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SoulMonster

1994-01-DD - Interview with Duff

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1994-01-DD - Interview with Duff

Post by Soulmonster on Tue Jun 21, 2011 8:24 pm

So what is it that really gets Duff McKagan’s rocks off? Is it fishing? Or is it playing in-yer face rock n roll in joints like Nottingham’s Rock City? Dave Reynolds finds out what’s for the Guns N Roses bassist hooked!

I really hate touring! Laughs Duff McKagan. But I love playing. It’s really difficult for me to get moving; getting on planes and packing my shit everyday. But once I get on stage it’s like Boom! I love it.

Duff is one of the hardest working guys in rock n roll. As soon as Guns N Roses came off the road in the autumn of 1993 - after an incredible two and a half years of touring - Duff set off around the world again fronting his own band and promoting his first solo album!, And that album, ‘Believe In Me’, was recorded during the Guns tour!

Before his first solo UK date at Nottingham’s Rock City, Duff played some gigs in the States before opening for the Scorpions in Europe.

“It didn’t feel like we were the support band, cos The Scorpions gave us the whole stage, and we had our own crowd,” says Duff. “The Scorpions’ crowd is, how shall I put this? Older. The kids came for us.

“But” he continues, “I can’t wait for this two month break that’s coming up. I probably won’t know what to do with myself after three days, but it’s like that for the other guys in GN’R at the moment.

“Axl and Slash are goin’ crazy; especially Slash. He just invents things to do to keep himself busy. We have no idea what to do when we’re at home. We find it hard to come to terms with doing nothing.”

What do you do to fill time?

“I like to fish or water ski. But it’s winter, so I can’t do the latter unless I’m somewhere hot. I don’t now man you tell me!”

What about songwriting?

“Well, I do that on the road. There’s so much shit to write about then and you’ve got the creative juices flowin’, but when I’m at home, then I’ll just come up with lyrics like ‘I love fish…’! When I wrote my first album, I was goin’ through a lot of shit. You can tell that through the lyrics. That album is like my diary."

Was it therapeutic?

“Yes. I wrote all this stuff down and songs just poured right out. I went into a studio just to record it for myself, as a document of how my life was at the time. This was my past I was recording. I was actually going to call the album ‘Past’ at one point.

“Anyway, the people at Geffen approached me about putting something out. I was unsure at first. Did I really want to put my personal journal out, ya know? But I did it. And it’s fun. Singing songs every night does bring the memories back. Happily, though, everything in my life right now is cool, which is great.”

Even if he does loathe the rigors of touring, this solo jaunt has allowed McKagan to relive the days when Guns N Roses were just another LA rock band, devoid of minders and limos. And Duff isn’t too chuffed with life on the road, then he’s even less than happy with the notion of being a ‘Rock Star’.

“There are people who thrive off that ‘Rock Star’ shit, but nobody in GN’R is like that. I’d see these guys acting up at places like the Rainbow and I’d be asking friends, ‘Hey, I’m not like that, am I?’. I just started to get real angry with the way people began to treat me.”

What were these people doing that irked you?

“Well, ya know, telling me I could have anything I wanted; girls hanging around….just for the pleasure of their friends seeing them; money handed out, the same old shit. I got into a couple of fights and some guys sued me, even though they started it. If you start a fight and you lose, you go home ya know! But these guys sued! I just got angry. I didn’t need it. And I didn’t need it, and have never had the ego of a rock star.”

Are you a lot warier of people now?

“Oh yeah! I’m afraid I have become a lot warier. Definitely. When I came to LA I trusted everybody. People would ask me if they could see my house, and it’d end up with me being ripped off. It’s got to the point where I’ve weeded out who my real friends are.

“I think once people have listened to the album, I won’t be looked upon as this so called ‘Rock Star’. I mean if someone knew me they’d know I’m just Duff - it’s no big deal. You can never make a judgment on somebody until you get to know them.

“But,” he smiles “this tour had been all about going back to how I started. With GN’R, it’s great to play these huge places and it had its redeeming factors, but goddamn if we wouldn’t love to go back and play a club! But we can’t, so this way I can sneak back out and play the little clubs. The memories just swarm back. Playing Rock City, monitor trouble aside, was mind blowing - going downstairs and seeing all the bikers and stuff…But, shit, I hadn’t planned to go out and tour with this!” he laughs. “I didn’t want to. I was touring with GN’R when I was doing the record. But I loved what I did, I worked real hard on my voice and I’m having a blast.”

When Duff decided to sing lead, he went straight to Axl Rose’s coach for advice, rather than the man himself.

“I couldn’t ask Axl, cos our voices are so different. Axl is so far beyond anything I could be. I just don’t have the pipes. That’s why he’s the singer in GN’R!”

Did you sing in any of the bands you were in before Guns N’ Roses?

“Oh yeah. I was in 30 different bands. I did everything; fronted ‘em, played guitar, drums, bass….”

Were you ever part of the Bellevue (a well-to-do suburb of the city) Seattle Metal scene in the early 80’s?

“No, never!” Duff laughs. “When I was in The Fartz we were a Seattle band, as opposed to being from Bellevue, where the rich kids were from. We had shit places to play and no money.

“In 1982 we were on the cover of The Rocket (a notorious Seattle music scene paper) in a ‘Punk V Metal’ deal. Bellevue people thought that were superior to anyone else. Anyway, we went over there to play, and our Punk following didn’t come to see us, cos they were scared of the metal crowd ‘n’ the lumberjacks and shit. So the five of us played the gig. We got booed and had shit thrown at us, but we were used to that, so it was no big deal!”

Duff moved down to LA in 1984 (he’s subsequently bought property back up there, although he’s hardly seen the house for three years) but not without playing a small part in the first seeds being planted for the emergence of the Grunge scene.

“The Fartz turned into 10 Minute Warning. When Guns had Soundgarden open for them in Europe (in 1992), a couple of the guys from the band took me aside one day and told me how 10 Minute Warning had inspired ‘em. They were fans!

“It was a great band. It was like King Crimson hitting a brick wall! I played guitar. We recorded some stuff. I have the tapes and I’m thinking of remixing them and putting the material out. It’s awesome shit - just way out there, man!”

Was there anything from your early days in Seattle that influenced anything on your album, song-wise?

“No, but I’ve taken everything I’ve learnt from my Punk days ’till now and used the experience to do the record. I didn’t want to regress back and just be comfortable playing a cute little Punk Rock record. I wrote what was on my mind. Everyone was expecting a punk record, though!”

Coinciding with the release of ‘The Spaghetti Incident’? It wouldn’t have made much commercial sense to do one…

“Right. Everyone thinks I’m the Punk rocker of GN’R, but Punk Rock just means to me that there are no boundaries. You can do whatever the fuck you want. Not every band I was in was like ‘1,2,3,4,…brrrrrrr’ ya know! I was in all kinds of things.

Duff admits though, that he’s still learning the fine art of how to work a crowd.

“I think I’m getting a little better, I’m just not used to it. At least I’m being honest, and it’s not as if I read off a sheet!”

Some people after the Rock City show seemed a bit disappointed, like they expected something more from you; a bigger deal. Perhaps they wanted you to bring the sofa out on the stage…

Duff cracks up.

“I get a lot of people asking me, ‘Where’s Slash? Where’s Axl?. I’m like, ‘At home? I don’t know!. One of these nights I want to point to the back of the hall and say, ‘Hey, look! There’s Axl!’. Just to see everyone turn around. Cos you know they would!

“Once I get onstage I stand my own. Hey, it’s my gig! I would like to think my shit is good enough without them. I’m doin’ the best I can do and I’m happy. That’s all I can say.”
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