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Few artists in rock ‘n’ roll can carry off a single name, and carry it with gravitas. That is except Slash. And few guitarists command as much respect as Slash. So when he started making calls to his all-star wish list of singers and players he wanted to work with him on his current album, he didn’t hear no. Ozzy Osbourne, Iggy Pop, Kid Rock, Dave Grohl and Fergie all artists who have the luxury of saying no to plenty of requests – all easily and quickly said yes. And so, Slash, was born.
And while Slash has seen overwhelming career success already, Slash, is the artist’s first true solo album. He spent nearly a year at a Hollywood studio where he recorded special sessions with producer Eric Valentine (whose credits range from Queens of the Stone Age to The All-American Rejects to Nickel Creek) and an intense, compact rhythm section of bassist Chris Chaney (Jane’s Addiction) and drummer Josh Freese (most recently of Nine Inch Nails).
Additional artists on the album include a who’s who of contemporary rock music. Ian Astbury, Lemmy Killmeister, Chris Cornell, Duff McKagan, Maroon Five’s Adam Levine, Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy, Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale, Avenged Sevenfold’s M Shadows and rising-star singer Rocco De Luca. The tracks cover a wide range: “Ghost” with Astbury starts the album on a darkly seductive note. “Beautiful Dangerous” (Fergie full-out) and “I Hold On” (Kid Rock) push the rock ‘n’ roll edge. The superdrive instrumental “Watch This” showcases a power trio workout of Slash, McKagan and Grohl. The sly “Crucify the Dead” (Ozzy), “”Doctor Alibi” (Lemmy) and “We’re All Gonna Die” (Iggy) spotlight the unmistakable personalities and wit of three rock icons. And the tautly romantic “Gotten” (Levine) and nearly mystical “Saint Is a Sinner Too” (De Luca) offer stark contrasts in moods and shades.
“It was an honor to have all of these guys in here,” he says. “A few of them are heroes of mine from when I was younger. Lemmy was definitely one of the main ones for me growing up. Ozzy and Iggy and Lemmy. They all came to have a good time, but I was impressed that they were all really conscientious about doing a good job.”
Since emerging into the frontline of iconic rockers with the late-‘80s surge of his seminal band Guns N’ Roses, has been one of the world’s most sought after guitarists. Iconic musicians are often looking to Slash to add that special touch to recordings. From Michael Jackson (“Black and White,” “Give In to Me”) to Ray Charles to Stevie Wonder, directors Quentin Tarantino and Darren Aronofsky (core contributions to the soundtrack of “Jackie Brown” and the signature sound of the score to “The Wrestler”), the top figures in modern music and popular culture have demanded the definitive rock guitarist of a generation. Critics and fans alike still debate the best rock riffs of all time with “Sweet Child O’ Mine” consistently taking top honors. And a Time Magazine survey placed Slash second only to Jimi Hendrix among electric guitarists.
Slash is ever modest about his place in rock history, loathe to even consider it.
“It would take somebody else to tell you that,” he says. “I’m just not that guy. I mean, I like to think that I’m sort of carrying on the tradition of stuff that turned me on as a kid. And I think I’m sort of doing it some justice.”
Pondering how he has stayed in the forefront of music, “You know, I think it’s just because of the fact that I love it so much and I put a certain amount of energy into it that people get off on,” he says. “I mean, I hate to think it was just the top hat.”
Slash’s history encompasses Guns N’ Roses, his own Slash’s Snakepit band and two global hit albums anchoring Velvet Revolver in recent years, but the Slash album will be his first solo effort. The album is centered around the theme that no matter who is singing, there’s an energy, excitement and, above all, musicality to the guitar playing that elevates and unifies the music throughout.
“There’s obviously a sort of musical coherence to it,” Slash allows. “A lot of variety on the record, shifts in mood. But there is that underlying … uh … Slashiness.” It was a massive undertaking that came from a single initial concept that was very innocent. After the Velvet Revolver Libertad tour, Slash wanted and needed to do something outside of that band, something different. He thought it would be fun to work with a bunch of different people. Slash started writing, putting demos together and pursuing the idea with different singers. He spent the better part of a year writing and demoing music, and with every tune he wrote, envisioned the ideal vocalist for it.
Recordings of instrumentals ranging from full songs to fragments were sent out to the singers, who were given free hands to write lyrics and melodies and even edit or alter some of the musical ideas. And when they were mostly done, things really kicked into gear, starting with crisp sessions with Iggy Pop on the snarlingly witty rocker “We’re All Gonna Die.” “He sort of set the pace, set the vibe for the whole record. And actually it went really seamless from that point on. Iggy came in, did the vocal and flew back to Florida. He was here for two days. And then the next guy and the next guy. Just fucking amazing how something so complex in nature, having to do with the logistics of it all, could be on an artistic level so simple and creative and flowed so well.”
“Chris, Josh and I would come in here to track a song and we’d listen to the demo, they’d hear it for the first time in the afternoon and we’d jam it out with the master of ceremonies Eric Valentine tying it all together and then we’d lay the track that night,” he says. “And then the next day the vocalist would come in. We did that pretty much like clockwork, from May to June. By July we had an almost finished record.”
The whole album was created on now-rare analog tape (possible only because Valentine stashed a hoard of blank reels to use for just such a project) which puts the spontaneity and real human tones to the fore. The album also had some overlap and creative boost from another new Slash project, the score for the independent film This is Not a Movie by hot young Mexican director Ollalo Rubio. It’s Slash’s first full score commission and it brought him into new places in terms of sonic aesthetics and artistic approach.
“The Ozzie song, the Fergie song and the Iggy Pop song all involve ideas for music I used in the score,” he says. “And I wrote strong arrangements for the Adam Levine song ‘Gotten,’ which is the first time I had done that, though I had done some keyboard string arrangements for the movie.”
Slash traces his love of music and exploring spirit to his childhood in England, where his father introduced him to the sounds of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Yardbirds and other classic, groundbreaking acts. He got an insider’s view through his teen years after the family moved to Los Angeles, his father a graphic artist who worked with David Geffen for such artists as Neil Young and Joni Mitchell and his mother a costume designer for many top pop artists. Almost on a whim, he and friend Steve Adler started playing music together, Slash on guitar and Adler on drums. In the early ‘80s, influenced by such bands as Lemmy’s Motorhead, he and Adler formed a band, recruiting bassist McKagan. Within a year, with the addition of singer Axl Rose and guitarist Izzy Stradlin, the venture had morphed into Guns N’ Roses – and by the end of the decade had changed the course of rock history.
After Guns N’ Roses sold more than 100 million albums worldwide and dominated the music industry with its signature album “Appetite For Destruction”, Slash went on to see critical acclaim with Slash’s Snakepit and global success with Velvet Revolver. Fans have also flocked to imitate Slash style in Guitar Hero III: Legend of Rock where he is one of the most recognized playable characters. He is also know as a guitar connoisseur, owning more than 100 guitars, many custom made for him, and a Gibson Signature Slash model made in his honor.
The solo album comes on the recent heels of several other projects such as recording songs with Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones on his upcoming solo album, writing and performing his first full film score, sitting in with the Black Eyed Peas in concert, and co-writing his 2007 autobiography Slash. All signs indicate Slash won’t be slowing down anytime soon.