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2005.03.26 - Edmonton Journal - Revolver's Not Loaded (Duff)

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2005.03.26 - Edmonton Journal - Revolver's Not Loaded (Duff) Empty 2005.03.26 - Edmonton Journal - Revolver's Not Loaded (Duff)

Post by Blackstar on Tue 12 Jan 2021 - 19:39

Revolver’s not loaded

Duff McKagan and Scott Weiland take great pains to stay clean

Journal Music Writer

Velvet Revolver's Fall To Pieces shatters the usual music-video stereotypes.

Instead of packing their clip with half-naked girls, cocky rappers or smirking punks, the rock 'n' roll vets offer one of the most touching and unlikely moments in recent video history.

Bassist Duff McKagan finds singer Scott Weiland zoned out in a bathroom, then drags him up some stairs. After a struggle, the two end up hugging each other like their very lives depend on it, which is not the usual show of affection for swaggering, hetero rock 'n' roll vets known for their insatiable appetites for groupies.

It's an intensely personal video for an intensely personal song, an art-imitating-life reflection of the former Stone Temple Pilot's struggles with heroin addiction before (and after) joining McKagan and his fellow Guns N1 Roses survivors, guitarist Slash and drummer Matt Sorum, to form Velvet Revolver.

"It was heavy," says the 41 -year-old bassist. "It was real. Pulling Scott up the stairs, he was dead weight. The fight was real him pushing, me putting him in a choke hold and then picking him up and hugging. It was heavy."

The video also hints at McKagan's previous addictions and the pivotal role he played in helping Weiland kick his habit for good. The fight scenes, you see, were choreographed by martial arts experts, some of the very ones who helped McKagan stay clean for more than a decade.

"It was very metaphorical for what we went through," he says. "Scott and I had gone up to this kung fu master up in the mountains of eastern Washington. It was like kung fu camp. That's where we went through the fight initiation to get him clean. He had come to me and said, look, I've been to rehab a thousand times and it obviously hasn't worked. Can I try your way?'

McKagan has never experienced Weiland's recurring relapses, but the former GNR bassist says he was much worse off than the stoned Temple Pilot ever was.

Back in 1994, after the demise of Guns N’ Roses, McKagan was so messed up on booze and drugs, his doctors wrote him off. He was hospitalized with a case of acute pancreatitis and given only a few days to live. At one point, McKagan remembers leaving his own body and seeing himself lying in bed. In one arm, an intravenous pumped morphine into his veins to relieve the pain. In the other, librium helped him combat his withdrawal from alcohol.

"My pancreas basically expanded and burst I had third degree burns on my intestines," he says.

Somehow, McKagan survived.

"My doctor said, ‘You're here for a reason. This does not happen.'"

McKagan should've headed straight for rehab, but he decided to try studying under a world-champion boxer, Benny “The Jet” Urquidez and learned to defend himself in the ring. Slowly, McKagan rebuilt his confidence.

"He took me under his wing, broke me down and brought me back up with a whole different way to think," he says. "The first thing I had to do was get honest with myself. It started with little things like making my bed, doing the dishes to bigger things like being straight up with people and not telling little white lies. All of a sudden you start feeling confident."

In 1999, McKagan returned to his hometown of Seattle where he briefly played with pop-punk jokesters, The Presidents of the United States of America, and went to Jesuit college to study finance.

Instead of making a big spectacle a la MTV and Motley Crue's horticulturalist-in-training Tommy Lee, McKagan tried to keep a low profile. He shaved off his blond locks and kept to himself in class, but a few students quickly realized their classmate was one of rock's top four-stringers.

“The classes are so hard and you're always on the edge of your seat, so there's no time to go 'Hey dude, welcome to the jungle!'" he laughs. "In between classes, people would come up to me. I remember this little punk rock girl saying, 'My generation really got ripped off. We don't have a rock n' roll band of our own.' At that point, there was 'N Sync and Nickelback. I said, 'You know, you're right. Look to the underground. There's bands there.'"

McKagan didn't get a chance to finish his degree, because Velvet Revolver came knocking in 2003 and the fivesome recorded Contraband, which picked up a Grammy for Slither in February.

Unlike GNR's days of debauchery, McKagan is now travelling through "the hinterlands" of Canada in a tour bus with his wife, two daughters and their grandmother. He's grateful he can share his adventures with Grace, 7, and Mae Marie, 4.

"Kids really understand rock 'n' roll and the whole work ethic," says McKagan. "It's a lot of travelling, a lot of interviews md working out. It's really good for them to see. It's also kind of bohemian and romantic it's like those old Rolling Stones photos you see with all their kids. They love the tour bus, they didn't want a hotel room on this entire run. They get to watch DVDs, they've got bunks, they love the whole vibe of travelling.''

He recently bought a guitar for Grace, but he's not trying to push his girls into rock 'n' roll. Like any dad, McKagan is fiercely overprotective.

"Whether they pursue art or banking, I don't really care," he says. "As long as no man puts their hands on them until they're 35, I'm fine."

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