Thu, 04 Sep 2008 11:26:28
Nestled inside a vault-style chamber in the heart of Northridge's Guitar Center, Slash somewhat resembles The Godfather. He sits back in a plain office chair with his black shirt unbuttoned, his trademark top hat perched on his head and aviator shades. He flashes a slight smile and brandishes an impenetrable cool—it's as if Marlon Brando suddenly went rock n' roll. Slash can't smoke inside the building, but there's still a hazy feeling when he's around; Guitar Center just feels alive with the icon's presence. He's about to show a packed crowd some tricks of the trade during his Guitar Center Session: An Evening of Dialogue and Insight with Slash. However, the legendary Guns N' Roses/Velvet Revolver axeman remains calm and comes off extremely down-to-earth. Right before he hit the stage to spread some knowledge, he sat down with ARTISTdirect to talk shop and much more.
Would you say your session for Guitar Center and the release of Reckless Road: Guns N' Roses and the Making of Appetite for Destruction will bring fans closer to your music than ever before? Do you feel like there's a correlation at all between them?
With the sessions thing, I was actually reluctant because I didn't know what it was going to be like. I still don't really know what I'm going to do [Laughs]. If you can interact with people and if they're even interested, they can hear whatever I have to say as directly as possible this way. It seems cool to go out and provide that. I'm so used to being supplemented in fucking print articles or on the Internet. Things turn bassackwards and such. The closer that you can get to your audience the better. As far as Reckless Road goes, that's not my book at all. It's Marc Canter's book. It's a Guns N' Roses book, and he's been my friend since time began. That's his pictorial history that he had. He wanted to release that, and he's supporting it.
You get so much closer to your audience with both though.
When I was a kid, for any of my favorite bands, you couldn't find something that was behind-the-scenes. When Led Zeppelin first came out, they had their publicity shots. No one either allowed it or no one cared enough to get all the behind-the-scenes footage of their first rehearsals or this, that or the other thing. It's the same for a lot of my favorite bands. I don't think anybody has got a pictorial history that comprehensive of when a band first started as we do with Reckless Road. So it's really cool.
Your playing is so based on feel and attitude. Would you say this is going to be different from most other clinics in terms of vibe?
Well, I haven't done it yet [Laughs]. Have you been to other clinics like Dave Mustaine's? I haven't. I have no idea what I'm doing. I'll just roll with it, and we'll see how it comes out. They asked me if I'd play, and I was like, "No." [Laughs] It's because I'm a very shy guitar player. If you put me out in front of a bunch of people just playing by myself, I'm very insecure. So I was like, "No, I don't want to have to play if people are watching!" So I'll probably give some anecdotes and tell a couple stories that they haven't heard elsewhere.
What are some of the best gateway riffs for kids to learn first?
Fuck, Deep Purple's "Smoke On the Water" has got to be the most priceless gateway guitar riff that's ever been written. You can't deny that. There are key riffs that help you. There are things that you're attracted to, and you'll say, "I want to sound like that." There's a riff somewhere in there that will help you step in that direction you want to go.
“It is from the heart, which is why I can't pick up the guitar and just do blazing things because there's nothing to inspire it.”
As a musician, you've always had that '70s maverick aesthetic. There was a sense in the '70s that anything was possible artistically, and that boundless mentality is inherent in your playing. Do you think that this clinic will promote that vibe?
"Maverick aesthetic," that's heavy! Anyway, that's the thing. There's really not that much to talk about when it comes to that. I'm playing a hell of a lot these days. Even when I really pay attention to what I'm doing, there is no real rhyme or reason to why and how I do it. It's just what I go for and what I try to accomplish from what I'm hearing in my head or whatever. I don't have a systematic approach or a methodical, conceptual idea as to how it should be done, so it's sort of ambiguous [Laughs].
It's from the heart though.
It is from the heart, which is why I can't pick up the guitar and just do blazing things because there's nothing to inspire it. It's got to come from somewhere else.
It's important for kids to experience that natural, creative process in something like your session here because it's been lost on a lot of the young audience. People still go back to Led Zeppelin and Guns N' Roses because the music was natural.
I think the roots of what it's all about have been so diluted in this industry. I think it's easy to forget why anybody does anything. The funny thing is, people are focused on trying to make a lot of money based on this process that doesn't necessarily work. There's an army and a legion of kids out there dying to do the real thing, and the industry won't give it to them. The kids have to get it in Guitar Hero now, which is fine—at least there's an outlet. It seems like they should go, "Maybe we need to rethink this." They're just so pigheaded. Eventually the people will take over, and they'll change the business. That's probably what's going to happen next. Hopefully…