Slash: The Lone Gun
Originally published in Guitar World, May 2010
It’s been two years since Velvet Revolver misfired, but Slash hasn’t been sitting on the sidelines. With a new solo album and a slew of guest appearances, the guitarist is locked, loaded and ready for action.
For the past few years, Slash, arguably the most celebrated rock guitarist of his generation, has been, for all intents, a man without a band. It was back in the early part of 2008 that Velvet Revolver, that uneasy mix of three parts Guns N’ Roses and one part Stone Temple Pilots, went off the rails in the midst of a U.K. tour in support of their second album, Libertad. Months of tension between singer Scott Weiland and his bandmates eventually erupted into a fullblown war of words that began onstage at a show in Glasgow, continued online the following day, and ended on paper on April 1 of that year, when Slash and the rest of VR—bassist Duff McKagan, drummer Matt Sorum and guitarist Dave Kushner—released a written statement through their management confirming Weiland had been sacked. Slash declared at the time that Weiland’s “increasingly erratic onstage behavior and personal problems have forced us to move on.”
It hardly requires stating that this was not the first time a clash with an errant lead singer had compelled Slash to “move on.” And yet, while Velvet Revolver have remained dormant as their search for a new frontman continues, Slash has been far from idle. In fact, he’s possibly been more active than ever, popping up with regularity alongside a slew of big and varied names, and in a wide range of arenas. He’s been spotted at the Avalon in Hollywood, jamming with Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro, Tom Morello and others; at a festival in Kristiansand, Norway, riffing on Sabbath and Stones classics with Ozzy Osbourne and Ron Wood; and at the House of Blues in L.A., trading leads with Joe Perry on the blues classic “Walkin’ the Dog.” And then there are the odder outings—performing at the Grammys with Jamie Foxx, T-Pain and Doug E. Fresh; with Will.i.am on a remix of the Who’s “My Generation”; and on a cover of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” with Adam Lambert and other contestants on American Idol. For a musician whose official band status currently reads “on hiatus,” Slash has been a very busy boy. At times, by his own estimation, too busy.
“I tend to bite off more than I can chew,” he says, relaxing at home in L.A. on a February morning. It’s a relatively quiet day for the 44-year-old guitarist, and yet, even at this early hour he’s already been up and out—somebody, after all, has to take the kids to school. “The thing is, if something comes up that sounds interesting, I’m usually gonna say, ‘Okay, cool,’ and give it a shot.” He points to a recent one-off collaboration as an example. “Steve Lukather asked me to record with him and [jazz-fusion great] Lee Ritenour for a song on Lee’s new album. And I said, ‘Sure—what day?’ And I put it in my calendar and quickly forgot about it.”
He laughs. “So one night I’m home, my wife’s asleep, and I’m sitting around watching TV, like, Fuck it, I guess I’ll just go to bed. And then my Blackberry goes off and it’s a text from [Lukather], and he’s like ‘Dude, where the fuck are you?’ And I just thought, Oh shit! Today was the day! So now it’s midnight, and I jump in my car and fly down to the studio to lay down guitar on this, like, syncopated, rock-fusion type thing that I’ve never even played before. I had to sort of just get it together and make it up on the spot, with these two incredible guitarists flanking me on either side. So that’s kind of the way things have been going for me.”
It’s a typical Slash-style tale, wherein the guitarist, Les Paul in hand and top hat on head, manages to remain calm, collected and characteristically cool while standing in the eye of a rock and roll hurricane. Which brings us to a bigger story and, in many ways, the crowning achievement of Slash’s many collaborative projects over the years: his new, and first, solo album. The disc, titled simply Slash, finds the guitarist playing alongside his own wish list of musical talent, including three of his former Guns N’ Roses bandmates and more than a dozen of his favorite vocalists, from legends like Ozzy, Lemmy and Iggy Pop to rock contemporaries like Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows and Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale to pop stars like Fergie and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine. Not bad for a guy who once lamented his recurrent search for a lead singer as “the story of my life.”
As for attempting to pull off a project essentially jam-packed with singers, Slash says, “The idea to do something like this stemmed partly from the fact that over the years I’ve played on so many things for other people. I enjoy doing that, but at the same time to just go in, lay down some guitar on someone else’s song and then leave, is not 100 percent satisfying for me. I found that, in a lot of cases, I would have liked to get involved in the songwriting process with some of these artists. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while.”