Slash interview - Full transcript
Born in Stoke on Trent, Saul Hudson became Slash after a move to LA at the age of 11. Now one of the world’s most iconic guitarists who gave us the timeless riffs from ‘Welcome to the Jungle’, ‘Paradise City’ and ‘Sweet Child of Mine’. After leaving Guns 'N’ Roses in 1996 he formed Slash’s Snakepit and then Velvet Revolver before releasing his first solo album in May of this year.
Did you enjoy making your first solo record?
I had the ultimate freedom. It was totally up to me for pretty much everything. For some reason, having that much responsibility was very liberating, because I got to make all the decisions and had a really good time doing it.
How exactly did the recording process work, especially working with so many vocalists across the album?
I wrote the music, made a demo, then sent it to the artist I thought should sing on that piece of music so they could write the lyrics and do all that. So every song was co-written by the vocalist. It was really very simple and very old school in terms of the song-writing, where one guy sits around and comes up with a bunch of chord changes and this, that and the other, puts it all together and serves it up to the singer to see if he likes it, he makes up his part of it then we went in the studio and banged it out.
Did it give you more freedom? The track with M Shadows (Avenged Sevenfold) is very different from the track with Rocco DeLuca
I think that was the whole idea behind doing the solo record was to be able to do musically whatever I wanted to do. Obviously it’s a rock record, because I’m a rock guy, but I have different moods that I like to get into that don’t always translate with, say, Velvet Revolver, Snakepit or Guns N’ Roses. When you’re in a group, it tends to have certain boundaries musically, so this was a lot of fun for me because I could do whatever I wanted and pick the appropriate singer to go with that song, like say Adam Levine [Maroon 5] just perfect for that particular piece of music and it really accentuates the difference between that song or that song - between all the songs.
Perhaps the collaboration with Fergie from Black Eyed Peas has received the most attention, how did that come about?
The Fergie track came about because, basically, three years ago I did a benefit gig with the Black Eyed Peas - a fundraiser for underprivileged kids. I got up there for a soundcheck and said "OK, what do you want me to play?" And they said "We’ve got this rock medley and Fergie’s gonna sing it." So I learned the medley. There was a Zeppelin song and a Heart song and I think ‘Live & Let Die’ was in there, and as soon a we were done, Fergie walked in. I’d never met her before, so we met and we started with ‘Black Dog’ and she fucking sang it like nobody’s business, and I was like "Wow", because I wasn’t expecting that. Just like everybody else out there, but she’s got one of the most kick ass rock voices I’d heard coming out of a girl - or anybody for that matter. We became friends and it turns out she comes from a rock’n’roll background, but ended up going in a pop direction - which she’s pretty good at too, obviously - but this rock’n’roll thing is a real passion with her. So, fast-forward three years and I’m making this record and I had this one song that I thought maybe she’d be into, so I sent it to her and a few days later she came down to my friends house where I was doing the demo and she laid down arguably one of the best lyrics on the record - perhaps it’s because its from a girl that makes it so hot - but anyway that was that. There were rumours running round that I was going pop - but I knew what I was doing.
Any vocalists you wish you could have got for the album that you couldn’t get this time around?
I’m not overly greedy. I managed to pull together a pretty fucking hot vocal ensemble on this record and I didn’t have anybody that I really really wanted that I couldn’t get. There was a certain amount of luck in pulling all this together. Beggars can’t be choosers, so I’m not vying for anybody in particular that I wish I could get to get another record going at this particular point.
Was it a fun record to make? Especially as you know a lot of these vocalists already.
It helps. The first group of guys I worked with to get this record started - you know, Lemmy and Iggy and Ozzy and Alice Cooper - that was a big deal, and they were the people I’ve known the longest and it was really sweet that they fucking stopped whatever it was they were doing and came down and made an effort to put the vocals on, write the lyrics, record and everything because it takes a certain amount of effort. Then, from that point on, I had enough confidence to start calling people who I didn’t know at all, and anyway - it all worked out.
But it will be Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge) fronting the live band?
Myles Kennedy and I have put a killer backing band together. It’s really cool because you throw this all together, and the gigs are already booked, but we didn’t know who would be in the band. I was blessed. The whole band is fucking great and Myles is phenomenal. We’ve only done five gigs and they’ve all been great. I’m really excited about this whole thing.
Going back to the start, how did you first get into rock music?
It’s funny you should ask me that because I was thinking along those lines about ten minutes ago. I think when I was a kid, and I was in England and it was all about The Stones, The Who, The Kinks and The Beatles and that’s what my dad was into. My dad was a real rebel tearaway art student, one of those kids, that whole generation. And that’s what I was raised on in England, but when I moved to the states it was about The Doors and Led Zeppelin and everything else that was going on. We had a really vast music collection and I was raised around rock’n’roll, it’s just the way it was. So when I got to be about 13 or 14, I started listening - even though my parents music was way cool - to contemporary hard rock at that time, which was Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Ted Nugent and all that, and that’s just where I came from. I always loved rock guitar. I just never put it together that that’s what I’d end up doing. I had no aspirations to be a musician, but I picked up a guitar for two seconds and haven’t put it down since.
What do you think it is that makes you so unique as a guitarist?
I have no idea what I’m doing, I’m not really sure how I got to the place where I’m at. I have my moments as a player - that definitely translate emotionally - that really come from a sincere place, and maybe people pick up on that, or maybe it’s just the riffs, I don’t know. But it’s been sort of cool to be recognised as a decent guitar player. That’s one of the things that I’ve always wanted to be able to do, to be at the top of my game, for me personally, just to be getting better as a guitar player, being able to communicate with the guitar better and better as I go, and I think that’s started to work a little bit. In other words, I have no fucking clue.
How different is it touring now you are clean and sober?
When it came to touring, it wasn’t really about the drugs. I was never much of a druggie on the road - that was always at home when I was off the road I would fall into the abyss through boredom - but on tour it was really about booze, and I just burnt out on drinking 24 hours a day for the last 35 years, so I don’t really miss it. Everything’s really the same. I still party all the time and hang out with everyone who drinks, but I just don’t personally, and don’t really have the desire to get blitzed drunk any more. But nothing really seems odd to me. I think the focus for me is all about music at this point, so I’m happy to be in that place where I’m just looking forward to playing and just hanging out.
Are you amazed you came out the other side unscathed?
I wouldn’t say unscathed, but I’m still here.
What’s the current status of Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver?
Velvet Revolver’s just on stand by. I’ve got this tour to do, so when I get done with this I want to get back in earnest to try and figure out who’ll do the singing chores with that band and make another record. With Guns N’ Roses the stasis is the same now as in 1996 - really there hasn’t been any change.
Did you come across any singers that you think would work for Velvet Revolver while recording this album?
When I was doing this record I was thinking of singers, I was listening to the songs that I was writing and thinking 'Who would sound great on this?' and I was referring to the catalogue of great singers in my head, not really unknown singers but people who were already established, that wouldn’t necessarily be interested in doing Velvet Revolver or anything like that.
How have the solo shows been so far?
I can’t wait this whole tour. Everything about going out and doing this whole thing is great. It’s fun because I’m doing material off the new record that has actually done pretty well, so when I play a song they actually know what it is. Then there’s some old Guns stuff which is a lot of fun, which I haven’t played since the 90s and I’m throwing some Snakepit in there and some Velvet Revolver stuff. I’m just having a gas. Like I say, the band is great and Myles is fucking incredible, so it’s like just having a really, really good time, I’m looking forward to all the dates.
Looking forward to playing the UK?
I always look forward to playing the UK in particular. That was always the bar. It might be because I’m from here or it might be to do with the fact that it’s an audience that pulls no punches or maybe it’s because it’s where Guns N’ Roses first really found a solid footing, so it’s always very important to me. I want to come back and do a full UK tour rather than just these handful of dates, so it is a big deal for me.
Looking forward to getting to Edinburgh?
It’s gonna be hot, I have a bunch of friends in Edinburgh so it’s gonna be great.
What have you got planned next?
This tour goes into February, so I don’t like to look too far down the road - keeps me more in the present - so that’s basically it. Then I want to get back to the Velvet thing and whether I’m gonna do any other odd kind of solo record still remains to be seen, but right now it’s about going out and doing this fucking tour.
Slash plays HMV Picture House, Edinburgh, Thu 1 Jul. Slash (Roadrunner) is available now