As one of Slash’s co-conspirators and a core member of the Mammoth WVH touring band, Frank Sidoris is arguably one of the hardest-working axe men on the scene right now. Most days, this SG-loving, rock and roll fanatic can be found playing some of the biggest stages in the world next to the most prominent names in the business. From shredding alongside Slash and Wolfgang Van Halen to jamming with childhood idols, Alice Cooper and Alex Lifeson, Frank has legitimately lived most guitar players' wildest dreams – something that isn’t lost on the Vegas-based guitar-slinger.
We caught up with Frank while he was on a short break between touring with Mammoth WVH and starting rehearsals with Slash and the gang, who are due to hit the road in a few weeks for The River Is Rising – Rest Of The World tour.
Frank lifts the lid on his current live rig and the pieces of gear he simply couldn’t live without. We also discuss everything from the time Slash surprised him with his dream guitar to his deep love of Orange amps and what he believes has contributed to the longevity of Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators.
So if you want to know what pieces of gear you need to get your hands on to become a well-travelled and highly in-demand professional guitar player just like Frank – and you need another reason to wish Slash was your best mate – then read on.
I thought it would be great to start with a peek behind the curtain of your current live rig. As a professional guitarist playing alongside some of the biggest names in the industry, can you give us the essential pieces of gear you couldn’t live without?
"As a guitar player on tour, I really don't ask for too much. Like, as a rhythm guitar player for Slash, I don't like to step on him or you know, put too much colour and too much of anything in anybody's face, if that makes sense. With Mammoth, I have a bit more freedom because there's a lot more ambient stuff that happens, you know?
"So I think it varies from band to band, with Slash my pedalboard's not very crazy and in general I'm not a guy with a massive pedalboard, but I feel like what I have are the absolute essentials for a live performance as a guitar player. I'm very specific about the brands I use, but I guess over the decade-plus that I toured with Slash and now with Mammoth, It's been very fun just fine-tuning [my rig] and starting to branch out a bit more as far as pedals go. I feel like a fairly barebones rock guitar player as far as my rig goes. If I could, I would just go directly into my amp and just call it a day."
"As far as essentials, the one thing that I recommend any musician get eventually – the problem is they're a bit pricey – is in-ear monitors. I swear by the Jerry Harvey Audio Layla set.
"I think, ultimately, it's come down to ear protection for me. I think that's the most important thing besides the obvious, which is just making sure that you have the best possible mix and that you can hear everything that’s happening. It just affords you the ability to really fine-tune and understand what's happening on stage. You can hear every little detail.
"It's a really incredible experience when you first do it. It's something to get used to and you don't think about how convenient it is. Of course, if I could play a small club all the time with monitors, I would, but when you play in a band with someone like Slash who loves to play insanely loud – like crazy, crazy loud – it's nice to be able to kind of reel him in and actually hear what he's doing a bit better, and to be able to hear what I'm doing too, especially playing next to someone like him, his rig is insane.
"But the other thing with the Slash band – I think it's so key as we don't use a click. With Mammoth, we use a click and I think Mammoth absolutely needs a click. Every band really needs a click [laughs], but a lot of old-school bands don't and I've kind of grown up that way. I never really used it, but I think that the in-ears really helps everybody just kind of stay in their own orbit in a live setting and it's an absolute requirement for what we do with Slash if we're not going to use a click.
"I remember before I joined the Slash band in 2012, I didn’t use any in-ears, ever. I never did, and you know after a tour, your ears would be ringing for sure. I remember when I first got my ears, it was a set of Ultimate Ears. I put them in, I played in Brazil somewhere and I was like, oh my God, this is a completely different world.
"My mix is always very simple, like when it comes to Mammoth WVH, I pretty much only have Wolf's guitar, his vocal, my guitar and vocal and the drummer. Everything else is very low.
"With Slash, I have Myles, lots of drums usually and then a bit of Slash. You know, because I need to know where he's at and where he's standing. He loves to bounce all over the stage, you'll just be standing and all of a sudden, if you're not paying attention, Slash is right in front of you [laughs]. So it's kind of nice to know what's going on."
When it comes to guitars, I see you most often with a Gibson SG, would you say that was your number one?
"The SG has become my favourite guitar and a staple for both bands. I'm playing an SG at all times – I have one right next to me now. I always liked them growing up, I always gravitated towards them, but it seemed like there were so many different variations I didn’t know which was the right SG for me, you know. It's like the Stratocaster, there’s a million different types. What's the one for you? You know.
"[My main SG is] a 1964 reissue and the reason I like the ‘64 is because it's got the ‘59-sized neck, so it's a bigger neck. The pickups are unpotted, so it definitely gets a little feedback, but it's very old-school. You know, that's just what it was. When you turn up, it just sounds so good that way – but you’ve got to be in control of your feedback.
"For Slash and Mammoth, I find that it fits perfectly in that world. Honestly, on stage, if Slash is playing a Les Paul, I shouldn't always be playing a Les Paul even though that's one of my main guitars. I used to play a Telecaster with him, too, because it really added to the show. It's like you can actually completely decipher between both guitars.
"I think the SG fits in that perfect middle ground. It's got the beefiness and it's got the cut. It cuts right through when I'm playing along with Slash, so it's very fun.
"It's always been that guitar I didn't realize I needed, but I have three of them now and I have them dispersed between both bands. It's like they're just my favourite and I play them all the time. The main one is the green one – it’s Olive Drab."
"We picked it up in Nashville, I saw it online and then Slash goes, 'Oh, I actually know the owner of that guitar store,' so I went down there and I played it and I was like, 'All right, please, please let this guitar not be as good as I hope it is because I don't have the money to do this right now'. I also don't have the brain capacity to be like, oh, I'm gonna miss this guitar if I don't get it now.'
"And if I tell Gibson to build one for me, it's not going to be the same guitar. It's just never the same. Yes, they'll build an incredible guitar to spec, but the problem is that the neck of this guitar is not going to be the same.
"I ended up getting that guitar because Slash surprised me with it – believe it or not. I've never really told this story publicly. I was going down to that guitar store to check out the SG, and Slash was like, 'Hey, let me know if you could find a case for my lap steel,' and I was like, 'Okay.'
"So I go down there I find a lap steel case. I was like, 'What do you think?' And he's like, 'oh, this is great.' So I get it. Then I'm hanging out playing the guitar, and man, this guitar is perfect, so I send Slash some photos, like 'Dude, it's better than we thought!' He's like, 'Oh, that's great.'
"So when I leave I just kind of accept the fact that I'm not getting a guitar. So we go to the Gibson Garage and we're just messing around playing different guitars. They have an Olive Drab Les Paul, it was a Classic, I think. Man, I just wanted an Olive Drab guitar, so you know, I'll take this as a consolation prize and I'll be happy with that.
"So I get that and go back to my hotel room and they're like, 'Yeah, we'll deliver it to the venue tomorrow', so I'm just sitting there in my hotel room wishing I had a guitar, and I get a knock on the door at 11:30 pm. I open my hotel door, and it's Slash and his girlfriend, and he's holding a guitar case, and I'm like, 'what the hell is that?'
"Then I look and it's an SG shape. I go, 'Dude, what are you thinking? You’re crazy!' I open it up and I'm like, 'Oh my God!' He goes, 'I knew you had to have it and I wasn't gonna let you walk away without it'.
"So yeah, he bought me that guitar, which is just the coolest thing of all time.
"When it comes to guitars, he’s the same as us. He's a child that way. When he sees a guitar he wants, he's like 'I need it, I have to have it.' Of course, he’s not like that with all guitars. He's very specific, you know, it's like a guy who can get whatever guitar he wants. He's not going to do it unless it's something he really genuinely believes in and enjoys the way it plays.
"So now I have that exact guitar in three different colours. As well as the Olive Drab, I have it in Inverness Green and Silver Mist – and that's the one I play with Mammoth.
"As far as necessities on the road, the other guitar is definitely a Les Paul – you know, if I have the sonic spectrum of the SG covered. I said that you shouldn't play a Les Paul with Slash at all times, but there are plenty of times when it's necessary. So I'm definitely playing my Les Paul – I play a ‘59 reissue, Gibson R9.
"And again that's another one of those guitars. It's different. It is its own thing. Every single ‘59 that they build, they're all different. They all have their own vibe, colour and top and just everything about it. I got mine in the Gibson showroom in LA.
"And that guitar is so unique, it almost sounds like a Telecaster at times. Sometimes it's very interesting how the right set of PAF pickups can just sound, in that middle ground, like the Les Paul, but also a Telecaster. It's very cool."
I have to ask what it’s like standing on stage with a Les Paul around your neck, next to the most famous Les Paul player of all time? That must be a pretty intimidating experience.
"It's funny, man, I'll say this, it's never lost on me. We've been friends for over a decade and bandmates – and it's great. It's always cool, you know, it's just normal. We travel in a bus, we eat food, we do normal people things together, but yeah, there's still plenty of time where you're just like, wow, it'll just kind of pop into my head.
"The same with Wolfgang. I remember going to see Van Halen for the first time in like 2008 or 2009, I think. It was his second tour and they played Vegas. It was great to see him. I was like, 'oh man, we're almost the same age' and then fast forward to now and here we are – we're in a band together!
"I spent so much time growing up playing along with my favourite Rush and Alice Cooper albums, all the live albums. I would just memorize them and play along. There was no promise of anything. It was just something I genuinely loved to do. I'd play along with my favourite albums and these people that I looked up to and I would visualize playing with them at times. I'd be at work at a retail job or whatever else I was doing and I would just picture it.
"I played the Golden God Revolver Magazine awards with Slash and not only was I playing with Slash, but we had Alice Cooper come up and play with us so it was [one of] those moments of just like, 'Man I've been playing Schools Out my whole life and now the man himself is here, we're actually doing it' – all the live album practice finally paid off [laughs].
"I'll even raise you one more because this is a really cool thing that happened that I still can't believe. And I'm so eternally grateful for the people who reached out.
"This was in 2016, and I got a call. They're like, 'hey Alice Cooper does this thing twice a year where he does a golf tournament for charity. All sorts of rock legends come out and play golf for charity, and they do a jam with all the people the night before the tournament, we want Frank to play, would he come down and jam?'
"I was like, 'dude, of course, I'd love to play Alice Cooper songs and hang out with you guys.' About a week later, days before the actual event I get an email that says Alex Lifeson is going to be joining us. I was like 'oh my God', because again, that's not only jamming with Alice again, it's playing with one of my absolute guitar heroes growing up. I loved Rush and still love Rush!
"I met him once as a kid at one of the Rush shows because a close family friend, her mother went to school with him. So I got to just meet him as a kid. And then she emailed him to say, 'Hey, remember that kid you met years ago, you're going to play with him and Alice Cooper,' and when I saw him for the first time, on a professional level before sound check, he's like, Hey I remember you!' It’s still hard to believe that it actually happened."
From other interviews and photos online, I noticed you have a fairly modest pedalboard. Can you walk us through your pedalboard essentials?
"I'm currently building a new pedalboard for the Conspirators. For years I always used to keep it real simple.
"The MXR Phase 90, that's just the standard I have to have. I use it all the time and guess which band I use it in the most. Yup, it’s Wolfgang Van Halen's band Mammoth [laughs]. So it's cool because I got the striped one, like the Eddie Van Halen colours, the red, white and black.
"Then I’ve got to have a wah pedal, of course. Slash always has a cool wah – he had his own signature – but the one that I swear by because it's got the perfect sweep is the EVH version, the yellow and black one, it’s unbelievable.
"I hate turning on a wah and then I step forward it’s like it’s barely on and when you rock it back and forth and it sounds like the power of it's only in the middle. The EVH wah is perfect. It's got the perfect wah sweep, so that's become my absolute favourite. I use that all the time.
"Are you familiar with Walrus Audio? I've been using them a lot for delays, specifically the ARP-87. This thing rules – I’m a big fan of that. If I don't have access to the Walrus Audio, I use the MXR Carbon Copy because again, that's just one of those simple pedals that works great."
"Can you take a guess at which tuner I have on my pedal board?"
Hmm, the Boss TU3?
"Nailed it, you're right. It's the standard. You can't go wrong with it.
"The next pedal is a volume pedal. The one thing that I learned during the Slash band is, I think it's important that everybody is not just channel switching from clean to dirty, you know? I think also in the Slash context, I'm always using a fairly classic amp that only has one channel. So in the Wolfgang scenario, we use the EVH amps that have multiple channels, but it's still a very classic-sounding amp. But the thing that I am trained to do is always use my volume to turn down and up like that's so Slash, and something we've always done.
"It’s important because it just sounds so real and human on stage, instead of it being like, okay now we're loud, now we're quiet, now we're loud, now we're quiet again.
"The volume pedal becomes necessary when there are lots of real quick changes in a song. In the [track] You're A Lie, I can't do the effect that takes place in that song with just the volume on my guitar – like you can, but I have to use the volume and the delay and slam it really quick, so it gives you this cool fadeout thing."
Back in 2021, you were announced as an Orange artist. So I take it you are mainly using Orange amps now on tour?
"I used the Orange Custom Shop 50, that thing absolutely rules – that’s what I used on the last Slash album and last tour. I always wondered what the Orange amp is, you know? What's the Orange amp that kills them all? My buddy Scott Holiday from Rival Sons, goes, 'dude, there's only one orange. Get the CS50.'
"So I ended up buying one. It's funny, Alice Cooper's son Dash, he had an Orange cabinet and we traded my Wizard cabinet for his Orange one. So I used it for the last Slash tour and I just couldn't get enough man – the Les Paul through that CS50 just hits, it sounds so good.
"The other amp I use is the EVH 5150III S, it's got the 6L6 tubes. In all honesty, I had zero experience with those amps because I just assumed they would be a bit too saturated and a bit too much for what I wanted to do. It turns out they are not, they are genuinely a classic amp. But of course, if you step on the third channel, then it sounds pretty explosive if you want it to.
"We all sound different in Mammoth. We each play a different EVH head. Because there are three guitar players, you need to be able to decipher all three of us. If you go to a show, you can hear each one. It's pretty cool.
"It's a very, very classic-sounding amp. The other thing I love about it is that the amp I'm using is the one that Ed used. It's the one that Eddie Van Halen used specifically, the same model, I've been using that for years. I really love it."
As far as guitarists go, you are in a pretty unique position. Not only do you play in a band with Slash, but you’ve also supported Guns N' Roses while playing in Mammoth WVH. Did you learn anything new about your bandmate while watching him perform with his old band?
"It's funny. I think one thing I did notice is that I've always kind of known Slash to be like any artist, self-conscious. Who isn't?
"You know, even Slash, he's a human being. That's another reason why I love the guy. It's funny because I remember there were times when I'd go out there and I'd watch him and he was like, 'oh, man, you're making me nervous.'
"He’s like, 'I actually prefer it when I don't know that my friends are watching me play, it makes it easier because I can just be myself, and if not, I'm overthinking it.' Not that you would ever know it as a spectator. He's always out there killing it.
"But you know, we all have our own critiques. I think that just kind of hammered home more of the human aspect of the guy."
I think one of the things that has made Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators such an enduring band for all these years is the chemistry between the members. It doesn’t feel like a Slash solo project, it feels like a band just like Guns N' Roses or Velvet Revolver. What do you feel has contributed to the longevity of the project?
"When that project first showed up, before I was ever in it, it was just called Slash. Then it was Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators. Slash will be the first person to tell you he didn't want it to be just called Slash. He's like 'I don't like the idea of it being just me. I want it to be a band.' He's always preferred being in a band, that's his whole thing. And you know, I think it's very admirable coming from somebody who has such a history, such longevity and accolades in the business.
"So I think what contributes to what makes this band a band is that he's trusted us to write the songs with him and I think we all get along so well. I think Brent, Todd, Myles and I, we're in a lot of ways cut from the same cloth.
"We just get along. We love the same music and we have the same influences. That's another thing I love about Slash, this is a guy that even though I look up to him, there's an entire other generation that Slash and I both look up to together. It's very cool, we can both get excited about jamming Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones and stuff – it'd be one thing if I played in a band with Paul McCartney, it's like, 'yeah, you know, skiffle groups and stuff that I grew up listening to' [laughs].
"Plus he includes us in everything you know, the videos, the merch, it's not just the Slash show and I think that that translates very well and everyone can see it. You know, technically – now, I think that Guns N' Roses are back together, it might change this stat – but The Conspirators is the longest consecutively running thing that Slash has ever done."
Can you talk a little about the writing process for a Conspirators’ record? How much input does each of the members have when it comes to writing new material?
"For most of the songs, he's usually the riff guy. It's like every song starts with his riff. Our writing process always starts at sound check or if we're rehearsing. For the last decade-plus, we would just go to sound check, and then Slash would roll up and play a riff, and then we'd play a riff, and then it goes into a verse, and it goes into a chorus. We do that all the time.
"That's just always how it starts, and Brent [Fitz], my drummer, will play the drums, Todd [Kerns] will come in on the bass, and I'll just try to see where he’s at on the guitar and not play what he's playing. You know, there's times to mimic and play what he's playing, and there's times to actually be a rhythm guitar player.
"It's an interesting role that I think, you have so much freedom, which is really fun. Like if Slash is playing the low part, you'll play the high part, or you'll play a harmony or you'll play whatever. It's cool, there's plenty of room for colour and lots of different approaches, and it's great because he's very open-minded to anything I've ever come up with.
"There are times when they'll get together, just drums, bass and guitar, and they'll send me [what they've been working on], and then I'll write my parts. I'll show up to the next rehearsal, and we'll jam it together and I'll show them what I wrote. It's really fun. It's a fun process.
"Myles comes up with a lot of ideas, too. As an incredibly accomplished guitar player himself, he will come up with great guitar parts that Slash and I are both like, 'well, that's that's the fucking move, all right, good idea, Myles!'
"The other thing I love about it is that Brent and Todd are both very accomplished songwriters and both multi-instrumentalists – Brent specifically, as he can legitimately sing, play guitar, bass, drums and piano. He does it all and it's so cool because he knows the actual songwriting side of it. He knows how to communicate with a guitar player. He's the first guy to reach out and be like, 'actually, that would be really cool if it did this.' And it's like, 'yep, good idea.' It's a nice collaborative effort, all five of us."
I know you are hitting the road with Slash this year, but are there any plans for a new record?
"Not right now, but I can almost guarantee you that when we walk into that rehearsal room as a team, Slash is going to have a new riff and we're going to write something. It happens every time."
As the last album, 4, was tracked completely live, do you think you'll want to take the same approach for the next record?
"I actually don’t know. Slash was like a kid, he was so excited to do that. He always loves playing the way we did it, which is very live. He wants to [record] with loud-as-hell amps while you're in the same room.
"That could just be a one-off thing. There are so many factors and variables with recording, especially guitars, because it's like each of these strings goes out of tune every two seconds, the intonation of the guitars and having two guitars and all that. It was just crazy – we did it to tape too!
"So I think that the next album, if we do an album in the near future, whenever that is, it would probably be how we did it before with Elvis, the last producer.
"Dave Cobb [producer], was a lot of fun to work with, but I'm not really sure, I have no genuine foresight right now because I'm in Mammoth and Myles has a solo project and Alter Bridge, and Guns N' Roses is a priority – who could ever blame Slash, he's got to do that!
"But it's cool because it's opened the door for us to do other things. When we can get together, we do. It's been nice going over the songs again, it's been really fun. The memories are coming back and I just can't wait to jam these songs again."
So with Mammoth, Wolfgang plays all the instruments on both of his releases. Are there plans for the current live band to record together?
"It's a tough call because so much of what Mammoth is, it’s literally Wolfgang and Elvis [Baskette] the producer.
"We're very close. We're very much the same person as far as humour goes, and I just love the guy. It's like we get along really well. And even when we're making joke songs, some of it's really cool. And we're like, 'oh, that's hilarious. That's in my head now,' it happens all the time.
"And so I think that there’s a chance that we could maybe do a song together. Maybe, I don't know. I feel like that's up in the air. Or we do some sort of instrumental, who knows? There are plenty of joke recordings and real recordings of us just jamming.
- You can catch Frank with Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators on The River Is Rising – Rest Of The World Tour which kicks off in Mexico City on the 23rd of January. Head over to Slash Online for more information, and to grab tickets to a show near you.