Myles Kennedy on Working With Slash, Drugs and the End of the World
In discussing his 2010 self-titled album that features various singers from Lemmy to Fergie, Slash called Alter Bridge frontman Myles Kennedy “the big discovery of making the record.” Now Kennedy is the only singer on Slash’s new album, Apocalyptic Love (out this week), which is billed as “Slash with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators.” The Conspirators are drummer Brent Fitz and bassist Todd Kerns.
Kennedy talked with Noisecreep about what it’s like to work with Slash, the status of Alter Bridge, and why his Shih Tsu named Sigmund feels the need to interrupt the interview.
You came in essentially last minute for two songs on Slash’s last album. When did you know you would end up collaborating on the next album and be the only lead vocalist?
We started talking about it back in the summer of 2010 when we first started touring his first solo record. He mentioned that he was really happy with the band, just the overall vibe and just brought the idea up one morning at breakfast. He was like, ‘Hey would you be interested in doing like a whole record and taking this out [on the road]?’ and I said, ‘Absolutely.’
[Suddenly the interview is interrupted by a high-pitch wail]. Is that a dog or a siren [laughs]?
When I talk on the phone, he gets jealous. He likes to make it know that he doesn’t like that. He often does that when I sing. If I’m writing songs or just working on my voice, he’ll start piping up, just like that.
How do you determine what will be an Alter Bridge idea and what you would give to Slash? Or it it simply because you are writing in that moment with and for Slash?
Yeah, that’s generally how it works. He, for the most part, will send ideas, as far as riffs or chord progressions with a certain feel and then generally I come up with a melody and a lyric for that. If it’s just a section, I’ll say, ‘Hey what do you think of this chorus idea?’ as far as a chord progression or something. So a lot of times, it’s finishing off what he will send my way. So it’s not like I’m writing full songs or full parts and setting it aside for Slash because, generally, I like him to make the first move and hear where he’s coming from and what his concepts are and then I build from there.
Watch Slash’s “Back From Cali” Video
Lyrically, you start on your own?
Yeah, that’s generally my job and it was my job on his first solo record, on “Starlight” and “Back in Cali.” That was basically my role with the melody and the lyrics on both of those. It’s kind of the same approach. That was really challenging for me on this record because his feel and his stories that I hear, and this genre of music – something that’s played from the hip – is very different than I would try and do with Alter Bridge. So it was a lot of work and a lot of rewrites [laughs] on my part to make sure it fit and I was happy with it before I went in and sung the song.
I understand a lot of the lyrics are about your past experience with drugs?
Yeah, there’s one song called “Not for Me” and a song called “Hard & Fast,” which definitely hearken back to a period in my life with certain substances and alcohol where I was kind of – for lack of a better word – experimenting because I really, through high school and most of the early part of my adult years, didn’t really do much in the way of partying. And then for some strange reason, I kind of woke up one day and just did a total about-face and did things and went down a road that to this day, when I think bout it now, 13 years after the fact, I’m like ‘Wow, that’s pretty amazing.’
So it was that long ago. What make you even draw it for lyrics?
I think just the vibe of some of the songs, just a certain mood. It kind of took me back to that part of my life. Also, some of it came form having conversations with Slash about that period in his life and also with Todd. I remember one day, Todd and I were talking on our way to the studio about when we were younger and things we used to do. Actually, with one song, ‘Hard & Fast,’ some of that came from [the fact that] I’d just been reading Glenn Hughes‘ autobiography [From Deep Purple to Back Country Communion] and he talks about that a lot, the things he went through in his years of substance abuse. So I was kind of drawing from all these different things and my own experiences.
Watch Slash Ft. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators’ “You’re a Lie” Video
What is the first single, “You’re A Lie,” about?
A lot of people think it’s a song strictly about being betrayed and it certainly can be taken that way, but for me, in my head, it was there’s that little voice sometimes that lives inside all of us that makes us doubt ourselves, that makes us question our strengths and our abilities, and that song is an anthem to call that out and take any sort of power away from that.
And the title track?
“Apocalyptic Love,” that is pretty from the hip in the sense that one day Slash and I were talking – I think it was Slash and I – about the end of the world and the Mayan calendar and all that crazy stuff. Everybody’s got that apocalypse fever right now. I remember thinking, ‘Well what if that was true? What if December 21 came about and it was the last day on earth, what would you do? What would do with your last few moments remaining on earth? That’s what that’s about.
Will you be slowly incorporating more songs from the album into the live set?
I hope so. We’re all really excited to play them. They’re like little babies for us. The album comes out May 22, so obviously you don’t want to play a ton of new material that people haven’t heard and aren’t familiar with the songs. It’s a lot to ask an audience. When they have more time with the record, hopefully we’ll start incorporating more songs in the set.
What is the status of Alter Bridge for the next album?
The next album, there’s talk of reconvening next year and starting work on it, so I’m gonna be out with Slash and the Conspirators this year and I know they’ve got a string of Creed dates they’re doing [Alter Bridge features three members of Creed].
And you have a solo album in the can?
Yeah I’ve had that sitting there since last 2009.
What are you waiting for?
The apocalypse [laughs].
We won’t need it then.
Exactly [laughs]. Actually, I’m just waiting for a window of time to release it and do a little bit of touring. Just go out with an acoustic guitar.
So is it more singer-songwriter type of album?
Yeah. It’s more singer-songwriter based.
Was thinking how well-rounded and accomplished Slash’s whole band is. Very easily, Todd could front the band. He’s a great singer too and songwriter. It’s great when amazing musicians don’t have that kind of ego or people used to the spotlight can happily just play an instrument. What is the dynamic like with the entire band?
That is pretty amazing. Todd is our secret weapon and we’re all pretty aware of it. He’s a crazy talent. He’s a great songwriter and a great singer and a great bass player and great guitar player. He can do it all. And Brent’s the same way. Not only can he play drums, but he can also sit down and play piano beautifully. He’s definitely a very well-rounded musician and Slash obviously is brilliant. So the thing that’s interesting about the dynamic with the four of us when we made the record was there was no drama because everybody keeps their ego out of it. In fact, I don’t even sense that anybody has got a huge ego, which is great. It just makes for a real comfortable environment. And now Frank [Sidoris] is touring with us as well and, same thing, he’s just really low key, low maintenance and chill. It’s just really healthy is the best way to articulate it.
With two transplanted Canadians in the band, Todd and Brent, are they getting you hooked on anything weird from Canada like ketchup or pickle chips?
Well, they definitely love Tim Horton’s [a ubiquitous coffee and donut chain] and, I have to say, I totally agree because when I toured with Big Wreck and Watchmen back in 1999, I fell in love with Tim Horton’s. I wish they had more Tim Horton’s here in the States. I hear they are starting to make their way which is great.
Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators’ Apocalyptic Love album is out now.