DUFF MCKAGAN On AXL ROSE: 'I've Enjoyed Watching His Triumph Over The Last Eight Years'

March 11, 2024

During an appearance on the latest episode of the "Life In The Stocks" podcast, Duff McKagan was asked if he thinks Axl Rose's guest stint with AC/DC back in 2016 was a key part of GUNS N' ROSES' redemption after the partial reunion of the latter group's classic lineup. He said in part (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "We went out and did that first stadium tour. [Axl] broke his foot [at the first show in April 2016], and he overcame it. And [FOO FIGHTERS frontman Dave] Grohl brought this throne [that he performed on back in 2015 after breaking his leg in Sweden and he loaned it to Axl to use on stage]… And to be able to sing that stuff sitting down, dude, it's not… I observe every vowel, every note he sings just because he's a fucking master — where he breathes, where he pushes from, angle of his head. He's a real amazing singer to go to school on, and I get to do it nightly. 'That's where I would breathe for that vowel sound right there.' So, from that, we played Coachella, [and] he was kind of the hero of that year; I think he was like the hero of that year. And then getting the AC/DC thing."

Duff continued: "Me and [GUNS N' ROSES guitarist] Slash have gone off and played with all kinds of people over the years — you name it, we've done it, almost. [Axl's] never done it… And that AC/DC thing really was his favorite band. He went and tried out [for the touring singer position in AC/DC]. 'I'm gonna try out.' I'm, like, 'You're not gonna need to try out. I wouldn't worry about it.' [And he said] 'Wow. I'm so nervous.' It was really great. We knew — me and Slash — 'You're gonna get the gig.' And it was so good for. And he still had the cast on [when he played the first show with AC/DC]. I think he had to play the first couple [of shows] in the chair. And then he got his walking boot. But then Slash and I came to surprise him [at AC/DC's concert in London]. We came in through — you can come into Heathrow [airport without being seen]. You've gotta pay some money. But we came around to the side thing, so we weren't in the airport, just so nobody knew we were here, to really surprise him and support him in this thing. Because we knew he hadn't been able to do this thing, play with other people. So I think it did really help. I think he saw how that [AC/DC] organization was run, too, like, 'Yeah, we can go on on time,' and all that stuff, because 'They'll go on — if I'm ready or not, they're gonna go on.'"

Duff went on to describe Axl as "a great leader in a band situation. He has a lot of levity," McKagan explained. "He takes it very seriously. He warms up for an hour and a half, warms down for an hour and a half. And we go on on time and we play forever. If there's a curfew at 11, we'll hit that curfew. And so that means we're gonna go on at 7:30 or else we don't get to play all the songs. So if we're going on at eight, we're playing less time, so he doesn't wanna do that. So, yeah, I've enjoyed watching his triumph over the last eight years… It's been really, really quite wonderful. It's been wonderful."

AC/DC postponed the last 10 dates of its spring 2016 North American trek after singer Brian Johnson was advised to stop playing live or "risk total hearing loss." The band went on to complete the European and North American legs of its "Rock Or Bust" tour with the GUNS N' ROSES frontman as a "guest vocalist."

McKagan, who is one-third of the reunited partial classic lineup of GUNS N' ROSES, got a chance to watch Rose and AC/DC play in June 2016 in London, England and in September 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.

AC/DC's North American tour ended in Philadelphia in September 2016, and despite initial fan trepidation, Axl got generally good reviews for his performances. AC/DC guitarist Angus Young said at the time: "I mean, under the situation that we had, it was very good that he volunteered and said, 'Hey, if I can help, let me try.' So he's been very good. And he had to learn a lot of songs very quickly, and he's done a great job."

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