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Welcome to Appetite for Discussion -- a Guns N' Roses fan forum!

Please feel free to look around the forum as a guest, I hope you will find something of interest. If you want to join the discussions or contribute in other ways then you need to become a member. We especially welcome anyone who wants to share documents for our archive or would be interested in translating or transcribing articles and interviews.

Registering is free and easy.


2008.08.23 - Fuse TV - Live Through This: Duff McKagan

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2008.08.23 - Fuse TV - Live Through This: Duff McKagan Empty 2008.08.23 - Fuse TV - Live Through This: Duff McKagan

Post by Blackstar Fri Nov 30, 2018 2:28 am


Voice-over: Seattle, Washington. It's May 10, 1994. Duff McKagan is home after more than two grueling years on the road with mega band Guns N’ Roses. Songs like Welcome to the Jungle and November Rain have made Duff a millionaire. What he doesn't know is that his hard-partying rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle has wreaked havoc on his body and his internal organs are literally breaking down.

Dr. Mauricio Heilbron (surgeon): They're literally just rotting on the inside.

Voice-over: He lies curled on the floor of his Seattle home, convinced he is going to die. As the seconds tick by, Duff's insides are being eaten away by powerful acids produced by his alcohol-ravaged body.

Dr. Lewis Goldfrank (Chairman of Emergency at NYU): Alcohol is a very high concentration toxic material. When you're taking very high concentrations, this becomes a very consequential problem.

Voice-over: As the bassist for one of the biggest rock ‘n’ roll bands of all time, Duff had lived the dream of rock ‘n’ roll excess. He had been drugged up, drunk and partying almost every day and night for nine years. Now he was about to pay the ultimate price. Duff McKagan was about to die. The youngest of eight children, Michael Andrew McKagan was born February 5th, 1964 in Seattle, Washington. Duff came from a working-class family with a mother that encouraged him to pursue his passion: music. By age 14, he was playing with a succession of hardcore punk bands in Seattle.

Duff: That changed my life. Punk rock was a thing that kind of welcomed everybody. Really, from, like, 13-14, I knew that's what I wanted to do.

Voice-over: In 1984, with 360 bucks in his pocket, 19-year-old Duff left Seattle and headed to L.A. to answer an ad for a bass player in a music magazine.

Ryan Downery (music journalist): Duff, kind of this dirty, scraggly, skinny punk rock guy comes down to L.A., hooks up with a guy named Saul, who we know better as Slash.

Voice-over: Duff got by playing the local clubs while he worked on his music and achieving his dreams. He was barely getting by, but he was loving it.

Duff: Slash and I were, like (?). You know, we had some amazing fun, great hilarious times.

Voice-over: Over the next few months, Duff played the dives of Sunset Strip with various bands. Finally in 1985, Duff, Slash, Axl, Izzy and Steven Adler all joined forces in a new band. They called themselves Guns N’ Roses and they were ready to rock.

Duff: The moment the five of us got in a room together, it was like lightning hit the room. So we really knew. It was like we’d found our soul mates in music.

Voice-over: The group was on fire. On June 6th of 1985, the group played a gig at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. It was the moment that would turn Duff from a punk kid from Seattle into a rock star.

Marc Canter: Just so much energy coming off that stage and everybody was just 150 per cent adrenaline.

Voice-over: In the audience was Tom Zutaut, an executive at Geffen Records.

Tom Zutaut: Seeing Guns N’ Roses for the first time was seeing probably one of the most charismatic powerful explosions of animal magnetism that I would ever see or have ever seen.

Voice-over: He signed the group with Geffen. Duff and the band pocketed a $75,000 signing bonus. With bad habits and money to burn, Duff and the rest of Guns N’ Roses were headed for disaster.

Duff: Alcoholism runs in my family. So, you know, I already had one strike against me and I started drinking. But I was still in control. I still had a singular vision of what I was going to do, and drinking wasn't going to get in my way.

Ryan Downery (music journalist): Duff was living to excess, like just grabbing life by the horns, and just going crazy, and taking advantage of anything and everything put in front of him, primarily alcohol.

Duff: That was the beginning of my sort of new existence: “Wow, I can drink like this, and I can do coke and I can stay awake, and I can, you know, never miss rehearsal.”

Voice-over: Despite the excesses, the band kept working and the good times kept on coming. Just a year after signing, the band released their first album, Appetite for Destruction. The record was explosive. It climbed to No.1 on the Billboard charts and ended up selling over 30 million copies.  Suddenly the down-and-dirty rockers were superstars.

Tom Zutaut: To go from crashing on somebody's floor with half-eaten whoppers and French fries to having huge checks rolling in, it's so overwhelming that, you know, you just think you're godlike; you think you're, like, invincible.

Bryn Bridenthal: Along comes money, along comes the first royalty check, and that is absolutely corrupting. Nobody's born and raised to deal with that kind of pressure.

Voice-over: For Duff the pressures and temptations of fame were hard to handle.

Duff: There's no instructional handbook for that, you know? Like, things come at you and you have no idea.

Voice-over: In 1987, Duff and the band departed for the world tour of Appetite for Destruction. What had begun as typical rock star party was starting to go over the top. Duff would snort or pop just about anything. But it was the drinking that really escalated.

Bryn Bridenthal: I think one of the reasons why they drank so much was, you know, to party and to have a good time, but also to get numb. You have no idea, any of us who aren't in that place, what it's like to have that many people wanting a piece of you.

Duff: I started to do cocaine, I started to do pills, and I was drinking. I could afford it. Fuck, and now I’d have cases at home.

Voice-over: After the success of Appetite, Duff and the band released their second album, GN’R Lies. The record hits shelves on November 29th, 1988. Powered by hits like Patience, the new record roared to No.2 in the Billboard music charts. But with more success came more pressure - more pressure to make another hit. To deal with it, Duff kept pounding the vodka.

Duff: Every drama and every little thing that would happen would amplify my need for drink. My intake got to be a gallon a day.

Voice-over: The pressure built as the band headed back into the studio later that year to record two more records, Use Your Illusion I and II. In 1991, Illusion I and II own the charts and set the stage for an epic two-and-a-half year world tour.

Marc Canter: Somewhere deep into to the Use Your Illusions tour, I noticed that Duff wasn't looking too good. You could see it in his face that he just didn't look the healthiest.

Duff: Everybody was drunk on stage, you know? And definitely Slash and I were drunk on stage. I couldn't put the brakes on. I think that my thought process was “live fast, die young.”

Voice-over: The tour finally ended in Buenos Aires on July 17, 1993. But by then Duff was strung out on drugs and alcohol, and tensions in the band were running high.

Bryn Bridenthal: I think the length of the tour really wore everybody down. It's not as glamorous as people might think.

Tom Zutaut: Drugs were pushing everybody into their private little worlds, and private little corners with their dealers, and each of their own little hanger outers…

Voice-over: After nine years on the bass for GN’R, Duff needed to escape. In 1994, he bought a house in Seattle. Duff was no longer touring, but his habits, the gallon of vodka a day and the heavy drugs stayed with him. Only now Duff had lost all control.

Marc Canter: His face was a little puffy. He didn't look very healthy and it was obviously due to the alcohol he was drinking.

Tom Zutaut: I was afraid to listen to my radio, because I was afraid at any moment I was gonna hear Howard Stern announced to me that Duff McKagan had died.

Voice-over: The fear was well-founded. Duff's years of hardcore alcohol abuse had pushed his body to the limit and soon it was going to take him right to the edge. Duff McKagan was about to die.


Voice-over: In 1994, after nine years of living the hard rock lifestyle, Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan was done. While still officially with GN’R, he had stopped touring, but one thing he hadn't stopped was his hardcore drinking habit.

Tom Zutaut: You know, we’ve tried to intervene and, you know, we just can't get our hands around it, because, until someone's ready to heal themselves, there's nothing you can do.

Andy Fortier (close friend): He was getting to a point where I could tell alcohol… I mean, it was saturating him. And he knew he had a problem, and he actually talked to me about it.

Duff: I was bloated. I'd stopped doing cocaine, I’d stopped drinking vodka, and thought I'd just drink wine. You know, I would drink ten bottles of wine, wine and light beer, so I’d be cutting down. A case of light beer and ten bottles of wine.

Voice-over: But Duff's rehabilitation plan wasn't working. And on the morning of May 10th, 1994, Duff woke up in severe pain.

Duff: I'd been drinking a lot of wine, so I was getting heartburn all the time. But this morning I woke up and I was like, “Whoa, I got a heartburn again,” you know. But then it started to feel like a sharp pain, like stuck somewhere in your stomach.

Voice-over: Within minutes the pain became unbearable. Duff rolled out of bed and onto the floor, just hoping the pain would pass. It didn’t.

Duff: It got to a point where the pain was so bad that I was shaking and I couldn't move.

Voice-over: Duff McKagan was slowly dying. Finally, he mustered up the energy to call his only close friend, Andy Fortier.

Andy Fortier: I was at my house and I got a phone call from him, and he said only two words: [gasping] “Help me.” I’m like, “What?” and he goes, [gasping] “Help! Something’s wrong.” I said I’d be right over.

Voice-over: As the minutes ticked by, the pain only grew more intense.

Duff: I heard his footsteps coming up the stairs up to the bedroom. And he came in, and he saw me in fetal position. And I just remember him going, “Oh fuck. It finally happened.”

Voice-over: Not sure what was wrong, Andy drove Duff down the street to his doctor, Brad Thomas's office.

Andy Fortier: I got him up, got him out of there, got some sweatpants on him, dumped him in the car and drove over to Brad Thomas's, because it's literally two minutes away from his house.

Voice-over: In the office, the doctor gave Duff a shot of painkillers.

Andy Fortier: Nothing happened. The pain was still excruciating. He said, “It's gonna be faster if you get his ass in the car and you get him to the hospital, and you get him there right now.”

Voice-over: As they sped to Seattle's Northwest Hospital, Duff remained in excruciating pain.

Andy Fortier: He said, “Just kill me. Just kill me. I can't stand this.” I mean, I've never seen anybody in so much pain.

Voice-over: Minutes later, Andy burst into the ER with Duff in his arms.

Duff: Andy kind of dragged me out of the car into the emergency room. I couldn't even moan. I was, maybe, whimpering.

Voice-over: ER docs quickly assess Duff’s situation. He had a rapid heart rate, a high fever and chills. His abdomen was swollen and exceedingly tender. They called for an emergency ultrasound. The scan revealed Duff was suffering from acute pancreatitis.

Dr. Lewis Goldfrank (Chairman of Emergency at NYU): When someone has pancreatitis, there's a tremendous inflammation of an organ. One of the commonest causes is alcoholism.

Voice-over: A normal pancreas is about the size of a fist. Years of hard drinking had caused Duff’s to swell to the size of a football.

Duff: They came in and they did an ultrasound, and I saw… I could see his face went white.

Voice-over: As his pancreas continued to swell, it began to drip digestive acids between his intestines and skin. The acid had given him internal third-degree burns all the way down to his thigh muscles.

Dr. Lewis Goldfrank (Chairman of Emergency at NYU): This starts an inflammatory process that the enzymes that are there to do good and digest food may end up breaking down some of the tissues in the pancreas, and that's very painful for people.

Duff: There was a guy with a broken back. He saw the state I was in and he goes, “Man, I'm glad I have a broken back and not whatever you’ve got.”

Voice-over: And it only got worse. The pancreas produces digestive enzymes that are critical to breaking down proteins and carbohydrates. Not only were his insides being dissolved, but without a working pancreas Duff would die.

Andy Fortier: You can’t live without your pancreas. I wouldn’t have known if he was going to live or die, basically.

Voice-over: Doctors explained that the best option was surgery to remove the most damaged part and hope that the rest of his pancreas recovered some function. But the surgery had its own risks, and even if it was successful and Duff survived, it was very likely that he would spend the rest of his life on dialysis.

Duff: I told the surgeon, I said, “Just kill me. I can't take it anymore.” It was like dull knives stuck in and jabbing your organ.

Voice-over: Despite the pain, doctors decided the risk of surgery was too great. They would wait to see what would happen next. For days Duff hovered on the edge of death.

Andy Fortier: There was three or four days where we weren't sure if he was gonna make it. They didn’t know if it was gonna blow up tomorrow, or tonight, or whatever.

Voice-over: Duff's friends in L.A. had been worried about him since GN’R had stopped touring in 1994. When they found out he was in the hospital and close to death, it was like a nightmare come true.

Tom Zutaut: I thought when I got that phone call that I'd be going to his funeral. This was, like, my worst fear manifested for Duff.

Voice-over: As the days went by, doctors continued to monitor Duff. If they had to operate, there would be no going back. Duff would spend the rest of his life strapped to a dialysis machine. But if they didn't operate and his pancreas continued to swell or even burst, Duff McKagan could die.


Voice-over: May 1994. Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan lay in Seattle's Northwest Hospital. After over a decade of gallon a day alcohol abuse, he had finally pushed it too far. Now he'd been rushed into the ER, his life hanging in the balance.

Ryan Downery (music journalist): You can only put the human body through so much before it’s eventually going to give up and die on you.

Voice-over: And after nine years of rocking out with Guns N’ Roses, Duff had put his body through hell. But miraculously, as the doctors were getting ready to operate, the swelling in Duff's pancreas went down. It looked like he had cheated death. Finally, ten days later, Duff was released from the hospital with some dire warnings from his doctors.

Ryan Downery (music journalist):  The doctors were really clear, like, “You've got to stop drinking. Not ‘maybe you should stop drinking’, not ‘something bad could happen’. Something bad has happened. You almost died and you will die if you continue to put your body through the abuse that you have been.”

Duff: I knew at that point that my life was going to change and the only person that could change it was me.

Voice-over: Duff had seen enough in the hospital. He was ready to be sober. The transition from a gallon of vodka every day to sobriety was grueling, but Duff used the same intensity he brought to rock ‘n’ roll to his recovery.

Duff: I had this old, dusty mountain bike in my garage and I just got on and started riding. I didn't know what to do.

Andy Fortier: He was gung-ho: “I'm gonna beat this thing. I'm not gonna drink anymore.”

Voice-over: In order to escape his demons, Duff hurled himself into physical exercise and martial arts.

Duff: Now I have both martial arts and AA in my life, and it's great. You know, I enjoy people, I enjoy laughing, I enjoy the good things in life. You know, I drank a gallon of booze and I didn't drink any water – literally, no water. Now I drink a gallon of water and, literally, no vodka.

Voice-over: For the next five years, Duff continued to repair his life. In 1997, he had his first child, Grace, with model swimsuit designer Susan Holmes. They married on August 28th, 1999 and on July 16th, 2000, they had their second child, another girl, Mae Marie.

Duff: I'm obsessed with my family, my music, and my health first, above all of that, because I can't be a good father and husband if I'm physically [bleep].

Voice-over: in 2002, eight years following his brush with death, Duff reunited with former Guns N' Roses members Slash and drummer Matt Sorum to form a new supergroup, Velvet Revolver.

Tom Zutaut: When I hear that those guys are reuniting in another band, I'm thinking, if Duff starts drinking again, it's curtains. I wonder if these guys can really, like, keep it together.

Voice-over: But they did more than keep it together. Duff and the rest of the band made Velvet Revolver hugely successful. Their first record, Contraband, sold 250,000 copies in the first week.

Duff: Velvet Revolver is great. I mean, it’s my musical brothers. Four guys who understand each other and there's no drama.

Voice-over: Duff and the group won a Grammy in 2005.

Duff: I love so much how I feel now. And that's a direct result of the things I went through and how I learned how to live a sober life and a meaningful life.

Voice-over: Duff survived his fame and fortune as part of Guns N' Roses and he lived through the success of Velvet Revolver without falling back on the crutch of booze.

Duff: I'm 44, but, you know, I feel like everything seems attainable to me.

Voice-over: Now the only question is what the talented musician will decide to take on next.

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