Press Conference   

Slash: more than a conspirator, a gatherer

Among all the legendary rock guitarists, Jimi Hendrix is still the most productive of all the dead ones so far, Jimmy Page the less productive of all the living and as to Richie Blackmore, he’s been lost somewhere in the Middle Age. Slash, the famous top hat guitarist (whose real name is Saul Hudson), is one of those who are still in the spotlight. He’s never been away from the rock scene, be it in Guns’n’Roses, of course, Slash’s Snakepit, Velvet Revolver or today with his own successful band. There has been some ups and downs, of course, as Slash himself stresses it during his Hellfest press conference, and especially between the 1993-1996 period, after which he left the band to explore other musical horizons. But Slash says that “This is a pretty good time right now, this is good”. He goes on : “I can’t say there’s any one single highlight in my career, but right at this moment, it’s a particularly high point.”.

It goes without saying that all the many and prestigious collaborations Slash has done – including Alice Cooper, Lenny Kravitz, Michael Jackson, Iggy Pop or Bob Dylan- figure among the highlights of his rich career. « It’s more like opportunities which present themselves » explains Slash. “You meet really great musicians and songwriters, and the conversation invariably turns to music. And then we go: “You want to write and record something?” That’s how it happens. I never have forethoughts, like: “I want to play with so and so!” Then I’d be a stalker! (laughs)» But if we ask him to remember one highlight, one name comes out immediately : “Everybody I’ve worked with have been really, really cool. I’ve been really honored to work with a diverse group of artists, but the one that I’m the most proud of was Ray Charles.” Slash gave to Ray Charles, who was near the end of his life, some of his magical guitar skills on the songs « God Bless America Again » (Sings For America – 2002) and « Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand » (More Music From Ray – 2005).

It was a real desire to gather talents that drove Slash when he started to write an album, which would be released under his name. The result ? A self-titled album in 2010, acclaimed by the critics, featuring the top metal vocalists (but not only) of yesterday and today : Ian Astbury (The Cult), Ozzy Osbourne, Fergie (The Black Eyed Peas), Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge), Chris Cornell (Soundgarden), Lemmy Kilmister (Motörhead), M. Shadows (Avenged Sevenfold) and many others. Besides, you might have been or will be lucky to see Slash playing for The Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne, on the Ozzy & Friends tour, which replaced the cancelled Black Sabbath one. When we ask him if “Crucify The Dead”, on which Ozzy sang, could be played on stage, a pensive Slash answers : “No. I wish! (laughs) We didn’t get a chance to rehearse that. I’m just doing some Sabbath stuff. It’s a cool song, I know!” Given the look on his face, there is no doubt that he regrets it. Maybe next time !

Among all the guests that have offer some of their time on Slash’s first album, one has catched the legendary guitarist’s attention : Myles Kennedy, Alter Bridge’s vocalist. Both did together the record’s promotional tour and Apocalyptic Love, Slash’s second solo album, was released last May, with Myles Kennedy on vocals. This collaboration has since grown more and more, however, there is no sight of any pressure. When possible schedule problems with Alter Bridge are mentioned, Slash denies it : “No, it’s actually sort of cool. We carved out a certain amount of time to work with The Conspirators. And then in December, he works with Alter Bridge. We planned it out. There’s something cool about the fact that he’s got his thing: it takes the pressure off the Slash thing being a big career move. We just have a good time. I think I like that better.” Slash always take things easy because in the past, he has given a lot of himself and as he grows older, he’s able to stand back when needed. Will this collaboration with Myles Kennedy last ? Will Slash, on the contrary, go back to the first album formula ? To these questions, Slash answers clearly : “I’d like to do another record with Myles at some point in the future. The last solo record was just a one-off project. I had this idea that I wanted to work with a bunch of different people, but I didn’t think about doing another one like that.”

Slash’s band is not only a simple guitar / vocals duet, because all the other musicians seem to take an important place within the band. When we want to know if today Slash is whether a solo project or a band, the guitarist gives us his point of view : “It’s sort of a combination of both. It’s definitely directed and put together by me, but it has a lot of contributions from the guys. It’s collaborative in a way. I come up with the music, then I work with Myles, then we sort of forward that out to the other guys, but they play whatever they want. So it’s very much developing into a band kind of thing.” This is the reason why the band’s title progressively changed from Slash to Slash feat. Myles Kennedy and then to Slash feat. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators. “I wanted to give the rhythm section their own title. Slash & Myles Kennedy was what it was all last year and the year before. For this record, we changed, because the rhythm section made such an identifiable contribution on this album. I wanted to make sure they had a title” confirms Slash.

Compared to many stars of his era, who made their mark on the history of rock but have since slowed down their career, Slash is still a productive musician. So how does he compose ? “There’s no set rule for how to write music. Sometimes it’s in my head, and I just try to play it on the guitar and figure out what I’m hearing. Sometimes I stumble across different things. I carry a guitar with me everywhere, so whenever I have an idea… Sometimes I get them during the show, or at sound check, or in the car… I don’t know, they just happen.” It seems that Slash has stayed the same, that he regards music in a very simple way, letting the inspiration come to him. In this maybe lies the force of his musical ideas, and sure this guy has had some good ones ! Regarding all the many songs that make up his repertoire, which ones does he enjoy the most to play live ? “It’s hard to say. I love playing “Paradise City”, ‘cause it’s long and I can play solos. I like to play one of the new songs, called “Halo”. It’s a lot of fun to play. There’s a lot of songs I like to play. I like to play “Back From Cali”, “Starlight”… We just started playing a song called “Anastasia”, which is a lot of fun to play. I could go on and on!”.

On the 10th of July, as the testimony of his remarkable career, Slash will be the next honouree of the famous Hollywood Walk Of Fame. His star location is precisely 6901-Hollywood Boulevard, just in front of the Hard Rock Café. Furthermore, his friend, the actor Charlie Sheen, will make a speech on this occasion. How does Slash feel about what can be largely considered as a crowning point ? “It’s a pretty surreal acknowledgement. It’s cool because my whole career started in Hollywood in my teenage years. I spent a lot of time as a vagrant on Hollywood Boulevard. Everything I’ve done sort of centers around Hollywood. So it’s nice to be appreciated by Hollywood as a whole, but it’s not one of those things that I ever expected. I’ll know more about what I feel about it when I actually get there. It’s a left-field kind of recognition.” Would the top hat guitarist still be modest ?

Even if honoured on the Walk Of Fame, the future still belongs to Slash, so what can we expect of him in the coming months ? Slash’s Snakepit’s come-back ? A new Velvet Revolver record ? Slash makes it clear : “I hadn’t any plans for Slash’s Snakepit, but for Velvet Revolver, there’s this quest for a singer that goes on and on. There’s really nothing you can say until you find the guy. Right now, this record, Apocalyptic Love, just came out. We’re touring on this for the rest of the year. I haven’t really made any plans for what’s gonna happen next. I would imagine we’re probably gonna be touring next year as well. But I’m starting to write material now, so we’ll see how it all comes together”. A brief word on Slash’s snake to finish : yes, ladies and gentlemen, rock stars love animals and as they aren’t ordinary people, they surprise others with their choices (let’s remember Axl Rose’s wolf and Buckethead’s hens which, it seems, didn’t get along very well). “I have one snake now. It’s a green anaconda. I’ve had him since he was a baby, he’s eight-feet-long now” reveals Slash. So when can we expect to see his anaconda on stage ? Alice Cooper, whom he knows very well, often shows off his pythons…

Interview conducted on the 17th of June 2012, during Slash’s press conference at the Hellfest festival.

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