DUFF MCKAGAN On GUNS N’ ROSES: ‘We Were More Punk Rock Than Any Punk Rock Band I’ve Seen’

Joe Daly of The Nervous Breakdown recently conducted an interview with Duff McKagan (VELVET REVOLVER, GUNS N’ ROSES, DUFF MCKAGAN’S LOADED). A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

The Nervous Breakdown: This has been quite a month for you, recognition-wise, because about a month ago, GUNS N’ ROSES was nominated for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Duff: Yeah, it’s weird, you know? I’ve never striven to get into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Never in my life have I thought, “Man, I gotta get a Grammy.” In sports you try to win it all, but music’s a different deal. So the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame was never on my radar. As a matter of fact, I don’t know how we got roped into it, but when we (VELVET REVOLVER) inducted VAN HALEN, it went south. I don’t know if you remember that. It just went south. The band (VAN HALEN) was fighting, and the only ones to show up were Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar, and it was like, “Ohhh, boy…” So when we (GN’R) got announced, that’s what I remembered. But I do understand that for the fans, it’s important. It’s important to the people who buy your records and come to your gigs and connect with some lyric that you wrote or a groove or something. I mean, I’m part of social media — I write a couple of columns online, and people comment on those. I have Twitter and I’m on Facebook and I read people’s comments about how they feel about us being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, so then it’s important to me. Only then. And I’ve learned to just say, “thank you.”

The Nervous Breakdown: There are a few parallels between GN’R and VAN HALEN, the biggest one being the turnover in membership, both during and after your involvement. Assuming GUNS gets right in, how do you envision your induction? What do you see it looking like?

Duff: I can’t. I can’t picture it. Your guess is as good as mine. There is no picture. It’s bound to happen but I’d love to call the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, whoever they are, and say, “Hey guys, why don’t you put this off for another ten years? Thank you! Thanks for nominating us — it’s great, but how about you put it off for ten years?”

The Nervous Breakdown: Would ten years give things more time to settle?

Duff: You know, that’s all I need to say about this. I care about our fans and that’s it.

The Nervous Breakdown: Slash and Steven Adler both have their own books out, and many other books have been written about GUNS N’ ROSES that already cover parts of your life. When you sat down to write your book, was there anything you felt that needed to be corrected or cleared up?

Duff: No. No, I read Slash‘s book because we were on the road together with VELVET REVOLVER when that came out. It doesn’t matter what’s correct or what’s not correct. There’s stuff in Slash‘s book that I remember in a different way, but that’s all there is. My experience of the same situation is different than his — that’s what life’s about, right? We all have different experiences sometimes with the exact same thing. When that book came out, I had no inclination to write a book. This book sort of wrote itself out of these little side columns that I was writing. So many people have asked me, “How much did you drink?” and “How did you get into that hospital bed?” And a lot of people ask me, “How did you get sober?” In other words, “How did you get out of that hospital bed?” And that’s really what I wrote to — that was the mission statement. The arc became clear as I wrote — my family, my mom, my kids- how important all of this stuff is to me. And it’s just a guy’s story. I happen to be in a couple of rock bands, but it’s just that guy’s story. GUNS N’ ROSES is a weighty subject, but in the same breath, I don’t take it that seriously. It was an extraordinary circumstance that happened to all of us. Shit, we all survived! That’s great! A lot of my fellows out there didn’t. But at forty-seven years old, I look back and see that we fell into every goddamned trap that there was. But we were honest. We were a dangerous, real band. We were real. Nobody was faking it, and I’m proud of that.

The Nervous Breakdown: You open up an interesting discussion about your own struggles with anxiety. When you talk about playing with THE ROLLING STONES — the gig where Axl famously called everybody out from the stage (threatening to disband GN’R if unnamed members didn’t curb their drug abuse), you guys kept going after that. What was it like still playing in that band with that threat hanging over your heads?

Duff: He said it and we were like, “Oh, we’re discussing this stuff in public, now?” When we were all into it. We took care of our own shit inside, and I’m sure Axl had his reasons for that, and they were probably valid. At the time, I could see it. I was pissed off, too. So half of me was with him, but half of me was like, “No… not here, not now. Not here. Not in front of eighty thousand people…” (laughs) But that’s the way he was, and I can’t really speak for how he is now, but love him or hate him, at least there was no filter.

The Nervous Breakdown: Was there one memory of playing in GUNS N’ ROSES that stands out as your absolute favorite? One thing that really makes you feel proud?

Duff: All of it. I mean, really, most of it. I could write another whole book about the first eighteen months of our band, and it would be fascinating, and fun and good, because nobody believed in us. I touched on it in the book. We just believed in us, and we weren’t accepted into any little section of L.A. rock, and so we just did our own little thing. We were just young, young dudes and we just really knew that whether there were two or two hundred people who knew who we were, we were going to change their perspective on music. We were learning how to write songs together, and the chemistry was stunning. We were more punk rock than any punk rock band I’ve seen. And it was more JUDAS PRIEST than JUDAS PRIEST, and it was more Elton John than Elton John. It was just kind of everything. Some nights we were the best band on the planet.

Read the entire interview from The Nervous Breakdown.

 

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