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2019.03.20 - Forbes - Duff McKagan On His New Album, Guns 'N' Roses And The America He Believes In

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2019.03.20 - Forbes - Duff McKagan On His New Album, Guns 'N' Roses And The America He Believes In Empty 2019.03.20 - Forbes - Duff McKagan On His New Album, Guns 'N' Roses And The America He Believes In

Post by Blackstar on Sun Mar 24, 2019 5:50 am

Duff McKagan On His New Album, Guns 'N' Roses And The America He Believes In

Steve Baltin Contributor

After two and a half years on the road with one of the biggest tours of all time, playing alongside Axl Rose and Slash in one of the most anticipated and successful reunion tours of all time, how do you possibly follow that up?

If you're Duff McKagan you make Tenderness, the quietest, most candid, unexpected album of your career. Given McKagan's status as one of the most cerebral and thoughtful guys in rock it's not a complete surprise that he would make a sharp left turn on the album, out May 31.

McKagan, a martial arts enthusiast, author and financial columnist, among other skills, has spent his career confounding expectations. When you talk with the easy-going, funny and eloquent McKagan you realize following his continuing road of challenge and new things is just what interests and excites him.

Tenderness was originally intended to be a book about everything he saw on the road with GNR, but he came to realize, working with producer Shooter Jennings, who McKagan says is a longtime friend, it was more of a soundtrack to the last two years, good and bad. A compelling and powerful statement, but one that as McKagan points out, does not point fingers, that is intended to unite and heal, Tenderness is a different side of McKagan.

Here he explains how being on the road with GNR, the ease between Rose and Slash and taking time out on the road to speak with fans crafted Tenderness.

Steve Baltin: This album is remarkably open. Do you feel like where you are in life today gave you the confidence to make Tenderness?

Duff McKagan: I attribute a lot to Ukidokan, my martial art, for sure, and punk rock. Seeing the Clash and Black Flag and playing gigs with Black Flag through Ron Reyes and Henry Rollins, that first time when he joined Black Flag and that intensity that he approached that first show, we opened for them in Seattle, the band I was in. And the intensity which Henry brought into that room in sound check, man. You stayed 50 feet away from this guy. But all of those punk rock experiences of do it yourself and just stay truthful and honest and be kick ass, be f**king cool, really stayed with me and that dojo, the Ukidokan, I had lost myself. I still had that punk rock integrity inside of me. I found it again through Ukidokan and both of those things contributed to me finding a great woman I married, we have two kids, two beautiful girls, I raised them in a really punk rock way, which is just being honest and forthright.

Baltin: And how did that come into the songwriting of Tenderness?

McKagan: I've dabbled in this type of music before with "Wasted Heart," a Loaded song. There was a song I did on Beautiful Disease. I was really into [Mark] Lanegan's solo work and I kind of dabbled there. But being on this Guns tour that we did for two and a half years there was this new sense of ease I had playing with the guys I came up with and we were in a really cool place with each other. And that whole period that we were apart was suddenly gone. We talked about things, we straightened some stuff out. Those guys, Axl and Slash have taught me a lot about how...Axl is basically that Henry Rollins guy I saw at that first gig and gnarlier, but in all the best ways.

Baltin: I spoke with Slash a few months ago and he said for him just sitting down and talking with Axl and clearing the air was the best part of the tour. So I'm sure it was a pleasure just being around that vibe where everybody is in such a good space.

McKagan: It's calm, but when it hits that stage it's that old thing of what we started with, which is we don't f**k around. We do not f**k around when we play live. It's real, it's dangerous and it's sweaty and all of those things. We're trying to be the best band we can be and that's what we always tried to be. Back in the day we used to rehearse twice a day. We were trying to be the best, I think for ourselves first. I didn't know if people would understand our music back then.

Baltin: So when you look back on it with perspective can you see now what others saw in it?

McKagan: There was someplace I was many years later and somebody played Guns 'N' Roses and I heard it with fresh ears. I hadn't played the songs in a while, so it must've been late '90s, and it finally hit me, this record is amazing. It took me a while to be a part from that record and playing those songs to finally kind of get it. We were just in it for so long, from '85 through '94, just in it, immersed in this thing that grew beneath us, grew huge. I didn't have the means to really know how to handle it. There's no how to handle manual for hen your band blows up. In my case I took a lot of blame when I started writing about it for that book, It's So Easy. I would write 4,000 words and be like, "Dude, that's the story you've been telling yourself for the last 20 years. That's not the truth." How shameful is that? You're lying just to you and your computer. And my daughter is sitting next to me. You can't lie to your computer and yourself.

Baltin: Once you write it down though there is no denying the truth. So I am sure it took a minute to accept this for yourself.

McKagan: That's the damn truth! And some other rock guys have come to me, they wanted to write their books and they have. And they've come to me to get tips on how to go about writing a book. I say, "Be careful, make sure you really want to do this because there's going to be self discovery in there." And if you write an honest book you're gonna take the hits for stuff you have to take a hit for. And it's gonna be from you to you. There were some harsh realities in there. But I couldn't lie, I had to be truthful.

Baltin: What was the hardest thing to admit to yourself?

McKagan: I think I could've been a better band mate and I kind of went on about that once I discovered it. I was f**ked up out of my head and there were plenty of people in my life that wanted to help me and I thought I was beyond help. But I didn't stop and arrest that. And obviously ultimately my body stopped me. But with time and perspective I could've been super more helpful in a lot of situations. So once I started pointing fingers out and kind of taking assessment of my life, there's plenty on my side I could've kept clean. That was a great experience.

Baltin: And having all of that knowledge and self-awareness how does that all come into Tenderness?

McKagan: I don't know if it's that. I was at ease, like I said, with Slash and Axl, there was this great sense of ease and intellectual sobriety if you will that I was able to observe while we were traveling. We traveled during the election, the primaries, all of that. We play all over the world. And our fans runs the gamut. We don't check how you registered to vote at our gigs, it's everybody. We play at Muslim countries, in Israel, Africa, Europe, all over America. And music is such a universal thing. We played gigs where half the audience, the women's heads are covered, but they're rocking the f**k out.

Baltin: I was talking about it with Lars Ulrich and he brought up Metallica shows can often be 50/50 split, so they consciously don't speak out because people come there for an escape. And I am sure Guns gigs are the same, even though Axl has been very politically outspoken of late.

McKagan: Even if from "Paradise City," if you look at the lyrics, it's inclusive, like "Captain America's got a broken heart." That's when the recession was going on, it's the same bulls**t in politics it always is. We think we got the right leader, think back to when you were a kid, it's still the f**king man. I'm not pointing to the current thing. I read too much history to be this current and, "Right now it's the worst it's ever been." It is what it is right now. And I think as a nation we are much smarter than this. I don't see the divide. I go out and talk to people. On this tour I talk to people. I purposely take side trips and talk to people. And there's a lot of media. I have a song "Chip Away" and it has that lyric in there, "Talking heads and making dollars." Go out and talk to people. The America I know is the one that after 9/11 we came to help and united. Nobody asked who you voted for. The hurricane in Houston, flooding in New Orleans, people came to help. Nobody asked who you voted for, the country came together. And that's the America I know and that's the America I identify as the one I grew up in. One of my first memories is marching with my mom. I was in kindergarten with with the Catholic ladies when Martin Luther King Jr got shot. We wore the black armbands and marched downtown. Two of my brothers were in Vietnam at the time and I had a lot of questions. I've been asking questions for a long time, but I've been exposed to things as a young man. Our family is mixed. My oldest sister married a black man in 1962, which was way out there then. I didn't know it, I'm an uncle, my two oldest nephew and niece are mixed. We all played together, it didn't make a f**king difference. We didn't know. Of course not everybody grew up like that. And then you have learned behavior later on. But we're not born into that. I think we're capable of so much more. Turn off the TV, turn off the internet, just go out and I bet you your life will get better really quick (laughs). I think the songs I wrote for this record, there's a lot of we in the songs. And I don't need to be another guy out there pointing fingers. The record is not that. It's hopefully meant to be a healing record.

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