Interview: Slash Discusses His New Solo Album, 'Apocalyptic Love'
It’s the evening of Saturday, April 14, and all 6,000-plus pairs of eyes inside Cleveland’s Public Auditorium are focused squarely on the man called Slash. Outfitted in black leather pants, button-down shirt and sports jacket, with ubiquitous top hat and—even though we’re indoors and Saturday is quickly turning into Sunday—a pair of dark sunglasses, he stands alone at a podium at one end of a large stage to accept his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Behind him in horizontal line formation are his former Guns N’ Roses bandmates: Matt Sorum, Duff McKagan and Steven Adler. To his left are several Les Pauls and stacks of Marshalls; further backstage, at the ready, stand guitarist Gilby Clarke, who performed in GN’R and Slash’s Snakepit, and singer Myles Kennedy, the frontman for Slash’s current solo project.
In just a few moments, after months of speculation, which has followed years of rumor mongering, prediction making and conspiracy theorizing, Guns N’ Roses will take the stage to perform. Though it’s not quite the band that anybody with even a passing interest in rock and roll had been hoping would materialize on this night, most would likely attest that, with Slash, McKagan and Adler joined by Use Your Illusion–era members Sorum (who is also inducted) and Clarke (who is not), as well as Kennedy, it’s closer to the real thing than has been offered up in many years.
But matters of percentages and authenticity are for others to debate. By this point Slash has fielded more than his fair share of questions on the subject of his former band, and has attempted to answer them as forthrightly as possible. Tonight, as he says in a short and gracious speech, he’s “do[ing] it for the fans.” He wraps things up with a quick “Let’s go play,” and the crowd erupts. As he steps back, Sorum leans into the podium and casually remarks, “That’s more than I’ve ever heard Slash talk in his entire life.”
By the time of the actual induction ceremony, it should be noted, Slash is sick of discussing this night, and by extension, the possibility of a reformation of the full Appetite for Destruction–era lineup of Guns N’ Roses, at all. “I always tried to avoid talking about the subject, but the fact is I never saw a reunion happening,” he says bluntly. It’s the week after the Hall of Fame festivities, and Slash is already thousands of miles removed, relaxing on a passenger train as it rushes from the Netherlands en route to Antwerp.
Little more than 12 hours after being inducted, in fact, the guitarist hopped a flight out of Cleveland and headed to Europe to begin a promotional tour. Because as much as that night had been about celebrating the past, Slash is very much grounded in his own present and future. Exhibit A is his new record, Apocalyptic Love, a raging, fully realized collection of full-tilt rock and roll. It’s the follow up to his successful and star-studded 2010 self-titled disc, and his second solo effort over all—though this time out he chose to give a public nod to his singer and bandmates, officially crediting the album to Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators.
As far as Slash is concerned, it’s the only band he needs right now. “The only thing that makes me a solo artist in my mind is that I have the ability to sort of run things,” he says. “And that’s basically cool because I don’t have to do a lot of arguing. But these guys”—Kennedy and the Conspirators, which consists of bassist Todd Kerns and drummer Brent Fitz—“are just really easy to work with and really professional. With this album, the amount of input that I had on behalf of any of their parts was very minimal. I just came up with whatever I came up with and said, ‘Here it is, take it and do what you want with it.’ ”
The current band came together while Slash was on the road in 2010 and 2011 in support of his self-titled album, which he recorded after his other band, Velvet Revolver, went on hiatus following a public and messy split with singer Scott Weiland. In an effort to break out of his usual routines, the guitarist chose to go it alone on Slash, composing the tracks on his own and then bringing in different singers—everyone from Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy and Iggy Pop to Kid Rock, Adam Levine and Fergie—to contribute lyrics and vocals to individual songs. When it came time to tour behind the album, he put together a backing band that included Fitz and Kerns, and selected Kennedy, who appeared on two Slash cuts—the single “Back from Cali” and the ballad “Starlight”—to handle frontman duties. Ever since, Kennedy, who also sings for the Mark Tremonti–led Alter Bridge—has been an essential component of Slash’s musical world, even as the guitarist admits he knew very little about him prior to their working together.
Recalls Slash, “For a while a few of the Velvet guys had actually wanted to bring Myles into that band, but I always showed no interest. Really, I had never even heard him sing. But then I found out he had auditioned for Led Zeppelin [for the band’s aborted reunion tour], so I figured he had to be good.” He laughs. “So I sought him out and he came in and sang on ‘Starlight,’ and I was blown away. He did another song, and I just had this feeling he was the guy to do the whole tour, because he seemed like the only guy who could sing everything—the solo stuff, the Guns stuff, the Velvet stuff, all of it. And he can. Myles is a brilliant fucking vocalist, and his range is insane. And even though he would tell you differently, the talent he has comes through pretty effortlessly.”