A LUL­LABY FOR THE WICKED

YOU JUST HAVE TO GO FOR BROKE. PLAY WHAT YOU FEEL IN THAT MO­MENT AND GO WHER­EVER THE TRACK IS TAK­ING YOU.

Australian Guitar - - Hot Gear - WORDS BY MATT DO­RIA

FRESH OFF A CA­REER-DEFIN­ING RE­UNION TOUR WITH GUNS N’ ROSES, THE UNDIS­PUTED KING OF THE RIFF IS BACK – TOPHAT AND ALL – WITH A SLICK NEW SOLO AL­BUM. LADIES, GEN­TLE­MEN AND SO ON, PLEASE WEL­COME… SLASH.

Ask the av­er­age punter who Saul Hud­son is, and you’re al­most cer­tain to be met with an ap­a­thetic shrug. Change your tone to Slash, how­ever, and eyes will light up. “Oh yeah! The dude from Guns N’ Roses! With the sun­glasses and the tophat!”

In three decades of rock’n’roll de­bauch­ery, the Lon­don-na­tive shred head has be­come more of a char­ac­ter than a hu­man be­ing – se­ri­ously, did you know that he’s 53 years old? Many don’t, be­cause un­like some of his less ge­net­i­cally blessed band­mates (sorry, Axl), Slash hasn’t aged a day since he first tore through that iconic “Sweet Child O’ Mine” riff. He’s time­less; a liv­ing leg­end amongst mere mor­tals in his class.

Much of that can be as­cribed to his al­most car­toon­ish aes­thetic – the ragged, un­tamed hair; that tophat-and-sun­nies combo; a Gib­son Les Paul pressed against his chest and a cig­a­rette al­ways dan­gling from his lip (well, un­til he quit smok­ing a few years back).

But un­der­neath the sil­very, no-damns-left-to-give ve­neer lies a fa­ther and fret­board en­thu­si­ast not too much un­like our­selves. Slash is idolised to the bar­racks, but Hud­son is just a gifted dude with an affin­ity for a good axe. He sleeps eight hours, but­ters his own toast and slips into his leather pants one leg at a time.

On the phone to Aus­tralianGuitar, he’s de­cid­edly easy­go­ing. He laughs at our jokes and shares lit­tle sto­ries of his day-to-day. It al­most doesn’t feel like this man could be re­spon­si­ble for some of the most out­landish tales of ex­cess in rock’n’roll his­tory.

Be­cause all things con­sid­ered, it makes sense that Slash is so im­mor­talised in his char­ac­ter – for the bet­ter chunk of two decades, he lived that sto­ry­book life­style through and through. “Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll” wasn’t just a mantra for Slash, it was the av­er­age Tues­day night. To most of us, he was liv­ing the dream.

But when you ac­tu­ally sit down and think about what ‘the dream’ is, you have to con­sider: is it that chaotic grandeur of do­ing coke on pri­vate jets and pelting cham­pagne bot­tles at green room walls (the ‘80s were wild, but so ab­surdly tinted rose), or is it the sim­ple fan­tasy of be­ing able to run out on­stage night af­ter night, pick up a gui­tar tai­lored to your ex­act wants and needs, and share your pas­sion of play­ing mu­sic with the world?

At least in the present day, Slash doesn’t skip a beat in leap­ing at the lat­ter.

Thus brings us to solo al­bum #4 – the third ‘fea­tur­ing Myles Kennedy and The Con­spir­a­tors’ –

Liv­ing The Dream. The ori­gin of its ti­tle is po­lit­i­cal, but its tim­ing couldn’t be any bet­ter. In 2016, af­ter just months shy of 20 years away from the man­tle, Slash made the day­dreams of yes­ter­year’s rock fans come true by re­turn­ing to Guns N’ Roses for their mon­u­men­tal Not In This Life time tour: a stint that kicked off as a few lowkey fes­ti­val and arena shows in the States, but quickly erupted into a two-year con­quest of sta­di­ums the world over.

Now, Slash’s ca­reer cer­tainly wasn’t suf­fer­ing be­fore­hand. His project with Kennedy was (and is) an in­ter­na­tional smash hit, and the out­fit have dom­i­nated the­atres ev­ery­where from Dublin to Dubai. And be­fore it, the dead­pan debonair had toyed – to vary­ing lev­els of suc­cess – with projects like Slash’s Snakepit, Vel­vet Re­volver and a 2010 LP that saw him buddy up with ev­ery­one from Ozzy Os­bourne to Fer­gie.

But that 2016 Guns N’ Roses tour brought Slash back to his right­ful stature at the tippy top of the rock’n’roll food chain. Once more, he was larger than life. Liv­ing the dream.

With the tour now be­hind him (the fu­ture of Guns N’ Roses isn’t all too clear – Slash’s pub­li­cist ad­vised us against prod­ding – but all signs point to fur­ther ac­tiv­ity with their re­formed lineup on the cards), Slash was re­vi­talised with cre­ative fe­roc­ity.

Pro­duc­tion on Liv­ingTheDream be­gan the mo­ment those last shows wrapped up, and the end re­sult is a body of work that is at once loose, livid and as from-the-hip as records from his punk­ish youth, and metic­u­lous in ways that only a vir­tu­oso with fin­gers as sto­ried as Slash’s could riff out.

Span­ning 52 min­utes of fist-to-face hard rock and not a sec­ond of filler, the record serves as some­what of a ‘great­est hits’ for the tal­ents Slash has to show off. There are fierce and fiery blasts of riff-driven ma­nia (“My An­ti­dote”, “Sugar Cane”), a smoke-soaked bal­lad that could make even the hard­est of souls tear up (“The One You Loved Is Gone”), and more scalp-rip­ping so­los than you could pelt a dis­tor­tion pedal at (our favourite is on “Mind Your Man­ners”).

Con­tri­bu­tions from Kennedy and rhythm gui­tarist Frank Si­doris only tighten the mix a mil­lion­fold, and when the trio gel on cuts like “Slow Grind” and “Boule­vard Of Bro­ken Hearts”, it be­comes clearer than ever: The Con­spir­a­tors isn’t some mere side-project that gath­ers for a jam when Slash isn’t tear­ing it up with the Gun­ners and Kennedy is on a break from mak­ing boomer hearts melt in Al­ter Bridge. This is first class fret de­struc­tion, and those who aren’t yet con­verted will find it hard to shrug them off af­ter this record.

Ahead of its in­evitable in­clu­sion on a slew of 2018 ‘Al­bum Of The Year’ lists, we en­deav­oured to learn a lit­tle more about how Liv­ingTheDream came to life, where its new flavours of tonal magic come from (spoiler: ‘new’ might not be the right word here) and just how the hell Slash keeps com­ing up with these genre-defin­ing so­los.

Af­ter al­most forty years of play­ing the gui­tar, what does it mean for you to be liv­ing the dream?

Well, the ti­tle of the record was more of a sar­cas­tic state­ment in ref­er­ence to pol­i­tics, specif­i­cally what’s go­ing on in the US right now.

But in terms of my own per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, it’s sort of ap­pro­pri­ate be­cause I’m do­ing what it was that I set out to do when I was 15 years old. I’m play­ing ev­ery night and mak­ing records and tour­ing them all around the world. That’s what ‘liv­ing the dream’ meant to me when I was 15, so I guess it makes sense at this point.

How long has this al­bum been in the works?

A lot of the ideas for it started to pop up dur­ing the WorldOnFire tour in 2015, but we hadn’t got­ten too deep into the ar­range­ments at that point, and a lot of the songs were only re­ally com­pleted in 2018. We had a riff here and there and a cou­ple of chord ideas for a lot of the ma­te­rial back in 2015, and then the Guns N’ Roses tour started, so I took a de­tour from my own stuff and did that for a cou­ple of years.

But then at the be­gin­ning of 2018, my­self and the rest of the guys got to­gether dur­ing a Guns N’ Roses break and re­vis­ited some of the ideas we had from be­fore. I’d also writ­ten some new stuff over the Christ­mas break, so we had a fair bit of ma­te­rial to get into.

So yeah, noth­ing was close to what you’d call ‘fin­ished’ – es­pe­cially not in the lyric depart­ment, be­cause I don’t think Myles had even started writ­ing at that point – but some of the ori­gins def­i­nitely came from 2015.

Do you think hav­ing those ex­tra three years led to a bet­ter al­bum in the end, since you had more time for those song ideas to live and ma­ture in your mind?

No, be­cause we had a cou­ple of those ideas that we were work­ing on, but when the Guns N’ Roses re­union thing came up, all of the Con­spir­a­tors stuff – all that ma­te­rial, the whole thing – just sort of shut down. I hadn’t even thought about any of that ma­te­rial again un­til early 2018, when we de­cided to go into the stu­dio and get back into it.

Be­cause you have to be 100 per­cent fo­cused on either one. I’m either do­ing Guns N’ Roses and that’s all I’m think­ing about, or I’m do­ing stuff with The Con­spir­a­tors and that’s all I’m think­ing about. You’d burn out quickly if you were try­ing to do both at the same time.

Un­der­stand­able – that Guns N’ Roses tour was no week­end side-project! Do you think that whole ex­pe­ri­ence had much of an in­flu­ence on your cre­ative mind­set when you went back into the stu­dio?

Not that I could con­sciously say, but I mean, there was a lot of jam­ming go­ing on dur­ing that Guns N’ Roses tour. So wher­ever I was as a player in Jan­uary 2018 was def­i­nitely in­flu­enced by the fact that I was play­ing all night, ev­ery night be­tween 2016 and 2017.

There isn’t a di­rect cor­re­la­tion [be­tween the Guns N’ Roses tour and Liv­ingTheDream] that I can iden­tify, but at the same time, I was play­ing ev­ery sin­gle night with Guns, then came straight off that tour and started work­ing with The Con­spir­a­tors right away. So from a stylis­tic point of view, I’m sure there’s some sem­blance of an in­flu­ence there.

What was the cre­ative dy­namic like be­tween your­self and Myles this time around?

I think we set a… I guess you could call it a sort of ‘cre­ative prece­dent’, as far as how we worked in the very be­gin­ning, which is where I would just come up with what­ever ideas I had mu­si­cally and turn him onto them, and if they struck a chord with him, he would start com­ing up with some melodies. And that hasn’t re­ally changed in all these years, be­cause it’s a for­mula that just

works for us. So this record is just an ex­ten­sion of that same sort of MO.

So did Myles come back for the rhythm gui­tars on this al­bum as well, or did he only do the vo­cals again?

No, he doesn’t like to play the gui­tar in this par­tic­u­lar out­fit. He did on the Apoca­lyp­ticLove record, but we’ve found that he just likes to con­cen­trate on the vo­cals and the lyrics and all of that stuff. So he didn’t con­trib­ute mu­si­cally to this record, or [ WorldOnFire]. Frank Si­doris played the rhythm gui­tars on this record – he’s

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