Re: Duff, Popular 1 (07/00)
An interview by Amir Ibrahim, Oriol Sibila and Cesar Martin for Popular 1 (Spain)
"I love each and every member of Guns N' Roses - I would do anything for them"
I do not believe any introduction is needed. It's been almost 15 years that we keep on praising him from these pages. From Guns N' Roses to 10 Minute Warning, his solo projects or his work with Neurotic Outsiders, Duff McKagan has become one of those guys above good and evil. Because of his Gunner past, because of his future with Mark Lanegan or just for being one of the guys that has been closest, face to face with death, Duff deserved to be in these pages once again more than anybody else. After many months of trying, we finally managed to arrange a meeting with him in his Los Angeles house. Can you think of anything better than a sunny L.A. morning with Duff waiting for you at the recording studio he owns in his Mullholland Falls residence?
Half an hour before the appointment, Cesar, Amir and yours truly leave from Sunset Blv. for Duff's home in L.A., a beautiful mansion on the hills just above Hollywood, more specifically in Mullholland Falls, Studio City district. As songs like "Reckless Life", "Nice Boys" and "Patience" blast in our car, it feels strange weird to leave behind such emblematic places for Guns like the Rainbow or the Troubadour and head for some of L.A.'s finest, high-class areas. In no time you leave Hollywood's dirty streets to enter the elegant Studio City gardens, same as they once managed to change the small L.A. clubs for sold-out stadiums around the world. I'm not going to deny - Guns have been the most important band in my life, and for many a year Duff has been my favorite Gunner. So I guess it is only easy to imagine what one feels when heading for the home of one of your all-time idols. Thousands of images cross my mind seamless. Memories of how "Appetite" thrilled me, the blast of these five guys blowing away L.A. clubs, the mastery of the "Illusions", Duff dedicating "So Fine" to Johnny Thunders, the strength of "Believe In Me" and "Neurotic Outsiders". The whole cocktail of feelings come down to nothing as we ring the bell, the door opens and "Hi guys, I'm Duff. How are you?".
And sure enough, Duff is there. With very short hair and very skinny, Guns N' Fuckin' Roses bassist invites us into his place. It is actually not his regular home, since Duff uses to live in his hometown Seattle, but he keeps this L.A. house to use the studio or just to run away from Washington's capital city's stress. His best times he lived in the city of angels, and he knows a large piece of himself belongs here forever. As we enter the place, first thing you see is a large living room arranged to his own liking - no antiques, no distasteful pictures, no stupid porcelain figures. The main decoration is a huge drum kit, a piano, a couple of keyboards and several guitars and basses scattered around on the couches. The sight is amazing, oriented to a terrace from where you see the whole Hollywood at your feet. It's all good - sometimes life is fair with guys like Duff. When he feels like it, he can go out and watch from the heights all those clubs that in the late 80s helped him write one of the most wonderful pages in the history of rock and roll. Duff says we had better move down to the studio in the basement, since none others than Mark Lanegan and Mike Johnson are also home - they have been working until very late night, and Duff does not want to disturb them. Funny what life keeps in store for you and what a small world it is sometimes. Not long ago I tried to interview Lanegan over the phone, and all the answers I got were from an answering machine saying: "Yes, McKagan in L.A. We're not at home right now". Well damn me, this very same telephone is in front of me right now.
Duff cannot stop praising Lanegan as a person and as a musician. We absolutely agree that his voice is the deepest one can listen to nowadays, and he mentions how it is a pleasure working with him. Actually two talented guys have met, and it is thrilling to think what can become of their partnership. If there are right now two honest, true, music-loving guys will talent to spare, these are Mark and Duff. Anyway, talking about Lanegan we head for the studio, down a few stairs and into the recording facility itself. And right in our face we find one of the most emotional sights one can imagine: The famous picture of Guns with the Stones in L.A.
Coliseum's dressing room. Axl, Charlie, Keith, Mick, Duff, Izzy and Steven are always there. Duff says he found the pic by chance not long ago while messing with some old personal stuff, and he knew on the spot it was the picture to preside the room. That says a lot about Duff. We all know what happened to the original Guns, and for him it would be easy now to bitch about the past and be centered in his persona and his future, but that's not like Duff. He knows those were the high times of his life. The Stones were his idols, and Axl, Slash, Izzy and Steven were like brothers to him. He knows they made it real big, and he is never going to deny that, though he is no longer a part of Guns N' Roses. He was there and he is proud of that. He mentions he's been with Izzy in Japan, playing bass in most of his shows, which he considers an honor and a pleasure. He says Izzy is absolutely away from the mainstream, and everything he does is just for fun. Next he plays guitar and bass for us while we take some pictures, and he asks whether we can go do the interview in a bar and have a drink. So, no problem, after a few more pics we leave that Holy House and head for the typical postcard-like American road bar.
Cesar gets in Duff's car, a huge 4x4, and on the way they talk about the new project with Mark Lanegan, which Duff points is going to sound somewhat like Bad Company, and about his second solo album, "Beautiful Disease", of which he presents us with the copy that's playing in his CD, something real precious considering Geffen is never releasing it. We follow with Amir in our car, and I remember that moment as a real trip. "One In A Million" plays in our stereo while we are following one of the performers of this amazing song. And yes, for a few moments we feel more than ever "one in a million". Already in the bar, Duff orders a milkshake, we turn the recorder on and start the interview.
Can you tell us what are you currently up to?
Well, like I said before I'm in a new band. It's me, Mark Lanegan, Mike Johnson and a drummer from Seattle. We are going there tomorrow to do some playing. Mark, Mike and me are demoing stuff with a drum machine. He's the drummer in New American Shame. This is a project Mark and myself have been planning for a long time now, and it is the first time I tell anyone, because it's been quite secret. There was even a rumor in MTV News that we denied, because we wanted no one to know about it. When you are in the music business you need to keep some things surprising, so that people will say "Wow, this and this guy together!".
Though the truth is, the fact that we come from different bands does not affect us in any way. We knew each other already, because we actually come from the same place and we grew up listening to the same music - The Saints, Bad Company, Stranglers, and I could go on and on about our common influences. I wrote a record for Geffen, "Beautiful Disease", and when it was about to be released Geffen was absorbed and the priorities changed, so in the end it was never released, and never will. However Mark loved some of the songs. Maybe all this was bound to happen.
We're gonna record three cuts from that album, so now we're working on the songs. Like when the Neurotic Outsiders thing, which was not anything too serious for any of us. We never rehearsed the songs with Neurotic. We just wrote them in five minutes or Steve Jones had already done. We were not into in 24/7. This is what we are doing now.
Are you playing guitar or just bass in the new project?
I'm playing both guitar and bass in the current sessions. We're thinking of looking for a bassist, with me an Mark on the guitars, but who knows. I offered myself as the bassist, but Mark likes my guitar playing a lot so that's what it's gonna be.
Is there any record label interested in you?
No, but we have a good manager. We're gonna record a demo and play live like everybody else does. But we're going to record a demo that no one will be able to reject, so we'll choose whatever label we please. That's the plot, world domination and all the stuff! (laughs). I'm very happy to be working on something that's going to redefine me to the audience. Right now I know who I am in my private life, and I say this because I think it very important, since I didn't know for a long time. You are in that huge band Guns N' Roses and you don't really have the time to lose with yourself, and without it you end up lost. This may sound drama, but it's the truth. It's terrible, you know! The bottom line is drug addiction, alcohol and the rest of shit. That almost killed me. It's a serious matter! So I believe in these last years Neurotic Outsiders helped me out in my private life, because I had that way of escape that was real fun. But it didn't wholly define me in the end. I was playing with my idol and we played rock'n'roll! It turned me into a 32-33 year-old kid. I was the kid and it felt good. Great!
Can you describe what your new music sounds like?
Our goal is to sound as good as Pink Floyd in "The Wall". Is it going to sound like Pink Floyd's "The Wall"? No! Everybody knows what Mark Lanegan's voice sounds like and the darkness it hides. All that is going to be in there, but regarding the songwriting this is where Mike Johnson and I come in. The songs are oriented to places where Mark would be likely to feel attracted to. The common influences are the same, like Burt Bacharach, Badfinger and the list goes on.
What's your opinion about "Believe In Me" when you listen to it today?
I think it was a private record. I think it was me trying to fix my private life, and was not really a whole album. It was more like a diary. I don't know if you knew already, but while we were touring I was writing songs and one thing led to another.
When you were touring with Guns N' Roses.
Yeah, one thing led to another and one guy in Geffen suggested to make a record. It was a big step to take, because those were really private songs. I think it was a good picture of my life at the time. Would I release that record now? No way! But I'm proud of it for what it is, for several reasons. It was my Johnny Thunders record.
After you left Guns N' Roses you joined Steve Jones to set up Neurotic Outsiders. How did the idea build up?
I was still in Guns when the idea started to take shape, but we were idle. I used to go to our practice place, me and Matt would play for a while, but no one else used to show up. Slash was having trouble with Axl and, well, you know the story already. Axl would finally show up like at 4 a.m., oh well, fuck it! I realized I didn't want to wait until 4 in the morning to practice anymore. My life had changed. I'm not going to talk shit about anyone. Everybody does things for their own reasons. I've grown more reasonable, and I think I've always been, but now I do stick to it. I do as I say, and say as I think. I was not going to go "Ok, it's fine man, I'll swallow it again". No. I faced it and said no way, this is not fair. if it happens three more times I'm out.
Well, it did happen. So Jonesy (Steve Jones) and I had been practicing and playing some gigs, because Guns were doing nothing. We were playing the Viper Room every Monday night. It was awesome! We did it for charity. Afterwards we got a record deal. Of course our interest was not beyond that, but as soon as you try to keep something quiet record companies start to pop up everywhere, all of a sudden. We didn't want to make a record, but we finally said "Fuck Maverick, make us a good offer!" They said "Hey, you don't have to tour, we realize you each have your own stuff to do". So we said it was OK and did the record. I love that record! I was going to work with Steve Jones and he's my friend. We wanted to play some gigs, which is something I hope I'll be able to do for a long time. I think the band fans realized what the whole thing was about. It was something we did once and for a certain time, so there was no pressure involved at all.
You had some health problems in 1994. What happened exactly?
I had laid off the drugs and joined my band for a European tour. I didn't do drugs anymore, but was drinking like crazy. I always needed a cocktail by the bed when I woke up in the middle of the night, because else I'd feel awful. I wanted to stop the whole thing but I couldn't. After Europe I went to Japan and then back home. I had bought this house in Seattle, the place were I was raised. I was laying at home when I felt this pungent pain. At the moment I thought it was weird, though to be honest I was in pain all the time, I was real fucked!
But this time the pain began to extend and became so severe, and lasted so long that I couldn't even move. Not even wake up to call 911. Luckily a friend of mine dropped by, and I heard him down the stairs crying "Hey, were are you?" when he entered the door. I couldn't even shout I was upstairs, but he came into my room, found me and took me to the hospital. My pancreas had exploded and a shitload of toxins were running around my stomach. When this kind of thing fucks up a lot of people die, but I did not. I could go on telling you the experience in the hospital, but you don't want to hear the details.
I guess it must have had you reconsider a lot of things.
Well it had to happen. It's the only way you will stop. I saw myself in the hospital with all those tubes and shit. It changed my life completely. It was like "Hey, you can be proud for being here, you haven't died. You've done a lot of crazy stuff, and you ain't dead. It was the end you were heading for, but it did not happen. You are here for a reason". Now I'm enjoying a second life. Well, I think the record we are putting up is also a good reason to keep alive.
When you were real sick, did anyone in Guns N' Roses or your other friends try to help you out?
Slash. Yeah, Slash, my friends in Seattle and my family were there.
You had a group of people supporting you, didn't you.
Yeah, I'm the youngest of eight brothers, so I had my family by me in the hospital. It was very nice that Slash was there as well. He and me, we've shared some stuff together. We're like brothers.
So today you are sober and keep clean.
Oh yeah. I've quit smoking and I'm sick that things are turning out so well. That's bullshit! No, seriously, I'm very happy. Like last night, we were working until late night, and sometimes I can sleep barely four hours and feel good when I wake up. If I were drinking or whatever, I couldn't. I probably wouldn't have gone to sleep at all. I wouldn't think I had an interview at 12 noon, I'd just say "Fuck it!" and keep myself up all night. I couldn't have driven here for the interview. It all keeps adding up. I wouldn't be able to do a lot of things, like you taking some pictures.
You even went back to school to enter the University.
I'm really overwhelmed by it! I'm going back to school. I took one year-and-a-half course in business management. We sold a lot of records and made a lot of money, but no one in Guns got their school degree. I didn't know what bonds or the stock market was about, or another financial terms. It all was part of rebuilding my life again and finding out the direction I should take. So I'm back to school and I'm a brilliant student, nothing but A's. It's really fun! If you are in your 30s, you better get an A o else what the fuck are you there for. I'm growing thanks to school.
You got a degree?
Nope, I have no degrees. I stopped because of my record "Beautiful Disease" for Geffen, which was supposed to be released, and I was practicing with the band so we could tour. Then it all ended.
But you gained a lot of knowledge.
Quite so. Yes.
What school did you go to?
Santa Monica College. Very impressing. I went to the evening class. Eighteen year olds were freaked to see me around. Everybody said, "We ain't telling no one you're here!" It was great, a wonderful experience.
You're now between Seattle and L.A. Do you miss Los Angeles night life when in Seattle?
I'm not very interested in night life anymore. I've had as much nightlife as several hundreds together. My night life is narrowed to my gigs, that's night enough for me. Now and again I go out to check out a band, like the Screaming Trees when they played the Viper Room. When a friend is playing, I'll usually drop by.
A lot of people say the weather in Seattle is very depressing, because it rains a lot, and that combined with the use of drugs influenced the music of bands like Soundgarden, Alice In Chains or Nirvana.
I don't think so. There's a huge music scene there, and the reason is very simple. Since it rains a lot you have to practice in this dark basements and you spend a lot of time playing because you can't hang out or get some suntan, or go to the beach or go play tennis or golf or whatever. So you just play. Amps sound different in a high humidity environment. Everything sounds different. Besides, in Seattle you don't feel the "pop" pressure like in L.A., things like "we need to write a hit so that we get a record deal". There's no recording companies in Seattle. So people basically write for themselves. They just play and people go and see the bands, and that's how they influence each other. It's a world apart. I love to be there. It doesn't seem depressing at all to me. Chris Cornell loves Seattle.
Your career started way before all those bands ever existed. How did you took a different way by moving to L.A. and joining a band like Guns N' Roses?
Soundgarden, those guys were already around. There was a lot of heroin in Seattle when I was playing in punk rock bands from 1979 to 1984. Heroin flowed just like that and everybody was a junkie. There were no clubs for playing, no nothing! It was one of those times in life when you have to make a choice. I had to choose between staying in Seattle or moving to Hollywood for a chance. And that's what I did. I moved into an apartment, and Izzy lived just across the street.
Boom! We set up our band. Then it all begun. It was weird for me, cause when I met Steven Adler he was listening to W.A.S.P. and I had never heard them. He was freaked, he thought "wow! This music is awesome!". I knew other bands like MÃ¶tley CrÃ¼e and Ratt. I didn't just listen to punk rock, I also listened to Prince and all kinds of music. Izzy was more like me, listening to Thunders, Hanoi Rocks, Aerosmith or whatever. Steve and Slash were more into metal. Axl was into Nazareth. But they all were crazy about W.A.S.P., they loved that record '(Animal) Fuck Like A Beast'! They [Guns] were real rockers.
When we played, I thought "Hey, this is true rock!". We set up the band, but the influences were so diverse. Our first show with the whole line up was in Seattle, opening for The Fastbacks. At first we regarded ourselves more like a punk rock band and all our gigs were opening for bands like Tex and the Horseheads, The Dickies, Social Distortion and the Chili Peppers. That's how things changed. If I had stayed in Seattle, who knows what would have happened. Maybe I would have ended in Soundgarden. You never know.
A couple of years back you recorded an album with 10 Minute Warning, your band before you joined Guns N' Roses. How did you come to join them back?
I'll tell you what happened. Stone Gossard came to my place in L.A. at the time I was involved in the Neurotic thing. A lot of people say 10 Minute Warning influenced their guitar playing. The guys in Soundgarden, for example. Kim Thayil says 10 Minute Warning were his biggest influence. We were some sort of "kings of trash" back in 1983. Stone said he wouldn't have started playing guitar if he hadn't seen me. We're the same age and all that. So Stone said "Would you make a record? I'm paying for it." It was a different story, I had just left Guns and was in Neurotic, so I said I'd call him. And I did, the band went there and we recorded a demo. But our singer was in a federal penitentiary at the time, and he wasn't going to be out for a long time, so we needed to look for a different singer.
Why was he in prison?
Bank robbery. Not just one, but several. So we found this guy, Christopher, and then Sub Pop got involved. We recorded for Sub Pop. We all got in the same room and the guys were like "C'mon, let's play". A lot of years had gone by, like 12 of something, and it was a lot of fun. It was like a fun thing again without so much of a trace of bitterness. I loved to do it. And so did the people at Sub Pop!
A week ago you were in Japan, playing with Izzy. Did you play any Guns N' Roses songs, or just Izzy's material?
We played 'Attitude', which is not a Guns N' Roses song, but we made it popular. "Made popular by Guns N' Roses" (says in a joking tone).
How did it feel playing with your old mate Izzy?
Awesome! We are real fast friends. By the way, when my pancreas fucked Izzy phoned too. We've always been friends and our friendship has gone beyond music. We've been through a lot of things together. I play in his records, which usually takes no more than two days. It's like "Here's the song, play, thank you". For this last record he wanted to go away and play some shows with me. We were rehearsing in Hollywood for a week and then we wanted to play some shows, which were really fun. It was so easy! In Japan everybody was around us freaked, seeing the two of us together. It was exciting.
We are recording a new album in two weeks time. Rick [Richards, guitar] is coming from Atlanta and Taz [Bentley, drums] will come from Dallas. The same guys that were in Japan. It's nothing but that - things are pretty easy with Izzy. The songs are not very hard actually, they are based in good old rock roots. That's what I like about Izzy. I think he's keeping something essential - rock roots. They are slowly being lost and no one seems to do what he's doing. He's mixing country and rock and roll, and he's good at it.
When Izzy left Guns N' Roses, he supposedly did so by the same reasons you did - because Guns were turned into a big money-making machine. Is that right? (Duff nods). Can you give us something about that and why Guns N' Roses became this money-making thing?
If you give too much to someone like Axl. Let's put it this way. If everyone around you is answering "yes" for years, if everything is reduced to "yes, yes, yes", then in your relation with other people, when someone says "no" you think that person is wrong. You're gonna tell him to fuck off! You're in this band from the start, and then suddenly everything turns autocratic, just because one person is surrounded by people saying yes to everything. It's not autocracy legally, but there is just one person thinking that's his band. Well then, keep your damned band! One can't stand it anymore. I love each and every member of Guns N' Roses, and that feeling is not going to fade away. I would do anything for them, no question. But people change. I have changed. I've got a larger goal in life now. So, what could I do? Be pissed and make a lot of money? To me, making music is not oriented to making money. If you're in it for the money, then you're in it for the wrong reason. You'll never make any good music, I tell you.
When you left the band, how did it all happen? You said you were out, you said you needed to talk?
Yeah, just talk, sit down and talk. I told them I had changed. I said if they needed help, they could just call me. I told Axl this was his band, he had ignored everyone and had hired his best friend for the band. I couldn't play with him. Paul Huge, that was the guy! He's a friend of Axl, he's a 'yes man'.
Why couldn't you play with him?
Man, you can't be in Guns N' Roses just like that. That was a real band. Do you play guitar?
Well, imagine you and I grow up together and you're my best friend. OK, I'm in Guns N' Roses and I tell the rest you're going to join the band. "OK, Slash, Axl, Matt, guys, this guy is in the band". "Duff, you got a minute?" "No, he's in the band" "Well, no. Everyone in the band has to vote it, Duff, so no way!" "Fuck you, this guy is in the band! I'm not doing anything unless this guy is in the band" "OK, you know what? We'll try and play with him, since you're that much interested in it. Hey Duff, the guy can't play" "I don't care" "Well that's not very reasonable." "I don't care" At that point, what would you do? I came to a point where I couldn't even look at him (Paul Huge). If I were in such a situation, if I were the friend joining the band, I'd say "Hey guys, you've done very good yourselves alone, I'm not going any further. Hey, Duff, thanks for the offer, but I'm breaking your band." But he didn't say it.
So far, when you were working on the new stuff, how did it sound like?
There was no sound. There was no nothing. We didn't play. We tried. Matt and I did play. It was cool when Slash joined for a week. Even when Zakk Wylde and Slash played together, there were a couple of songs in which there was a natural progression and they were very rocking. You can imagine, they were really hard songs. As hard as I like them, yeah! But I can't tell you what they sounded like, there was not a definite sound.
How was it like working with Zakk Wylde for that brief time?
I liked it a lot. He's a good guy. He's the funniest guy I know! You can't help but liking him. I worked with him and the guy is a genius. When he sits at the piano and starts playing, he can bring tears to your eyes. When he was 18 he was like the champion of his state playing the piano.
Do you keep in touch with Steven Adler? No one seems to know what he's been up to lately.
Very little. Steven damaged himself a lot. The only thing you can do for the guy is cry for him. It's hard to talk to him sometimes. He's still the same guy, but there's a lot of things that have changed him forever.
Has he been doing anything musically?
What do you feel when you listen to "Use Your Illusion" today?
I think they are amazing records, and it was an honor to perform in such records like those, because of the very different styles those songs covered. I like to have been part of that.
That tour was truly unique, because in its first leg the band was touring in stadiums playing songs that no one had heard before. How was all that?
It was strange. I all started because Axl or someone said "hey, we're going to play songs from the new record that's out in a month or two. How's that?" And we all said "Cool!". People was thankful about that too, because it was like "hey, we're the first to listen to these songs". So I think it was all good. We were just a band playing.
What's your opinion about "Get In The Ring"?
You know what, I wrote part of that song. The title was "Why do you look at me when you hate me", and it was about the press writing shit about us. Well, why do you write about us if you actually hate us? I could give you the names of those that hated us. Why didn't the press hire another people to write about us, instead of bashing us? Why did they have to write about us? I was very idealistic and I thought the world had changed. You need a lot of negative energy within to write so much about someone you actually hate.
Izzy said he didn't understand why Axl came to the point of mentioning in the songs the journos he hated.
The song was sort of a joke, and it all started with that song. Then Axl took it very personal. He thought it a good idea. But definitely, if there's some filthy people that need to be treated like filth, who cares? Fuck 'em!
At that time the band released some very elaborated video-clips of songs like "Estranged" and "November Rain" that some of the old fans hated, because on them the wild essence of Guns was lost.
I think they took our music to the redneck America, as we say here.
During that time, did you enjoy making those videos? Or were they more Axl's or the record company's ideas?
They were all Axl's ideas, but there are five guys in a band and everyone's got an opinion. At the time, I think the record company was afraid of telling us not to do them. They saw what was happening too, but when you are generating such big money no one's telling you what you have to do. Oh well, it's done and my take is, if it were for me we would never have done those videos. But it was not in my hands.
Especially you, coming from a punk background.
Yeah, all that shit about the limousine and that. C'mon man, don't show your fucking house and the limousine! You're going to alienate all your fans! The fans of our first record were rednecks, punks, and rockers. We were in this street level and suddenly everyone was bringing their parents to our shows. Like in "November Rain". I love the song, but the video. Beautiful people, we became beautiful people.
What's your memory of the St. Louis incident, when Axl got into a fight with some Hell's Angels during a show, left the stage and the place was turned into a battlefield?
That was something stupid. I won't comment on that because I don't want to be negative. It happened and it was ridiculous. There was people injured and that pissed me off a lot. I can't enjoy people being hurt in a show. That was bullshit! It was one of the worse nights, like the Donington show were those kids died. That was horrible.
After you left Guns N' Roses, did you take some time off?
I was working on my record, "Beautiful Disease", every day, six days a week. That's what I did. I left in August and worked on the record from August to January. It was supposed to be released on February 12th that year. The people in the band, who were going to be out with me on the road, after the record was not released said "Fuck it, let's tour anyway". We did the tour under the name Loaded, and it was like a punk tour, always in punk clubs, and it was a lot of fun, something I really needed to do. I got married by the end of August. Then I started with 10 Minute Warning before working with Mark. We've written some 30 songs and so we come to present. So I never thought of stopping working and say "Hey, I'm going to take some months off" because I can't. I can't just sit at home.
You even played with Slash in the Slam Dance Festival. How was that?
Very fun. Matt worked on the soundtrack for a movie and he arranged all the songs and musicians. I sang a song and Slash played guitar. I don't know if you've seen the movie, it's a low-budget, independent movie that was accepted in Sundance Festival. So we went and played at the movie party. It was just us letting loose, playing and having fun.
Do you like Slash's band, Slash's Snakepit?
Yeah, it's Slash, you know. He's fun. He drummer is very good. I haven't listened to the record. He won't let me hear it. I think he's afraid of showing it to me. He won't show it to Matt neither. I don't have a clue what the whole thing's about. I asked him whether it was crap or something. He said no. He was afraid of what we might say about it.
Since you left Guns N' Roses, have you been in touch with Axl?
A couple of times.
Is you relationship good?
I don't know if it is for him. I don't know. I think Axl is really pissed at me now. I think he's getting more and more pissed. First time I saw him, everything seemed to work out fine, but it looks like things have changed.
Axl is like today's Greta Garbo. There's a lot of mystery around him, no one has seen a picture of him in years, except for that mugshot when we was arrested in Phoenix. No one knows anything about the music he's doing and there's a lot of mystery around his persona. What's your take on this?
Weird things happen when you become famous. There's no school to teach you how to be famous. It happens and people are affected in different ways. I don't have an answer for you. I've got a lot of opinions and I know a lot of things about this matter, but I'm not explaining them. I will not. He's there to answer. If he puts out a record and it is good, he's gonna be alright. He's very scared about this. I believe in this situation you have to leave home a bit to see what's happening. Go away, live. Or do what you have to do, but be sure about it. That's how I think. If you keep fooling yourself and keep doing the same things, you're going to be fucked. Guns were never like that. We did what we had to do, and we didn't have a name for it. It's only rock'n'roll, let's go! Let others put you in a category.
After several years away, do you think there is any chance that Guns N' Roses' original members reunite someday for an album or a tour? Would you do it if you were offered it?
If it's something democratic between the five of us, that's something I would love to do. Not long ago we were offered several shows to begin the new Millennium in Australia. But there's no way it could be like the old days. Things have changed.
What kind of music do you listen to nowadays?
I like Bush's new record. It's not really new, it's been out for two months now. Foo Fighters. I can listen from The Hellacopters to Dr. Dre.
So you,re open-minded in your tastes.
Certainly, very open minded. I mean, I even like Christina Aguilera. I think she's a surprising singer! Kid Rock is a lot of fun. He's a really cool guy.
What about Buckcherry?
They're okay. I was expecting more from that record. I gave it a chance, I really did. I think the singer is not bad at all and Keith, the guitarist, is huge. But there's something to the record that I don't like. I don't really dig it. I like the band, but I think they can make a better record. The thing is, this record was put out like it was rock and roll salvation! That's what I had in mind when I bought it. I played it and I didn't really dig it. I think Foo Fighters or similar bands are closer to be the rock and roll salvation. Maybe Buckcherry regard themselves as the "rock and roll-with-tattoos" salvation, I don't know. I wish they were better. I like them, but I don't love them, though I'd like to.
So if they are ever reading this, go put hands to work on your next record! Who am I to judge anybody anyway? I don't know. I listen to Christina Aguilera, who the fuck am I to judge? (laughs) Seriously, she's great, man, she's great. I was home for a week when I gave up smoking, seven weeks ago, watching The Box. They played like the ten or twenty most voted singles. Man, I was really into it. Almost everything was hip hop. You know another band I like? Slipknot. I think they're very funny. And I also like a lot of underground bands. I like music in general.
Finally, could you tell us which were your favorite songs from Guns?
I don't know, there's a load of songs I like. For many a year "My Michelle" was the song I loved to play the most, but towards the end of the Illusions tour my favorite was "Pretty Tied Up".
No doubt another great song in the Illusions is "So Fine", which Duff wrote in memory of Johnny Thunders. In it he said "It's the story of a man / who works as hard as he can / just to be a man who stands on his own". Maybe someday another band will write a song for Duff, and they sure could use those very same words. Because that's the story of Duff McKagan, a man that reached the top, lived on the edge and came back all the tougher. A story in which, fortunately, there is much yet to tell.