Apocalyptic Love: Track By Track

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Slash’s second ‘solo’ album, broken down in the words of Slash and Myles.

Apocalyptic Love

SLASH: The cool thing about Apocalyptic Love is that it was the first song I approached the band with. It was raised from soundcheck. It started out with just the main riff and a couple of chord changes, then Myles went back and forth getting an arrangement, like with pretty much most of the record. But this was the first one, and that’s why the record is called Apocalyptic Love. It’s simple, but it’s indicative of the band’s basic approach.

This is definitely my first live studio record, where the guitars were done along with the bass and the drums – very few overdubs on the record. There’s a certain spontaneity and urgency that comes with doing the guitar along with the bass and drums and being able to keep them, because I always used to trash them. I never thought I played well with the headphones on and I didn’t enjoy it. This is the first time I’ve been able to do that, and there’s a huge difference in terms of the energy.

MYLES: This was the beginning of it all. Apocalyptic Love was actually the first music bed that Slash sent me when we started trading demos. I tend to do better with darker themes when it comes to lyrics, but when I heard the feel of this song it definitely didn’t say that to me. It has a cool, up-tempo groove, so it was a challenge trying to put that lyric together. Because of 2012 and the Mayan calendar and whatnot, it’s like everybody has apocalypse fever – what would you do if it was your last night on earth? You’ve got a few hours to live, what are you going to do? That’s the gist. I tried to make it a celebratory song: “It’s the last night we got, let’s try to have a good time, screw it!”

One Last Thrill

SLASH: I hate to say it but it’s almost like an old-school boogie song. A Chuck Berry, Stones-y type thing. I wrote it on acoustic, somewhere in the mid-west. If I remember correctly, we were playing a casino and we had one of those casino-type hotel rooms, which are very different than regular hotel rooms. I uploaded it onto my computer and it was sat on my desktop for a long time. I sent Myles a bunch of fragments of stuff I’d written, and he seemed to pick up on that one because he turned it into something of a song and sent it back. I was surprised to see it come this far, but it’s the most energetic, in-your-face song on the record.

MYLES: Just a real fun song. When Slash and I would trade music, sometimes they would be actual demos and sometimes he would record things on his phone, just him playing an acoustic guitar. When I first heard this, it was a really raw recording and the vocal melody came really quick. I didn’t have to labour too much from a melody standpoint, but after that, trying to tell the story was a different matter. It ended up being about conversations that I’d had with friends who were locked into situations, and working a nine-to-five job that they didn’t find gratifying. I focused on the idea that they wanted to have one last thrill, to step out and be reckless and careless like they were when they were young./o:p

Standing In The Sun

SLASH: It’s an idea that I had when I was home, and I made a very short demo of it, an intro and a couple of chord changes that served to be the chorus. The thing about Myles is that he can come up with a melody for almost anything. This one turned out to be really catchy so, before Myles’s last run with Alter Bridge in December, we recorded three songs just to give people around the camp an idea as to what we were doing, and Standing In The Sun was one of them. Everybody loved that song. It’s probably gonna be one of the singles, and yet it started out with no ambitions at all.

MYLES: This is one of my favourites on the album. Lyrically it’s about someone who tends to be a pessimist and who lives their life with the mentality that his glass is half-empty as opposed to half-full, and the song addresses that whole thing. The idea that, y’know, life could be a whole lot better if you just stop being such a downer all the time! It’s something I definitely have to work on and keep telling myself too./o:p

You’re A Lie

SLASH: This is the second of the three that we worked on on the road. It’s gone through a lot of changes: the verse has changed three times! We stuck with it because there was something about it that everybody really liked, and we wanted it to work. In pre-production, we finally got it to the place where we went, “Oh shit, we’ve got it really good”. You can’t try to make a great song. You can have a great song come to you, but when you have something that you keep toiling at all the time and you keep hitting a brick wall… But we managed to crest that place where you go, “Maybe we should just scrap it.”

MYLES: Musically, this one was chased down for quite a while. The lyric ended up addressing the overly critical little voice that tends to have my ear more than I’d like – the one that can talk you down and create doubt in yourself. This song calls that voice out – it doesn’t always have the right answer for you… It came together quite late in the process, because there were a few different completely finished versions of the song. We knew certain parts were really great but that it could be better, so we just fine-tuned it in the studio at the eleventh hour, and we were all really glad that we did. It turned out to be one of our collective favourites.

Halo

SLASH: The great thing I’ve discovered since 2007 is that, not being in party mode, I spend all that free time writing or playing. Prior to that, as soon as the gig was over I was in the hotel bar doing whatever. So I started keeping myself out of trouble by just playing, and by playing you come up with ideas. I was in Madrid on the last tour, and I had an afternoon off, so I went to another hotel that had a pool on the roof. I heard some crazy music from somewhere – it wasn’t rock, but this melody got lodged in my brain and stuck with me for a couple of days, and that’s where Halo was born. The riff is really hectic, and it has some sort of Latin influence.

MYLES: Musically, this is another song with some of that signature Slash darkness. He has a real knack for that. The lyric is basically the voice that taunts you once in a while, the little devil that tempts you and wants to lead you down a naughty path. What sort of naughty path? Well, it could be anything. It’s the same sort of thing as One Last Thrill: when life starts to get a little bit boring, there are sides of you that can creep up and say, “You know, you’ve been living right for a while, why don’t you fly off the rails for a little while?” I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do, but it definitely happens. It’s when it becomes more than once in a while that it can become a problem!

No More Heroes

SLASH: It’s another hotel room riff that I sent to Myles, one of those off-the-wall riffs that I come up with sometimes. Myles turned it into a pretty epic song, with the melodies and the lyrics and so on, but I think No More Heroes is the best example of Myles and I as a writing team. We came together and had equal input. When I sent it to him, it had cool verse changes, a great intro riff. He came back with the amazing chord progression which became the chorus, and I think it just shows the writing chemistry that Myles and I have. He always comes up with the melody first, and he’ll scat sing through the whole thing. He really didn’t develop the final form of the lyrics until we got into the studio. Everything changed when we went in the studio, and he had the chance to stand back and get some perspective.

MYLES: As far as musical pieces go, that’s one of my favourites. Slash has this signature melodic thing that he does on the guitar – the first time I heard it was when he did the intro to Sweet Child O’ Mine. And this song is one of those moments where he’s got this cool melody that starts it off. It’s an amazing hook. The theme of the song basically addresses the idea that a lot of us are really disillusioned with heroes, and the lack thereof. Especially with politics, or anything where you have people you believe in, and then they let you down.

We Will Roam

SLASH: It’s a tough one. I wrote it here in the house, on a baritone guitar. A baritone guitar is more like a six-string bass, and I came up with this interesting chord progression with a very deep sound. I put it together with three different parts, sent it to Myles, he fucked around with it, and it was really cool. But it was a hard song to get to feel right in the studio because it has a sort of uptempo beat but a more sombre vocal melody, and we finally got it to a place where it was a marriage of both those vibes.

MYLES: This is an interesting one. It seemed to really grow on us as a band. It’s just got a different vibe and has a unique feel to it. I think that we all relate to it lyrically, because it’s about life and being a musician, being a touring musician in particular, and what it’s like being on the road. It touches on a theme that also we feel like we’re a dying breed since the industry is changing so much, especially in terms of being a rock musician… At least here in the States, rock isn’t what it was 20 years ago, as far as the amount of attention it gets. My wife and I watched a little bit of the Grammys the other night, and we were just kinda like “Where are all the rock bands?”

Anastasia

SLASH: This is the AOR track on the record… It’s long, it has lots of guitars on it, but it’s a really good song. It’s not an indulgent piece of music with some words thrown on top of it: it’s long, but it’s really cool. You’d have to ask Myles who Anastasia is. I think she was some sort of partner-in-crime, and they ended up getting separated. I can’t remember if she’s from Mexico, or they got separated when he went to Mexico [Laughs].

MYLES: When we were touring, Slash had this very cool, very classical guitar solo that he kept introducing, night after night, when he’d do an unaccompanied solo, right before the band played the Godfather theme. It was really cool, unique for Slash and was something I’d never heard him do before. He took that piece and turned it into an actual song, so when he sent the demo to me I was really excited, because I knew that people would find, just from a musical standpoint, it one of the coolest things he’s done. As a guitar player, I’m really impressed with it. It’s got a really fantastic nylon string introduction that he worked up. It was tricky to put a lyric to it and then a melody as well, it took a while. It’s essentially a story about someone who is on the run and has to say a last goodbye to everything and everyone they have ever loved./o:p

Not For Me

SLASH: This has been around since we started touring in 2010, but it was just on acoustic and I sent it to Myles and never heard anything back, so I didn’t really know if he liked it. I’m probably one of the most insecure people like that. The way that I survive is just fighting my fears. Everything that I do that’s not sitting by myself in a hotel room or at home, everything I venture out to do, is me facing my paranoia and fears. But it turned out he was just trying to get the lyrics together and it turned into this really great song. It was the last one we put together for the record, and it’s indicative of the chemistry we have. It started acoustic and, just by playing it, it turned into this epic.

MYLES: Like One Last Thrill, I remember Slash sending me this very raw thing that he’d recorded onto his phone. It was one of those where, the minute I heard it, the melody just jumped out immediately. The trick was trying to tell the story. I felt like it was a really heavy piece, musically, so it had to have a certain amount of depth to it. I remember having a few discussions with people – Slash, and Todd [Kerns, bassist] as well – and what they had gone through in the past, their struggles, whether it’s with sobriety or whatever it was. This song is essentially what a lot of people have when they wake up one day and realise that the life they’re living is not for them. It’s about that moment when you come to that realisation and decide to change your life for the better.

Bad Rain

SLASH: Another road/hotel song. Just a cool heavy riff that I knew was going to be good if I could just develop it properly. Myles took to it right away, so it was one of the first songs we did here in LA.

MYLES: This was one of the very first demos that Slash had sent. It’s got a funk element to it, funky in that Ohio Players sense – it just makes you move, it’s a great feel, a great riff. It’s a kind of tongue-in-cheek lyric, when you listen to it you assume that it’s about somebody who’s either having an affair or having some sort of forbidden liaison of some sort. But really, it’s about how frustrated I get sometimes, because my wife is always reading those vampire novels – she got sucked into that whole thing. So it’s basically about that! It’s the most tongue-in-cheek of all the songs on the record. It doesn’t actually mention the vampires, but there is a line – ‘New moon hangs high…’ – which refers to one of the books in that whole thing. It’s all in good fun.

Hard And Fast

SLASH: That’s something that… Man, when you hear it, you’ll laugh. I was standing there in between takes of whatever song we were working on, and I just started playing a riff and made a song out of it. Ninety per cent of it was written in 30 minutes, then we kind of got together to make sure there were some words on it and it was arranged properly. Pretty quick, hard and fast. As somebody who loves the spontaneity of rock’n’roll, if you have an idea that comes instantaneously and it just flows, those are always good.

MYLES: That was originally the working title. It was one of the last songs that we put together when we were arranging the record, and it just had a real energy to it, but we didn’t know what to call it. I was on tour with Alter Bridge in the UK in November, and I woke up one morning and I thought, “We could just keep that as the title, and tell the story around that existing title”. I went through a period in my life many years ago where I was running with a few folks who were living life pretty aggressively, and we were getting into stuff that I probably had no business getting into, so that song was about coming to the realisation that I wasn’t going to survive unless I got out. A lot of people can relate to that – you start hanging out with the wrong crew, and it’s easy to do things that you shouldn’t be doing. I was lucky, I got out before I did anything that got to be too much of a problem…/o:p

Far And Away

SLASH: It’s a ballad I wrote a while back. Well, when I say “ballad”, it’s a slow, bluesy and mournful kind of thing. It’s an easy song as far as getting the feel of it was concerned, but finding out how to play the choruses so that instrumentally it was dynamic enough was something that took time. It finally came, but we’d been jamming on it for a while, and I could never really focus it. I kept saying, “Well, I’ll hit it the next day”. In the very final stages of pre- production, it just blossomed.

MYLES: When Slash sent the music, it was just a beautiful piece. I was playing it, and the melody came within three minutes. It’s a ballad, and it kinda has a Beatlesque vibe to it. Producer Eric Valentine tried to capture that as well. On a lot of these tracks the drum sound is huge, but for this track he actually recorded the drums in another room to get a much smaller sound that suits the song. Lyrically it’s basically about longing – the idea that you’re still holding out and that somehow or some way a miracle will bring that person or that thing or whatever it is that eludes you into your life.

Shots Fired

SLASH: It’s heavy, driven; it has an almost militant beat. It’s one of the early songs I wrote and demoed at home. We had an incident here where a guy was walking around the intersection of Sunset and Vine and shooting a gun. He clipped a couple of people. We record right down the street from there, and if you listen closely, at the beginning of the song you can hear the sirens from that incident.

MYLES: This song is about the scrutiny of being an entertainer or in the public eye in some way. With the internet now and social media, it doesn’t take long to realise that you definitely can’t please everyone. It’s essentially become this portal for people to express their approval or their discontent with whatever it is that you do, or what you’re part of. And the song is about becoming aware of that. It’s changed the way people think, and I think it’s changed the way people are to one another. Oscar Wilde said it best: “Give a man a mask and he’ll tell you the truth”. And I think that’s what the internet has done. People can hide behind their keyboard and they can get pretty cruel to one another. It’s crazy./o:p

MYLES: Musically, it’s a really great riff, and it’s definitely got an Aerosmith vibe to it. Thematically it’s similar to what Hard And Fast was about, y’know – hanging out with the wrong crowd. So that was another reason it might not make the record, it was a redundant theme at that point. But the song turned out really cool, so we’ve found a way of using it./o:p