Slash Ft. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators: ‘4’
Full Album Track-by-Track with SLASH and MYLES KENNEDY
- The River is Rising
SLASH: There’s two or three songs on the record that were written during the pandemic; everything else was written before. “The River is Rising” was one of the last songs I wrote before we started pre-production, and because it was just so fresh and it had a certain groove and energy to it, it was the first thing we really attacked. It’s actually the newest song on the record.
As for the double-time part, that was something that I came up with and tagged onto the end of the arrangement. Then when we were over at RCA, Dave Cobb suggested we do it right after the breakdown. So, we went straight into the fast part, and I just started doing the guitar solo over it. It was one of those things where we were jamming around, trying to fish out the arrangement, and it just happened.
MYLES KENNEDY: I remember when the demo came in from Slash it was an immediate knee-jerk reaction for me: “Okay, yeah, this has got it.” I felt like all the parts were there, but it needed a chorus section. So, I took his demo and added a chorus, just a very raw guitar part and melodic idea. Then he took my guitar part and “Slash-ified” it, essentially, and made it a lot cooler. And that became “The River is Rising.” The lyric, meanwhile, ultimately explores how people can be brainwashed or indoctrinated by some sort of dangerous idea. Once we shot the demo back and forth a few times I personally felt really confident that we had the album opener. To me, it’s an important track.
- Whatever Gets You By
SLASH: I love the riff – it’s one of my favorite things on the record. And the arrangement is really very simple. I had the riff and I kept playing it and playing it, and when I went in to record a demo the next change spontaneously came out, and that’s what the chorus ended up being. Just making it up on the spot and going, “Oh, that works.” But, it was really all about the groove and getting that sort of greasy, heavy stomp thing going. And that was it. It came together super-fast after that.
KENNEDY: Initially when I wrote the lyrics, and this is going to sound really weird, it was when the trading app Robinhood was all over the news. I remember watching all of that and going, “Wow, what is happening with all these day traders?” But as I stepped away from it, to me, the lyric really boils down to people doing whatever they need to do to get by in life – just staying present and letting the chips fall where they may. It’s ambiguous enough to where it can have multiple meanings, which is something I try to achieve as a lyricist.
- C’est La Vie
SLASH: “C’est La Vie” is one that I remember from soundchecks – it might have been in Australia, I’m not sure. But I had that main opening riff, and it all came together – the verse, the chord changes, the bridge part – just jamming for an hour at soundchecks before every gig. When it came time to do the demo, it really followed the lines of what the arrangement was out on the road. Then when we actually went in to record it, I’d had this idea of doing the opening riff with a talk box, although I hadn’t actually ever done it that way. But when we started pre-production, I just put it on there, and that’s what you hear on the record.
KENNEDY: We were in some arena doing soundcheck and it just evolved. It was an interesting one for me, because when I got the demo from Slash two years later, I remembered what I was singing years ago. My brain automatically recalled where we were – the way the arena looked and everything that was happening. And the lyric on the track basically tells a story of someone in this abusive, toxic relationship and their decision to leave. Hence the title, “C’est La Vie.”
- The Path Less Followed
SLASH: It’s the oldest piece of music on the record. We must have started playing that riff at some point during World on Fire – at least, I was playing it. The chord progression is really three chords that are transposed differently, but it allows for a certain kind of melody even though it’s the same three chords repeating over and over again. I had that part forever and I wouldn’t let it go, but I never really got past those three chords. Finally at some point during the last Conspirators tour we developed the verses, and then during the pandemic, sitting around at home, I started to put together a real arrangement. I made a demo, sent it to Myles, and we got the song done.
KENNEDY: I really like that riff, and the melody in the verses is elevated by the harmony vocal. It’s one of those songs where Todd’s vocal comes in and takes it to another level. And the lyric is something that has been touched on in the past in a lot of our songs, the idea of, follow your heart, but be forewarned. If you want to get in – and this could apply to any artist, whether you’re wanting to be an actor or a musician or a painter or whatever – and follow your bliss and take the road less traveled, or the path less followed, be prepared. It’s a difficult, long journey that’s paved with heartbreak. But in the end, you’ll know you did what you needed to do, and that’s a beautiful thing.
- Actions Speak Louder Than Words
SLASH: It’s a pretty simple, straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll song, but the bridge is totally left field. The song is something that was written at soundcheck, with all of us just sort of jamming and me coming up with stuff by playing off the other guys. On the record, it’s one of two songs I didn’t play on a Les Paul – I used a Gibson ‘69 Reissue Flying V that I got for Christmas one year. I also used that guitar with the talk box on “C’est La Vie.” The guitar sounds really, really, good, and it’s a little bit cleaner than my regular Les Pauls. I love the way it sounds on the solo on this one.
KENNEDY: That’s another one I remember jamming in a soundcheck environment. And what’s interesting about the lyric is it was put together right around the time the presidential election was happening. You had all these people making all these promises, and we’ve seen that over and over – it’s just what happens during campaigns. People are always promising things. But a lot of times those promises are inevitably broken. And so, the song is calling for action: “Let’s see you follow through with some of these promises.”
- Spirit Love
SLASH: That’s one of the newer pandemic songs. The riff itself was just a direct result of the frustration of being stuck, and not able to do anything for an extended period of time. And the intro was influenced by the main riff as well. It has almost a Middle Eastern kind of feel or flavor to it. I wrote it on guitar, but when I went in to record it, I pulled out an electric sitar to play it at the beginning. Normally I don’t pull out that sitar because it can be very cliché sounding, but it seemed appropriate for this one. And we put it through a Marshall at full blast, so it sounds a little like it’s almost dying. [laughs]
KENNEDY: Every time I hear this song I see, like, a cobra dancing in front of a snake charmer. [laughs] It’s got this very kind of slinky, spooky vibe to it. And the lyric is bizarre because I wanted it to be spooky, too, but with an almost sexual element to it. I thought, what if the whole song documents someone who thinks they’re in a dream state, and is having a relationship with someone in the spirit realm? Like a ghost or something. But what’s interesting is there’s a twist at the end, because the person realizes that they’ve been in the spirit realm all along – they’ve basically been dead the whole time, and it wasn’t a dream. This is just the existence that they’re in.
- Fill My World
SLASH: Musically, I came up with it at my studio. It was just the opening riff, and then the underlying chord changes started to come out in my mind. I wasn’t really sure if I was going to pursue it or not, but I had to record it and make a demo. I thought, I don’t know what the guys are gonna think… Because it has a certain sentimental kind of feel to it. But I sent it to Myles, and he came back with this really heartfelt lyric. I thought it was about all the loss we’ve been suffering during this dark period, and then he told me it was about his dog. [laughs] I said, “Well, you know, everybody has had somebody that they love affected by this, so…”
KENNEDY: So, I have this little Shih Tzu named Mozart – he tries to act all tough, but he’s really not. And on one occasion we couldn’t get home, I think our flight was delayed or something, and there was a really intense storm over our house. We have one of those little camera systems to keep an eye on the dog when we can’t be there, and we saw him just freaking out. It was really heartbreaking to watch. It terrified the little guy. So, the narrative of the song is inspired by what I imagined he might have been thinking as it all went down. And his plea to us to come home. When you listen to it, yeah, it could apply to just a regular relationship between humans. But I thought it was interesting, at least for me, to sing it from Mozart’s perspective. And to be really honest, as I was singing the song in the studio, at one point you can hear my voice crack a little bit. It was getting to me. So, it’s definitely sung from the heart. And I’m man enough to admit it!
- April Fool
SLASH: Another one that I think goes back to the Living the Dream album tour. It’s a cool riff, but it took a while to put together. I’ve got a lot of tapes of us jamming it at soundchecks without knowing where to go after a certain point. But then when I got home and put together an arrangement it was actually pretty easy. And it really came together when we went into the studio. This is one of the songs that Dave Cobb had a definite impact on. Certain key elements were missing in the demo, arrangement-wise, and he just went, “We’ll connect that right there…” And I was like, “Oh, yeah, that’s a good idea!” [laughs] Sometimes you just need that other person that you can trust musically. And if they have an idea, you can’t be too precious to try it.
KENNEDY: It’s one of my favorites. A really fun track. Lyrically it’s about being played, and ultimately you realize you’ve had enough, and you decide you’re going to have the last laugh in the end. That’s where that line “I guess the jokes on you,” comes into play. And Dave got his hands dirty on this one. He did some tweaking and suddenly it was like, “This is a lot better!” We were really, really, happy with how it turned out.
- Call Off the Dogs
SLASH: This one was written pretty much on the fly, and in the spirit of the energy of the whole project. You can’t overthink something like this because it kills the spirit. When we got into pre-production it came together fairly quickly – just jam it and that’s basically it. And I think it was probably the last thing that we recorded in the studio.
KENNEDY: It has that up-tempo vibe that really helps elevate a record in a lot of ways, especially for rock fans. They want those songs. We needed a chorus section for it, so I messed with it a bit and sent it to Slash, he took it and made it his own, and took it to the next level. Lyrically, it’s about that point where you wave the white flag and give in to someone after being pursued relentlessly. It’s pretty self-explanatory there in the “call off the dogs” line.
- Fall Back to Earth
SLASH: After one of the Guns tour legs was over, I went on safari in South Africa. I took a guitar with me, and one night I came up with the opening melody to this one. So, the lick came first, but I had to figure out where to go with it from there. Then during the Living the Dream tour that we had after that, I came up with the verse, and Myles had some great ideas for that. There was also a guitar melody part, which initially was going to be an instrumental part, but it ended up being the chorus. There were all these different pieces, but they seemed to relate to the same thing.
The song really came together in Nashville. We fleshed it out, and there were harmony parts and things that just happened spontaneously in the studio. I hadn’t actually planned them, and they weren’t on the demo, but I did them while Dave Cobb was in the bathroom. [laughs] He came back. and I’d worked out this whole harmony and everything. So, it took me a minute to figure out where the song was going to go, but I’m really happy with the way it came out.
KENNEDY: This is one of those tracks that has the hallmark of what Slash does melodically with his guitar parts. It’s what so many people gravitate toward in his playing. And it’s a song where, once again, Dave made some suggestions. We had a chorus section and he said, “That section is fine, but maybe it’d be better suited in the middle of the song, almost as a bridge…” And he suggested taking that signature guitar riff and using it as the chorus, and then having it repeat throughout the song. So, it’s interesting because the chorus melody isn’t about the vocal, it’s about the guitar. I’m just there to help support what Slash is doing.
As far as the lyric, it’s about watching someone gain the world while losing themselves. It’s written from the perspective of seeing someone do that, while also letting them know that you’ll be there to catch them when it all comes crashing down. But in general, the hook in this one is so “Slash.” To me it really defines what he does. For that reason, I think it’s going to be a fan favorite.