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June, 1999
Duff McKagan Interview
Hard Force Magazine June 1999
by Daniel Oliveira

HF : Letís start with the Neurotic Outsiders. What does playing with Steve Jones, guitarist with the Sex Pistols, and John Taylor, bassist for Duran Duran, represent to you?

D : Playing with Steve Jones had the same impact on me that when Slash and myself played on Iggy Popís album, ę Brick By Brick Ľ. Those are guys who influenced me. Playing in the same band, recording an album and going on tour with Steve was pretty incredible. It feels great to think that Steve Jones is one of my best friends. Guns Ní Roses already played in Seattle, at the Kingdome Stadium, but itís only when I came back with the Neurotic Outsiders that I felt I had succeeded, because I played in my hometown, with Steve, one of my idols. I always respected Johnís bass playing. When I was a kid, Duran Duran was just starting to become famous and everybody told me I looked like him. It was quite funny. John impresses me not only by his style, but also as a human being. Heís a very opened person.

HF : If NO makes you so happy, why donít you make it a full-time project?

D : We had a kind of agreement at the beginning : ę Letís play for fun and be friends. Ľ When record companies started to show some interest in us, we were a bit reluctant, cause we were scared the business would spoil our friendship. It happens so often. So we got in touch with Maverick and were very honest with them : ę This band is just starting, weíre friends first and foremost and we only play for fun. Ľ For me, this band was the opportunity to play with clean guys. In a way, I learnt to play again. Weíve enjoyed all our little shows at the Viper room and that never jeopardized our friendship.

HF : Will the band release another album?

D : Maybe. If the record company really asks for it, while leaving us alone, we could consider it. Iím gonna go on tour with Loaded and currently thatís my priority. This is a serious band and I donít want to be distracted by five parallel projects. But Iíll make an exception for Neurotic.

HF : After you finished the tour with NO, the medias started to talk about line-up problems in Guns Ní Roses. Was this the beginning of the bandís downfall?

D : Everything started when Slash turned his back and said : ę This is shit. Ľ [referring to their musical differences.] He and Axl didnít talk to each other anymore. It had become quite irrational.

HF : The communication between them?

D : Yes. I was always in the middle, the one both came to see, and I got the impression I arbitrated little kidsí quarrels. Matt was never a full member of the band, he was on an ejector seat and Axl said : ę Iím gonna fire him. Ľ I answered that this decision required more than one person to be taken since we were a band, that he alone didnít own the majority. All of this because Matt told him he was wrong. The truth is, Matt was right, and Axl wrong indeed.

HF : Wrong about what?

D : About schedules and the way Axl was late for the next album. Susan, my girlfriend, was pregnant. We were going to have a baby, but this band was becoming a dictatorship, everything had to get done in Axlís way or it wouldnít get done at all. It wasnít like that when we started out. At one point, we were offered a huge sum of money to play a concert in Germany. I thought : ę I never played for money and Iím not gonna start now! Ľ. Iíve got a house, Iím secure financially. Post-Neurotic was the worst moment of my career in Guns. I went out for dinner with Axl and I told him : ę Enough is enough. This band is a dictatorship and I donít see myself playing in those conditions. Find someone else. Ľ

HF : Why did Axl become so egomaniac and arrogant?

D : Because many people around him maintain him in that state of mind. They kept telling him he was right. Some of them feared him cause they were scared they were gonna lose their job. Itís as simple as that. I donít want to do anything that goes against what I am now. Iím honest with myself and with the people surrounding me. Had I stayed with Axl, I would have acted against my personality. And nothing worse could ever happen to me. In this story, the real losers are Guns Ní Roses fans, unfortunately.

HF : Why didnít you pursue your career with Slash and Matt, in another band?

D : I believe this will happen. And I think that would be fabulous. Weíre very close friends as well as with Izzy. Weíre in daily contact. Slash, Matt and myself played at the Slamdance film festival [ in Park City, Utah.] You canít create a good feeling between three or four people. It has to be already there. And when we played together, not only was there the feeling, but also a big energy. Those who attended that show probably remember it cause it was really powerful. We felt so good on-stage that the music just seemed to flow. It was one of those magic nights....

HF : Donít you think itís a bit unfair to play this semi-Guns concert, given that the bandís not complete?

D : We play together very often and what would be unfair would be to ask us to stop doing it. It would be like forbidding a kid to go play outside with his friends or telling him, if his parents were divorced, that he had to stop seeing one of them. But I think that, if we donít want to form a band right now, itís because we want to get away from that Guns image. Weíd like to prove to ourselves that we are musicians. I left Guns Ní Roses because the band didnít correspond to me anymore. Whatís left of the band has nothing to do with what we had created. I even think whatís left is not Guns Ní Roses.

HF : How did you react when Axl hired the bassist Tommy Stinson [ex-Replacements] and the guitarist Robin Finck [ex-Nine Inch Nails]?

D : I played with Robin a few times and heís a great guy. But if I were Axl, in no way would I call that band Guns Ní Roses. The kids know GNR. No need to explain you, just listen to the albums we recorded. You canít argue with that. For me, too much discussion would make the music lose its value. The kids have an idea of what that band is. My reaction? I thought : ę This is not cool, itís not the right thing to do, but itís none of my business. If he thinks itís right.... Ľ

HF : So youíre not friend with Axl any longer?

D : Yes I am, but it doesnít mean we agree on everything. Weíve been thinking too much about this band. Weíve been teenagers together, we became adults together. Nobody can ask me not to be friend anymore with my brother. But heís got a problem : too many people around him confusing his mind. To be honest, he probably doesnít live in the same world as you and me.

HF : We can only hope for better days.

D : Yes and I hope Axl wonít feel like I let him down. I was just honest. I didnít wish to go on that way. I donít think itís fair for our fans, and itís certainly not fair for Slash and myself since we were the founders of this band too and contributed to its identity. But life is unfair, so Iím not gonna waste my time complaining.

HF : You experienced a glorious career in Guns Ní Roses with whom you recorded one of the greatest rock níroll albums, ę Appetite For Destruction Ľ. After all the troubles youíve gone through, do you feel a love/hate relationship towards the band?

D : Not towards the music we created. You know whatís great? I can come to France and play in bigger places thanks to my past in Guns Ní Roses. The public comes to see what I do now thanks to the interest they had in my previous band. And I do hope theyíll like Loaded cause itís a cool band. Itís a plus. I donít want to be tied to GNR, but the fact is that it opens some doors if I want to go to Europe, South America or Japan and play big places. Thatís the smart side of the story.

HF : Now the obvious question : do you think GNR has a future without you and Slash?

D : Fans will be the real test. The group is likely to get away with it if they can go on a big tour, but Iím not even sure the public will come. When Led Zeppelin reformed without their bassist John Paul Jones, I didnít go see them. Page & Plant wasnít Led Zeppelin. In my opinion, John Paul Jones played as big a role as the others and the band without him was worth nothing. I didnít go see Aerosmith on tour with Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay [for the album ę Rock In A Hard Place Ľ]. It wasnít Aerosmith to me.

HF : Letís move on. After the Guns Ní Roses nightmare, you returned to your first punk band, Ten Minute Warning, from Seattle. How did that idea come up?

D : The guys from Sub Pop [an underground label of punk and grunge bands] called and told me : ę Weíve got all the Seattle bands since 1985 but you were there before and weíd like you to record an album. Ľ Ten minute warning was quite a legendary Seattle band and Sub Pop would have completed their collection of the cityís music history with our album. We talked about it, we played together and it felt right. So we recorded an album. Afterwards, we didnít think : ę Letís go on tour, letís form a real band. Ľ We recorded this album just for fun.

HF : After Ten Minute Warning, is it true you had begun a parallel project with Mark Lanegan, the ex-singer from the Screaming Trees?

D : Nothing is done yet, but itís very likely to become a reality in the future. Weíre friends. I think Iím gonna play on his solo album first. Actually, right now heís downstairs [in his house in Seattle] so I donít want to talk too much about him. He would become big-headed....no, Iím kidding!

HF : You spent all of 1998 working on your second solo album, ę Beautiful Disease Ľ, which finally wasnít released due to the panic storm following Polygramís purchase by Universal. What happened?

D : Last December, the album was recorded, mixed and masterised. I met the Geffen staff and everybody was really enthusiastic. I started the promotion and tons of magazines reviewed the record. Then Seagram [the company that owns Universal] came, bought Polygram and fired everybody at Geffen in less than a month. So I had another reunion and I just wanted to know if the album was going to be released or not. The only answer I got was that it was impossible to answer me! I was out of my mind : I had a band, we had started the promo, the tour, everything was ready and the only thing they could tell me was: maybe. Finally, the album was supposed to come out on the 9th of February and that very day I discovered it wouldnít.

HF : Thatís awful!

D : Yes, but nothing happens without reason. One week later, I still hadnít recovered, especially when I thought about all this fucked-up work. I had worked every day, except on Sundays, during one year. Put yourself in my shoes. I got this phone call, I had to face the situation, and the ones who helped me the most were members of my band. I used to pay everyone, and spontaneously they told me they felt involved and didnít want to get paid anymore. Michael, the guitar player, owns a loft in the center of Los Angeles and he proposed to rehearse there. It was really cool. Then we launched a website, with no publicity at all, but the kids found it nevertheless and started sending us tons of messages : ę Whereís the album? Ľ So I launched a live chat on the Internet and I received hundreds and hundreds of questions. Most of them dealt with the album. I explained the whole situation with Seagram and suddenly that idea came up to me. The only way to get round Seagram was to turn the album into a live one. I asked kids their opinion, and the response was so straightforward that we adopted that solution. A live album shall thus soon be released with most of the songs present on ę Beautiful Disease Ľ. We recorded sixteen tracks at two shows in LA. We mixed the whole thing and the result sounds very convincing to me.

HF : On which label will it be?

D : It wonít be on a label, because we donít want the kids to spend too much money. Weíre gonna make the cover ourselves, very independently. Cargo records will distribute the album in Europe but itíll also be for sale on the Internet. I also think of pressing a limited edition for the fans. The idea is thereís a request from the most die-hard fans and I really want to satisfy it.

HF : The original ę Beautiful Disease Ľ will never be released?

D : Weíre rerecording it, but the version with Slash, Izzy and Mike Bordin will never come out. Currently I have four offers from labels who are interested in Loaded. Weíve already started the rerecording and weíve done half of it. Weíre gonna choose the best label and go on tour throughout the world. We want to be a big band.

HF : Why did you choose the name Loaded and not Duff McKagan Band?

D : Weíre more than that, weíre a real band. As I told you, the name Duff McKagan can only open some doors and allow us to play in bigger places. And I prefer to find a name for the whole band, itís more representative than just one musician. Iím not the only one involved, and youíve got to keep that in mind.

HF : With Guns Ní Roses, you had the most amazing career imaginable : you played in front of millions of people, and as many bought your records. How does it feel to be at the bottom of the ladder again?

D : You always want what you donít have. When we filled stadiums, I dreamt of playing in clubs. Now that we play clubs, I dream of bigger places. Thatís a challenge and the whole point of life lies in these challenges you must take up to go forward. I played in front of millions of people, but now I must prove it again. If we can play in good places and make a few festivals this summer, Iíll be OK with it. I donít want to go too fast, everythingís alright at the moment. Iím in a band, some labels show interest in us. Itís real good to be hungry!

Translated from French by Laura, thanks!


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