There is no mistaking Slash. Even the people that wouldn't typically know
his music usually recognize the face of the man that has embodied everything that is
rock and roll since he blasted onto the scene in the mid-1980's. We recently had the opportunity to talk to Slash about his career, his new CD and the new Epiphone "Appetite" Les Paul Standard Outfit.
Tell me about your early influences. Were there specific players that inspired you to pick up a guitar?
Some guitar players that have inspired me are John Lee, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, the boys from Aerosmith, Eric Clapton from Cream, Rick Nielson from Cheap Trick and Ted Nugent.
Are there any newer players that inspire you today?
The guitar players that inspire me today are basically all the same guitar players that inspired me when I first started. That hasn't really changed, but additionally I think that Tom Morello, Jack White & Jerry Cantrell are great and are some of the really inspiring lead guitar players that have come out in the last 20 years.
How much affect on your creative self would you attribute to having parents that were both designers?
Both my parents had a lot of influence on me because they raised me around a lot of really good music... so that definitely had some sort of influence.
So the "arts" were encouraged by them?
All of my family members are very creative and I think that had a lot to do with my going in the direction of the arts... as opposed to being an attorney or something. They were also very encouraging once I picked up the guitar.
Throughout your entire career you have been associated with the Les Paul. Was there ever a time when you played anything else?
My first guitar was a Les Paul copy so I was drawn to the Les Paul from the very beginning. I did go through a period of trial and error with a lot of different guitars but I would always gravitate back to the Les Paul. It's almost like the Les Paul picked me. It has a lot to do with the weight of the guitar, the look of the guitar, and obviously, most importantly the sound of the guitar.
Tell me about the Epiphone version of the AFD Les Paul. How particular were you with the development of the Epi AFD?
The Epiphone is designed identical to the Gibson Les Paul so I was particular with it from the get-go.
And, how do you think it came out?
It's such a quality instrument... the components are quality, the wood is quality, everything about it is done so well, and it's also reasonably priced. I can't emphasize enough that it's great for someone whose picking up a guitar for the first time all the way up to someone who plays professionally at the highest levels... and it crosses over perfectly. So it's really an instrument that I would recommend. All the hardware on it is hand picked by me, the pickups are Slash model Seymour Duncan pickups and the guitar itself is a replica of my favorite recording guitar that I've been using since 1987.
I recently got a copy of the new CD and I'm not just blowing smoke when I say that it has not been taken out of the CD player in my truck since. Great songs, great vocals and of course great playing. I absolutely LOVE the solo in Dr. Alibi. It is just oozing with that Slash feel and vibe that makes guitar players wish they had played it. What is your approach to soloing on record? Was that solo improvised or do you typically work something out first?
I don't write solos per se... I write the song and when it gets to the solo section I improvise. Usually what happens is I will have a gut instinct idea during the first take that basically structures the whole solo... and I just go with that. If I really need to fix a note because of melody or something, then I'll go and do a couple more takes and incorporate that note into the original idea.
Each song on the new CD is incredibly well matched to the vocalist performing it. What was your process? Did you write these songs with certain vocalists in mind or did you write the songs and then go back and try to match a singer to each track?
I didn't know who was going to sing on the record until I wrote the music. Like with the Ozzy song... when I first started writing that song, I knew Ozzy would be the perfect person to sing it... and I never thought of anyone else to sing that song. So with every song on the record... I'd just listen to the music and go, "you know who'd sound great singing this?"... and that's how the decisions were made.
My 15-year-old daughter who had no idea who you were a couple months ago was recently asking me about you... something to the effect of "You know that guitar player that did a song with Adam Levine..." Of course, at her age, she would know who Adam is but I have now introduced her to your stuff with Guns and Velvet and the new CD. Are you finding a broader audience since working with such a wide range of vocalists on this project?
I'm out on the road and haven't had a lot of time to get direct responses to the album as a whole... outside of the audience at the shows... so that's really hard to know but I would imagine that it's broadened the audience a little bit.
And speaking of kids... I know both of your boys are still fairly young... but have either of them shown an interest in playing guitar yet?
Not really, outside of playing with their little electric guitars and running around the house with those... but as far as musically showing interest in the guitar no. One of them likes the piano though.
If music had not chosen you... what do you think you would be doing with your life today?
If I wasn't playing guitar, I'd most definitely be doing something in illustration.
When I was growing up there were several guitar icons that I related to who inspired me as a player. Then the 90's hit and not so much. You have been one constant and one of a few guys that still make guitar cool. I know players... some in their 50's and others in their early 20's whose eyes light up when your name comes up. How does it make you feel to be an inspiration to such a wide range of players?
When you say something like that, it's hugely flattering and people come up and remind me of that from time to time... that I have an influence on younger players... but I'm so insecure as a guitar player that I have a hard time accepting myself as someone who is influential. I'm still trying really hard to get my own shit together and get better at what I do so it's really hard for me to say I have an impact on other guitar players because I'm trying so hard to reach my own standards as a player.
Thanks for your time... and in parting, tell me one thing about you, off-stage, that people might be surprised to know. What do you do to get away from music?
I go to zoos and museums... that's what I do in my off time. I go to natural history museums and I go to zoos.