and goes over patterns and works out on the guitar. I donât have the patience for it. The way I practice is in context. I play a lot. I think maybe subconsciously thatâs one of the reasons I put myself into so many situations where Iâm recording or jamming. I find that when I put my feet to the fire, thatâs when I improve as a guitar player. If I sit around, anything I apply while Iâm sitting there practicing never sees the light of day in a live situation because theyâre two completely different animals. Thereâs the scales and arpeggios, the picking technique and stuff, and thereâs the guttural, emotional aspect of actually playing in the context of a song or a band. I try to do that as much as possible. Touring especially is where my chops really come together. And thatâs where new ideas come from. Whether itâs licks, patterns or styles, they come out of that spontaneity where you have the opportunity to keep playing every night. If something sticks with you, you can try and see if it comes up the next night and becomes a part of your thing.
So yes, I practice a lot, but I practice by playing as much as possible, not sitting around and playing exercises. I still do that, but itâs really boring and I donât seem to get much out of it. When Iâm not playing live I make myself pick up the guitar, because every time I do, something song or a riff comes out of it, nine times out of ten.
Can you speak to a time when you were stuck on something frustrating, and how you got through it? Jeff Hilts â Boca Raton, Fla.
Slash: Thatâs a good question. If I run into a brick wall with something Iâm trying to accomplish, and Iâm working at it and working at it and Iâm not achieving the goalâ¦I think you can only do it so much before you run it into the ground and you just frustrate yourself and take your mind off of what youâre actually concentrating on. You stop hearing things properly. I think at that point itâs best to just move on to something else and come back to it, even if itâs ten minutes later or later on in the day. I always find that helps me relax about it and come back fresh. Usually it presents itself.
To what do you most attribute your sound? Is it your guitar, your amp, your fingers? Jeff Chandler â Portland, Tenn.
Slash: I attribute my sound to what I want to hear and what basic gear provides that. The rest of that is yourself. Iâve found that I tend to sound like myself no matter what Iâm using. Sometimes itâs better or worse, but it always sounds like me. Itâs mostly the individual and thatâs accented by the gear they choose to send it in the right direction.Short of practice, whatâs the most important thing thatâs helped you hone your skills as a player? Matt Williams â Shreveport, La.
Slash: I think whatâs really put a finer point on who I am as a guitar player is just constantly playing, and having the enthusiasm to get better at it. Also being humble enough to know that you need to get better. That keeps me going and puts me in a lot of situations where Iâm forced to perform not against my will, but I have to show up. A lot of live playing, a lot of session playing, and a lot of playing in situations where I might be a little outside of my comfort zone. Just sticking with it 24/7, thatâs basically it.
Do you experiment with different styles outside of blues and rock, even if itâs just for personal enjoyment? Milo Dailey â Belle Fourche, S.D.
Slash: My guitar style, the way that I play, is usually rooted in rock and roll. But I seem to have pretty diverse taste as far as thatâs concernedâ¦it doesnât all have to be really loud, aggressive, fuzzy, distorted stuff. But it definitely all has a blues or classical influence to it, which can be applied to many different genres of music. I have a lot of things that I like to do, but it all seems to fall under the umbrella of rock and blues. Iâm not turned on to fusion jazz or really way-out stuff. Thereâs some stuff that I listen to that might seem out of the norm to someone whoâs familiar with what I do, but whether I apply that to how I play really depends. It might be little bits of it that I might pick up on that really speak to me as a player. Otherwise I just enjoy listening to it and donât try to adopt it.
Do you vary your string gauges for different sounds? Ronald Harless â Church Hill, Tenn.
Slash: I havenât changed string gauges since I first started toying around with what I felt comfortable with back when I was like 15, 16 years old. I started out with 9s, because they were ânormal,â but they bent too much so I moved up to 10s, then eventually settled on 11s, and Iâve been there ever since.
What would your rig be like if you played a more intimate gig, say for less than 100 people? Gary Poe â Corsicana, Texas
Slash: I basically play through a half stack, and augment that in a bigger venue with another cabinet. In a club situation, Iâm fine using a half stack. Iâve played with different people and used their gear, and I found like with a blues band, if they have a Fender Twin, thatâs great. I played with B.B. King recently and thatâs what he had, so I just brought my own Les Paul and it fit perfectly. So I can adapt to whatever, but if itâs up to me Iâll just bring a half stack.
I notice you use Heil PR Series mics in a couple different spots on your cabinet. Is this because you have different speakers in the cabs? Don Lanier â Godfrey, Ill.
Slash: All four speakers are the same. My setup is really simple, and you canât overthink it. People ask a lot of questions looking for intricate details but theyâre just not there.
MF: What led you to Heil Microphones?
Slash: Well Bob Heil turned me on to his mics, and theyâre just great-sounding mics. Iâm not a real stickler for detailâ¦you know, put the mic against it and if it sounds good, use it. If not, use something else. I donât mess around with a lot of different mics per se. Sometimes producers or engineers Iâve worked with have different ideas, but Iâve found that you always have to have for the Marshall/Les Paul thing an SM57, and you can add to that with different mics. Thereâs only a handful that Iâve found over the years that add something special.
I am in my first real band and feel a real magic with the people I play with. Is that sort of chemistry something you felt from the start with your respective bands? Mary Davidson â Lakeview, Ariz.
Slash: In a band situation, the initial spark that happens that combustible energy that happens with a combination of people from the very onset is really important. Because if itâs not there from the beginning, itâs not going to get much better. It might get tighter, or you might be able to develop a way of playing with each other that works, but that thing that makes the amount of work you put into it exciting is really something thatâs there from the very beginning.
MF: How important is it for you to have good chemistry with bandmates outside of what happens musically?
Slash: For me itâs imperative to be able to get along with and feel some sort of camaraderie with the people you work with. Iâve never been able to say that you donât have to like the people you work with and sort of get by with it in a long-term situation. I think that itâs much more inspiring to appreciate and respect the people youâre working with than the opposite.
Can you recall the most moving live experience from your career? Steve Sullivan â Pocatello, Idaho
Slash: Thereâs no one experience, thank God, thatâs the ultimate live experience. What keeps me going is chasing that high of having great live experiences all the time. Thatâs what keeps me doing it. Kinda like being a drug addictâ¦youâre constantly trying to recreate that buzz you had early on. Fortunately with music, you can do that all the time. Thatâs something that is reoccurring as humanly possible. You donât have that much control over it, but itâs one of the ultimate feelings for a musician when it happens.
What really sticks out in my head as being one of the most memorable live experiences in front of a big audience, where you were just overwhelmed with the beauty of everything, was the Monsters of Rock Festival in Castle Donnington in 1988. It was the first time we played to an audience of that magnitude. It was a huge career high for the band, and at the same time we found out that kids had died attending that concert while we were playing, which we found out about later. It was a good example of the ultimate high point going to the ultimate low.
What qualities do you look for in the musicians you choose to play with on a regular basis? Denny Myers â Houston
Slash: There arenât specific criteria that I have other than the obvious. Youâre looking for someone whoâs into more or less the same music or similar music that youâre into, someone whoâs a capable player that brings something to the table as far as originality is concerned, or ideas that arenât run of the mill. And somebody whose got their trip together so you donât have to help them along. And somebody whoâs really into it, whoâs very passionate about playing.
When you are writing a solo, do you prefer writing to an existing progression/melody, or do you prefer to contour the song to meet your solo? Craig Carilla â Garnet Valley, Pa.
Slash: Solos are a constant subject of speculation as far as how they come together. To me the song always dictates the solo, so I would never change the song to make the solo fit. You can change things around within the context of the chord changes as long as it fits the song. At the same time, with as much improv as I do, itâs all within the context of what the songâs about, and thatâs what drives it. As far as writing solos, thatâs a good question because Iâm right in the middle of recording right now. I donât sit down and write a solo note for note and work it out and so on, but what I have found that I do is write the song, figure out the solo section, put the chords together that fit the theme of the song, and you just go for it. The more you play the song, the more the solo starts to present itself. So if you rehearse the material a lot, by the time you go into the studio you should have a basic structure for what you hear as the guitar solo, then you just sort of play within that realm. Sometimes you can have a solo thatâs almost note for note by the time you record it, or sometimes you just keep making it up every time you play it. So the solo thatâs on the record isnât the same as any take before it. It sort of speaks to me, as far as the soloâs concerned, as what I hear within the context of the song, and every time I play it, it comes out more or less the same.
MF: Do you have solos that you feel obligated to recreate as you did on the recorded version?
Slash: When Iâm playing live, we do a two-hour set and thereâs a lot of material. And the solos tend to become such a signature part of the song that it feels weird for me to go off on a tangent. On certain songs that works, where you can improvise around it, and thatâs usually one of those solos where it was a spontaneous, off-the-cuff moment when it was recorded. But songs like âSweet Child of Mine,â if I hit a different note, more or less, if I totally go off the melody, it f*** s with me along with everybody else. (laughs) because Iâm so used to hearing it that way. And thatâs what Iâm going for what my head hears. So it varies from song to song, depending on how signature the solo is to the song itself. Itâs like changing the lyrics or the vocal melody.
What do you do to get inspired if you find yourself in a songwriting rut? Warren Cureton â Belleville, Mich.
Slash: To get motivated when you have writerâs block, like I was saying earlier about any kind of obstacle you hit when youâre playing, is do it to the point where it becomes redundant, then just put it down and get off that subject. Come back to it when youâre inspired to come back to it. Then youâre basically starting over with fresh ears. That happens with songwriting all the time. If you sit down and say, âIâm going to write a song,â chances are itâs not going to happen. It has to come from within, and it will force you to pick up the guitar, or sit down at the piano or whatever instrument.
Who or what was the main factor that influenced you to pick up the guitar? Manuel Nieves â Enfield, Conn.
Slash: I was hanging out with my friend Steve Adler, who at the time had a cheap guitar and amp and a cheap stereo. He would put KISS records on, blast the stereo, blast the amp, and just band on them. That was really f*****g exciting! So originally I was going to play bass. I figured if he was going to play guitar, the natural course for me was to play bass. In learning the difference between bass guitar and six-string guitar, I decided it was the soloing and the more complex stuff that I wanted to do, so I ended up picking up guitar. So when it comes down to it, it was Steven Adler and KISS that got me to pick up a guitar. Once that happened, there were myriad great rock bands that I got into. Prior to that I had always been into music, I had just never aspired to pick up an instrument. Itâs interesting how that happened.
What are some of the challenges you face as a player at your level and stature? John Crossman â Madison, Wis.
Slash: Itâs embarrassing to even think that people would think I have it so together that Iâm not presented with challenges. Iâm just not that developed a player to even be close to thinking that I have it down. Itâs a constant struggle to achieve. I try to push myself to get to places. I donât want to sit at one level and just go, âOK, Iâm comfortable with this.â I donât feel like Iâve achieved anywhere near the stuff that the guitarists that I either know personally or that Iâve been listening to for a long timeâ¦I just havenât even gotten there. Itâs flattering in some ways when fans think that Iâve achieved some sort of musical grandeur, but itâs so far from the truth. (laughs)
How I keep pushing and working at it is basically just keeping at it and being honest with myself about where Iâm at.
MF: Have you ever hit a point where youâve thought about just putting the guitar down for a while?
Slash: Iâm fortunate in that Iâm more into it now than I was when I first started. Iâve never come anywhere close to feeling that I wanted to pack it in. I donât see that happening in the foreseeable future. I live very much in the now, so I donât look 15 years or even five years down the road, but Iâve never gotten to a point where I was sick of it or tired of it, or just stopped loving it.
Built around the Gibson Les Paul and Marshall amps, Slash's tone has long been unmistakable, while all the while staying true to what is considered classic. That's no easy feat we all know the trials and tribulations of dialing in our own sound. Slash's tone, and the lack of complexity that breeds it, is a great starting point for any guitarist, so f you're interested in forming your own signature sound be sure to keep that combination in mind. And be sure to check out more Slash-related gear below to help you achieve killer tone, develop your Slash-like licks, and look the part of a true rock god! See all Slash Gear Below
Slash invited us to Barefoot Recording Studios, where he was finishing his upcoming album "Apocalyptic Love" which features Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, and gave us a little insight into his gear and recording process.