Slash Returns to His Blues Roots on ‘Orgy of the Damned’

Shortly after leaving Guns N’ Roses in 1996, Slash formed a blues-rock collective of musicians. Christened Blues Ball, the band toured for two years and commanded a catalog of classic covers like Willie Dixon’s “Bring It on Home,” Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride,” James Gang’s “Funk #49,” Bill Withers’ “Use Me,” and more favorites by Jimi Hendrix, AC/DC, Fleetwood Mac, and Bob Dylan. But they never recorded an album.

More than 25 years since splitting, Slash reunited with former Blues Ball bandmates Johnny Griparic (bass) and Teddy Andreadis (keys), and along with singer, songwriter, and guitarist Tash Neal and drummer Michael Jerome, has recorded his second solo album, a return to his blues roots called Orgy of the Damned.

Videos by American Songwriter

“I think people have been expecting me to do it for a really long time because I’m such a big blues fan, and I do jam with a lot of different people just off the cuff,” says Slash. “I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to get around to it.”

Growing up in London, one of Slash’s earliest musical memories was listening to his grandmother’s B.B. King records. He soon consumed a steady diet of folk and early British Invasion rock, as well. “It’s a huge outlet for me because I’m a hard rock guitar player,” says Slash. “Everybody knows me as that, but all that stuff is very rooted in blues, and I’ve always been a blues fan. But this is the first time I’ve actually been able to record something like this and put my own take on a lot of these old songs.”


The title Orgy of the Damned conveys the essence of the album, which is informed by both its mixed assemblage of guest vocalists and the ethos behind earlier blues pioneers.“Blues music has always been sort of scoffed at and treated like it was taboo and dangerous,” says Slash. “It was not appropriate for the kids and was called the ‘devil’s music.’ I thought getting this cast of different artists to do all these blues songs would be like an orgy of the damned.”

The album was produced by Mike Clink, who famously produced Appetite for Destruction, the freshman Guns N’ Roses effort often called the greatest debut rock album of all time. Clink also co-produced GN’R’sUse Your Illusion I and II, The Spaghetti Incident?, and the first Slash’s Snakepit record, It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.

Orgy of the Damnedwas hashed out at EastWest Studios and Slash’s own Snakepit Studio in Los Angeles. It was recorded live, leaving plenty of room for improv.

Appropriately, the record opens with Steppenwolf’s “The Pusher,” a mainstay on Blues Ball’s early setlists. It features The Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson on vocals. Gary Clark Jr. helms Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads,” and then ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons commands another early Blues Ball go-to, Willie Dixon’s “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man.”

Then consummate country crooner Chris Stapleton takes the lead on Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac with “Oh Well,” from that version of the band’s 1969 album, Then Play On. “That’s another song I always wanted to cover, and I never found the appropriate opportunity to do it,” shares Slash. “Having Chris [Stapleton] sing it was something that I would never have imagined I would have been able to pull off.”

Los Angeles rockers Dorothy tackle the ‘40s blues standard “Key to the Highway,” followed by one of the most classic, classic rock singers ever, Paul Rodgers (Free, Bad Company), handling one of the most classic blues numbers ever. “[Rodgers] is one of the premier soulful rock-blues singers that ever existed,” says Slash. “To have him come in and do [Albert King’s] ‘Born Under a Bad Sign’ was a huge honor for me.”

Slash hand-picked most of the songs that made the Orgy track listing. One outlier, though, “Awful Dream,” is a deeper cut from bluesman Lightnin’ Hopkins’ 1960 album, Mojo Hand. And it was suggested by none other than Iggy Pop. 

“I found out through Johnny [Griparic] that [Pop] had always wanted to do a blues thing,” says Slash, who’d appeared on the punk godfather’s 1990 album, Brick by Brick. The pair also co-wrote “We’re All Gonna Die” for Slash’s 2010 self-titled solo debut.

“I’d never heard this song before, so I looked it up, and ‘Awful Dream,’ if you listen to the original, it’s an outtake,” says Slash, who loosely learned the song and then jammed out through several takes while he and Pop sat opposite one another on stools. “You can tell that he [Hopkins] got a couple of guys and they just threw that together one day. No one is playing the same thing at the same time, and it’s great, so when we approached it I said ‘I’m not going to try and emulate that.’”

Otherwise, most of the tracks on Orgy of the Damned remain faithful to their source material. “They’re all sort of loosely based off the originals, but we hold the integrity of what the originals are about,” says Slash.

Marking her second collaboration with Slash, Demi Lovato delivers a smoldering rendition of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” that draws from her strained relationship with her own father. (Slash added guitar to a re-recording of Lovato’s 2017 hit “Sorry Not Sorry.” Their “similar shared experiences,” says Slash, led to his selection of the Temptations’ 1972 hit for the pop rocker.

“This particular song I used to cover goes way back,” says Slash. “I wanted to do something a little bit different with it, and the idea of having this almost angelic girl singing about wanting to know about her estranged father would sound really poignant, so Demi came to mind. And there’s something in her past that related to the song, so she was really eager to do it.

“That’s the thing about all these different singers,” he adds. “When I approached them about doing a particular song, it was this lightning in a bottle, because every single artist  related to it and had a history with it, and that made it that much more authentic for them in their delivery.”



When deciding who could do justice to Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor,” Slash immediately thought of AC/DC’s Brian Johnson. “I never entertained the idea of anybody else. And when I called him about it, it turned out that this was something that he was really into, and was a big influence on him,” he says of the brooding Wolf cover, which also features Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler on harmonica. “We went in the studio together, and he [Johnson] didn’t go into the sort of AC/DC falsetto thing,” says Slash. “He went straight for that lower register vocal, and it sounded so soulful.”

“Killing Floor” was another older blues standard Slash played himself for decades, yet never recorded. “Being able to pull that song together—and there’s actually parts of [Howlin’ Wolf’s] ‘Rocking Daddy’ in it as well, so there’s actually two songs combined—for me as a guitar player to finally be able to get together with a band and jam it is huge. I think I’ve been playing that riff by myself for 40 years. I never played it with anybody before.”

The aforementioned singer/songwriter/instrumentalist Tash Neal is given the lead on Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions classic “Living for the City.” “He’s such a major part of this,” says Slash of the New York City-based musician, who previously joined him on tour with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators in 2022 and will continue on as lead vocalist on Slash’s 2024 S.E.R.P.E.N.T. tour, featuring special guests Larkin Poe, Keb’ ‘Mo, Warren Haynes Band, and others. “I met [Neal] in Los Angeles at a blues festival a couple of years ago and we really hit it off,” says Slash. “Then we got up and played together. Fast forward to 2022, and I asked him if he wanted to do some shows with us.”

T-Bone Walker’s “Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just as Bad),” from 1947, was retitled “Stormy Monday” for Orgy’s purposes. And sticking to the improvisational aesthetic, Beth Hart tracked her vocals straight from rehearsals. “She came in, and the band was just warming up in the studio, and she sang the shit out of it,” says Slash. “And that was the only take she did, we kept it like it is. It’s very loose, and it has a very first-take kind of vibe.”

Traditionally played as a slow jam in a major key, Hart suggested shifting to a minor key for this iteration of “Stormy Monday.” “It changes the feel and the flavor of the song,” says Slash. “Then, in the end of the song, we actually take it back to major, so it’s an interesting sort of play.”

Slash also points out how there was never much intention of getting too involved with any of the tracks on the record. To that end, the album was recorded over just two weeks, which helped channel the essence of some of the older blues originals. “It’s really a great excuse to be able to get away with playing the song and keeping it intact the way that you recorded it originally without doctoring stuff up and doing a bunch of overdubs and overproducing it,” says Slash. “It’s very much in the spirit of how they would originally have been recorded. Some of those songs were recorded at a time when multitrack really wasn’t a thing, and they’re very raw, so I didn’t want to go too far past that.”

Orgy draws to a close with a harder-rocking instrumental. “Metal Chestnut” was suggested by Clink right before the band headed to EastWest to record. “It hadn’t even occurred to me, but it seemed like a good idea, so I went home and threw something together,” says Slash. “I don’t even know what the origins of it was, but I had the basic chord changes in my head and made it over two days.”

Spontaneously constructed, the outro on the song is “not totally a blues thing,” says Slash, “but it is in the vein.” Wary of some blues “purists,” Slash insists Orgy of the Damned is not meant to be a blues album, per se. “I keep seeing that word ‘blues’ thrown around,” says Slash, “but this isn’t supposed to be a traditional blues record. I’m not a traditional blues artist. I’m not trying to be any of those guys, but it is blues as it is to me, and it touches on a lot of different feels.”

He adds, “I’m trying to escape [getting] pigeonholed into being the guy that’s trying to make a blues record. It’s my own thing that I’ve always wanted to do and it’s what my passion always has been ever since I first started. It’s the first record that touches on those things that really had a big influence on me growing up, and still do to this day.

“It’s a cool, fun record. And it’s not intended to be more than that.”

Photos by Gene Kirkland

Leave a Reply

The Meaning Behind “Junior’s Farm” by Paul McCartney and Wings and How a Tennessee Getaway Inspired It

Maya Hawke Sets a Few Things Straight on ‘Chaos Angel’—“I Feel Like I’m Happier Than I’ve Ever Been”