Slash on working with Ozzy, Lemmy, Myles and more
The rock star ego is a fragile, complex and deeply complicated thing. Many a superstar has endured an almighty crash to earth after putting out an underwhelming solo record (Gene Simmons’ Asshole, anyone?).
Slash has encountered no such problems. His first solo album saw a who’s who of the rock world assemble in an all-star collaboration that featured the likes of Ozzy, Iggy Pop, Lemmy and Chris Cornell.
Two years on Slash returned with his second record, this time backed by his touring band with Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy out front. As his thoughts begin to turn to putting together material for album three, we chatted with Slash and got his take on solo success, finding frontmen and working with A-grade legends.
Ozzy Osbourne - Crucify The Dead
“A while back I had an idea of wanting to do a record with different sessions because I’d been doing so many sessions, playing on other people’s records, and there was a disconnect when the record was done because it was their album. I wanted to get a bunch of people on my record.
“I started picking singers that would be appropriate for the different songs and I started reaching out to those singers. Ozzy was one of the first guys I called. I’d written the music and it screamed of Ozzy. I sent it to him and he liked it; we just made one tiny change to the arrangement and I went down to his house and he put vocals on it. It was very easy and he sang great on that.
"It was an experience to sit there and work with somebody that you’ve been listening to since you were a teenager and to sit there while he’s working on your song.”
Lemmy - Doctor Alibi
“Lemmy was another early one. I sent him the music and didn’t hear back from him for a long time. I reached out to him and he said, ‘No, I’ve got the lyrics, everything is ready to go.’ I was sort of shocked and I made a date for him to come down to the studio.
“I made sure there was Jack Daniels and potato chips and he went into the control room with Eric Valentine and belted it out. I had no idea what the lyrics were until after he’d done it. It’s a special song to me because it’s a song that speaks to him and it also speaks for me up until a particular point it my life. It has a poignant message for me.”
Iggy Pop - We're All Gonna Die
“I first met Iggy when I was a little kid when my mom was doing David Bowie’s clothes. There was a second there when I met Iggy and I’ve always been a super fan. I’d worked with him before on his Brick By Brick record and done a bunch of shows and we’d gotten to be good friends. I’ve done other songs with him that have never been released.
“He was the first guy I went to and he set the fast pace for the album. I sent him the demo and he called me up and said, ‘Check this out’. He put the phone on the table, put the song on the tape player so I could hear my music and he sang the entire f***ing song! He turned off the tape player and said, ‘What do you think?’. He flew in the next day and did the studio recording.”
Fergie - Beautiful Dangerous
“I met her a long time ago at a Black Eyed Peas benefit. I didn’t even know there was a girl in the band. I didn’t know anything about the Black Eyed Peas. She got up and belted out a couple of songs and I was like, ‘F***!’. Nobody ever hears that side of her.
“I had this song and thought it sounded like a really hot girl should sing it and I called Fergie and left the demo with her. She came down and did a vocal demo and it was the tits, it was awesome! Meanwhile, paparazzi were following her around and the rumour got out I was working with Fergie and people were saying I’d gone to the dark side or something!”
Myles Kennedy - Starlight
“I first became aware of Myles before Scott [Weiland] came into Velvet Revolver. Matt Sorum brought his name up. I had no idea who he was, I think he was in Mayfield Four back then. I called him and told him what we were doing and we sent him the music and never heard from him again.
“Fast forward to after Scott and his name came up and I still don’t know who he is! Matt talked to him and he said he was in Alter Bridge and he’d hate to leave those guys in the lurch. I thought that was really respectable.
“Then my album is basically finished and I have two songs left. Right around that time I heard Zeppelin had flown Myles to England to possibly sing for them and I thought, ‘This guy has got to be f***ing good!’. I called him up and sent him the music; a week later he sent me back ‘Starlight’.
“We then met and I really liked him right off the bat. There was a chemistry creatively and on a personal level. He then did Back From Cali and I thought he could sing anything. I was just about to go looking for singers to tour the album and asked him and he jut happened to be on a break from Alter Bridge and signed on.”
Myles and the Conspirators - You're A Lie
“I wrote a bunch of material on the road and worked on it with Myles and then got the material together and worked on it with Brent and Todd getting the arrangements together. Then Myles came in and we tightened it up. It was great, painless.
“You’re A Lie was the first song we played as a band at soundcheck. When we got into pre-production that was one of the songs we couldn’t figure out, so it went on the back burner. In the studio after everything else was done we went back and changed the chorus completely. It was the last song we recorded. It almost didn’t make it and it ended up as the first single.”
Myles and the Conspirators - Anastasia
“That guitar stuff with the intro, the arpeggio, that came out of the latter part of when we did a UK tour and I started playing the Godfather solo and I stumbled over this progression. It gave me something to look forward to every night, messing around with that melody.
"When I got back from the tour I came up with a riff and Myles came up with the melody and it just came together. For as long a song as it is there was a real simple approach to writing it.”
Standing in the Sun
“That came out of an acoustic thing I wrote on the road. I wrote and recorded it on my Blackberry. I sent it to Myles who was on the road with Alter Bridge and I didn’t hear back from him on that one. I called him up and he said, ‘Ah, I have something awesome for that'.
“One of the great things about Myles is that I can come up with an entire arrangement or a couple of parts and he’ll come up with the parts that fill the gaps. He wrote the chord progression for the chorus. I had the basic riffs and chord changes up to the chorus and we slapped it together.”