DUFF MCKAGAN On Seeing AXL ROSE Perform For The First Time: 'I Backed Up When He Came Out On Stage'

August 28, 2019

GUNS N' ROSES bassist Duff McKagan was recently interviewed by Henry Rollins (BLACK FLAG, ROLLINS BAND). The full conversation can be seen below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On seeing THE CLASH while growing up in Seattle:

Duff: "There was only 100 people in the Seattle punk rock scene. That might have been 125, because I think some college kids came. But pogoing in '79, the security in the front at the Paramount [Theatre] didn't know what that was about — the yellow-coated guys — and they punched a guy who we knew. Broke his nose, because they thought pogoing was fighting. THE CLASH stopped the show. [Bassist Paul] Simonon went and got an ax from the side — like, a fire-fighting ax — and [vocalist] Joe Strummer said, 'We'll chop down this fuckin' barrier, because there's no difference between us and you. We're all in this together.' That was such an informational moment in my life."

On moving to Los Angeles in 1984:

Duff: "I moved here with a guitar and a bass, and I was a drummer [too]. I wasn't really sure what I was going to do. Turns out my guitar was stolen from L.A. five years prior... The cops came to my apartment — my shitty apartment — and they said, 'Do you have this guitar?' I said, 'Yeah.' They took my guitar. They knew I was too young to have stole [sic] it five years prior, so they didn't even bring a charge on me. I had a bass, so that's what I was left with. That's right at the time when GUNS started. But what kind of a bass player am I going to be? Once I really dug in and I'm like, 'This is what I want to do'... when I went 100 percent in, I referenced [D.O.A.'s Randy] Rampage, Lemmy, Paul Simonon."

On meeting Slash and Axl Rose:

Duff: "I met Slash [during] the first week or two I was here through an ad. His name was Slash. His influences were FEAR and ALICE COOPER. I'm like, 'He's got to be a punk rock guy around my age.' I met Slash, and he wasn't a punk rock guy, but he was around my age. He had seen THE GERMS... he took me to [a] show, and it was Axl and L.A. GUNS. While I don't remember the music too much, I remember him coming out [as] this force, like that Henry Rollins guy I'd seen in 1981. I could tell he prepared for the show. I backed up when he came out on stage. There was this anger, and it wasn't false. I knew how to recognize what real was, and that was real. I love to back away from any stage to this day. I love a band that scares me a little bit."

On what he's learned about "humanity" from being in one of the world's biggest rock bands:

Duff: "When our band became that big band, I think I had punk rock guilt. I had this year or two of adjustment to that — 'What's my place in this thing?' I got sober in '94, and that's when I really started to become aware of a lot of things and had self-awareness, and through martial arts, I really started taking responsibility for my past actions. It really allowed me to open up my ears to other people. Touring since '94, I've done a lot of it. I've done big tours; I've done van tours; I've done every kind of tour in between. All the while, I'm reading history... [if you] read three sides of the same story, you might find the truth somewhere in between, or a truth. I go and visit these places that I read history about, and you start talking to people, and then I started talking to fans that come to the shows. You get the full stories of their life... they will tell you a lot of things about themselves, probably more than they might tell their therapist or their best friend... You're talking this all in, and you're talking to people. If I'm in any bubble at all, we're playing these massive shows, and nobody asks who you vote for. Nobody cares... We've played Kuala Lumpur or Abu Dhabi, where women with full head coverings are doing the same thing [raises fist] that the guy in Little Rock, Arkansas is doing, just rocking the fuck out. If there's any bubble, it's one of unity under rock n' roll."

GUNS N' ROSES will return to the road for what is expected to be the final leg of their "Not In This Lifetime" tour — which saw McKagan reunite with Slash and Rose for the first time in more than 20 years — on September 25 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Since the trek began in April of 2016, the group has sold more than $561 million worth of tickets, making it the third highest-grossing tour in history.

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