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What guitars were you working with in the studio?
I only took eight guitars down there, stuff that I knew I was going to use: a few Les Pauls, an Explorer, and a 12-string. I had a vintage Junior and a reissue that worked out for some stuff, but the reissue sounded better. I didn’t have a lot of variations on a basic sound. When I started doing other tones, I wanted to get away from the stock Les Paul sounds I use so it didn’t sound like Judas Priest. Mike had an ES-135 I checked out and it sounded amazing. Within a couple days I learned the next step up from that was the ES-175, and Gibson sent one over and that sounded fucking amazing. Those were the main speaker left/stage right guitars I was using.
So did you play all the guitar parts on the album or did Myles play some?
I played all of the guitars, speaker left and speaker right. He played the other guitar parts on the Apocalyptic Love record—he’s a phenomenal guitar player. I mean he was actually a guitar teacher, let’s put it that way. So he knows stuff. I don’t know what I’m doing—he knows what he’s doing. Technically I don’t know a lot, you’d be surprised. He knows all kinds of scales and picking techniques, and every so often I’ll go, “What was that?” And he’ll show it to me, I’ll incorporate it in something I do for a minute, and then I’ll never use it again [laughs].
When we did the Apocalyptic Love record, he was on the road with Alter Bridge, so when we started recording he came in at the last minute and had to learn all the songs on guitar really fast. That cut into his writing and vocals, and so he was very uncomfortable with all of that. So on this one he said, “You play guitar and let me just deal with vocals.” So I said, “Cool—more for me!”
Slash grips his Kris Derrig Les Paul replica (right), which was the inspiration for his signature Gibson Appetite Les Paul model (left). Photo by Neil Zlozower.
Slash’s Holy Grail Guitar
Asked if he had to choose one guitar to play for the rest of his life, Slash answered without hesitation that it would be his Kris Derrig Appetite Les Paul, his go-to guitar since 1986. He’s used it on every recording since Appetite for Destruction.
“We’re like an old married couple—she’s very temperamental,” he says. “You have to work to keep her in tune and I’ve had to replace little parts, but overall that’s where I can easily get my sound.”
So what is it about this machine? “I can do whatever it is I do on whatever Les Paul, but if I A/B that guitar with any other guitar, it has its own personality.”
He stopped taking his girl on the road in 1988, but she’s still his No. 1 studio beast. For touring, he has his Gibson AFD Les Paul Standards. “I beat the shit out of my guitars,” he says of his signature model. “It’s the same guitar but new, and I can beat them up.”
There is some controversy surrounding the history of this Derrig LP replica [see “The Legend of Slash’s Appetite for Destruction Les Paul,” Premier Guitar, October 2010], but Slash maintains that it really is his one true love.
Tell us about your songwriting process.
I write in the moment and never look at anything through a past perspective. I write when we’re on the road, in the dressing room, or I’m in my hotel room, and I keep my phone close by and I just play all day. And if I stumble across anything that I think is cool, I’ll keep playing it until I develop it and record it onto my phone—it could be 30 seconds or two minutes or whatever. By the end of the tour, I’ve amassed ideas. After the tour is done I decompress for a few weeks, and then I’m itching to go back to work and listen to all those ideas.
How easily do those parts come to you?
The thing is, they come easy because you’re not trying. That’s the big thing for me. Because if I sit down and focus on trying to write something, then it becomes really difficult.I wouldn’t be able to write in the studio. It might just magically happen, but nine times out of 10 it won’t. Then you just sit there and start beating yourself up for not being able to create in the moment.