Slash answers your questions
Slash wasn't feeling well, we were told a day ahead of this interview by his press agent. Could we cut our time? “Bloody rockstars,” we thought.
But it turned out that Team Slash wasn’t kidding – not only were he and half of the band knocked out by bronchitis, the indestructible guitar god himself had also broken three ribs without realising it, something he told us his chiropractor had tactfully pointed out. All the while, he’s continued to relentlessly tour his latest solo album, Apocalyptic Love, circumnavigating the globe and racking up well over 100 shows around the world since May. Apparently, there’s a reason they call it hard rock...
Still, did all of that stop the guitar legend from answering your questions? Of course not – it’s Slash!
Are there any more guitars left for Slash to acquire?
You’ve played some great guitars, but are there any that you would still like to acquire?
John Scott, Hull
“I love guitars, but I think I’ve really grown out of my obsessive [phase] of having to have every guitar that I see that’s either a vintage or was owned by so-and-so. I went through a very expensive period like that in the 90s and there were some great guitars, but all in all they don’t get used that much. As time goes by, I’ve found that one good Les Paul can serve all of the purposes I could possibly need, so at this point, it’s really less is more. I still have like 100 guitars, mostly because I can’t bear to part with any of them!”
What’s the most famous guitar that you’ve owned?
Neil Hunter, via email
“The most notable guitar that I had was Joe Perry’s ’59 Les Paul in Tobacco Sunburst that I picked up in 1989. When I was a kid looking at posters I thought it was one of the coolest guitars that I’d ever seen. It came my way via a pawn shop. They contacted me asking if I might be interested in this guitar they had, and when they told me what it was, I didn’t believe them. They sent me photos and there were recognisable nicks, plus that colour – there were only two of those ever made. I bought it for $8,000, because they really didn’t recognise the value of it.
“It turned out Joe’s ex-wife had sold the guitar when he was out on the road for, like, pennies. Years later, I gave it back to Joe for his birthday, but that was the most notable, famous guitar I’ve ever owned.”
Solos and cookery shows
Have you ever recorded a demo version of a song or a guitar solo that was so good you struggled to replicate it?
Geoff Collins, via email
“This goes back to how one writes solos. For the most part, I’d say 80 to 90 per cent of my solos are first-take – they just come spontaneously. Before I go in to make the record, I figure out a structure that I feel every time I play that part, so what ends up on the record is similar to the first thing I ever played, but actually going back to demos and studying them note for note? I avoid that.”
I read that you’re a fan of cooking shows. What is your favourite food to eat?
Samarra McQueen, via Facebook
“I’ve burned out on cooking shows! I’m not a hugely picky eater. As long as it doesn’t have anything to do with fish, I’m good.”
Slash talks Les Pauls
Do you ever feel pain in your finger joints or hands after years of playing?
Jose Bellanger, via Facebook
“I do have a tendency, if I’ve been playing a lot on tour for a really long improvised solo section, sometimes to get numbness in my fingers and sometimes I can get cramps. I try to ensure that doesn’t happen: I drink a lot of water – that’s important – and sometimes I’ll take an anti-inflammatory.”
What is your favourite guitar to play live?
Aaron, Hemel Hempstead
“I guess it goes without saying that it’s a Les Paul! I have four main guitars on the road, and backups, so eight guitars on tour. They’re all variations of the standard Les Paul, and they all have similar [slim 60s-profile] necks. I have guitars for different tunings, so for the songs that are in standard, I’ve got one of the AFD Slash models and another one for the half-step down songs. Then I have a Standard, which is basically a reissue of my ’88 Standard, another Slash model, and I use that for Slither. I’m not super-choosy. If I break a string, I can go from a Standard to an AFD. It’s not a big deal.”
So, there’s not one that you treasure more than another?
“Not on the road. These are basically all new guitars. The reason behind the AFD was to take the model I use in the studio and make it available to play live, so I don’t feel as sentimentally attached to it, or worried about something happening to it.”
Correcting mistakes and writing books
I found your autobiography, Slash, one of the most open and honest things I have ever read. Any plans for another?
Harry Houghton, via Facebook
“At this point in time, no. That doesn’t mean I won’t do one – I never intended to write the first one, that was a very spontaneous thing. It could happen at some point, where all of a sudden I’ll decide that I really wanna immortalise the 20 years that follow the last book, but the reason for writing the last one was really to set things straight about GN’R reunions and all of this other crap that was going on at the time. I got that off my chest, so I haven’t had the need to do that since then.”
Is there a recorded guitar part or song that you wish you could go back and re-do?
Kerry Jacobson, via email
“No, I don’t believe in that. What’s done is done, it was done in the moment, and that was what was happening at that time. I try to never record anything without making 100 per cent effort, and that’s all you can do, you know?”
Tone and drinking with Rory Gallagher
Which guitarist do you think has the greatest tone, and which song is the best example of it?
Jeroen van Luit, Zaandam, The Netherlands
“There’s a few of them! Jeff Beck has always been a favourite of mine. Mainly for Superstitious, which had that great wah-wah/fuzz pedal combination on it. Jimi Hendrix was a great tone guy – in particular for Little Wing and Foxy Lady. Then there’s Joe Walsh on Life’s Been Good, and Mick Taylor from The Rolling Stones on Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, which has that extended solo on a Les Paul. The whole first Van Halen record, too, and David Lindley, on the late 70s Jackson Browne songs.”
What was it like to meet and play with Rory Gallagher? It must have been incredible...
Steve Nixon, via Twitter
“It was a f**king huge thing when I met Rory. Not just the fact that he was in LA, and that he was really, really gracious and had me come up and jam with him, which was a blast. But on top of that, he was staying at the Riot House [LA’s once-notorious pitstop The Continental Hyatt House, scene of many a rockstar party in the 60s and 70s] on Sunset, so he invited me up after the gig and we drank and we jammed on acoustic guitars all night and had a really great time. He’s one of my all-time guitar heroes, and I was surprised he even knew who I was.”
Signature combos and pre-gig rituals
Has there ever been a song you couldn’t get the hang of?
Romy Whyte, Edinburgh
“There’s never been a song that I’ve sat down and tried to learn and didn’t stick with it until I could play it, but speaking about Van Halen earlier, there’s one song on that first record called Show Your Love [later renamed as I’m The One], which has this up-tempo guitar part. I remember learning that, and it sounded easy, but turned out to be a lot harder than I’d thought it would be.
“There’s also a Rolling Stones song called Let It Loose that had some chords, which I had the hardest f**king time figuring out. Likewise, [Led Zeppelin’s] The Rain Song was pretty daunting at first, because it was all in strange tunings. So, yeah, I can think of a lot of different songs, but I usually stick with it until I get it right.”
Will there be a new signature Les Paul in 2013? And any news on the five-watt AFD combo you mentioned on Twitter?
Jamie, via email
“There aren’t any plans for a new guitar. There is another AFD [Les Paul] model coming out, probably next year, that will be a red version [of the original]. The AFD was a limited edition, but there’s been so much demand for it. We don’t want to release exactly the same guitar and upset those original buyers, so this is going to be a different colour version.
“The five-watt amp is actually coming from Marshall. I have a couple of prototypes. I don’t know when it’s coming out, but it’s relatively soon. It’s pretty cool. It goes from five watts to one watt – it’s a great practice amp.”
Do you have any pre-gig rituals?
Matija Veber, Slovenia
“I don’t have any ritual other than I play my guitar a lot before shows – and that’s just a total insecurity thing. I don’t have any standard guitar practising routine, but I just try and make sure that I’ve put some effort into playing before we actually go out on stage, because I’m scared s**tless that when I go out there I won’t know how to do it!”