Slash Billboard Q&A: 'Cathartic' New Band, Guitar Lessons and Hall of Fame 'Bias'
Before Axl Dropped Out, We Talked to Slash: "You get inducted into the Hall of Fame and then the next day life goes on"
April 12, 2012
Slash's new album, "Apocalyptic Love," doesn't come out until May 22, but in part 1 of this interview with the iconic guitarist he talks a little bit about his new band -- Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, the same band he toured behind on his 2010 self-titled album. Kennedy, of Alter Bridge, sang two songs on that release, which featured numerous singers from Ozzy and Lemmy to Fergie and Adam Levine. Slash hired Kennedy to sing all the parts on the road and recruited drummer Brent Fitz and bassist Todd Kerns. The experience went so well, they all hit the studio together afterwards and are back on the road in May (with new addition, guitarist Frank Sidoris).
We spoke to the guitar icon shortly before his former bandmate Axl Rose announced he would not attend the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction of Guns N' Roses. Even without this information, Slash's feelings on the actual ceremony were mixed. "I must say, I was hoping in my hearts of hearts that we might be able to get it together and play, but wishful thinking; that's not gonna be able to happen," he told us. "So I was more excited about it when we got nominated... That's when I really felt honored."
Axl Rose Not Attending Guns N' Roses' Rock Hall Induction
It's interesting the way the last album was put together with all these different singers and for the last two songs you get Myles in, and now he's your guy.
A whole thing came out of that. When you were touring with Myles, when did you realize this could be a creative partnership too?
The second that all four of us were in the same room, there was an instantaneous spark there and we all got along well. Everybody really likes each other and there was just an innate chemistry that happened and so that carried on. We started doing shows and we had a blast. And when you take a new group and you throw it out there in a festival, and play in front of thirty, forty thousand people, you don't feel any kind of inhibitions and you just go out and rock it, and you really vibe off each other, I can think of a lot of bands that I've thrown out there in that situation and they really weren't that great. So pretty early on I started thinking if I was gonna make another record, I would just do it with these guys. So I started writing material and all these songs were really borne off the road. I'd send these ideas to Myles and he'd have them and we collected a bunch. He had been putting ideas to some of them, melodies and whatnot, and then we got back to LA after the tour was over and we started just working really hard on making something out of all these ideas. And then when we were done with that, we had 17 or 18 songs and then we started preproduction and we narrowed it down to 15 and here is the record. You make it sound so easy. In one of your webisodes, Brent says that you're really diligent at practicing. I actually just had a conversation with a struggling musician, whose band doesn't have a following yet, who complained he doesn't want to practice because it's boring.
Practicing is boring. In the webisode, I think there was someone who mentioned that I play all the time. I do play all the time and that's fun and if I'm writing it's cool, as long as there's something coming out of it. Before shows is the only time I really sit down and practice, where you have to force some dexterity out of your fingers just to get ready. But other than that, when I'm at home, I try to do anything but sitting there and going over a scale. But there's a reason why you are at this level and regarded the way you are; it's because you work your ass off. It's like Neil Peart from Rush still takes drum lessons. Other musicians would think that's crazy.
And it's funny because I've thought about taking lessons myself. That's so funny. I will. There's some stuff that I know that other guys do that I think is really interesting, but I'm not even sure which guys do it and I'm not sure what it is. I know some really good musicians I could get lessons from and it would take me out of my comfort zone. I try and do it on my own, but you can only go so far. One of the great things about touring is it's really a place for me to expand whatever it is that I know. I start making up shit that I have no idea what I'm doing, in the heat of the moment, and that's how I really find myself progressing. If I'm at home for a length of time or about to do a record, those ideas of trying to do something wacky different just for the sake of it happen. Do you feel that you've found your new band and new solo project?
Let's put it this way, I see no reason to see why if I was gonna do another record why I would do it with anybody else. I have to take into account their schedules. There's Velvet Revolver; there's Alter Bridge; there's other things to take into account, but right now I'm just happy that we did this record together. It was really a great feeling of accomplishment. And it was very cathartic and it's a good rock record, which I needed to do, just a focused hard-driving record. So we're going to do this big tour and we're just going to take off where we left off before, which really opened the floodgates for opportunities. We're just going to take it as it comes, but yeah, I feel very strongly about the band. I've been told you don't want to talk about The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction [April 14], but that's pretty exciting. All these bands are in there that you probably grew up on.
It's great company to be in. I think I'll appreciate it much more when we actually -- I don't know, there's so much controversy around it. Are you nervous about it to see how it's gonna go and who's gonna be there?
I'm not nervous about that. I mean, we just have to show up. I must say, I was hoping in my hearts of hearts that we might be able to get it together and play, but wishful thinking; that's not gonna be able to happen. So I was more excited about it when we got nominated [laughs]. That's when I really felt honored. You know you've made it when your songs are turned into elevator music or you get inducted into the Hall of Fame.
[Laughs] Yeah, you know what though? You get inducted into the Hall of Fame and then the next day life goes on. And Rush isn't in there.
Well, that's the problem. That's my biggest problem with the Hall of Fame is that there are more bands than I can count that should definitely be in there and are not, and then it makes it seem very bias and not necessarily kosher. When Van Halen was inducted, only two of them showed up, Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony.
We played for them and it was a disaster. Jimmy Kimmel said that was like having a Pac-Man reunion where only Inky and the cherry show up.
[Laughs] That's funny. Yeah, it was an unpleasant scene being at the Van Halen thing and playing for them and David Lee Roth might come but he didn't come. It gets very uptight. It's a very formal event.http://www.billboard.com/news/slash-q-a-cathartic-new-band-guitar-lessons-1006741152.story#/news/slash-q-a-cathartic-new-band-guitar-lessons-1006741152.story