Slash Talks New Album, Explains Why He's a 'Band Guy'

Guitarist: 'I still have my name on the marquee and everything, but I’m just not a dictator'

Slash performs on day one of the High Voltage Festival at Victoria Park in London.
Neil Lupin/Redferns
Slash performs on day one of the High Voltage Festival at Victoria Park in London.
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Slash has announced his second solo album, the follow-up to 2010's Slash, will drop May 22nd. The as-yet-untitled record finds the guitarist performing with a new band that features Myles Kennedy on vocals, Brent Fitz on drums and Todd Kerns on bass.  Rolling Stone visited Slash late last year to discuss the making of the album, why he is a "band guy" and the importance of jamming with other musicians to stay humble.

So at this point is this a full band, now?
I’m a band guy. Everything I touch I turn into a fucking band. I still have my name on the marquee and everything, but I’m just not a dictator, I don’t want to rule anything. I like to hear what other people’s ideas are and so on and so forth. But the guys, like Brent and Todd, aren’t looking for any kind of glorified credit other than what it is that they do. Some people are stumbling over themselves trying to write even though they’re not inspired to do anything, but just to get their thing in there, which I deal with a lot in other situations. So I just write music, Myles writes his lyrics and his melodies, and he helps me get all that together with the music. And if anybody has any input on anything, it’s open season.

When did you realize you were a band guy?
I realized I was a band guy when I was 15 when I only knew like four licks and two chords and I started a band. I like working in a band atmosphere, I think something about that camaraderie. I do not want to do it all by myself. I’m like that with everything else, I don’t want to do that with music. I’m very much a loner in most respects, but when it comes to working with music, whether I’m leading it or not, the last record was very collaborative. It was just a lot of different people. But this is just one group of guys, which is really cool for me at this point after having done the last record and going in with Chris Chaney and Josh Freese and going, “Here’s the demo, let’s learn it real quick.” Then we record it and bring the vocal in, that’s how every song went. This is more my style of recording where we rehearse the shit out of it until it feels second nature and then go and bang it out in the studio.

Are the songs being done primarily live then in the studio?
The most live I’ve ever done it. This time, instead of rerecording my guitar tracks in the control room, we built a big iso booth that I have huge monitors in in the studio room where the drums and the bass are. So I just play live along with them, but I’m isolated, but I can see. Really it’s got a certain live, raw feel to it.

Who’s producing the album?
Eric Valentine. It was a good experience and got great sounds with Eric and I love working with him and everybody loves him.

How do you balance everything you and Myles have going on?
We rehearsed, we did pre-production for about three weeks to a month to get those 17 or so songs together. And we just went in everyday from two o’clock to eight, nine o’clock everyday and bashed it out. Then Myles came back and he took off and we went in and recorded three songs just to have something to use. So I knew early on, we worked it out between our managers when his schedule is going and so on and so forth. So his last run with Alter Bridge [was] this European tour, then I’ve got him for a year. Poor guy hasn’t rested since he met me.

When was the last time you rested?
Yeah, but I don’t sing. I don’t rest easy. I took a couple weeks' vacation in Ibiza when I renewed my vows, and that’s a test of wills for me. Even then I’m tinkering with shit the whole time. My mind never stops. I took a guitar and a laptop.

And Perla let you do that?
Yeah, I’m getting good at it, having to juggle it all. I would go out and party with her all fucking night and then during the day when everybody is asleep is when I would get shit done. Or I wouldn’t go out and I would just stay in when they went out. It gets sorted out.

When was the last time you went someplace on vacation as opposed to being on the road on tour?
Before the last U.K. leg I went and met Perla in Ibiza once again for 10 days, and then took off to go play with B.B. King during the middle of that. It’s hard to nail me down for any length of time because there’s too much to do. And since I’m pretty much solely responsible for my own fucking destiny at this point I can’t rely on other people to do it. I have really great management, but I work toe-to-toe with them on everything. So someone’s gotta be here.

You have that flexibility to do what you want, pick up that guitar, and if B.B. King says, “Jam with me,” take off and play with him.
I started doing that as soon as I was welcome to do that by my sometimes peers and also some heroes. As soon as that started coming in I took off and started doing it. And that was in the very early Nineties or even late Eighties, like ’89 to ’90.

Do you remember who the first band was to welcome you on stage?
I think I have always needed that, where you go up and just stay completely humbled and fucking learn to work with other people cause you can get in such a bubble being in a rock & roll band that’s arrogant and fucking does its thing and is probably one of the best bands around doing it. And you just become isolated into that little island, and it’s very limited. I would jam in bars even. That’s always kept me grounded and always kept me learning as a player and keep me seeing how really great other musicians are that are better than me all over the place (laughs). One of the first recording sessions I started going in and doing was Alice Cooper, Lenny Kravitz was early on, Iggy Pop was early, Insane Clown Posse. There were a few sessions in there, but those pop out as really early on, especially the Alice Cooper one, that “Hey Stupid” song.

Now in this group you are the senior member, correct?
I’m the oldest out of the bunch, but they’re not that far behind me.

But in experience you have a good leg up.
I realize hanging out with those guys I got a fucking story for everything.

Do those stories help keep them humbled and being the senior member and leader of the band are you in a bit of a mentor role?
Those guys are all really, really professional, so they don’t need any schooling in any way, shape or form. And fucking Brent and Todd are both from Canada so they’re polite as hell and Myles is a very genteel individual himself. When it comes down to it they all do it as much as I’ve ever done it, maybe not as long, but they’re in the thick of it so there’s no mentoring going on.

Was it important to you starting a band this time that it was just all guys that were professional and you feel comfortable with?
Well, that’s food for thought. Professionalism, for me, has always been a key thing. I think that’s something that I admire and respect, a good work ethic and people who, no matter it is they do in their free time, show up and do their job. So I’ve always wanted to be that guy and I think I always focused in that direction, even if it was subconscious. And so I expect that from the guys that I work with and I appreciate being in that kind of environment. I cannot stand working in a situation where people are so arrogant that they just are really inconsiderate or can’t get their shit together or whatever it is that keeps them from functioning properly. And I’m deathly afraid of being that guy.

Did you write at all this time thinking about what this band is capable of and playing to those strengths?
The thing about this band is, and I really have not sat down and analyzed it in any way, shape or form, everybody is such great rock ‘n’ roll players. They can play pretty much everything, but there’s that spirit of people who grew up in it, they’ve learned from Kiss to Ramones to whatever and everything in between, there’s Zeppelin, some Rush, whatever, they know everything, but they really love it. They have really great influences, so I can pretty much do anything with them and so that’s one of the reasons I just wrote whatever I felt like and didn’t think about whether they can play it or not and I just made it up. When I played it for them we were off and running every single song.