Guns ‘N Roses legend Slash has lent his services to several side projects in his time, but there can be no doubt his own band Slash, Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators, formed following Slash‘s own debut from 2010 (Slash), and now three albums into their own mini catalogue is forming an impressive slab of rock music of their own. In fact, the band are so confident in their own material these days that recent setlists from their new album, on the Living the Dream tour now only contains a mini splatter of GNR or Velvet Revolver songs. We spoke to Brent Fitz, drummer from the band to talk about the new album and upcoming Australian tour as well as some background on his involvement with Slash, his chemistry with bass player, Todd Kerns and his thoughts about playing with one of the greatest guitarists of our time.
Brent, thanks for your time. Congrats on Living the Dream, the third album as Slash, Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators. It’s a more concise album, meaning a straight to the point record, no fucking around. A good flow on from 2014’s, World On Fire. Would that be a good summation?
You nailed it. I think the one difference from this album from the others was that we had a pleasant break from touring instead of coming straight off the road and running into the studio. We did write a bunch of songs before the last tour. We then took that break but it was like we had some unfinished business and the first chance we would get we would finish that record. Of course, then Guns ‘N Roses reunited so it was a question when we would get back to doing this in the studio. Fast forward, we’re well past that, able to complete the record and it turned out great. It’s kind of cool to of taken that break and then go re-visit those songs. I think we had a better clarity of what we were doing. Streamlined is a good analogy of what we were trying to do. We’re a better band now, having recorded a few albums together and it just made for better vocabulary between members when in the studio and getting song ideas together.
Of course, Living the Dream comes after Slash had reunited with Guns ‘N Roses as you said. Was there a time where you thought this (Slash, Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators) could be the end for the band or at the very least a long hiatus?
I think the good thing, the whole time we had built up this band from 2010 was that a lot of it was a pleasant surprise from the start. When Slash first got together with all of us, none of us knew what kind of band this would be. Slash was initially just putting a band together to support his debut solo album which had all the guest singers. So he wanted to tour it and it went further where we would be bouncing song ideas off of each other and it evolved to making a record, and then tour, and then make a second record. Leading up to this third record, I felt we have built something good here and I don’t see why anyone would want to put this thing (band) far away from what it is. It’s okay to have some other priorities, I mean Myles Kennedy always had Alter Bridge from the start, so we would take breaks when he was doing his Alter Bridge thing. Slash adding that he was going to do Guns ‘N Roses wasn’t that much of a stretch. I mean, myself included, I’ve always been in different bands and projects. When I first heard Slash was doing Guns ‘N Roses again I definitely felt this band could be on a hiatus but Slash was always keen to return to this band and make new music.
Back to the album itself. I’ve heard Slash say on a podcast somewhere that the album was recorded differently? I think it feels a more stripped back production which suits the style.
Well, the last two records were done on two-inch tape and I think they were both recorded in similar ways. The ideas for those first two albums came from our time on the road and in a studio, just jamming. Slash, Todd (Kerns, bass player) and I would maybe get some ideas together and we would record them completely and then we would bring in Myles Kennedy for the important stuff, the lyrics and the melody. When we would record to tape there was always a little bit of a different way of thinking. When you record to tape you have to sort of commit. There’s not as much room for editing and different things and because we opted not too, Slash wanted to try a different approach with pro tools etc. I think it sped up the process a little and made it easier to make. I guess the technology worked in our favour with a lot of things going on with band members.
You joined the band when Slash decided to tour his solo album on the road. It’s since evolved into Slash, Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators. 8 years on you must be pinching yourself about this opportunity? How did you get involved with Slash at the beginning?
Well, sometimes it happens with a random phone call. I had never been connected to Slash directly, maybe through other musicians but not personally. Slash, after Velvet Revolver, he was making a pinch around L.A looking for guys, and after some recommendations from several people, and I’m very thankful for those who recommended me, I got the call. The next day we were talking about getting together and jamming and working towards getting a band together.
Touring wise, the setlists these days are a lot less GNR influenced. Personally, I love all the Slash solo stuff, it’s great now that the music this band has created is now at the forefront of the live material. I think you guys only play ‘Rocket Queen’ now? How is that going down with the fans on your shows so far?
It’s great because now that there is a Guns ‘N Roses that people can go see all those songs with Slash, it’s probably best that when fans go and see Slash in his other band that we don’t cross-pollinate those songs. I mean we have three great records of our own material and it feels great to play most of the songs that our band wrote together. Again we were brought together from Slash’s career already and if he wants to play something from Velvet Revolver or Guns ‘N Roses then we’re happy to do it. I mean it’s his band. We’ve been evolving this band from day one. At the beginning we played a lot of GNR, some of Velvet Revolver, an Alter Bridge song and slowly we’ve evolved. We have songs from Apocalyptic Love that are regulars in the set and now three albums worth of songs. It’s funny, this is the only band I’ve ever played in where making a full record, at some point of that full touring cycle we will have played every song. The new record we are slowly introducing songs, but we will play every song at some stage across this new tour. Some of those new songs will get played in Australia when we get their next year but every song from World On Fire and Apocalyptic Love have had a live performance at some stage. That’s a really cool thing, that we don’t just write a song and it never gets played live. Nothing’s wasted.
Saying that, I’m betting it was a buzz playing drums for songs like, ‘Nightrain’ or ‘Sweet Child O Mine’, when Slash was on stage doing his thing?
Yeah, absolutely. Those GNR songs I saw Slash play on the very first tour they did. I grew up in Canada, and I saw Guns ‘N Roses on their first time through in ’86 or ’87 when they opened for The Cult, so I obviously loved Guns ‘N Roses. Things fall into place later on in your career and the people I enjoy listening too I’m now playing with. Why wouldn’t I want to play with musicians who I love listening too and their music. So it’s great and hopefully Slash feels the same way about me.
Slash, from an outsider looking in, comes across as this cool, semi shy, relaxed kind of guy. What’s been your opinion of him and has anything surprised you about him?
Slash would say to most people his shyness is reflective in a lot of his vocabulary but his personality comes out in his music. I think that’s a very strong personality trait that Slash has. He doesn’t have to speak something but when he says it musically it speaks volumes and mountains. Thats special. I think when you interview Slash he’s a very thoughtful person, a well read dude and a great guy to hang with and funny. He’s quiet but such a powerful personality. It’s like he leads but doesn’t have to say anything. We all fall in line with him. We all get a long great. There’s no real extrovert personalities in this band and Slash is the quiet but powerful personality that leads the band. When I hang with him, we go watch movies. In this day and age, the touring is not the party experience like it use to be, it’s all about the music. We all love playing together in the band, and enjoy that. It’s not like it was in the ’80s (laughs).
Your chemistry with the bass player, Todd Kerns by the way is amazing and really sets the tone for this band. Have you previously played with Todd? Are you good mates outside of the band? There just seems to be a natural bond there.
We are the best of buds. It’s only recently since we’ve played together with Slash. We’ve never previously played together though we both grew up in Canada, though different cities, bands and neighbourhoods. We knew of each other and it’s funny you end up in a band together and we both share a lot of similar things. Similar age, we gravitate towards similar things and because we’re the rhythm section we get to play off of each other because of the song writing. I mean Slash puts his special touches on it and Myles comes in with the melodies but Todd and I are like the foundation. So yea, we have a great understanding, not even having to look at each other but knowing what the other is thinking. We’re pretty tight, and with Frank Sidoris (rhythm guitarist) becoming the other Conspirator now, I think it’s great the three of us make up a strong section of the band especially when you have an amazing guitarist in Slash and singer in Myles.
You mention, Frank Sidoris on rhythm guitar. Did that make recording easier having a dedicated rhythm guitarist on board?
Frank plays differently than Slash or Myles. On Apocalyptic Love, Slash was insistent on Myles playing guitar on the record. Myles of course, gladly did it but he was overcome with having to come up with the lyrics and melodies too, and guitar parts. On World On Fire, Slash played all the guitar parts, but on Living the Dream it just made sense to bring in Frank. Frank had played on several tours now and he has this special feel which is different to Slash and Myles. We’re very tight live, so I think it was very easy to have Frank play on the record and come up with ideas. I think, Slash and Frank just compliment each other. Frank is a great all round player, and he was careful not to step on Slash. I mean Slash is obviously the strong personality and Frank’s role is to fit in and around Slash’s parts which is a very important role and he was careful to exceed in that role but to never overlap Slash. Maybe that was similar in Guns ‘N Roses with Izzy Stradlin. If I could compare to Australian band, Ac/Dc and how Malcolm Young was a powerful foundation for that band. That’s Frank role and he does it well.
Finally, you are touring Australia next year, playing some big venues too including Perth’s RAC Arena which will be cool, what can fans expect?
Hopefully because we have been playing the new songs from Living the Dream, I think we’ll be playing a bunch more from the new album as Australia is early on in the tour. Are we going to play anymore from the Slash back catalogue from GNR, Velvet Revolver? You’ll have to ask him (laughs). But I think we’ll stick with the majority from the Conspirators records.
OK, thanks Brent, look forward to seeing you guys in 2019, all the best!
Cheers! All the best.
Interview by Jim ‘Plugga’ Birkin
Slash ft. Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators – 2019 Australian Tour
Monday 28 January @ Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney
Wednesday 30 January @ Brisbane Convention Exhibition Centre, Brisbane
Friday 1 February @ Marriage Equality Arena, Melbourne
Sunday 3 February @ RAC Arena, Perth