by Jim Button September 02, 2021 5 min read

Guns 'N' Roses - Appetite For Destruction (1987)

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 Appetite For Destruction Tone Marshall Super Lead Amp - Boost Guitar Pedals

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) 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.


Overdrive

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.


Chorus

The Greenhouse Effects Logos Chorus-Vibrato does a great job of achieving 80s-style chorus effects as heard on Appetite For Destruction, but it's a serious piece of kit that's equally at home in other genres too, making it a one-stop solution for your pedalboard.


Marshall Amp

Lacking a Marshall amp? Not to worry - the Formula B Super Plexi will get you some great British sounds! It incorporates one channel based on the JTM45 "Plexi" (forerunner to Slash's 1959 Super Lead) and a separate Boost which can be placed before or after the JTM45 channel in the circuit.


Reverb

For some ambience, the Greenhouse Effects Deity Reverb has you covered with its three modes, taking you from standard room/hall 'verb to modulated tremolo and LFO madness, and dual-octave lushness. It covers all bases really!


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



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