Slash’s S.E.R.P.E.N.T. Fest: Guitarist Tells How He Brought Together Top Blues Men (And Women) For Summer Roadshow


No sooner had rock guitar virtuoso Slash nearly stolen actor Ryan Gosling’s thunder in a show-stopping Academy Awards rendition of “I’m Just Ken,” from the movie “Barbie,” the erstwhile Guns N’ Roses star announced a new solo album, Orgy of the Damned, and the first of what he hopes will be an annual touring S.E.R.P.E.N.T. Festival. It’s an example of just how busy Slash is – and how much he loves to play.

S.E.R.P.E.N.T. – an acronym for Solidarity, Engagement, Restore, Peace, Equality N’ Tolerance – is a blues-focused festival that supports a number of charities favored by Slash, and features artists on select dates including Warren Haynes Band, Keb’ Mo’, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Robert Randolph, Samantha Fish, Eric Gales, ZZ Ward, Jackie Venson, and Larkin Poe.

“I’ve always been a hard rock guy,” Slash says of the genesis of his latest album and tour projects. “And I was always turned on to the energy and all of that, and it’s what I always aspired to do. But my playing style was very much influenced by straight up blues guitar. It’s always been a thing for me to just play blues, and I’d find myself jamming with a lot of blues players over the years.”

He gathered several of them together to play on Orgy of the Damned, a collection of 12 dynamic but stripped-down songs that revitalizes yet pays homage to classic blues songs like Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” and Willie Dixon’s “Hoochie Coochie Man” to more recent vintage numbers like Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well” and Stevie Wonder’s “Living For The City.” Each track features special guests, including Gary Clark Jr., Chris Stapleton, Billy F. Gibbons, Iggy Pop, Paul Rodgers, Brian Johnson, Beth Hart and even Demi Lovato (on The Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone”).

The album’s May 17 release serves as a prelude to the “S.E.R.P.E.N.T.” tour that kicks off July 5 at KettleHouse Amphitheater in Bonner, Montana, the first of 26 stops across North America that run through Aug. 17 at Texas Trust CU Theatre in Grand Prairie, Texas. In between, Slash and a bevy of blues men and women will take stages at cities including Los Angeles, Denver, Cincinnati, Toronto, Boston, New York City and Atlanta.

In addition to the guest artists, Slash will play each night with his own blues band featuring bassist Johnny Griparic, keyboardist Teddy “Zig Zag” Andreadis, drummer Michael Jerome and singer/guitarist Tash Neal.


“The initial thought behind this was more along the lines of saying, ‘OK, do we park this in one place and do a multi-day, or do we route a tour?,’” says manager and partner Jeff Varner of Revelation Management Group. “There was enough excitement from the promoter level, and from the market level, that we said, ‘Look, let’s do a tour.’ It also speaks to the fact that [Slash] loves to play. He loves to play a lot. ‘Do you want to do three days, Slash, or do you want to do a month?’ Well, that’s a no-brainer.”

Agents Ben Schiffer and John Marx of WME couldn’t be happier about Slash’s new projects. “The Orgy of the Damned album and the S.E.R.P.E.N.T. tour are yet another example of the impact Slash continues to have on both music and culture. We couldn’t be more thrilled for the road ahead,” they jointly said.

A blues album and tour is not as much a departure for Slash as it may seem to the casual fan — the project has actually been a couple of decades in the making. But those who’ve followed his career know his lifelong love affair with the guitar and hard rock music has its roots in the blues from which it all springs.

“I know people just know me as the guy from Guns N’ Roses but, even in that context, it’s all very blues-based,” Slash explains. “In the late ’90s, I had a blues jam band with a couple of people and we used to do blues covers. We actually toured around and it was just a drunken, fun thing. But I always thought I really would love to record with these guys at some point and do a record of this stuff, and it just never happened.

“I’ve been so busy with so many things for so many years and then, for some reason, spontaneously in between legs on the last Guns N’ Roses tour, I decided that I was going to make that record right then and there.”

The album and tour aren’t some indulgent, rock-star way to kill time between other tours. Slash wanted to create an atmosphere of inclusivity, joy, and a chance for fans to forget the divided world in which we live for a few hours. A portion of proceeds from each VIP package and S.E.R.P.E.N.T. festival ticket will directly benefit charities Slash has vetted and supports, including The Equal Justice Initiative, Know Your Rights Camp, The Greenlining Institute, and War Child. S.E.R.P.E.N.T. Festival has also partnered with to support the endeavor.

“It was very fun and spontaneous and a great outlet for me to be able to record something that is very close to my heart,” Slash explains. “And on top of it, we’ve got a tour so I can go out there and legitimately play this stuff professionally, as opposed to just showing up in some bar or the fucking Baked Potato, saying, ‘Hey, can I borrow your guitar?’ It’s going to be a lot of fun.”