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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

2024.06.07 - Stereogum - We’ve Got A File On You: Duff McKagan

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2024.06.07 - Stereogum - We’ve Got A File On You: Duff McKagan Empty 2024.06.07 - Stereogum - We’ve Got A File On You: Duff McKagan

Post by Blackstar Fri Jun 07, 2024 8:22 pm

We’ve Got A File On You: Duff McKagan

By Michael Tedder

We’ve Got A File On You features interviews in which artists share the stories behind the extracurricular activities that dot their careers: acting gigs, guest appearances, random internet ephemera, etc.

If you seek to make a kickass album that lies at the intersection of punk and hard rock, and if you have an affection for Iggy Pop and Johnny Thunders, give Duff McKagan a call. At the risk of putting words in the man’s mouth, I’m willing to bet he’d be more than happy to form a band with you. He’s always doing that.

But if you already have a bassist in your life, or you’re not looking for rock ‘n roll glory at this moment, there’s seemingly no end to the topics he can provide insight on, including but not limited to sobriety, fatherhood, martial arts, and to how to be a good man, should that apply. He even has his own wealth management company, which specializes in demystifying the whole “saving money” thing for musicians, a profession that can use the help. Also, based on the playful but confident way he calmed down his puppy during our interview, I assume he’d have plenty of helpful advice about being a pooch parent.

Michael Andrew McKagan turned 60 this year and has no intention of slowing down anytime soon. Though, he notes, “I think they only call me Michael at the bank. I was never called Michael, not even by my mom.” He grew up in a large Irish-American family in Seattle and played in the city’s music scene long before the “Seattle Scene” was a thing. In 1979, he joined his first band, the Vains, at 15, shortly after seeing the Clash, and then joined local legends the Fastbacks, whose guitarist Kurt Bloch would become a longtime friend and punk mentor.

After playing in local groups the Living, 10 Minute Warning, and the Fartz, he decamped for Los Angeles in 1984 after heroin began ravaging his hometown scene. It wasn’t long before he met the members of Guns N’ Roses, and after a few early line-up changes, they quickly nailed their Rolling Stones-meets-Sex Pistols-meets-a bar fight vibe. Released in 1987, Appetite For Destruction got off to a slow start until MTV’s embrace of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” sent the song to the top of the pop charts and made Guns N’ Roses unlikely stars, a disorienting experience for McKagan.

Guns N’ Roses were the most decadent band of a most decadent era, one famous for scandalous headlines, intraband tensions, and concerts that ended in riots. In 1994, a year after the release of the covers album “The Spaghetti Incident?” signaled the end of GNR’s Imperial Era and the slow dissolution of the classic line-up, McKagan was hospitalized with acute alcohol-induced pancreatitis and was instructed he had to stop drinking or he’d be dead in a month.

He credits martial arts with helping him find inner peace and maintaining his sobriety. After leaving his seemingly defunct band in 1997, he began on one of rock music’s most unpredictable second acts. He formed the Seattle rock group Loaded and also embarked upon a solo career that showed off his knack for plainspoken storytelling and unguarded but confident vocals. A dropout of Roosevelt High School, he enrolled at Seattle University shortly after becoming a father. Eventually, he became an unexpected financial guru and an author, writing about sports and finance for Playboy and ESPN and eventually penning the books It’s So Easy *And Other Lies* and How To Be A Man (And Other Illusions).

But even with all his new interests, he kept forming or restarting bands with his Seatle friends. He also had brief stints in Jane’s Addiction and Alice In Chains and collaborated with everyone from Ozzy Osbourne to Macy Gray to the late Mark Lanegan. He also reconvened with Slash and former Guns drummer Matt Sorum for the short-lived supergroup Velvet Revolver with the late Scott Weiland, earning a few rock radio hits along the way.

In a career that has not wanted for surprising turns, one of the most surprising was that not only did McKagan and Slash rejoin Guns N’ Roses in 2016, kicking the entire thing off with a headlining Coachella set, but that the reunion has proved to be a stable, joyous, and ongoing affair, one that might even produce a new album soon. Last year, he released his heartfelt solo album Lighthouse and recently released Tenderness: Live In Los Angeles, a live version of his 2019 album Tenderness, featuring his friend and frequent collaborator Shooter Jennings.

Clad in a black tank top and looking very fit and sinewy, McKagan was as gregarious and open as you’d hope. Though there wasn’t time to ask every question I wanted (as you’ve noticed, he’s a busy guy) he was as happy to talk about his most obscure projects as he was his most famous ones, and also offered more financial advice than you typically get from Stereogum interviews. (This interview has been edited for clarity and concision.)

Tenderness: Live In Los Angeles (2024) And Working With Shooter Jennings (Ongoing)

So you recorded Tenderness: Live In Los Angeles five years ago. Did it feel special to you at the moment?

MCKAGAN: The El Rey show, yeah, it certainly was special. For Shooter and his band, that was home. Also on that show, I got to have my brother and the two other horn players come and actually play that show. My brother lives in LA and the other horn players, they played on the record. So having that just added some weight to it. People were getting emotional. By this time, maybe the record had really started to hit and lyrically, you could tell. I would sing some songs and see somebody crying or laughing. There was an effect, I suppose.

You worked with Shooter Jennings on Tenderness, and he’s in your live band. How did you two meet and what is your working relationship like?

MCKAGAN: I met Shooter back in, man, 2003. He had a rock band called Stargunn, and they would play the Viper Room, and somebody said, you should come see them, they’re cool, you know? And I think Tom Morello was there and like, Shooter was just freaking out, and the band was cool. I went and saw him a few times. I think they opened for my band Loaded at some point, and we just remained friends, and he suddenly had his own career, which wasn’t Stargunn. It was just Shooter Jennings that really took off. He had that hit song “4th Of July,” and it was like, “Oh, good for him, man. Watch him go.”

We stayed in touch and he started producing records. And when I had the grouping of songs for Tenderness and my manager, Brian Klein, and I were like, who should we get? He came back to me one day and said, “How about Shooter Jennings? He’d be into it. Super into it.” So that was that. I just went up to Shooter’s house and we started working on the songs, making sure the arrangements were good, and then decided to use his band to record it, which just suddenly took me into this other world of like, pedal steel and violin and really kind of Americana, I guess. Which the songs played to easily.

Did you always have an affection for country-style music?

MCKAGAN: Not really. Porter Wagoner is the closest I’ve gotten to. Guns, we’d fuck around with it like with “Used To Love Her” and stuff, but that’s really American-like rock band country. It’s a little different.

Mad Season Reunion With Chris Cornell (2015)

The album features you singing Mad Season’s “River Of Deceit,” which is a real great deep cut from the grunge era, and I think one of Layne Staley’s best vocal performances. What made you decide to pick that one?

MCKAGAN: So I did a thing in 2015 with Mad Season, with [Mad Season And Screaming Trees drummer] Barrett Martin and the remaining members. The new members were myself and Chris Cornell. We did a thing with the Seattle Symphony, and it was really badass. Super badass. And we did “River Of Deceit.” I’ve always loved that song. I love that Mad Season record. It’s just such a special record.

It’s so beautiful.

MCKAGAN: I mean, from beginning to end. It’s amazing. I’ve been friends with [Pearl Jam and Mad Season member] Mike McCready since we were young teenagers. So I was glad to see him do something kind of like, “This is my own thing,” you know? And I’m a big fan of Mark Lanegan and Layne and Barrett Martin who I played in Walking Papers with. I have a song called “Feel,” it’s off the Tenderness record, and it’s in the same kind of chord structures of that. And I think we were just messing around with it at one of the gigs, and I went into to “River Of Deceit,” and the band just kind of picked up into it. We played like half of the song, and we just added it to the setlist.

What do you remember about that Mad Season reunion show?

MCKAGAN: It was very weighty because it was in Seattle, at Benaroya Hall, which is where the symphony plays. Beautiful, everything about it. We have this conductor up here who does these rock things once a year, he did a Brandi Carlile one. He knows how to do it and he’s into it. He’s into crossing over, as it were. His arrangements for the stuff, they’re not too bombastic. They’re really nice, and so we rehearsed on our own, the rock band. And then I think the day before we folded in with the symphony that first time, like at the dress rehearsal. It was epic, man, to have just all of that behind you. And having Chris sing was just special for all of us. We were guys who had survived. Up to that point, I guess.

Early Days In The Seattle Scene, Playing In The Vains, The Fastbacks, The Fartz, 10 Minute Warning And More (1979-1984)

Now, speaking of Seattle, let’s go back to the beginning. You were in the Seattle scene before there was a Seattle scene. What were the early days playing in the Vains and the Fastbacks like?

MCKAGAN: Well, I didn’t know what it was like because I was just doing it. My first band, the Vains, our second show we opened for Black Flag, the Ron Reyes version of Black Flag. Punk rock at that point was really still making it up as it went. Every show was a learning experience. Seeing the Clash pre-London Calling in Seattle. So many great shows came here and there were only like 100 people going. Maybe 150 if they played it on college radio, then you started getting college kids coming too.

The Fastbacks, like, I learned so much from Kurt Bloch and, that’s when I started playing drums — you know, “Do you want to play drums?” “I mean, I know how to play a beat.” “Okay, well, that’s good enough,” you know?

Kurt, such a cool songwriter. So being around that, like, this guy’s actually writing these songs and they’re good. They turned me on to a lot of stuff like Badfinger and MC5 and the Stooges. You know, this is ’78, ’79, like, really learning what’s before the punk thing that I’m listening to.

I was so young. I was just playing every show I could play. I played drums in bands, I played bass in bands, played guitar in bands. And we’d go up to Vancouver, BC and play with D.O.A., who are like my KISS. Those formative years, I learned so much about how to be in a band and how to cut straight through things with music.

And seeing the Clash and the inclusiveness of “we’re in this thing together: us and you.” And I had arena shows where I saw Zeppelin at the Kingdom, and they were a little band on the stage so far away. Still, I got to see Zeppelin, you know? It was still really cool. But all of a sudden I’m seeing a band that I think is as big as Zeppelin in the Clash. They’re from England, for fuck’s sake, saying there’s no difference between us and you. I’m like, “Oh, fuck yeah, that’s what it’s about.” And I’m sure Led Zeppelin meant the same thing, they just got so big. But I got to see, like, this reinvention of rock ‘n roll.

How much older than you was Kurt?

MCKAGAN: Four years older than me.

It sounds like an older brother situation, teaching you all about music.

MCKAGAN: Yeah, and older sister. [Fastbacks singer/bassist] Kim Warnick still is like a sister to me. I won’t say older. I’ll say a sister.

And you and Kurt still collaborate to this day, and you’re still friends.

MCKAGAN: We are. We just went and saw Stiff Little Fingers together last weekend.

So what’s your friendship been like over the years as you’ve gone in different directions?

MCKAGAN: Natural. It picks up where it left off, without any conversation.

Finally Releasing The Lost 1982 Album From His Punk Band The Living. (2021)

Speaking of early days, a couple of years ago your band The Living finally released the album you all recorded in 1982. What was it like to revisit that piece of your past?

MCKAGAN: Crazy, right? Try putting yourself in my shoes. I kind of forgot that we had made a record’s worth of recordings and that it never came out. We had a situation with our singer. It’s always a thing when you’re young and in a band, there’s always going to be somebody who makes it harder or whatever. And that was the kind of situation in that band.

Me and Greg Gilmore went from that band and formed 10 Minute Warning, which …that was the next greatest band. But the Living, those recordings sat there and Greg Gilmore, he played drums in The Living and then 10 Minute Warning with me and then went on to Mother Love Bone.

He had the recordings this whole time, and Stone Gossard was very aware. It was like his favorite band. He’s got his little label, and he approached us about putting the record out. And Greg remixed it. It sounds great. It was during Covid, when we put it out, I think. Yeah, we did a press thing, like all of us in the same room. And I think Stone and somebody else interviewed us, and that was our one press thing we did. It was like one kind of a one-shot thing. And it was super fun to do that and do the artwork for it.

Speaking of Pearl Jam guys, how long have you known Mike McCready? You mentioned him earlier.

MCKAGAN: So when I was in the Living back in the day, he was in a band called Shadow. They were not a metal band, necessarily, but it was definitely hard rock. They weren’t in the punk rock scene, but it’s kind of when things started to do that crossover, the punk and metal scenes kind of crossed over. So Shadow started playing gigs around. But I knew him because he lived a neighborhood over from me, so I probably knew him since he was a little kid. But once he started playing guitar and stuff we started hanging out and then his band Shadow, they moved to LA, about a year and a half after I moved there, two years after I moved there and tried to give it a run and it didn’t really work, and we hung out then as well.

Moving To Los Angeles And Meeting The Members of Guns N’ Roses (1984)

How old were you when you moved to Los Angeles, and what made you decide to give it a shot?

MCKAGAN: I was 19. And, the reason I moved wasn’t because there wasn’t talent in Seattle. There was a ton of it. The best that I knew.

But a bunch of heroin came into Seattle, in like ’83. It really decimated, decimated our scene and decimated my best friend and everything around me. So I just kind of made a spur of the moment decision. I started saving up money. I had like $380, which was a lot of money then. I made the move, just kind of shot in the wind. I knew music was what I needed to do in my life. I wasn’t going to give up.

Moving down there, I met Slash and [drummer Steven Adler], like almost immediately, within a couple of weeks, through a newspaper ad. And then Izzy moved across the street from me and Axl and, you know, within six months, we had that band together.

So you knew right away it was something special?

MCKAGAN: Yeah, and I’ve been in enough bands to know. Remember, I was saying earlier, in the younger years, you always had somebody in the band that was like… it’s not quite, you’re missing something. Something’s not 100% there. This thing was the first time I’d gotten into the room like, “Oh, this is fucking 110% there.” And that feeling, that kind of electric feeling of that, was intense. It was immense, is what it was.

So we have Duff, Slash, Izzy, Axl and Steven Adler? Did you guys ever get Steven crap for not having a cool rock ‘n roll nickname?

MCKAGAN: Yeah, what was that all about? Ain’t that funny?

Now, did you kind of think that we’re going to take the world by storm, or is it more like, “You know, we’ll make the first album. Hopefully it does pretty well, and maybe by the third or fourth album people will start to catch on.” Or did you think like, “No, we got this right away”?

MCKAGAN: I don’t know if I thought in those terms, really. We wrote the songs for ourselves. It’s got to sound good to you in your room. If you go out and play the songs and other people latch on to them, that’s amazing. They think it’s a good song too.

We made the exact record we wanted to make. Mike Clink producing it and just going out to this recording studio, way out in the valley and throwing down. He captured the sounds of our amps and the drums and Axl’s vocal perfectly. That’s what we sounded like in our rehearsal room. You know, “Great. We got it.” But commercially… I thought maybe it would be amazing if we sold as many records as the Circle Jerks.

But you don’t really think in terms of commerce, like money or sales. That’s not part of your thing, right? So we just went out on the road, and we started doing shows. We went out with the Cult, we went to all kinds of different bands. Alice Cooper, we did our own tours, and it just built and built and built, and they were about to take us off the road. Because the record didn’t break through.

And you know the old story, that we released “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and everything went fucking bonkers a year and a half later. So whether we thought it or not, what that record was capable of, it exceeded anything by far. Because radio and all that stuff wasn’t playing that kind of music. We had fucking f-bombs and shit. That kind of music and for us to break through in, in the pop, whatever it was we broke through, it kind of changed radio.

Navigating The Success Of “Sweet Child o’ Mine” (1988)

“Sweet Child o’ Mine” hit #1. It was being played on MTV basically every 20 minutes. Was that disorienting to go from the punk scene to being one of the world’s biggest bands? Not overnight, because you worked really hard, but to a lot of people, it’s like, here they are, out of nowhere.

MCKAGAN: No, I mean, it wasn’t easy. It was kind of mind fucking blowing. You go through life, nobody recognizes you in a grocery store, why would they? And then suddenly, people are looking at you at the grocery store, because you’re on the cover of Rolling Stone, where they have the magazines right by the checkout stands. And you’re plastered across, and they’ve seen your video, like you said, every fucking 20 minutes. And that kind of being recognized, it was mind blowing.

I had punk rock guilt, that’s an actual thing. But then I realized, nobody gave any of this shit to me. I worked my ass off for this thing. I don’t know how to deal with it. Yeah, and it took me many years to learn how to [McKagan using airquotes] “deal with it.” The popularity and all that stuff. I understand it now. I totally do, because I have people like that. There’s people like, “Oh, fuck,” you know. I’m a fan of rock people. So I get it. I totally get it. But there’s no manual that tells you what to do. There wasn’t a how-to-video.

You said you had punk guilt. Do you ever worry, like, “What are my friends from back in Seattle going to think now that I’m on MTV all the time? Are they going to think I sold out?”

MCKAGAN: No, it wasn’t that so much, because my friends were stoked, happy, the first ones to tell me. But it was… there’s plenty of other good, great players too, it’s almost like, “Why was it me? Because that band over there….” it was that kind of thing, right? But in my case, what kind of alleviated that was a lot of my friends from Seattle, their bands started to just, about two years later, break through. So I’m like, “Okay, Soundgarden, Kim and Chris. They’re breaking. So okay. Now I feel alright. Now things are becoming even. Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam…Mike McCready finally got his. He’s a good player.” He was one of the guys. I felt guilty, like, “How come not him,” you know?

Guns N’ Roses Appearing In The Clint Eastwood Film The Dead Pool, Alongside Jim Carrey (1988)

So a fun thing around this time when Guns N’ Roses is blowing up, is you were all in the Dirty Harry film The Dead Pool, which was one of Jim Carrey’s first films. Do you have any good stories about meeting Jim Carrey or Clint Eastwood?

MCKAGAN: For sure. I mean, that’s funny, nobody brings that up. So Jim Carrey, he wasn’t Jim Carrey. Yeah. So he played the singer of the band that was doing… have you ever watched it?

Yeah, but not in a long time. I tried to find it on streaming.

MCKAGAN: So he sings “Welcome To The Jungle.” He’s in a band, right? So we shared a trailer with him. And there was a snake in the movie. I forget what scene, but the snake handler was in our trailer. It was us, the band and Jim Carrey, for the couple of days that we filmed there.

And Clint Eastwood, I mean, he was ahead of his time on wanting to use “Jungle.” We were not a big band. MTV was not playing that video. It was not being played on the radio. So we just thought, “Okay, this guy’s fucking pretty cool for for picking us,” like some little band. And I don’t know if he could see a bigger picture, but he had us in the movie, the whole thing. And it was just super fun. Who’s going to say no to being in a Dirty Harry movie? None of us fashioned ourselves as actors at all. It’s like it was like this cameo thing. “Okay, fuck it. Let’s do it.”

Appearing As A Rock ‘n Roll Vampire In An Episode Of Sliders (1997) And Appearing As Himself In Portlandia (2014)

You have done a little bit of acting since. You were in an episode of Sliders playing a vampire, and you played yourself in Portlandia (2014). Have you turned anything down or auditioned for anything else?

MCKAGAN: No, no, no, the Sliders thing, I had just been sober for about a year and a half, and that was where I was turning a corner in my life. Where I was starting to say yes to stuff I was terrified of. And I got offered to be in Sliders. I never watched it. I wasn’t even watching TV. I guess Roger Daltrey had been in an episode. They were getting rock people. So I’m like, “Fuck, I don’t act, I’m going to suck. I’m going to totally suck in this.” And there were a ton of lines for me. I had lines in that thing. To me it was a ton. It was probably only 12, but I had to die in it. And, you know, it was a fun experience. The cast and the crew for that thing were really accommodating to me. And I got to get fangs made by the famous guy at Paramount who did all the prosthetics for Star Trek and all kinds of shit. He did my fangs. That was super fun.

And Portlandia, I’m friends with Fred [Armisen], right? And my wife and I love Portlandia. And then I get this call from Fred. “I’m like, honey, they want me to be in Portlandia.” She’s like, “Oh my God.” So that was cool. St. Vincent was the other. And so she hadn’t acted either. So they had the scenario set up where this accountant, who they loved being an accountant, wanted to be in a rock band. They’re like, “No, man, we need accountants.” So that’s your set up. “We’re going to have an intervention on this accountant not to be in a rock band.” And then you just kind of go from there. And that was fun. I mean, it was cool being around Fred and Carrie.

A Brief Inquiry About The “Patience” Video (1988)

You mentioned that when you were in The Dead Pool, you were sharing a trailer with a snake handler.

MCKAGAN: Yes.

Is that where Slash got the idea to play with the snake in the “Patience” video?

MCKAGAN: He always had snakes.

OK.

MCKAGAN: When I first met him, like the night I met him, was at Canter’s, a deli in LA. He was living in his mom’s basement because he’s like 18. And he starts playing guitar, and then he brings out his snake. And I’ve never been around a snake.

And that was Clyde, one of his first snakes. It was a girl. And he’s like, “She’s so sweet.” It was like his dog, you know? By the time we had a snake handler in our trailer, we weren’t at all freaked out by it because we’ve been around snakes because of Slash. He’s a foremost expert on the planet on snakes.

I believe that.

Working With Iggy Pop On Brick By Brick (1990) And Every Loser (2023)

Now around this time period that’s when you hooked up with Don Was to play on Brick By Brick with Iggy Pop.

MCKAGAN: A couple of years later.

What was it like? Because he’s famously such a nice guy. But is it weird to be like, “You’re Iggy Pop! I grew up idolizing you!” How was it in that situation?

MCKAGAN: No, it’s still like that with me and Iggy. We just did the most recent record, and we played five shows with them. He’s fucking Iggy, you know. Like for me, there’s the triumvirate. It would be like Iggy, Prince, and Lemmy. There you go. And I get to do stuff with Iggy.

So back then, I got a phone call at my house. I just got my first phone and house. You pick up the phone back then. “Hello? Hey, is this Duff?” “Yeah, it’s Duff.” “It’s Iggy.” I thought it was one of my friends fucking with me. “I want you to come play on my record, man. Would you be into that?” And I’m like, “Who is this?” And they won’t say who it was. I hung up the phone and the phone rang again. It was him. “Hey, man. No, really, it’s Iggy.”

We got these demos from Iggy on a cassette, me and Slash. We learned the songs and went in and played with Don Was. Kenny Aronoff played drums. Consummate professional. Slash and I were good players at that time. But doing the thing with Iggy, we played a show with him, after the record was released, down in downtown LA. At that point in my life, I was like, “Man, I’ve done it, I made it. I fucking made it.”

I’d seen Iggy so many times up to this point. I was just trying not to seem like I was weird. Don’t freak him out, right? Act normal. Act natural. How do you do that?

You’ve also worked with Ozzy Osbourne and, like you said, collaborated again with Iggy last year. Does it ever get to the point where you can act natural around people like him? Or are you still a fan first?

MCKAGAN: I think I’m still a fan first. Yeah. And I like that distinction, because I like being a fan. And if I can, just try to see if I can add to this person’s legacy in a positive way, please, let me do whatever I can to do that.

Guns N’ Roses “Estranged” Video (1993)

So let’s skip ahead a bit. The videos from the Use Your Illusion era are all over the top, in the best possible way. People always talk about how epic the “November Rain” video is, but if you ask me, the absolute peak is the “Estranged” video. I mean, you guys had your own goddamn ocean liner. Like, at one point, Axl starts swimming with dolphins. What’s going on with that video? It’s amazing.

MCKAGAN: It was big and huge, and I do remember, me and Axl went down to, like, a tank in San Diego. I’m in a lifeboat, and it’s actually just this big indoor tank, and there’s, like, scuba divers there and all this shit, and this is kind of over the top. There’s a making of that video somewhere, which can explain it a lot better than I could, because to be honest with you, that was like at the end of my really bad drinking, so I don’t remember. I’m just going to be honest with you, I don’t remember.

Paying Tribute To New York Dolls/Heartbreakers Member And Punk Icon Johnny Thunders On The Use Your Illusion Cut “So Fine” (1991) And Covering “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory” On “The Spaghetti Incident?” (1993)

On Use Your Illusion, you sang the Johnny Thunders tribute song “So Fine” and later for “The Spaghetti Incident?” you covered his solo song “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory.” What did Johnny Thunders mean to you?

MCKAGAN: Well, Thunders, I mean. So when I first started learning how to play on my instruments, I was playing drums, and I was playing bass. And my brother taught me some, like, “Today Is Your Birthday” on the bass, which is like a blues major scale. And I was in sixth grade, and he taught me three chords on a guitar: G, A, and D. “Okay, I’m off.” And I hear the Pistols. And I hear Steve Jones’ guitar playing. I’m like, “Fuck, this is it. This is everything.”

And Kurt Bloch, it’s like, “Well, now we got you got to go back one. You got to go to this L.A.M.F. record by Johnny Thunders and go back to the Dolls.” And so I kind of saw the genesis of that kind of guitar playing come from Thunders into Jonesy and really inform future guitar sounds and work.

I got to see Thunders in 1980, they came through Seattle, I think we went down to Portland to see him again in like ’81. And we played a show in ’86 opening for Johnny Thunders, Guns N’ Roses did, at Fender’s Ballroom and in Long Beach. So Alone and Que Sera Sera and L.A.M.F. are very informative records for me, and I always kind of held this place of endearment for Johnny Thunders. “So Fine” is basically “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory” backwards. It’s that same kind of tone. And then I recorded “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory.” I think I played the drums and did all the stuff on it. When we were out on the Illusions tour I was trying to just find things to do and to not drink and going into studios was one of the things I would do.

Leaving Guns N’ Roses (1997), Releasing His First Solo Album Believe In Me (1993) And Getting Hospitalized For Pancreatitis (1994)

So in 1993 Guns N’ Roses were starting to become inactive after “The Spaghetti Incident?” came out. You released your solo album, Believe In Me, and then a year later, I believe you were hospitalized. After that you stopped drinking. This sounds like a time period of a lot of change and volatility.

MCKAGAN: Believe In Me, I made in those sessions I was telling you about. I would go to studios and try not to drink. I made this record, those songs, all over the place, and I was all over the place, and I went and toured. I went and played some shows for that record. Went over to Europe and opened for the Scorpions on an arena tour, played some US shows, I think I went to Japan. I got Paul Solver in the band who was in 10 Minute Warning with me. I was trying to have a punk rock all-star band.

And then I was supposed to go to Australia, and I was starting to get sick. I didn’t know what was wrong. “I wonder what’s wrong. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. What could be wrong?” And, uh, then I had my event which changed everything.

So I’ve read that you started studying martial arts in order to maintain your sobriety. Can you talk more about that?

MCKAGAN: I was fortunate enough to get into what I got into about six months into being sober. Somebody introduced me to my sensei, and it was really just a whole new way of life. And the thinking… that I didn’t get the first day or the second day or the first week or second month. But I knew it was there. I could see these other martial artists. I could see the calm and the peace that they had. And I want to see if I can get there. Over time, I started to figure out some things.

And it’s really about just being honest with yourself first. And taking care of those people around you and fucking making amends, which I didn’t know was an AA thing. You just do this all naturally through Ukidokan Kickboxing, which is the martial art I do. Just getting honest with yourself, if you can.

Encountering Kurt Cobain Shortly Before His Passing (1994)

Around that time period, you’ve written about how you saw Kurt Cobain in an airport a few days before he died. What do you remember about that experience, that you feel like talking about?

MCKAGAN: I mean, it’s so well documented. We’re on the same plane, coming back to Seattle and he seemed to be in trouble. I knew he said he just left, whatever the place was called, the rehab place. And he was going back to this new house, and my friend was picking me up, and I said, “Hey, man, why don’t you go see Kurt? Let’s come over to the house.” But a car had come and picked him up, and you could just tell, like, “He probably shouldn’t be going home, you know, by yourself right now.” But that was my antenna as a fellow user.

It’s been made into more of a story than I’d actually like it to be. It’s just, we were on the same plane. I could tell it wasn’t going good for him. Anybody could tell that. So it wasn’t like I had some sixth sense, I was just in that world. I mean, so many of my friends had been dying in the previous 10 years, and I was almost next. It was not a month later that my pancreas burst. So that’s how close I was to the edge as well.

Possibly Inspiring A Crucial Bit Of Lore On The Simpsons (1989)

Well I can pick up the mood a little bit and ask you about this. Speaking of the ’90, you’ve said that you believe The Simpsons named Duff Beer after you. Some Simpsons writers have said that’s not true, but do you still think it’s true?

MCKAGAN: Yes, yes! Well, here’s the deal. So I was Duff, the King of Beers. But this is 1988, 1989 and our management, I remember they called me and said some arthouse-like cartoon wants to use your name as the beer, like a college arthouse cartoon. There weren’t any adult cartoons at this point.

I didn’t know about branding or anything like that, but that show took off. And then they started selling merch and stuff. I never went after him, but I’m like, “Hey, motherfuckers,” you know?

So I think it’s very probably business savvy of them to say that’s not true. But if you just do your own math behind it, look at when they started off with the King of Beers, and I had my King of Beers belt I wore all the time.

It lines up, timeline wise.

MCKAGAN: I don’t care. It’s fine.

They should own up to it.

MCKAGAN: They should. I’m not going to ask them for money.

Forming Neurotic Outsiders With Steve Jones Of The Sex Pistols And John Taylor of Duran Duran (1995)

So in 1995, you formed Neurotic Outsiders with Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols and John Taylor of Duran Duran. Guns N’ Roses and Duran Duran are from very different scenes. What did you and John bond over?

MCKAGAN: Oh, John? I mean, fucking hell of a bass player. He came up in that British scene, we had the same influences, and frankly, we were all sober. So that’s a big bonder right there, right?

I’ve got to play with Steve Jones, both mine and John Taylor’s fucking idol, you know? I told you about Johnny Thunders. Steve Jones, I discovered Jonesy. Now I’m in a band with him playing guitar. So I’m worried that he’s going to see that every riff I know I ripped off, you know, I learned from him.

An older music journalist friend of mine once told me that if they’ve played music long enough, that two musicians from very different scenes and styles, that are not within the same realm of all, would still probably have a lot to talk about.

MCKAGAN: Oh, yeah. Maybe, sometimes, more things to talk about. John Taylor is a hell of a guy. I learned a lot from him during that.

His Shelved Solo Album Beautiful Disease (1999)

So your second solo album Beautiful Disease was supposed to come out in 1999, but was the victim of Universal merging with several other record labels. What would you like to say about the album? Do you think it will ever come out?

MCKAGAN: I do own the Masters finally, after 24 years.

Oh, great.

MCKAGAN: Like, “Why don’t you guys just give me my record?” I asked them, “Can I just have my record? You’re not going to put it out. I’ll figure out another way to put it.”

“Nope. You can’t have it.” “So really, what are you guys going to do with it?” “Yeah, it’s not yours.” “Well, it is mine.”

So there’s that. But it happened to a lot of fucking artists then, man. Like the lineup… I remember going over to whoever it was, Universal, Interscope, whoever bought Geffen, the big evil Omni Group bought them all. And there was, like, all these well known musicians in this waiting room, I guess, to see if your record was going to be put out or not.

I remember, I talked to a record executive. I won’t say who it is. I go to the office. We’re just on Christmas vacation now. My record was supposed to come out. There were end caps in stores. I’d done all the press tours. Artwork. It’s done. Pressed. He said, “Well, you know, me and my kids, we went through a lot of, uh, the music to decide….”

“Oh, your kids.” “Yeah, I’ve got a nine-year-old and a 14-year-old.” “And they’re helping you decide who records come out.” I was so fucking pissed at this guy. I said, “You fucking kidding me?” Yeah, so my record is not coming out because you guys went on up to Aspen and decided, not my record. So that was that. I was not alone. I was a victim of the thing, but I finally got my record back in 2020.

Congratulations. Do you have any plans for it?

MCKAGAN: So I put “Hope” from that record on Lighthouse. So I’m going to slowly put them out like that because they sound just as current now, they fit in well with the stuff now. So, yeah, little by little. I got stuff with Kurt Bloch on there. I’ve got some cool shit. Abe Laboriel Jr. from Paul McCartney’s band is on there, it’s a bunch of friends on it.

Moving Back To Seattle And Restarting Loaded And 10 Minute Warning (Late ’90s And 2000)

Around this time you moved back to Seattle. You reformed your band Loaded. You later reformed 10 Minute Warning, and you went back to school. What was going on in your life at this time period? You’re out of Guns and it seemed like you’re just kind of doing your own thing.

MCKAGAN: I was two years sober and I met my wife. Huge, huge. Realized like, “Oh, this is this one.” She got pregnant with Grace. So I’m like “Okay, we’re going to be parents. That’s it. There’s no other. We’re going to be together forever.” And so I was doing a lot of that, being a husband, being there when we had Grace.

And that’s when I started to think, “Okay, now it’s time for me to go to school.” This is something I’ve always dreamed of. Didn’t have a chance when I was a teenager. So I got myself eventually into Seattle University, the business school there. But, we had our second daughter. Between, I’d say, at the time Beautiful Disease was supposed to come out. I did put out a Loaded record, but that was kind of like my college record, you know?

Really, I was in college and having kids at home, so. But it wasn’t until 2003 when we decided to try for this Velvet Revolver. My kids were now like three and six. And now I can start. I really didn’t have little babies at home. I could start thinking about doing music as a full-time thing again.

Starting Velvet Revolver With Slash, Scott Weiland, Matt Sorum, And Dave Kushner (2003)

So you’re living a quiet life, playing music on a low-key level and having domestic bliss. Was it weird to get back into the spotlight with Velvet Revolver? Did you feel the need to get back out there to see if you could make it happen again?

MCKAGAN: Yeah. I don’t know about the spotlight so much. It’s never been my goal to be in the spotlight, but to be in a band with Slash again, it felt like we had unfinished business, and let’s let’s explore what that is and get Matt in there and eventually, you know, Dave Kushner is the secret weapon of that band. And getting Scott in the band, it was like, “okay, now it’s time.”

The first time I ever saw you play, I was in Orlando, Florida, and I saw Velvet Revolver in 2004. Scott Weiland denounced the Iraq War from the stage and told people to vote for John Kerry, and Matt Sorum looked pissed. You can tell from the crowd that he wasn’t happy about this. So I’m just asking, was it always a volatile situation with Velvet Revolver? Were there ever any good times?

MCKAGAN: No. There were good times. I mean, there was definitely some drama. And some knuckleheadery stuff going on. I think that band left a great impression with me, because it was like we brought hard… like, rock ‘n roll had not been showing his face. There was a few bands that were doing it, like Nashville Pussy, but that was like ’98, and Hellacopters from Sweden, but there wasn’t that many, like, rock ‘n roll bands. And so I thought we helped usher back in sort of a new time in rock ‘n roll music. The drama and everything else aside, we had a really good relationship with our audience.

The song “Fall to Pieces” is such a beautiful ballad. Could you tell me about making it?

MCKAGAN: Slash had that guitar lick thing. With that band, songs just fell together, then we started to slice it up. Like the genesis of a lot of these songs was just like, “Boom, okay, now the verse is going to be this.” We just all fall into it. Really good songwriting band, you know? So that first record was great, and we just thought it was kind of a perfect fit. Scott hit that lyric, it’s like, “Oh, this is going to be a cool song.”

Forming The Wealth Management Company Meridian Rock (2011)

So you went back to school, and later you formed the wealth management company Meridian Rock.

MCKAGAN: You’re doing my full life!

We try to be as thorough as possible, here at Stereogum. Where did your interest in finance come from, and do you have any investment advice for the readers of Stereogum?

MCKAGAN: I went to school because I had made money in my 20s. I grew up in a family of eight kids. My dad was a fireman. I didn’t know who to turn to. I didn’t. I was scared of money. Here I was with two little kids. I didn’t want to be broke at 40. So how do I learn about money? Like, how does it work? What do I do?

And so I went to business school and really started applying the lessons daily. It was great not being 18 and being 31, because I was learning, I was in the field, I was working. And friends of mine started to come to me because I was the one guy that had gone to business school, and I was trustworthy. So people started going, “Hey, man, can you tell me what to do with this?” I’m like, “Well, I don’t know exactly, but I can tell you what I’ve learned.” Here’s this and here’s that, and here’s the other in plain language.

But my investment advice since then has been, just invest. It’s not when you get in. “Should I go in today? The market’s up or down.” Just get in. And if you got 100 bucks or you got 200 bucks get an index fund, which follows the Dow Jones index or the Nasdaq index. Then get some government bonds and just invest, keep putting money into it. A hundred bucks, you know, $50, $200. You get a check from your grandparents, put that in, you know, just keep putting it in. And that’s what I started doing at like 31 and just stay to it. I don’t jump at some stock like “Hey look at this sexy new stock like GameStop.” I don’t even understand that.

You’re more of a slow and steady kind of guy.

MCKAGAN: Slow and steady. I was young when I started investing. I was 30, 31. So slow and steady works.

His Book How to Be a Man (And Other Illusions) (2015) And His Writing Career

So you’ve written two books, and you’ve written for ESPN, Playboy, and Seattle Weekly. What I would really like to focus on is your book How To Be A Man (And Other Illusions). Also, your song “Last September” is a tribute to the #MeToo movement. It seems like masculinity is a topic of interest of yours. Where do you think that comes from, and what is your take on the current state of masculinity?

MCKAGAN: Well, man, I have a great mom and three older sisters. I have a wife and two daughters. Masculinity to me has always been kind of funny. Be you, man, Be a cool motherfucker.

And if you see somebody doing something wrong, really wrong, especially to women, fuck them up or stop it. Stop it or fuck them up, if you’re a fella. It’s kind of basically it. Right?

I mean, How To Be A Man (And Other Illusions) is really that. It’s just funny shit I’ve learned along the way, and it’s really how to treat other people. Really, that’s what I’ve learned. With movements and stuff, it comes out. But I’ve always thought this way. With the #MeToo movement, it’s like, “Oh, really? Yeah. I would have kicked that guy’s ass if I saw him.” Whatever. That’s the way I go. I will beat you down, Yeah, I hate it. If something happened to my daughters, it wouldn’t be a good scene.

Rejoining Guns N’ Roses And Working On New Material (2014-Ongoing)

It’s been nearly a decade since you and Slash rejoined Guns N’ Roses, which for a very long time seemed like something that would never happen. What’s it been like for you?

MCKAGAN: I’ll tell you what: kickass. It’s just been a real treat, I think for myself and I think for the other guys, to see how we have progressed as adults, seeing families around playing this music that we created when we were very young. A lot of it when we were 21, 22 years old. And it still stands up. It’s really quite fun, quite humorous. A lot of levity. Which wasn’t there a bunch of years ago. Not that there wasn’t levity, but we were young men.

Was it tough for everyone to put their egos and hurt feelings aside and be like, “Hey, we should make this happen”? What was it like to mend those fences?

MCKAGAN: Well, it’s funny, you’re asking me this now. It’s been eight years or nine years. I couldn’t really tell you how it came back together. It wasn’t like that conversation like, “Hey guys, we should drop our egos and get this thing back together.” It was just natural.

I went and played with Axl. The Replacements all of a sudden got these gigs, and [then GNR bassist] Tommy Stinson couldn’t do these six or seven shows in South America. I had seen Axl in a hotel in London about a year before this. And we hung out and I went to his gig and we went to his gig together.

We went on a boat up the Thames River to the O2 together, and we really just told jokes and it had been so long. And so I think that was the beginning. So when this thing came up with Tommy Stinson having to bail, would I come and do these shows? Like, “I’ll do it. Mhm. Yeah, sure.” I need to rehearse with his band though. So, we did that. We did the shows. We had a great time. And I think just one thing led to another from that. And there we were playing Coachella.

Actually, our first gig back was April 1st at the Troubadour.

Guns have had a number of singles in the past few year, and I really love the new song “Perhaps.”

MCKAGAN: Isn’t it nice? “Perhaps I was wrong.” There’s like a jauntiness to it. And we play it well live. There’s a few new songs that we put out that really translate well live. To put a whole body of that out at one time would probably be the right thing to do. And I think that’s in the cards.

So you think there might be another Guns N’ Roses album at some point?

MCKAGAN: Of course!

What can you say about that?

MCKAGAN: I say of course!

OH, great!

MCKAGAN: I mean, we’re having a good time doing it. So why not continue on? I mean, we already had enough time off from each other.

I saw the Stones last week in Seattle. I’s like, oh, man. I mean, Mick’s 81. He danced around like he’s 30, 25. So smooth. And so, man, I wake up in the morning, I work out a lot and I wake up so sore. I’m looking at Mick. I’m like, “I wonder if he wakes up sore.” I bet you he doesn’t. But seeing that, it’s like, oh, I better get going. I’m only 60, I got shit to do here.

https://www.stereogum.com/2266852/duff-mckagan-career-spanning-interview/interviews/weve-got-a-file-on-you/
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2024.06.07 - Stereogum - We’ve Got A File On You: Duff McKagan Empty Re: 2024.06.07 - Stereogum - We’ve Got A File On You: Duff McKagan

Post by Blackstar Sun Jun 16, 2024 5:55 pm

Response from one of the writers of The Simpsons; TMZ, June 16:

https://www.tmz.com/2024/06/16/simpsons-duff-beer-name-guns-n-roses/
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