We grabbed 5 minutes with guitar legend SLASH when he was in London to player Wireless festival recently to have a chat to him about how he got into playing guitar and find out a little more about his signature Gibson and his stage set up in the latest in our Gear Nerd series.
RR UK: How old were you when you first picked up the guitar?
Slash: I think I was 15 when I first started and it was complete absorption from then.
RR: So, can you remember the first time you picked up the guitar? What were the circumstances; what made you turn to it?
S: It started with Steve Addler [Guns N’Roses original drummer]. He and I met and we were about 14 and he had an electric guitar at his house, and we would ditch school and go ‘n’ hang out at his place when his grandparents left the house for work in the morning. He had an electric guitar and a stereo and he’d crank it all up to 10 and bang on this thing, and it was very exciting that that age, you know, with all the bands you are into, like any typical teenager and the whole ‘rock star’ thing… So anyway we thought we’d start a band, and what happened was I figured I’d play bass so I went to a local music store with out an instrument, not knowing anything about what I was doing, and I said “I wanna learn how to play bass”, and I went in with a teacher and he said “do you have an instrument” and I said “no”, and he goes “okay”, and he had a guitar and he was tryin to pick my brain about what it was I wanted to do, what kind of bass I wanted to play- I didn’t know anything about anything! And while he was sitting there he was playin’ lead guitar- it was Cream- and I was going “that’s what I wanna do!” and said “well that’s lead guitar” and so I was like, “well THAT’S what I wanna do” so I switched over from bass, without even really knowing what bass was, into lead guitar! Then I asked my grandmother if we had any guitars layin’ around, and she pulled out an acoustic flamenco guitar that had been in the closet for years, and it had one string on it and I started on that guitar and the one string and I learnt a bunch of songs on that one string. And then the guy at the music store told me how to put the other five strings on it, play a couple of chords and some rudimentary stuff, and I watched him learn how to play stuff off of records, and I said I could do that, and it goes on from there.
RR: So was guitar the first instrument you picked up or were you playing something before it?
S: Yeah it was the first thing. My mother tried to get me to learn how to play piano when I was like err, 8 or 9 years old but I hated it.
RR: But your heart lay with the guitar?
S: I had no idea at that time, that, that was where I was headed.
RR: So you’ve always played Gibsons? Is that right?
S: For the most part yeah. I went through the typical trial n’ error like everybody does; trying to find the right instrument but the first electric guitar that I ever purchased was a Gibson Les Paul copy, so I gravitated towards that from the onset, and then on the way tried a bunch of different things, but ended going back to a Les Paul.
RR: So for you, what is it about that guitar that you really love so much?
S: I love the way they look, there’s something about that; that before I knew anything about instruments obviously I was attracted to. And then there’s a certain sound; a theres a certain thickness to the les Paul sound. Then also just the weight and sturdiness of the guitar- it’s very solid and I’m a hard player, so it needs to feel solid, ya’ know? And from that everything about the Les Paul has sort of fit with whatever it is I am doing.
RR: So fill us in about your set up on stage- your pedals, the guitars that you use and your amps?
S: There’s really not a lot going on. I have a Marshall up there today that is the prototype for the new Marshall Slash model that’s coming out and its basically built to sound like the amp I used back when I did ‘Appetite For Destruction’, so that’s what im using right now and I have another head, which is another Slash model, which is actually a Jubilee SL, that is being used for my clean sound. I have a wah wah pedal that I use and then I have a boost for when I do solos that makes that sound just a little bit louder than my rhythm sound, and a couple of little pedals for certain parts in solos, like one phase shifter for one song and a blue box for another song- very limited as far as pedals and stuff are concerned.
RR: Am I right in thinking you’ve just released your own signature Gibson?
S: Yeah, yeah. It’s basically a replica of a replica. It’s a guitar that’s design after my main recording guitar, which was a replica of a 59 Gibson Les Paul that I have been using in the studio for the last 20 something odd years. It’s a beautiful guitar, and that’s what I’m using on stage. So I put both these, Marshall and the Gibson which are both related, on the circuit at the same time. It’s more for fans than anything for trying to emulate that sound, and what not ya’ know, but I’m using that stuff myself.
If you have missed any of our other Gear Nerds in the series, you can check them out