World On Fire is the new album from Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, and it comes on full throttle and in-your-face, a hunk of burning rock ‘n’ roll that takes no prisoners. Intensifying the band’s sound and vision, it marks the follow-up to their successful and acclaimed 2012 debut, Apocalyptic Love, also released on Slash’s own indie Dik Hayd International label distributed through Caroline.
“We’ve been playing together for awhile and I think it’s gotten to the point where everybody’s comfortable in our own skins,” says Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist Slash, who has amassed album sales of over 100 million copies, with seven GRAMMY nominations, a GRAMMY award and countless accolades. “It turned out to be a very easy process. We definitely had chemistry from the very first time we entered a room together. It was instantaneous magic.”
World On Fire represents that chemistry, as Slash, vocalist Myles Kennedy, bassist Todd Kerns and drummer Brent Fitz blaze through 17 songs that run the gamut of topics, some derived from tour bus conversations between the singer and guitarist. These range from the pointed sexual politics of “Battleground,” “Dirty Girl” and “Stone Blind,” the anti-war sentiments of “Dissident” and the coming-of-age saga “Bent to Fly,” to such charged issues as elephant poaching (“Beneath the Savage Sun”), child abuse in the Catholic Church (“The Unholy”), addiction (“Wicked Stone”) and the perils faced by females of a certain age in show business (“Withered Delilah”). There’s also a song inspired by Mad Men’s Don Draper (“Shadow Life”) and a rockin’ instrumental (“Safari Inn”).
“There are lots of different stories and themes on this album,” says Kennedy, the vocalist for Alter Bridge who first played on Slash’s self-titled 2010 debut solo release, and became an instant fit. “When Slash sends me a chord progression or a riff, it’s like hearing music to a film. Ultimately, I am writing the script for the composition with lyrics and melodies inspired by what he sends me musically. I do my best to keep the story congruent with the mood of the track.”
Unlike Apocalyptic Love, which was essentially recorded live in the studio, World On Fire began with jamming by Slash, Kerns and Fitz, who sent the results to Kennedy. Produced by Mike “Elvis” Baskette (Alter Bridge, Falling in Reverse, Incubus, Iggy Pop, Chevelle) in his Orlando-based Studio Barbarossa and at L.A.’s NRG Studios, World On Fire finds Slash playing all the guitars this time around.
Make no mistake about it, though. This is no solo project, but a rock ‘n’ roll band, with all four members contributing their strengths to the whole.
“I was influenced by the group ethic as a kid coming up,” admits Slash. “I would buy live records because that was the energy I craved. As soon as I picked up a guitar in junior high school, I started a band. That’s the vibe I’m looking for, the interaction between musicians. Having a singer whom I know where he’s at, and writing with him in mind, my songwriting skills have gotten a lot better.”
Those arrangements range from the acoustic strumming and “la la la” chorus of “Battleground” and the epic build of “Bent to Fly” to the distinctive SLASH guitar riff which opens “Iris of the Storm,” the wide-screen scope of “The Unholy,” with its sounds of children in the playground, and the jungle boogie instrumental of “Safari Inn.”
“I’ve learned a great deal through the whole process,” says Kennedy, who splits his time between The Conspirators and Alter Bridge. ““Everybody’s on the same page and we’re all very proud of what we’ve done as a band on this record. There’s a great chemistry between the 4 of us that continues to evolve with each recording.”
World On Fire comes on the heels of the success of Apocalyptic Love, which debuted at #4 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart and produced Slash’s first-ever No. 1 U.S. Rock radio solo hits in “You’re a Lie” and “Standing in the Sun.” With the release of Nothing Left to Fear last year–Slash’s initial foray into horror pictures, co-produced by his Slasher Films–he began to broaden his horizons, a development which could be heard on World On Fire, particularly on the very cinematic set-piece, “The Unholy.”
“That comes from an entirely different side of my brain,” Slash admits. “I never usually write like that for a band, but I thought it would be pretty cool.”
Kennedy, who comes from a Christian Scientist and Methodist background, based the song on what he was hearing from Catholic friends. “It’s not as silent as it once was,” he says of the institutionalized child abuse he tackles in the lyrics. “It’s really sad and heartbreaking because these are people you look up to, clergymen, who betray that trust.”
The lyrics of “Shadow Life” come from Kennedy’s fascination with the TV show “Mad Men” and the duplicity of its main character Don Draper. “That character fascinates me because the dark secrets he keeps, as well as the double life he leads, ultimately make his existence more complex and difficult.”
“The Dissident” is about a soldier who comes to the realization that he no longer believes in what he is fighting for, while “Withered Delilah” gets inside how the entertainment industry can chew up and spit out women when they no longer have a use for them.
“This is basically a happy record with some dark subject matter,” acknowledges Slash. “It ends up in a positive place, but it also leaves you with the idea not to get too comfortable.”
For Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, there is no time for that, as the band will intersperse their own headlining dates by appearing with Aerosmith on the celebrated “Let Rock Rule” tour in North America this summer, a jaunt they previewed with a surprise performance at the Whisky a Go Go earlier this spring.
“I’m really excited about it,” says Slash. “There are not really too many bands I can feel comfortable partnering up with. When I first picked up the guitar, they were a huge influence my favorite band at the time, bar none. The Rocks album was a catalyst for me to pursue what it is I do now. Guns N’ Roses toured with them in the ‘80s. They always represented a certain kind of attitude, brashness and realism in rock ‘n’ roll I still to this day subscribe to. We fit together really well.”