APPETITE FOR DISCUSSION
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.

Cheers!
SoulMonster
APPETITE FOR DISCUSSION
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.

Cheers!
SoulMonster

2009.05.06 - SUBvert Magazine - How To Adapt And Thrive In The Changing Music Industry (Duff)

Go down

2009.05.06 - SUBvert Magazine - How To Adapt And Thrive In The Changing Music Industry (Duff) Empty 2009.05.06 - SUBvert Magazine - How To Adapt And Thrive In The Changing Music Industry (Duff)

Post by Blackstar Mon Jun 28, 2021 7:54 am

How to adapt and thrive in the changing music industry
Interview with former Guns n Roses and Velvet Revolver guitarist Duff McKagan


Legendary rock guitarist Duff McKagan, former member of Guns n Roses, is revered by many musicians all over the world for his unique guitar skills. He’s been in the music industry over 25 years, so he knows a thing or two about adapting and moving with the times. Duff invited us backstage to talk exclusively about how to keep up with the rapid changes in the music business to ensure a successful career.

Duff McKagan is the guitarist with supergroup Velvet Revolver and lead vocalist and guitarist for his own solo punk/rock band “Loaded”, plus he spent thirteen years in the hugely successful band Guns & Roses. He’s also performed with Lenny Kravitz, Iggy Pop and been in bands with Steve Jones (Sex Pistols), John Taylor (Duran Duran) and Stewart Copeland (Police). Duff also writes a weekly column for Seattle Weekly and a financial report for playboy.

Duff you’ve been in the music industry a very long time and been extremely successful, but what’s been the biggest barrier you’ve had to overcome?

Getting sober. I wouldn’t be alive today otherwise. My pancreas blew up, so my body made up my mind for me. The decision was literally made for me. It really was, and I could have continued using (drugs) after I got out of hospital, but I would have died within a week or two. So that’s the biggest life changing thing I’ve had to deal with. Because when I got out of the hospital I finally said “OK I want to live now how do I do this?”.

I had no fucking idea how to be sober. I remember going to the store the first time and I was shaking. It was as if I was on acid. I remember taking the money out and handing it over and I thought everybody was staring at me. I just couldn’t really deal with anything at that time. I didn’t even know how to do the most basic things. I had to take it from being completely detached from my body to now; being totally comfortable in my own skin.

I know you’re very much into fitness now, so has it gone to the other end of the scale?

I went completely the other way. I started doing martial arts. I became a kick boxer. I got into the best dojo and I started competing with real fighters. When I dive into something whether its alcoholism and drugs, (which I was the fucking world champion) whatever I do, I go for it and dive in and immerse myself in it.

What inspired you to do martial arts?

I didn’t know which way to turn and it was another fateful thing that happened to me. I was introduced to this legendary kick boxer who was a very spiritual man. He had been retired from the fight game for a while and he took me in and agreed to teach me. He was only teaching serious fighters, but he took me in and tore me down and built me back up.

Martial arts isn’t just a sport it’s a way of life. Did you find it helped you emotionally as well?

The sport is such a tiny amount of it. Most people would assume that the biggest fear, is that you are going to get hurt, but by time i got into the ring I was extremely calm. I just looked into the guys eyes and I could read everything that was going on. I was taught all about defense the physical part, but I’d also developed the mental side, so I was at peace within myself and I knew I wasn’t in there to prove that I was macho. I was in there to learn and discover more about myself.

It seems like you have been on a real journey of discovery. Lets go back to when it all started. I’m interested to know how you got into music?

I grew up in the last of eight kids. I was born in 64 so by the time I was cognizant of music, it was probably 1969/70. My older brothers and sisters were pretty hip. They were into a lot of Hendrix, Beatles, Zeppelin and Sly and the Family Stone. Really great bands and there were always lots of instruments around the house. I didn’t know at the time, that you would suppose to take a lesson to learn how to play the guitar. I thought there’s a guitar and I would hear a sound on the stereo, so I’ll just do that on the guitar and make that same noise and that’s how it started for me.

At some point I really got interested in medicine too. I set my mind on being a doctor. I was doing really well even at Elementary School. I was getting all A grades and I was really into it. School was always kinda easy for me, but then Punk Rock started to hit, I was about 13 and I said lets go form a band and go play.

It was really something about the primalness of Punk Rock that struck a chord with me, and the first time I heard the Sex Pistols and The Ramones it was like “oh wait this is mine, its not my older brothers or sisters music, its mine”. I started writing songs and performing. I’d play drums in one band, guitar in another and bass in another, and so I was playing in three bands all at once and I was really going for it.

It sounds like you were really dedicated to music so what happened about being a doctor?

Music I loved it, I ate it up you know and then “Prince” hit and on his first four records he plays everything and there I was, a kid who could play drums and lots of other instruments and so he became the man to me, and he still is even to this day. He’s the most creative musical genius there is, he can sing, play guitar and he’s just amazing and he writes awesome songs as well.

So back to medicine, when I started my first band I was like “oh well me being a doctor, nah, its not gonna happen” but I kept that dream alive of academia and I went to school in my thirties.

So you’ve always enjoyed learning?

I loved it. I loved school and somehow I want to continue into a Masters program, because I really love learning. My success was because I loved my art and I applied myself. There’s a lot of people that say “Nah you’re never gonna make it doing that, go to school, blah blah blah” and if I was going to go to school and go down that route, I would have had to really applied myself to that as well.

We didn’t have money for university you know. There were so many fuckin kids and my mom as well. Some of my older brothers and sisters put themselves through University, and you know being from a large family you have to fight your way through. You have to fight your way to the fucking dinner table, so you get use to thinking, ‘Alright I’ve got to do this on my own'.

So the business side of being in the band; is that something that you had an interest in?

No. Not initially. I never dreamed I would make any money playing music. That’s not the reason why I got into it.

Money wasn’t your main motivation?

No not at all! When Guns and Roses formed and the five of us got together it was like we would be in a room and the moment we struck the first chord we knew we had something. We didn’t know we were going to sell millions of records. We just knew we could create something special and that’s all we really thought about. We just wrote some songs and managed to get a record deal.

How did you go about getting a record deal. Did you get a manager and then approach lots of record companies?

We were kinda anti all of that. We didn’t try looking for a record deal. We had a manager this guy who was absolutely insane.

He found you or you found him?

It was kind of a mutual thing. I worked at this place in Hollywood it was really decrepit; full of Hungarian mafia. I just needed a job as I was starving, so I drove around delivering stuff. It wasn’t drugs, but it wasn’t fully legal and I didn’t ask any fucking questions! as long as I got paid it was cool. There was a guy who worked there and he was absolutely insane and addicted to doing speed balls. He was totally out of his mind. He eventually died from drugs.

Well that dude was our manager and he would bring us like little kids Halloween costumes down to our rehearsal place and he would say, “I’ve bought you guys some new clothes to wear”. He would tell us “You guys are gonna be bigger than the New York Dolls.” and we would think, “Yeah. Alright dude that’s great,”, but he would book us shows. They were the weirdest fucking gigs you’ve ever seen: like playing at a UCLA frat party for 30 bucks, but we were cool with that, because all we wanted to do was be out performing.

When did Guns and Roses start getting popular?

Guns and Roses started getting successful when we started performing at proper clubs. We were pretty smart. It was before the internet and stuff, so we would do like old skool mailing lists and people would sign up and we would mail them out information about our next gig.

How did you get record labels interested in your band?

We just hustled and promoted our gigs by passing out flyers and people started coming out to watch us, because we were something different. Our audience were punkers and metal kids, rockers, chicks and dudes and you know the whole thing. We started selling out clubs and then selling out on multiple nights and then record companies would come to see us.

We thought it was just an opportunity to get free meals, so we kinda dragged it out for as long as we could. Once one record company jumped in, all the rest did, so we were getting free lobster dinners and cocktails. You know, that was pretty cool and we knew all along which company we wanted to go with.

How did you get record labels interested in your band?

We just hustled and promoted our gigs by passing out flyers and people started coming out to watch us, because we were something different. Our audience were punkers and metal kids, rockers, chicks and dudes and you know the whole thing. We started selling out clubs and then selling out on multiple nights and then record companies would come to see us.

We thought it was just an opportunity to get free meals, so we kinda dragged it out for as long as we could. Once one record company jumped in, all the rest did, so we were getting free lobster dinners and cocktails. You know, that was pretty cool and we knew all along which company we wanted to go with.

The record companies at the time were finding older producers. An older producer is fine, but you have to be in touch with what’s going on and bring some fresh ideas that the kids don’t know about, but these guys were bringing disco beats, and we were like “what are you talking about?”.

How did you work out the financial side of things?

I didn’t know how to equate business with music for a really long time. Well none of us did. We got an accountant and we started making money, and we really ruled by fear. We asked where they lived and we pretended we knew what was going on. We had an intimidation thing going on. We’d say “We’re keeping and eye on you and you better not fuck us over.”, and we were crazy enough that they would have been very foolish to fuck with us at that point. You have to remember this was a very long time ago.

The record companies at the time were finding older producers. An older producer is fine, but you have to be in touch with what’s going on and bring some fresh ideas that the kids don’t know about, but these guys were bringing disco beats, and we were like “what are you talking about?”.

We would get monthly statements and I couldn’t read them, and in 1994 I was pretty messed up, so I got sober by the grace of god and I had a lot of free time on my hands, because you waste a lot of time being a junkie and an alcoholic. I started going through my filing cabinets with all these monthly statements for the previous five years. I tried to read it again with a clear head. It still didn’t make sense. So I went to a business entry level class. Within the curriculum there was a section on reading financial statements. There it was all of a sudden. This veil got lifted off. I was able to put it all together and I found out that i didn’t get ripped off, so it was OK, but that really kinda peaked an interest for me continuing on with business.

Do you have a different attitude towards record labels now than when you started out?

It’s a completely different scenario now than it was then. That was 20 years ago and there was no internet. People were buying records and the cd format was just coming out. Now, record companies are sort of this outdated bloated machine, that works only if you are a well established artist.

Radiohead saw the light. If you have a large record company, what they bring to the table for you is marketing money. If they spend a million dollars on you in marketing, you’re never gonna see a dollar. People don’t sell records like they used to. You would have to sell three million copies just to pay that back, not to mention all the other expenses.

So Radiohead made it known this was their marketing plan. We’re gonna give our record away. Pay what you want dude. That was on the front of every business website, every news channel everywhere, and they ended up selling it for tons of dollars. It used to be years ago that a tour was promotion for your record, so the tour was the loss leader, now the record is the loss leader, the record is an advertisement for your tour.

We have to be a lot smarter out here on the road with what we do and how we spend our money. How we fly, how we travel. Where we stay. The size of your crew. I sat down with the bass player of Kelly Clarksons band, and we were discussing it. We had eight crew and it was a great show. There’s no fucking doubt about that, and she had twenty five people on her crew playing the same places. Staying at the same hotels. She’s traveling much larger than us, spending a lot more money.

I’ve seen this with some young bands. They don’t seem aware that everything the record companies spends money on, its eventually coming out of their pockets

Yeah I know, we do things now which were completely taboo before. We sell our music for ring tones that’s the new way, commercials for Victoria Secret, as long as you can marry up with things that you perceive as cool. Woman’s lingerie is cool to us. That’s great. That makes sense. It’s sexy and cool and it works.

We do a meet and greets and that’s advertised on our fan site. You can buy a golden pass. We employ a girl that brings out the VIPs and she takes them on a tour of the venue and shows them backstage before we get there, and then we’ll go down and do this meet and greet, and Slash and I, we’ll hang out signing pictures.

Is that important for you to have that contact with the fans?

Its great you know. Slash and I would always go out by the buses and sign autographs, and I still do that, but that was the only way the fans could get contact, but now we have the meet and greet for people that can afford it, this helps us pay for the tour. Unless you’re playing arenas which we also do, you’re not making a load of money. We purposely play the UK because this is where the crowds are fucking awesome and this is the first place that really hoisted our band onto its shoulders and they were really great to us.

You’ve performed and collaborated with so many talented musicians over the years how do you choose who to work with?

Well, I’ve been really fortunate. I mentioned Prince was a big influence of mine, but so was Iggy (Pop). I got a call from Iggy in 1990 in my house and I pick up the phone and it’s unmistakably his voice. It wasn’t like somebody fuckin with me, and he said, “Is this Duff?”, and I was like “Yeah.”, “Hey man. Its Iggy”. I was shaking and he said, “Would you like to play on my record?”, “Fuck yeah I’ll play on your record!”, That was probably the biggest honor I’ve ever experienced. Just playing on his record and hanging out and I became friends with him.

It still trips me out. Like I’ll see him somewhere like at the Mojo awards, I got to present ‘The Stooges’ with the Lifetime Achievement award, and he came bounding up on the stage and gave me a hug and I was freaking out the whole day. Also Steve Jones (Sex Pistols) when I would play guitar I would copy Steve Jones and Johnny Thunders. That’s how I learned how to play guitar, and I got to play in a band with Steve Jones. There’s nothing better in the world.

And weren’t you also a fan of the band Black Flag. What was it like working with Dez Cadena?

Yeah Dez was in my band. A lot of those guys were just a little older than me, and I’ve played with some really great guys who are my peers like Lenny Kravitz who I deem as a real musician, and I’m honored to play with guys that are real players.

Does it effect your performance?

Oh yeah. When your in a room with real players its all on. It’s fucking buckle up. You think am I good enough to play with these guys, so you have to just go for it and perform at your best.

So what would you say is your greatest achievement during your career?

Well I guess I’m really proud of the fact that I’m still playing. The crowds that are coming to our gigs are younger and younger. My achievement is: I’m still playing and it still feels the same as when I was 14. My little girls have grown up seeing me play and I’m Daddy full on. Like I’m typical Dad, but when they see me on stage, they know its something else. I might swear and spit but they know its real. They know, well OK, that’s part of being in a band and as a result they can pick out bands and say “That bands real, or look at that band they’re just posers.”

When you’re not touring, whats your routine?

I don’t have a routine, I just got really re-inspired recently and I don’t know where it came from. I started taking bass lesson from these guys who are fucking heavy like jazz players and I started really learning more about my craft, and I’ve been writing all these cool riffs, so I’m applying stuff I’ve recently learned, a lot of hard finger stuff, nerdy shit you know.

Essentially you’re self employed. Have you experienced any times where you procrastinate?

When I’m at home, I usually get up with the girls take them to school, go to my gym and work out. I procrastinate about other things. Not music, but business shit that I just don’t wanna take care of. There’s stuff that you just don’t wanna deal with, because you don’t have to go into an actual office, you avoid doing stuff. Sometimes I’ll rat myself out and just get on with it. I’m usually pretty good.

Do you ever have doubts about music you’ve produced?

All the time! oh yeah. Well the good thing about being in a band is you have the support of the other guys. I wouldn’t know how to be a solo artist really. I mean I have a band called ‘Loaded’ and it’s kinda like a solo project, but I still have a band. Guys that I get input from. But with Velvet Revolver, especially Slash, Matt and I, we’re like are our own best critics. We know how to criticize each other when we’re writing new material, to where it’s not hurtful, “Dude I really like that riff you know. Maybe lets try it like this, try something else”, so we all trust each other. If we bring something in no ones gonna laugh at it and we’re all gonna try and make it the best it can be.

Other than music what fascinates you these days?

I read a ton. Right now its non fiction. I’ve read so many books I have to go look for books I haven’t read. I’m reading a great book by Adam Hochschild who wrote “King Leopold’s Ghost” and there’s another one called “Bury The Chains”. It’s about the abolition of slaves. I also love history and old buildings. I went to Dubai which was amazing and we flew right over downtown Bagdad. That was pretty interesting.

What really drives me more than any of this stuff is my family. I realized by a lot of accounts that I shouldn’t be here at all. So for me to be a father of two beautiful little girls who are really great human beings I don’t know how, but they’re awesome and my wife is amazing. If I didn’t have that support then it would be worthless.

What advice would you give people starting bands today?

There are way too many lessons to pick one, but the most important thing, if you’re a young person just starting out, is don’t listen to anybody else, just do what feels right, tune in to your instincts.

Great advice. Thanks Duff for your time and candor. It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you.

https://web.archive.org/web/20090620000745/http://www.subvertmagazine.com/blog/duff-mckagan
Blackstar
Blackstar
ADMIN

Posts : 6336
Plectra : 43502
Reputation : 93
Join date : 2018-03-17

Back to top Go down

Back to top


 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum