Fender QxA: Duff McKagan

Fender QxA: Duff McKagan

By Mike Duffy

Former Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver Duff McKagan — who also fronts his own namesake band, Duff McKagan’s Loaded — must have had a tired hand by the time he recently sat down with Fender.com at the 2012 Fender Showcase at NAMM.

The Fender signature artist had been inking countless copies of his new book, It’s So Easy and other lies, at an autograph signing, where he greeted each one of his fans side-by-side instead of sitting behind a table.   

In writing his memoir, McKagan covers a lot of ground. His rise to fame, his drug and alcohol issues, his drop to rock bottom, and his return to sobriety and success. 

McKagan was already an accomplished writer, having regularly penned columns for ESPN.com, the Seattle Weekly and Playboy, but this was a more in-depth process.  

In the Q&A below, McKagan discusses his new book, and then shares his thoughts on Guns N’ Roses’ upcoming induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Velvet Revolver’s recent benefit performance for late composer John O’Brien, which featured Scott Weiland on vocals for the first time in nearly four years. 

Fender.com: Did your writing background help or hinder your process for putting together It’s So Easy?  Was it more difficult to come up with a fresh perspective?

McKagan poses with two happy fans. 

McKagan: “Well, Playboy was about finance. And writing for the Seattle Weekly and ESPN, it was about 1,000-word hits. That’s not really a lot to get into your self. It’s kind of a time and a place. You wouldn’t get into your life in-depth in your columns. You can tell some fun stories if it applies to something that is currently happening. But while doing that, I did start writing these side-stories. It got me into the practice of writing. I was a working writer, with two deadlines a week, so you get into that groove.

“I found out that I could articulate my thoughts way better in the written word than I ever could by talking to someone.”

What was the development process like?   

“I wrote a letter to my seven older siblings — named them all. I also thanked them all for helping me. Then I thanked my older brother, John, for being there when I had to go to the hospital. That was when I started my book. Like, how did I get here?  What the [expletive]? How did I get out? I re-lived that feeling of letting my mom down.

“The mission statement was, what was my part in life? We all look in the rearview mirror and say, ‘All the bad shit, it’s always some other motherfucker’s fault, and all the good shit, I did it.’ That’s human nature. 

“If you really start to look at a situation, put it out on the table and be honest about what happened, yeah, some of the bad shit might be somebody else’s fault, but maybe you had something to do with it.  Maybe you take part in your own life.”

Did you expect or even want to become a New York Times best-seller?  

“I didn’t start the book because I thought I could sell the book. I don’t know how to sell a book. With artistic endeavors like writing a song or writing a book, I never look at the commerce at the end, like, ‘Man, I gotta sell that shit.’ Some people do, but I’ve never been that way. Sometimes I kick myself that I should. I should get a bigger following on ESPN and say something controversial! No, I’m just not that type of guy.”

Have you heard people connecting with your story?

“I tried to really illustrate the journey instead of saying, ‘Yeah, I drank a gallon of vodka.’  I wanted to take them into that insanity, which is really what it is. 

“So, some parents have come to book signings and been on their last hope. It’s kind of like, if I can get through it, anyone can.”

What were your thoughts about the performance at “Love You Madly,” the benefit for John O’Brien? 

“Getting back with Scott was fine.  It was drama-free.  And we all have kids, so the cause was close to all of us. We rocked. It was great.” 

Now that you know Guns N’ Roses will be inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, what are your feelings about receiving such a big award?

“Music isn’t a competitive sport. In baseball, for the Hall of Fame, you’ve got your stats and your career. But even the first award that I professionally won, Slash and I were at the American Music Awards because we were up for something.  We thought it was just about a free limo, we could drink our drinks and make fun of the winners, but they announced us as a winner all of the sudden. We took it as a joke, because it was not a competitive thing. We were not better than whoever was there. 

“But, I know how important it is to the fans. It became apparent through social media and talking to fans that they wanted us in and believed in it. In that case, you treat it with respect. Hopefully, whatever is going to happen adheres to the respect our fans have for it. I can only talk for myself and be responsible for me, so I’m going.” 


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