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, a replica based on the highly sought after 1959 Gibson 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 later recognised by SIR techs at rehearsals for the tour in 1987, however, and they took it back: and so ended Slash's relationship with his Appetite tone.
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 "Appetite For Destruction" 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).
In an ideal world, a Marshall 1959 Super Lead would be perfect for Slash's Appetite sound; alternatively, you could use a JCM 800 2203 (as Slash himself used when touring the Appetite For Destruction album), a Marshall Silver Jubilee 2555 (also used by Slash live for the Appetite For Destruction tours), or one of Slash's signature Marshall amps - the JCM 2555SL Slash Signature or AFD100 Slash Signature.
In terms of which guitar pedals to use for the Appetite For Destruction sound, less is more! Slash's sound isn't as gain-heavy as many people think and he derives the majority of his gain from the amps, using guitar pedals as seasoning rather than his core tone.
If you're lucky enough to own one of the Marshalls listed above (or one of their modern miniature derivatives, such as the Marshal Studio range), then congratulations, you're almost set! All you need to do is add a couple of pedals and you'll have a great Slash Appetite-era rig...
Boost & Drive Pedals
Try adding a boost in front of your Marshall for that typical hot-rodded '80s sound (assuming your Super Lead or JCM800 hasn't already been modded like Slash's #36 amp).
[product=raygun-fx-vintage-booster] The Raygun FX Vintage Booster is an affordable and effective option that will drive the front end of your amp that little bit harder, giving you the on-the-edge sound that's characteristic of Slash's Appetite For Destruction tone. [/product]
Lacking a Marshall amp?
[product=formula-b-eighty-master] Not to worry - the Formula B Eighty Master is a fantastic Marshall-in-a-box pedal, emulating the firebreathing JCM800 in both its 50W and 100W incarnations. [/product]
Need more oomph?
[product=walrus-audio-eras] Slash played a copy of a Gibson Les Paul, but if you're rocking a Fender with single coils and need some help to get a hard rock sound, the Walrus Audio Eras is a fantastic high-gain distortion pedal featuring 5 clipping modes plus a Clean Blend control. Stick it in Mode II and you're good to go! [/product]
[product=kink-guitar-pedals-smashed-kraken] The Kink Guitar Pedals Smashed Kraken is a BBD chorus based on the Boss CE-2, which is a great 80's-style chorus pedal. The additional Blend control of the Smashed Kraken makes it super-versatile and is a great choice for the intro to "Paradise City"! [/product]
[product=old-blood-noise-endeavors-bl-82-chorus] Alternatively, the Old Blood Noise Endeavors BL-82 Chorus is a flexible modulation pedal offering classic chorus but also flanger and modulated delay sounds - if you want to play more than Guns 'n' Roses all day, then this might be the pedal for you. [/product]
[product=walrus-audio-arp-87] To replicate the pristine repeats of Slash's Roland SRV-2000 Digital Reverb on its "secret" delay mode, you can't go wrong with the Walrus Audio ARP-87. As well as a Digital mode that's perfect for the intro to "Welcome To The Jungle", it also features Analog, Lo-Fi and Slap modes. [/product]
[product=greenhouse-effects-deity-reverb] For some ambience, the Greenhouse Effects Deity Reverb has you covered with its three modes, offering not only typical room/hall reverb but also modulated tremolo and LFO madness, and dual-octave lushness. It covers all bases really! [/product]
The Final 5%
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 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 Suppressor, Custom Audio Electronics Boost/Line Driver and Boss DD-3T Delay (straight into the front of the amps for the intro of "Welcome To The Jungle").
Originally published 17th April 2020. Updated 16th November 2020, 25 January 2022, 4 November 2022
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