Todd Kearns From Slash Ft. Myles Kenndy & The Conspirators On “4”

A decade and four albums into their career, Slash Ft. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators haven’t been deterred by any obstacles in their path, including a global pandemic. Slash Ft. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators have released their new album titled 4 via Gibson Records, in partnership with Sony Music Australia. 4 is Slash’s fifth solo album, and fourth overall with his band featuring Myles Kennedy (vocals), Brent Fitz (drums), Todd Kerns (bass & vocals) and Frank Sidoris (guitar & vocals).

Congratulations on number four. Is it a feeling of relief now that it’s finally out given the challenges of the last couple of years?
It is actually, it was very strange having it finished and in the can for so long. It was, I don’t know, maybe at least eight to ten months. I don’t even remember. I probably should do the math on that before I started talking to people like yourself, but it was recorded a long time ago. And then, with that much lead up time, it just seemed so surreal to have it done. And then not really talking about it and then suddenly it’s out and it felt even going on tour, we were like, “well, the record doesn’t even come out until the eleventh,” but we’re on tour about a week earlier or something like that. Here it is now we’re on the other side of all that very strange.

A vibrant rock album fuelled by memorable guitar hooks and compelling melodies, big choruses and even bigger riffs; 4 builds on the legacy of Slash Ft. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators’ prior work. That sensibility comes through immediately on the opening track and first single, The River Is Rising. The group has unleashed The River Is Rising. Todd Kearns spoke to Hi Fi Way about the challenges of making the album.

How did you celebrate release day? Did you do anything special to commemorate the occasion?
No, we didn’t. Nothing different than usual. I think my wife brought in some custom cookies or something, but other than that we’re just so damn busy.

Can you believe how much the world has actually changed since Living The Dream back in 2018? Who would’ve thought we would be where we are with what’s been going on more recently?
Yeah. It’s super surreal. I mean, it’s really surreal. Being on tour as we are now it’s so much different than it was in the past. Every town we’ve been blowing through, we have friends in every single city and we’re asked to not really interact because of the nature of how things are, and then tours are shutting down all around us, because someone gets sick and passes it around and we’re just going to go home. So we really didn’t want that to happen. We’re basically following the same plan as Guns and Roses on their last run. The idea is to keep the bubble tight and we should be able to stay out there for the entire time without any interruption considering we already had interruptions during the recording. We know what to expect.

Do you think the tight quarantine bubble concept is something that’s here to stay which has really changed the whole touring side of things?
I actually don’t think so. I come from Canada and things are definitely a lot more, restricted up there and a lot tighter there, but here in America, I feel that by the time we’re off this tour they will be making the biggest attempt possible for things to be back to as normal as possible. So I don’t know, I don’t foresee it. I mean, I could foresee it happening, say 2022, 2023 tours to Europe, to Canada to places like that.

The US is certainly relaxing. I don’t know if that’s for better or for worse, frankly, but at this point, all I know is that I wanted to go out and do this run. I wanted to make sure we did the entire run and I wanted to make sure we could do it uninterrupted. You know what I mean? I don’t want to be the cause of anybody getting sick coming to see our shows or anybody on our crew or anybody in our band. So, so far so good.

After Living The Dream and once the tour wrapped up that album cycle did you start talking right after about what might be the next album? Do those ideas start then, or do you just need to all go away compile some ideas and then bring them back to the band room to see where they go from there?
Well, every instance from Apocalyptic Love, World on Fire, Living the Dream and 4 for that matter, all started to present themselves during sound checks on the previous tour. It was just riffs and things that we would jam which would turn into songs. I assume something like that will probably start to present itself during this run. We haven’t been doing a lot of that, but a little bit here and there. It’s very organic that way. It was weird for this particular run for 4, because none of us could get together. Oddly enough, Slash and I were the only two really getting together, because I was spending a lot of time in Los Angeles. I would just be putting bass down on some demos he was doing and we would just be knocking his ideas around. I think all of us would agree that we’d like to get into a room together and hammer things out as a band, as opposed to here’s a demo. People get this strange case, we call it demo-itus, where people get really stuck on what was on their demo.

Slash is not precious about ideas, he lets them go and he is good at moving on and trying other things so. This instance was a little weird because we just couldn’t be in the same room together. Brent was in Canada and Miles of course lives in Spokane, and Frank was in Vegas. So it was one of those things. The fact that I happened to be spending so much time in Los Angeles was the only reason I saw Slash.

Do you think the way you went about making this album might set a blueprint for next time?
Well, it’s an interesting thing to discuss because in reality, when you say that, we weren’t in the same room together to put the ideas together. We actually had to be all in the same room together to make a record like 4 because it was such a live experience. Although those demos that I’m speaking of ended up just being a very loose guide, it was a way to get the ideas out there. Once we’re in a room together, the studio in this case, we were able to knock those ideas around while recording them. You know what I mean? It was like, well, let’s try it this time like this. The recording was so much more live, that I believe that will be the blueprint. I really don’t foresee Slash going backwards at this point. I don’t think he’s necessarily opposed to doing more of a produced type record, but I definitely think he really shines when it comes to recording a record as live as possible. Apocalyptic Love was very live as well, but this one was that much more.

On reflection, do you think this is probably the most challenging album that the band has made?
To be honest, it didn’t feel challenging at all. Sure we were all universally dealing with lockdown and being separated, so that was very unusual. But it seemed like being in a rock band was just part of the equation of like, it’s just strange being a human being actually. So getting together to make a record was very normal. Once we were all going to get into a room together and hammer this out, that was very, very familiar. The challenge of it was not challenging because we were recording it live together and I am the kind of player where when I’m in recording, whether we’re focusing on just capturing the drums, I am still trying to record my parts with the intention that my performance would be completely capable. Not every band wants to have that pressure like that but all five of us have to on a hundred percent during this take. If anybody drops the ball, we have to go back and do it again kind of thing.

These five guys just happen to operate that way. So realistically, although there was a worldwide pandemic and a bunch of us went down with that said virus the record went so quickly. Like I said, we did the live share of it in five days and then Miles Kennedy went down with COVID, the next day myself and Brent. In reality, most of the record had been finished in less than a week. If we had actually been able to avoid coronavirus, we would’ve probably had the record done in less than two weeks completely. So it’s fascinating to consider. Dave Cobb was very confident that way. He goes, “Oh, we don’t need, we only need like three weeks max.” And I was like, “Three weeks?” We’d made records that could sometimes take a few months, but I foresee that being the future.

Was that a little bit weird this time around just having that luxury of time to be able to sit on songs a little bit longer and make further tweaks and adjustments to them?
Well, that can be a danger to these overcooking of things. Like I say, Slash is not precious. The River Is Rising, had a whole other solo section, if I recall correctly. There was this quick outro that exists on the record now. This sort of double time, fast Metallica bit that Dave Cobb said, “What if we made that solo?” And it was like, “Well, let’s try it.” And then we did. So that kind of stuff, experimenting in the studio is very common. He’s not married to his previous idea of how it should be. A lot of people, myself included have trouble with that. I really am that kind of person that goes, “But I really love the way this is, the way we had this.” So, you really have to open your mind and put your trust in somebody else that says, “What about this?” And you go, “Well, let’s try it.” And that’s basically the way it went down.

Is that hard knowing when to actually stop writing songs? I was reading a Slash interview where he was saying that, there was a couple of songs that were written either just before or as the recording process had started. Is that hard just knowing when to turn that tap off and just focus on getting the songs down?
I honestly don’t think that there’s really a time to stop. I think even when you’re in the room, if something starts to present itself, I think you have to chase that down. Dave Cobb was big on sort of don’t over rehearse, don’t overwrite just get your ideas together. Then let’s come in here and as a group, just really try and hammer it out. That said, we definitely got together and as a band and went through things ourselves in Los Angeles before going to Nashville. I think that Dave’s whole thing was to try and keep the spontaneity there kind of thing. It doesn’t always happen, but once in a while, something can happen right there in the studio. I think that’s a big part of the creativity. I don’t really think you can ever turn that tap off.

What songs from 4 stand out the most for you?
Well, I’ve always gravitated towards April Fool. I don’t know why there’s something really fun about that track. I always felt like that has this single vibe to it. Fall Back to Earth is a real big one. I think to me, we’ve found a sound in a way, in a weird way. Obviously those guitar riffs that Slash comes up with are all immediately classic. Then we get into Miles’ voice and I think the harmonies that he and I come up with together really create a sound. Sometimes I listen to something like say Spirit Love, that to me feels like the Anastasia of this record and the Fallback to Earth feels like the unholy of this record.

There’s certain songs that I can look back on from previous records that we’ve done and feel like there’s a through line, even though they sometimes are sonically different. There’s definitely a theme in a way. I think on this record Spirit Love is another big one as far as, I don’t know, I find it quite imaginative the way it all came together as this weird almost snaky, Egyptiany line turns into a rock song. It was really interesting for me because like I say, I walk away from these records and having recorded it ten months earlier, I didn’t sit around listening to our version of it for, I generally walk away from our recordings and like most things that I work on, I don’t go home and listen to myself all the time. “Isn’t this great, hey honey, come listen to me.” I just got to feel it’s weird, we’ve done that let’s move on. Obviously when it’s time to get ready to present that music live, I then have to familiarise myself with this music again. It gives you a sort of separation from what you’ve done and then hearing it in more of a completed form. I think that’s pretty healthy actually, but I feel like it’s a really strong record. I think it’s definitely the fact that it’s so live, I knew it was either going to really be a turn on or a turn off depending on the person’s ears.

I appreciate Slashes boldness with a great many things actually, but the fact that he doesn’t really spend a lot of time worrying about what anybody thinks he’s just like, “I think we should do this”, and “Yeah. Okay. Let’s try that.” If it works, great, if it doesn’t work, then you have taken another stab at something else. I think that’s the beauty of it. I think that the translation of this group, like I said, not everybody can just go into a room together and record a record in a couple of weeks as live as possible. I know that we can and I think that it’s really great that we did that, whether we never do it again, I don’t know. But the fact that we did is really important.

The big question that us Aussies will be asking is whether are there plans to head back down to Australia, later this year or early next year?
Well, we hope to reconvene. That’s the funniest thing is everybody’s schedules, are carrying over these things that got postponed from 2020 into 2021 and then 2121 into 2022. So now our schedules are all bananas and Guns and Roses has a lot to catch up on. Miles of course lives the life of three or four different men. So now it’s just a case of trying to figure out when we can reconvene to do this again. So at this point, honestly, I don’t think we’re going to be able to really do much until next year. Which is insane to think about, but at the same time, time could not be going faster could it?

Interview By Rob Lyon

Slash Ft. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators 4 is out now. Order your copy here

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