"I can't stand them": Slash reveals he isn't a fan of using in-ear monitors live, but he does like using guitar plugins in the studio

AUSTIN, TEXAS - APRIL 02: Slash performs onstage during the 2023 CMT Music Awards at Moody Center on April 02, 2023 in Austin, Texa
(Image credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CMT))

Slash and a stack: they just go together, right? But that doesn't mean he's not open to new ways to get the job done in the studio, and even open new sonic possibilities. And in a new interview with fellow six-stringer Ola Englund for the latter's Coffee With Ola series he's detailed how he likes to use guitar plugins for recording.

"So the Fractal thing, I haven't had any reason to go there," he says of amp modelling processors. "But plugins I use all the time because in the studio when you're doing stuff that doesn't necessarily have to be  'the Marshall sound' or whatever, you can get really interesting sounds from plugins and do a lot of unique things."

Their appeal for Slash goes outside of his familiar work in Guns N' Roses, Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators and his new blues solo album, Orgy Of The Damned

"I write music for this thing called Halloween Horror Nights in Hollywood [a Universal Studios event], so when I'm doing that sometimes I use a guitar synthesizer, sometimes I use plugins – anything but just your standard stock guitar sound. So I am familiar with that stuff but that said, I've been using that Magnatone amp [XXX] and I've just designed a new amp with those guys – a 100-watt amp."

He's referring to his snakeskin-finished signature model. Further proof that Slash's heart still has a valve glowing inside.

"I love working with an amplifier because there is something, maybe it's old school, but there is something pure about the way the speakers react with the sound in the cabinet and all that kind of stuff."

In the video chat above, Ola himself agrees that "you can't replicate that with a plugin" – using the old 'movement of the air' observation many players cite to describe the tangible experience of playing with traditional valve amps and cabs. Whatever you think of that, Slash has some interesting opinions to share about the experience of using a 'traditional' rig with in-ear monitors.

"A funny thing about the amplifier is live I'm using amps and all that, but I'm also using in-ear monitors," he explains. "That changes the whole thing and I can't stand them."

Alas, they're a necessary compromise for the guitarist.

The first ones I had I said, 'How can anybody use these? It's awful'

"I use them because especially with singers… it works for everybody, it's very convenient. So you're working with a [guitar] sound that isn't necessarily 'real' and it's really hard for me, and playing-wise you're searching and searching.

"I've been tweaking them like crazy," Slash says on his in-ear setup. "So I've been working with [Ultimate Ears founder] Jerry Harvey to make them so that they're a little bit more pleasing tone-wise to the ear. Because the first ones I had I said, 'How can anybody use these? It's awful'. It's very direct, it's very brittle… I had a show the other night in Paris and my in-ears went out. So I plugged them out and thought, I'll listen to the house [mix] but the house was too out front. This happened during a song called Wicked Stone – there's an extended guitar solo.

"So I'm out the front doing a guitar solo and this happens and I can't stop. So I played the whole rest of the song no being able to hear – just going off my imagination of what it sound like in my head. So that was an in-ear thing, I was like, 'Fuck I hate these things' but they're a necessary evil."

For Slash his experience of using in-ears live "almost defeats the purpose" of using valve amps and traditional guitar cabs onstage. "Even though what the people are hearing out front is genuinely coming out of a microphone in front of a cabinet, what you're playing to is something else entirely."

His Conspirators bandmate Myles Kennedy has had a much more positive experience with in-ears as a singer-guitarist. "I don't know how people can perform without them because it really is such a game changer," the Alter Bridge man told us in 2022. "And not only does it protect your ears but it'll help you perform better. Mark [Tremonti] is a good example; hearing his vocals now that he uses in-ears versus when he was just using wedges. He can hear his pitch much better now he doesn't have to push as hard. It's just a total total game-changer so I would highly recommend it."

Myles was also keen to stress their advantages for all live performers – even those of us who aren't playing arenas anytime soon.

"You don't have to be playing the enormodome to use in-ears," he added. "If you're playing just a small club you should absolutely be using ears because you will not only hear yourself better, you're gonna save your hearing. Unless you crank them up too loud. Be careful of that because you can actually do more damage if you're not careful and you want to get lost in the moment and get the adrenaline rush of cranking it up to 10. That's very bad. Uncle Myles says no!"

  • Check out the full interview above. Slash' new blues album, Orgy Of The Damned, is out 17 May. 
Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.