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This article was originally published in issue #65
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Following an 18-month, 20-country world tour in support of the second Slash feat. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators album, 2014's 'World On Fire,' which saw the band play to packed arenas everywhere. A historic reunion with Axl Rose and Duff McKagan, rejoining Guns N' Roses after roughly two decades away, crisscrossing the globe on what has been a record-breaking tour. You could say Slash has been a little busy in the past five years. However, in the midst of all this, he's managed to write and record the third and latest offering from his solo band, in the form of 'Living The Dream.' During his recent UK tour, Slash spoke with Guitar Interactive Magazine editor Jonathan Graham about the new album, his thoughts on Gibson guitars in 2019 and writing music sober.
Yes, Slash is very much a part of Gun N' Roses again, and we all know it's precisely where he belongs, but even with all the reunion activity, Slash's solo band was never far from his mind. "I always planned on getting back together with the Conspirators as soon as possible, and continuing on with what we started," he says. That brings us to Living The Dream, the latest full-length offering from the group—which, in addition to Slash and singer Myles Kennedy, also includes bassist Todd Kerns, drummer Brent Fitz and, making his recorded debut after several years of live work with The Conspirators, rhythm guitarist Frank Sidoris.
The album, their third overall following 'World on Fire' and 2012's 'Apocalyptic Love,' is the band's strongest collective statement to date. From the barnstorming, high-octane riffery of opener "Call of the Wild" to the wah-drenched funk rock of "Read Between the Lines," the haunting majesty of "Lost Inside the Girl" to the swaggering deep-in-the-pocket Seventies grooves of "Serve You Right," the stately, quasi-classical melodic themes of "The Great Pretender" to the massive hooks and anthemic, singalong choruses of first single "Driving Rain," the 2018 release packs a compendium of sounds and styles into 12 tightly arranged and sharply executed tracks, all of it shot through with Slash's trademark electrifying and dynamic riffing and high-wire, lyrical solos.
"It's a natural progression from World on Fire, for sure," Slash says of the new album. "I think it has a little more diversity—some of the ideas are not really what I would consider to be predictable." At the same time, he adds, "The record is also a bit more structured, with songs that are shorter and more to the point than last time."
For Slash and the band, this moment in time has been unlike any in their past. The seeds of what would become 'Living The Dream' were first planted back on the 'World on Fire' tour when Slash would begin bringing in material for the band to work on at soundchecks.
"Historically, the way we write is we'll be on the road, and I'll have my guitar with me, coming up with ideas sitting in the hotel room or in the dressing room or even sometimes on the bus," Slash explains. "When I have something, I'll bring it to soundcheck, and I'll start jamming it out with Frank and Todd and Brent. Then Myles will start humming ideas into the recording apparatus on his telephone, and that's how the nucleus of these songs will start."
The record saw the band reunite with producer Michael "Elvis" Baskette, who also helmed 'World on Fire.' However, while the producer stayed the same, the studio this time changed, with Slash opting to move operations to his newly active recording facility, Snakepit Studios.
The recording sessions were completed by early May 2018, at which point the album was mixed and mastered…but then held until its eventual release date of 21 September 2018, as Slash was due back on the road with G'NR for a European tour. "That was definitely a weird feeling," Slash says. "I've never done a record where I've had to wait four or five months for it to come out after we recorded it." He laughs. "Now I understand what actors feel like after they finish shooting a movie…"
You could say, that Slash is, in fact, living the dream. However, the humble guitar legend will only laugh in response. "Well, you know, the album title is really meant to be a sarcastic statement about the world we're living in at the moment," he explains. "I never wax political on records, but it was just something that came to mind—this tongue-in-cheek thing directed at social-political events across the globe."
That said, Slash goes on to say, "If you do take it in the literal sense, then, yeah, making records and touring and getting up on stage every day and playing music with these guys, that is the essence of living the dream. That's why I was always dead-set on getting back together with this band and continuing to do this. I always knew it would happen, because The Conspirators story is not over yet."
Slash breaks down 'Living The Dream' track by track.
"Call of the Wild"
"Call of the Wild" is a riff I brought to the band when we were on a break during the World on Fire tour. I can't remember the nucleus of it or where it came from, but it just was a cool riff and something I felt pretty strongly about. In my mind, it was always of paramount importance to get back to that particular riff and chord progression. Sometimes you get an idea, you're committed to it and you have to see it through. And this was one of those ideas."
"Serve You Right"
"It's not exactly a conscious homage, but the opening is definitely a take on that AC/DC, Ted Nugent kind of style, with that simple open-A approach on the guitar. It's something I normally avoid because it's been done to death, but I just haven't heard any cool songs like that in the last ten to 20 years so, I felt comfortable doing it this time. This one is actually a unique type of song for this band, because it's really, really straightforward—the guitar riff, at least, is nothing super profound. It's more of a rhythm than anything. When I first brought it to the guys I didn't think anybody was going to take much interest in it because there just wasn't that much going on. But it was one of those things I stuck with until we found the right groove for it, and then it started to take on a life of its own. And I'm really looking forward to playing this one onstage. It's going to be a really great live song."
"This is sort of a funny one. I came up with the scratching idea [in the verses], and I didn't know what it was supposed to be for or what it was supposed to mean, but it just was fun to do [laughs]. I thought when the guys heard it they would think I was fucking crazy, but they actually really liked it. And then the rest of the riff that comes after is basically one of those typical things that I do off the top of my head when I just want to do something really heavy. Whatever that first idea is, that's the one that usually works."
"Mind Your Manners"
"This is the one that I basically wrote on the spot to help the band get up and running once we got back in the studio this past January. It's just a go-for-it type of song. Pretty straightforward and fun to play."
"Lost Inside the Girl"
"I initially wrote it at home on an acoustic guitar and then brought it in to the guys. It's a bit different for us, and it was one of those things where you play it for people and you don't know what their reactions are going to be—if they're going to hear what you hear. So, you sort of sheepishly present it, and you try and look serious, but also not too serious, in case you embarrass the shit out of yourself [laughs]. But, the guys actually took to it pretty quickly and we started to put the arrangement together. And I love the vocal—when I first heard Myles sing it, I thought, 'God, that's really sort of an overtly romantic song...' It wasn't until he explained it to me that I went, 'Oh, this is really dark!' "
"Read Between the Lines"
"We started doing this one back in 2015. It was a riff that I came up with that I knew was a departure from what we normally do. And so, I didn't know if it was gonna fly. We started playing it, but the thing with these guys is they're so easygoing that they'll jam something very enthusiastically--even if they don't like it [laughs]. Or at least that's what I was feeling. And then when Myles first heard it he was like, 'Hey…maybe you guys should make this into an instrumental.' Which to me was him basically saying, 'I don't have anything for this song.' But I was persistent about it because I knew it could be the coolest fucking jam and we just had to do it. So, we revisited it in January or February of this year, and it was almost like the guys forgot that they didn't like it, or maybe I had the wrong interpretation of their original reactions because it turned out to be a really cool song."
"This is something I wrote on my couch when I was home for Christmas last year, before we started rehearsing in January. I thought it was a cool riff, so I brought it in after the break and we worked it up. It's pretty new, for sure. But I like the song a lot."
"The One You Loved is Gone"
"I actually first wrote the music to this for The Walking Dead. I've been pretty close to a few of the cast members and the guys who work on the show for a long time, and one thing I noticed is they never really have anything but score in the episodes. So back in 2014 or 2015, I had this idea that maybe they could use a song, and I put something together, played it on an electric guitar that wasn't even plugged in, recorded it onto my phone and sent it to somebody over at the show's music department. And the reaction was, 'Well, this is really cool…but we don't really do this kind of stuff' [laughs]. And you know, when I listened back to the recording I couldn't even believe that I had the balls to send it in--it was just this scratchy, unplugged electric guitar, like, 'Hey! I've got an idea!' There was no way anybody else would have been able to understand what I was hearing in it. But anyway, it was one of these ideas I stuck with because I thought that musically it was pretty cool. I remember working on it with Myles here and there, and by the time the band started playing it at rehearsals earlier this year, it had evolved into something a little different than what it was initially. Then Myles came up with this great verse and chorus and it shaped up to be a really pretty song."
"This is a riff I specifically remember playing with the guys for the first time at a venue in New Hampshire on the 'World on Fire tour'. It was just a cool guitar part that we ran though at soundcheck, and from that point forward the rest of the song started to come together in my mind in dressing rooms and hotels. Then when we started rehearsals in January we finally pieced it all together. And Myles came up with a great melody for it."
"'Sugar Cane' is really new. It originally came up in 2015, but at that time it was just the opening riff. And we didn't get very far with it. It was one of those things where you get the riff down, pack up for the day and figure you'll revisit it at some point. But we didn't touch it again until probably March of this year. It was one of the last things we did during preproduction. I had some ideas for the verses, and then Myles came in and had some great melodies. He didn't actually introduce the final lyrics until we were in the studio recording. But it came out great in the end."
"The Great Pretender"
"I think this one is the most unorthodox song on the record. Maybe not arrangement-wise, but definitely style-wise. It was difficult to capture the feel of what I was hearing in my head, especially when it came to being able to slow everything down from how we normally do things. It's almost like a jazzy kind of approach so, it took a second. But once we found the right groove it all started to fall into place. And Myles had a fucking awesome melody for it. So I'm really happy we managed to persevere and get it to where I wanted it. But it was definitely the hardest song on the record to put together."
"Boulevard of Broken Hearts"
"This might have been the last thing I came up with and brought to the band. It was another idea I had where I wasn't sure the other guys were going to get where I was coming from. But the chorus was done in such a way that I'd knew they'd get that part of it, and from there all we'd have to do is figure out the verses and the other sections. It actually came together really quickly, and after Myles heard it he had a vocal melody almost instantaneously."
Slash feat. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators,' 'Living The Dream' is out now, via Snakepit Records / Roadrunner Records.
See Slash feat. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators at the following European tour dates below, as well as Canada and the USA through July and August 2019.
Friday 14th June 2019 Download Festival, Donington UK
Sunday 16th June 2019 Nova Rock, Kleylehof AUSTRIA
Wednesday 19th June 2019 Swiss Life Hall, Hannover GERMANY
Thursday 20th June 2019 Copenhell, Copenhagen DENMARK
Saturday 22nd June 2019 Graspop Metal Meeting, Dessel BELGIUM
Sunday 23rd June 2019 Hellfest, Clisson FRANCE
Tuesday 25th June 2019 Esch-Sur-Alzette, LUXEMBOURG
Thursday 27th June 2019 Volt Festival, Sopron HUNGARY
Friday 28th June 2019 Topfest, Piestany SLOVAKIA
Sunday 30th June 2019 Esso-Servigliano, Servigliano ITALY
Monday 1st July 2019 Auditorium Stravinski @2M2C, Montreaux SWITZERLAND
Wednesday 3rd July 2019 Festival De Nimes, Nimes FRANCE
Thursday 4th July 2019 Eurockeennes, Sermamagny FRANCE
Saturday 6th July 2019 Rock The Castle, Verona ITALY
For full dates or more information, please visit: