Interview: Slash Discusses His New Solo Album, 'Apocalyptic Love'
The legendary guitarist talks about his latest solo effort, Apocalyptic Love.
And so Slash took a different approach this time. Recording at Barefoot Studios in Hollywood with producer Eric Valentine, the band set up with Fitz, Kerns and Kennedy (who contributes rhythm guitar to much of the record) situated together in the facility’s large main room. Slash was then positioned in a makeshift shack of sorts, dubbed the “Slash Box,” built specially for him at one end of the space. The small, enclosed area also housed two large monitors, which fed in the sound from Slash’s amps, placed further away in the control room. The setup fashioned a quasi-live setting for the guitarist. “I was able to stand in there without headphones, play my guitar and have the monitors blast my sound at me,” he explains. “But I could also see the other guys in the band and have contact with them, and I was baffled enough so that we didn’t have to worry about the bleed from my monitors going into the drums.”
The result is that Apocalyptic Love is as close to a live-in-the-studio rock record as listeners are likely to hear this year. According to Slash, not only were almost all the rhythm tracks—drums, bass and the two guitars—recorded live off the floor but many of his solos were captured that way as well. “In most cases, when you hear a lead on one of these songs, my rhythm guitar drops out, just as it would live,” Slash says. “We were basically playing as if we were onstage.”
In keeping with the more direct recording approach, Slash also streamlined the gear he used on the album. His main guitar was his famed Kris Derrig–built Les Paul copy, although for three songs recorded early in the sessions—“You’re a Lie,” “Bad Rain” and “Standing in the Sun”—he played one of his Gibson Appetite signature Les Pauls. “That was because the pickups in the Derrig started squealing,” he says. “So I had to have them rewired.” As a result of their many tumultuous years together, Slash explains, the Derrig Les Paul occasionally requires some maintenance work. “That guitar just has the nicest, most biting sound, but it’s getting to be a little bit like an old lady.” He smiles. “So I have to be a little sweet with it and finesse it a little bit. It’s like we’re an old married couple.”
Slash likewise opted for a basic amplifier configuration, using just two heads—his signature Marshall AFD100 and one of his classic JCM 800s—which he ran simultaneously and then blended together. The JCM 800, which he refers to by its reference number, 39, is, he says, “a great sounding one” from his collection. So much so that, he reveals, “there’s actually a mod on the AFD amp where you can flip a switch and get the exact 39 sound.”
With Kennedy also contributing guitar to the album, Slash says they made efforts to try to occupy distinct areas of the tonal spectrum. For his parts, Kennedy employed a Les Paul Jr. loaded with P-90s, which he ran through a Soldano SLO-100 head and often blended with either a Vox AC30 or a Diezel Schmidt. “We really tried to separate things,” Slash says. “And it was great to have that other guitar element on the record. Because the fact is Myles is a fucking phenomenal guitar player. I have a certain feel and a certain way that I play, but technically Myles is actually a much better player than I am.”
Judging by Slash’s performance on Apocalyptic Love, listeners might beg to differ. Barn-burning rockers like “One Last Thrill” and “Loud and Fast” are fueled by the guitarist’s incisive, hard-hitting riffs and splattered with his trademark curlicue leads. Toss in soaring anthemic numbers like “Standing in the Sun” and “We Will Roam,” and Apocalyptic Love is perhaps the tightest and most direct collection of tunes Slash has put out since his Guns days. The album also holds its share of left turns, including “Halo,” a darkly wrought boogie rocker built on an ominous, almost Slayer-esque minor-key harmony guitar line, and “Anastasia,” which opens with an extended intro featuring Slash playing an unaccompanied, quasi-flamenco-style composition on nylon-string guitar.
When it’s suggested to Slash that it appears as if he’s currently playing as well as he ever has, the guitarist counters, “I’d like to think I’m playing better than I have in the past. Only because I think back to the early days, even the Nineties, and I can remember a lot of times where I didn’t play that great. Like, people will bring up something like the [1988 Guns N’ Roses] gig at the Ritz, and I’ll just think, That’s not really that awesome. Why do you think that’s awesome?” He laughs. “But they love that shit. But I don’t know. I think my playing is better now.”
The reason is due in part, he says, to the fact that he has been sober for several years now. “I think one of the things I have to credit in terms of my current presence of mind and my playing level is the fact that I’m not inebriated all the time,” he says. “Because you can do that stuff and have fun, and sometimes you can even have a great night onstage, but it’s not consistent, and it’s a dodgy thing dancing around that line. And getting sober a few years ago made me realize that there’s a point where you just burn out on the whole thing. It also helped me realize people don’t necessarily take you seriously because they always think you’re fucked up.
With me, for a while it was always about the party, and that was all anybody was really jumping onboard for. So what I was really trying to communicate was getting lost in translation.” He laughs. “So I had to take control of my own career from a musical point of view, a business point of view and a life point of view. And that’s been a good thing for me. I couldn’t imagine doing the work I’ve done over the last few years as fucked up as I used to be. It just wouldn’t have happened.”
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