“It goes both ways, you know. I make a point not to pay attention to that stuff. So I don’t look it up, I don’t follow it, I don’t get the trades and look to see where I am,” he says. “Management and the record folks have a tendency to tell you when things are going well because they’re excited about it. But when you hear good news, it’s obviously positive, and it’s nice to know that things are going in a positive direction. The fact that you reach a certain level in that the records we’ve put out have all managed to chart well is a really nice thing to hear. All things considered, that’s better news than not, you know?” he muses with a laugh.
Slash notes how the night before, he heard “Driving Rain” on the radio in his car while driving to rehearsal. “I went, ‘Aww…,’ because you can’t help but be happy about having people actually hear you on the radio. Especially nowadays, because that’s the best exposure you can get. So when you play that song in front of an audience, they react to it, and that is a great feeling.”
Speaking on the phone from his home in Spokane, Wash., Kennedy is humble. “When you get those numbers, it makes you grateful, you know? You feel that people still care,” he says. “And I look at that and think that maybe we’ll get to make another record, because I’m the guy who is always thinking that this is going to end tomorrow. These guys laugh at me, but I know how difficult the music industry is, so it’s always nice to hear something like that.”
When asked what success means to him, the singer defined it as “being able to follow your bliss and love what you do. And if that’s what success is, I think I’m getting a taste of it because it’s certainly been an incredible ride, with Alter Bridge [the other hard-rock band he fronts] and now with Slash. But like I said, I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop, so I think that’s what keeps me working so hard.
“You work hard to put out good work and keep people engaged, and ultimately, the most important word for me is ‘happy,’ ” he continues. “I think that when I walk out onstage, I just want to see people smiling and having a good time, or moved or elevated in some way. The more I do this, the longer that I stay in this game, you realize that you’re put in a position where you have a responsibility to your fellow humans. Try and make people happy with your craft or with your art, and that’s very fulfilling for me. It’s something that I don’t take lightly.”
Both Kennedy and Slash constantly crisscross the country due to their successful musical projects. When asked how they handle it, Kennedy replies, “It’s definitely a commitment in terms of the amount of time you’re going to be away from home and the amount that you ask from your spouse, because it requires a ton of travel and dedication. And fortunately, I married the perfect lady for that: She totally gets it and has been very supportive. It’s a lot of work — it’s good work and it’s fun work and it fills my soul — but it’s not something where I feel like I have a lot of free time to hang out and play fetch with my dog,” he says with a laugh.
For Slash, it’s old top hat. He has been juggling multiple commitments for years, doing session work during the later years of Guns N’ Roses and “a lot of jamming and stuff in the early ’90s,” followed by Slash’s Snakepit, Slash’s Blues Ball and Velvet Revolver. But now, his gigs with the Conspirators and Guns N’ Roses take up most of his focus, so he does a lot of writing on the road.
“When [a] tour is finished or we have a little break, we’ll go into a rehearsal room and start working up some of these ideas,” he explains. “And after the tour, we’ll sort of go in and start a ferocious pre-production session, getting all the arrangements together and so on. While Myles is working on the melodies, we’re getting all the grooves down and get it to the point where the songs are done so we can go in and record them very quickly in a few takes.”
Kennedy discerns that when it came to writing Living the Dream with Slash, the guitarist has a certain feel in his approach to riffs “that will pull a side out that is different than working with Alter Bridge or my solo project. And lyrically, it’s a big shift: With Alter Bridge, things tend to get deep and there’s some existential questions that I’m asking, but it’s a totally different approach because it suits the music. With Slash, I want to make sure that it’s congruent lyrically with the music, which is a good thing for me because it allows me to stretch in a different direction.”
Slash agrees, citing Guns N’ Roses as a good example of “a particular chemistry with a particular group of personalities, musical and personal. And so you fall into how you play with those guys, and it has its own thing. And then when I play with the Conspirators, it’s a different set of musical personalities and a different group, and you naturally adapt to that. Each has its own style, so you just subconsciously flow into that pocket.”
But in the entirety of his catalog, from Guns N’ Roses to Velvet Revolver to the Conspirators, he still sounds unmistakably like Slash. He calls that observation “a huge compliment [because] the most important thing you can have as a musician is to have a recognizable sound. I mean, there’s more musicians than you can possibly ever count, but the ones that stand out are the ones that have their own unique personality. I don’t know if that’s something you can establish or not, but as a player, if someone tells you that they recognize your sound, I think that’s an achievement.”
Now that the U.S. leg of the Conspirators’ current tour has wrapped, in January 2019, the band will perform in Japan, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea and China to support Living the Dream. It will also tour New Zealand, Australia, Europe and the United Kingdom, with dates including performances at such high-profile festivals as Rock Am Ring and Download. Then the group will return to U.S. shores. “Yeah, we’re actually coming back in the summer,” says Slash. “We don’t have any dates lined up yet, but look for us next year.”
Meanwhile, Kennedy has little time off before the Conspirators hit the road again. “I’m going out to tour a little for my solo project. I go out with my band that recorded [his solo album] Year of the Tiger, and that kicks off in Chicago on Nov. 13 and wraps in Seattle in December.”
For Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators tour dates, go here.
For Myles Kennedy solo tour dates, go here.