10 Years Ago: Slash Finds Satisfaction With ‘Slash’ Album
By 2009, Slash was desperately in need of change.
Ever since the classic Guns N’ Roses lineup disintegrated, with his departure coming in 1996, the guitarist's attempts at returning to the high ground resulted in as many failures as successes. His other bands, Slash’s Snakepit and Velvet Revolver, were both gone, and he didn’t really like the idea of forming a new group.
He came up with a better idea instead. “Originally, the concept that I had was that I would love to do a record where I would get a bunch of these people that I know and get them to play on a song that I wrote,” he told Classic Rock in 2010. “So, originally it was people that I had established a relationship with over the years – like Iggy Pop, Lemmy and Ozzy [Osbourne], those three guys are, like, three of my heroes that I’ve known for a long time - icons that I’ve had a lot to do with and have had a lot of influence on me in some shape or form. Then it was other people that I worked with that I didn’t know so well.”
The procedure he followed was to write music with a specific singer in mind, demo it and send it to them, inviting them to write their own lyrics and track the voice part.
“The first group of guys I worked with to get this record started – you know, Lemmy and Iggy and Ozzy and Alice Cooper – that was a big deal,” Slash told the List. “It was really sweet that they fucking stopped whatever it was they were doing and came down and made an effort to put the vocals on, write the lyrics, record and everything because it takes a certain amount of effort. Then, from that point on, I had enough confidence to start calling people who I didn’t know at all, and ... it all worked out.”
Watch Slash's ‘By the Sword’ Video
His new approach gave him the opportunity to push himself, he said. “When you’re in a group, it tends to have certain boundaries musically, so this was a lot of fun for me because I could do whatever I wanted and pick the appropriate singer to go with that song," he explained.
Obviously, it was a rock album – “I’m a rock guy,” he noted – but he was able to experiment with “different moods that I like to get into that don’t always translate with, say, Velvet Revolver, Snakepit or Guns N’ Roses.”
To go with the wider variety of musical angles, Slash chose producer Eric Valentine to work with him. “I was given a box of CDs of, like, every [good] record that’s come out in the last 10 years, from different artists and different producers,” he told Classic Rock. “The only guy that looked like he had the versatility to cover this much different material was Eric. … So I had him come over to the little dingy garage where I was working and I gave him the demos. And he got it! Like, he listened to the songs without necessarily knowing who the singers were gonna be but he really got the music. We had a great working relationship from that point on.”
While Chris Cornell, Ian Astbury, Kid Rock and others added their vocals, Slash worked with a band consisting of bassist Chris Chaney, drummer Josh Freese and percussionist Lenny Castro. His former GNR bandmates Duff McKagan, Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler made guest appearances, along with Dave Grohl and others. None of those musicians would be available to tour, so Slash booked the shows before he was able to confirm who’d be onstage with him.
Watch Slash's ‘Back From Cali’ Video
In a world where a Guns N’ Roses reunion was still out of the question, the album – named simply Slash – arrived to a wide range of reactions. While some found his music somewhat dated, others were surprised at the range of expressions he delivered with help from his friends. The three singles - “By the Sword,” “Back From Cali” and “Beautiful Dangerous” - feature, respectively, Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale, Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy and the Black Eyed Peas’ Fergie, which show the guitarist's ambition.
“I didn't even know his name,” Slash told MassLive about Stockdale. “But I knew who Wolfmother was and the song ‘Woman’ and the other material on that record. It's just phenomenal rock 'n' roll delivery from that guy. So when I wrote the song that became ‘By the Sword,’ he was the only guy that I thought of.”
He noted that he had always thought of Fergie as a pop singer until he learned that “in her heart of hearts she's a bad-ass rock singer. … One night I heard her belt out a [Led] Zeppelin song and I was like, Wow. ... She's the best female rock vocalist I've heard in ... I can't even count how long.”
In the end, Slash chose Kennedy to front the live band. The singer was in the mix to replace Scott Weiland in Velvet Revolver at one point and had also come close to fronting a proposed Led Zeppelin post-reunion project when Robert Plant refused to take part. “What really appealed to me was that he wasn’t another one of these guys trying to do the raspy rock ’n’ roll voice with all that attitude,” Slash told The Guardian in 2019. “You have already had too many guys who have done it and are so great at it. So, I was trying to find somebody who’s coming from a different place.”
Watch Slash's ‘Beautiful Dangerous’ Video
For his part, Kennedy hailed Slash’s work ethic, telling the New York Post that same year that "he’s just relentless, and I think seeing that is inspiring, especially that he’s had the amount of success that he’s had, he doesn’t have to do that. He can kind of just rest on his laurels and be like, ‘Okay, I’ve done this, I’m good and I don’t have to work this hard anymore.’ It almost feels as the years go on he wants to work harder and harder and harder. I don’t know where it comes from. I think it’s just for the love of the game.”
The release of Slash proved to re-ignite the guitarist; in the years to follow, he released three more solo albums, with Kennedy as the singer on all of them. The Guns N’ Roses reunion would finally happen, and Slash found himself content and energized again.
“I had the ultimate freedom,” he said of the 2010 LP. “It was totally up to me for pretty much everything. For some reason, having that much responsibility was very liberating, because I got to make all the decisions and had a really good time doing it.”