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1990.03.03 - Kerrang!- "I Wish We'd Never Played Donington '88" (Duff)

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1990.03.03 - Kerrang!- "I Wish We'd Never Played Donington '88" (Duff) Empty 1990.03.03 - Kerrang!- "I Wish We'd Never Played Donington '88" (Duff)

Post by Soulmonster on Mon Jun 20, 2011 9:01 pm

It took them a while, but Guns N’ Roses finally made it back into the studio. Whether they’ll ever make it out again is anybody’s guess, and if they do: will the second LP be as good as the first? In an exclusive interview, bassist Duff McKagan tells Mick Wall that it should be - because they’re doing all they can to recreate the circumstances that led to the all conquering debut ‘Appetite For Destruction’. After that its all down to the certain je ne sais quoi that made it happen ion the first place.

At a party in a house in West Hollywood, the place is filling up with freaks of all persuasions: writers, musicians, publicist and managers, agents, go-fers and professional bottle openers, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends and friends of friends.

It is a desultory gathering and the drinking is fierce. Pete Angelus, David Lee Roth’s manager, is holding court in the kitchen, close to the stocks of unopened champagne, his suave Italian American features creased into a permanent wolf-grin as he entertains a tight-circle of nodding, laughing heads with another of his absurd and funny little stories.

Meanwhile, back in the lounge, Slash from Guns N’ Roses sits in the corner of his room with his hair pulled over his eyes trying not to look too famous. A blonde teenage beauty queen he’s just been introduced to is balanced on his knee, a bottle of champagne and some glasses and the inevitable ashtray are placed on a small table by his side- laid back, but not laid out "Not yet, baby"..

There are two toilets and both are impossible to get into. People just seem to emerge from them from time to time.

I am puzzling all this, holding my dick and wondering if anyone will notice if I piss in the pool, when Duff McKagan comes stumbling up and grabs me by the shoulders.

"Man", He shakes his head dolefully. "I do wanna talk with you", he says smiling weakly. "But maybe in a couple of days, huh?"

Sure I tell him, why not? And Duff seems to relax, satisfied for the moment turning his attention back to his drink.

I take a good look at him. At a glance, he still looks good, girls. Tall (bottled) blonde in faded 501s squeezed into tight black leather chaps, heavy black motorcycle boots, black cotton shirt undone to the stomach and a battered blue denim jacket with the sleeves sawn off. You can see the girls eyes flash like traffic lights every time Duff appears in the room.

But looking at his face close up wasn’t such a pretty sight. The corn coloured hair was lank and greasy; the pink cherubic features pale and unshaven. His eyes were the shade of deep red you get from too much drinking or after you’ve been up all night crying.

He told me later that he had, in fact, just recently split up with his wife Mandy. They had been together over two years, married for most of that time. Clearly his mind was on other things. He promised to call. No hurry, I said. If I was him, I thought, considering what he must be going through, I wouldn’t call.

Eventually much to my surprise, Duff did call. Slash was still hanging out with him at his house in the hills, and Duff suggested they might come over and join me for a drink, and I did have my tape recorder ready because Duff wanted to "get something serious down!"
I’ve got my tape recorder ready. They arrive in a tan limo around 10:30 in the evening, two wasp waisted blondes in high heels in tow.

Duff was in a hurry to talk. To get that "something serious down" he seemed so anxious for. He was drunk, of course, which was a big relief for me as I was several sheets to the wind myself at the time, but if the conversation that follows is not always as cohesive as it might be, it is at least comfortable.

Duff was in considerably better spirits. His divorce had legally been made final that day. Understandably Duff was reluctant to discuss the breakdown of his marriage in this interview. "I will say, though, that I am now ok about the way things turned out," he told me.

"All I’m concerned about is getting back in to the studio and starting work on the new album. And then getting back out on the road. There’s a reason for everything, I think. Good or Bad. And what with everything coming up that the band has to do, maybe it’s better that I’m on my own right now I certainly feel better already," he sniggers into his drink.

What follows is as much of the taped conversation between Duff McKagan and myself as space will allow.

I begin by remarking that this is the first time I had interviewed anyone form Guns N’ Roses other than.."Axl and Slash?" Duff arches an eyebrow knowingly. "The big boys, you mean?" he asks, trying for a Sid Vicious leer in mock indignation that on him looks more like the floppy half smile of an inquisitive stray dog sniffin’ a bone.

"Well listen." He says setting down his drink and lighting a Marlboro (Duff chain smokes throughout the interview), "I’m not going to give you one of those Bulletboy rock star interviews. Just fucking man to man talk here"

I laugh and turn on the tape. Let’s just carry on with what we were talking about. What did you mean by ‘the big boys’ - referring to Slash and Axl - that was a joke?

"Oh yeah - they’re, and they’ll be the first to admit it-the cartoon figures of the band. Whether they like it or not and I think most time not, they’re focused on because Axl’s the singer and Slash is the lead guitarist and they’re both fucking amazing, you know? And I don’t blame magazines for wanting to get their clutches on the two of ‘em because they’re both so great, but yet untamed. I mean who was the last truly untamed guitar player, Hendrix?"

Isn’t that the main reason that so many people feel such a powerful attraction to this band? That, as you put it, ‘untamed’ quality to what you do the Most Dangerous Band In The World and all of that?

"It’s a very untamed situation all right, Ha-ha! To this day today, to this minute! But, I mean, the whole band, we love each other; we call each other every day. I just talked to Axl, Slash and I were just on the phone to Axl before we came over. We care for each other and we’ll always take care of each other"

What everybody wants to know, though, what everybody’s saying is,’Well here we are another year and still no new Guns N Roses album. What have they been doing? So, what the hell have you been doing since the band came off the road at the end of 88?

"Well, that’s kind of like trying to answer one of those questions from your parents,: what are you going to do with the rest of your life, son? Uh, I don’t know dad."

How much real work do you think the band has accomplished in the past year?

"Okay, here’s the deal. We’ve always had enough songs right? And we went to Chicago to try and get some of them down on tape - make a demo, sort of thing. So Slash, myself and Stevie went there and waited for Axl and Izzy. Axl had his reasons for not coming out. He was just waiting for us to do out trip as musicians. And Izzy - Izzy was having a hard time with life at that point, and he was just travelling the world. Well, we sat there in Chicago for three months just the three of us, and it kid of got suicidal, but at that point we got a lot of shit done. Some good songs. So if people are asking if we’ve lost our edge in the time it’s taken us to get in a position where the five of us are ready to go in and record, I’d really have to say no, we’ve gained a lot more edge."

"You know, before we did the last record we had no money and we were living like shits. But you go through all this stuff and now it’s like a whole different kind of shit we have to deal with. A whole different bunch of shit. You’ve got people wanting to fucking sue you all the time. You can’t go to clubs. New Years Eve I got in a fight because some guy just wanted to fuck with me."

"I went to the China Club and this guy - Check it out, it was my first night out since I busted up with my wife and all I wanted to do was have a good time. We go to the China Club. Bang Tango are playing later and I’m in a good mood. Anyway, I walk through the door and within 20 seconds this guy comes up to me and goes, ‘Where are you from?’ I said. ‘Er, I live here’. He goes, ‘Well don’t ever touch me again!’ I hadn’t even been near guy; I’ve just walked through he door!"

"I just saw red all of the sudden, because of all the shit that I’ve been going through, right? I turned to my friend Del, and asked him to hold my wallet for a second. Then I just turned back to this guy - and this guy was big man, and I just went HUAARRGHH! (Throws fist through the air) and fucking hit the guy. It’s the first time I’ve seen this happen in real life - he went cross eyed , just like in a movie, and then he went down! Ha-ha!"

"But it’s a horror having to deal with shit like that all the time. It creeps up on you when you least expect it."

Do you ever take a bodyguard with you when you go out at night?

"Fuck no!"

Do you think maybe you should? Trouble does seem to follow you boys around. Wouldn’t it be wise?

"No. I’m just a normal guy, man."

But Duff, you’re not. Not anymore.

"I am"

Well, you’re a very famous normal guy!

"Yeah, but, so?"

Well that means dickheads are gonna fuck with you if they get the chance.

"So they’re dickheads and I’m not, and the next morning they’ll wake up and know they’re dickheads, and I’ll wake up and feel sorry that I got in fight. That’s that. I don’t need security men. Fuck that! I don’t believe in that shit."

But does the possibility of harassment actually stop you from going out sometimes?

"It does, yes. But, dude, there was one period in the space of a week that I got into three fights - just because a guy wanted to show off for his girlfriend. But if they’re gonna be that much of a dickhead, you know, okay, fine. I can ditch a fucking hit, and I can hit ‘em back. If he kicks my ass - so what? You know, he’s not gonna kill me. I can protect myself. I mean if someone’s gonna be such an asshole, that’s their problem, not mine. I never did that to anybody when I first moved to LA. I never thought of going up to David Lee Roth if I saw him down the Troubadour and telling him I was gonna kick his ass, you know? I just wouldn’t have thought of it"

"You know the one that I feel sorry for the most is Axl. Because he’s such a huge figure. I mean, what does he do when he wants to go to a shopping mall? Put a hat on backwards and wear shades? That’s what he wears on stage, man!"

"But you wanna know if we’ve lost our edge, man? No fucking way! We’ve just been working on it a little bit. Keepin’ it sharp! He-he!"

Do you think that with this new album the world already expects too much - that whatever you do next cant possibly compare with people’s hyped-up expectations?

"Well, no, not our true fans. But we are aware that there must be people out there just praying for us to fuck up. Like the second album from the Go-Go’s or the Knack or something. But we’re not that. We’re a rock n roll band, and we’re gonna go on for a while. We have 35 songs for this next album. Are we gonna make it a double album? We don’t know. Are we gonna make it a single album? I don’t know. But we got 35 songs that we’re absolutely proud of and, I tell you what, man, I don’t mean to brag, but my bass playing has gotten so much better. Slash’s guitar playing has gotten immense, immense!"

"Axl’s voice had gone from, well on the last album, Appetite’ it was great but he was just a kid learning how to use his voice. Now he’s like (Smacks right fist into the palm of left hand) he’s got it nailed man."

"Back then," he says, pointing to a Guns n’ Roses poster hanging on the wall behind us circa 87, "we were kids trying to be toughnuts, right? Now we know what we wanna do and we can do it you know? And there’s a difference now. The last year, especially, has made a big difference. It took us some time and we went through a lot of shit, but suddenly we know what we’re about now."

You realize of course that what most people are saying is that the band have been too messed up on drugs and drink to get it together to make another record?

"Sure, sure, of course - and maybe at times it’s true. But whose business is that? It’s nobody’s business but ours. We’re just - we’re a rock n roll band. We’ll make the music. But if I fuck a cow, that’s nobody’s, man. Nobody’s business but mine, you know?

Do you think drugs are essentially a bad thing, though?

"Drugs are bad, yeah. I will always be the first to say that. And everybody in this band has had his bouts wit drugs, but that’s all over now, really. It doesn’t mess with the band anymore, that’s the thing. Before, it used to mess with the band; guys weren’t showing up for rehearsals, guys were coming to gigs all fucked up. But it’s like, that’s all over now, man."

What about this thing that Axl did on stage when you opened the show for the Stones at the LA Coliseum last October - telling the audience it was his last gig with the band because too many of the members had been 'Dancing with Mr. Brownstone'? (A thinly veiled reference to heroin.)

"Right, well he had his reasons."

Were you pissed off that he did that, though?

"Of course I was. But I can say I was pissed off at Axl for doing that, because I wasn’t one of the guys that he was talkin’ about, and immediately I was lumped into the whole thing. So I was furious, of course, but the next day we were on the phone together, talking, and he explained his reasons for doing that shit and I understood what he was saying."

"Axl was blowing off a lot of steam, not only about that but just about a lot of shit. The band hadn’t all made it to Chicago, that all fucked up."

Did either Axl of Izzy ever finally make it out to Chicago?

"Axl made it out for a while. But by that point we wanted to go home. Chicago was hot and sweaty and it was fucked, you know? But to get back to your point - yeah I was pissed off at Axl. I was mad. But that’s the beauty about this band; we got on the phone, the two of us, the next day, and really got out what was going on. That’s what happens with this band. We don’t bottle shit up. It just comes out and sometimes it’ll come out onstage. Maybe not the right place, but it works!!!"

That unpredictability is very much a part of the band’s appeal, don’t you think so?

"Yeah, I mean, we don’t know what the fuck is going on! Ha-ha! We don’t. Axl will tell you, he doesn’t know what’s gonna happen in the next five minutes in his head. I wouldn’t even like to guess, you know? I consider myself pretty stable in the band. I try to make things work musically. I kind of consider myself the musical director of the band, trying to keep everything together. Axl is the word master and the melody maker. Slash is the genius of the band."

When you say Slash is the genius of the band, what do you mean exactly?

"He’s just this fucked up guy that you wouldn’t think. I mean, I’ve seen him go from this kid who’s just this great guitar player, to, I don’t know, just this total monstrosity! To me he is anyway. Maybe I’m over playing him. But just to me as a musician, I appreciate so much. Axl is amazing too."

You didn’t know Axl before the band?

"No. to me, Axl when we first got together, I was like, ‘He’s good, but I don’t know’. But that’s when we had these other two cats in the band (guitarist Tracii Guns and drummer Rob Gardner) and the band was not clicking. But by the time Slash and Steven had joined the band and we were starting to really click. Axl all of the sudden clicked too. It took something for him to click, and it took something for Slash to click. But when it happened, it was somethin’ to see. I’m telling ya.
And Izzy is Izzy. He’s the cool dude of the band. And Stevie’s drumming has really come along too, you know?

"I’ll give you my theory on why were so successful apart from the music and the songs, that is. People look at Izzy, Axl Slash, me and Stevie and it’s obvious we’re all different kinds of people into all different kinds of things. We don’t like everything about each other, we don’t agree on everything, but we don’t lie about it and somehow t works.
People react to honesty, I think. They just look at us and go, ‘What’ And there hasn’t been a ‘What’ in years, you know? Does that make any sense to you?"

Are there any other bands out there that you rate as highly as Guns N’ Roses?

"I love Metallica. I love Faith No More. They’re the same type of band. Who is their guitar player? (referring to FNM guitarist Jim Martin) He’s definitely a ‘What’ too. They’re all fucking insane! I love that. But then you look around and who else is there? The answer is there are only a few bands out there really doin’ it."

What sort of music would you have playing in the dressing room before you went onstage?

"We play the Sex Pistols. We play Fear, Prince, Cameo. We play Faith No More. We play Metallica. We play, ‘um’ Lenny Kravitz. Our musical tastes are so spread apart. We’re into anything. As long as it’s got balls."

While I’ve got you pinned down in front of this machine, Duff, I’d like to get your views on one or two of the more controversial subjects relating to the band.

"Uh-oh..Okay, whaddaya got?"

The whole ‘One In A Million’ saga, for instance?

"That whole thing’s such a bunch of crap, man. Slash is half black. I come from a family that’s a quarter black. And if you (assumes a bullhorn voice) READERS OUT THERE, if you listen to all the lyrics, you might learn something. Axl was a fuckin’ wet behind the ears white boy in LA for the first time and he was scared to death! That’s what the song is about. People are just gonna have to take it whichever way they think is right."

"I mean, I don’t even like talking about it anymore. All it is, is a tale about a certain part of town. Yes, the story is told by a white kid, but that’s his story. And Axl’s got such a reputation now, he’s so well know, that of course they’re gonna jump all over his fucking ass. He said that dirty word."

"I mean, tell me about it. I’ve been an uncle since I was two. It was my older sister’s first child and it was a black kid. When I was growing up I was surrounded by nieces and nephews and cousins that were black, plus my own immediate family, who were white of course. Until I started school, I didn’t know there was a difference in black and white. That was the first time I heard anybody call somebody a n*****. I didn’t even know what the word meant. I still don’t. So I feel strongly about this."

"The bottom line is, Axl is not prejudiced. There is no prejudice in this band. It’s just a tale of what happened to a kid from Indiana, okay? And just being scared off his fucking ass by what he finds in the big city."

Have you played it live?

"We’ve never done it live."

Would you include it in the set on your next tour?

"I doubt it. Well, no, in fact. It’s been said. That song was that song. I can’t see us ever doing a song like that again. Not because we’re chicken shit to do it, just because that was then. There’s nothing left in our lives like that."

"What was the other horrible thing you wanted to ask?"

Donnington.. I hate to drag it up, but I’m still curious. How do you feel about that now, in retrospect?

"It makes me cry every day, if I think about it. I saw the whole thing!"

He takes a long pause.

"I saw the whole fucking thing. It crushed me, man. We stopped, remember we stopped? Because we saw the kids go under. We were screaming, ‘Back up! Back up! Back the fuck up! And the mud was about a foot deep, and the other kids there, they couldn’t tell whey were stepping on people. They thought it was just mud."

Do you blame yourself in any way for the deaths of those two fans?

"Well, of course, I totally felt it was our fault for months, and a part of me probably will feel that way for the rest of my life."

But was there anything that you could or should have done that day?

"Well, no. But look at it this way, Mick - if we weren’t playing that day, maybe it wouldn’t have happened. I mean, I’m not saying it was totally down on us. I’m just saying, if we’d missed the plane or for whatever reason hadn’t made the gig, maybe those two guys would still be living today. I have to deal with that for the rest of my life."

Okay, what can you tell about the next Guns N’ roses album?

"What do you want to know?"

The release date would be nice!

"Ha-ha! Oh man, I don’t know about that. We’re going to the same studio we recorded ‘Appetite’ in, we’re gonna use the same producer (Mike Clink). We’re using the same everything. The sound we got on the last album was so awesome, I mean, why change? I’m even using the same old amps and things."

For luck?

"No, man! Because they sound so great."

So you’ve got 35 finished songs - are we really talking about a possible double album here?

"Okay, here it is - It will be a double album if we can last that long. We’ve got the studio booked open-ended, so we’ve got plenty of time. It just depends what shaper we’re all in after a couple of months."

Do you know what you’re gonna call it?

"I think ‘Girth’ or ‘Heinous’ would be a great name for the record. ‘Girth’ Ha-ha! We could have a special logo done of a big fat dick. I dunno. We actually have a song called ‘Girth’. We’ll probably change the title, but we call it that because it’s so fucking heavy."

Can you give me an example of the other song titles?

"There’s a really cool song called ‘Yesterdays’ that West (Arkeen co-author of It’s So easy amongst others), has written the lyrics for. And a big ballad by Axl called ‘November Rain’ that he’s been waiting to record for a long time. He’s got about another four big ballads, as a matter of fact, that he wants to record. Another one called ‘Just Another Sunday’, a great song that we wrote eons ago. And lots of other stuff, but I don’t wanna say too much because none of us really know what we’re gonna do with all these songs eventually. I’ll send you a fucking postcard."


Last edited by Soulmonster on Fri Jan 17, 2020 7:30 am; edited 3 times in total
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1990.03.03 - Kerrang!- "I Wish We'd Never Played Donington '88" (Duff) Empty Re: 1990.03.03 - Kerrang!- "I Wish We'd Never Played Donington '88" (Duff)

Post by Blackstar on Tue Jan 14, 2020 4:41 pm

Longer/unedited version of this interview from the book:
Mick Wall, GUNS N' ROSES: The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Sidgwick & Jackson, U.K. 1991, 1993

--------

FIVE
 
New Year in Hollywood
 
JANUARY 1990
 
New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles; a house in West Hollywood. Just minutes to go till midnight and the place was already filling up with freaks of all persuasions: writers, musicians, publicists and managers; agents, designers, chauffeurs, go-fers and professional bottle-openers; wives, girlfriends, boyfriends and friends of... friends. It was a desultory gathering and the drinking was fierce. Rudy Sarzo, the bass player from Whitesnake, wandered about - tanned, affable - cuckooing from one conversation-in-progress to another, clutching a glass of champagne in one hand and his pretty champagne-blonde wife in the other.
 
David Lee Roth’s manager, Pete Angelus, was holding court in the kitchen, close by the stocks of still-unopened bubbly, his suave Italian-American features creased into a permanent wolf’s grin as he entertained a tight circle of nodding, appreciative faces with another of his absurd and funny little stories; things ‘you probably won’t believe, but...’ Meanwhile, back in the lounge, Slash sat slumped in a chair in the corner of the room, shaggy hair pulled down over his eyes, trying not to look too famous; a saucer-eyed teenage beauty queen he’d met at the China Club earlier that same evening balanced on one knee; a bottle of champagne, two fluted glasses and the inevitable ashtray placed on a small table by his side - laid back, but not laid out. Not yet...
 
There were two toilets on the premises and both were impossible to get into all night. People just seemed to emerge from one or other of them from time to time, closing the door shut tight behind them. They would exit in twos and threes, gagging and spluttering and waving their arms in the air as they stumbled back into the room, grasping at things no one else could see. I was pondering all this, holding onto myself and wondering if anyone would notice if I pissed in the pool, when Duff McKagan came stumbling over and grabbed me by the shoulders.
 
'Man, man...'
 
What?
 
'Man...’ He shook his head dolefully. ‘I can’t talk about it right now but I just had the worst Christmas,’ he said, leaning his back to the wall. ‘But I do wanna talk with you... maybe in a couple of days, huh?'
 
Sure, I told him, why not? Duff seemed to relax, satisfied for the moment, his eyes fixed on a space about two inches above my head. I took a good look at him. At a glance, he looked fine, just like his pictures... tall (bottled) blond in faded 501s squeezed into tight black leather chaps, heavy black motorcycle boots, black cotton shirt undone to the stomach and a battered blue denim jacket with the sleeves sawn off. You could see the ladies’ eyes flash like traffic signals every time Duff appeared in the room. But looking at his face close up he wasn’t such a pretty sight. The corn-coloured hair was lank and greasy; the pink cherubic features pale and unshaven. His eyes were the shade of deep red eyes go when they’ve been up all night drinking, or crying. Or both.
 
We stood there and talked for a while and Duff told me that he had, in fact, just split up with his wife, Mandy. The couple had had a bitter row on Christmas day and Duff had ordered her from the house. ‘She told me she hated me and I told her to get out and she did. It was the shittiest fucking Christmas I ever had.’ Duff and Mandy had been together for over two years, married for most of that time.
 
At the stroke of midnight, we had ushered in the new decade the American way - counting down to the chimes on MTV, everybody drowning their gizzards in champagne... 9, 10, 11, 12... Whoosh. And there we were suddenly - 19fuckin’90! Who woulda thunk it?
 
Somebody turned the TV set off and cranked up the tape-deck. I turned around and Duff was standing behind me. We shook hands, attempted to slap each other’s backs and only succeeded in spilling our drinks over one another. He left a short while after, accompanied by Slash. Clearly, Duff’s mind was on other things. He promised to call. No hurry, I said. If I were him, I thought, considering what he must be going through, I wouldn’t call.
 
Two nights later, however, much to my surprise, Duff did call. Slash was still hanging out with him at his house in the hills, and Duff suggested they might come over and join me for a drink, and did I have my tape-recorder ready because, he said, he wanted to 'get something serious down’.
 
I got my tape recorder ready. They arrived in a tan chauffeur-driven limousine at about 10.30 p.m., two wasp-waisted blondes in mini-skirts and high-heels in tow. Duff was in a hurry to talk, he said. To get that 'something serious down’ he seemed so anxious for. He was already half-cut, of course, but Duff seemed in considerably better spirits than he had done forty-eight hours before. His divorce, he told me, had been made final that day. Under Californian law, any couple married for under two years can obtain a divorce within seven days - which is exactly the time it had taken Duff to divorce Mandy, once he’d made up his mind to do it on Christmas day.
 
Understandably, Duff said he was reluctant to discuss the break­down of his marriage in this interview. ‘I will say, though, that I’m happy now about the way things turned out. The marriage wasn’t going anywhere. We hadn’t been happy for a long time... We tried, it didn't work, end of story. All I’m thinking about now is going back in the studio and starting work on the new album. And then getting back on the road. There’s a reason for everything, I think. Good or bad. And what with everything coming up that the band has to do maybe it's better that I’m on my own right now... I certainly feel better already,' he snorted, twirling his glass.
 
It had been nearly a year since I had last interviewed Slash, and despite the apparent inactivity of the band during that time - exactly five gigs and still no sight of the much-touted second Guns N’ Roses album on the misty horizon - there was still a lot to talk about.
 
In April, the band had put in a guest appearance at that year’s Farm Aid concert in Indiana, along with such pillars of the rock establishment as Bob Dylan and event co-organiser, John Cougar Mellencamp, where they also unveiled a brand new number - the first new song to be added to the set for over two years - ‘Civil War’, for which Axl donned a ten-gallon hat and shades to sing. Halfway through ’89, combined sales for both Appetite For Destruction and GN’R Lies had reached in excess of ten million copies in America alone, and, in June, Rolling Stone put Axl on its cover. It was the first major interview Axl had granted that year, but in order to get it Rolling Stone had had to agree to allow RIP journalist Del James and photographer Robert John - both close friends of the singer’s since the early days of the band - to submit the only stories and pictures the magazine would be allowed to use. Then, in September, as Slash had indicated they might, Guns N' Roses played second-fiddle to the reactivated Rolling Stones over four nights at the mammoth 70,000-capacity Los Angeles Coliseum.
 
The controversy that had continued to dog the band all year over the inflammatory lyrics of ‘One in a Million’ again reared its ugly head when Vernon Reid - guitarist of all-black rockers Living Colour, who were third on the bill at the Stones’ shows - made a short speech from the stage of the Coliseum the first night, to the effect that anybody who called somebody else a nigger - whatever the situation, but particularly, Reid made clear, in the mass-media context of a popular song - was promoting racism and bigotry, no matter how hard they tried to explain it away. The inference was obvious and large sections of the Coliseum crowd stood on their seats and cheered and whistled, applauding loudly.
 
Then Guns N’ Roses came on for their say and Axl trumped every­body by announcing mid-set that this would be his last appearance with the band as too many of its members had been ‘dancing with Mr Brownstone’, a thinly-veiled reference to heroin, directed, it later transpired, at Slash and Izzy and Steven, who had indeed been sliding back into their bad old ways during the long hiatus from active duty, either touring or recording.
 
The scene backstage after the show was one of utter pandemonium. Like the boy who cried wolf, nobody was really sure Axl would carry out his threat. But then, nobody was really sure he wouldn’t. However, after extracting firm promises from Slash, Steven and Izzy that they would clean up their act straight after their stint with the Stones - and with the added condition that Slash make an announcement from the stage saying as much, which he did, a little red-faced but courageously, nevertheless - Axl was back treading the boards of the Coliseum the following night, and Guns N’ Roses had themselves another front page story to sell, bigger and certainly more sensational than anything Mick Jagger and his media wizards would cook up during the Stones’ intended high-profile fortnight in LA.
 
Since then, however, all had seemingly gone quiet again on the Guns N’ Roses front. Now I was back in LA, I wanted to know why. Taking a bottle of vodka out of a paper bag and helping himself to glasses and mixer, Duff followed me out to a back room where we would be able to talk in private, leaving Slash to entertain the girls. (Poor guy.)
 
Duff began by promising that this wasn’t going to be ‘one of those regular fuckin’ rock star bullshit type interviews. Just man to man fuckin’ talk here,’ he gurgled, an unlit cigarette dangling from his mouth.
 
I remarked that this was the first time I had actually interviewed anyone from Guns N’ Roses other than...
 
‘Slash and Axl?’ he interrupted. ‘The big boys, you mean?’ he sneered.
 
Well, yes, but what did he mean by ‘the big boys’? Was that really how Duff felt about them?
 
'No, man,’ he shook his head and grinned. ‘It’s a joke... it’s all a joke. It's just that they're - and they'd be the first to admit it - they’re the cartoon figures of the band. Whether they like it or not, and I think most times not, they’re focused on because Axl is the singer and Slash is like this fucking guitar player, and they’re both fuckin’ amazing, you know? I don’t blame magazines and shit for wanting to get their clutches into them, ’cos they’re both so fuckin’ great! I mean, Slash... he’s untamed!’ he hollered, waving his glass around. ‘And when was the last untamed guitar player - Hendrix? I’m not comparing him to Hendrix, though...’
 
Wasn’t that the very reason - beyond the music, beyond the hype - why so many young people felt such a powerful attraction to Slash and Axl or indeed all of Guns N’ Roses: that, as Duff put it, ‘untamed duality’ to the band?
 
'Yeah, it’s a very untamed situation, man.’ He laughed out loud again. Still to this day, to this minute! But the whole band, we love each other. We call each other every day - I just talked to Axl on the phone before I came out tonight. You know, we care for each other and we always take care of each other...’
 
Just then Slash stuck his head around the door and informed us that he was taking the limo and the girls over to Fat Burgers to get something to eat and did Duff or I want him to bring anything back for us. We thanked him but said no, we were fine as we were.
 
'OK,' said Slash, pausing at the door. ‘By the way, Duff, man, can you, like, loan me some money? I forgot to bring any with me ...’ he smiled sheepishly.
 
‘Sure, but I’ve only got a hundred-dollar bill,’ said Duff, already reaching for his wallet.
 
'That'll do,’ said Slash, stashing the proffered note in his back pocket. 'Just bring me the change,’ murmured Duff, but the guitarist had already skidaddled, the door banging shut behind him. ‘All right... where were we?’ Duff ignored his glass and went straight for the vodka bottle, put it to his lips and took a long haul. Then he set it back down again, lit a cigarette, picked up his glass and took a sip from it. ‘I mean, this band of ours is very volatile,’ he said without skipping a beat. ‘But it's not as volatile as it’s made out to be in the press - not at all! It’s like we're a family...’
 
I decided to cut the crap and get straight to the point, as they say in all the best pot-boilers. The date today was 2 January 1990, and the burning, indeed only, question on the minds of their fans now was: what the hell did Guns N’ Roses do all last year? Why hadn’t they finished the new album yet? More to the point, why hadn’t they even started the new album yet?
 
‘We’re going into the studio on the 15th of this month...’ Duff began uncertainly.
 
OK, I said, but why were they only starting the thing now? What­ever happened to 1989? Apart from the four shows in LA with the Stones and the one-off Farm Aid appearance, what had the band been doing the rest of the time - sitting on their hands?
 
‘Well...’ he spread his hands out like a dealer showing the mark a clean deck. ‘Well...’ he paused, searching the walls with his eyes for the words. ‘Well... OK, here’s the deal. We’ve always had enough songs, right? But we went to Chicago - Slash and myself and Steven went there - to try and make a start on the songs. And we waited for Axl and Izzy, but Axl had some reasons for not coming out - he was just waiting for us to do our trip as musicians - and Izzy... Izzy was having a hard time with life at that point and was just travelling the world. So we sat in Chicago for three months, the three of us, and kinda got suicidal. But at that point we also got a lot of shit done. So if people are gonna ask, have these guys lost their fuckin’ edge, I’d have to say no, we’ve gained a lot more edge.
 
‘You know, before we did the last record we were down, no money, going through all this shit. Now it’s like a whole different bunch of shit to deal with. You got people who want to sue you, you got people who want to fight you, you can’t go to clubs... I got in a fight New Year's Eve, just ’cos some guy wanted to fuck with me,’ he said, the expres­sion on his face incredulous. ‘Check it out, it was my first night out since I busted up with my wife and all I wanted to do was have a good time. We were there to see Bang Tango. But within twenty seconds this guy comes up to me and says, “Where are you from?” I said I live here, you know. He said, “Well, don’t ever touch me again!” I mean, I haven’t even been near the guy, I’ve just walked through the door!' The eyes, still bloodshot and swollen, were almost popping out of his head.
 
‘I just saw red all of a sudden, ’cos of the shit I've been going through.’ He lowered his voice to an awed croak. ‘I turned to my friend Del and said, “Hold my wallet for me, please.” Then I turned back to this guy - and this guy was big, man - and I just went HUUURRGG! And I fuckin’ hit the guy.’ He demonstrated, standing up and aiming a huge, out-swinging right hook to the jaw of an imaginary opponent. ‘It’s the first time I've ever seen it in real life, but his eyes went cross-eyed, like in a movie, and then he went down...' He gave a little chuckle, then sat back down again. He picked up his cigarette. ‘Actually, it’s a horror having to deal with shit like that all the time.’
 
I asked Duff if he ever took a bodyguard with him when he went out at night?
 
‘Fuck, no!’ he baulked, as though his honour were at stake even answering such a question.
 
In the light of events like the most recent example at the China Club, though, didn’t Duff think he should consider taking some form of security out with him at night?
 
‘No way!’ He looked insulted. ‘I’m just a normal guy, man...’
 
Not any more, I said.
 
‘But I am,’ he insisted, all piss and vinegar now.
 
All right, I conceded, but he was a very famous normal guy now and that made him different from most.
 
‘So?’ he glared at me.
 
So, it made him an easy target for the dickheads out there...
 
‘So they’re dickheads and I’m not! The next morning they’ll wake up and know they’re a dickhead. And the next day I’ll wake up and feel sorry I got in a fight and that’s that. I don’t use security - fuck that,’ he scowled. ‘I don’t believe in that shit.’ Duff admitted, though, that the amount of attention he received now did actively stop him going out sometimes.
 
‘Mmm, it does. But I’ve gotten used to it... There was a period once of about a week where I got into three different fights. One guy started one just because he wanted to show off to his girlfriend. Now it’s question of do I want to walk in and deal with being Duff McKagan.’ He puffed out his cheeks. ‘But if they are going to be that much of a dickhead, OK, fine. I can ditch a fuckin’ hit, and I can hit ’em back! If he’s gonna be such an asshole then that’s his problem, not mine. I never did that to anybody when I first moved here to LA. I never thought of going up to David Lee Roth if I saw him down the Troubadour and telling him I was gonna kick his ass, you know? I just wouldn’t have thought of it... These guys who do are just assholes. Fuck them.’
 
‘The one I feel sorry for the most,’ said Duff, ‘is Axl. He’s such a huge figure now... I mean, what does he do when he wants to go to the shopping mall - put on a baseball cap backwards and wear shades? That’s what he wears on stage, man, you know... So I feel sorry for him. But it’s all the same, the edge is still there. It definitely is still there, man.’ Duff looked me hard in the eye. ‘It is not lost. I mean, this new album, the songs are just so...’
 
What?
 
‘Well, there’s so many of them for a start. We have songs for days... We have thirty-five fuckin’ songs written for this next fuckin’ album! It may be a double-album, I don’t know. None of us knows yet.’
 
But were they thirty-five songs they were proud of, or thirty-five songs that might or might not work once the band finally - if ever - got back into a recording studio?
 
‘No, we have thirty-five songs that we are proud of.’ Duff assured me. ‘And I tell you what, man, not to brag, but my bass playing has gotten so much better. Slash’s guitar playing has gotten immense! And fuckin’ Axl’s voice has gone from... The vocals on the Appetite album were great, but he was still a kid back then learning how to use his voice. Now he’s like’ - he smacked a fist into the palm of his hand - ‘he’s got it nailed, man.’
 
Duff pointed to an old Guns N’ Roses poster tacked to the wall, circa ’87. ‘That band right there,’ he pointed a ringed finger, ‘we were kids trying to be tough fuckin’ nuts, right? Now we’re like, we know what we want to do and we know we can do it. There’s a difference, man. There’s a difference,’ he repeated almost to himself, gazing up at the wall at his past. ‘There’s been a big growing period since then...' Duff said 1989 had been ‘a very tough year for every single person in the band’.
 
I put it to him that the popularly received wisdom of the time suggested that part of the band’s problems the previous year had stemmed largely, if not wholly, from their wholesale use of drugs. That, simply, Guns N’ Roses were too out of their heads to get it together any more...
 
He nodded his head impatiently. ‘Sure, sure, and maybe at times it’s been true. But... it’s nobody’s business but ours. We’re a rock ’n’ roll band, you know? We’ll make the music, man. But if I fuck a cow, it’s nobody’s business, man. It’s just nobody’s business to fuck with any of that shit!’ Duff said touchily. ‘But the drugs... drugs are bad, I will always be the first to say that. Everybody in this band has had his bouts with drugs, but that’s all over now. Before, it would mess with the band; guys wouldn’t show up for rehearsal; guys would come to gigs all fucked up. But it’s like, that’s all over now, it really is.’ He took another large swallow from the bottle.
 
I asked about the little ‘retirement’ speech Axl had made on stage at the first Stones show, citing the fact that too many members of the band had been ‘dancing with Mr Brownstone’. Had Duff been aware of what was about to happen?
 
‘Of course not! I was pissed off at him for that, too. But I can say I was pissed off with Axl for doing that because I was not one of the guys that he was talking about. I mean, I just walked into that thing. So I was furious, of course. But the next day we were on the phone together, and you know, it was OK, he explained his reasons for doing it. He was blowing off a lot of steam about a lot of shit. A lot of shit.
 
The fact that the band hadn’t gotten it together in Chicago, shit like that... But yeah, I was mad at Axl, I was pissed off. Then we got on the phone - and that’s the beauty of this band - we got on the phone the next day and really got out what was going on. That’s what happens with this band, we don’t bottle shit up. We just let it out. And sometimes it’ll happen on stage.’ He grinned. ‘It may not have been the right place, but it sure worked!’
 
Meaning that Slash and Izzy and Steven had now ‘cleaned up’ I asked?
 
'Yeah. Slash definitely, he’s really fuckin’ happening right now. Izzy and Steven too... I think, I hope. I mean, we don’t know what the fuck’s going on. We don’t! Axl will tell you the same. I don’t know what the fuck's going happen in the next five minutes in my head! But in this band I consider myself pretty stable.’ He smiled broadly. ‘I try to make things work musically in the band. I kind of consider myself the musical director, trying to keep everything together. Axl is the word-master and the melody maker. And Slash is the genius of the band...’
 
Slash was the genius of the band? Why?
 
Duff laughed. ‘He’s just this fucked up guy that you wouldn’t think could... I’ve known the guy since I moved here. I’ve known him from, like, this kid where I thought, OK, he’s just another good guitar player, to, like, this total fuckin’ monstrosity that I think he is now! Maybe I’m overplaying Slash, I don’t know. But just to me, as a musician, I appreciate him so much, you know? Axl is amazing too, just amazing...’         
 
Drink firmly in hand and freshly lit cigarette dangling just-so from his lips, Dull settled back in his seat and began to reminisce about the early days of Guns N’ Roses. ‘To me, like when we first got together, I wasn't sure about Axl. I was like, he’s good but I don’t know. But that was when we had those other two cats in the band and the band was not working. But when this band clicked, Axl all of a sudden clicked. It took something finally for him to click and it took something for Slash to click, but when it did it really did...’
 
When did Duff know it was special, though? Could he place the actual turning point?
 
'OK, here’s my story of the whole thing. OK, I moved to LA and I was in a band with Steven and Slash. I hated Steven. He was a real little asshole. He had a double-drum, all these drums and shit, and he was just a little asshole. I love him now to death, but he’ll tell you himself, he was an asshole then. We were in a band called Road Crew - not for long, nothing was really happening and I split. After that I got together with Axl and Izzy; they had a band and they said, can you come and play bass for us? It was already called Guns N’ Roses, but there was another guy on guitar called Tracii [Guns] and a different drummer [Rob Gardener], and it was a real iffy band. Like, I would hardly show up for rehearsal, and that is not like me. I am always the first guy to show up at rehearsal, the first guy to do everything like that.
 
‘Anyway, I planned a fuckin’ tour for us. Cos I'd played in punk rock groups all over the country, in punk rock clubs. So I booked us this tour - just up and down the west coast. But Rob and Tracii suddenly chickened out, like, three days before the thing was due to start. Like, “Oh, we don’t know if we wanna do it...’” He screwed up his face like a baby being denied the bottle. ‘I was like, fuck you! So we got Slash and Steven in the band at the last minute, and it clicked. We had three days to rehearse and everybody was like, OK, we’ll give it a shot...
 
‘We had borrowed a car to go up to Seattle in, where the first gig was, and we got about a hundred miles out of LA and the car broke down. We had to hitch rides the rest of the way and... This is an old story, right? But that is when the band really clicked. We all stuck together. We went out and played a shitty first gig; we had no trans­portation back, and we had to bum a lift with this chick who was a junky. It was horrible,’ he recalled with obvious relish.
 
‘After that we knew, OK, this is for real, and about two months later we did our first demo. This guy called Black Randy - he was in a band called the Metro Squad, I don’t know if you’ve heard of them - he put the money up for us to do it, and we recorded it at this little punk rock studio. He has since passed away, this guy, but he gave us the money and we did the demo. Then we just started playing. We did Mondays at the Troubadour; then we were doing Tuesdays. That was like God for us at the time, just opening for bands at the Troubadour. We were all like, wow... this is it! Then all of a sudden they had bands opening for us. Also, the record labels started coming down. And again, we were like, wow. But we never... Like, you know, the Chrysalis fuckin’ brains came along and said we’ll give you guys $750,000, and we just said, yeah, but have you ever heard us play? And they were like, No, but... So we were like, See ya!
 
‘So there was this little label war, everybody trying to get us to sign - we had a lot of great lunches, I tell ya!’ Another broad smirk. ‘Finally we went with the record company that really wanted to put something into us and believe in us. And it worked. Everybody was into the kind of record we were making, and everyone dug in and did a good job.
 
But surely so mundane a reason could not possibly explain the vast scale of the success Guns N’ Roses now enjoyed. Geffen Records were recognised as the classiest, bestselling hard rock label in America, and of course they were experts in making and marketing multi-platinum rock albums. But it wasn’t every day they released a new band’s debut album - let alone an album so inherently uncommercial - then sat back and watched it sell more than ten million copies. Indeed, it was unprecedented in the company’s history. Committed to the band as Geffen had undoubtedly been, surely the level of success Guns N’ Roses now flirted with so precariously had little to do with the marketing strategies or promotional hoopla of a shrewd no-chances-taken record company. This, baby, was the real thing... wasn’t it?
 
'You wanna know why I think it is?’ mused Duff, hunching up in his chair, one long leather-clad leg dangling over the side of the armrest. 'Because Steven is one sort who nobody can really explain. Izzy is another sort that nobody can really explain. Axl is like... Axl - who has brought this whole new thing with him that people try to imitate all the time now. And Slash is... what? He’s a "what?", that’s what he is. And there hasn’t been a “what?” in years, do you know what I mean? Am I making sense? Basically, it's obvious we’re all different kinds of people into different kinds of things. We don’t like absolutely everything about each other, we don't agree on everything. But we don’t lie about it, and somehow it works.’
 
People reacted to the honesty?
 
‘Yeah, I think they do. They just look at us,’ he squinted his eyes up at the poster again, ‘and go, “What!?”’
 
Who else, these days, would Duff put into that category; who else out there would he say was a genuine “What?”
 
'Metallica,’ he replied unhesitatingly. ‘They are definitely a big "What?”, you know what I mean? I love Metallica. And I love Faith No More - their guitarist, Big Jim [Martin], he’s a “what?” all right. And their singer [Mike Patten], he’s a “what?”, too! Then you look around and there’s very few bands out there that are. There is only a few fuckin’ bands now. There’s this band and that, there’s literally hundreds of bands out there. But where’s the fuckin’ Small Faces, you know? Where’s the new Sex Pistols?’
 
Maybe they’re right here, I suggested. Wasn’t Guns N' Roses, in its own way and of its own murky generation, carrying on the same aggressive spirit of the Pistols, the Who, Zeppelin, the Stones et al?
 
‘I don’t know... I loved the Sex Pistols. I was in many punk rock bands when I was a teenager. I went through that whole thing. The Pistols, the Damned, the Clash... But the Pistols had a concept behind what they did, they meant to do it. Malcolm McLaren was the man behind that. And it was Steve Jones who put, like, fourteen guitar tracks on the album. He wanted to make it a really powerful record and God bless him for that. He turned them into a good rock band - on record.
 
‘We play the Pistols album before going on stage some nights,’ Duff went on. ‘But we also play [seminal LA punks] Fear before going on. We play Prince before we go on. We play Cameo. We play Faith No More, we play Metallica, we play Lenny Kravitz... It’s just so spread apart now. So for us to say that we’re taking after the Pistols is such a cut-off at this point. It’s just such a cut-off. But the Pistols - every rocker who is over the age of eighteen years old owes a fuckin’ debt to the Pistols. That is no lie. Like, every rocker in the fuckin’ world owes a debt to Hendrix,’ he said, raising his glass. ‘And every rocker in the fuckin’ universe owes a debt to Aerosmith and AC/DC. Now we owe a debt to Fear, we owe a debt to Metallica. We must fuckin' look up to Faith No More. It just goes on and on. It’s endless.’ He raked at his hair with his hand.
 
‘I must say that Axl has fucking balls,’ Duff announced suddenly, thinking aloud. ‘I couldn’t do shit like that. I do the shit on my bass but I don’t have the gift of the fuckin’ gab like he has. Axl always knows what to fuckin’ say.’
 
Axl certainly always seemed to have something to say on just about anything and everything - when you finally got hold of him, I said.
 
Duff smiled. ‘I couldn’t imagine saying some of the shit he does. It comes straight off the top of his head, too. If it was me I’d go up there and say, “This is another fuckin’ song, it’s called blah blah blah...” But Axl gets up there and he’s like, “I woke up this morning, man, and I really wasn’t feeling too good, and I thought back to something that happened to me once...” And he just goes on and comes up with something brilliant! Like a brilliant thing that he really means. It’s never a story, either, it’s always true. I just look over at him some nights and go, “What the fuck?” you know? He’s a one of a kind man, all right. There’s only a few people can do that. And it takes a lot of balls. He could have been killed at any time or got his ass fuckin' beat, 'cos of the way he is. But he takes that chance, he does not care. He really does not care.’
 
Didn’t that ever make Duff a little scared, too, though? After all, if an audience ever did decide to turn on the band and storm the stage, it's doubtful they would concentrate their attentions solely on the singer...
 
'Yeah, I’ve thought about it.’ He smiled coyly. ‘But I won’t say it. I will say that if anybody came after Axl and attacked him, I would get right in the way even if it meant getting my head smashed in,’ he said grimly. ‘Axl would do the same for me, I know it. I’ve done it for Slash, and if it was Izzy, I’d do it for Izzy. They’d all do it for me, too. That's another cool thing about this band - we protect each other and watch out for each other. If there is something dangerous, though,’ he added pointedly, ‘it’s the shit that’s happening over this “One in a Million" crap...’
 
Unlike Slash, Duff didn’t appear to have any problems at all with the lyrics to ‘One in a Million’. Though again, Duff tended to focus exclusively on the racial aspect.
 
'For a start, the “nigger” thing,’ he began, taking a deep breath. Slash comes from a family that is half-black. My family is a quarter black... I mean, readers,’ he leaned in closer to the tape-recorder mike and yelled, ‘listen to every lyric in the song! The song’s about Axl coming to LA for the first time on the fuckin’ bus. He was a fuckin’ green, wet-behind-the-ears white boy, and he was scared to fuckin’ death! That is what the song is about and that’s it, people can take it the way they want to. Of course, right now they’re gonna just fuckin’ slag us,’ Duff admitted. ‘I’d rather not get too much into it, though. If you can’t get anything out of it then don’t listen, is my message.’
 
But surely Duff could see why some people would take such offence at some of the lines in the song?
 
'I can understand some people taking offence to it, yeah. But, ultimately... why? All it is, is a tale about life actually in this fuckin’ town, downtown LA. OK, it’s a white guy telling the tale. So what? That's his story. All it is, is a white kid telling his tale. But I don’t want to say too much. Axl’s got such a reputation now that of course they’re gonna jump all over his ass - he said that dirty word, you know? I mean, check it out, I’ve been an uncle since I was two years old. My first nephew when I was two was black. It was my sister’s kid; she married a black guy. Now I have sixteen nephews and nieces and cousins and shit, lots of which are black, or part black.
 
'I never heard the word "nigger" until I went to fuckin' school! Until I went to school I didn’t know there was a difference between black and white. Then at school you'd see them, the white kids giving a hard time to the black kids. Like, "Fuck you, nigger!"  I was like, "Fuck you, you white fuckin' asshole!" Like, why are you calling him a nigger? What does it mean? I couldn't see the difference. So I've always felt very strongly about this. We were in Australia and there's this big skinhead movement down there. Slash and I wanted to come         out and make a press statement or something while we were there, against the skinheads...'
 
Had the Aussie skins come to any of the shows?
 
‘No. But they were against the Aborigines, and they were against the blacks, and shit. They're so racist you wouldn't believe it.  Slash and I are so against that shit. And so is Axl, so is Axl,' Duff was quick to assert. ‘He’s not prejudiced at all.  There is no prejudice in this band.  The simple thing about this song is that it is just a tale of what happens to a fucking kid from Indiana - not from London, or San Francisco, but from out of nowhere to the big city - and being scared off his ass. He didn't know the right words to use. So that is all it’s about, man.
         
'Let's stop now,' Duff pleaded, still seeking sanctuary from the vodka bottle. Then touching it off with the obligatory cigarette. 'No more...'
 
One last thing, I pushed my luck. Did this mean that the next time Axl walked through the rehearsal room door with a - for want of a better word - controversial new lyric, the rest of the band would throw up their hands in despair and refuse to consider it?
 
'Well, that song will never happen again...' I thought Duff was going to add the word 'hopefully', but he didn't.
 
Had they ever played 'One in a Million' live, I wondered?
 
'We've never done it live, no.'
 
Would they ever consider performing it live?
 
'I doubt it.' Duff looked startled by the thought. 'You know, it's been said. That song is that song. I can't see us doing a song like that again. Not because we're too chickenshit to do it, but because there's nothing now in our lives like that. Our new songs are what's going on now...'
 
We allowed the past to fade to black and got onto the future. Duff began to tell me about one of the songs he had written for the new album.
 
'It's a song l wrote about the press,' he explained bashfully. 'It's called "Why Do You Look at Me When You Hate Me?". It means like, why do you keep writing about us when you already hate us? Why? Why don't they do their job and write about something they think is fuckin’ cool instead?’ He was on a roll now. ‘I don’t mind if people hate us after they’ve seen the gig. But if they hate us before they even come to the gig, why the fuck are they there? So I wrote a song about that...
 
‘Slash has got some really fuckin’ cool tunes too, which Axl has put some words to. And Izzy’s got some really great tunes as well. There’s one Izzy's got called "Pretty Tied Up”. It’s actually a factual story about this chick down on Melrose we know, she’s like a dominatrix chick, you know? You pay her and you’re pretty tied up. It’s a great song...' He started crooning the title.
 
'Man, we can’t write songs about things we haven’t lived through,’ Duff continued without taking a breath. I can never imagine writing a song about - he began to sing again - ‘“That pool is very shiny/It looks so very nice...” I couldn’t do that. The fact of the band being so what it is, and the fact that the kids grasp onto it, is because we know what the fuck we’re talking about. We lived through that shit, we didn't invent it. You know, like in England the kids go nuts, they’re going fucking crazy because over in England it’s so stale a lot of times. I mean, I love England, I love London. But the kids just need something to grasp onto. They need a release, you know?
 
'And we reverted a fucking bunch of kids in America... Well, we didn't revert them, we just made them realise that, if I may steal a phrase' - he started to sing again - ‘“Heaven isn’t too far away”. ’Cos it ain't so well here in America. It’s not as happening as people think it is. It is good for, like, rock ’n’ roll and good times, right? But I’m talking about regular life. Man, I went through the shit just like anybody else. There was a time from about ’82 to ’83 when I was looking for jobs. I'd take a bus to do a dishwasher job. I was like sixteen or seventeen, and they’d have a forty-year-old man next to me washing dishes too. It’s like that all over the country...’
 
Despite having 'one shit fuckin’ Christmas’, Duff maintained that he now felt 'happier, far more positive’ about his and the band’s future than he had for some considerable time. ‘In the last eight months or so I just wasn't sure if I, or if we, were mentally capable of making the next record. When we made the first record, man, I had one foot like this and one foot like this...’ He stood up again and planted his boots about five feet apart. In those days, man, there was two-inch deep marks where I was dug-in to do this,’ he said, swaying gently on his heels. ‘I wasn’t sure that I could do that again - just dig in and do it. But I’ve just gone through a bunch of shit in my personal life and now I hope I’m dug in again. I’ve been hanging with Slash, we’ve been playing together, and I’m ready again.
 
'You know, shit has happened in my life.’ He collapsed into his seat again. ‘But shit happens for a reason, and it happened for a reason in my life and I’m fuckin’ happy. I’m so ready to do this fuckin record, man, I’ve got callouses all over my fuckin’ hands already.' He fanned out the fingers of his left hand for my inspection, and sure enough the tips were blunted by small dark sores. ‘I’m just ready to kick fuckin' ass! I wanna go on tour and make people happy. I wanna give a purpose to someone’s life,’ he announced grandly, smiling like a crocodile and lighting another cigarette. ‘No, really. If I can give a purpose to one person’s life, that’s pretty fuckin' cool by me... I mean, how many people can do that to someone else?' he asked, not unreasonably. ‘It doesn’t happen very often... But when it does, you go home at night and you just freak out.’
 
What about the other side of the coin, though?
 
‘You mean like Donington?’
 
I nodded.     
 
‘Well, obviously that’s totally the other side of the com, but yeah, that was a fucked thing...' Duff quieted down for a second and his face went blank. ‘It makes me cry - every day, if I think about it, he murmured in a voice that sounded like it came all the way from the bottom of his boots.
 
Duff said he saw the whole thing from the stage. Saw the whole fuckin’ event, man! I saw it going down. And we stopped, man. We stopped and screamed, “Back the fuck up!” ’cos we saw the kids going under... “Back the fuck up! Back the fuck up!”’ he cried, wild-eyed, re-living the moment. ‘And the mud was this thick, it was about a foot deep and we saw the kids go under and then some other people came over them. They couldn’t tell they were stepping on people they thought it was just mud.’ He pushed his calloused fingers through the lank yellow hair. ‘And, man, we were like, this is our fault, man... But we were frantic - back up, back up! I was there and I was watching it and there just seemed like nothing we could do except scream at them. I was ready to jump into the crowd, but I was scared to die myself. Maybe that’s chickenshit...'
 
I said I thought it was a brave admission, under the circumstances. But did Duff blame himself personally in any way for the tragedy of the two fans’ deaths?       
 
‘I tell you, Mick, it really crushed us all,’ he said, his face like stone suddenly. It really crushed us all. We went back to the hotel that night and we were watching the fuckin’ news - they didn’t know who the kids were yet but one of them had this tattoo. We were just...' He drifted into uncomfortable silence. ‘At first I felt that it was totally our fault for months and months. I probably will for the rest of my life.’
 
But why? Realistically, what else could Duff or the rest of the band have actually done to save those kids?
 
‘Well, look at it this way, if we weren’t there then maybe it wouldn’t have happened. So I’ve got that to live with for the rest of my life. I don’t think it was our fault, in so much as we didn’t say step on these two guys. But then again... if we weren’t there, Mick, if we hadn’t caught the plane and missed the gig, maybe two guys would still be living today. That is a big fuckin’ responsibility, man. There’s a lot of shit that goes on, a lot of responsibility, that just fucks with our heads. I'm still learning how to deal with it, you know? Like, I ride a mountain bike now and I try to, er, just keep my head straight. I hang out with Slash and I... er... it’s difficult, man. It’s hard. I went through a lot of shit in my head about Donington. It just gets difficult sometimes...’ He picked up his empty glass and stared at it.
 
I did the same.
 
'On a positive note,’ Duff said, ‘we may just be a rock ’n’ roll band that doesn't know what it’s fuckin’ doing sometimes, but at least we’re honest. I’ve heard some rumours that we were like this thing that the record company made up to make some money and shit. If anybody believes that, man, then they’re fucked...'
 
I don't think anybody could have made you lot up, I smiled.
 
'Jesus, I wouldn't be in the band if they had,’ he chuckled deeply. ’That’s why the kids like us. Kids need a band like us. I wish there was more cool bands that sang honestly, from the heart, you know? There’s too many fuckin’ Poisons, too many Warrants... There’s just too many MTV bands that just do this thing, you know, with the costumes... So they fuckin’ do their trip, and I guess that’s cool. Maybe the world needs a band like Warrant, I don’t know.
 
'But for us, we can’t do that. We just can’t... If we die, if the band itself dies, then at least we did what the fuck we wanted to do and that’s what it’s all about. That’s what it’s always been about to this band.' The cap came off the vodka bottle again. ‘I’ve been playing rock 'n’ roll since I was fourteen years old, and I never fuckin’ once looked at the possibility of being in a commercial band. I had chances, and I said, fuck you, fuck you and fuck that...’
 
I said that in my opinion Guns N’ Roses had a glorious future mapped out in front of them - if they wanted it. The question was how many of them would still be around to see it.
 
‘Yeah, well, I don’t think about it like that...’ He lapsed into another uneasy silence.
 
I changed tack. How aware was Duff of the legend that had already been built up around the band?
 
‘Again, I try not to think about that too much,’ he replied steadily. ‘People tell me that but we could go to a bar and hang out all night and talk as just fuckin’ dudes, you know that. I play bass in a band, man. That’s all I think about. I’m not trying to be falsely modest or any of that shit. That’s it. I play in a band I love. Legendary? Fuck that. Legendary’s like fucking Hemingway, OK? We’re just a rock ’n’ roll band and that’s all there is to it...
 
‘We’ve got some fucking great guys in the band, though. We've really got some talented fucking people in this band. Great, that's what it’s all about. I love to see Slash fuckin’ play the blues, man! I just love it and I’m glad other people do too. But legendary? Legendary is fuckin’ James Cagney. Legendary is other shit. We are a band who have yet to prove ourselves. We put out one record and one half-assed fuckin’...' Duff couldn’t keep a straight face any longer and erupted into wild frantic laughter. ‘Dude, we haven’t done shit!' he hollered. ‘I mean, in my book the guys in our band are great and we’ll love each other for the rest of our lives. But legendary?’ Another coughing fit of laughter.
 
‘OK here’s what it is: you’re a musician, you want to do what you want to do and get to the top, right? Well, most musicians will do anything to get to the top, they’ll compromise and they’ll do what it takes. But we wouldn’t do that. We wanted to do what we wanted to do and somehow it worked. And there hasn’t been a band like us who has done that since... whenever. I’m not trying to brag, I’m being as humble as possible here...’
 
But what of the millions of fans who already believed in the Guns N' Roses legend, the people out there that bought the records and actually lived the dream vicariously through the adventures of the band - had the sheer weight of their expectations begun to tell on Duff and the rest of the band subconsciously, perhaps? And might that be yet another powerful reason why recording for the new album hadn't even begun yet: the fact that after only one album the band already had a past of quite mythic proportions to live up to? Or to live down, even?
 
‘No.’ Duff was certain. ‘Not for me, anyway. It just doesn't come in there. I love playing live. I love seeing the crowd. I love making the crowd understand where we're coming from. If they don't - cool. If they do, and I really think they do, it’s the best. We’re lucky. The fans we have really understand where we’re coming from, which is important. And there’s a certain vibe we get on stage from the fans that makes it fuckin’ volatile, man... and fun and fucking real.’ He laid special emphasis on the last word.
 
‘You know, and people go home and feel this fuckin’ explosion. It used to happen to me like that, man. I saw the Clash, and I got home and it was like fuck! What am I gonna do! I had all this energy. I saw the Damned and it was the same thing. They both gave me this thing that I lived on for a long time afterwards - that maybe I’m still living on. The Prince 1999 record, I lived on that record, it gave something to me. It gave me something that I could hold onto...’
 
One of the things, I said, I thought the critics always missed about Guns N’ Roses was the band’s wonderful - somewhat warped - sense of humour.
 
'Sure, I agree. We laugh at ourselves a lot of the time. We don’t take ourselves that seriously, man, we can’t do that. We’re just a rock ’n’ roll band and there’s plenty of times when it’s fun.
 
‘This has been a heavy interview but rock ’n’ roll is supposed to mean fun and fucking. Get away from all your problems; get away from all that shit and come and have a fuckin’ good time! And if you get some idea out of it then think about it. Maybe try to make it part of your life. That’s the coolest thing, you know what I’m saying?’
 
The sound of music and laughter began to emanate from the next room. Slash and the girls were back from their trip to Fat Burgers. Duff looked at his watch, looked at the nearly empty vodka bottle standing on the floor between us, then back up at me. It was time to wrap it up. We ended where we had begun: with the new album. It seemed as though we would never stop talking about it.
 
‘What else do you wanna know?’ Duff grinned gamely.
 
The release date would be nice, I quipped.
 
'Oh, man... I wish I knew that one myself. All I can tell you for sure is that we go into the studio on the 15th.’
 
Of January? (I was being facetious.)
 
‘Yeah.’
 
1990?
 
'No, 1999!’ he scolded. ‘No, in two weeks. Same studio we recorded the first album in, same everything.’
 
Same producer - Mike Clink - too?
 
'Yeah, as far as the basic tracks go. I talked to Axl about this, and he agrees, and so does Slash: the drums and bass on the last record are just so awesome. I loved Steven's drum sound, I loved my bass sound - it's so round and in your face! So I mean, why change? I'm even using the same old amps and shit I always use.'
 
For luck?
 
‘No, man, because they still sound so great. They’re not old, anyway, they're good amps. It’s this whole cabinet I put together.'
 
And with more than thirty-five songs to choose from - at least according to Duff - were the chances then that the next Guns N' Roses album would be a double?
 
'OK, here's what it is. It will be a double album - if we can make a double album. If we burn out after, like, fourteen songs then why go on just to make a double album?’
 
How long did they have the studio booked for?
 
‘It’s open-ended.’
 
Ask a stupid question...
 
'Well, yeah, it's funny, because they’ve already been open for us for about a year...'
 
I thought back to fifteen months before when Slash had also assured me the band would be back in the studio by January... 1989.
 
'We'll get it done,’ Duff said seriously. ‘Things fall into place – or they don't - for a reason. If we’re not doing the record till now then there’s got to be a good reason. I always believe in that shit. It's not that I'm one of those fuckin’ weirdos, it’s just that so much shit has happened to me that there’s got to be a reason. And even if there's not, it’ll work anyhow. It’ll work anyhow, fuck it...' Duff looked confident.
 
I asked if the band had come up with a tentative title for the next album yet?
 
'I think Girth or Heinous would be a great name for the record,’ he smiled. 'Girth...' He ran the movie through his mind. ‘We could have special promos of, like, a big dick...  I don't know, we joke about it but we have actually got this song called "Girth"... Well, it's not going to be called "Girth" on the album, it'll get changed, but it's such a heavy song we call it "Girth" for now. It’s named after this guy Wes [Arkeen], who writes with us sometimes. He’s a real little fucker, right? But his dick, it’s only about this long but it’s like this wide, man! So he's got the girth, right? So we call this song "Girth"...
 
Speaking of the enigmatic Mr Arkeen, I wondered if he had contributed any of the lyrics to the new material?
 
‘Yeah, we got a song called “Yesterdays” - a great fucking song. And, er, ‘Just Another Sunday”. Both great tunes that we wrote aeons ago... Like, “It’s So Easy" Wes and I wrote together, that’s what we did for the last record. Axl put about a quarter of the lyrics into that. But this time these songs are almost fully his, I guess, if I remember right... Maybe I wrote part of them with Wes and Axl, yeah, whatever. But, yeah, Wes is gonna be with us on this one.’
 
Given an ideal setting - always highly improbable where Guns N’ Roses were concerned, but I let that pass - Duff said he’d like to see the album in the stores by the end of the coming summer. ‘The basic tracks couId take about three weeks. Stevie and I are really fast, we work real hard together. Then Slash could do his guitars in another three weeks. Axl... it’s hard to say how his voice holds up, and he’s bound to come up with new ideas. So that’s already six weeks,’ Duff said, already counting the days. ‘It’ll take a few months, but if we can start touring again by the end of the summer, it’ll be great...’
 
I played the game a little longer and asked where the band were likely to start off their next world tour, assuming it did begin that year? (A rash assumption, as it turned out, but by then that hardly came as a big surprise.)
 
'There’s been talk of starting in Europe, just going over and doing all over, ’cos we haven’t done Italy and France, places like that, yet. And of course, we’ll come over and play England. We’ve been more faithful to England than any other fucking place in the world, let me tell you.’
 
I was taken aback by that last statement. Nine shows in two years wasn’t a hell of a lot compared to some bands...
 
But Duff was adamant. ‘The first three gigs we ever did anywhere outside America was at the Marquee in London. Then what did we do? We came down with fuckin’ Faster Pussycat! Then we came back and did Donington. We haven’t gone back to any other places like that. We haven’t gone back to, like, fuckin’ Australia to play all the time. Or Japan. I mean, dude, we love England, it’s like our second home there. The kids just really grasped on to us the first time we were there. We were like, wow, you know? ’Cos the place has such a fuckin’ tradition of turning out these great bands. You know, I’m not saying we’re the next blah blah blah. But then we came along and we were like the next hard rock band the kids really fuckin’ went for. Like, this is our band, nobody can take them away from us ’cos they belong to us. That’s how we really felt. The food sucks, though,’ he added ruefully.
 
Which seemed as good a place as any to end it. I asked Duff if he had anything else he wanted to say before I turned off the tape-machine?
 
'Just everybody keep their chin up and fuckin’ rock ’n’ roll will never die. That’s fuckin’ all there is to it, man,’ he said, reaching for his cigarettes, and jacket. 'If feelings are gonna die,' he added as a parting shot, 'you will die with them, so see ya!'
         
I threw the empty vodka bottle into the trash can and emptied all the ashtrays. Then I walked outside to stand by the pool and get some air into my sore lungs. It was gone midnight and the moon was up. I stood there watching it sink behind black night clouds and thought about some of what Duff had said.
 
Something still didn’t feel quite right. ‘If they’re not careful there's never going to be another Guns N’ Roses album,’ I said to myself doomily. ‘Not this year, not next year, nor the year after that. But that wasn’t right either...
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1990.03.03 - Kerrang!- "I Wish We'd Never Played Donington '88" (Duff) Empty Re: 1990.03.03 - Kerrang!- "I Wish We'd Never Played Donington '88" (Duff)

Post by Surge on Thu Jan 16, 2020 8:59 pm

This should be from Kerrang #279, March 3, 1990. Duff is on the cover too.

https://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/hYIAAOSwEbhbskpJ/s-l1600.jpg
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1990.03.03 - Kerrang!- "I Wish We'd Never Played Donington '88" (Duff) Empty Re: 1990.03.03 - Kerrang!- "I Wish We'd Never Played Donington '88" (Duff)

Post by Soulmonster on Thu Jan 16, 2020 9:49 pm

@Surge wrote:This should be from Kerrang #279, March 3, 1990. Duff is on the cover too.

https://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/hYIAAOSwEbhbskpJ/s-l1600.jpg

Great find! I will update thread title and archives tomorrow.
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