Slash: First live take, first Gibson Records release, fourth time around with SMKC

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Slash: First live take, first Gibson Records release, fourth time around with SMKC

(Image: Supplied)
Words by Eli Duxson

Rock music has seen many great bands and musicians come and go for a raft of complicated and simple reasons

Simplicity is the key for certified guitar legend Slash who needs no introduction as his fourth studio album with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators has arrived, aptly entitled 4

Having produced their fourth offering in a decade, Slash says the Conspirators is just such a simple, easy band, and it’s been like that from its inception.

Read up on all the latest interviews, features and columns here.

“It’s a band where everybody just wants to get together and play, and there’s really not a lot of other stuff that gets in the way,” he says. “We get the material together and we go for it, and once a run’s over, then we go and do other things.”

“But we always come back to it,” Slash continues. “We love making these records and doing the tours and going out and having a really good time.”

Making up the Conspirators is Todd Kerns (bass), Brent Fitz (drums), and Frank Sidoris (rhythm guitar), and their latest offering provided their greatest challenge yet in the shape of the pandemic. Most of the songs were written pre-pandemic but Slash says it wasn’t necessarily just the recording process that was affected, it was everything.

slash feat. myles kennedy and the conspirators

“I locked myself in my studio and I was really forced to have to create demos to send to the guys which wasn’t really normal for me, I don’t usually do it like that,” he says.

Once restrictions eased and the group got into pre-production, things were almost as they usually were. So, what was different?

“We actually did this record completely live with everybody in the room at the same time, with all the amps and everything like we were playing a gig and just recorded like that,” he says. “That was really exciting. I’ve never actually recorded with the guitars and the vocals live before, I’ve always wanted to but then you have to wear headphones and I hate headphones. At the end of the day though it had nothing to do with the pandemic.”

The recording took place at the iconic Chet Atkins-founded RCA Studio A in Nashville which has housed the likes of The Beach Boys and B.B King over the years.

Including every little imperfection as it was captured in the moment like covid-laden vocals from Kennedy was something Slash had wanted to do since the ‘80s, and pairing with producer Dave Cobb was a “great marriage”.

“Producers just don’t like to do it that way,” he laughs. 

“You get a lot of bleed on the drum mics, and they don’t trust that a young rock and roll band can actually play well enough that they don’t have to fix everything, so I’ve had producers all these years tell me no.

“But when I hooked up with Dave Cobb he was like, ‘yeah man I just want to record you guys live,’ and I was like, ‘you’re fucking kidding me, this is great’.”

Transferring the record to the live stage will be as simple as adding a crowd in as Slash says whenever the Conspirators put together new material, it’s “intended to be live”.

“That’s really what we’re all about, but this record in particular because of the way we did it, when we go and play these songs in front of an audience, I think it’s going to be really, really cool,” he says.

Their first tour since pre-pandemic kicked off in Portland on February 8 and in the lead up, Slash had no secrets as to how he felt about it.

“I’m just looking forward to playing. Period,” he says.

As the tour goes on and more people can get their hands on the record, they’re going to sneak in more and more songs with a focus on the album’s lead track and fastest growing radio single he’s ever had, ‘The River Is Rising’.

When he graces the live stage with Kennedy and the Conspirators, the first thing fans will expect to see is a top hat. The second, and absolutely more importantly is no doubt, his trusty Les Paul axe.

He’s been a loyal custodian of the Gibson Les Paul and undoubtedly led the resurgence of them in the late ‘80s. Slash’s Les Paul Standard is very much an ode to the beloved ‘59 and ‘60 Standards with a few very personal touches, the most notable perhaps the 4.3kg weight of the guitar.

“It’s the old saying, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” he laughs. “When I do a signature model, the specs that I change are only very specific to my guitars. There are certain hardware modifications, the dimensions of the neck are very personal, and they have Slash model Seymour Duncan pickups, but the rest of the guitar is basically just a regular Les Paul.”

That standard Les Paul will be featuring on 4 though, in the form of a commemorative limited album edition guitar finished in Translucent Cherry delivered with a unique hardshell case emblazoned with the 4 album logo. The limited run of 250 was quick to sell out.

“That’s what happens when you do a record deal with a guitar company,” he laughs. 

4 is the first record released on Gibson Records and Slash says he was humbled when they asked if he’d be interested.

“I’ve had a great relationship with Gibson for many, many years, so when they asked if I wanted to do this record on their new label I was honoured that they would do that,” he says.

The tour will conclude in Orlando on March 26 in which fans will no doubt be treated to some brilliant shows.

“There’s a lot of songs we’re going to play that we haven’t played in a really long time, but I’m just really excited about the whole thing, especially about playing the new songs.”

4 is out now via Gibson Records. Find upcoming tour dates at Slash’s website.