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

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

Registering is free and easy.


2009.05.25 - Antiquet - Calling The Shots With Duff McKagan

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2009.05.25 - Antiquet - Calling The Shots With Duff McKagan Empty 2009.05.25 - Antiquet - Calling The Shots With Duff McKagan

Post by Blackstar Mon Jun 28, 2021 8:18 am

Calling The Shots With Duff McKagan

By Johnny Firecloud

Duff McKagan is just about as Rock N’ Roll as you can get. A founding member and rhythmic anchor of Guns N’ Roses (the real GNR), Duff helped set the precedent for post-80s anti-grunge rock swagger in ways today’s rockers can only read about.

Fast forward 15 years, too long after the death of GNR as we knew it. We’ve since seen the rise and fall of Velvet Revolver, the multiplatinum, Grammy-winning but ill-fated Scott Weiland-fronted remains of Axl Rose’s grenade-toss into the Guns gears. While VR twists in the leather-clad winds of their inability to settle on a frontman, Duff is actively doing his own thing, which includes a regular column in Seattle Weekly, another in Playboy (a financial column, no less) and kicking ass with his other band, Loaded. He’s hitting the road with the group to support their second album, Sick, which dropped last month.

We caught up with Duff to talk all things music, including an update on VR’s vocalist search, the state of the music industry today and the great whoring of radio programming.

Antiquiet: Something most people don’t know is that you’ve been singing and fronting a band since your early Seattle punk days. Weren’t you in about 30 bands before GNR?

Duff McKagan: Yeah. The thing is, I could never really figure out what I actually wanted to play. I was a drummer, and a bass player and guitar player starting from the age of 12 or so, so a lot of times I’d be in a bunch of different bands at once. So by the time I got to LA… Well I still haven’t figured out exactly what I want to do.. (Laughs)… but I met Slash and Steven Adler first, and then Axl & Izzy, and in the band that we kind of formed right away, I was suddenly the bass player. So that’s what I really focused on for the next seven or eight years.

Antiquiet: So what about the punk rock purists who say you can’t go back?

Duff McKagan: People say it’s hard to go back to my quote-unquote “hard rock roots-” and I don’t really know about that, you know? It’s just a band dimension, not just me but the other three guys, and our motives, and we wrote what really, truly is a band record, and I’m pretty happy with this record. It was really inspired- so you can label it whatever you like.

Antiquiet: You’re quick to point out that Loaded isn’t a side project, that your whole heart is in this…

Duff McKagan: Oh it is, yeah, it’s been a band for ten years, and obviously Velvet Revolver has been on the front burner for the past five or six years, but with Loaded we still played. We knew we were gonna make another record. We didn’t know it was gonna take us seven fuckin’ years, but you know, music happens when it’s supposed to happen, and I do realize that. I don’t try to force it. This record came at a perfect time for me. I was pretty beat down from all the drama & crap that was circling around with VR…

Antiquiet: The drama being Scott (Weiland)…

Duff McKagan: Right. Right. I was pretty bummed about the way that whole thing went down, so the Loaded record came at a perfect time.

Antiquiet: So what’s the Velvet Revolver vocalist update? Where do we stand? Tell me you’re not hiring the dude from fuckin’ Buckcherry. Please.

Duff McKagan: (Laughs) There’s no news to share yet, man. Trust me, nobody wants that ball rolling more than I do- but it’s gotta be the right guy. We thought we had him, but it didn’t work out. It’s just gotta be right.

Antiquiet: Alright. As long as we’re all in agreement that Josh Todd ain't that guy. But anyway, how do you plan to promote Sick?

Duff McKagan: Well, we’re out right now, doing some warm-up shows before we go to Europe. We’ve got a lot more exposure over in Europe, the UK and Japan. We’re playing some pretty big festivals, and we’ll see what happens. Loaded’s kind of a weird animal though. It should be played a bunch over in Europe this summer… but will it? I dunno. I’m not sure what the deal is with the States, maybe it’s the geographical breakdown, but radio is just bland, and sucks, and there’s no penetrating it these days. I mean who knows, we could blow up. We could get to a point where we’ll sell out 500-800 seat clubs- that would be great. I just have a really fun time. And we’re really good live, you know? We give a shit about what we’re doing. Vocally, it’s the best band I’ve ever been in. All four guys are singing, it’s funny all the time, and there’s no drama.

Antiquiet: I read your Seattle Weekly piece talking about song testing and radio programming, and how the music business is evolving into a place where the middleman is history. Bands being directly in touch with their fans automatically kicks the middleman right to the fuckin’ curb… We couldn’t agree more. But there’s a problem with FM radio, where the real gems that we’ve gone to for years are disappearing. Indie 103.1, 89x in Detroit, even 94.9 in San Diego isn’t what it used to be. They play Creed now. [Correction: FM 94.9 SD is vehemently denying that they ever played Creed. We were hardcore fans of the station in its earliest incarnation, so we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.] Any thoughts on how to save FM radio’s respectability?

Duff McKagan: Look, I just went out to every radio station in the state. Did the morning shows, the afternoon drive shows, and I went on and played acoustic and sang. The program directors and DJs come and go… there’s a few old school stations that can’t be touched- like the one in Detroit (WRIF), and there’s some really great satellite shows popping up. But I don’t think it’s ever going to go back to the call-in request-your-favorite-song type thing. KISW in Seattle has this chick at night, Jolene, she’s pretty killer- she plays hard rock and kinda does what she wants to. But I don’t think that radio as a community that we grew up with… it’s gone. It’s already gone. You’re gonna hear the same ten songs, and that’s gonna be it.

Antiquiet: Wouldn’t you say that’s the reason we still have any idea who Creed is? Or Disturbed, for that matter?

Duff McKagan: There’s definitely an argument to be made for that. But the radio stations, they’ll have a quarterly meeting, then they’ll add one song to the list. One song! And they’ll cut the lowest performing song to make it that magic ten once again. The DJs absolutely hate it, and I don’t think listeners really like it, but it’s interesting how they set that bar. They don’t want you to touch the dial. It’s just like the mall mentality- go to any mall in America, it’s the same. Fucking. Stores. Every single one.

Antiquiet: Complacency has become the market target. If you just follow blindly, you’re not going to think about where your money’s going and where your attention’s being pulled.

Duff McKagan: If you listen to the ads that come on, about car insurance and Budweiser and whatever else, they’re all the same. You have to find a way to make sense of what’s real.

Antiquiet: What’s your take on the state of the industry now?

Duff McKagan: I dunno… look: Unless you’re a country artist, you’re not going to see big sales. Unless it really crosses over into pop, like Nickelback, you won’t see those big sales like rock bands used to. Even Metallica records now are doing a fraction of what they used to. AC/DC did really good, but it was a fraction of their previous albums. You get that first week pop, then it’s kinda done. We’re touring the South, where the economy’s arguably the worst, and it seems like people are still coming to gigs, you know? We can’t charge very much money- all ticket prices have to come down these days. We charge $15 for a ticket and try to keep the t-shirt prices low, but you know, you can’t give your shit away. You’ve gotta make money to pay for the gas for the bus and the bus driver…

Antiquiet: Sure, but there are more ways to make money now, where the artist isn’t entirely reliant on the label…

Duff McKagan: Dude, I could do this whole thing right now, all this, without a record label. I could even call the dudes at Total Assault, or hire a PR firm, press the records ourselves, go through our own distributor to put the record out. Then we could print up our own shirts, book shows and go.

Antiquiet: Yeah, but that’s not really a viable option for total unknowns. By the way, I see you set up a Twitter account, but haven’t done much with it…

Duff McKagan: Yeah, my daughter set that up for me, and I don’t know how to get into it. I think she put in the wrong email address, so I don’t know the password. But I’m trying to tap into that whole scene a little, figure out what’s up.

Antiquiet: It’s addictive, for sure, but it can be a great tool for talking directly to your fans & getting direct feedback. There’s no bullshit fabricated image to hide behind. There’s no mistrust between the fan and artist, because they know that they’re getting a direct message and actually contacting a real person, instead of this figure that’s spoken for. It can really lead to greater, new ways of interacting between fan and artist.

Duff McKagan: Yeah, for sure. That’s more important than ever nowadays too- I don’t care who you are in the scene.

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