The Gibson Classic Interview: Slash Talks Gold Tops
Over the last year, Gibson has honored Slash’s incomparable legacy with a series of new signature guitars, including a Custom Inspired By Slash Les Paul Standard, the USA Slash Les Paul Standard, and the Epiphone Slash Les Paul Standard Plustop.
Gibson continues to honor this modern-day legend with the introduction of the new Slash Les Paul Goldtops from Gibson USA and Epiphone. Both new models were designed and built in close collaboration with Slash, and modeled after a prized 1991 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop that was stolen in 1999 and never recovered; it was the same guitar Slash used on some of the most epic Guns N’ Roses tunes.
“Gibson felt that I had something to do with bringing the Les Paul back into the mainstream,” said Slash. “Les Pauls have been the premier guitar for me for as long as I can remember. I’ve gone through the whole trial- and-error experimentation period in my younger days, trying to figure out which guitars to use. But I was always drawn to a Les Paul.”
You’re usually seen playing Tobacco Burst Les Pauls, but the Goldtops have also played important roles in both your studio and live setups. Why?
It all started with a 1991 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop. As soon as I played it I realized how well rounded the Goldtops really are. They’re just great rock and roll guitars, and they’re even better for all the bluesy stuff. They’re very flexible and solid.
So I used that ’91 Les Paul Goldtop for all these really key songs in our set, especially those that had those really long sustaining note solos … songs like “November Rain,” “Estranged,” “Sweet Child of Mine,” “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” and “So Fine.”
What I would do for all these songs is turn the tone knob down completely, and what I’d get are these notes that would sustain for days, giving me this really buttery singing sound that worked really well. And I only got that on that Goldtop guitar.
What happened to that ’91 Goldtop?
Someone broke into the studio in my house in 1999, and all of my guitars that were in my studio at that time were stolen. I eventually got them all back, but the only one I didn’t get back was that one particular Goldtop that I loved so much.
You approached Gibson about recreating it?
I really wanted a guitar from Gibson that would revisit that sound for me, so Gibson decided to make one for me and make it commercially available. It’s exactly the way I like my guitars set up, with the thin neck, the Seymour Duncan Alnico II pickups, the old classic hardware, everything.
Did you make any changes to this model?
We upped the ante a little bit on the tonality. Not only does it have that great sound, but Gibson also put in a custom pot which allows you to turn the tone all the way down while maintaining peak volume and presence. Sometimes when you turn the tone all the way down you lose a certain amount of output, and that doesn’t happen with this guitar. I’ve got two of them, and I’ve used them in several different live and studio situations and it just sounds amazing.
What is it about a Goldtop that gives you the buttery tone you mentioned?
They do the job perfectly. They’re very well rounded, with all the great high end that you’d expect in the treble position and all the great low end in the rhythm position. They’re very clean, with lots of presence and no muddiness at all. They really are identical to what I had before.
I’m not quite sure what it is about a Gibson Les Paul Goldtop that gets that particular sound, but it’s definitely like each string has its own certain amount of clarity, so when you play a chord it has just the right amount of crunch. They work great in live situations and they sound amazing in the studio, so I’m really excited because I’ve been without that guitar for about 10 years.
Why the Seymour Duncan pickups?
I experimented with pretty much every different kind of pickups out there, from DiMarzios to Bill Lawrence. I stumbled across this particular Seymour Duncan Alnico II model when I was doing the Appetite for Destruction record. They have a nice crystal clear sound, but they also have just enough output so I can play the really heavy stuff without being overly saturated. They’re a very medium output pickup and they sound really good and work great for what I do.
Do you have any other Gibson Goldtops in your collection?
I have some vintage Goldtops in addition to the newer ones. I have a ’54 and a couple of ’56s, but I use them only in the studio. I don’t take those old guitars out on the road because I’m pretty hard on my guitars when I’m on tour, so I usually only work with new guitars when I’m out on the road.
How is your Epiphone Goldtop different from the Gibson Goldtop?
The Epiphone is basically designed the same way. I think the coolest thing about the Epiphone model is its Goldtop finish. It has a very’70s-looking Goldtop, with its bright, sparkle gold. Of course, the neck is the same one that I like, and the pickups are my usual Seymour Duncan Alnico IIs. It’s just a great guitar, and it’s built right. I’ve played them quite a bit, and it really amazes me what a value they are because of what they cost. It’s actually the guitar that I’d recommend to any players just starting out because they’re good enough to last you for every level of your career. At the same time, they’re affordable enough to buy when you’re just starting out. They’re a really great bargain.
How did you come to pick the Gibson Les Paul as “your” guitar?
It’s just always been the natural thing for me. The Les Paul is just a very versatile guitar; you can do a ton of different things with it, and it does them all so wonderfully well. The weight of the guitar, the way the neck is, the humbuckers, all that stuff just appeals to me as a guitar player. It really is the best all-around guitar for me.
A great link above if you want to check out Slash’s guitars. It’s called “Slash Paradise.”