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1991.07.12 - Interview with Duff in The Seattle Times

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1991.07.12 - Interview with Duff in The Seattle Times Empty 1991.07.12 - Interview with Duff in The Seattle Times

Post by Soulmonster on Wed May 14, 2014 8:11 am

Seattle Concert A Homecoming For `Guns' Bassist

By Patrick Macdonald

Duff McKagan says he still bears a scar from the first time we met.

The bassist for Guns N' Roses, calling from a hotel room in Denver earlier this week, claims I burned him on the arm with a cigarette at a Rachel Sweet concert at the Showbox in 1980, and that we scuffled over it. I don't remember the incident, but he insists it's true.

"I've been waiting for a chance to tell you," he laughed. "Looking back, it's hilarious."

McKagan asked a woman in his suite to bring him his vodka and cigarettes, told her to go hang in Slash's room and, between swigs and puffs, talked about growing up in Seattle, the bands he played with here, how he got into Guns N' Roses, the infamous American Music Awards brouhaha, and why there won't be a second Tacoma Dome show.

The Roosevelt High dropout, who grew up in the University District as the youngest of eight kids, says he played in 31 bands here, including the Fastbacks, Ten Minute Warning, the Veins and Crisis Party.

He went to Hollywood at 19, hoping for stardom. Only days later, he answered an ad in a music paper and joined a band called Hollywood Rose, which soon became Guns N' Roses. Through contacts here, he booked the band into the Gorilla Gardens, a hole-in-the-wall tavern off Pioneer Square. But 100 miles outside L.A., the band's Pontiac died. They had to hitchhike the rest of the way, arriving only hours before showtime. They played the gig for just a few people, and the owner paid them only $50 of their promised $250 fee.

"We threatened to burn the place down and he called the cops and we high-tailed it out of there, after stealing more money from him." A Seattle friend drove the band back to L.A.

"That was like a total bonding experience for the band," he said. "At that early stage, we thought if we could get through that, we could get through anything."

Perhaps McKagan's most famous moment with GN'R came at the 1989 American Music Awards when he and Slash uttered the F-word and the S-word on live TV while accepting two awards.

They were drinking from bottles of wine while they sat in the audience, not expecting to be called onstage. When they were, he said, they were pretty loaded.

"It's not that big a deal," he argued. "If people were offended by a few swear words that everybody says every day, well, in the whole scheme of things, who cares? At least we didn't have some contrived (bleeping) speech. It was real and that's what the band is about."

McKagan said he has watched the rise of Seattle rock, adding that he knows many of the major Seattle figures. For instance, he used to work with Bruce Pavitt of Sub Pop when both were cooks at the Lake Union Cafe. He was a close friend of the late Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone. And earlier this year he flew up from L.A. to see the Fastbacks play the Off Ramp.

While here next week, McKagan will spend a day recording a song dedicated to Wood at a local studio, working with local musicians. It's for a solo album he hopes to release later this year. Lenny Kravitz and Sebastian Bach have already recorded tunes with him, and he's asked Prince to join him in L.A. in two weeks to complete the project.

He apologized for the band's not having a second show at the Tacoma Dome, as originally planned. Instead, the band will be in Berkeley, filming a video for a new song called "Don't Cry," a day after Tuesday's show here.

"I would love to play two gigs in my hometown," he said. "This is like my homecoming, this is a dream come true. I saw Bowie at the Tacoma Dome, I saw Rod Stewart there. But our schedules are real tight these days, and it was the only time we could find to do the video."

As for the millions he's made in the past few years, he says it's not that important to him.

"The money part of it is like the least important thing to me," he said. "I bought some nice things for my mom. I bought a car, a house, some water skis. But as far as anything eccentric, no.

"The fame and money part of this whole thing is just BS to me. It's great to have money. It gives you the freedom to do what you want. But that's not what I got into this for. We're a band. It's all about music."
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