Slash's Guitar Gear: Appetite For Destruction

by Jim Button
Slash

Slash's Appetite For Destruction tone has gained almost mythical status these day. Guns 'n' Roses' 1987 debut, Appetite For Destruction, was not just the result of bagfuls of talent from all members involved, however - it also required plenty of good fortune along the way.

Debate has raged over exactly what gear was used during the Appetite sessions - mainly because Slash himself has claimed that he can't remember (don't do drugs, kids!). It is now widely accepted, however, that Slash's Appetite For Destruction tone was achieved with a ’59 Les Paul Standard replica and a rented Marshall amplifier... a very special amplifier as it turns out!

Slash's guitar

Slash's guitar, a replica based on the highly sought after 1959 Les Paul, is thought to have been built by luthier Kris Derrig and fitted with Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro humbuckers. Slash chose this guitar for its sound, and he ended up using it in later recording sessions too.

What amp did Slash use on Appetite For Destruction?

The amp Slash used on Appetite For Destruction was (depending on whose story you believe) either a modified 100W Marshall Super Tremolo ("1959T") or Super Lead ("1959"), rented out by Studio Instrument Rentals in Los Angeles for the Appetite sessions.

The Super Tremolo in question, referred to by the company as "Stock #39", was a pre-master volume model that had been modded by SIR tech Tim Caswell, who converted the unused valve-driven tremolo circuit into an additional pre-amp gain stage, and added a master volume control.

The Caswell-modded Stock #39 was one of SIR's most popular amps. In the summer of 1986 it had been rented by George Lynch for Dokken's "Under Lock and Key" tour. Notoriously picky about gear and a known user of modded-Marshalls prior to this point, Lynch was so impressed with the amp at rehearsals that he attempted to purchase the amp from SIR - who refused. Instead, he ended up renting it for the first leg of their tour.

Previously, in the spring of 1986, Slash had also selected Stock #39 as his favourite from several amps brought to him to try out by SIR employee, Glenn Buckley. That autumn, just as Guns 'N' Roses were due to enter the studio, Geffen Records sent out a request to SIR for this amp. Buckley recalls, however, that once it had been returned by Lynch, the amp had been rented out to another customer. So Buckley sent a different modified Marshall to Slash instead without telling him. This is possibly the cause of much of the confusion over the years, as Slash himself was none-the-wiser.

This replacement amp, a Marshall Super Lead - "Stock #36" - was an attempt by SIR to capitalise on the success of Stock #39. Built by Caswell's replacement, Frank Levi, the amp lacked the fourth preamp valve of the Super Tremolo circuit, so a space was drilled for a fourth one as part of the modification.

So it is very likely that Slash's Appetite For Destruction amp was Stock #36, a 100W Marshall non-master volume Super Lead. The fact is that Slash loved its sound so much he attempted to keep hold of it after the sessions by claiming it had been stolen. It was recognised by SIR techs at rehearsals in 1987, however, and they took it back: and so ended Slash's relationship with his Appetite tone.

Slash's Guitar Gear: Marshall 100W amplifier

Modifed Marshall 100W 1959T Super Lead. Image courtesy of slashparadise.com

Slash's guitar pedals

Not technically a pedal, but Slash used a rackmounted Roland SRV-2000 Digital Reverb during the Appetite For Destruction sessions, set to the unit's "secret" delay mode for parts such as the intro to "Welcome To The Jungle", and using the more conventional reverb setting for many other parts. Slash also used an MXR Analog Chorus and a Dunlop Crybaby Wah for several parts on the album.

Slash's Guitar Gear: Appetite For Destruction (1987)

  • Replica 1959 Les Paul
  • Roland SRV-2000 Digital Reverb
  • MXR Analog Chorus
  • Dunlop Crybaby Wah
  • 100W Marshall Super Tremolo / Super Lead

Get Slash's guitar sound

Your best bet to replicate Slash's Appetite For Destruction tone is to use a Gibson or Epiphone Les Paul with lower output pickups (Alnico II would be best) into a Marshall Super Lead. You could also use a Marshall Silver Jubilee or even a JCM800 to get you in the ballpark - Slash himself has toured with Silver Jubilees for quite a number of years now.

In terms of pedals for the Appetite For Destruction sound, less is more! Slash's sound isn't as gain-heavy as many people think, although the rich mid-range certainly gives it that impression.

If you need to get control of your sound, try adding the Basic Audio Futureman to your setup. It's a mid-gain overdrive that has a flexible EQ section that can really tighten up your sound. The added bonus is that as a dynamic overdrive it can push your tubes, and gets surprisingly gainy at higher settings.

BASIC AUDIO Futureman Front - Boost Guitar Pedals
BASIC AUDIO Futureman Front - Boost Guitar Pedals
BASIC AUDIO Futureman Left - Boost Guitar Pedals
BASIC AUDIO Futureman Right - Boost Guitar Pedals
BASIC AUDIO Futureman Front Context  - Boost Guitar Pedals

BASIC AUDIO Futureman

£210.00

The Basic Audio Futureman is based on the Colorsound Overdriver. A medium gain dynamic overdrive, this is a fantastic pedal for adding some grunt or sparkle to your sound and veers nicely into fuzz territory too.

The Futureman's flexible EQ section allows you to tweak High and Low settings independently. Experiment with sounds ranging from thick and muscular with scooped mids to treble-boosted and cutting. 

The Futureman also stacks with other pedals really well: put it after another overdrive/fuzz and use its powerful EQ to contour the other pedal, helping you to cut through a busy mix.

Features:

  • Overdrive/fuzz pedal based on the Colorsound Overdriver
  • Volume, Gain, High & Low controls
  • Handwired in Fayetteville, West Virginia, USA
  • 9V power supply, centre-negative or 9V battery (neither are included)

 

You could alternatively use a Tate FX Hot Coals to help emphasise the rich, complex mids of the classic "Les Paul into Marshall" sound, and provide enough cut to stand out in a heavy mix.

Tate FX Hot Coals Germanium Rangemaster Transparent Front | Boost Guitar Pedals
Tate FX Hot Coals Germanium Rangemaster Transparent Front | Boost Guitar Pedals
Tate FX Hot Coals Germanium Rangemaster right - Boost Guitar Pedals
Tate FX Hot Coals Germanium Rangemaster left - Boost Guitar Pedals
Tate FX Hot Coals Germanium Rangemaster front context | Boost Guitar Pedals

TATE FX Hot Coals Germanium Rangemaster

£149.00

The Tate FX Hot Coals is a Rangemaster-style germanium boost, made with NOS UK military-spec germanium transistors and NOS USSR germanium diodes for temperature stabilisation.

Based on the classic Dallas Rangemaster, the Hot Coals takes the best parts and expands on it - notably including a toggle to switch between the classic treble-boost and a fuller-range setting for those occasions when you don't need all that treble!

Full of muscular sounds, this is a brilliant Rangemaster-style pedal with incredibly organic germanium tones.

Features:

  • Classic Rangemaster-style germanium boost
  • Switch between original treble-boost circuit and modern-style full range character
  • Handmade in the UK
  • Power: 9v power adaptor, centre-negative (not included)

Of course, the mixing process will have sculpted and polished Slash's guitar tone, adding in effects such as reverb and compression as well as all those nuances that analogue outboard studio equipment can add. So if you really want to nail it, postprocessing using outboard equipment or high quality plugins will get you that final 5%.

Slash's modern-day setup

These days, Slash tours with a host of Marshall Silver Jubilee heads, some of which are set up specifically for a clean tone. Slash also uses plenty of rackmount equipment, including an MXR 10-band EQ, Boss NS-2 Noise Supressor, Custom Audio Electronics Boost/Line Driver and Boss DD-3T Delay (straight into front of amp for the intro of Welcome To The Jungle).

He obviously has more material to play at shows these days, and this setup is capable of covering everything from Appetite through to his solo work.

Originally published 17th April 2020. Updated 16th November 2020

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