In the studio, Slash uses his prized replica ’59 Kris Derrig Les Paul and ’50s-vintage models, but he brings new Les Paul reissues on the road. “I’m way too hard on guitars when I’m touring,” he says. Photo by Ken Settle
Tell us about your B.C. Rich guitars.
I have an affinity that goes back to when I first started playing guitar. My first good electric guitar was a B.C. Rich Mockingbird. I eventually graduated to Les Pauls. But I still have a soft spot in my heart for B.C. Riches, and they sound good—the old ones sounded real good. I’ve had a couple new ones that they made for me that sound really good, too. I use those on the road, but I don’t use them in the studio that much because I’m a creature of habit in the studio. I like to have a Les Paul—it makes me feel comfortable.
Do your B.C. Riches have all the bells and whistles? Like the preamps and Varitone switches?
I don’t use any of that stuff [laughs]. I disconnect all of them. It looks cool.
Do you use any newfangled pedals or plug-ins?
I pretty much don’t, man. I have the wah pedal, which I use here and there. Sometimes I'll use a little bit of a phase on something. I know I did a little bit of a Phase 90 on one of the songs on the record. I don’t remember which one. But for the most part, I manage to get whatever it is that I’m looking for just with the amp and the guitar. You know, there is a delay here and there—little tricks, that at this point are seemingly redundant to people who are really into pedals. They’re just textures that you might use for whatever.
Your signal chain is guitar, wah, amp.
Yeah. It’s funny, too, because I have tons of pedals. I love collecting stompboxes. But I always find when I use them in the studio that they’re just a little too synthetic sounding for me—unless you’re really looking for a particular sound, like an octave fuzz, which is a very specific sound—but a lot of these different stompboxes have their own character. When it comes to the context of the song, I find that I never really need them or I don’t feel comfortable using them. They just take up a lot of space in my closet in the studio.
Do you ride the volume knob on the guitar to control the gain?
It depends. The amp pretty much stays. There are two different settings for the amp: There’s the rhythm setting that I use for all the rhythm tracks and then I’ll goose that up a bit for the solo stuff. During the rhythm tracks, I might ride the volume on my guitar a little bit—even when we’re recording—and then for the solos everything is usually just flat out.
On some of the songs on your new album, like “The Call of the Wild,” you have a cool jangly tone. Are you using something other than a Les Paul?
No, that’s the ’56 goldtop with soap bars. It’s funny, because I’ve never recorded with one before and I would hardly ever be seen using one—because I am such a humbucker-type guy—but for that particular song, for the detail of that riff, the humbuckers were just a little too muddy. I pulled this ’56 out that I’ve had since the ’90s, and I was like, “This is perfect.” I ended up using that goldtop for a lot of the record.
You almost always play with a second guitar player. No desire to do a power trio?
Not really. Frank [Sidoris, rhythm guitar] has been in the band for a while. He comes in at the end, when we’re putting the stuff together—at this point anyway, that’s how it seems to be working. I jam with Brent [Fitz, drums] and Todd [Kerns, bass], and we come up with these ideas, the three of us. I’ll bring in an idea, work out the parts, and get the whole groove going with those guys. Sometimes it’s just with the drummer, Brent, just to work up an idea and get a riff going. But we work these songs out, the three of us, and then Frank comes in and starts putting stuff on top of that. So I play in a power trio a lot, but as far as what I want the band to sound like, it’s always been, for me, a two-guitar band.
Is Frank on the album?
This is the first record he’s played on. The last couple of records it’s just been me. Myles played a little bit on Apocalyptic Love, but on the World on Fire record, I tried to have dual personalities. I did my parts on the right and then I did something that it didn’t sound exactly like me on the left. But it just doesn’t work like that because I have a particular approach to guitar playing that you can’t … I can’t pretend not to sound like myself. When Frank came into it, he added. I think that’s one of the things that makes the new record sound so good. It’s that there are two distinct personalities' sounds on the guitar—identifiable differences between the two sides, and that’s what I’m going for.
Do you spend time talking about tones and divvying up duties, or is it more organic?
It’s more organic. I’ve never been one to sit there and analyze what the other person is doing, or how what I’m doing compares to what the other person is doing or working out specific dual-guitar runs or anything. On occasion, I might. There are a couple of moments here and there where I might go, “Frank, try this.” I have maybe two different ideas in my head about how this part should go. I might tell him what the other part is, and he’ll play that, and I’ll play my part. But for the most part, he does his thing and I do mine.
How about Richard Fortus (rhythm guitarist in Guns N’ Roses since 2002)? Is it the same type of playing relationship as with Frank?
Richard’s great, man. It’s the same kind of thing. It’s not my personality, I guess, to want to concentrate on the two-guitar approach, even though I’m always in a two-guitar band. It’s always been, “You’ve got your thing, doing whatever you’ve got to do over there, and I’m doing whatever I do over here.” Usually they work together pretty well. If there’s something specifically that needs to get worked out, like with Richard—because a lot of that Chinese Democracy stuff, obviously, I didn’t have anything to do with writing it, so it was sort of foreign to me—he definitely had his parts and he showed me what some of the other parts were. We would jam the stuff and I would come up with my own interpretation of what those other parts were. But for the most part, Richard just does his thing and I do mine.
Guns is doing its final run on the Not in This Lifetime… Tour next month in Asia and South Africa and Dubai, and then that’s it until we can hunker down and do a record.
Is there a record in the works?We’ll see [laughs]. Right now, it’s just something that we’re all talking about.
Slash and his band rock the first single, “Driving Rain,” from Living the Dream on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in September 2018. Skip to 2:52 for the Slash solo.