On any given day you can walk into Guitar Center in Hollywood and see Slash. One can't go more than ten feet inside the mega-retailer without coming across a promotional gear-head display or banner bearing the image of the iconic guitarist. Hell, you don't even have to walk inside; a giant poster of Slash — top hat, aviator sunglasses, cigarette, Gibson Les Paul securely at his side — hangs like a mini billboard on the storefront above Sunset Boulevard. Whether you're an L.A. local or a tourist swallowing your pride aboard one of those atrocious star buses, for true axe men this Guitar Center has always been the equivalent of getting lei'd at a Hawaiian airport — a warm welcome to the epicenter of rock and fuckin' roll.
Yeah, some things have changed since Hollywood's heyday. Although you can still find Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister nursing whiskey and playing video games at the Rainbow, venues like the Troubadour where Guns N' Roses once played its pivotal record deal gig are no longer crawling with A&R guys looking for new talent, and somewhere along the line neighborhoods like Sweater Lake — pardon, Silver Lake — replaced Sunset Strip as the “it” place to party and get discovered. As for Slash? Sure, he's since traded that dangling cigarette for Nicorette but when it comes to music the guitarist remains at top of his craft, continuously involving himself with projects that get back to the heart — and attitude — of straight-up rock and roll.
L.A. Weekly dusted off the ol' video camera and met up with Slash (the man, not the billboard) at Guitar Center on February 11 to chat about partnering with the retailer for a first-of-its-kind unsigned band EP competition (Guitar Center Presents Your Next Record With Slash) and talk details behind his self-titled solo album due this April — including renting a convertible for Iggy Pop, ordering potato chips and Jack Daniel's for Lemmy, staying out of trouble, why Jack White wouldn't sing on a track, Slash's newfound attitude towards working with frontmen, and more. Watch the video and then read our uncut interview after the jump…
L.A. Weekly: Let's start by talking about this unsigned artist competition with Guitar Center.
Slash: It's pretty cool. It's an interesting prospect because I don't think that up-and-coming rock and roll has gotten its fair shake over the last ten years. I think this is a really great avenue for people to try and get picked up, basically, and get some music recorded. It's a good sturdy foundation to build on. I'm interested to see what people submit and see what's out there. The whole goal is to find that band that's got a musical personality and all those qualities akin to rock and roll… that spirit that turned me on to it when I was coming up. That's far and few between in this industry right now but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
One thing you've said is that the traditional means of discovering new talent has been decimated at this point.
It's kind of tragic. Do you feel it's a tragedy?
Well, to try and be more of an optimist [laughs], music goes through its peaks and valleys — especially rock and roll because it's such a volatile genre, right? I'm not talking about what people label easily as rock and roll, but like the real attitude and individual spirit that comes with a band that really has its own thing to say. Hopefully we're on the beginning of another sort of rock revolution at some point soon.
That'd be nice.
Yeah, wouldn't it?
You also have a solo record coming out in April, Slash, and it's being described as your first true solo record. But you've done stuff before on your own, so why would this be the definitive solo record for you at this point?
I think when it comes down to it, inside of the first year I picked up a guitar I've always been in a band. Even when I had Snakepit, which was a band that originated with me, it was still treated as a band. It was five different guys who had equal input so it was a group situation, that sort of democracy that makes up a hopefully functional group [laughs]. After years of doing that and then the whole thing with Velvet Revolver and Scott [Weiland] and revisiting difficult lead singers again, I just needed to do something where I was calling my own shots. I needed to be able to do whatever music I wanted to do without having to worry about the other guys nitpicking it to death or rejecting it entirely.
Speaking of difficult singers, you definitely have worked with two of the more difficult in the industry — Axl and Scott. On this solo album, now you've got a ton of singers you've worked with. You've got Iggy Pop, Ozzy, Fergie…
Rocco DeLuca. From Kid Rock to Ozzy, Iggy Pop, Lemmy — those old school guys — and then Andrew Stockdale from Wolfmother and M. Shadows from Avenged Sevenfold, it's a real eclectic mix of vocal performances. But they were all great. Every single one of them was really professional, obviously really talented, but none of them gave me the impression of being highly volatile. It was a cool situation because it was only one song. It wasn't like it was their next big hit for their record that they had to worry about. It's just a song for Slash; no big deal.
Well, as long as it wasn't trading the difficulties of working with one singer for the difficulties of working with 12. You just like to up the ante don't you?
[Laughs] It was actually a very satisfying and worthwhile effort because it gave me a new lease on the whole lead singer reality. It's not as dramatic and hectic as my experience has been prior to this. It's given me a new attitude towards working with frontmen, with all due respect to Scott and Axl. Those guys are two of the most amazing singers and part of what makes them so great is their volatility. So I can't say anything negative. For this record, not knowing what I was getting into, it was really painless and easy — the creative part of it.
You lie. That sounds too good to be true.
[Laughs] It was really a lot of fun. I just wrote music and demoed up 20 songs and sent them out to singers that I thought would be appropriate for any given piece of music. It didn't get complicated until we had to deal with the paperwork for each artist [laughs].
Were there any singers that you approached for this album that turned you down?
Two. And one of these was blown out of proportion. I did the record with Eric Valentine who is the most superb producer and the perfect guy for me; it was almost like match made in heaven for this project. Originally Mark Ronson was slated to do it and there was this one song I couldn't figure out who was going to sing it. He suggested Jack White and I thought that'd be interesting so he went to Jack White and Jack said, “I'll play drums on it, I'll play guitar on it, but I won't sing on it.” And for some singers that's a very personal thing that they do within the confines of their own group. So that one didn't happen. Another one, there's an instrumental on the record, and Dave Grohl was playing drums and I originally wanted him to sing it as well but he was like, “I don't like doing guest spots. I suck at it,” so we just made an instrumental out of it. There was one other guy I couldn't get because of contractual [reasons]. Everybody else I was really fortunate to get and for the song that Jack White was going to do, I ended up working with Myles Kennedy which was a blessing in disguise.
Was it ever a situation where you had all the singers in the studio at the same time? Were there any personality conflicts?
No, it was great. Iggy Pop set the pace for the whole record.
[Laughs] Doesn't he always?
Really, he flew in from Florida and I rented him a convertible and he showed up and it was just like, that was the way it should be done. That set the pace, like I said, for the way everybody else did it. Very spontaneous. Iggy came in and did his thing, then he flew back. Then we went on to the next song, recorded the music, then the next singer would fly in. The only time that I had multiple artists in the studio at one time was when we were doing “Paradise City.” Fergie was there and the Cypress Hill guys. We all know each other, that's how that came together. Watching each of these individuals perform in their own element, even though it was partially my element, but still it was their forum to do their thing, was really engrossing. Working with any one of them, from ordering potato chips and Jack Daniel's for Lemmy, to hearing Adam Levine sing this high falsetto song in one take, there were a lot of experiences like that. Watching Fergie sing rock and roll for the first time on a record…
Where does the value in collaboration lie for you?
That's a good question. The value in collaboration is the broadening of your own horizons and working with different people in different situations, a lot of times by the seat of your pants, learning how to adapt and be able to synergize with different people no matter how different or off my beaten path. Staying in one group and doing one thing puts you in a bubble so I started branching out just for my own sanity. It's turned into something that's made me a much better player.
You're going to be busy [in April] with the Guitar Center project and the solo album all coming together at the same time…
Erin… fuckin'… realistically, being busy is what's kept me out of trouble [laughs].
[Laughs] I second that.
I welcome it. Things are really ramping up right now but it's all really good. We'll see how this whole thing evolves.
Check out the track listing for Slash's solo album here:
1. Ghost (Ian Astbury)
2. Beautiful Dangerous (Fergie)
3. Nothing To Say (M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold)
4. Crucify The Dead (Ozzy Osbourne)
5. Promise (Chris Cornell)
6. By The Sword (Andrew Stockdale of Wolfmother)
7. Doctor Alibi (Lemmy Kilmister)
8. Saint Is A Sinner Too (Rocco De Luca)
9. Watch This (Dave Grohl/Duff McKagan)
10. I Hold On (Kid Rock)
11. Gotten (Adam Levine)
12. We're All Gonna Die (Iggy Pop)
13. Starlight (Myles Kennedy)
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