Slash och hans band med konspiratörer är just nu aktuella med sitt senaste album “Living the dream” Trummisen Brent Fitz ringde upp för att snacka lite om just albumet och hur det är att spela med Slash, men även lite annat, som hur det exempelvis är att spela med Gene Simmons:
“Gene is one of the best musicians I´ve ever worked with. He´s a great bass player. He´s so great and he´s so locked in. He works with you and he´s very connected and we look at each other on stage and we feed off each other. He´s just great and he´s just solid. And he´s a great singer so he´s sort of like a three dimensional musician.”
Are you ”living the dream”?
Brent: I think so. I mean, probably the best reason that this band still has life is proving that by being able to make music together consistently. It´s exciting. It´s always great to play music live, but to play music and write music and play it live, I think that´s living the dream. It´s the three dimensional side of being a musician, to actually record fresh new songs and getting a chance to play them in front of people and have them become popular songs, hopefully, if they´re meant to be that. That´s living the dream.
Is it mostly Slash and Myles that come up with stuff? What do you and Todd bring to the album?
Brent: Well, it really is a band because the songs come together in a room. Slash is always a catalyst with aguitar riff that will spark the feel and vibe that Todd and I will bring to it immediately and some stuff is created on the spot. There´s a song on the new album called ”Mind your manners” and that song basically was the first day we all got back together to start working on these songs. Just to back up. We had worked on some songs in 2015 so we sort of had a bunch of riffs and songs that were put together at soundchecks and there were some things that Myles hadn´t put some lyrics and ideas to yet, but generally speaking, Slash, Todd and I, as a three peice, would come up with the nucleus of a rock song. It starts with a riff and then you need the rhythm section to create that full body of the song. What we did is we took those old songs and then we started working on them at the end of 2017. But ”Mind your manners” was put together the first day we all got in the room and we were like ”Ok, this is gonna be great.” and Slash just basically started playing a riff and there was no intention of writing a song yet, he just actually had this cool riff and then we just sort of jumped in with him and the song was just written in a couple of minutes, the basics of the song. A song isn´t a song until you have a melody and lyrics, but the musical part started to come together that way. Slash is really great because he likes to have the human element of putting the songs together. It´s not like put together on a computer. It´s put together in a live situation with real guys playing together. It´s the only way we know how to play and write songs, to get together and flush them out together. There were a couple of songs that were just sort of like skeletons and then you get a couple of guys playing them together and all of a sudden you realize how they actually become songs. That´s a long answer. (laughs)
I´ve picked a few tracks and maybe you can just comment on them a bit? ”Serve you right” has a really cool, heavy riff and I´ve read that it was kind of based on a painting of a masturbating nun that hangs in Slash´s studio.
Brent: Yeah, there´s always something that catches your eye. Just follow his Instagram, it´ll say it right there. That´s ones Myles. Any sort of lyrical and melody stuff that Myles wrote on that song, that´s his contribution, but that painting didn´t have any influence on me as far as where the song went. With Slash and I, as the drummer and the guitar player, we work realyy close together. When a song is put together we are literally a feet apart in a room or in a studio looking at each other and it´s basically a real organic feeding off each other and I try to be respectful of finding places to fit. I´m supporting him with a drum beat that´s going to be appropiate for a riff he´s doing. His riffs are some of the best ever. He´s just so great. We work on songs every day, almost bettering the parts and coming up with new ideas. We don´t just commit the first time, we´ll go ”Let´s try some other part and improve on it.”
Another track is ”Lost inside the girl”
Brent: I´m hoping I´m thinking right… That was one of the newer ideas that Slash came in with. That´s a good example of the dynamics of this band. We are never just a band that plays at full tilt. There is something special about how we have the push and pulls allowed in the songs and I think that song is a good example of a song that´s got a lot of that and great lyrics from Myles. I think we consciously wanted that song to have a lot of loud and soft and it breathes nicely. Hopefully we´ll get to play that one live.
Tell me about the last track on the album, ”Boulevard of broken hearts”.
Brent: That was a newer idea that Slash came up with too. A different sounding song compared to all of the other songs on the three records that this band has put together. I don´t think it´s any less of a song because it got put as the last track of the record. I think it´s a really strong song and it holds it weight, even though it´s the last track. It´s a very different song and I don´t know if people will react to it the same way, but it was one of my favorite songs that we recorded, but I´m judging it as it was a really cool song to put together and not from it getting played on the radio. I can tell you this, when we worked on the last record and on ”Apocalyptic love” we never thought a song like ”World on fire” would be a lead off track when we recorded it and the same with ”Anastasia”, so I don´t know if ”Boulevard of broken hearts” falls into that category.
When you´re heading out on tour again, it seems like Slash wants to focus more on the band´s own stuff than playing Guns N´Roses songs, right? Or will you play a couple of those as well?
Brent: I absolutely know that the agreements is to focus on the music that this band has recorded and for good reason, because Guns N´Roses exists and have their body of work and this group of guys have this body of work and I don´t necessarily think we have to play Guns N´Roses songs, but Slash does have a pretty amazing catalog and he can play whatever he likes. If he wants to play Guns N´Roses then we will and that´ll be great too. If you look at how this band has evolved we basically was playing a lot of Slash´s catalog early on seven or eight years ago and not just Guns N´Roses but we would play Velvet Revolver and even maybe play something that Slash collaborated on with like Lenny Kravitz or what not. I think the songs that this band has recorded have now become staples in the last years of touring and now we have a new record, so we want to play the new record. That´s the other great thing about this band, is that every song that we have recorded has been played live. It might not be in the set all the time because we can´t play all those songs and this is the only band I´ve been involved in where you write the songs and you know that every song we write will see the light of day and get played in front of people. That is fucking amazing! At some point, probably every song on the new album will have been played.
When you got together for the new album, did you all just sit around and ask Slash thousands of questions about Guns N´Roses?
Brent: Not once. We have a great working relationship and respect and admiration and maybe it´s also one of the reasons why our band works well together as musicians and friends. We cut out the celebrity luster of it and we just like playing together. I have been in several bands since playing with Slash. I´ve played with Gene Simmons, I´ve played with Brad Whitford from Aerosmith. Of course we have conversations, not just about music but different things. But specifics about the touring and stuff with Guns N´Roses we actually don´t talk about, because we´re more worried and excited about living in the now and writing music together and getting excited to go on tour. The answer is, no we don´t talk about it.
You mentioned playing with others. You worked with Ronnie Montrose (1947-2012), right?
Brent: Right. It was the gig I did right before Slash. My Ronnie Montrose experience was so short and the reason being so was because I joined Slash. I had played with Ronnie and then a month later I actually spoke to Slash about doing something together and that was it. But fortunately I did get to play with Ronnie. What a pleasure, man! Who doesn´t love to play with great guitar players? I´ve definitely had a chance to share some gret music with a lot of my heroes.
What was it like? I met him once and he seemed like a really cool guy.
Brent: The similarities with Ronnie and Slash are that they are both very conscious of the tempo. When you put a song together in front of an audience, like where it sits, and sometimes your emotions will obviously depict it like ”The song feels a little faster today.” and there´s always different variables, but I remember when I first jammed with Ronnie that he was very precise with me, like ”This song needs to sit back.” Every time we played gigs we played it how it felt that day, but Slash is the same way. We´re often talking about tempos and for some guitar players it´s not always a priority. Sometimes guitar players will play ahead of the beat or something, but both Slash and Ronnie are always very conscious about tempos and we talk about them all the time and it´s a very important thing and I really appreciated Ronnie having attention to that and not just… in other words, he was very in tune with the rhythm section and how it was supposed to feel and I learned a lot from him because of that. And I think about that to this day all the time. You gotta be logged in. Even though it was a short experience with Ronnie, I took a lot from playing with him and I used it now playing with Slash. It´s great because Slash feels the same way and I think Slash and I play really well together because of that.
You also mentioned Gene Simmons. What´s it like working with a guy like that?
Brent: Gene is one of the best musicians I´ve ever worked with. He´s a great bass player. He´s so great and he´s so locked in. He works with you and he´s very connected and we look at each other on stage and we feed off each other. He´s just great and he´s just solid. And he´s a great singer so he´s sort of like a three dimensional musician. He´s obviously written so many great songs and he´s a great musician. I´ve been playing all kinds of stuff with Gene, not just KISS, but we´ve been playing Beatles songs together and he loves The Beatles. He can sing all the Paul McCartney songs and play the bass lines. He´s a great hang and a smart man. He´s very funny and I´ve really been spoiled to having worked with Slash consistently for so many years and then to have, in the last year and a half, a chance to go be with Gene. I´m still playing with Gene. We haven´t decided we´re not playing together. I´m just sort of moving over back into Slash mode right now. I really like playing with a variety of musicians. It keeps me on my toes. It´s great to switch around and play with different people all the time.
Have you bought one of his Vaults yet?
Brent: I was gifted it and it was a nice present from Gene. I´m very proud that I have a copy of the Vault. We were playing songs from the Vault, unreleased stuff live. I´m a fan of the artists that I work with. I´m not a fan boy where I´m like crazy nuts around Gene, but KISS was a very influential band in my musical makeup, so it was so nice that Gene gifted me a Vault. It was really cool of him. He´s one of the most generous guys I know. I can´t believe how cool it´s been to see how Gene is as a person and a musician.
When you started out, who were the drummers you looked up to as an influence and so on?
Brent: KISS early on. KISS as a band, so of course I liked Peter Criss because he was the drummer. My parents had surf music and I loved all the surf drummers and of course The Beatles and Alex Van Halen. There was a whole phase where I was Alex Van Halen crazy and I still am. I´ve always liked the meat and potatoes 2 and 4 guys, like Phil Rudd (AC/DC) and he´still one of my favorite drummers. After KISS I was really into Cheap Trick and I think Bun E. Carlos always played great. Those kind of guys and Alex… there´s a little bit of Alex in the song ”Call of the wild” on the new Slash album. In the solo section, it´s like my Alex Van Halen piece. People will say John Bonham (1948-1980) and those big, big names and of course I love Bonham, but I always liked guys that play gret for the song and the simpler the better sometimes. Sometimes I play less to be more effective. Jeff Pocaro (1954-1992) is my favorite drummer of all time, bu the was a studio great on all those Toto records and played on so many hit songs. I always thought ”Well, there´s a great studio drummer who played perfect for the song all the time and I would like to be, I guess, the hardrock version of Jeff Porcaro.” It should seem like Jeff Porcaro, but play like Phil Rudd.
How far back do you and Slash go? When was the first time you met?
Brent: Years ago when Slash was doing Slash´s Snakepit I was in Los Angeles playing in the band Union with Bruce Kulick and John Corabi and I might´ve, ironically, played a few gigs with Gilby Clarke around that time in the late 90´s. Slash was in Snakepit and I remember bumping into each other at the legendary Baked Potato in LA, which was kind of a small little smokey jazz club. It had every type of music in it, but there were nights when it was jam night and and all the who´s who would come down and I had ran into Slash a few times and we´d go up on stage and play. I wouldn´t say we officially met back then, but just bumped into each other among all the other musicians. Then fast forward to early 2010 and Slash was finishing his first solo record and still not sure what he was gonna do about the band, but I do know that he told me that he was reaching out to a bunch of people in LA and he said that my name kept coming up among so many people. I had played with Alice Cooper and what not before that, so I just got a nice random call from Slash going ”Hey man, we´ve never met but I´ve heard from a bunch of people that I needed to call you, so I´m calling you.” That was our first little conversation. We got together and jammed a bit, but I´d never really been part of like an audition where a bunch of guys are lined up to go jam and hopefully get a gig. It kinda came from a phone call and we talked, got together and played a little bit and just decided like ”Is it feeling good?” and we got on well together that time and then he asked me if I wanted to be in a band and that´s how it started.
The last couple of years we´ve lost some real rock and rollers like Lemmy, Chris Cornell, Bowie, Tom Petty and the list goes on. Anyone of those guys that you ever had the chance of meeting and anyone that meant something musically to you?
Brent: Oh sure. I think Lemmy is the most important for our band, for all of us. Lemmy and Slash were very close friends and Lemmy was a close friend of our entire band. We got to play, and we still play, ”Dr Alibi, the song from Slash´s first solo record that Lemmy sang on, that is a staple in our set. Lemmy had been on stage with us several times in different places and sang with us. I think Lemmy holds the most weight and special place for myself and for Slash. He´s a hero and he was one of the most wonderful, smart, well read rockstars, but the guy lived his life on his terms and was very influential. That one really hit home. We were all really bummed when he passed on. He lived right to the last minute, he was Lemmy through and through so he was the coolest guy ever.
Any funny Lemmy stories?
Brent: There was a time when we rehearsed for a show for Revolver Golden Gods Awards and that was the first time we played with Lemmy. It was such a great moment. At the beginning of the song ”Dr Alibi” in the bridge in the song, there´s a part where there´s a three part harmony and you wouldn´t think harmonies and Lemmy, but yet he did record and sing these harmonies on the Slash track and Todd (kerns, bass) and I wanted to sing with Lemmy on that song. It was a very cool moment working out these harmonies and Lemmy was actually very particular about them and making sure that we got them right. I just thought ”Who would know that Lemmy had that attention to detail to make sure those parts in the song were there.” Singing harmony with Lemmy on that ”Dr Alibi” and getting perfect was a very cool moment.
Is touring life as fun now as it was when you were younger? Is it getting harder the older you get?
Brent: You know what, it´s not. I´ve been doing this for so long. I kind of look at it… since my mid teens I decided I was gonna make music a career and I certainly wouldn´t wanna complain doing it, because then I might as well not be doing it. Touring is not for everybody, but because I´m comfortable with it and I´m used to being gone a lot from my wife and what id does on your body, I think you could ask anyone else in the band, we´re just wired for this and I think we´re doing our best work now and no one´s feeling like we´re slowing down and Slash is the best guitar player he´s ever been right now. Our band is super tight and we´re looking forward to going on the road. I have no problems with it. I think I´m the healthiest now even though life does kick you in the nuts ever now and then.
Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen
Foto: Therés Stephansdotter Björk, pressbild