At SXSW this year, guitar legend Slash was on hand to play a couple of shows and to put on and judge a Geeklist-powered Hackathon event, specially dubbed Slashathon for the occasion. Tech developers created music-oriented applications and technology solutions over a 12-hour period, and Slash was joined by Bram Cohen (Chief Scientist and Founder of BitTorrent) and Robert Scoble (first employee of Microsoft) to choose the winners. Afterwards, Slash sat down with us to discuss the contest, his latest music and film endeavors, and—yes—his favorite museum.
Did you find some good hacks today?
Slash: It was good. We picked three winners, all with interesting ideas. Two of them were bona fide hacks; the other one was a software idea. It was fun. I’m not a tech geek; I’m not that well versed in what’s happening, technology-wise. But I seek out stuff or get exposed to it, and it’s really interesting to see what these guys from a completely different world, the revolutionary ideas that they come up with. It was one of the reasons I wanted to do the Hackathon, and now I want to do this once or twice a year.
You can’t beat that for keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in that world.
Slash: Yeah, exactly.
It’s funny that you just said you’re not a tech guy, because that was a question I wanted to ask you today, about tech in a different sense. I was having an argument in a bar about greatest rock and roll guitarists of all time. Now, I play only a tiny bit of guitar, but serious guitar players tend to value technical ability over everything else. But to me, tone and feel are just as important. And you do both.
Slash: Wow. That’s very flattering. But I’m a feel guy, more than anything. And when I picked up the guitar and started playing, I was still into all of the feel guys. I came up in the late ’70s, and I think I started playing in 1980. And that’s when Van Halen and that whole scene was big. And I never really became a part of that, because I thought it was this more technical kind of thing. Although when Eddie did it it was great, because it was part of his musical expression, his communication, his natural way of doing it. But when everyone else picked it up and started doing it, it became this very sterile exercise. Really, when it comes down to it, I’m not as attracted to technical prowess as to what you were just talking about—tone, the right choice of notes, being a part of the melody of the song. That was always my favorite part of a rock’n’roll song, a guitar solo that amped up the song itself. That wasn’t an isolated thing—here’s the song, and here’s this other thing, and then back to the song again. Which is what a lot of it became in the ’80s.
And your solos do that in so many of those songs; they’re already at such a high level of emotion and intensity, and then your playing, your attack has such a muscularity to it.
Slash: You’re the first person who’s ever said that, but I remember I was having a conversation with Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, when he was working on my first solo record, and he said, “You really dig in.” But I do realize, when I play, that I’m a very physical player. I break picks, I break strings, I bang on my guitars. It’s very much the way I express myself. If I didn’t have a guitar, it’d probably be on somebody else. I would be out doing something wrong. So I definitely vent through the guitar, and I play very hard, I think.
I don’t want to get into comparisons with Axl, but tell me about your friendship with Myles Kennedy, and why his voice works so well with your music.
Slash: It’s really an unsaid thing, more than anything. The first time I ever heard him sing, he sang a song called “Starlight” on my first record. I just sent him a demo. I had never even met him, but I knew that he’d been working with Led Zeppelin, so he had to be pretty great. I had heard a lot about him. And he sent the demo back with the vocals on it, and I went to my producer and said, “Am I crazy or is this really great?” And he said, “No, this is really great.” Then when I met him, we really hit it off on a personal level. So now I just find that we have this natural synergy. And we enjoy each other’s company. And I can come up with anything in the world, and he knows how to translate it into melody, and it just seems to work. I don’t question it too much; I don’t want to jinx it.
The last time we talked, you had said that film was an area that you were interested in getting more into, scoring and that kind of thing. Since we talked, Nothing Left to Fear happened. What was it like to produce and score that film?
Slash: It’s funny, although I love all movies, I’ve always especially loved horror movies. So being given the opportunity to produce was like, “Are you serious?” But I really think I have a knack for that. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m drawn to fixing problems and gathering all the right elements to make something happen. So producing just felt natural for me. And this first movie was a really, really hard one to make, so it was a great first-time experience. I learned a lot from that. And then getting to score it, one of the things about making a movie, I said if I’m going to do this, I want to be in control of what happens musically. To me, music and film, when put together properly, is the most orgasmic entertainment experience there is. It was a hell of a lot of work, but it was a hell of a lot of fun. So now I’m geared up to try to get the next one going. It’s been good.
On my podcast, I have a section I call Turn Me On, where I have artists give me a book, a film, a record, something that they feel like not as many people have been exposed to as need to be. Something I need to be paying more attention to; something they can turn me on to. Do you have anything you can turn me on to?
Slash: That’s so hard. Outside of film, I’d love to say racing cars, but I don’t even have time for that. I love cars, but I never get any seat time because I’m always working. Dinosaurs. I’m a huge dinosaur expert at this point. I’m not a scientist, but I have it on Google Search all the time, and I have some paleontologist friends, so I know whatever new and exciting is being discovered. The Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta is the one dinosaur museum that I follow the most. I actually follow them on Twitter. So that’s one place, if anyone’s interested in where my focus is when I’m not playing, that’s where it’s at.
You’re the first person that’s ever recommended a museum. This is great! Thanks for giving us some time.
Slash: Yeah, man, this was great.