Slash: The Lone Gun
“Over the years, beginning with the Use Your Illusion albums and all the way through Snakepit and Velvet, recording guitars became this thing of, If you want a different sound, grab a different instrument,” Slash says. “So I’d start with a Les Paul, and then maybe add in a Tele, or a Strat, or a Gretsch. But I’ve come to realize that just never does anything for me—I’m always left with this sort of unsatisfied feeling. So for this record I narrowed it down to the one guitar I’ve been recording with since Appetite, and that’s it.”
In a similar vein, when it came to amps he stuck primarily to just one, an Eighties Marshall JCM800 that he pulled from his collection of that model. “I just went through all these heads I had in storage until I found one that sounded really great,” he says. “A funny thing is, for the first song we recorded, which was the Iggy Pop tune, the amp was unbiased. It was all tweaked out and crackly, but there was something about that sound. So we tracked the song with the amp all fucked up, and then I had it biased and used it on the rest of the record.”
Slash cut two rhythm tracks for each song, often combining the Marshall with a different amp on one of the tracks to imply a dual-guitar sound. “We’d layer in, say, an Orange, or a Magnatone, or a Vox, and then pan the guitars left and right to really separate the parts,” he says. He strung his guitar, as always, with Ernie Ball .011s, and kept effects to a minimum. “I used some old fuzzes, an MXR Blue Box, a talk box, a wah, some other things. I have basically a big a tub filled with pedals, and Eric [Valentine] has a bunch of old-school stuff too. So we would grab something when we needed it but didn’t really go crazy with anything.”
The sessions, Slash says, “went like gangbusters. We did the basic tracks live, and then we’d have a singer come in and lay down the vocals, usually in a day. The only guys who didn’t come down to the studio were Ozzy and Kid Rock—Ozzy did his part up at his house in L.A., and Kid Rock recorded his song [“I Hold On”] back in Michigan. But one of the charming things about this whole process was getting the chance to work with all these artists in a very laid-back, just-for-the-fun-of-it setting. And because people weren’t feeling any type of pressure whatsoever, I think we wound up with some amazing performances. And that’s a testament to how simple and easy things can be. When you do something just because you enjoy doingit, you get some magic moments.”
For Slash, some of those magic moments were found where he least expected them. “One of the biggest surprises for me,” he says, “was ‘Gotten’ [with Adam Levine]. I love Adam to death, and we’ve been friends for years, but I can’t say that I’m someone who listens to Maroon 5 too much. But the piece of music I had, with the string parts and all that, it would have never worked if I had brought it to, say, Velvet Revolver. The only person that I thought had a smooth enough voice for it was Adam. So he and I got together at his house and worked it out. And when he came to the studio, it was one of the most amazing things. He sang that song as flawless as it sounds on the record—perfect falsetto, perfect intonation. He was incredible.
“It was a similar thing with Rocco DeLuca,” he continues. “I had been looking for someone with that high, clean type of voice for ‘Saint Is a Sinner Too,’ to go along with all the fingerpicking stuff in that song. I had actually thought of [Radiohead’s] Thom Yorke, but then a friend played me some songs off one of Rocco’s albums and it just seemed like a perfect match. He has that ethereal vibe.” Other high points? “ ‘Nothing to Say,’ with M. Shadows—that was a fun one,” Slash says. “It’s probably the first time I’ve been able to get away with playing a straight-up metal song. And then Fergie. I already knew that she could sing rock and roll [Slash and Fergie had earlier collaborated on a version of “Paradise City,” which appears as a bonus track on Slash]. But when everyone else hears ‘Beautiful Dangerous,’ they’re gonna be like, whoa!”
But perhaps the most hotly anticipated guest spot for longtime Slash fans belongs to his reclusive one-time Guns N’ Roses co-guitarist, Izzy Stradlin, who contributes to the album’s leadoff track, “Ghost” (which features the Cult’s Ian Astbury on vocals). Slash opens the song with a characteristic repeating single-note pattern high on the neck before Stradlin joins in with wide, ringing chords that outline the chord progression. As on much of their classic work together, Slash plays dirty and aggressive throughout, while Stradlin stays loose and Stonesy.
“Musically, ‘Ghost’ is very much a ‘Slash’ kind of thing,” Slash says. “It’s a way I put shit together that goes all the way back to the Guns days. So once the music was completed, I immediately thought of Izzy. It just seemed like his style of playing would be perfect. Hecame down to the studio one day with this hollowbody guitar and a little amp. He got there before I did, as usual, and by the time I showed up he was done.” He laughs. “But it was cool, because there’s a certain kind of audible personality that happens when Izzy and I put our guitars together. It’s instantaneous.”
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