Duff McKagan is best known for his 13-year stint as bassist for swaggering rock legends Guns N’ Roses and several subsequent years with Grammy-winning and equally swaggering quintet Velvet Revolver.
From Guns N’ Roses to Velvet Revolver, other groups such as Loaded, Neurotic Outsiders and the Racketeers and a brief stint with Jane's Addiction in 2010, the lanky McKagan has always turned in powerful bass performances that combine no-nonsense hard rock with the energy and spirit of punk and a solid devotion to groove. Although he has many basses, McKagan still wields his longtime favorite, a mid-’80s Fender Jazz Special that served as the model for his 2007 Fender signature Precision Bass model.
Born Michael McKagan in Seattle in February 1964, he is the youngest of eight children and grew up in a musical household in which everyone was encouraged to learn an instrument. Nicknamed “Duff” by a neighbor while still a young boy, McKagan learned guitar, bass and drums and was playing in punk bands by his early teens (he was the first of many drummers for Seattle punk-pop heroes the Fastbacks). At age 19 he moved to Los Angeles, where he immediately met guitarist Saul “Slash” Hudson and concentrated on bass guitar. Both musicians soon joined vocalist Axl Rose, guitarist Izzy Stradlin and drummer Steven Adler; this lineup of Guns N’ Roses played its first gig in June 1985 at the Troubadour in West Hollywood.
GN’R, of course, went on to untold heights of rock stardom with multi-platinum albums Appetite for Destruction, GN’R Lies, Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II before the original lineup imploded. McKagan went on to record or perform with Iggy Pop, Neurotic Outsiders, Loaded, 10-Minute Warning, the Racketeers, the Presidents of the United States and others before forming Velvet Revolver with Slash, drummer Matt Sorum and vocalist Scott Weiland.
McKagan released his first solo album, Believe in Me, in 1993. He co-founded Velvet Revolver in 2002 and recorded and toured with the group until it went on hiatus in 2008, in addition to occasional performances and recordings with Loaded.
McKagan joined Jane’s Addiction as a full-fledged member in 2010 after the departure of Eric Avery, telling the press that, “A chance to write, record, and perhaps even perform with a band of the quality of Jane’s Addiction does not come around every day. I have a lot of respect for this band and the guys in it. The music that we have been writing is an extension of that mutual respect.”
McKagan departed Jane's after only a few months and turned his focus back to Duff McKagan's Loaded, which will release new album, The Taking, in April 2011.