When iconic rock guitarist Slash enters Canada with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators (SMKC), he’s about as Canadian as a Molson or Labatt ale.
From his early days travelling across the country opening for The Cult in 1987 with Guns N’ Roses to his current swings with SMKC, he loves it here. However, nothing speaks louder than hiring notable Canadian musicians Todd Kerns and Brent Fitz for the band.
“I love Canada,” he declares in an interview while on the road with SMKC across the US. “I love Canadians in general and I have some great Canadian stories. All the best ones though, really come from my first trips to Canada on the first tour that I ever did. That was with The Cult back in 1987, and really, that was my first sort of Discover Canada tour. I met a lot of really amazing women on that tour, so, yeah, I’ve always had a special soft spot in my heart for Canada. And I have two Canadians in the band. I met Brent in Las Vegas and he became our drummer. He also knew Todd and knew that I needed a bass player, so Todd became the bass player.”
SMKC is rounded out with vocalist Myles Kennedy and guitarist Frank Sidoris. Unfortunately, due to COVID restrictions the band was forced to cancel their Spring tour this month, with one of the dates moved to a new location. Fans in Windsor could hop the border to catch the band at The Fillmore on March 4 in place of a Caesars Windsor show that night. But Slash says he’ll return to Canada soon.
“I would like to do a whole Canadian Tour when we start doing international stuff, beginning of next year, so that’s what I’m going to strive for.” He adds.
The band is touring their newly released album, simply called 4, a 10-track rock attack which was completed while working around band members coming down with COVID.
“We actually finished the record before everybody got sick,” he notes. “Then once everybody got sick, we just had to quarantine in Nashville until everybody got better. After all that, we went back and mixed the record.”
In a new format for them, Slash and the boys recorded the album completely live, laying down the tracks live in the studio – including guitar solos and vocals. The result is a stunning, vital sound that’s captured live in the moment.
“I will probably continue to do live recording from now on, but certain aspects of it might change a little,” Slash reflects. “There were certain parts of it that were forced by the COVID thing – like Myles only getting to do first-take vocals for the whole record. It sounds great, but I know he’d probably feel more comfortable having a little bit more freedom to be able to get certain things the way that he would want them. I think the next time around, we’ll still record live, but we’ll spend a little bit more time in posts getting certain things right, adding things or layering some stuff and getting the vocals just the way he wants them. But I will always record the basic track live now.”
One of those first takes is the opening track The River Is Rising, which has the most raw and raunchy vocals Myles has ever recorded.
“We did the vocals live and then he got COVID, so we never went back to retool any of the vocals,” Slash says. “I actually think was a really great thing. I think it’s what gives the album a lot of its character. But I think that, for Myles, it was a little bit limiting, because he didn’t have the choice to go back and fix anything.”
That track turned out so well it became the album’s first track and first single.
“The River is Rising was just one of the first songs that we started working on in pre-production,” Slash tells of the song. “It was one of the last songs I wrote before pre-production and it was definitely a piece of music that was born out of the frustration of being in lockdown. I think, for Myles, it was also a vehicle to vent some of his frustration about global events at that time. When we recorded, it just seemed like a no brainer for the first song to lead the record, and then it ended up being the first single.”
The album is clearly framed in a pandemic world, which shines on other tracks on the album, including another single Fill My World.
“That was another song that was born out of the black cloud of the pandemic,” he adds. “I was sitting around by myself in my studio and came up with the riff to sort of, I think, offset the doom and gloom of what everybody was going through with COVID. I didn’t plan on showing it to the rest of the band at the time, but it was stuck in my head for a week. I couldn’t shake it. So, I thought, ‘Well, I should at least send a copy of it to Myles.’ So, I recorded a demo and sent it to Myles. He came up with this amazing melody and a lyric idea.”
As one of the world’s finest rock guitarists, along with Guns N’ Roses and SMKC, he’s had the chance to appear on several songs by artists ranging from Michael Jackson to Beth Hart to Rihanna.
“A lot of the non-Rock stuff I’ve done has been really fun and really educational,” Slash points out. “I’ve met some really cool people and I learned a lot about working in different studio environments. You brought the Rihanna one up – that was a sort of bizarre one-off that I actually did in my friend’s garage. So, that was actually a very memorable recording. But yeah, they’re all interesting.”
One of those interesting aspects is gear. Fans might be surprised that Slash is not as particular about specific guitars and amps when working with other artists.
“When I’m doing my own recordings, I bring particular equipment – I’m very specific about what I’m going to use,” he reveals about his recording process. “When I play with other people, I just grab a good guitar and amp that I know works – or sometimes I use what they have. I’m not as precious about my gear when I’m doing other people’s stuff. I’m more flexible with guitars and with amps and stuff when I’m doing recording for other people. But when I do in my own stuff, I’m very particular.”
Like many rockers from his era, Slash’s unique playing style is a blend of ‘60s and ‘70s rock greats, having been heavily influenced by artists such as Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. But the influential axe man does keep an eye out for new guitar heroes.
“There are a lot of great guitar players out there,” Slash analyzes. “There is a lot of stuff on YouTube, and Instagram and I don’t even know all of their names. There’s a girl named Samantha Fish – she’s fucking amazing – that’s out there right now. Somebody I’ve known for a long time, but is starting to get a lot more recognition is Chris Buck, who’s an awesome blues guitar player. There’s also this guy Christone “Kingfish” Ingram who I just came across online – he just blows my mind. I don’t know him at all, but he’s definitely badass. There is a whole world of amazing guitar players out there. It’s very humbling.”
Slash has been playing guitar for more than 4o years and still has the same passion for it now as he did when he first fabricated a bass guitar by using a one-string flamenco guitar given to him by his grandmother when he was 14-years-old:
“I love guitars. I love playing guitar. I love the way the guitar sounds. I love music. It’s something I just will never grow out of. The more I do it, the more I like it, the more I learn, because playing guitar is a never-ending learning process. There’s always new stuff to discover – it never ends – so I’m still inspired by the whole idea of making it do things that I like to hear.”
Slash can be found at www.slashonline.com.