Living the Dream with Slash a wake-up call for fans of hard rock grind

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators will perform Saturday, July 20 at the Edmonton Convention Centre. Georgios Kefalas / The Associated Press

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Living the Dream is the title of the third full-length album from Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash (Saul Hudson) with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators.

The band with vocalist/guitarist Kennedy, drummer Brent Fitz, guitarist Frank Sidoris and Canadian bassist Todd Kerns (Age of Electric, Static in Stereo) has gelled into the kind of journeyman hard rock unit it seems the top-hatted musician has been chasing since GNR disbanded.

Having run through Slash’s Blues Ball, Slash’s Snakepit, and the up and down experience of Velvet Revolver, the guitarist admits he’s now in a good place.

“You can definitely feel that the new album and the live thing is the best run we’ve had as a band so far. The fans are really letting us know,” said Slash. “The only revelation at this point is that the response to the new album is indicative that we have built something up to this point and that’s great. It can go the other way, where you peak early and down it goes, too.”

While he won’t directly speak to whether that last comment refers to the career trajectory of Guns N’ Roses, there is little doubt it does. That band’s 1987 debut, Appetite for Destruction, turned hard rock on its head. It has gone on to shift more than 30 million copies worldwide and influences new artists to this day.

The bloated 1991 Use Your Illusion I and II combined only passed 35 million in sales. The Spaghetti Incident covers album went platinum.

So calling the new album Living the Dream also has to take into account the nightmarish times in the musician’s career. He admits it does.

“Oh yeah, totally sarcastic, even if I am living the dream I had as a 14-year-old picking up my first guitar and fantasizing playing arenas,” Slash said. “It was really more geared toward reflecting the political situation in the U.S. at the time, which has now gone on to reflect the whole world it seems. We are all living the dream, as it were.”

Hard rock has always existed as a counteraction to the reality of the daily grind, and typically defines its protests from the point of the individual rather than the collective.

The dozen tunes on Living the Dream fit that template with the kind of dirty riffage and calls to cut loose (The Call of the Wild, My Antidote), pay attention (Read Between the Lines, The Great Pretender) and — sometimes — show a sensitive side.

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators will perform Saturday, July 20 at the Edmonton Convention Centre. Eduardo Verdugo / The Associated Press

The One You Loved Is Gone is the banner ballad on the new album, and was originally penned by the guitarist to be included as an original on The Walking Dead. It was rejected for the popular program but the song found its way on the album. It’s a mellower track and the question of whether it was recorded in studio using the B.C.-built JOI guitar made with wood from Jimi Hendrix’s ancestral home had to be asked. The instrument maker wasn’t listed on the album’s credits.

“I heard from him, post record-release, because he wondered if I needed another guitar because that one didn’t sound good enough to be used on the recording,” he said. “The truth is I just grabbed an acoustic guitar that was hanging around the studio because that is the only acoustic part on the album. The whole recording was done on the spot and I really wish I had used that guitar on the record.”

Slash is as well known for his black top hat and mirrored sunglasses as he is for his multitudes of signature model Gibson Les Paul models.

“And they sound brilliant, so I’ve really been using them live a lot, and I have my Goldtop and my double-neck Gibson 1275,” said Slash. “I’m really excited with everything to do with Gibson at the moment since they restructured after getting into Chapter 11 and got out of the non-guitar side of the company.

“There is something about the uptempo spirit of the company now since they have really gone back into focusing on guitars — not something specific you can instantly identify — that has me and others feeling the spirit in the instruments.”

Always more of a feel player than a Guitar Player magazine cover mathematician, feel is key to Slash’s success. Few guitarists nail solos that almost anyone can sing back to you, and those that do tend to come from musicians who really pick the notes from their emotions and not musical theory.

Two examples of Slash’s genius with this are the solo in Sweet Child O’ Mine or the opening build in Paradise City or Welcome to the Jungle. Not surprisingly, one of the guitarist’s favourites of all time was the late Irish blues rocker Rory Gallagher.

“My whole concept of what I like to sound like has pretty much remained focused the same way it was when I first started getting into it. I really like simplicity with textured nuance and I keep on honing in on it all the time,” Slash said.

“One of the newer guitarists I’m really listening to is Gary Clark Jr., who is really bringing something to it, and I’ve been following Derek Trucks for a long time, too.”

In other words, he knows what he likes and he knows what his fans want to hear, and he’s quite happy to keep focused on doing it better with every subsequent release.

Just don’t expect a Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators jazz fusion instrumentals album anytime soon.

 

PREVIEW

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators

When: Saturday, July 20

Where: Edmonton Convention Centre

 

sderdeyn@postmedia.com

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