Interview: Slash Discusses His New Solo Album, 'Apocalyptic Love'
It was during the 2010–11 tour that the seeds for Apocalyptic Love were sown. “That tour just kept snowballing into a longer and longer thing, and all along I was writing new material,” Slash continues. “And I was thinking, What am I gonna do on this next thing? Because I knew that the chances of Velvet finding a singer right away…it just seemed like it wasn’t going to happen. Finally I said, ‘Well, the guys I’m playing with now are fucking great, and if I had to go into the studio tomorrow this is who I’d want to make a record with. So that’s what I did.”
Slash worked on songs both on his own and with Kennedy throughout the tour. In fact, several of the tracks on Apocalyptic Love, including the title cut and the first single, “You’re a Lie,” were jammed during soundchecks before gigs. After coming off the road in July 2011, Slash, Kerns and Fitz decamped to Mates studios in North Hollywood to finish up the instrumental portions of the new songs as Kennedy embarked on a short U.S. tour with Alter Bridge. Upon returning to L.A. in the late fall, the singer rejoined Slash and Co. for final rehearsals.
For Slash, the collaborative process at the heart of Apocalyptic Love was a welcome change from the solitary manner in which he composed the self-titled record. Though he admits that he enjoys “just putting together guitar ideas on my own,” he also says, “I try not to overwork it. I’ll come up with two or three parts, and that’s it. Then I like to bounce things off other guys and see what they can come up with.”
To that end, he allowed Kennedy in particular plenty of creative input and latitude. “Myles could do whatever he wanted when he was writing his parts,” Slash says. “And sometimes that even changed my parts. For instance, there’s a song on the new album called ‘No More Heroes’ that is a classic example of a 50/50 kind of collaboration between us, where I had a riff and a whole arrangement that I put together, but it was all still open to interpretation. So Myles took the chorus idea that I had and just completely raped it, and came up with a new, insanely great chorus. And that was a moment where it was like, ‘Okay, we have a good thing going.’ Because when that shit works, it makes for better music overall.”
One area where Slash rarely intrudes, whether with Kennedy or anyone else he has worked with, is the realm of lyrics and vocals. “I have no aspirations to sing,” he says. “I don’t enjoy it. Occasionally I’ll have ideas for lyrics or vocals, but I’ve found that people who actually do those things for a living will always come up with something better.” That said, there is one album in his catalog on which his own words do in fact dominate the proceedings—the 1995 Slash’s Snakepit effort, It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere, recorded as Guns N’ Roses was imploding. “That was a rare case where I did do a lot of the lyric work,” he says. “There was a lot going on in my life at that time, and I had a lot of shit to get off my chest. So that’s where it went.”
Furthermore, given Slash’s track record with vocalists, it begs questioning whether at any point the guitarist had felt it would have been easier merely to assume frontman duties himself. He stops to consider this for a moment before replying. “It has crossed my mind,” he admits. “There’ve been times where, just out of convenience, I’ve thought, Fuck it. I’ll do it myself so I don’t have to keep looking for singers and going through all this bullshit. But at the end of the day I just do not want to be that guy. I feel comfortable expressing myself on guitar, and I have no inhibitions about doing that. But communicating with people in a verbal sense just does not sit well with me.” He laughs. “That said, I don’t mind yelling into a mic every once in a while if I happen to pass by one onstage.”
He may be making a lighthearted aside, but Slash would be the first to acknowledge that the stage is where he has always felt most comfortable. So much so that, during the recording sessions for Apocalyptic Love, he fostered a studio setting that mirrored a live scenario as closely as possible, in the hopes of being able to capture the sound of the band playing together as a unit on the final product.
Which is not the way it has always worked for him. Typically, Slash’s process in the studio has been to track his rhythm guitars alongside the bass and drums, only to scratch his parts and re-record them at a later date. “I’ve never been able to keep my live guitars,” he says. “And that goes back to the Appetite days.” He attributes this in part to the sterile recording techniques employed in most studios—in particular the common practice of separating band members from one another when playing, with each musician hearing the mix through headphones in order to minimize bleed between the instruments. “That really affects my playing and energy,” Slash says. “I hate headphones. To me they’re the bane of being able to achieve a real rock-and-roll feel. I don’t even like to listen to music in headphones.”