On "Living The Dream", his new album with vocalist Myles Kennedy and THE CONSPIRATORS, guitarist Slash displays some funk, blues and boogie-rock influences that aren't readily apparent in his work with GUNS N' ROSES.
"A long time ago," Slash recently told writer Clay Marshall, "there was that Lenny Kravitz song called 'Always On The Run'. The reason I wrote that with Lenny was that was a riff that had no home elsewhere. He heard it and was, like, 'Oh.' Everybody else was hating on it, and he was like, 'Oh, that's really cool.' He was an outlet. [In THE CONSPIRATORS], I've just been doing stuff that I haven't really done as of yet, so it's just starting to come out now. I listen to a lot of old-school rock 'n' roll guitar and blues guitar anyway, so as much as a loud, blistering sort of rock guitarist that I am, I have a lot of guitar players that I listen to that are more in the mode of boogie guitar and blues guitar, like Albert King and Freddie King. The three Kings. Those are guys that really had a profound influence on me, so it comes out when it can."
He adds that whenever he records a new album, he tries to avoid repeating anything he's done before. "You have your style," he explains. I know that ever since I first got a Fender Princeton [guitar] and a Distortion Plus [pedal], I've been working on what it is that I like to do. That was when I was 14 or 15. A lot of stuff will tend to sound like you doing what it is that you do. If you catch something that you [play that] melodically is something similar, if your ear catches it, it's something that you're not going to continue pursuing because you've already written it before, or worse, somebody else has. For the most part, the ideas, when they get out there, are pretty original, but if there's an energy or an attitude or an attack that's similar to something else that I've already done, it's just because it's the nature of what it is that you do. I try not to have anything that sounds familiar as a melody and then go, 'Oh, let's do it anyway.' I try to catch myself when I'm doing guitar solos that I'm not using licks I already have. Sometimes you listen back to something you just recorded — especially right now, because I've been listening to those last four [solo] records – and I tend to see certain patterns that I fall into. I never really noticed it until you have to listen to it."
Despite being arguably the most recognizable guitarist in rock, Slash doesn't typically rate highly in guitar magazine readers' polls, but the oversight doesn't bother him. "In this world of guitar — and I've been doing this for a long time — there's this obsession with technical prowess and technique and this, that and the other," he says. "[It's] sort of like X Games — it's excelled to the point where you can watch guitar players literally blow your mind and make your jaw drop over all these things that they can do. It totally reminds me of when I used to race BMX — I look at BMX then and I look at what they're doing now, and I'm like, 'Fuck.' It's great, and I don't knock it, but you're always compared, everybody's compared to all these guitar players, and who's best, who's better, who's the fucking greatest this, and blah blah blah. Some of it's on an emotional level, but most of it is technical and speed. The most important thing if I'm put in that place, because I'm really not trying to compete with anybody, so the most important thing for me is [that] somebody can recognize your voice. For me, any guitar player that's worth anything has something to say, and it's something that you can recognize — with one note or 1600 notes, you know who the person is. You know they have a musical personality that comes out, just like when you're seeing an actor and they convey a certain presence that you know is unique to them. I would be happy if people knew me as a guitar player by how I come across as an individual."
While Slash says he doesn't feel any sort of responsibility to continue flying the flag for guitar-driven hard rock, he admits it's unlikely to see him doing anything else. "If I turned around tomorrow and decided that I wanted to play harp, then I would play harp. And I do like harp, actually," he laughs. "If all my fuckin' passion and energy was to switch from guitar to another instrument tomorrow, I would do that, but I love guitar. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with how it fits into contemporary music right now. It might be top of the heap one month or one year or two years or whatever it is at some point in the future, or it might stay where it is. I don't know, but it doesn't really affect so much how I do things. But one of the things I do recognize about it that's sort of cool is that for all us people who do have sort of a passion for [rock] — especially young kids coming up that are really into it — is the glamour is gone. If you're aspiring to be a rock star, it's not about jets and cars and money and houses. If you want to do it, you have to do it because you love it. You're not going to get anything back from it at this particular point in time. I sort of love that about it — that it's really down to you against them. If you have that passion and you're willing to risk everything to do it but you have something to say, then go for it."
"Living The Dream" was released on September 21 via Slash's own label, Snakepit Records, in partnership with Roadrunner Records.