Slash On Going Solo, Ozzy Tour, Making Horror Movies and "Heavier" Velvet Revolver
Wed, 22 Dec 2010 14:38:14
Slash architected the ultimate modern rock record with his self-titled solo debut.
Not only does Slash showcase the guitar legend's most incendiary fretwork since Appetite for Destruction, it also illuminates just how diverse he genuinely is. Whether he's painting airy, ethereal soundscapes on "Gotten" with Maroon 5's Adam Levine or dropping infectious riffs for Black Eyed Peas' Fergie to rock with during "Beautiful Dangerous," Slash shines brilliantly. "Nothing to Say" blazes through precision thrash, while Slash's collaboration with Ozzy Osbourne "Crucify the Dead" is heavier than Stonehenge. However, Slash is also keeping busy beyond his all-star solo opus…
He's got his sights set on another Velvet Revolver record, and he's launching his very own film production company, Slasher Films, with Scout productions. Sitting in the Sunset Marquis's Nightbird Studios, Slash smiles, "2011 is going to be great!"
With a hat and his trademark sunglasses on, Slash is the very portrait of rock royalty, but he's quite possibly the warmest and friendliest guy you could ever meet. It's that combination of larger-than-life musical presence and down-to-earth persona that makes his music so timeless and accessible.
Slash sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for a special holiday interview about his solo album, the upcoming tour with Ozzy, working with Myles Kennedy, hearkening back to the '70s, what's up with Velvet Revolver, his iTunes session and Slasher Films.
Is there a '70s vibe to your solo album? You pull in artists from pop, metal, hip hop, and rock. Do you come back to that era where there were no musical boundaries?
I hadn't really thought about that. Whatever it is that I'm doing is not a conscious effort. I was raised on '70s music. That was the background of my youth. I was born in 1965, and I picked up the guitar in 1980. All of my influences were really from the '70s. I dig the spirit that the '70s had because there was a lot of free form, creative stuff going on. I found it pretty inspiring. In an off-hand way, I guess I do go that direction [Laughs].
Genres weren't so segregated back then. You could see Jimi Hendrix and James Brown on the same stage. You bring everybody from Fergie to M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold together under the same banner though.
I fuse everything together loosely with a basic rock 'n' roll approach, and it fits into a lot of different styles. Although a lot of people don't do it, I like to take what I do and infuse it into some hip hop, some pop music, and other genres because it works. Most people are too scared to branch out that way, but I think it works really well.
Have you always looked at the guitar as a boundless, malleable instrument that could fit any form?
Just about! Guitar—in some way, shape, or form—fits into just about anything. A Les Paul through a Marshall doesn't necessarily fit in every music medium, but guitar itself can fit into almost anything.
How did you go about choosing singers for these tracks?
I would write some music and think about who would sound good singing it. That's pretty much what dictated all of the different singer choices on the record. I'd have a piece of music or be working on something and automatically think, "Who out of my rolodex of singers in my head would sound good on this particular piece of music?" That's how I would pick who I thought should be on it. I've been in a band in some way, shape, or form since I was 18- or 19-years-old. Doing a solo record is very liberating because I don't have to work within the confines of a five-piece. I can do whatever I want, I don't have to answer to anybody, and nobody is looking over my shoulder. It's fun. It doesn't mean anything against bands. I like being in a band. I like that gang mentality and the creative elements all working together. I think doing a solo record was fun because I could do whatever I wanted and I didn't have to wait for approval [Laughs]. I got to do a lot of different styles that I might not have been able to do in any particular band I'm in.
You're like a composer in that respect.
It was like being a movie producer, trying to get the cast of characters together. I just had a vision of how it was going to work. I was fortunate. All of the stars lined up and I managed to get everybody I wanted to get. I didn't have any insurmountable technical issues [Laughs]. Looking back on everything, it could've been a really difficult record to make, but it didn't happen that way.
The album flows really well. Did you spend a lot of time working on the track order and sequence?
I appreciate that! As soon as I got into the studio and recorded four or five songs, I knew which song would be the first song, and I had a really good idea of which song was going to be the last song. We probably did three or, at tops, four different sequences before I found the sequence that worked. So it wasn't too much time.
"Crucify the Dead" sounds like it could've come right off Sabbath's Paranoid.
When I wrote it, I never thought of anybody else singing it besides Ozzy.
Is there any chance you two will play it live on the upcoming tour?
We'll see…I think I'm going to put the song in the set anyway and Myles will sing it. Ozzy hearing Myles do it will sort of give him a kick in the ass to come down and sing it one of the nights on the tour [Laughs]. We'll see what happens. Artistically, this tour is a good pairing. It's always cool when you go out with people you're friends with. It's even better when they're people you really admire. It just makes for a great camaraderie out there when you're working. It should be a lot of fun. I have no idea what to expect.
On stage, Myles preserves the initial integrity of the songs but he adds his own flare.
Myles is a godsend. When I was at the tail end of making the record, I had two songs left over that were two of my favorite pieces of music. Throughout the making of the record, I could not figure out who should sing them. The album was actually being mixed, and I realized I hadn't gotten vocals on those two songs. Myles was somebody I'd never met, and I wasn't really familiar with his style. I knew he was a good singer though. I just took a chance and called him to see what would happen. I sent him one of the songs and he came back with the lyrics and vocal melodies to "Starlight," which was mind-blowing. Then I asked him to do the other song, which turned out to be "Back From Cali." We struck up a really good relationship from the get-go. I thought, "Well, since I'm asking favors of him one after the other, let's see if he wants to do this tour." I had a feeling that he could sing any of the songs I chose to do on the road. That turned out to be the case. We only had two weeks to rehearse the whole band before the tour started. One week was all that Myles could fit in because he was working on the Alter Bridge record. I knew that he would be fine though. He just came in and kicked ass. Myles is great. Like you said, he makes the songs his own without ruining the integrity of the actual song itself. People dig him.
Would you ever want to do an acoustic EP a la Alice in Chains' Jar of Flies?
As we sit right this second, it doesn't sound that exciting to me. It's fun every once in awhile to do a one-off little acoustic set. It's usually initiated by a radio station or a program that's looking for us to do an acoustic set. To do a whole album, it would have to be original material that was written on an acoustic—not just Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver covers and a couple of token songs off my solo record. It'd have to be a bunch of new material that really lent itself to being on acoustic to make it interesting.
Do you draw from visual influences while you're playing?
I like writing music to visuals. I like scoring. I wouldn't say I picture a lot of stuff while I'm writing. It's more of a mood thing. I write for a particular feeling. That doesn't mean that on occasion I don't come up with something that's so dramatic some sort of a visual comes to mind. It does happen from time to time. I just saw Roger Waters' new version of The Wall the other day. That was a record that obviously lent itself to a visual right off the bat, and it fits perfectly. I was thinking that it'd be nice to do a record that fit into a movie—an album that was the score and background music to an entire film. That would be an interesting concept.
Do you feel like GoodFellas is the most rock 'n' roll gangster movie ever?
It is pretty cool! It's got The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton in it. That's all really cool. Since you bring it up, I think the best entertainment experience is when you can marry a great visual with a great piece of music. For the senses, that's the ultimate hour-and-a-half or two hours.
What's next with Velvet Revolver? Are you still searching for a singer?
Something like that! We've actually moved leaps and bounds in the last month. We should be making an announcement one way or another next month.
It seems like the Velvet Revolver records paved the way to the solo album for you.
I never stand back and look at it from any real perspective. I make the record in the moment and move on. I don't go back and listen to them very often unless I have to learn a song to perform it on the road. The first album was definitely an interesting experience because we were working with Scott Weiland, who on an artistic level has a very distinct personality. The Contraband record was definitely a product of all these different personalities recording a first album. Then the second album, Libertad, was definitely exploratory musically. We really started to set off a certain sound. It's going to be interesting to do the third record because we're going to have a whole different personality as a vocalist. Chances are, it's going to be a lot heavier than anything Velvet Revolver has done so far because the heaviness was the only thing missing for me in the first two records.
What's up with your iTunes session?
We had just come back from Australia, and we put together five or six songs basically the way we play them live. It's us live in the studio. Take it or leave it [Laughs]. If memory serves, they sounded pretty good.
Do you have any favorite New Year's Eve memories?
Pick a year.
2009 was good. That was right when I was working on the solo record before I actually went into the studio. If I remember correctly, it was good.
What's going on with Slasher Films?
It's pretty exciting. I did a press release about it, and I haven't been talking about it too much. I'm friends with Rob Eric one of the guys at Scout Productions—the production company responsible for Transsiberian, Session 9, and a bunch of other really cool movies. He and I were sitting around one night talking about horror movies. I'm a huge horror movie fan from way back, especially horror movies from the '30s and the '60s and '70s when I was growing up with movies like The Exorcist and The Omen. We were talking about the quality of movies coming out in the last decade and the downhill slide that's been happening. He called me up the next morning and goes, "We should do something like Slasher Films. You can look at the scripts and produce movies with your own label and we'll fund it." I was like, "Okay! It sounds awesome." [Laughs] He came back to me a year later with a script he wanted me to see. I read it, and it was amazing. I just said, "Let's do this!" So we put out a press release, and all of the studios and production companies started coming to us. It's been a really positive thing so far. We're going to be putting out two, maybe three movies per year. They'll be really high quality, very character-driven, and insanely scary horror movies. They're not going to be scary in the sense that you're waiting for a monster to come out and cut off someone's arm. They're going to be psychologically scary and intense. They'll hearken back to those great movies of the '60s and '70s and even way before that. I think when A Nightmare on Elm Street came out was the last stretch of really great horror movies. Then everything sort of went gore.
For our other interviews with Slash click here and here!
Check out our interview with Myles Kennedy here!
Do you have Slash's solo album?