Latest release: Living the Dream – Slash ft. Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators (Snakpite Records/Sony Music Australia)
Now steering the engine room with Slash’s band the Conspirators, journeyman drummer Brent Fitz has nailed down the beats with an impressive laundry list of stars that have included Alice Cooper and various members of Motley Crue, Kiss and Aerosmith, among others. Since joining Slash on his 2010 world tour, Fitz has now been party to all three of the albums credited alongside Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. Taking a break from rehearsing with the band ahead of their tour to Australia in January to work through some interviews, we managed to pin the amiable beatkeeper down for a few minutes to have a chat about the upcoming shows and working with some of rock’s biggest legends.
Thanks for taking a few minutes with us. It sounds like you’re pretty busy right now.
I’m busy because this is all I know. I get to LA, I’m working. I’m in rehearsals and I took an hour break to do some interviews, but this is the musician life I chose. I don’t know what Plan B is, but I don’t want to know. I’m happy. I’m living the dream!
Looking at your bio, it very much seems that way! You’ve been able to carve out a career playing for a very impressive list of people.
Maybe by accident, maybe by design. Over time now I realise that the list of musicians that I’ve looked up to and that I’ve had the pleasure of playing in bands with is getting longer. When I was young, and an aspiring little drummer and piano player back in my hometown in Winnipeg, Canada, I just remember wanting to play with all kinds of different kids in the neighbourhood and jam with as many people as possible – and here I am 40 years later, still doing that. So, to play with an iconic guitar player like Slash, or to play with Gene Simmons, or Alice Cooper or Vince Neil… I played with Brad Whitford from Aerosmith and Derek St Holmes for a while. These are all pleasurable things, because I find that the journey as envisioned to play with as many people as possible, the special thing is the people. Because music is people, and it’s great. I love it.
You’ve been with Slash now for eight years, which is quite a long time, but what’s it like playing with so many different people. What do you have to do to make it work? Do you shifts guises or have to work on different playing styles when you move from artist to artist?
I think I’m the Canadian Chameleon! The way that I look at every different personality that I work with, is that, I have to be open to all kinds of different styles and personality traits and put myself in a position and be comfortable and awesome so that I can contribute. If I’m in a band with Slash, it’s one thing playing Guns N Roses songs together – which we started out doing several years ago. We were a pleasant backing band that Slash found and he thought we were really tight and maybe we should work on some original ideas. Eventually we became partners in putting new songs together. It’s different playing other parts from other drummers, say from Steven Adler and Matt Sorum, to then be a person who can bounce ideas off in a recording project, is sort of a different personality. I always have to be open and not rigid, and I like that. I like to be challenged and get out of my comfort zone, and Slash is a really great challenger. He likes to push me as a musician, and I welcome that. That’s why I think we’ve become a tight recording band. That was never the plan! Slash didn’t know he was going to put a band together that was going to work and be something more than just a touring band! I think it’s great that I got to play with a bunch of great people before I got to Slash, so that when Slash and I work together, we have this great chemistry and I can bring all of the other artists I’ve worked with to the flavour that I give to Slash.
You’ve sort of answered the question I was going to get to now, which is about working with Slash on records. The Conspirators is really a band that’s toured together now for the best part of a decade. It’s not just a bunch of guys he brings together when he needs to make a record or go on the road. You’ve said that you bring ideas into the studio, so what is the dynamic like working with the other guys?
Well thankfully now, especially on the new Living the Dream record, we’ve really figured each other out. That comes with time and experience and a lot of gigs,and a lot of songs worked on together. But just to back up to the very first record and the very first songs that were worked on, luckily it did seem like there was chemistry and that was recognised by Slash. It’s his band!
He felt, ‘Wow, I’ve got some ideas here, and I think if I bounce them off Brent and Todd and see what comes of it’. And it just built from that. We’ve done a lot of shows together. We’ve been around the world many, many times over and we really like each other. We get along great. So to put a new idea in front of us, we don’t usually sit around and throw something away and say, h that’s not working. We try to make a song of it. There’s no disposable ideas. I think that’s why the new record was a smooth recording process. We had a little time apart, which was good, and I think that brought some excitement of getting back together, and we just got busy. There was nothing that was in the way, and we had half a record done before the last tour, and then Slash went and did the Guns N Roses reunion, but we still had all these songs that were half-finished. We knew we were going to finish them. But it came together really fast. It was great to know that we have a great vocabulary together musically as a recording band and we can get in the studio together and get the job done. Hopefully the new record reflects that well-oiled machine of guys that know each other really well and can put songs together. There wasn’t turmoil to put a record together. It was a good experience.
It’s always hard for musicians to answer this one, but was there a particular track on the album that you are especially happy with, something that worked out much better than what you expected?
Sometimes when a song is initially jammed on and the ideas, and where the song ends up, getting in a room with the guys and recording it, and abandoning the song and listening back to it with a little time away, I think a song sometimes will trigger a memory of a time. For the listener, who has no connection to recording the song, just enjoying the song for what it is, they might connect with it because of their own personal experience. But for myself, when you listen back to a song, it brings you back to that exact day when you recorded it and how you were feeling. And if you were having a shitty day, you might hate that song for the rest of your life! I’ve had this discussion with Gene Simmons, and various guys, and my love for the song may be completely different to how Gene views the song. He might be like, ‘I don’t even remember that song!’ It might be a deep track off a record. On the new record, ‘Serves You Right’ was a very strict down riff from Slash and there’s a lot of space in the music and I really like what I played. I really like the drum feel on that rack. It was one thing that Slash and I were really connected on. Because we came up with this killer groove on ‘Serves You Right’, that personally is one of my favourites. On a music level, I’m really proud of that song.
Finally Brent, you and the band have been to Australia several times now, but I think this is probably going to be the biggest shows you’ve played so far.
We’ve been through Australia every tour, and we’ve built every time we’ve come. The band as a whole has always built slowly and as a band now with three records and many tours under our belt, we’re gonna play a lot of new music. It’s gonna be a bunch of new songs for people. It’s very much in the now. I love playing Australia. We did the Soundwave tours a few years ago, and that was great. I remember we did, when MTV Classic re-launched, we did the Enmore in Sydney and have been slowly building up to arena level in Australia. I never take this for granted. I’m a very humble small town Canadian boy who has realised the opportunity to play with some great personalities. So to go around the other side of the world and play to a large audience is very, very special. I am very proud of this band and what we have been able to achieve.
Slash ft. Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators Australia/NZ 2019 tour:
25/1: Baypark Arena, Tauranga NZ
26/1: Spark Arena, Auckland NZ
28/1: QUDOS Bank Arena, Sydney NSW
30/1: Brisbane CEC, Brisbane QLD
1/2: Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne VIC
3/2: RAC Arena, Perth WA