After nearly three decades in rock ‘n’ roll some things for guitar great Slash have changed. But almost 18 years after he split from one of the biggest bands on the planet, the man behind some of Guns N’ Roses’ most memorable riffs still finds himself happier working as part of a group.
Yes, he released a solo disc in 2010 featuring an all-star roaster of singers including Adam Levine, Kid Rock, Chris Cornell, Fergie and the lesser-known frontman of Alter Bridge, Myles Kennedy.
But it was his collaboration with the latter on two tracks – Back from Cali and Starlight – that led to a musical partnership that has spawned two more LPs (2012’s Apocalyptic Love and this fall’s World on Fire) and is threatening to eclipse Slash’s one other longstanding group project – Velvet Revolver.
So safe to say, Slash is right at home.
“When I met Myles, we did a couple of things on that record and he’s such an incredible singer that I asked him to do the tour and it just snowballed from there,” he told QMI Agency down the line from Los Angeles. “I just really like him… and I thought, ‘If I’m going to do another record, I’ll just do it with Myles and Brent (Fitz, drums) and Todd (Kerns, bass).’ And we did one awesome record together, so after that I didn’t even think twice. It just seemed like a given. We’ve established a great studio chemistry and performance chemistry.”
As he hits the road with Aerosmith on the Boston rockers’ Let Rock Rule road show, we caught up with Slash to find out what it’s like being on tour with his musical heroes and to ask if he ever has sleepless nights thinking about Axl and wondering, ‘What if?’
What can fans expect from the live shows?
The shows are going to pretty much be a one-two-punch. There will mixture of new stuff, songs from the last record, there will be a little bit of Guns in there and a little bit of Velvet Revolver. It’s not too far and away from what we did on the last tour.
After you gelled so well with Myles on Apocalyptic Love, did you ever think about bringing him in to front Velvet Revolver?
The irony is – and I don’t want to be too sardonic about it – but when I first heard of Myles it was when we were doing auditions for Velvet Revolver before Scott Weiland came in... Then when I was making my solo record... I had been hearing about Myles playing with Led Zeppelin for a possible Zeppelin tour and I said, ‘This guy’s gotta be f---ing good... I’ve heard his name so many times.’ So I sent him one of the pieces of music and he sent it back and I was floored.
What’s it like being back out on the road with Aerosmith 25 years after your first tour with them?
I have this history with them that goes back to when I first started playing the guitar and first heard the Rocks album. That was a pivotal record for me and really spoke to the outsider, rock and roll fan that I was at 14 years old. That was my theme music. I was very much influenced by their music and their guitar playing and pretty much everything they did. They are one of the greatest rock and roll bands anyway, but they are also one of the only rock and roll bands at this point. It’s AC/DC and Aerosmith and a small handful of other bands...
Okay, Aerosmith’s got a huge catalogue, but what are some of your favourites?
Nobody’s Fault, because it was one of their raunchiest songs. There’s another one I loved called Round and Round from Toys in the Attic that was along the same line. Those were always two of my favourites. Back in the Saddle is another. You know that Gems record Aerosmith put out? That’s one of my favourite albums they put out ‘cause it’s all their heaviest stuff... none of the tracks were singles.
Where do you see yourself in today’s music scene?
As we get down the road, I don’t see a lot of rock bands rising up to fill anybody’s shoes... Mainstream is king... But even for myself, I like the fact that I’m not part of the mainstream parade. I would never want to be lumped in with most of the people that they play on mainstream radio... I appreciate the attitude that goes with not wanting to fit in with what they’re spoon feeding the public... That’s not what I want to be part of anyway.
What’s the future of rock ‘n’ roll?
It’s good and bad for new bands coming up. They really have to work their ass off to make a statement and make something people can relate to. For me, I just want to do something that’s inspiring... I get excited about coming up with something that makes me say, ‘This is cool; this is not something I did last week.’ So I just keep moving in that direction.
What’s your greatest musical achievement?
There’s no one thing I can say I’m most proud of musically. There are markers along the way of things that have worked out well, but there’s no one thing.
What’s the status with Velvet Revolver? Can you see Scott Weiland coming back?
I can see Scott coming back, but I can’t see anybody accepting him. That’s sort of the case. It’s not a big deal and I don’t want to bad mouth Scott or anything. The whole thing is we’re looking for another guy to replace him it just hasn’t happened. It’s dormant, but there’s activity under the radar.
Duff reunited briefly with G N’ R earlier this year. What did you make of that?
It was fine. When he told me he was doing the shows, I didn’t think much about it. Why would I care? If you remember correctly, Duff was the last guy in the band.
Do you ever wonder about what would have happened if the original Guns N’ Roses had stayed together? What music you might have made? Where you might be today?
I don’t think about that because that’s not what happened, so what’s the point? People are always like, ‘What if you had done things differently?’ Not only with G N’ R. But it’s just such a waste of time. Things happened and it’s done. I sort of loathe looking back and fantasizing about anything one way or another because in the end it didn’t happen.
Six degrees of Slash
Aside from his work with Guns N’ Roses (five studio albums), Velvet Revolver (two) and his solo LPs, Slash has made some notable guest appearances.
Here are some of the highlights:
Bob Dylan (Under the Red Sky, 1990): Wiggle Wiggle
Lenny Kravitz (Mama Said, 1991): Fields of Joy & Always On The Run
Michael Jackson (Dangerous, 1991): Black Or White & Give In To Me
Rod Stewart (Human, 2001): Human & Peach
Chris Daughtry (Daughtry, 2007): What I Want
Alice Cooper (Along Came a Spider, 2008): Vengeance Is Mine
Rihanna (Rated R, 2009): Rockstar 101
Slash last shared the stage with Axl on July 17, 1993, at River Plate Stadium in Buenos Aires as part of the Skin N’ Bones tour. His last song was Paradise City.
-Mark Daniell, QMI Agency