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SoulMonster

1993.07.DD - Kerrang! - Duff Talks

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1993.07.DD - Kerrang! - Duff Talks

Post by Soulmonster on Fri Apr 13, 2018 8:17 pm

"SO, WHEN WE got back from the Appetite tour, I bought this big house, bought all this furniture, I was by myself, I was divorced, the door closed and there I was in this big house all by myself and I'm going, 'Okay, what do I do now?' So I started going down to these clubs, trying to meet girls, whatever — you know, do all the things that I was either too busy or too broke to go out and do before. And it kind of hit me. It slapped me slam, right in the face after a lot of months of being jerked around, that people weren't interested in me. They didn't want me for me, they wanted me because I was this guy in Guns N' Roses. And after a few months of this, getting ripped off, my heart getting stepped on or whatever, I just stayed in my house. I took comfort in going up into my loft, where I had an eight-track, and just doing some tunes. And that's really where the whole thing started."
Duff McKagan's solo album Believe In Me was conceived at the end of the most monumental Rock tour of the 80s — a technicolor extravaganza of shooting- up, splitting up, fucking up, overdoses, arrests, resignations, reconciliations and a 16 million-seller album — and completed by the end of what will no doubt be stand as the most monumental outing of the 90s — two marriages, divorce, departure of one member, psychics, lawsuits, music from two quite brilliant albums released simultaneously — the record-breaking 28-month-long Use Your Illusion tour.
Duff's record is not a duff record. It's been glued to my turntable since I got it. There's some serious tear-your-ears off rock with a built-in one-way ticket back to the pre-Guns punk days when the Angelic Upstarts offered him a job, and just as your nerve ends wave the white flag it winds down into something smokingly emotional. There's hardball rap on one track, a 22-piece philharmonic orchestra on another. And it all hangs together, it's real and it's raw. Not bad for an album recorded all around the world in the boring blank spaces before and after shows, the time spent by most musicians of stadium status in a bar, in a groupie or in some sort of pointless egotistical jerk-off, waving their dicktatorship in the face of some poor sucker paid to put up with it or having their ego massaged by those limp, pet limpets that cling to every major band.
"I hate that", says Duff. "I just hate it, hate it. I'm just like a regular person. I'm not like this 'Duff from GN'R' or whatever. When I go to bed at night it's like it all comes down to you, knowing who and what you are, believing in yourself. I won't get too deep into it, but that's like the state of mind I was in when I started this album."
He was hanging around during the never-ending Use Your Illusion sessions waiting for someone or other in the band to show up when he thought, "Fuck this, there was this studio with amps and drums and everything set up in it. I'll go record something." What he recorded first was the basic tracks for a song he'd written that didn't make it on either Illusion album called 'The Majority'. He played it to Lenny Kravitz — an old pal; Duff had played something on his record earlier — and Lenny offered his vocals, and it went on from there. When Guns finally hit the road, Duff continued recording.
"I carried on doing it on days off — sometimes not even days. The last song on the album, 'Lonely Tonite' — we played for like three hours in Dallas and got done at about 1.30 a.m. And I went into the studio at about three in the morning and came out about three the next afternoon, and I recorded that song and did drum tracks for another song. It was like, if I felt like it, I'd do it, the time is now. Whether it be after a three hour gig or whatever. I never did it out of boredom or whatever. I never planned on when I was going to do it. I just did it when it was right. "
So when he was onstage with Guns, would his own tunes be going through his head?
"No, no, no. Because I wouldn't decide I was going to go in until after the gig. I never confused the two things. That would be unfair. It never got confusing because it was all me, I knew exactly what tracks I had down. It was actually a pretty cool way of doing it. I wouldn't suggest it for other people", he laughs, "but for me it worked out great."
Duff, as well as singing on all but the Lenny track, plays bass, drums and guitar on the album, but he's joined by an impressive line-up of guests: Jeff Beck, Sebastian Bach... "The guys who played on my record were all friends who just wanted to play. They'd hear something and say, 'Hey, can I play on that?' Even Jeff Beck. He was supposed to play with us in Paris, that's how I met him, and he had tinnitus, that ear thing, and he blew out another ear in soundcheck so he couldn't play with us. So I was back in my hotel room and I was just playing the song, and he heard what I was doing and said he'd like to play on it. And I was like 'Uh, uh, when? Where? Of course? We set it up in London. He drove all the way down, like 100 miles from his house to The Townhouse, where we recorded at. He really was a nice guy — unpretentious, that's for damn sure. He plays with his fingers — a really odd style, I've never seen anybody do it. He goes, 'I used to always drop my picks, so I had to do it with my fingers. I don't question how I play now. Don't make me think about it', he goes. 'I might fuck up!' It was really cool.... The guys from Skid Row — that's from when they were touring with us." Skids were the opening act on the prehistoric first leg. "They'd just come down the studio and join in."
Same with Slash, Matt, Gilby and Dizzy from Guns. He didn't ask them; they volunteered. "They were there, they heard what was happening and they just joined in. Slash did some great stuff on there. It was really interesting, because I had written the part and played it myself on the demo, and it was great how Slash interpreted what I'd done. There was no pressures. He just went in there and played great."
One member of Guns, though, is conspicuous by his absence.
"Oh, yeah". An audible squirm. "You know, I didn't realise everybody except Axl had played on it until I looked at the credits. I was putting the credits together and it was like", he laughs, "Oh shit...! "
Does it bother you that he's not on your album?
"No no, not at all. It was't a show-off thing, who'd be on the record. He didn't feel pressured that he had to be on it; it just turned out how it did."
C'mon, out with it. He's not on there because he's an awkward tosser, right?
"That's what they want me to say", he laughs, "But no, it's not true. Please clarify that situation. The truth is, Axl's the biggest fan of the record. He called me a couple of weeks ago — he had the schedule for my tour and he goes, 'Number one, you're crazy going out on tour again' — laughing; he admires me for what I'm doing. And then he said, 'Is it okay if I come and hang with you on a couple of dates?'"
Well he's right in saying you're crazy, wanting to go back on the road straight after a two and a half year tour.
"Yeah, well it's a whole different thing — relaxing, kind of a therapy thing. Everything just fell into place. There wasn't any work in trying to get a tour or trying to get a band together or anything. Everything came together perfectly, so the stress level is really low."
Psychologists came out with a report . They said the most stress-inducing things that exist are divorce, moving house, death in the family and being a member of Guns N' Roses. Izzy Stradlin JuJu Hound looks 20 years younger than Izzy GN'R. Last time I spoke to him he was so laid back you could use him as a throw-rug. Izzy always struck me as the band's resident rock 'n' roller. Duff's been described as the resident Punk. Is one of the reasons for doing his own album and tour an attempt to find a way back to GN'R's more punk rock 'n' roll beginnings, of doing rock on a more normal, human, less monufuckingmental scale?
"It's just something I need to do — yeah, maybe, to get my feet back on the ground a bit. It's not something that I set out to do for any specific reason. It's something that happened, and everything's really run smoothly with it, so I'm not fighting it — how's that?"
Is it harder writing honest songs from the top looking down, than it was from the gutter looking up?
"When we started to get big and make some money — whereas before we were just a band making a record — I was doing interviews and people were asking, 'How much has fame and fortune changed your life?' And I could never really give an answer. I was always like, 'Well, I don't know.' And then it finally hit me — that it hadn't changed me, it just changed other people, how they react to you. I'm the same person, you know. All this money or whatever hasn't changed me. I'd give it all away to charity in a second if I thought it had." He laughs, "Luckily, it hasn't!"
But how can a person write about real-life emotions when they live, as Slash once put it, "in Toonsville", this big crazy Spinal Tap cartoon existence?
How do you know what's real when you pay a village-load of people to cushion you from reality, look after you and tell you you're wonderful all the time?
"Right, but still when you get back home — meaning", he laughs, "a hotel room — you are by yourself. You'll go out and play to anywhere from 30,000 to 140,000 people that night — and that's just great, that's what I'm there for, it's the most beautiful thing of it all — and you've played to all these people but at the end of the day those people are going home to their wife and kid and girlfriend or something, and I'm going back to a hotel room by myself. Or I'm going on to the next city where I don't know anybody. It's you and you alone, you know? That's where this album is coming from — from right down inside myself.
"So a lot of it was loneliness. I'm happy now. I have a beautiful wife who was like my best friend for two years before we started realising, 'Well, wait a minute...' I wrote this song about wishful thinking, seeing a girl, like 'Is this the one?' It's a really lonely song, but it's also like a song full of hope, because it turns out that she is the one. 'Could It Be U' is for Linda, my wife."
The Prince-esque title is no accident. "I've always been a huge Prince fan." Even thought about getting the mini-genius to guest on the album.
"It was something I really wanted to do. I met him once, and he was just so busy and I was doing my record all over the place, and to have Prince do something — I don't even know if he would, anyhow — it would have to be set up really right, you know? I met him before one of the shows in Germany. He was getting ready to go on, so it really was not the right place to ask him.
"I did do a cover of (Prince's) 'Bambi' which you'll hear on a B-side. Prince is what really inspired me back when I started to play everything, because he was like the first person who really did that, really did it all his own way."
By 'everything' Duff means guitar, bass and drums.
"When I was 15 years old I was like in three bands at one time — I'd go to one rehearsal playing drums, another playing maybe drums again and another playing guitar. When I moved to L.A." — from Seattle; it wasn't legendary Rock n' Roll Seattle at that time; if you didn't want to sell handbags to hippies or clean out Heart's studio, you moved to L.A. — "I wanted to play guitar. But in LA there were millions of guitar players, millions of Yngwie Malmsteens and shit, and I really wasn't into playing like that at all, I was more into playing like Thunders guitar. The bass was my least serious of the instruments. I was a better drummer than anything else back then, but my drum set was cheap shit, so I got a bass. The good thing about having the ability to adapt is it helps me play the bass in GN'R, because I know what the drummer's thinking, I know what the guitarist's thinking, and the guitar player never relates to the drummer so I end up being like the translator between the two. I love playing all the instruments, but live I love playing bass. "
Trouble is, no-one gives a toss about the bass player. Okay, slight exaggeration , but they do get ignored in favour of the singer and guitarist. Does it bother him that in Guns Axl and Slash get all the attention?
"No. They deserve what they get. And to tell you the truth I really wouldn't want to be that prominent in the public eye. I like the position I have, the role that I play. The guys in the band know what I do and respect it, so that's fine with me."
It's true to say that in almost any band besides Guns, Duff would be in a far more prominent position as a songwriter, maybe vocalist even. In spite of the quality of his material — 'So Fine' was brilliant — he didn't get much of a look-in on the Illusion albums. Did that piss him off ? Is that why he made a record?
"No, no. I know what I did on the Use Your Illusion records. I co-wrote a lot of songs, but I'm not going to go out there waving a banner going, 'Hey, look what I did!' I'm not one of those people who are like, 'I want my name on first!' I don't care. I know what I did. I'm not out there for the fame of it all. Again, when I go to bed I know what I've done."
When Duff tours with this album he'll be on lead vocals and rhythm guitar. Richard Duguay, a Canadian, has been recruited on bass. Joie Mastrokalos is on lead guitar, Aaron Brooks (like Joie, ex Hollywood Records band Circle Of Soul) is on drums, and Teddy Andreadis, who has appeared with GN'R, is on keyboards. "The band is really great," Duff enthuses. "I'm not talking about me, I'm talking about the band. It's really powerful."
How does he feel about fronting his own band?
"I've fronted bands before, but a long long time ago, in my punker days." This band did one show in LA a while back, a benefit. "I was really nervous. Before a gig I would just puke and everything, so I just wanted to get that first gig over with!"
The real tour starts in Europe on October 1st. "I don't know exactly where; wherever the fucking plane lands I'll get out and play!" They're opening for The Scorpions. "We're going to do some one-off club dates as well — I'm not going to tell you where, but there'll be a couple in London. The Scorpions have been really cool. They've even taken my equipment on their truck and everything. They've heard my record and say they like it. They've offered us the Canada dates, but I haven't given them a definite answer."
Mostly because, come next Spring "we're all planning to get back together to work on GN'R stuff , and of course that's the priority."
So there will be another Guns N' Roses album, then?
"Sure! We've got a lot of stuff written already."
And you're going to start working on an album that quick? No four-year wait this time?
"Everything's really great with the band. Everybody's cool."
Guns? Cool? From what we heard you were all either killing yourselves or killing each other!
"That was a long time ago", Duff laughs. "Sure there were problems at the beginning of the tour, but we've been around the world four times since. We've achieved so much. By the last leg, things were really great. If you're in a band that's real and honest and is always trying things, pushing things, things are gonna happen. It just shows we're not fake. We have integrity, which a lot of bands lack."
Wouldn't you rather have a little more fakery and a little less craziness though?
"No. I'm glad the way it all turned out."
And if the prospect of another slice of Guns isn't enough to induce multiple orgasm, the infamous, much-talked-about, recorded-at-the-time of-the-Illusions Punk EP is coming out before the end of the year. Only now it's an album. "It's not all punk rock either now. There's a T.Rex tune on there, Nazareth — it's more like some of our lesser-known influences. Because everybody goes, 'Oh yeah, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin', but there were all these people too that people don't think about when they think of GN'R, like Iggy and the Stooges, Fear, The Sex Pistols, Damned. I sing a lot of the tracks" — including The Damned's 'New Rose' and 'Attitude', by The Misfits, unless they've changed the track listing since I last looked — "and Slash sings for the first time too."
But back to Believe In Me. If Duff had my job, what would he say about his solo album?
"That I bared my heart and soul on this record. There's a lot of emotion in there. Every song is like how I was feeling at the time. Sometimes you feel like an orchestra. Sometimes you just feel like aaarghhhh!!! Sometimes you feel all the angst in the world. Sometimes you just feel really straight-forward, like the Punk Rock Song. People have all different ways of dealing with their emotions, and this album is mine. And if people want to criticise it and put it down, they'll be stepping on my heart and soul."
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Soulmonster
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