Tuesday, January 29, 2008
New Interview: Slash of Velvet Revolver
Slash is to rock as Jesus is to Christians. We are not worthy. We are not worthy.
The super group Velvet Revolver is coming to the House of Blues on January 30th, and last Thursday I got to interview Slash, their lead guitarist. We talked about the creative writing process, musical influences, and why Guitar Hero is so damn hard.
Pegasus News: So where are you?
Slash: I’m in Chicago.
PN: I think its cold up there.
Slash: It’s fucking freezing.
(Laughter from both)
PN: It’s kinda cold down here but nothing like what I see up there.
PN: Last night I was listening to Libertad and I noticed that your sound has really broadened out, as far as use of effects and orchestration. I wanted to know how that came about and why you’ve made those decisions.
Slash: Well, I haven’t listened to the record too recently, but I didn’t really use a lot more effects. I actually used a lot less. But the places where I do use them, you can definitely hear them. Because it’s a pronounced, “I’m using this effect for this,” as opposed to making it sort of like, a hint of it. On this record if I use an effect, you definitely hear it. But most of it is just really raw straight guitar. So that’s really more of a contrast to the last record as far as what I equipment that I used. But I think the places and times that I wanted to use effects and why I felt comfortable doing it is that when we were making this record there was a lot less rush involved. And everybody was a lot more comfortable and relaxed making this record. So if there was a sound I was trying to get, I didn’t have a problem sitting down and going, “Ok, this is what I want to use.” It’s a very creative environment. If I wanted to express something in a defined way, I felt very comfortable doing it.
PN: Speaking of the creative process, what exactly takes place in the studio? How does Velvet Revolver write their music?
Slash: We do everything in the writing process and preproduction. That’s where everything happens for us. When we go into the studio it gets done really quickly. But when we go into writing - what happens is - we just go into a room and jam. Sometimes if I have an idea, or Duff has an idea, or whatever, we will bring that to the table and jam on it and start to put it together. We usually put a song together instrumentally in about a day. It’s a fucking force of habit. When we were working with Rick Rubin he was telling us, “Why don’t you take that idea, tape it and move on to the next one.” And we tried doing that. But every time we start jamming, we end up having to jam from, “This is the beginning, then this is a verse, then this is a chorus.” And then next thing you know, we’ve written a whole song. It’s hard for us not to do that because we get inspired to complete the song. And so that’s basically what we do. We just go in with like whoever has got an idea, work on it, and if it works, you know if everybody goes for it, then it gets finished that afternoon. Then Scott will hear it and he’ll start writing lyrics for it if it works for him. And that’s basically it.
PN: So it definitely is a group effort. Nobody is coming in with songs going, “Ok. The song goes this way, then this way and this way.”
Slash: It happens. Very rarely. But sometimes there will be a song that’s almost completely written musically, and we’ll find that in jamming, if we find that there is no real reason to change it or there are no new ideas that come to make it any different, and that does happen from time to time, but not in the norm.
PN: You have been playing for quite awhile now, since you were fourteen, is that correct?
PN: Fifteen, ok. So, have you always strayed towards the blues-rock genre or do you delve into any other genres that haven’t made it to any of your albums? Do you ever sit around and play jazz?
Slash: You know, free form jazz has never done anything for me. As much as I try to keep my horizons broadened, certain kinds of music don’t do very much for me. It might be really good and I might have a lot of respect for it, its integrity and what not, but it doesn’t necessarily inspire me to play. What I do is definitely a sort of blues-rock thing, but that fits into a lot of different kinds of music. You know what I’m saying? So I think that’s where my heart is. But there’s a lot of Spanish music, or Latin influenced music that I like to do. There is a little bit difference in choice of notes here and there, but it’s still got the same feel. And there is some jazz, but it still fits within a kind of blues or soul format. So that kind of guitar playing fits into a lot of different kinds of music. Some of it which you don’t find me playing in Velvet Revolver necessarily, but I might do it on somebody else’s record.
PN: Back to the creative process. When you guys are sitting around and playing, do you get into or use technical terms? Like calling things by their theoretical terms, like the I chord the IV chord, and the V chord?
PN: So it’s just a “by ear” type of thing?
Slash: Yeah, it’s mostly by ear. There is definitely not a lot of verbal exchange as far as, we’re going to play in this mode, or we’re going to play the F6 add blah, blah, blah…
PN: 9, 13, whatever…
Slash: Every so often I’ll play something and Matt will tell me what time signature it’s in.
PN: So is there a type of music that you listen to that would surprise your audience?
Slash: You know I get asked that question a lot and I have a lot of music and it spans many genres, but I don’t know what people would expect me to listen to. I love listening to movie soundtracks. I think movie soundtracks are amazing. You know, good ones anyway. I listen to classical music here and there, like different types of classical music one might not necessarily expect me to listen to. I am a big fan of Elton John and Cat Stevens and Bob Dylan. Those are all sort of different from each other. I don’t know what people expect. I think if you listen to what I play, you would probably imagine that there’s a lot more than your average speed metal influence.
PN: Are there things that you want to do outside of the music world? Like sky dive?
Slash: I have sky dived. I’ve done a lot of crazy shit. You know, I race cars when I can. I recently got into playing poker. I have little things here and there. But they are just little side things that I do in what I guess you would consider spare time. It’s all very fleeting because I spend all my time doing music. And that takes up a lot of time in a day, let me tell you.
Slash: Well, we just did a tour of big venues. I don’t know, it’s ok. I mean I like playing big venues. I just don’t like doing any one thing for too long. When you have been playing in the big venues you get bored with that, then all of a sudden playing in a small venue is a breath of fresh air. Then, of course, if you play in a small venue long enough, then all of a sudden you want to get in to a big venue. So I think it’s just a matter of changing the scenery on a regular basis.
PN: Ok. Now I have a really serious question. Do you play Guitar Hero?
Slash: Well, I did. Let me put it this way. I did play it obsessively when I first got turned on to it. Guitar Hero II, right. I did that and then they asked me, I got this song called Out of the Blue, asking me if I wanted to be involved in Guitar Hero III. And since I’ve done that I’ve been, well when I did that I think it was while we were working on the record, and since we’ve been on tour all this time since Guitar Hero III has come out, I haven’t really gotten to play the new one because I’ve been too busy. So I know how to play it, but I found that since I have been playing real guitar for so long between the last time I played Guitar Hero up until now, that I can’t play the new Guitar Hero for shit. Because I can’t pick it up twice. Something about playing real guitar doesn’t translate well to playing Guitar Hero.
PN: I find playing Guitar Hero is actually harder than playing guitar.
Slash: The thing is I do it by ear and not sight so much. And it’s not too conducive to being accurate.
PN: Well, Slash, it’s been good talking to you, and we look forward to seeing you here in Dallas
Slash: It’s been good talking to you. Take it easy.