Slash's Guitar Gear: Appetite For Destruction

by Jim Button
Slash's Gear Appetite For Destruction | Boost Guitar Pedals

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

Read: How Musicians Can Make Money In 2021

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.

For an all-in-one solution, try adding the Zander Circuitry Surplus Elemental Overdriver to your setup. It's a boost/overdrive pedal that has a flexible EQ section that can really tighten up your sound. An added bonus is that it can push your tubes into distortion but also has plenty of gain on tap, and you can also select from eight different clipping options to really help dial in Slash's guitar tone.

ZANDER CIRCUITRY Surplus Elemental Overdriver Front Transparent | Boost Guitar Pedals
ZANDER CIRCUITRY Surplus Elemental Overdriver Front Transparent | Boost Guitar Pedals
ZANDER CIRCUITRY Surplus Elemental Overdriver Top Transparent | Boost Guitar Pedals

ZANDER CIRCUITRY Surplus Elemental Overdriver

£149.00

Zander Circuitry's Surplus Elemental Overdriver is a two-stage transistor boost/ overdrive pedal with the capability to achieve beautiful clean boost tones as well as complex distortion and even some fuzz.

The pedal features two foot-switchable channels with independent gain controls, perfect for on-the-fly switching. The switches support both momentary and latching switching, meaning that you can temporarily engage a channel by holding your foot down on either one of the switches.

Use the Response control to tweak the input and output capacitor value, rolling off the gain and low-end frequencies to achieve super-complex tones. It offers everything from a thinner, brighter character through to a grainy, spitty character. This pedal is incredibly reactive to your guitar's volume pot and playing dynamics, making it great for those of you who prize 'feel' above all else.

What's new?

This latest version of the Zander Circuitry Surplus Elemental Overdriver features a more compact footprint, beautiful knurled steel controls, and an upgrade from six to eight options on the signature clipping selector:

  • Germanium: A smooth, sweet sounding form of clipping, very ‘amp-like’ in its response.
  • Silicon: Louder, brighter and more aggressive sounding.
  • LED: Even louder, less saturated but very punchy.
  • Asymmetrical germanium: A more aggressive germanium sound.
  • Asymmetrical silicon: Beefing up the aggression of the silicon sound.
  • Asymmetrical LED: A more aggressive version of the LED sound.
  • MOSFET: Similar to the silicon setting but a bit sweeter, crunchier and a touch more saturated.
  • No  diodes: Loads of output but not much gain.

The pedal features two foot-switchable channels with independent gain controls, perfect for on-the-fly switching. The switches support both momentary and latching switching, meaning that you can temporarily engage a channel by holding your foot down on either one of the switches. You can also now engage the second footswitch from bypass, without having to activate the pedal first.

Features:

  • Updated version of Surplus Elemental Overdriver for 2021
  • Top-mounted jacks
  • Level 1, Level 2, Gain 1, Gain 2, Tone, Response, Channel 2 & Diode Selector Controls
  • Power: 9V power adaptor, centre-negative (not included).
  • Current draw: 100mA

Alternatively the Tate FX Hot Coals can provide enough cut to stand out in a heavy mix (think the dual guitars, slamming bass, loud drums and screaming vocals of G'n'R!). It's based on the Dallas Rangemaster, and although Slash isn't known to have used this circuit, many other great guitarists have. In this scenario, it will push your amp's tubes in overdrive and emphasise the rich, complex mids of the classic "Les Paul into Marshall" sound, getting you closer to Slash's guitar sound on Appetite For Destruction.

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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