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2019.04.04 - Interview with Duff at the Grammy Museum

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2019.04.04 - Interview with Duff at the Grammy Museum Empty 2019.04.04 - Interview with Duff at the Grammy Museum

Post by Blackstar on Sun Apr 14, 2019 6:57 am

Via Blabbermouth:
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During an April 4 appearance at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, GUNS N' ROSES bassist Duff McKagan discussed select songs from his new solo album, "Tenderness". A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On his lyrical role models:

Duff: "I think the [biggest] thing that's affected me lyric writing-wise is reading Cormac McCarthy or [Ernest] Hemingway — just the scarcity of words, and picking the right word. I've read lines of Cormac's — you read just a sentence, and I started crying. The subject, and the economy of words he used and how he used them. Writing my first book, I would try to aspire to that benchmark — like, 'Can I get one sentence like Cormac? Just fucking one?' I really tried to write up to the standard of authors I read. Writing for the lyrics for this record especially, I used a lot of 'we,' because the songs are about us, not me. I really wanted every word to be exactly the right word — don't rhyme 'fire' with 'desire.' Do not fucking do it. Don't do it."

On whether an artist has a responsibility to address the ills of society:

Duff: "There's a fine line in rock 'n' roll. In GUNS N' ROSES, if you didn't listen to the words in 'Paradise City', [it says] 'Captain America's got a broken heart.' Shit's been happening for a long time. We were a band then [of] young kids, like, 'Fuck the man!' It's still kind of like that. I don't want to be another voice out there — [a] political voice going, 'You should think this way.' Fuck me — I'm another moron — but I do have morals... and experience in getting sober and being really fucked up and seeing friends of mine die, a lot of them... It's been such a ride. If it ended tomorrow, I'd be sliding into my grave sideways going, 'What a fucking ride.' I never want to be another political voice. We've got enough of that shit, man."

On the "Tenderness" track "Falling Down", the lyrics of which tackle opioid abuse:

Duff: "I'd read a book by J.D. Vance called 'Hillbilly Elegy', and as a guy who's been there – being in addiction and alcoholism — I could really relate. I don't look at people who are strung out as a 'them' — it's a 'we.' I had written a song in 2008 [LOADED's 'Wasted Heart'] about a very personal issue with myself. Fortunately for me, I have a wife who stood by me and pulled me out... I said, 'You should have gone long ago, because I'm going to fuck up.' I knew I was going to fuck this up somehow. It was about drugs coming back into my life... 'Wasted Heart' is the personal side of that — like, I know what I'm talking about. 'Falling Down' is a writer view of a problem. I named a particular part of the country [West Virginia], but I could have named Tacoma, Washington. I could have named Seattle. I could have named Riverside or Hollywood."

On the song "Parkland":

Duff: "I was down in my basement, and this engineer guy came over and he came down the stairs, and he goes, 'Oh shit — have you heard about Parkland? It happened again.' I have a TV down in my basement that's never been turned on, and we turned on the news. At that time, I had a junior in high school... We just sat there, numb, watching. We've seen this happen so many times. I started playing this B-flat [chord] and this D [chord], and it was like a funeral dirge... I go on to name Columbine and Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech and the Charleston church without saying much more than, 'Do we have to see another mother cry? Do we have to see another schoolkid die?' If that's political, you can fuck off. It's paying honor to these kids... We have a daughter who's 18, and all her friends are like those Parkland kids — like, so together, and so aware of what's going on politically, and aware that they're the next voters. They're being really active, and I'm watching the kids and I'm going, 'Okay, I've got to do something, because what did you do when this was going down?'"

On how the two [Duff and Shooter Jennings] met in the early 2000s:

Duff: "Shooter, as far as I knew, had really just come out from Tennessee. He had a rock band — and this is a time when there wasn't a lot of rock n' roll bands going down, and there was a few bands out there kind of saving rock n' roll, if you're me — and my band LOADED played punk rock 'n' roll, and STARGUNN, his band he came out here with, played a show with us. I saw him play some, like, house party. I could tell just by this kid — I didn't know the Waylon Jennings connection — he was just a kid who I saw with a look in his eyes and this band playing rock n' roll. He was, like, a truth-teller. You recognize those few out there that have the real thing. I knew that about Shooter from [the start]."

Shooter: "I was an MTV kid, and I didn't like Nashville. At the time, there was a couple cool rock bands that were stirring around like SCREAMIN' CHEETAH WHEELIES and JASON AND THE SCORCHERS. It was cool, but that wasn't where I wanted to be. To me, if you wanted to play real music, you had to go to L.A. or New York, and all my favorite bands were from L.A., and certainly GUNS N' ROSES. I studied those records, especially the 'Use Your Illusion' records. I thought they were brilliant — the first two records I bought on CD. I remember the first time I saw the 'Welcome To The Jungle' video and Axl [Rose] getting off the bus, and I'm like, 'That's where I want to be.'"

On the origins of "Tenderness":

Duff: "We've known each other for all this time, and I've seen Shooter here and there and rooted for his career and followed his records — [the 2010 concept album] 'Black Ribbons' is one that spoke to me especially — and I had been writing these songs on the road, this ['Not In This Lifetime'] tour we did — this massive road trip around the world four times. Being a columnist for as long as I was, I've learned to become an observationalist, because I always had to write next week's column. At the same time, since I got sober in '94, I've become this avid history reader — an armchair historian, I call myself — and I'll read huge swaths of history from three or four vantage points.

"We were doing this road trip in arguably one of the most interesting times in our history that's going on right now — and no comment either way, because I read too much and see how fast things change and [the] same cycles go through. It's not worth my breath because it's going to pass before we know it. We were rehearsing for the tour, and like everybody else, watching the big three cable news stations. I was getting super-anxious and looking at Twitter and getting super-anxious. We played an American tour, and then we went to, I think, South America, and suddenly I didn't have the three news stations, and I decided not to look at Twitter. My wife and I, when we travel, we do all this nerdy tourist stuff... and what you do when you do that [is] you talk to people. [I] talked to people all across America. We went to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's [home]; we went to Little Big Horn; we went to [a] World War I museum. Countless places, and you talk to people.

"If you're not watching the news and you're not looking at Twitter, I really recognized as an observationalist that this divide they're talking about... it's not there. I just didn't see it, and the America that I know is the one after 9/11. When that happened, we all came together and we had each others' backs, neighborhood by neighborhood, house to house. The hurricane in Houston — nobody asked who the fuck you voted for. Everybody just came and helped. We get to play these big rock shows around the world. I've seen women in full headdress in Muslim countries rocking the fuck out. If I'm in a bubble, it's a bubble of unity. It's a lot of noise, and I started writing these little observational pieces on this. I had an acoustic guitar on the road with me... and this thing I was writing, the column, became a song — just a three-chord song. I started writing these songs, and I was thinking more Mark Lanegan or Johnny Thunders acoustic, Greg Dulli... I had these songs, this grand idea, but to keep it super-simple and musically serene somehow. Shooter and I talked when I sent him some songs. He understood it immediately."

On Jennings:

Duff: "He is impossibly talented [and] is a few steps ahead of you at all times, but he never made me feel uncomfortable. I've played with enough cats that are always ahead of me, or they're thinking about this thing in a totally different way I've never thought about, and Shooter's one of those guys. But he never made me feel like I didn't belong in that studio as much as he belonged there. We did it as two partners doing this record... [he's] extremely talented, very musical, a great songwriter in his own right. I have all kinds of plans for us for, like, the next 30 years."

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***

During an April 4 appearance at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, GUNS N' ROSES bassist Duff McKagan explained that "Feeling" — a song from his upcoming Shooter Jennings-produced solo album, "Tenderness" — was inspired by the deaths of several of his rock peers.

"When I met Shooter," Duff said, "I had these chords, and I all I had was 'Feel. When the lights go down, you are still here. All you hoped here remains.' It was coming from Scott Weiland, who I worked with and really tried to help a few times — intensely, one time; like, going to the Cascade Mountains for a month, intensely — and saw that it just took him over...

"[GN'R] were on the road, and if anybody has their 'thing,' my thing is Prince," Duff continued. "He's this magical entity to me. Everybody has that record that 'saved your life,' and '1999' gave me the impetus to get out of a heroin-infested Seattle in 1983 and move to L.A. I was in Mexico City — we were playing — and Axl [Rose] texted me, 'I'm really sorry. Turn on the news.' Because they know, like, my lifelong [fandom]. I actually cried...

"Then Chris [Cornell]. Susan [Holmes McKagan, Duff's wife] and Susan Silver [Cornell's first wife] were pregnant at the same time. They had [their daughters] two weeks apart, and we hung out with them and our babies. That's just real-life shit, and then Chris going... the fucking weird thing about that is, that night, about 8 o'clock at night, Axl came into rehearsal and said, 'Let's do 'Black Hole Sun'. Let's try that song.' We rehearsed until 12:30 that night. I got home, and [GN'R guitarist] Richard Fortus texted me — 'Chris is dead.'

"And then Chester [Bennington], who's a friend of ours, and we're friends with his family. These are just my friends... I don't name them in the song, and I gathered up the energy of those four — of the loss, the sense of loss — and it's just a song of... there is a little hope, like, we're going to remember you, and you're still here – these four in particular, and so many more before that. It's been tragic, but the celebration is, I get to work with Shooter now, and do something really fucking bad-ass and cool. I celebrate every fucking day."

Due May 31, "Tenderness" sees McKagan reflecting on his experiences traveling the globe over two and a half years on GUNS N' ROSES' "Not In This Lifetime" tour. Encountering heartbreak, anger, fear, confusion and divide on his travels during this tumultuous time in our world history, McKagan channeled a collective hurt into songs of monolithic power.

McKagan and Jennings began recording "Tenderness" a year ago, working out of Station House studios in Echo Park, California, where they wrote and recorded in between McKagan's tour with GUNS N' ROSES and the release of Jennings's eponymous album, "Shooter". "Tenderness" features Jennings and his band along with appearances by The Waters and The Suicide Horn Section (which features Duff's brother Matt McKagan on trombone), among others.

McKagan will kick off a North American tour in support of "Tenderness" — during which he'll be backed by Jennings and Jennings's band — on May 30 at TLA in Philadelphia.

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