Duff McKagan is best known as the hard driving bassists for Guns and Roses and Velvet Revolver. Unquestioned success that has lead his former to being recently nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of fame. But he now has a new mantra, author with two weekly columns in SeattleWeekly.com and ESPN.com as well as his new book ‘Its So Easy – and Other Lies’. McKagan (47) unleashes a powerful, raw look into the dark world of addiction and the strength to rise through it to recovery. This is not a rock and roll book by any stretch; it is much more than that. It is a journey to the edge of death, (In 1994 his pancreas exploded causing internal third degree burns) and then to a place where McKagan has found peace and happiness. Yes, it has rock and roll in it, but it is a part of the scenery, not the focal point. It culminates with his power to survive and thrive, to as he writes, ‘wake up and feel good.’ We caught up with Duff from his home inSeattle.
Strunk & White, Hemingway and Taylor Swift, three topics wasn’t expecting. (Laughs)
I don’t think my book’s a rock and roll book necessarily its funny – I came at things late – you know Ernest Hemingway – when I got sober it was like ‘what did I miss’ and it was like a mad rush to catch up. I wanted to read every book that I missed out on.
The style is very Hemingway-ish – direct and paints a clear picture of what is going on there.
I’m think in away, especially the dark stuff and with the editing. I would let the words sit for awhile, and then man some of it got really dark.
You built the tension in those scenes really well.
Thanks a lot. You’re one of the first people I spoken with that has read the book, so that’s awesome to hear that. There was a lot of tension backstage with all of that.
What was it like going back to the dark stuff?
Well, you know what writing is like, it is something you do alone. With your lap top my kids are used to me having my lap top and write as I write my 2 columns a week – they knew I was writing a book – you can be so alone even though you have your kids next to you, they can be doing something else, you still in that place, someplace else. I would write a sentence and go ‘oh’, I got to follow up and support that. So what I started finding was my part in the story. My part was, you know its not everybody else’s fault, maybe, I I could have done this. Not that I live with regret, but if I’m going to write my story about addiction and how I got there and how I got out, I have to be culpable for my actions, or non actions and it sort of got dark for a couple of months. My wife asked me at one point like ‘what the fuck you writing about?’ I was like ‘I’m writing about the darkness.’ She didn’t know me then, at that point of my life. Well get done as you are a little different right now. It was dark a couple of those months.
Was writing this cathartic?
I think in ways it was – But now I’m nervous, I wrote the fucking truth, but now I’m, worried about what people will think, about what my sobriety experts will think- But I know it launches the next step – we have 2 daughters, you can see the bigger picture in the book, but I’m probably gripping for that knucklehead interview ‘what can you tell me about Axl did ….’ so the full on catharsis, hmm maybe I should just let it sit in. Maybe that will be my new mantra in this process, let it be cathartic.
The amazing thing is through it all your work ethic never wavered. Its true with any successful person. Everyone in our band that kind ‘A’ type personality. You know 3 of us moved from our home towns, Indiana or Seattle. We moved chasing this thing. And Slash is just so fucking good and even Stephen was driven but his disease took him out of the game. A bunch of driven guys and I never thought I would be that guy to be fucking up on stage. That’s why I put that in the book as by that point of the book you get a good picture of who I am and where I came from and I let it go all the way here – how does this guy, Duff, get here with his playing? It looks bad if you let it go all the way there, it just bad.
The physical side of the book is pretty intense – can you tell us a little about getting yourself to that point of mind over pain – getting into serious athletics.
Yeah it is – (laughs) I’m a knucklehead I would ride my mountain bike first those first two months because I didn’t know what else to do. I really didn’t you know I entered that bike race thinking ‘I’m really out of my league’ but at least a couple weeks away and if I can make that bike race it’s a couple more weeks sober – lets just go for that and worry about the athleticism of it when you get up there – and then I got up there I saw U was with that group yet – but getting through that race I saw little tiny steps and getting through the race and hearing other mountain bikers cheering other mountain bikers was refreshing and cool. My life’s been blessed. I have met the right people at the right time. I met Cully (Mountain Bike Champion) there and what he was going through with his heart and what I was going through with my pancreas – we started hanging out and there is a world class Mountain biker teaching me how to ride. Ok this is cool. The I end up in the back door of the dojo of this fighting gym with fucking Benny the Jet, the world best kick boxer, 20 year world champion kick boxer. First westerner to go to Thailand and Japan and beat their champions, and here I am sitting in a room with him looking through me, looking down my eyes inside of me and I was thinking how did I get here in the first place. It was my path. So the athletic part came, but I’m 2 left feet sp that was all forced into me. Be lighter than you are you know. move with grace. Move like the athlete you see on TV, just pretend you are that guy for an hour.
Have to chance your body to chance your mind and let everything settle in my case I had to change my body and get out a bunch of shit and my mind and what I was learning started sinking in and I soon had confidence in my body to really be relaxed I suppose – I wanted to wake up and feel good and play with your kids and just feel good.
I just like to suffer, maybe an Irish thing, but I like pain.
Its not a R & R book at all, so much more to it than that.
Well that’s cool I wrote it in column lengths like I write my weekly ESPN column I would write a thousand to two thousand words, I’d put it aside, then write some more. That is what in the beginning it kind of goes back and forth a little.
So your daughters started playing the guitar finally?
They did what mom did and she played for like 6 months, so they played for like 6 months but it was great I was like the guitar sensei and it bonded us around the house and that was pretty good.
Ever been to a Sounders game?
I have been writing for ESPN for the last 10 months and they have been sending me out, I’m not a sports writer, just a guy the average fan – they sent me to a Sounders game on assignment when they played Man United – a couple of months ago. It was crazy, it was amazing. That fucking stadium full of Sounders’ fans screaming. We were like minor league compared to them, like Single A Ball, but yeah, what an experience.
Congrats on the HOF – surprised or expecting it?
Yeah, I don’t really know what to make of that yet. That’s a thing quite an honor and we will see what happens.
Speak with any of the guys since the announcement?
I’ve just been so busy I haven’t really had time. I woke up very early this morning on the West Coast and I’ve a couple texts from the East Coast – ‘Congratulatiions, congratulations.’ I had to get writing and get started for book release and then go work out with my sensei. –
Would you all play live again if inducted?
Oh, I don’t know. (laughs) I guess I have to start preparing myself for theses questions. (laughs) – Dammit I wish they wouldn’t have announced for a couple of weeks. (laughs) You know what I have no idea.
Yeah. Its pretty fucking cool.
Anything you want to add?
No I think you nailed it with where you’re going with it. I may have to call you and have you speak with some people for me. (laughs) –
Enjoyed the book and I think it is going to do really well for you.
Hart I really appreciate that and your feed back on the book. You’re one of the first to have read it.