This is the original transcript of the interview, only minor editing has been applied for readability. This has been the basis for articles but has never been published in the original form.
Wortraub: Hi, great to finally talk to you, you are hard to get a hold of.
Slash: Yeah, I am aware of that. We are on the road and quite busy.
Wortraub: On the road … meaning you just finished the South American Tour, right?
Slash: We did five shows in South America to kick the tour off. And now we are on to the States, just did the 7th show here.
Wortraub: Speaking of South America. Your new album title is „Libertad“ do you feel any connection to the Spanish speaking part of the world?
Slash: Uhm, (**hesitation**) not really. (**laughs heartily**) Only in spirit, no, just kidding. No … my wife is Cuban, does that count?
Wortraub: Why the album title then?
Slash: Because it just sounded cool. And it is something that is important, because it means „Freedom“ and that has a great significance for us. Considering how much bullshit we had to endure over the course of the inception of this band. We managed to stick it out through all that stuff. It made sense. Saying it in Spanish was just something that we stumbled into. Plus it has a nice ring to it. It is not a very complicated reason.
Wortraub: Well, the shit you had to go through for the inception of this band, that would have been for the first album, right?
Slash: There was some stuff, nothing major. Like oh my god. But there have been a lot of obstacles which the band had to jump through or to get through. We had to deal with a lot of negative attitudes and rumours. A lot of energy was directed at trying to split this band up. Ever since it started, specially after the first tour was over, we had to go through a lot. It was a good educational thing for us. It showed us how much we wanted to continue on and how much we wanted this band to work. So, we managed to conquer at the end.
Wortraub: But some of the obstacles were self-made though, right?
Slash: Yeah, some of them. The easy obstacles were self-made. Those were no big deal. We have good survival skills. So, any self-imposed obstacle was easy to rectify within the band. But the outside stuff is stuff that you do not necessarily see coming, and which is a little bit more potentially damaging.
Wortraub: What would that be?
Slash: I am not going to go into specifics because it is not really important at this point. There was just a lot of media bullshit that was unnecessary that it started to infiltrate the sanity and inner sanctum of this band.
Wortraub: But the reception of the first album was good though, wasn’t it?
Slash: From the fans it has been great, always has been. It is not the fans I have been talking about. They are stellar. It is the media I am talking about.
Wortraub: This album had been announced earlier and then postponed for a while – what happened?
Slash: That was the record company. That had nothing to do with us. Of course they never tell anybody that. They wanted to have more time to … what happened is this: we went in to make this record when we started working with Brendan O’Brien everything went very quickly and so the record was done way before the record company expected it. So, they had to push back the release date so they had enough time to set the record up, so to speak.
Wortraub: So, are you happy with the results of how it turned out?
Slash: Of course I am happy, it is fucking awesome.
Wortraub: But producing with Brendan O’Brien it seems that the record got a more straight forward sound or feel to it …
Slash: It is a very loose and just live record. That is what we wanted. Producers are a tricky thing. You know, you ever meet people that can tell other people what to do and never make their own decisions for themselves. That is what producers are. It is always touch and go with producers. If you gonna have to use one, than you are sort of at the mercy of that producers direction. And we don’t take direction well. So we need somebody who is more like one of the members of the band and takes it as it is. So when Brendan came in, he was a sight for sore eyes. His way of doing things was right in line with how we were. It was a good combination. He managed to simplify the band sound, as far as recording went, without putting too much pressure on us. He was not trying to influence the arrangements or trying to make the band sound like something that it wasn’t. It was a blessed collaboration.
Wortraub: You don’t like people telling you what to do? You are all veterans of the music business …
Slash: … but even when I was 18 years old, I did not like that.
Wortraub: What you are saying though is, that you are working creatively and know what you are doing? So is the producer just handing you the tools then?
Slash: I would not go as far as saying that I always know what I am doing. I don’t. But I do not what I want it to sound like. That I do. And if a producer can help me accomplish that goal then: great. If he can take that goal and enhance it, make it better without taking away from it. Even better. That is what we need from a producer for a band like ours. Everybody is different on this. And I have worked with a lot of producers over the years, some good, some not so good. It is a tricky little game that goes on between bands, producers and labels. But we don’t play that game the way the others do. They might play for commercial reasons, or success, or trying to fit in the curriculum of the record company or the radio, or what the latest fad is or what the newest fashion or style is. We just basically want to get an honest representation of what we are doing. Make it sound as good as possible, given the limitations of what we are using.
Wortraub: It seems that you have cleaned out the sound a bit, less grunge, less metal but rather a straighter approach to rock. Is that so?
Slash: I definitely steered away from any kind of metal sound. I wanted to be able to be as expressive as possible, with the guitars. So I went with the most stripped down Marshall ñ Les Paul sound that sound good to me. It wasn’t so much distortion on the amp itself. I sort of set it up the way I always do, maybe we dialed it back a little bit, but not that much. Maybe my overall approach at playing was a little less staccato and muscled with my right hand.
Wortraub: Your guitar playing has always been a defining moment for the band you played in, but on the other hand you always had to deal with a singer that is extravagant. Both Axl and Scott have been very upfront. How do you feel about your part in those bands?
Slash: I never saw it like that. I never though of it. What you are trying to do, when working with someone as dynamically talented as Scott, you want them to do the best they can possibly do. I mean, it is a musicians dream to have a singer that can handle all the responsibility that a singer has. The band is just there to put together a groove and the chord changes, the actual instrumental part of the song. That is what you are going for ñ a good tone between bass, guitar and drums. You want to be able to hear everything but you want the vocals to go over the top of that. The only other thing that happens is maybe a guitar solo or a melody line. But you want to hear where the song is coming from. That is a weird question though. Are you saying that the singing is leading away from the band?
Wortraub: No, I was thinking of the personal attention that a singer like Scott is taking. He is very much center stage. But you just mentioned the organizing quality of the singer, the bringing together of the actual band sound. And it seems that Scott is not the most organized person to do this, is he?
Slash: That depends on what you are talking about. Are you talking about in a technical sense or the way it sounds on record. In a technical sense, as far as the band is concerned. I am very neurotic on making sure that everybody works really hard and that we all focus on what we are doing. I get that done, along with the other guys in the band. That is my main focus. To get the song together, the rehearsals and to make sure we know what we are doing. I want to provide the perfect template for the singer to work with. I try keeping it very organized as best as I can within the confines of a rock and roll band. Then what happens when we are working on a song with the vocals, the least that happens it that the band doesn’t fall apart. When we go into recording it only takes one or two takes because everything has been organized upfront. I am a workaholic that way. That has always been how I work, ever since I started. When I was a kid, in high school, when putting bands together, the others thought I was crazy working so hard on getting things together. I would way more hours than anybody else. I am still like that. When we are doing a show, I force the band to go to sound check every day. The band is very important. When it comes to the vocals, all Scott really has to do is … well, sing. When it comes to arranging the songs, we all work together. We listen to the vocal arrangement and see were he is leading. We work around that and try to back him up. We are providing a good base for him to work with. Worst thing in the world is a singer who is following a band and doesn’t know where the song goes.
Wortraub: Well, you do seem to work together well in the studio. At least this album is very melodious, lots of good potential hit-singles. You mentioned, you are planning ahead very much. Are you planning for a grammy?
Slash: I don’t know. We have not thus far ever sat down and said: Maybe we can get a Grammy for this. We just wanted to make a good record, you know. On the last record when we got together, we were so excited about having five guys who were all inspired and had similar ideas and had the same sort of motivation. We just went in and put the material together really quickly so we could get that record done and go. When it came to this record, first I had to do was get everybody in the same room. We as a band had to be in the same room, at the same time, in order to write the record. Once we did that, it was the same deal, we wanted to get the songs together as quickly as possible and get the record done and go out on tour. The songs came together so well, because we have been playing together for a while. At this point the songs came across easier, the ideas were a little bit more fluid this time around. Because we might have been a little bit naive when we were doing the first record. We did not know each other that well in this band. We were still feeling each other out. But with the second album, we learned a lot about each other and how we work. It was very comfortable, creative and inspiring environment that this stuff came together in.
Wortraub: So, you settled into the band then. Harmoniously.
Slash: Exactly, I could not have put it in a better way. There is a lot of growth between the first album and this record. It will be interesting to see where we are going with the next one.
Wortraub: You once said that he wants to be „on top of rock’n’roll’s next revolution“. What do you mean with that?
Slash: Oh – well, no – Rock and Roll as a whole, when you think of it – when you were to get rid off every fucking band that came before this particular point in time as we speak. There would not be any rock and roll on a commercial level. There must be a million bands out there that are great but donít have a record deal. But on a commercial level there is like zero as far as what I would consider a rock and roll band ñ at least the kind of band that I am into, or what I was influenced by, what made me do what I do. This business is definitely starving for some sort of rock and roll revolution to come around, some sort of movement. There is sort of like a period of ten years, when rock is really inspired before it gets diluted and then you have till the next phase again. And we are sort of going through that period where there is just not anything there. When I say rock and roll – I mean there is a lot of bands out there with electric guitars and drums and bass and screaming vocals and whatever. But that attitude, that fucking chaos and what rock and roll is really about, that anarchy is just missing completely. If there is ever going to be, hopefully in the not too distant future, sort of a rock and roll revolution, yeah, we definitely would like to be a part of that.
Wortraub: What are the ideals of Rock in 2007 then?
Slash: For what it is that we do, we have been doing it for a long time. So we just do what we do, our direction and attitude is basically still intact and will be forever. We have been doing this. But newer band that are coming out, they need a spirit of what it is all about. Not like: Oh, I got a new amp, I can crank it up. Weee! I put together a bunch of lyrics, letís scream this. Wooo! It just doesnít do anything on an emotional level. It doesnít have danger to it. That is what rock of is. It is a bold statement against all that is not acceptable. Everything is so acceptable nowadays, that I donít think kids no where to go to take it to another level.
Wortraub: So, if rock and roll is a revolution, what would we be rebelling against?
Slash: I know, I know. There is a lot of things going on in this world, but I cannot tell you what the specific message would be. That is something that has to come inherently from the kids that have something to say.
Wortraub: Sammy Hagar introduced you as the „best rock and roll band left on the planet“. So there is a loss of something then –
Slash: I know. That is what I just said. There is nothing going on right now that is what you call exciting as far as rock is concern. At least not on the radio. I am not saying there are no bands like that but they are not getting the attention they should.
Wortraub: You said, that danger is missing. Has rock been co-opted into show business too much then?
Slash: Very much so. It is a sad state of affairs. Like I said, everything is so acceptable now. There is nothing that you can do, that can really shock anybody. It has become like everybody who is an artist and wants to become known has conformed to the status quo. Everybody is playing the game. Everybody is trying to get exposure through all the most obvious outlets. Nothing shocking going on, nothing original or against the grain ñ which is usually when some band like Nirvana comes out. Bands you go „wow“ that is heavy, what is that. Now everything is just bland. When Guns ëní Roses came out that was the same thing, everything was just sort of bland and poppy and fashionable. GnR was the antithesis of that. That is probably why we seemed so unique at the time. It will change. It will get better. There are just these phases every couple of years when things get really dull.
Wortraub: You mentioned Nirvana, and Kurt is the best example to be non-comformism and still being co-opted against his will. Is it even possible to be non-conforming these days?
Slash: It is a classic thing. I am actually enjoying talking about this. What happens is, you get an artist and they break all the rules. The kids love them. They change the landscape. Because of all the attention the record company suddenly says: Oh, these guys are great. Even though they would not have given a shit ten minutes before this happened. It looks exciting, the record company buys into it and all of a sudden they are commercialising the band in their own corporate way and make the band feel stuck. All of a sudden you have become a household item and every one is wearing your t-shirts, even peopleís moms. Like, man – Everything I was trying to say when this band came out, is now representing fucking everything I am against. That is what killed Kurt. But at least those bands have changed something for five minutes. Right now everybody is conforming to the industry standard even before they get going.
Wortraub: Well, maybe the industry picks you up before you get a chance to be unique?
Slash: Hm, that could be true. Maybe you need to side-step the industry all together. Which is hard to do, because you donít have the money to support yourselves on music. With YouTube and Myspace and the internet in general it should be possible. If you are creative enough, you can use that as an amazing vehicle for your ideas. Something is going to come out of that. Soon. Watch. There you can do anything you want, totally independent from the industry. I am not saying „Rock and Roll is dead“. I am just saying it is going through one of those dead patches right now. It will change. No one is going to stand for it ñ listen to me bitching about it for half an hour. There are tons of people out there trying to get a leg up with their own music. They are saying the same thing and they are going to figure out a way against the beaten path. And they will read this conversation and they: Dude, this is cool. Heís right: letís do something.
Wortraub: Well, thank you for this inspiring conversation.