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Slash: ‘There's A Certain Kind Of Familiarity With Australia That Runs Pretty Deep’

1 February 2024 | 11:39 am | Mary Varvaris

As Slash prepares for an Australian tour with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators this month, he caught up with The Music for a chat about the shows, latest album '4', The Angels, Rose Tattoo, AC/DC and more.

Slash feat. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators

Slash feat. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators (Credit: Austin Nelson)

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Slash isn’t the guitar player you think he is. If you’re primarily familiar with Guns N’ Roses classics – his clear, bright riff that opens Sweet Child O’ Mine (and its accompanying solo) or the spectacularly grandiose guitar solo in November Rain – you’re missing out.

With his band The Conspirators – starring singer Myles Kennedy (of Alter Bridge fame), rhythm guitarist Frank Sidoris (The Cab, Mammoth WVH), bassist Todd Kerns (The Age Of Electric) and drummer Brent Fitz (Alice Cooper, Theory Of A Deadman) – Slash is free to showcase a different, looser side to his guitar playing abilities.

Since kicking off his solo career in 2010, Slash has found great success in Australia, with his self-titled LP landing at #3 on the ARIA Albums Chart. In 2012, Slash began billing his albums to Slash feat. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators, starting with Apocalyptic Love (ARIA #2), followed by 2014’s World On Fire (#2), 2018’s Living The Dream (#4) and 2022’s 4 (#2).

Particularly on Slash’s fourth solo album with the band, 4, he embraces a more blues-influenced, rock‘n’roll side of himself. There’s the powerful, rapturous opening track The River Is Rising, tender ballad Fill My World, and the frenetic Call Off The Dogs. Throughout the album, he’s an undeniable star alongside Kennedy.

This month, Slash, Kennedy and The Conspirators return to Australia for a string of arena shows – their first tour Down Under in five years.

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Slash last toured Australia with Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators in February 2019. “The night belonged to a legend of the guitar world,” The Music’s Greg Burgess commented in a review of the band’s concert at Perth’s RAC Arena. Burgess added, “Each member brought fantastic showmanship, serious ability and a super tight performance.”

The tour begins at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on Thursday February 22, followed by Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion on Saturday February 24, Brisbane’s Riverstage on Sunday February 25, and finally Melbourne’s John Cain Arena on Tuesday February 27. Slash and his crew of bandmates will be joined by UK rockers The Struts and Aussie icons Rose Tattoo.

The tracks for 4 were completed in just five days, Slash tells The Music ahead of his forthcoming Australian tour. “We're looking at going into the studio at some point in the fall to do another one,” he shares. “So, I'm really looking forward to that; I'm very excited about the prospect. It's been a little while because we did 4… I guess it was at the end of 2021, beginning of 2022, or something like that.

“There's just been so much going on, and we’re still trying to find a window to get back in the studio and do another record and then find a window for a touring cycle and all that stuff with all the different bands we're all in. It's very complicated. But it looks like we've sort of got a handle on the next recording schedule. So yeah, I'm very excited.”

Recording 4 was a different experience for Slash and his bandmates, as they were attempting to work while the US was still at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kennedy ended up testing positive after a week of feeling crappy and initially testing negative, and then Fitz did too, and then Kerns and one of the album’s engineers.

Fortunately, everyone recovered well, and the album was already mostly complete. “All the tracks were done, and then I just had to do some guitar bits and whatnot,” Slash explains. “But we still had vocal harmonies to do, and some of the lead tracks weren't finished.

“So, Myles did a lot of his vocals from quarantine in the Airbnb that we were renting. And then, you know, I inevitably ended up catching it after a couple of days [chuckles]. And then I was quarantined for five days. The whole experience was unique.”

All things considered – recording an album during a pandemic and all – Slash calls the recording experience “wonderful”. The quick turnaround resulted in spontaneity and urgency, particularly in Kennedy’s vocals – a “key element” of the album. Slash concurs, “I think it's a really cool record. I just love the spirit of it. I love the fact that it's totally in the moment.”

Kennedy truly shines on Fill My World, a song he wrote from his dog’s perspective about how he imagines his pet would be feeling while on the road. Did that song encourage Slash to think about what dogs are thinking?

“Um, no,” Slash admits with a laugh. “That was the first time I ever really thought about what Myles’s or anybody else's dogs were thinking. When he first wrote that lyric and first sang the song, I didn't know that – I thought it was a human relationship song, and then it turns out that it was about his dog sitting at home when he's out on the road, so, it does conjure an image, right?

“And, so, yesterday, when we were sound-checking that song, it came to mind: Myles’s dog, which he sent me a picture of. I normally don't think about household pets in that context, but I have now been sort of awakened to that idea.”

On 4, Slash and his bandmates enlisted producer Dave Cobb, a music industry veteran known for his work with country music stars such as Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton. They recorded the album at RCA Studio A, the studio Cobb uses in Nashville.

Right next door to their recording sessions was RCA Studio B, a historic site Slash describes as “preserved as a museum to the old-school technique of recording where you were going just to track, and everybody was in one room. There was just a couple of microphones, and this old console and everything from back in the ‘50s.” The geography and choice of producer make one wonder: were Slash and his bandmates inspired by country music while recording 4?

Slash laughs, “There were pictures of all the country luminaries on the wall, from Dolly Parton to Waylon Jennings to Johnny Cash to Charley Pride. So, everybody's on the walls – all these great candid pictures. It was a very inspiring time that we spent there.

“Funnily enough, while I was there, they had a book that was basically a bunch of anecdotes about all these different country singers over the years. And it inspired me to go out and buy a pedal steel, and I've been playing pedal steel. So, it definitely had a long-lasting impact.”

That’s when Slash drops a hint for what fans can expect from the upcoming tour: the pedal steel is coming out for at least one song. “I actually am playing it on this tour,” he explains, “I've been woodshedding, you know, up to this point, and I finally decided I can get away with playing at least one song with it. So, it's part of the set.”

Slash’s tourmates in Rose Tattoo aren’t just good friends, but significant influences on the guitarist. “Rose Tattoo was one of the bands from Australia that influenced me way back when,” he says. “Guns N’ Roses covered one of their songs [Nice Boys] way back in the day, but I've been friends with Angry [Anderson] and company for years. I’m just looking forward to seeing Angry and going out and playing some shows with those guys.”

As well as his memories with Anderson, Slash has many fond memories from touring in Australia. “When The Conspirators first started out, the first touring [in 2012] that we ever did was actually in Australia,” he shares. “There's a certain kind of familiarity with Australia for this band that runs pretty deep. That was the first audience to really welcome us, so we've spent a lot of time in Australia over the years.”

He continues, “I've had some great experiences all around Australia, from concerts to just hanging out; I've got a lot of friends there. You know, I’ve got some good mates at the record company we work with over there [Slash’s own label Snakepit Records in partnership with Sony Music Australia] that I've been with for years. I love coming over there, and it's a drag that it's been so long.”

Ironically enough, Slash was at a fundraiser for the 2019/20 Australian bushfires at LA Zoo, for which he’s on the board. He explains, “We had this big fundraiser with all these celebrities and all this stuff up at the zoo, and it was on the news that this thing was actually becoming a pandemic.

“We all arrived at this thing, and we didn't know whether to even shake each other's hands at that point. It was a really surreal experience, and that was the very beginning of what turned into this massive global quarantine. But yeah, it was for the Australian wildfires.”

Slash’s relationship with Australia stretches beyond his friendship with Angry Anderson and tour memories. As guitarists, AC/DC’s Angus and Malcolm Young will always be influences he looks up to.

“Angus and Malcolm, guitar-wise, have been and always will be a couple of my favourites. Believe it or not, in the ‘80s, I really did think that INXS was one of the best pop bands that came out of anywhere,” he says. “I especially hated the ‘80s back then [laughs], so there were very few artists that I liked, but I did like INXS.

The Angels were great too,” he adds, “And I guess they're still sort of around. I talked to one of the original members recently, and they were going to do some sort of greatest hits record or something like that and asked if I'm interested and seeing if I wanted to play on it, but I haven't heard from him since. So, anyway, yeah, that's a couple of favourites.”

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators are touring Australia this month. You can find tickets via Destroy All Lines.