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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.


2019.08.12 - GQ - "I Was Lucky to Get a Second Chance at Life" (Duff)

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2019.08.12 - GQ - "I Was Lucky to Get a Second Chance at Life" (Duff) Empty 2019.08.12 - GQ - "I Was Lucky to Get a Second Chance at Life" (Duff)

Post by Soulmonster Thu Aug 15, 2019 9:52 pm

By Paul Henderson
‎12‎ ‎August‎ ‎2019
Bass player with Guns N' Roses, best-selling author, social commentator, and fitness fiend Duff McKagan on his essential 'Life Lessons'

As one of the founding members of rock royalty Guns N' Roses, Duff McKagan, it would be fair to say, has been there, seen it, done it, got the T-shirt from the merch stand. It is also a miracle that he survived to tell the tale. From Eighties hardcore hedonism to Nineties nihilistic addiction, the man who drank so much he earned the nickname "king of beers" finally got his wake-up call when his pancreas exploded. McKagan admits that by that point in time he was "at sub-zero... and didn't even care if he was alive". However, he made it out the other side and, having been granted a second chance at life, has put all his experience to good use.

Today, he is a husband, a father, a part-time rock god with GNR, an occasional writer of books – including his best-selling autobiography, It's So Easy (And Other Lies) – and columns, and recently released his critically acclaimed third solo album, Tenderness. A reflective sociopolitical commentary on modern America, it is Duff's response to the many problems in the States that he has witnessed first-hand. Duff and the Shooter Jennings band he has been touring with with are coming to Europe at the end of August, so GQ called him at his recently remodelled LA home ("It took three years," he tells us, "but it was totally worth it") to find out his secrets to life, the universe and everything. Unsurprisingly, the nicest guy in rock (sorry, Dave Grohl, you just lost your title) didn't disappoint.

From parenting tips, marriage guidance and fitness advice to what he has learned from Axl Rose and why he has hope for America, these are Duff McKagan's life lessons. And his best one is also the simplest: don't be a dick. But we'll get to that...

GQ: OK, impress us, Duff. It is around 9.30am in LA, so presumably you have already been for a bike ride or a hike or been working out or doing martial arts all morning…

Duff McKagan: The truth? I’m about to go. As soon as we are done talking.

Good stuff. How’s the tour going?

Well, we just got done with the US run. It seemed to be really well received. I had two things I wanted to achieve with the record. Firstly, I wanted to do something with Shooter [Jennings] and the band. And the second thing was to get some messages across with the lyrical content, if that isn’t too lofty an idea. There were also some non-profit organisations that I work with that I wanted to support, so the whole thing seemed to work out well. I wanted to express something about togetherness, to get America to turn off the cable news and take a break, and I think the music is pretty good too. If you get a chance to listen to the band, you really should. We’re playing in London soon and if you only come to see Shooter’s band, I definitely recommend that you do. For me to play with these guys is a really special event.

I was listening to the WTF podcast you did with Marc Maron and you were saying you didn’t really like listening to your own voice. Is that true?

Well, I think a lot of singers don’t like hearing their own voice. I think it’s quite common. But, to be honest, it’s not just singing... I don’t really like to listen to myself on podcasts I’ve been on or interviews I’ve done. Those things are not for me.

And how do you feel about being front and centre on stage, rather than ‘on your side’ as the bass player in Guns N’ Roses?

It’s just different things, really. With my band Loaded we did three records, we toured the world and I was the frontman for that band and played guitar, so it is something I’m used to. But it’s different being a frontman and I have really learned a lot from doing that huge tour with Guns. Axl [Rose] just totally commands the stage and he also paces himself vocally. I think by seeing how comfortable he is on stage, I think that has really helped. Axl just doesn’t sweat the small stuff, which I tend to do. I worry over every last word. But being a bass player is really more my thing and I suppose what I am known for. And when I’m doing that with Guns I’m in attack mode, constantly.

On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you right now?

Man, pretty good. It’s a ten. I mean, my relationship with my wife [Susan] is amazing. And my girls are adults now and they are kick-ass young ladies. Grace’s band [The Pink Slips] went on tour with one of my favourite bands, Killing Joke, so I’m like, “Job done! I’ve succeeded as a father.” And my other daughter, Mae, recently finished her first year at college and released her first clothing line – she wants to be a fashion designer. She had a launch party and Debbie Harry came... how cool is that? My wife’s novel, [The Velvet Rose], came out and it sold out on Amazon on the first day. She worked on it for nine years and it’s brilliant. I mean, I can write and I’ve done a couple of books and written a few columns for people, but not a novel... nothing like Susan’s. Our three-year house remodel is finally done and I’m sitting here on the bed just hanging out. So, yeah, I’d say I’m on ten.

Have you ever been on zero?

I have. I was 29 years of age and really I was probably sub-zero, if that is possible. I had got to a stage in my life where I just didn’t care about being alive. I couldn’t get myself out of a situation with addiction and alcoholism and I was convinced that the end was coming. And that fact – that I just didn’t care, that I was probably done – was absolutely the bottom for me. Living day in, day out like that is really the lowest place you can be.

Can you remember the overriding emotion you felt?

I had no emotion at all. Nothing. And that is no way to live. I think that’s why if you hear about me mountain bike riding or kickboxing and doing all this other shit, it’s because I got my life back. As everyone knows, my pancreas burst and all of that, but after it happened and I realised I would have a chance at leading a sober life, living a life without those chains on me, I embraced it fully. I was lucky to get a second chance at life. It was a revelation to me and it was all-encompassing in terms of mind, body and spirit. And I was very fortunate that it happened to me. To look at my life then and my life now, it is truly extraordinary.

Are you still working out as much as you were? You are in your mid-fifties now, but you look great.

Thank you. You know, I do still go hard. I know how to pace myself these days and I think that happens when you get older. But let me tell you this... We moved back into our house and one of the rooms downstairs has all the electronics for the house in it and so it’s really hot in there – it must be 95 degrees. It’s hot hot! I put the Peloton bike in there and I thought, “This is going to be killer!” So I did my first 60-minute class and of course I had to go all out. And I’m 55 – all these other people are in their twenties – and I crushed it. I do a lot of cardio, so I’m in shape, and when I saw that I was crushing them, I just put the pedal down and crushed them some more. But, man, I was cramping the next day... it was bad.

They don’t need to know that, Duff. That can be our secret…

That’s right. I’m sure you and your readers won’t tell anyone about that. But I am also looking out for what I eat, taking supplements and electrolytes and all that stuff. I eat pretty clean, so I’m OK.

Did turning 50 bother you?

Here’s the deal with that. My football team is the Seattle Seahawks and they have never been to the Super Bowl before. So when all my buddies were giving me a hard time and reminding me that I was going to be 50, my football team just kept winning and winning. And then when they got to the final and won it, I was just so happy. And three days after they won it, there was a victory parade and that was on my birthday. So any negative feelings I might have had about turning 50 were completely nullified by the Seahawks.

Do you miss your wild days?

Oh, God, no!

Did you get it all out of your system?

Not only did I get it all out of my system, for every person that reads this article, for every person who comes to see us in concert, for every person that buys the album, I did enough to get it out of all their systems for the rest of their lives as well! And the thing is I am OK with that. I have come to terms with it. I know I probably won’t live as long as some people after what I put my body through: there is some residual damage there. But I am happy and I am just concentrating on being the best husband and father I can be. I keep trying to play better, make great music, write better and better songs. You know, my dream wasn’t to be in a brilliant rock band and to be an addict and an alcoholic. That wasn’t part of the plan... I just wanted to make music. But I made it out and I can deal with that.

Is it more fun being in Guns clean and sober and playing the huge stadiums or do you miss those small, punk rock venues when you first started out?

Oh, it’s much more fun now. The thing about those early, crazy Guns gigs is that I do remember them all. They all happened before I was too far gone with booze, so I have all those memories. And Axl and Slash and I will talk about those gigs even now. Axl has the most amazing memory for detail. It’s fun to talk about them, but I am so glad I don’t have to live through them again.

How are Axl and Slash these days... have they mellowed with age?

Well, Slash was always pretty mellow…

Yeah, OK, I guess I was talking about Axl, really.

The thing about both those guys, but especially with Axl, is that there are no half measures. Axl never just phones it in. When it comes to his intensity level, he’s at 110 per cent. And the Guns community is so incredible that you can’t not deliver every time you play. We’ve travelled the world and when you see women in a full hijab rocking out and flashing the devil horns, it’s just full-on. And they are just as excited about the band as the guy in Arkansas with the mullet who is head-banging and going crazy. Guns unites a whole cross-section of humanity and it is just amazing to be a part of. So to answer your question, the intensity is definitely still there, we just don’t burn down cities when we are offstage like we used to.

What give you the most pleasure in life?

For me, it has to be family first. My family is what I’m about. I’m the head of the family, I try to lead by example. I made a record, this Tenderness record, to show my girls that I care about the world. When they ask, “Hey dad, what did you do when the world was going through some shit?” this is what I did. This is what I am trying to do.

What’s you best parenting tip? Now that you’ve pretty much completed it...

That’s tough. I think my advice is that by the age of nine, I think the kids you have are going to be the adults they become. If you are a couple that fights or if there is tension in the home, the kids are going to pick up on that and it will affect them. My advice is that for those first nine years, your parenting has to be exemplary, and that holds true if you are in a couple or if you are a single mum or a single dad. I think we did OK. I think we were always caring, loving parents to our kids and also to each other. And I would say that once the kids get to around 12, your main job is to be their consigliere.

What is the secret for a successful marriage?

I think it’s a bit obvious, but you can’t beat the three “A”s, you know. You need to be attentive. All the time. And also affectionate. And appreciative of the other person. But the thing is it has to be natural. It can’t be forced like, “Oh, I was definitely attentive a couple of days ago.” You have to live it and believe in it. And our sex life is really good too – that’s important.

Woah, Duff... let’s not go into too much detail.

[Laughs.] No, man, that stuff is super important, I truly believe that. You’ve got to always make time for yourselves as a couple, even when the kids are little. You can’t always be mum and dad. You just have to make that time to be a couple. Grown-up time.

So you are never tempted to stray on tour? Rock stars, groupies, that must still be a thing…

I suppose so, but, honestly, it just never enters my head. For starters, I could just never do that to my wife. And it’s not even a case that I have to think about it. It just doesn’t even enter my mind, at all.

What can’t you live without?

Oh, I just can’t live without playing music. And I think that’s how you have to be as a real musician. If you are the kind of person who can just set it aside and go and do something else for a while, music is not your calling.

How are you when it comes to talking about your feelings?

Well, I would say that coming from an Irish family definitely helps with that. In our family the men will kiss hello on the lips and that was the way I grew up. And with this album, I have been on stage talking about some of the subjects that are covered in the songs, such as high-school shootings or whatever, and I have choked up a little bit, because this stuff matters to me. I would say I’m not an overly emotional guy, but I’m certainly not afraid to talk about things or how I’m feeling. I’m happy to share what’s going on.

Given the social issues raised on Tenderness, are you optimistic for America?

One of the things that I did when I got sober was to start reading and the subject I have been most interested in is history. Honestly, I have read so many American history books that what I have realised is that most of the time the different administrations don’t really matter. Time moves on, society evolves and survives and political regimes come and go quickly. The important thing to remember for Americans is that there has always been “us”, as in the people. If you look at any point in history, ultimately we look out for each other. Be it 9/11, the hurricane in Houston a year and a half ago, the fires in California recently, people show up for each other... even when the government doesn’t do enough. America is going to be fine, I think.

Are you optimistic for men? It seems to be a tough time for men, in the light of Me Too, mental health issues, suicide rates…

I am optimistic for men. I think the reality is different to the social media picture that is out there. I think there are problems for men, like incels, for instance, which is like an internet club for misogynists or whatever. But I choose not to surround myself with men like that. For instance, by best friend from when I was three years old is still my best friend. And the guys I choose to hang around with, play music with, be friends with, they are all good dudes. I do think young men are struggling a little bit. I think political correctness has maybe gotten out of hand to the point where younger men do struggle with what masculinity means. The adage I like and that I have included in one of my books is simply this: “Gentlemen, seriously, don’t be a dick.” That’s it. When you are going on a date, get ready, get dressed, check yourself in the mirror and then say to yourself, “Don’t be a dick.” It’s that simple.

What is it you like most about yourself? Is it that you’re not a dick?

[Laughs.] I try not to be a dick. I don’t know, man... I guess I like the fact that my priority is to be a good dad to my girls. I’m glad that where I am in my life is that I like being a husband and a father and it makes me happy. And I try my best at that. I also like that I am alive, that I survived and that I went through some shit and came out the other side.

Is there anything you dislike about yourself?

I did go through a stage where I got obsessed with cable news services and news on Twitter and I would try and read it all, until it just got to be too much and I realised that almost all of it is horseshit.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Wake up grateful. And never take shit for granted.

And the final question: you were once known as Duff ‘The King Of Beers’ McKagan. What are you the king of now?

[Laughs.] I don’t know. Maybe I am the King Of Peloton. I crushed those guys, man. And once I saw I was crushing them, I crushed some more. I broke their spirits. I paid for it the next day, but they don’t need to know that.

Don't worry Duff... we won't say a word.
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