DUFF MCKAGAN On 'Different' New Album 'Tenderness': 'I Just Keep Trying To Grow As A Musician And Push Boundaries'

June 9, 2019

GUNS N' ROSES bassist Duff McKagan recently spoke with Andy Hall of the Des Moines, Iowa radio station Lazer 103.3. The full conversation can be heard below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On his new solo album, "Tenderness":

Duff: "This kind of more austere, restrained sort of music is something I've wanted to do. I've made little fits and starts at it over the last 20 years, but it's something I've wanted to do for a long time, since the mid-'90s. I just keep trying to grow as a musician and push boundaries. It helps me be a better band member for GUNS, for whatever else I do, just because I've not sat in one place musically. This record is really something I'm proud of. It is different, but the message, I think, and the attitude is still sort of the same. I can't lose that; I can't shake that."

On whether the album is an attempt to change how he's "pigeonholed":

Duff: "I think I'm still pigeonholed as a drunk, and that was so long ago. [Laughs] For some reason, people are surprised that I can articulate words. I try to broaden myself as a musician constantly. I know that I'm lucky and blessed that I have that in me — that I'm still curious and mystified by music. I take lessons; I do all kinds of strange stuff and listen to different music. This record was an exercise in me taking a left turn on really austere kind of music, something I've wanted to do for over 20 years and finally kind of sat down and got Shooter Jennings to produce the record. He really believed in the songs, and he knows how to take it that direction I want to go. We were referencing things like ELO and Paul McCartney and Elton John and one Willie Nelson record from '77... we weren't trying to copy any of it, but we were just kind of referencing the sounds and concepts of those artists."

On being a front man:

Duff: "I did it with LOADED for years. It's a different thing. You can't talk on gig days. It sucks. [lLaughs] I see Axl [Rose]. He's the hardest-working singer I know, so I've gotten a lot of tips from him over the years, especially this last tour we did. He does an hour-and-a-half warm-ups before the show; he does an hour-and-a-half warm-downs after the show so t.hat he can preserve his voice for a long tour. I took a lot of notes on how to this [solo] run I'm going to do, and [it's] all from him. He's a master — the guy's a master. Being the front guy on this tour, this is a personal message. I hope to spread some peace and harmony, if that's not too lofty of a thing to say."

On the album's song "Feel":

Duff: "I was still dealing with the aftermath of [former VELVET REVOLVER band mate] Scott Weiland passing away. I didn't really know how to deal with that. I didn't accept it, I guess. Unfortunately, I've lost a lot of friends before that as well. When [GN'R] started the tour, Prince passed away. Prince is one of my all-time [favorites]. One of his records really saved me back when I was 18. Then Chris Cornell, and then Chester [Bennington]... I wrote this song called 'Feel'. I don't name any of those people in the song, but it's just a remembrance song, and maybe how we all feel about lost loved ones."

On his love of Prince:

Duff: "For me, that song 'Something In The Water [Does Not Compute]' off of '1999', it's apropos to nothing in my life at that time when I was 18, but a lot was going on in Seattle at that time — a lot of heroin was coming in. I was playing music; it came into my band [and] wiped out my band and my roommate and my girlfriend. That song, for some reason, you know how everybody, you hold on to one song that can pull you through all kinds of things? That song did it for me."

Released on May 31 via Universal/UMe, "Tenderness" sees McKagan reflecting on his experiences traveling the globe over two and a half years on GUNS N' ROSES' "Not In This Lifetime" tour. Encountering heartbreak, anger, fear, confusion and divide on his travels during this tumultuous time in our world history, McKagan channeled a collective hurt into songs of monolithic power.

McKagan kicked off a North American tour in support of "Tenderness" — during which he's backed by Jennings and Jennings's band — on May 30 at TLA in Philadelphia.

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