“This time around I just wanted to have a good time just making a record with these guys and I think there’s a lot of different feels and stuff but its all pretty rock and roll and that’s pretty indicative of what it is that I do.”
He needs no real introduction, he’s undoubtedly one of the most recognizable people in Rock and Roll today, and he is Slash, with the trademark hair, the top hat, the sound, the whole package. Well, take note, Slash is back with a new album called ‘Apocalyptic Love’ and this time he’s recorded the whole thing with vocalist Myles Kennedy along with his new band The Conspirators featuring bass player Todd Kerns and drummer Brent Fitz.
In town in February where we had the privilege of hearing songs from ‘Apocalyptic Love’, we sat down with Slash to get more of an insight into the record and the band.
R & F’n R…
We had the opportunity to hear nine of the tracks and we loved them, they’re so heavy, is that what you were looking for this time around?
Oh thanks. I don’t set out to be like ‘I’m going to make this kind of record’ really, you know, the last one I knew I was going to put together this thing with all these different singers and sort of get all these people to perform on my record as opposed to performing on theirs which is what I normally do. This time around I just wanted to have a good time just making a record with these guys and I think there’s a lot of different feels and stuff but its all pretty rock and roll and that’s pretty indicative of what it is that I do.
Is it fair to say that the last album was more of a project and that this one feels more like a true album?
I think so ha ha, yeah, there was definitely a concept to the first record and then this one was just going for the sort of, I knew Myles’ vocal style and I was just writing what I was writing and Brent and Todd just have a certain kind of impactful way of playing and just putting that all together and just making a good record.
Having ‘The Conspirators’, as a band now is that something that you hope to continue, or say if Fitzy for instance decided to move on, would you bring someone in, or is this a band you’re planning on trying to keep solid for a while?
Well that’s how it came together, it was thrown together sort of haphazardly when I knew when I was making the last album there was no way I wasn’t going to do a tour, so I had to go out and, the first thing that happened was I nailed Myles down and then once he committed to the tour I was like Ok I know all the musicians, all the rock musicians especially in Los Angeles so I just started rounding up the drummers I knew and that I’d played with and so on. While I was doing that, some people had contacted me, and I say some because there was a bunch of them and they were all unrelated saying that you should check out this guy Brent Fitz, and he just happened to be in Vegas and I heard it so many time and I was like ‘fine already, I’ll go and check out this guy Brent.’ I was in Vegas and I got in touch with him and we met and got on really well and so I flew him out to LA and we did a rehearsal kind of thing, an audition I guess you’d call it, and out of all the drummers that I’d worked with at that point, he was the one that was behind the beat a little bit which is a way sexier way of making rock happen, very few drummers do it these days. So I got him and I had a bass player that I’d picked up who was a great bass player, but in the first rehearsals it just seemed like he wasn’t really right for what we were doing, so Brent turned me on to Todd. So anyway, this all came together and we rehearsed for two weeks, we rehearsed for a week, then Myles came in for another weeks and we did our first shows and it was pretty instantaneous from the rehearsals that there was this certain chemistry that was happening. That’s a feeling that doesn’t happen very often, sometimes in a lifetime it happens once, so that was really encouraging so we went on and did some shows and came over here to Australia and did the MTV Classic launch and went on to do some festivals and we just kept on getting better at what it was we eclectically did. Then I thought if I was going to do another solo record then I would just do it with these guys, that’s where we’re at, and going back to your original question, if Brent were to leave and do something else, it wouldn’t be easy for me to turn around and just get somebody else because we’ve really established a chemistry with the four of us.
So on this album did you write the songs for the band or with the band?
It’s initially still driven by me, I’ll come up with ideas, but I never sort of orchestrate a whole song and the arrangements all done and I go here play this and here’s the drum part and so on. I just come up with the nucleus, the basic idea, like here’s a riff and here’s sort of the basic aversion of this idea and record it, send it to Myles wherever he is and see if he likes it, if he’s in to it. If he likes it he might start writing some lyrics or come up with some chord changes and whatnot, and we’ll go back and forth like that and all the songs sort of get their start that way. In this case as we were all touring, if it was us touring or if Myles was touring with Alter Bridge, when the tour was over we’d get Brent, Myles and Todd together and we’d just start going through the arrangements and that’s really where it starts to become a band effort, like here’s the changes that Myles and I came up with and they make up their own parts you know what I mean?
Tell us about the title Apocalyptic Love…
It’s the name of actually the first song off the record and when I first started thinking what are we going to call this thing, it’s always the last thing that you have to come up with is the title of the album, and I couldn’t think of any titles that really justified a label for the entire body of work, there wasn’t one line that really summed it all up. So then it was going to be ‘Slash 2’ and I thought if worse comes to worse that’ll work but hopefully we can come up with something and in the back of my mind, Apocalyptic had always just been sort of a cool title, you know just as a song, so for the first time ever, no not the first time, second time, just take the song and make that the title of the album.
What’s the concept behind the cover art?
I just wanted to put a bunch of shit that I liked on the cover ha ha that’s all it was. I had an initial idea involving two girls which was a little bit too risqué to make the album cover, even I was like it was a little bit too much, so then I got this idea to sort of do a sort of 70’s pop art kind of thing. So I just put a bunch of crap on there that I dug, so there’s some cars on there, some snakes, some dinosaurs and girls and a guitar and all that kind of shit and I stripped some of that stuff away and just left it with what you have now which is the two chicks, the guitar, the top hat and had a great artist named Frank Maddocks actually do the rendering.
You worked with Eric Valentine again as a producer, what is it that he brings to the recording process?
That’s a good question; it’s almost an interview unto its self. Eric was the guy when I was doing my last record, I’d been given a box of CD’s of all these current producers trying to figure out who I was gonna go with to make the last record, and he had done four or five albums that were all completely different, so it just showed that he had a lot of chops for different styles and so on. One of the records he did was a Queens Of The Stone Age album called ‘Songs for the Deaf’ which is a fuckin’ great sounding record, so I called him up and I told him what I was doing and I was doing an album with all these different singers and stuff and he came down to this little demo studio that I was working in and I sort of played him all these crappy little demos that I put together. He was the guy that really got the concept of all these different songs with all these different vocalists and I just felt comfortable that he would be able to put the right sonic touch to it. So we went and we put together the last record which was potentially a hard record to make, it could’ve been disastrous, but he was just fuckin’ great to work with, he’s technically a genius and on top of that he’s musically a genius and that’s a combination that’s rare in producers and musicians where you can find somebody that understands the workings of equipment that you’re working with and also understand chord structures and all that sort of shit. He’s completely committed, 180% passionate about it and lives and breathes it which is exactly how I am so we get along really great, we have the same kind of musical tastes, we have the same kind of quirkiness about tuning and this, that and the other, so we just get on really well.
Watching the recording techniques on the studio updates, I saw you set up and play live. Is that something you had to do on this album, was it the only way to essentially do it?
Yeah, it’s the way I’ve always set out to do it and in most cases I usually do, but the one difference in this record from all the other albums that I’ve done is usually what happens is you go in the studio and you play live with the bass and drums, and what you normally do is you do it with headphones on as that’s just the technique as you don’t want the amp in the room as there’s going to be too much bleed on the other tracks. So you do it with headphones, the amp is in a separate iso-booth and headphones to me always sound like shit and I think they have a dramatic effect on the way that I play. So I do a dummy track with the bass and drums just to have that raw energy, right, then I go and redo the guitars in the control room where I can have it coming out of the monitors on fuckin’11 you know? But I’ve always wanted to be able to play live with the band and keep it, so on this record we built a room in the studio that had monitors in it, that had glass on the door so that I could see the guys and we could play together but the audio I was hearing wasn’t coming from headphones, it was coming from a real source. That’s how we did it, we just played everything live, we kept all the guitars and very few overdubs.
Touring plans, I have to ask, any plans to come back and see us anytime soon?
Yeah we’re talking September / October.
Nothing set yet?
It’ll definitely be somewhere in there, isn’t that vague enough for you? Ha ha ha.
Lastly, is there anything you can let people know about the album that you want to give them an insight to?
You know, the album sort of speaks for itself; I’m really bad at verbally trying to describe the record, I think that’s very limiting. Like you said, it was a hard rock record which that it is, best played at high volume, just like and good rock record, and sort of it’s somewhat of a journey and you just get in to it, and that’s basically it, I think it’s a good record though.
Good record? Great Record…
I don’t go there ha ha ha.
From: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Band members: Slash – Guitars, Myles Kennedy – Vocals/ Guitar, Brent Fitz – Drums, Todd Kerns – Bass
Latest release: Apocalyptic Love (Sony Music Australia – May 18)
Australian Tour Dates
THURS 23 AUGUST – BRISBANE, THE RIVERSTAGE– LIC A/A
SAT 25 AUGUST – SYDNEY, ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE – LIC A/A
SUN 26 AUGUST – MELBOURNE, HISENSE ARENA – LIC A/A
THURS 30 AUGUST – PERTH, METRO CITY – 18+