Slash: The Lone Gun
Time, however, was not always permitting. But in a move similar to how, in his tumultuous last days with Guns N’ Roses, Slash found respite in the cozier confines of his own Slash’s Snakepit, the Velvet Revolver upheaval provided an opening for him to pursue this latest outing. “During that last Velvet tour, all the frustration from years and years of being in a band came to a head for me,” he says. “And at that point I thought, You know what? This is the perfect time for me to just focus on doing what I want to do, to regroup and get my head together, and just be the captain of my own ship—even if only for a minute.”
Slash began compiling ideas for what would become his solo album while still on the road with Velvet Revolver during that last ill-fated U.K. trek. Riffs were born on buses and in dressing rooms, with no clear idea of how—or where—they would eventually surface. But with the tour completed and Weiland sent packing, Slash began composing in earnest for what would be his own project. Around the same time, he befriended the father of one of his son’s schoolmates, an engineer who had turned his home garage into a recording studio. “Eventually,” Slash says, “I started going over to his place and cutting demos.” He added bass and drum parts to his initial guitar riffs, fleshing out arrangements and working up the skeletons of songs.
“I’m pretty old-school,” Slash says of his demoing process. “So my M.O. was essentially this: Here is a piece of music—some guitar, some bass, a shitty drum machine. Basically, I was just trying to get to something that sounded good enough to play for people. But what was happening was, whenever I had an idea and I listened back to it I would think, Who would sound good singing this song? And it would just come to me, like ‘Kid Rock would be great for this.’ Or, ‘Chris Cornell would sound great on that.’ ” He laughs. “After that, I just had to muster up the nerve to send tapes to all these guys and talk them into doing it.”
Shitty drum machine notwithstanding, most of his prospects, not surprisingly, required little in the way of convincing. (Though there were the rare holdouts—notably Jack White and Dave Grohl, each of whom offered his services as an instrumentalist but declined to contribute vocals. White does not appear on the album, while Grohl can be heard bashing away on the drum kit on the instrumental track “Watch This,” with McKagan on bass and Slash unleashing some blistering wah and talk box–drenched leads.) From there, it was a matter of working with the artist to build off Slash’s initial demo. “There were no lyrics or vocal melodies on anything,” he says. “That’s not my deal. So it was really open season for whoever was going to sing the song to take it wherever they wanted. We’d get together, discuss it, work out some ideas, and then later on they’d come in and lay it down.”
The end result is an album that has its share of surprising moments, such as the electrostrip club grind of “Beautiful Dangerous,” with Fergie, and the spare, fingerpicked ballad “Saint Is a Sinner Too,” which features a lilting vocal performance from Rocco DeLuca. At the same time, the sound is incredibly familiar—as it should be, given that Slash is not just a rock and roll icon but also a rock and roll fan. To that end, when paired with a singer he clearly reveres, Slash happily indulges in that artist’s signature sound. As such, “Crucify the Dead” finds Ozzy Osbourne wailing over an ominously Sabbathian chugging riff; “Doctor Alibi” pits Lemmy’s gravelly vocals against a suitably dirty, biker-rock groove; and the tongue-in-cheek “We’re All Gonna Die” (follow-up line: “So let’s get high”), with Iggy Pop, is a bare-bones, four-on-the-floor-style romp. “Iggy was actually the first guy to come in and record,” Slash says of the Stooges legend. “He just showed up, banged out his part and was gone. It was quick and easy. He really set the pace for the whole album.”
That pace was considerably more straightforward and efficient than should be expected from an effort that trades on such star power. In fact, the basic instrumental tracks for the songs on Slash are the sound of a power trio making quick work in the studio. Slash enlisted one-time Jane’s Addiction bassist Chris Chaney and ex–Nine Inch Nails drummer Josh Freese, both pedigreed session men who travel in similar L.A. rock circles as the guitarist, to join him on the recording. (In a further six-degrees-like connection, Freese is an alumnus of one of the many Chinese Democracy–era lineups of Guns N’ Roses.) Working off the same rough demos Slash had been sending to prospective singers, the three often hammered out finished song arrangements in one day’s time. “We would get things to a point that felt good, and where we knew what the parts were, and that was about it,” Slash says. “I come from a simple place—I’m a perfectionist, but only to a certain point. It’s a ‘close enough for rock and roll’ sort of thing.”
Recording commenced in May of last year, when Slash booked the trio into the L.A. studio of producer Eric Valentine (Queens of the Stone Age, All-American Rejects), who also helmed the project. In keeping with the streamlined approach to the working process, Slash likewise pared down his gear. He tracked his guitar parts with his Kris Derrig–built Les Paul, the now-famous copy he acquired during the sessions for Appetite for Destruction and also employed as his main instrument on that record. Slash has made use of this particular Les Paul to some extent on every album he has recorded in the years since; this time, it was his only studio guitar.
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