SLASH Explains How He Got BRIAN JOHNSON To Appear On His Upcoming Blues Album

March 9, 2024

GUNS N' ROSES guitarist Slash spoke to Steve Migs of Audacy Check In about his upcoming solo album called "Orgy Of The Damned", a collection of 12 songs that shakes up and revitalizes blues classics with a stripped-down, instinctive approach. Due out May 17 via Gibson Records, the LP features such guest vocalists as AC/DC's Brian Johnson, Iggy Pop, THE BLACK CROWES' Chris Robinson, Gary Clark Jr., ZZ TOP's Billy F Gibbons, Dorothy, BAD COMPANY's Paul Rodgers, pop star Demi Lovato and country artist Chris Stapleton. The first track to be released is a rendition of Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor", with Johnson on vocals and AEROSMITH's Steven Tyler on harmonica.

Regarding why he chose to record a blues album at this point of his career, Slash told Audacy Check In: "When I was a kid, I got turned on to a lot of blues music coming up. But then, as a guitar player, I was turned on by [Jimi] Hendrix and Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck and [Eric] Clapton and all those sort of guys that came out of the U.K. And I quickly found out that their particular styles were all rooted in that music that I grew up listening to previously. So it was a full-circle thing for me. But those original musicians, when you listen to the original tracks, like Eric Clapton and Rory Gallagher and all these great guitar players and also singers that have come along that came out of the sort of English explosion there, British, whatever you call it… And they're so phenomenal, but when you listen to those original guys, man, it's some serious fucking shit. The feel and just the natural kind of cadence and just the delivery of those songs from those original artists is something that you really can't touch. Even some of the best blues guys around can only barely scratch the surface on how great some of that original stuff was."

As for how he got Johnson and Tyler to appear on "Killing Floor", Slash said: "That's a good question. I had the song and I was trying to think who would be great to do it. And Brian came to mind. And I've known Brian for a pretty long time now. And he just has that great kind of grit to his voice. And I called him up and it turns out that he's a huge fuckin Howlin' Wolf protégé. And so he had been in cover bands before AC/DC and even before GEORDIE. And also, he was telling me that he's doing something at present where he's putting together sort of a blues-orchestra thing. Don't quote me on that, but something to that [effect]. Anyway, and so he was excited to do that particular song anyway. And that's the key thing that you're looking for, is that when you call any of these great artists up and you have a cover song that you want to attack and if they would be willing to participate, that the song speaks to them, that it has meaning to them too, not just me. And that's how it was with Brian. He was, like, 'Oh, fucking great. Yeah, let's do this.' And then Steven Tyler came in. He came to my studio after Brian had already done the vocal. And I'm trying to remember exactly… I mean, he came in to do the harmonica or he just happened to have a harmonica with him. I can't remember, but I played him the track. It was, like, 'This is great.' So it was very spontaneous. It was very just sort of inspired in the moment, which is a great thing to be able to capture, especially nowadays because people just, by and large, don't make records like that now. Everything is very well thought out and cultivated and homogenized and produced, and this was just very, very off the cuff."

On the topic of Pop's contribution to "Orgy Of The Damned", Slash said: "The Iggy Pop thing, that recording was actually very special because it was something that — it was the only song on the record that was delivered to me as an idea from the singer. In other words, I already had the songs and I went to them, but in Iggy's case, I found out through the grapevine — actually from our bass player — that we'd read somewhere that Iggy would always wanna do a blues thing, but he's just never done it. So I called Iggy — I've worked with Iggy a lot over the years, and I called him up and I said, 'Well, if there was a track that you would wanna do, what would it be?' And it was Lightnin' Hopkins's 'Awful Dream', which is such a left-field, obscure track. And when you listen to it, I'm pretty sure it's an outtake that was done between takes or at the end of the session. You have to hear it. It's not really put together; it's just sort of like a loose jam. But Iggy is pretty profound, and there was a lyrical content in there that he really fuckin related to. Anyway, so when we did the song, we just sat in the lounge at my studio, which is really just one room — just a tiny little room — and he sat on a stool and I sat on a stool and Michael Jerome played drums right next to us and we just did it live right there. And it was something that meant a lot to Iggy, so the way that he sang it was very, very emotionally effective."

The video for "Killing Floor", which can be seen below, offers a first look at Slash and his blues band Johnny Griparic (bass),Teddy Andreadis (keyboards),Michael Jerome (drums),and Tash Neal (vocals/guitar),recording the song in the studio.

Slash previously said about the track: "'Killing Floor' is one of my favorite Howlin' Wolf songs, but also one of the iconic blues riffs that turned me on as a young guitar player. I've always wanted to cover it in some capacity and this record was the perfect vehicle. But playing it with this band, and with Brian Johnson singing, it was an achievement I would never have imagined back then. Let alone Steven Tyler providing the harp."

Johnson stated: "When Slash asked me to sing on 'Killing Floor', I said yes immediately. It was one of the first songs I learned in my very first band, and when he played me the backing track it was a no-brainer, and Steven's harmonica is so bloody hot. I had a ball with Slash in the studio, and I think we did this great old song justice. Rock on."

By celebrating both well-known and largely undiscovered songs, Slash offers a nostalgic nod to the past while reinvigorating the songs with his inimitable guitar playing and the spirit of collaboration. For "Orgy Of The Damned", the acclaimed guitarist reteamed with storied producer Mike Clink and enlisted the album's diverse guest vocalists, in a similar way to his 2010 self-titled solo LP "Slash". To round out his band in the studio and on the road, Slash reunited with two of his bandmates from his BLUES BALL outfit in the '90s, bassist Johnny Griparic and keyboardist Teddy Andreadis, and brought on drummer Michael Jerome and singer/guitarist Tash Neal.

Although he grew up in England, Slash's American grandmother turned him on to the blues early on and he was immediately taken with B.B. King. At the same time, his parents raised him on a healthy diet of '60s British rock 'n' roll, from THE WHO to THE KINKS. Once he moved to Laurel Canyon, Slash found himself surrounded by rock and folk singers like Joni Mitchell, CROSBY, STILLS & NASH and Neil Young — all of whom eventually inspired his playing and songwriting. It wasn't until he began playing guitar himself that Slash realized all of his favorite musicians had been influenced by the same B.B. King blues records he'd listened to as a young kid.

"Orgy Of The Damned" encompasses a broad range of styles within the blues genre, veering from an upbeat, rowdy take on Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" to a plaintive, twanging rendition of T. Bone Walker's "Stormy Monday". Some of the songs, like STEPPENWOLF's "The Pusher", Charlie Segar's "Key To The Highway" and Albert King's "Born Under A Bad Sign", had been performed by SLASH'S BLUES BALL while others, like Stevie Wonder's "Living For The City", were longtime favorites for Slash. "Hoochie Coochie Man", written by Willie Dixon and made famous by Muddy Waters in 1954, showcases the in-the-moment nature and unrestrained energy of "Orgy Of The Damned", with ZZ TOP's Billy F. Gibbons stepping in on guitar and vocals. The group went into a rehearsal room in North Hollywood and began hashing out soulful, rollicking takes on the classic songs. Everything was played live in the room, with an emphasis on improvisation which resulted in a collection of dynamic, energized songs that are immediate, raw, and distinctly familiar.

Elsewhere on "Orgy Of The Damned", Demi Lovato lends her powerhouse voice to "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone", a fervent, soulful version of the 1972 single by THE TEMPTATIONS that Slash admired as a kid. Although the song veers more towards R&B, the guitarist wanted to give it his own impassioned spin. The album concludes with a soaring original instrumental number, "Metal Chestnut", penned specifically for "Orgy Of The Damned" by Slash.

"Orgy Of The Damned" track listing:

01. The Pusher (feat. Chris Robinson)
02. Crossroads (feat. Gary Clark Jr.)
03. Hoochie Coochie Man (feat. Billy Gibbons)
04. Oh Well (feat. Chris Stapleton)
05. Key To The Highway (feat. Dorothy)
06. Awful Dream (feat. Iggy Pop)
07. Born Under A Bad Sign (feat. Paul Rodgers)
08. Papa Was A Rolling Stone (feat. Demi Lovato)
09. Killing Floor (feat. Brian Johnson)
10. Living For The City (feat. Tash Neal)
11. Stormy Day (feat. Beth Hart)
12. Metal Chestnut

Although Slash's upcoming LP will be his second under the "Slash" banner, he has released a handful of albums with his long-running band SLASH FEATURING MYLES KENNEDY & THE CONSPIRATORS, in which he is joined by ALTER BRIDGE frontman Myles Kennedy.

Last month, Slash resumed touring with SLASH FEATURING MYLES KENNEDY & THE CONSPIRATORS.

SLASH FEATURING MYLES KENNEDY & THE CONSPIRATORS' latest album, "4", was released in February 2022 via Gibson Records in partnership with BMG.

"4" was Slash's fifth solo album and fourth overall with his band featuring Kennedy, Brent Fitz (drums),Todd Kerns (bass, vocals) and Frank Sidoris (guitar, vocals).

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