'Off the beaten Slash path': Former Guns N' Roses guitarist talks of teaming with Fergie, Adam Levine for solo effort
There are few vocalists, said Slash, who can inspire him to trot out a signature Guns N' Roses song such as "Sweet Child o' Mine." At the top of that shortlist, perhaps to the surprise of many of the guitar-slinger's longtime fans, sits Fergie. While the singer behind "My Humps" would seem to be a long way removed from the hard-rock stud, Slash defined the Black Eyed Peas vocalist as a "closet rock 'n' roll singer."
Though it wasn't the first time he performed the song with Fergie, Slash and the Black Eyed Peas ran through "Sweet Child" when the pop band opened for U2 at the Rose Bowl in late 2009. It's Fergie's ability, said Slash, to sing in the higher notes associated with the enigmatic Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose that persuaded Slash to perform the song in front of a stadium audience that was estimated to top 95,000 people.
"That was a first for me, to go out and pull out ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’ in front of however many thousands of people at the Rose Bowl with a different group," Slash said. "I had never really played that song with anyone besides Guns N' Roses. Fergie asked me if I would do it with her, and she’s honestly one of the only singers I would trust that song to."
She's one of more than a dozen vocalists who will appear on the guitarist's upcoming self-titled solo effort, set for release this April. It's the artist's first work since Velvet Revolver fizzled out in 2008, and first to bear his name since his two albums with Slash's Snakepit, who last released an album in 2000. The upcoming effort follows a pattern defined by another guitar hero, Santana. Slash is paired with a lineup of multi-genre artists, including Ozzy Osbourne, Kid Rock and Marooon 5's Adam Levine.
"I wasn’t trying to consciously bridge any generation gaps or to try to be eclectic," Slash said. "I wrote the music first, and I took the different styles of music that I was writing and farmed it out to singers who I thought might like it or be appropriate for. So for instance, I’d say, ‘Adam Levine would sound amazing on this.‘ So while that may be way off the beaten Slash path, I knew that’s what I would sound great."
"As a solo artist, I could get away with a lot of things that aren’t confined by the parameters of being in a band," Slash said. "This was a musical statement for me. I provided music for the singers, and it was an open campus for them to do what they wanted. Some people we collaborated on the music, and did whatever was necessary for that singer to have as much input, and some instances the arrangement I set the demo is the way it came out on the record. They had free rein on the lyrics and the vocal melodies. "
The album will be released in conjunction with EMI Label Services in the U.S., which will act mainly as a distribution/marketing partner. Slash is going without a proper label deal, and he has lined up different distributors in each territory. Roadrunner Records, for instance, will handle the European release of the album.
The Los Angeles-based guitarist, whose acrimonious relationship with his former Guns N' Roses partner has become the stuff of heavy metal lore, said he wanted this album to be as independent as possible, from both the creative and business ends.
"Given my experiences over the last 20 years, this gave me a whole new lease on life," Slash said. "There was no drama. There was no complicated or complex situations having to deal with writing and recording. This was so painless. It changed my whole perspective on how complicated working with anybody should ever be."
Slash will be taking the album on tour with singer Myles Kennedy, who fronted post-Creed band Alter Bridge. Once rumored to replace Robert Plant in Led Zeppelin, Slash promises that fans will hear him perform numerous songs from the Guns N' Roses days. While with Snakepit, Slash regularly performed such GN'R songs as "Mr. Brownstone" and "It's So Easy," and he said his summer tour will dig deeper into the catalog.
It's not, said Slash, an attempt for him reclaim the Guns N' Roses legacy. Under the Guns N' Roses banner, Rose last year released the long-awaited "Chinese Democracy" through an exclusive deal with Best Buy. The album was met with tepid reviews and lukewarm sales, and it failed to spawn a hit.
"You know, I think the legacy of the original band stands on its own, and it’s sort of an enigma," Slash said. "It’s more popular now than it was when it was together. But the rest of what’s being going on, I don’t have anything to do with, so I don’t take the perspective of judging it. It’s two separate entities."
So then why now? Why return to songs he hasn't played to large audiences in 20 years?
"More than anything, it’s because Myles is such a capable singer," Slash said. "He knows those songs, and he sings them great. A lot of those songs are in a register that most people can’t sing, and Myles can, and he can do it from the heart. That’s the real reason for unwrapping certain material that I haven’t played with anybody else."
In the lead-up to the album's release, Slash will take part in a promotional contest with Guitar Center ("Your Next Record With Slash"). Unsigned bands will vie for the opportunity to record a three-song EP with producer Mike Clink, as well as earn a "management development deal" with the Collective. Slash will also play on the EP, which will be released digitally.
Asked if the younger Slash would have partaken in such a contest, the artist said: "For me it has a lot to do with the survival of the medium of rock ‘n’ roll. I want to hopefully get a resurgence going and find something that is way more significant than a contest. Given the climate of the industry, if I was in a new band at present, then I would definitely take this opportunity to look. There’s solid people behind this. It’s not ‘American Idol,’ it’s not one of these reality TV shows or anything like that."
Photo: Slash and Fergie. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times