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| 19 October 2018 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

Heading back to Australia in February with Slash, Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators, Las Vegas native Frank Sidoris says that despite the sarcasm inherent in the name of the band’s new album, he really is Living The Dream.

“Yeah, I’m glad that you knew [it was a sarcastic title], because I almost felt like I don’t want to tell people,” he chuckles with relief. “So, yeah, we’re just killing it, we’re living the dream, but the sarcasm is there, which I love, but then again it’s like let’s play a guitar and travel the world with these other four gentlemen that are just exemplary musicians and friends. Just great people. It is, essentially, living the dream, man – I would say that, and I mean that in the nicest way without sounding too sarcastic or cool about it.”

The cheeky title, a reflection on the disturbed times in which we live, was, “all Slash, man,” says Sidoris. “I didn’t know that until later on, but that was his. He was like, ‘yeah, living the dream’ [sarcastically] I was like, ‘oh, that’s hilarious!’”

Calling in from outside New York, the guitarist is taking some time to chill whilst on tour with the band.

“I’m currently in, what I believe to be, Garden City, New York. It’s – I don’t want to say this incorrectly – it might be an hour north, it might be an hour west of New York City, I forget, but it’s not far. I believe it’s on Long Island… it’s actually a good hang, dude. We’re off, had a couple days off, and tomorrow we’ll be doing a gig on my birthday, so I fear for the cake-smashing-into-the-face end of the show experience, but we’ll see how it goes – Slash has threatened me!”

After birthday greetings we couldn’t resist excitedly asking about the band’s impending return to our fair shores (TOUR NEWS HERE), and find it isn’t the clichéd ‘sex, drugs n’ rock n’ roll’ he’s most looking forward to.

“I’m always excited to go down there, it’s the best,” he says, sincerely. “Easily one of my favourite places to go on tour. Where are you exactly? Perth? Yeah. I’ve only been there twice. Once on Soundwave, no, twice on Soundwave – once with another band – kind of like a pop rock-ish band I was a hired guy for, they’re called The Cab – and once with Slash.

“It was cool. I got to travel all over with those guys [The Cab] and it was a good time, but seriously, we had some amazing coffee out there, all over Australia. You really know what you’re doing, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. It’s like nobody can believe when I say that. They’re like, ‘hey, where’s the best coffee you’ve had?’ I’m like, ‘Australia, hands down.’ And they’re like, ‘what? Not South America or somewhere in Europe?’ But it’s like, no, I swear by it. What’s funny is that when you ask for a cup of coffee somewhere in the States, there’s a good chance it’s not going to be anywhere near it, so I feel bad for you guys. You were bred to understand what good coffee is at a young age. So funny.”

Isn’t it interesting that here we are in 2018 talking rock n’ roll and coffee, whereas 20 years ago, it’d be all about the drugs and the booze and the sex and everything!

“Sure – so funny, man. I know, it’s interesting. Backstage it’s fairly calm, trust me. It’s bringing a coffee and looking for WIFI passwords for the most part!”

On a similar note, I ask if it is a little restrictive having a former junkie in the band, even if he is the boss?

“No!” Sidoris declares emphatically. “I joined when I was 23, and I’m not a monster by any means, I don’t indulge, especially on tour. And I wanted to be respectful, because I drink – I mean, I’m the only guy in the band that actually drinks – but, again, when I say that, that doesn’t mean I’m like [a big drinker]. I never drink before shows – I never really drink before anything, unless it’s after the gig or anything like that. Again, the decadence of the past is nowhere near this band. It still exists in younger bands, especially bands that are younger that are blowing up, it’s like you’re celebrating, you’re having a good time, but, I don’t know, this band is so… I don’t know, past it. I mean, I drink when I’m home and whenever the occasion makes sense, but I will encapsulate it with – it’s mostly just coffee!”

We can’t help but admire the professional attitude.

“Well, joining the band as the young guy, I was not trying to be like, ‘hey, guys, we drink, right?’ Like you were saying, Slash’s past – I’m not trying to drink in front of him, but in his recovery, his whole situation is that he can accept people drinking around him. I remember he even said to me once, ‘you can have a beer, I don’t care.’ I’m like, ‘yeah, but I don’t care either, so no worries.’”

Growing up in Las Vegas – casino capital of The United States – seems a very rock n’ roll childhood to us outsiders on the other side of the world, but is the neon glitz and glamour as exciting up close?

“It’s interesting, because rock and roll was definitely around,” he replies thoughtfully. “We had many venues for the big bands that I saw growing up and whatnot and it was just a blast, but it’s interesting, because it’s not a fully artist-actor-actress-musician saturated city. It’s not LA, it’s not New York, it’s just a completely different hang, and it’s cool to watch the bands that have come out of it. Not necessarily a bunch of rock bands, but bands like The Killers, who are just massive, Panic At The Disco, I believe, and Imagine Dragons. They’re all somewhat the same vein, right, but I love it, man. Vegas is… I moved away once then I moved right back, and now that I’m touring, it’s like I get to miss it… you’ve got to go away from everything that you love for a little bit, right? It’s like you can’t stay at home all the time, but I’ve no reason to leave yet. I love it, it’s the best. Have you been?”

Only for, I think it was for four days, and it kind of like a 24 hour existence for the four days we were there. It was a little bit surreal.

“A blur?” he asks with an audible grin.

There was certainly some blurriness going on.

“Yeah,, it’s a blast, man. And I always get that question, or I get an interesting look on everybody’s face when it’s like:
‘hey, where are you from?’
‘I’m from Vegas.’
‘Yeah, but where were you born?’
‘I was born in Vegas.’

“Because it’s such a… you get people from all over moving there and no-one’s actually born there, usually, but there’s definitely that community that exists, believe it or not.”

Sidoris had been playing with The Cab for almost a year when he got the call in 2012 to audition for Slash’s touring band through friend and Conspirator drummer Brent Fitz.

“Well, when I joined the band, it was just such a… I mean, I’ve played guitar for a long time and I’ve definitely studied Slash – well, I wouldn’t say studied, but I’ve always respected him big time, and I knew his riffs and I knew this and that. For him to have given me the green light to play with him and the guys was just… it was amazing. I was absolutely thrilled. I think to be picked by the guy who is regarded as one of THE guitar players, and I say this, like, hear me out – it’s like you have someone who, I mean, the guy’s silhouette is recognisable! And even people who don’t really know rock and roll know who he is. For that guitar player to have given me that green light is definitely an honour, and I’m consistently learning from everybody in the band.

“It’s just a vibe that I love being around because it is inspiring,” he continues enthusiastically, “and I feel like I’m growing, regardless of how many years I’ve been playing with these guys, and I feel like it’s a give and take on all levels. It’s great man.

“To be on this album – and I believe Slash even says similar – it was kind of a natural progression of this band, because having played these two world tours on the last two albums with them, to be a part of this next one, I don’t know… If he had said no, or if he didn’t even ask me to be on it, okay, that’d have been fine, but it felt right just to be a part of it. Again, that’s just levelling up, I guess, another way of just growing with these guys, and it just felt cool. It was great. It’s like just doing it with your brothers, you know?”

Despite being with The Conspirators since 2012, Living The Dream is the first album Sidoris has contributed to, having been promoted from a member of the touring band to a fully fledged band member. He admits to a well deserved level of proprietorship to the new songs, rather than just being given tracks that the others had recorded.

“Oh yeah, playing them live, it’s just a different experience – it’s a whole other thing. Because I loved playing the other songs live, obviously, but, now, getting to play these songs, the parts that you wrote, it’s just fun. That’s always cool, yeah.”

Did it feel like a five year apprenticeship for you in a way?

“No, it’s funny, it never felt that it was,” explains the guitarist. “Even though, I guess, the title officially was just ‘touring guitarist,’ but that was never really the vibe or the idea. I don’t know, I never felt that way. We were still a unit, regardless of titles, and so this is just even more of an affirmation of what it really feels like to be in that band. Confirmation – there you go, that’s the word I’m looking for.”

As you say, Slash is one of the most individual rock stars and pre-eminent guitarists of the modern age. Was it daunting to stand next to him there and plug the guitar in and go, ‘all right, I’ve got to keep up with this guy’?

“Well, it’s funny, because in the beginning I definitely felt… I mean, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know the guy,” Sidoris recalls. “The short version here: when I went to audition, it was just cool. I mean, we walked in, I had two guitars, and it was like, ‘okay, what songs are we playing?’ We ended up playing some Guns songs, we played some Slash solo stuff, and it just… any nerves, any anxiety I had felt at the time just completely was wiped away the moment we started jamming, because it definitely had this specific vibe. I had no worries anymore, and it was like, ‘if I don’t get this gig, it doesn’t matter, because what a good time.’ And I think it was that feeling that I felt that was also felt by Slash, Todd and Brandon.

“So, after the audition, getting to play with him down the road, it’s like he means business. He’s a serious player, there’s no nonsense, and I think we all want all the music we play live to translate properly, and sound good, and be tight and everything, so I think we have the same ideas. And I love Slash’s playing, because he’s always a really groovy player, and I think we both appreciate that together, playing cool rhythmic, swingy, groovy stuff, and so I felt like… I didn’t have to mould myself to play with Slash, do you know what I mean? It was fairly organic playing with him.”

Despite being the young pup of the band, Sidoris says he still feels on the same level as the rest of the guys, and baulks at any suggestion that the older chaps are jaded from having toured a lot before and lived the rock n’ roll lifestyle for many years.

“I wouldn’t say jaded is the word. I mean, I feel like there is not a 15-plus year gap between any of us, if you could believe it. And I’m not just saying, ‘oh, I’m an old soul,’ it’s just I swear this… I’ve been friends with these guys before, you know? Besides, I was friends with Brent for a long time before we ever jammed, and we would just get coffee and hang, and that’s all it was, and then as time went on, you get to jam together. And no-one’s jaded – if anything, everybody’s fairly motivated to keep it going, and I think we share the same ideas. If there’s any downtime, we always try to do something together and keep it going.”

On top of Slash’s solo and Conspirators albums, he also has considerable history with Guns n’ Roses, Velvet Revolver and Slash’s Snakepit, as well as which must make selecting a set list harder than ever before.

“Yeah, it’s becoming such a cool thing that way,” he agrees. “We’re playing 80, 90% just Conspirators stuff, and you get a reaction from the crowd because they all know it, and it’s just amazing that it’s at that point and to be a part of that ride, to watch it happen. Before we even got into rehearsals Slash sent over a set list idea, and he asked us all to come up with ideas and we just pretty much picked what we all really liked – and what’s fun is that we always have maybe eight to ten to twelve other alternate songs. We never really play the same set list twice. We always thrown in a couple different ones in between, and we know all those Guns songs, we know all the Velvet Revolver and Snakepit stuff, so it’s whatever he wants to do, we’ll just try it at sound check and bust it out and it’s a blast.

“But, yeah, you’re right, I mean, there’s so many songs to choose from, it’s not the easiest thing. And it’s a good thing though, yeah? It’s so cool that that’s the case!”

Is there a riot if you don’t play the so-called ‘essential’ Guns n’ Roses songs?

“Well, I was worried, I’ve got to say, I was concerned. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go over, but reading the reviews and everybody’s anticipation comments and whatnot and it’s like it’s just so cool, because we only play ONE Guns song in the set, and it’s not necessarily the song everybody would expect either. It’s not like it’s Welcome to the Jungle or Paradise City – we’ve been playing Rocket Queen.

“If you’re a big Guns fan, that kicks ass, that’s one of my favourites. I always love that song, and so it’s killer, because have the one Guns song now, and it actually is well received.”

What do the rest of the Conspirators do when Slash is off touring with Guns n’ Roses and Myles is off with Alter Bridge?

“Well, over time, Brent the drummer has played with everybody in the world, so there’s no shortage of things he could do. So, currently, he’s with Gene Simmons on the side. He played with Whitford St. Holmes. And Todd (Kerns) is a star in his own right. He goes and tours, it’s cool, because he kills it. He’s an incredible artist in general. But, for me, it’s interesting, because there was a lot of other things that I’ve never really talked about it – there was a couple of auditions and whatnot that I did that seemed to work out, and then things changed and blah, blah, blah. It’s all positive, of course, but other than that, I got to put together a cool 10-piece band in Vegas just to jam, you know? Other than that, it’s mostly writing and just preparing for whatever I will eventually release solo wise.

“I tend to write rock music, but I definitely am all over the board,” he says, explaining the style of his solo material. “It’s interesting, if you look at my voice memos on my iPhone, it’s a bit ridiculous, but I would definitely say it would always have that rock undertone, you know, that rock vibe, but definitely it’ll be a little bit more groovy if anything. Kind of like how Aerosmith writes, like Aerosmith has that swing on albums like Rocks and whatnot, they always have that. It’s like I always try to keep that in mind when I’m writing. I always try to keep it natural, just letting it come out, but then if there’s a way to make it funkier, I will. I try.”

Finally, Alice Cooper. It seems the King of Shock Rock is a favourite of Sidoris’ and even a friend.

“Yeah, big time, man. And… playing with Slash – he’s in a certain, I guess, generation to where the music I love is also the music that he loves – but what’s funny about Slash is that he’s befriended and jammed with all of the people that we both love, and so, as time goes on, I’ve had the opportunity to jam with Alice and Lemmy and various killer people that I grew up digging. He’ll bring them around. ‘oh, by the way, Alice Cooper’s going to jam.’ ‘Oh, okay, cool.’

“It’s hilarious, because I had been a fan of Alice because of my father. I grew up listening to Alice, and it wasn’t one of those things where it was force fed, it was just it was on in the car and I gravitated towards it. And then over the years I start playing guitar and I got to appreciate my favourite songs and artists on a different level by learning their music on the guitar, and Alice remained one of favourites, and he’s a friend at this point.

“He’s a good guy, and you’ll hear this 10 out of 10 times, he is one of the nicest dudes, not just in rock and roll, but in general. Really great guy. He remembers everybody’s name, it’s ridiculous. Like everyone, I mean, not just me, but my grandma, and over the years I remember meeting him as a kid and he called my dad by his name and then my grandma by her name. I was like, ‘what the hell? How does that even make sense?’ Such a pro.”

Category: Interviews

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