Richard Fortus Enjoys Friendly Onstage Competition With Slash
After 14 years in the group, Fortus was warned that he would struggle to be given any spotlight moments when the classic-era member returned to the lineup, but, he noted, it didn't work out like that at all.
“Slash is just an incredibly natural musician – there’s a reason why he is the legend he is,” Fortus told Premier Guitar in a new interview. “When Slash came in, the parts of his that I was playing, I wasn’t gonna be playing anymore. But he’s been incredibly gracious with me. ... Mutual friends of ours were like, ‘Man, good luck getting beyond the fifth fret!’ But I have not experienced that at all. He’s been incredibly gracious and an inspiration to play with. It’s very competitive in a very, very friendly same-team kind of way – always pushing each other. … I’m flattered to be in that role. And for him to welcome it.”
Fans became familiar with Fortus and Slash leading a cover of the Pink Floyd classic “Wish You Were Here." Fortus said they came up with the idea just hours before their first arena show together in April 2016, as a way of using time while singer Axl Rose prepared to play “November Rain” with a broken foot.
Watch Slash and Richard Fortus Perform 'Wish You Were Here’
“He was in a cast, in a chair, and we were at soundcheck, trying to figure out how the hell we were gonna do this,” Fortus recalled. “How we were gonna pull this off with our frontman now in a chair? How do we get the piano up? This is gonna take time because then we gotta wheel him out to the piano. At that point he’s like, ‘You guys gotta do something while we get this all in place.’
“So, Slash looks at me and goes, ‘What do you want to play?’ And I’m like, ‘I have no idea.’ He’s like, ‘What about “Wish You Were Here”?’ So, the two of us soundcheck, he started playing it and I played the vocal melody, because it’s got to be there, right? And then we just went back and forth over the progression, trading solos, and the band comes in. And we did this off the cuff.”
Fortus knew they did something right when the band’s roadies voiced their approval. “The crew – which is like the most hardened bunch of pirates you’d ever come across and are incredibly unimpressed by anything – stopped and applauded," he said. "And so we did that for two or three years at each show, and that was my favorite thing, because it was different every night.”