Slash: Smelling the roses

  • Article by: JON BREAM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 10, 2012 - 2:45 PM

Guitar hero Slash leaves Axl and Velvet Revolver behind to focus on his non-dysfunctional new band.

Slash

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The controversial Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction of Guns N' Roses is behind him. So, too, are Scott Weiland and Velvet Revolver. Finally, Slash can enjoy life in a band that's not dysfunctional.

"It's really liberating. It's so stress-free," said the iconic guitarist, who brings his group to the Brick in Minneapolis on Monday. "Everybody is happy doing what they're doing. There isn't a lot of drama and fussing over logistics. I don't mind having the responsibility of making sure everything gets done properly. I think that's one of the things I'm actually good at.

"It's been a long time coming, I suppose."

Then he laughed.

The band is officially billed as Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. He actually started touring with this group two years ago to promote his 2010 solo debut "Slash," on which Kennedy joined a parade of more famous guest singers including Ozzy Osbourne, Fergie and Lemmy Kilmister.

"He's very down to earth and a humble individual," said the 46-year-old guitarist. "Definitely not the kind of lead singer that I've had a lot of experience with."

You've probably heard the back story about GNR frontman Axl Rose refusing to attend last month's hall of fame induction. He and Slash have a rift deeper than the Grand Canyon and more complex than any of Bob Dylan's lyrics. Slash showed up in Cleveland along with GNR heyday members Duff McKagan and Steven Adler and later players Matt Sorum and Gilbey Clarke to make speeches and play some songs.

"It was definitely an uncomfortable nagging kind of thing because there were so many negatives," Slash said last week. "I was positive that there would be no positive outcome. I had mixed feelings about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame itself and how bands are inducted and why some bands are and some bands aren't. My attitude changed a lot while I was there, seeing everyone get inducted besides ourselves. It turned out to be a cool and heart-warming experience."

For Slash, it was a bit of déjà vu because, as a member of Velvet Revolver, he helped with the controversial induction of Van Halen in 2007 when its co-founders Eddie and Alex Van Halen and David Lee Roth refused to attend.

Which situation was more awkward?

"The Van Halen induction was a nightmare," Slash said. "It wasn't fun. And we were potentially a mirror image of that. Now at this point, [GNR's induction] is something I'm really happy I did because it was very close to not happening at all. It turned out that, in the moment, it was a really positive and fulfilling experience."

Part of the good vibes were because Kennedy stepped up on short notice and sang the GNR classics "Sweet Child o' Mine," "Mr. Brownstone" and "Paradise City" with the ex-Gunners.

"That wasn't an idea I would have suggested," said the 46-year-old guitarist, who doesn't sing but has recorded with everyone from Michael Jackson to Bob Dylan. "But Duff had mentioned it. This is not even 48 hours before the actual event. So I said, 'OK, I'll ask him.' At first, he didn't want to do it because of the pressure and all the weirdness of being stuck in that position. Then at the very, very last minute, he said, 'OK, for the cause, I'll do it.' He did a [bleeping] amazing job."

The replacement

Kennedy, 42, has gained a reputation as the go-to replacement singer. When Robert Plant showed no interest in a Led Zeppelin reunion in 2008, the other members began rehearsing with Kennedy (although nothing progressed past rehearsals). When Creed imploded in 2003, its three musicians enlisted Kennedy to front a new band, Alter Bridge.

When Slash called Kennedy in 2009, he was familiar with the singer's reputation but not his work. The guitarist needed a vocalist for the two final songs on his debut solo album. Kennedy ended up as the permanent singer in Slash's solo band. The group's first album together, "Apocalyptic Love," arrives on May 22.

Slash describes the recording as "pretty diverse in feel but you can't get away from the fact that it's a hard-rock record."

The quartet is not afraid of melody or muscle. Kennedy wails with emotional urgency, and Slash displays his wide-ranging guitar vocabulary, from razor-sharp riffs and soaring solos to chiming runs and bluesy careening.

In concert, Slash's quartet will feature tunes from his two solo albums as well as material from Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver and his earlier solo group, Slash's Snakepit.

"This tour picks up where we left off," the guitarist said. "We don't have like 'a show.' We're a rock band."

Follow Bream on Twitter: @jonbream

  • SLASH

    Opening: Hillbilly Herald

    When: 8 p.m. Mon. 5/14

    Where: The Brick, 111 N. 5th St., Mpls.

    Tickets: $35; thebrickmn.com

    Web: slashonline.com

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