Slash: Appetite For Distraction
“I’m getting ready to go hit the road, rehearsing and doing press, obviously, to set the record up: all the regular shit that goes on.” Saul “Slash” Hudson obliges one more phone interview as a gruelling continent-crossing schedule in support of his first self-titled solo album creeps into his crosshairs.
Having become a prominent go-to figure for guest guitar licks since that acrimonious departure from Guns n’ Roses in 1996 – performing with everyone from Rihanna to Ray Charles – Slash’s newest release sees the shoe on the other foot as he invites a veritable who’s who of rock’n’roll royalty to sing and jam in his LA studio.
Affable but measured in the way he serves his answers – lest another court case rears its head – you can still tell, despite the major label backing, that Slash doesn’t entirely enjoy being bounced around by the machinations of the industry he’s pledged his life to. But beneath the top hat, Les Paul and dangling fag stands a consummate professional who feels the constant urge to collaborate, record and tour nonstop.
Before you went down the road of recruiting all these guests, were you tempted to go instrumental on your own, Joe Satriani style? That's what the premise of an album by Slash without the Snake Pit initially implies, after all…
“No, from its inception I started working on this record with the idea that I was going to have these singers come in and guest. I’m not saying that I’ll never do it – because you really never know – but the idea of doing a record with a bunch of different pieces of music on it that I solo over doesn’t really excite me at this point. I’m more of a song-oriented guy, and I like to play within the framework of a song…just trying to show off my guitar skills – which aren’t that fuckin’ great – for five minutes at a time.”
Did you have very definite ideas about who you’d draft in?
“I basically sat down, wrote instrumental songs and thought about who would sound good on each one. Then I’d contact each individual, send them a demo and we’d get together for a minute, work on the arrangement then we’d get into a studio and record it – very simple process, but the artists that ended up on the record were totally dictated by the music. One of the reasons why it’s so diverse is purely because the music said ‘well, we need Ozzy for this, and we need Adam Levine for that’ [laughs].”
A few of your childhood heroes – like Ozzy and Iggy – are on this album. Which one gave you the biggest thrill?
“One hundred percent honestly, everyone was wonderful on this record; every session I did with each individual was fuckin’ great and had its own unique moment. But obviously doing a session with Alice Cooper, or Ozzy, or Iggy, or Lemmy – those were the big heroes of mine that I’ve looked up to and been fortunate enough to be friendly with over a lot of years. For them to take the time out to come down and put their stamp on it was huge. But I don’t want that to undermine anybody else’s input, working with Kid Rock was fantastic, as was working with Fergie, Chris [Cornell], Andrew [Stockdale]…I could just go down the list, all the way up to discovering Myles Kennedy; I was the only guy on the block who didn’t really know who he was [laughs]. The whole process of making this record was a real shot in the arm for me.”
The album is very traditional in its attitude; does that still extend to the way you record? Trading files digitally in order to bring musical collaborations into fruition without being in the same room has become the done thing in the last decade – were you tempted?
“No, no, no – this was an old school, old fashioned record; everything was recorded live in the studio, like a normal band kind of thing – the way I’ve always done it – and the singers came down to the studio themselves. There were two situations where we had to send the tapes somewhere else; with Ozzy he has a studio right in his house so he did his vocals while I was over there. And then Kid Rock was in Michigan, so we recorded the song over there and I came back to rerecord it in LA with my band. Everything was done on 2” tape, it was all analog. It was really all in the spirit of the old way of doing things. Even with technology making all these modern conveniences, I still choose to do things the old way. It’s just to get a feel for the human interaction of a group when it’s live and the groove that comes with that, I’ve never believed in shooting files around.”
When we last spoke in 2007, just before the last Velvet Revolver tour, you mentioned that a solo album was on the cards. Has this been a labour of love ever since?
“When we went in to make the Libertad record – right at the start of it – at that time I was writing my book. By the time we were on tour I wrote down my intention to make a solo record with all these guest singers – that’s really when it became a solid idea in my mind. As that tour disintegrated slowly but surely (laughs], it turned into something I was eager to do, like: ‘as soon as I get the fuck outta here I’m going to go make a record’. Still, that particular UK leg of the Velvet Revolver tour was the best we ever did.”
You put a call out for a new vocalist to front Velvet Revolver a couple of years ago, is that still an ongoing search?
“Yeah, but I’ve been working on my record, Duff’s been doing his thing with Loaded and Jane’s [Addiction], but very quietly behind the scenes we’ve still been looking and keeping our ears open. Next year we’re going to get back together and focus on what we have so far and what’s around us. My whole thing is to find the killer rock singer for Velvet Revolver that’s the real deal; they’re few and far between these days.”