Two years into Zoom becoming a mainstream method of communication, it’s clear that the assortment of books, artwork and knickknacks that decorate the shelves in the background of a video call say a lot about the person appearing in front of them. Sure, some folks opt for a shelf-free background, but unless you’re in a particularly enthralling room or have some very special art or posters as your backdrop, all that tells people is that you’re boring. Of course, there’s always the digital option of replacing your actual setting with something more interesting… if you’re a coward.
As one might expect, Slash has a wide variety of tchotchkes on the shelves behind him in his preferred Zoom setup. The groupings of gifts, purchases, and other small acquisitions no doubt tell different parts of his long and illustrious life’s story. Frankly, I have no idea what any of them were, since I was focused on the rock ‘n roll royalty sitting in front of them in a bandana (instead of his iconic top hat) and his signature sunglasses.
But after about 20 minutes of answering my questions, Slash leaned in toward his camera, clearly looking at something on the screen in front of him.
“Is that a dinosaur menorah behind you?”
Of all the things for Slash to notice on the wobbly IKEA bookshelf behind me (which also holds his autobiography, among others), he’d picked out the little golden T. rex with a slightly broken tail on the second shelf from the top.
“Oh, yeah, my wife got it for me a couple years back,” I explained after the initial shock wore off.
“I’ve got the same one! I got it as a Christmas gift.”
In addition to having the same Menorahsaurus (what it’s actually called, according to the internet) as SPIN’s Deputy Editor, Slash also has a brand new album coming out this Friday (February 11). As the first release on Gibson Records, 4 picks up where the guitar icon left off — bringing his signature sound to a variety of rocking tracks with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators.
Check out the non-dinosaur menorah portion of SPIN’s interview with Slash below.
SPIN: What went into putting this album together for the first release on Gibson’s new record label?
Slash: For the record itself, we recorded it with Dave Cobb in Nashville at RCA Studio A, which was a great experience. We had a blast over there. We recorded the album live in the studio, which means all of the gear in one room, just like we would in a venue. That was a first for me, and it really gave the record a certain kind of excitement that you just don’t get with the way that records are recorded nowadays. It was fun, and I think it’s a great rock and roll record.
Working with Gibson has been amazing. I mean, I’ve had a relationship with Gibson for almost 30 years, but when I got the call that they wanted to release this record as their first release on their new label, it was all a big surprise. I had no idea they even had a label, but this was almost too perfect to be true. It just seemed like such an obvious thing.
You’ve now been playing with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators for longer than you have any other incarnation of any other band without taking a significant break. How has that relationship developed over the years?
When it first started, it was initially just to support the solo record that I did back in 2010. I worked with Myles on that record, and I asked him if he wanted to do this tour that I was doing to sort of cover my whole catalog. He has great range and a variety of styles that he’s capable of, so he signed on to do it. Then I met Brent Fitz, and I got him to play drums. He introduced me to Todd Kerns, and we just had this really natural instantaneous chemistry. That’s really kept us going this whole time on a personal level, and on a professional level, it’s just very, very easy. We get along great, and all we want to do as individuals and as a collective is just go out and play. There’s absolutely nothing else to it. Everybody is fine with doing however much work it takes to be able to to facilitate that.
What’s the creative process like for you these days when you’re working on “solo” material like this with the band?
There’s no real set thing. This is gonna sound corny, but I really enjoy what it is that I do. I’ve always got a guitar with me. I’m always dicking around trying to come up with new ideas just based on playing, and whenever I do come up with something, I record it that minute into my phone. That technology has been a real convenience because back in the day, it was too much of a pain in the ass to set up to record every time you had an idea. With the phone, I’m always just compiling new stuff. I write a lot on the road, which is something that’s a little different than in the old days. In the old days, I couldn’t remember anything that I wrote if I wrote on the road at all. Usually what happens is I’ll come up with a riff, and then the next day, I’ll bring it to soundcheck while we’re touring and just start working up an idea at soundcheck. A lot of the ideas on this record are rooted in that process. During the pandemic, I did a lot of writing and recorded demos for this record from the old stuff, but I also wrote some new stuff for this record as well.
Outside of your own music, you’ve gotten to perform both live and in the studio with an insane number of legendary artists. Is there anyone else on your bucket list for who else you’d want to play with?
There’s a ton of people that I would appreciate being able to work with, but the way that it happens is that I just sort of run into people in passing. We end up having a conversation, and the conversation gets around to jamming on something or writing or whatever. All of them are really born out of these spontaneous little social things that come out of nowhere. There’s never a lot of pre-planning. Sometimes I get called to do stuff, but for the most part, it’s just casual and by chance. In the future, I don’t know what I might end up doing. I actually just recorded something with Fear. That was really exciting for me, because in L.A. back in the late ‘70s, Fear was like my all-time favorite L.A. punk band. They’re doing a covers record, so they called me, knowing that I’m a big Fear fan. Duff [McKagan] is on it as well. I don’t know if I’m letting the cat out of the bag too soon, because it’s probably supposed to be a surprise, but I don’t know. They didn’t tell me.
In addition to putting out your new album, it feels like you’ve had more signature Les Pauls with Gibson than pretty much anyone else. What’s it like to now have basically an entire line of guitars with your name on it?
It’s an honor for me, because when I first picked up the guitar, my go-to first electric guitar was a Les Paul copy. I’ve learned a lot about gear and all that kind of stuff over the years — and I did trial and error with a lot of different guitars — but the guitar that I’ve always been most comfortable with is a Les Paul. When I first came out, I was just a Les Paul guy, and I never thought too much about it. Then at some point around 1990, I went to a NAMM show in Chicago and they had this line of Les Pauls with a faded sunburst with no pickup covers and no pickguard — exactly how I set my guitars up. So I talked to the guy, and he goes, “Oh, well, you know, this is sort of a new look we’re trying with these guitars.” It was like they finally got me. So then they finally made me a personal Slash model based on my specs with my name on it, but there were only like three of those and they weren’t commercially available. Years go by, and when Velvet Revolver [started] is when we first actually did a commercially available Slash model Custom Shop guitar. It’s just sort of snowballed since then with different variations of Les Pauls with different specs that I would pick and choose, and different finishes and whatnot. I just came out with my first Gibson USA Les Paul line, because Gibson got weird for some years, so I was only working with the Custom Shop. Now that they have new management and the company’s been reborn basically, I’ve finally got a USA model out. I’m working on new ideas for some other guitars with them, too. It’s great, because I’m always thinking about it. I can call them up and go “Hey, what about this? What about that?” I probably drive them crazy.
You’ve always maintained a level of consistency within your work, while generally staying out of the headlines for the wrong reasons…
I’ve had my moments. [Laughs.] But for the most part, I’ve always been focused around music and playing, touring, recording and all of the other shit. I just don’t like to draw attention to myself outside of playing. I’m not really that publicly outgoing, and I don’t want that attention, I don’t want to be recognized for doing anything other than playing guitar in a band. We’re in a culture where everybody is looking for attention. Everybody wants to be on TV. Everybody wants to be big on social networks, influencing influencers and being as out there and in everybody’s faces as possible. I’m sort of the opposite. I just want to be able to get some cool music out and then go out and play. If you want to show up there, it’s great. But I don’t want to be trying to get people to notice me while I’m dicking around doing something else.
Completely unrelated to everything else, but it’s been a little over 10 years since South Park revealed to the world that you don’t actually exist. I know you’re a South Park fan, so what was that like to make an appearance there?
Well, I’ve never actually seen the episode, because I don’t like watching anything that I’m in, so I never sought it out. I’m aware of it, of course. I’m a huge animation fan. I love cartoons and animation in general, and I love South Park. So when I heard about that, it was a huge honor — especially because they didn’t lay waste to me like they have to so many other people. I’ve been watching the show for years, so it’s nice to be immortalized in a sort of tongue-in-cheek animated thing for me. It’s really cool.
Anything else on your radar for the near future that you want people to know about?
I’m just excited that the record coming out, finally, because we actually recorded it in April of last year. We had to wait until now because we had all of these scheduling conflicts and whatnot. We’re doing a U.S. tour to support it, and then I’ve got Guns N’ Roses going on the road for all kinds of make-up tours for 2020 in Europe, Australia, Asia and South America. Then the Conspirators are back in the beginning of 2023 for a tour, so it’s going to be a really busy next couple of years.