Rock Is Dead – Long Live Pop

Slash discusses the state of rock, and why he teamed up with Fergie on his new album

I hate talking about the state of rock music, because there’s nothing positive to say about it. The whole vibe of new, exciting hard rock bands seems non-existent right now. I always say that the heavy metal spirit is alive and well and holding its own, but that broader rock’n’roll thing of bands like AC/DC or Guns N’Roses seems pretty slim. The rock’n’roll spirit is extremely diminished.

There’s no shortage of bands out there trying to make it, but they’re hard pressed to get a foot in the door. There’s an audience for it, but the industry is so clean cut and people are so apprehensive about taking any kind of risk. There are no A&R people on the street looking for bands. There’s no rock’n’roll movement on the street.

Meanwhile, pop music is bigger than it’s ever been. A lot of people in my fanbase and my contemporaries like to look at pop music as the enemy. I used to mock it back in the ’80s. But as a musician who’s played with a lot of pop artists over the years I can appreciate anyone who’s truly gifted in one genre.

People may have been surprised when I worked with Fergie on my new record. I first heard her three years ago at a fundraiser in LA, where I was one of many guests with the Black Eyed Peas. I was going to play during a rock medley, and in walks this little blonde girl from Orange County, and she sang ‘Black Dog’ better than any guy I’d ever heard.

I befriended her and discovered she’d gone through some of the same trials as me, of drugs and sex and jail. I realised, ‘This chick’s hardcore’. It turns out she originally was a rock singer and always wanted to be, but because of the way the industry is she couldn’t make it as a rock singer.

I enjoy infusing rock’n’roll into stuff that wouldn’t normally have it. That said, I don’t think there’s room for me with Lady Gaga. There’s nothing I could do on guitar that could change the trajectory of Lady Gaga.

This article originally appeared in the 22 May issue of NME. Talking Heads appears in the mag every week