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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.


2011.04.19 - Examiner - Interview with Duff

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2011.04.19 - Examiner - Interview with Duff Empty 2011.04.19 - Examiner - Interview with Duff

Post by Blackstar Mon Nov 15, 2021 12:21 pm

Interview with Duff McKagan from Loaded

By Sterling Whitaker, Classic Hard Rock Examiner

Duff McKagan is best known as the bassist and founding member of Guns N' Roses. He is also a founding member of Velvet Revolver. McKagan has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, won a Grammy and an American Music Award.

In 1999 the musician formed Loaded, which saw him move front and center on guitar and lead vocals. Today Loaded released its second album The Taking through Armoury Records and Eagle Rock Entertainment. Produced by Terry Date (Avenged Sevenfold, Soundgarden), the album is a loosely conceptual song cycle in which the band essays Zeppelinesque hard rock, metal and punk with equal vigor. The band plans to release a film by the same title later in the summer.

Duff McKagan spoke to about the new album, the writing and recording process, his hatred of reality TV, how getting cheated by record companies led to him starting a business as a financial consultant, and why Loaded is more than just a side project in a wide-ranging and entertaining interview. Excerpts of that conversation follow, and you can hear the entire audio interview by clicking on the video at left.

Thanks to Duff McKagan, and special thank to Carol Kaye for arranging this interview.

Let's talk about The Taking. Where did the title come from?

We had gotten done recording a bunch of songs for the record. We recorded about 17 songs, because we knew we needed bonus tracks and whatnot. Once we pared down the songs to eleven for the record, we realized that there was kind of a theme. It was kind of an accidental, after-the-fact concept record.

It was something we'd all witnessed on this last tour. It was one of the guys on our tour bus - I'll just say that, I won't say who it is - but we know him and his now ex-wife really well, and their marriage had gone through a fracture right before the tour. And we couldn't really talk to him about it because it wouldn't be fair to his wife, but he was on our bus and we couldn't really be confidants.

So we were just kinda watched their thing go through that deception, heartbreak, heartache, lying to yourself, lying to the other person, anger . . . all those different stages that I've been through myself, and I think a lot of people have. But as a band, watching it go down and not talking about it is almost like Zen Buddhism. And then writing a record and not realizing that you're writing about this thing.

So everything started with "Easier Lying" and songs like "She's An Anchor" and "Wrecking Ball", all the way through the anger parts like "Your Name," "Lords of Abbadon," and "Follow Me To Hell." And what happened with these guys, this couple got divorced, but they became better friends than they ever were, and that's where "We Win" comes in.

Are you a fan of concept records as a general rule?

I don't know about any concept records that I'm a fan of. Mastadon, they did a record about Moby Dick. That seems like something Loaded would do, because we have an amazing sense of humor as a group. So if we were gonna do a concept record, it's like, 'God d**n it, Mastadon already took Moby Dick!'

No, I don't think as a general rule I am a fan of a concept record, but I might have to re-visit that. I don't know if there's been an interesting enough concept for me to get my teeth into.

So this isn't like Tales From Topographic Oceans?

(Laughs). Yeah!

What was the writing process? When you write songs for Loaded, is it a different writing process than other bands you've been in?

I don't think it is. Any time I've ever written - once in a while you come up with a whole song on your own, and that's true for Guns N' Roses or Velvet Revolver or whatever. But usually the best songs that I've been a part of creating are when it's a full band effort.

A lot of times you'll write a riff at sound check or at a rehearsal place. You'll stumble upon something as a band, and that really informs where the song's going to go.

One song, "Easier Lying," Mike Squires brought the whole song in, the lead guitar player. That doesn't happen all the time in Loaded, but it does happen. But it's usually as a band, no different than I've ever written, starting from punk rock bands when I was 14 until now.

Have you ever come up with a song on your own that you thought, 'This is for so-and-so?'

You mean for such-and-such band? I've never been in the situation where I've been in two bands at the same time writing for a record. I did last summer go and write some songs with and for Jane's Addiction. But we were done writing for Loaded.

We were actually just about to go in and start recording for Loaded. I don't know how I'd do it if I had to write for two separate bands at one time. It'd be almost like you're heisting one song from one band for another.

Do you write differently for your own voice than you would write for a different singer?

I'm discovering that yeah, I think I did on this record. Only in that I've discovered, just from playing so many gigs singing now - and you can only discover this stuff about yourself just by going out and playing gigs. What range is not good for you? What long vowel sounds in a certain key are not good for you? All these little tiny things that only you would know from going out and playing gigs and saying, "Why did I write that song in A? That's the dumbest key ever for my voice." Long "oooo" sounds coming off a high note is not a good idea. I think I know the keys, without being redundant and every song being in B. I'm finding my sweet spot.

You're obviously primarily known as a bassist. What possessed you to say, "Screw that, I'm gonna play guitar and sing lead here."

Real simple. Playing bass and singing lead vocals is really tough, because often the bass line will be a polyrhythm of what the vocal is. So all of a sudden you're thinking way too much while you're playing. There are a couple of bass players that can do it, like Geddy Lee and Sting, but I hate to be aware when I'm playing live. And rhythm guitar for me, I've always played rhythm guitar since I was 13, and whenever I've sang in a band I've always played rhythm guitar. It's a lot easier.

I've gotta say, if I hadn't found Jeff Rouse for this band, the bass player, I might have been playing bass and singing. But Jeff is such a good bass player that it made the decision pretty easy.

How did the tracking go down for this record? Is this all live? A lot of bands are mailing tracks around instead of getting together.

No, we made the record with Terry Date, the producer, up here in Seattle at Studio X. We had Studio X for about 12 days. He said he'd get us Studio X for 12 days for basically next to nothing. And we had all the songs, every little part, everything together, and we went in and recorded the whole record in that 12 days. So we were in that studio for 14 hours a day, but we got a lot of work done. So no, we didn't mail anything around. We were all kind of in this room doing it.

That's cool. That doesn't happen much anymore. Sad to say . . . you go to the records that are the backbone of rock and roll, they were all recorded live in the room, and people just aren't doing that anymore.

One of the good things about technology is that you can mail a track. I played on a Manic Street Preachers record last fall, and they mailed me the track over to here. They're a UK band. And I put the bass on the song and sent it back to them, and it was kinda cool hearing the song later on. But I think as a band the general rule is, try to be in the same room. I always have, with Velvet Revolver and Guns and stuff. Rock bands should be in the same room.

Totally, and not slaved up to some click track, either, because it's got to breathe.

Yeah, you're right.

If you took Led Zeppelin and tried to put it in tune or in time, it wouldn't be Led Zeppelin anymore. (Laughs).

Indeed, indeed. In time? Are you kidding? Led Zeppelin? No. (Laughs). Good one!

You recently gave an interview in which you talked about how much you hate reality TV.

Well . . . (long pause) . . . yeah! (Laughs).

You've taken part in reality TV a little bit with the Married to Rock thing. . .

Yeah, that's why I was answering that question about reality TV. I live in a house with my wife and two daughters, and reality TV . . . it's like, I guess I'm probably that dad, like, "Turn that sh*t off!" And then suddenly my wife got one of those shows. (Laughs). I was like, "Congratulations, honey." "Well, there's one thing . . . they want you to be in it." And I was like, "What!?"

But I love my wife, and she's kinda been there for me through all of this crap. "Let's move! I'm going on tour! Can you take care of the kids?" So it was a small reciprocation, I guess.

I have to say, neither you nor your wife comes off badly in that show, but that's not true of everybody. Not to knock anybody, but it's reality TV as opposed to reality.

Yeah, it's odd to observe for me how different people act when a camera is on. I've seen it in bands, doing MTV interviews or videos or whatever, people just act differently when the red light is on. I personally, me, I could give a sh*t if the red light is on. And maybe I'm fortunate or unfortunate or whatever, but that's just the way it is with me. But yeah, I agree with you. Some people, I was surprised how they acted.

Do they suggest stuff for you? Because when I watch so-called reality TV, be it Gene Simmons or Bret Michaels or whatever, it seems to me like somebody's suggesting, "Okay, let's do the stupidest thing that we can possibly . . ."

Yeah, they wanted me to do all kinds of stuff. And if you do it with the camera on, they can keep it. So I kinda told them, I said, "Look, if you wanna do this, I want to do stuff that I actually do, like ride a motorcycle with my chick." And I tried to get them to do something that benefited somebody else, like show a children's hospital. Let's do something that benefits somebody else. If we're just up here wearing fancy clothes and showing cleavage, let's make it do some good. But it just doesn't sell.

It was cute and fun, and no harm done, and I'm glad it's over. But it made my wife happy, and that makes me happy.

Steven Adler, of course your former band mate, took part in Celebrity Rehab. Did you watch that, and what did you think of it? Did you find it exploitative?

Yes. Absolutely. And the same with Mike Starr. I cringe, I think it's the worst thing for so-called sobriety. "Hold on, we're having a breakthrough . . .wait, we've gotta do makeup." You know? I don't think it's the best thing that could go on.

There's a reason it's anonymous, because if you fail, you're failing on camera. You're failing after you've been on this rehab show.

You mentioned Mike Starr. I watched an episode not too long ago where they were parading him as a success story, and not to belabor the obvious, but he died.

Yeah, he did. Yeah. You know, failure after you've been hailed as a success story, that's why certain programs, it's anonymous. There's a reason for it. Somebody didn't just come up with it because it sounds good. Anonymous, you don't have to succeed all the time. You can fail, and you can still come back and nobody's gonna judge you. I wouldn't have wanted to try and get sober in a public forum. I don't think it's right so . . . whatever. That's how I feel. It's not cool.

You're really busy right now, doing the Revolver Golden God awards, the new album . . . what else is going on for you right now?

What's not going on? I just finished writing a book. I write two columns. I have two deadlines every week, one for ESPN and one for Seattle Weekly. So I'm going through the editing process of my book with Simon & Schuster, and I have another business that I'm starting up, a financial business, and launching this record. And I'm a dad and husband. I don't ever have enough time.

You're a rarity in that you're a rock star who knows how to manage your money. Did you go back and do that simply because you realized how badly you'd been screwed over?

I just didn't want to get screwed over. I didn't know if I had been screwed over badly, so I went to school. I got into the school of business at Seattle U, eventually. I had to jump through a bunch of hoops to get in there.

It was really for my own benefit. I didn't want to be 60 and broke, or 50 and broke or 40 and broke, and had made a bunch of money in my twenties. There was the ripoff factor, and I was too embarrassed to ask anybody, and I wasn't given much information. So I went to school and figured it out.

I interviewed Bill Bruford from Yes a while back, and in his autobiography he said that if a musician who has played on successful recordings collects 75% of what's actually owing, he's doing pretty well. Is that fair to say?

Well, yeah. Sure, it's totally fair. Like Guns N' Roses, we have to audit Geffen still for the records we sell and have sold. We have to audit them every four years, because they don't pay us for everything. That's just the way they do business. Then they go, "Okay, we'll do a settlement." Instead of them paying for everything, basically to make it simple, they say, "You can sue us and it'll cost you this much, or we'll give you this much money." It's just criminal. What can you do?

That is crazy, but not unexpected.

Yeah. The first time that we had to audit them and we found out that there were four million records unaccounted for, they said, "Well, we'll pay you for two million." Like, what do you mean you'll pay us for two million? Pay us for all of them! "No, no . . . you can sue us, it's gonna cost you this much, or we'll pay you for two million records." Wow, but you're our record company . . . we're in partnership with you. "Well, that's how we do business." It's crazy.

Is there anything else you want to say about The Taking before we go?

People have asked me if this is a side project, and I don't even know what a side project is. When I'm in a band, it's just my band. It's the only band I've got. This is what I'm doing, and I love this band. This is actually the longest band I've ever been in, and I think this record is a big step forward for this band. And here we go.

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