For more than 20 years, Saul Hudson — better known to his millions of fans around the world simply as Slash — has exuded the very essence of what it means to be a rock star. His iconic stage image, with the trademark top hat, sunglasses, and low-slung Les Paul, is instantly recognizable, as are his innumerable guitar licks and solos that are now part of the rock n’ roll canon. He plays the Warfield Sun/29.
Having made a name for himself first with the titanic sound and success of Guns N’ Roses in the late 1980s and early 1990s, then capturing lightening in a bottle yet again in Velvet Revolver, the agile axeman released his first solo album in April, recruiting some of biggest names in music to lend their vocal talents to the self-titled effort. Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy Kilmister, Dave Grohl, Iggy Pop, Ian Astbury, and more fill out of the collection of tracks that feature Slash’s trademark sound and style, yet explore some new territory when it comes to the sonic soundscape that he’s canvassed over the years.
Slash wrote the music, and then sent the track to the performer that he thought best fit the song, asking if they would like to participate. The approach to the record was an almost compete role reversal for the guitar slinger, who has recorded countless guest appearances and performances over the past two decades.
“That was exactly what inspired the record, really — I’ve done so much stuff on other people’s records it finally got to the point where I wanted to do a record where I get everybody,” says Slash, speaking by phone from his home in Los Angeles.
“The music dictated who should sing each song, that’s where the choices came from; the music inspired in my mind who should sing it.”
The process of writing and recording for the album was a collaborative effort, with Slash providing the foundation for the songs, then giving his friends free reign to write their own lyrics and change the arrangements if they wanted to.
“It was really open ended — I had what I considered to be some sort of an arrangement; a riff, a couple parts, maybe a chorus. That was open to interpretation to whoever I was working with — the vocal melodies and the lyrics were totally up to the singer. All these people are obviously great, I didn’t need to tell them what to sing,” he laughs.
“I would send them the demo and if they had some ideas to change anything then I was totally open to it, so in some cases we really dissected the song and rebuilt it from the ground up.”
The first video from the album, “Back From Cali,” was released earlier this month, and Slash’s U.S. tour in support of the new record kicks off at this weekend’s Sunset Strip Music Festival, where he will also be honored for his contributions to the Strip and the music world in general. The city of West Hollywood even declared August 26 to be “Slash Day,” something that the soft-spoken and humble musician has trouble wrapping his brain around.
“It’s a huge honor, but it’s really surreal, you know what I’m saying, I mean, 'Slash Day'? Come on,” he laughs. “But they called me up and told me that I was going to be the honoree for this year’s festival, and it’s a little overwhelming. Being that I’m at home, I haven’t left the house — there’s a lot of activity going on around Sunset right now.”
The six string shredder will also be inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame and receive his own star on Hollywood Boulevard next year, another honor that has left him almost speechless.
“That’s even more surreal, that’s one of those things where you don’t even know what to say. I feel like very much a part of L.A. because I came up here — I wasn’t transplanted here later on, I got here when I was five years old, and I’ve been in this area for that long. Being recognized as being significant enough to be honored a star, that’s a whole different trip, it’s very flattering.”
He pauses before laughing and adding, “I’m wondering if there was some payola involved.”
Slash says that fans can expect to hear a wide range of songs on the upcoming tour, both from the new album, and broad sampling of tunes from across his back catalog, including Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver tracks. His new band, featuring singer Myles Kennedy from Alter Bridge, hits the Warfield this weekend, a place that Slash says holds some good memories for him.
“It’s actually one of my favorite theaters in the country, I remember the first time Guns N’ Roses played the Warfield, it was just one of those amazing magic nights. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad gig at the Warfield. It’s just one of those iconic old theaters, always a hell of a good time.”
Sun/29, 8 p.m., $29.50-$40.
982 Market, SF