Gettin' LOADED With DUFF MCKAGAN
March 9, 2011, 7 years ago
By Mitch Lafon
DUFF MCKAGAN'S LOADED, the band fronted by Duff McKagan, is set to release their new album The Taking later this spring. Bravewords.com caught up with the one-time GUNS N' ROSES bassist to find out more.
Bravewords.com: The band name is Loaded. That word has certain connotations – as a former drug addict and alcoholic…
Duff McKagan: “I don’t think I’m a ex-drug addict. Once you’re a drug addict – you just a drug addict.”
Bravewords.com: Were you making a statement in choosing the band’s name?
DM: “At the time it was an ironic play on the term. I first named the band in ’97 or ’98, I was sober and I had come from the Guns ‘N Roses thing. I was always drunk and fucked up and other buffoonery. So, it’s a name. They stick and then they lose their meaning, but the important thing is that the band has been around long enough. This is our third album and we have an ardent and true following. It’s not like NICKELBACK – where you hear their song on the radio and two minutes later you’re humming the song. It takes the listener an effort and a search to go a little left-of-center to find the band and as a result we don’t get that high turnover rate in their fandom. They don’t come, are our fans for a couple of years, grow up and then move on. It’s like if you’re a fan of Cormac McCarthy – a quirkier darker writer. You are either a fan of the guy or you don’t like him at all and I think the same is true for this band.”
Bravewords.com: Let’s talk about the new album, The Taking. How did it come together?
DM: “Loaded was a band. Then VELVET REVOLVER started and the chance for me, Slash and Matt to work together again – it seemed like a destined thing. It was just so good and you learn in this life that if something is presented to you and it feels right – you should do it. That’s what we did with Velvet and we went on and found Scott, but it wasn’t like the guys in Loaded were any less of my friends. They understood the situation and that was that. During the Libertad tour (the second VR record), me and the guys in Loaded started sending files of songs to each other because I knew that when VR came off the Libertad tour that Loaded was going to make a record. The Libertad tour got cut short because of you know… the issues Scott was having with his demons and whatnot. So, it was the perfect timing in my life. So, we went in and made the Loaded Sick record and I think it was a very inspired record, we went out and toured forever and a day on it and we wrote all of these songs that are now on the new album, The Taking.”
Bravewords.com: Is it a challenge for you to be a vocalist and not just sit back onstage and be a bassist?
DM: “Well, I never sat back and played the bass, but I understand what you’re saying. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen me play bass, but the last thing I do is sit back and play.”
Bravewords.com: I’ve seen you a bunch of times including at the infamous 1992 GN'R/ METALLICA show at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal (where things went very very wrong).
DM: “They went south.”
Bravewords.com: We could talk about that.
DM: “We don’t have to. I’ve talked about it enough. That was another lifetime ago. Right after that Guns tour, I put out a record called Believe In Me. I toured, sang and played rhythm guitar – and that was 1993. That’s when I first really crossed over into being at the center of the stage. Most of my career has been on the right side of the stage and being in the center, to me, is really only a different perspective on the audience. Being the singer and playing rhythm guitar is no less aggressive than being in any other position on the stage. Either you feel comfortable up there doing whatever instrument or you’re not. If you’re not comfortable and aware of your surroundings, you’re not going to play your best. I’ve been lucky in my career playing bass or singing and this is the fourth album I’ll have toured. So, this is not a new thing. Not a lot fans know about Loaded or about me being a singer, so it might appear to be a new thing, but I‘ve been that… and even NEUROTIC OUTSIDERS.”
Bravewords.com: Speaking of the Neurotic Outsiders – is there a chance you’d work with those guys again?
DM: “You never know, but we haven’t played together since 1997 or something, so I would kind of doubt it.”
Bravewords.com: That was a great album.
DM: “It was a fucking kick ass record. We all took turns singing in that band – so my point is… I’m not saying I’m the best singer or anything like that, but some people connect with my delivery and it’s nothing new to me. I’ve been singing for a long time.”
Bravewords.com: So, why haven’t you been considered for the Velvet Revolver singing gig?
DM: “Because playing bass and singing is too fucking hard. STING can do it great…”
Bravewords.com: And GLENN HUGHES…
DM: “Glenn Hughes can sing and do it great. I saw him yesterday – that guy is the fucking man. He and I did that Metal Show yesterday with Billy Sheehan (MR. BIG). So, it was Billy Sheehan, Glenn Hughes and me.”
Bravewords.com: The royalty of bass players…
DM: “I guess, but Glenn and I were both watching Billy play and we’re like ‘fuuuuck, he’s the real deal’.”
Bravewords.com: What’s the album/tour cycle going to be like for Loaded? Will you be joining a major tour and go for six/seven months?
DM: “Do major tours go that long anymore?”
Bravewords.com: Well, Metallica just finished a two-year tour.
DM: “That’s true, but other than Metallica, U2 and AC/DC… We’re playing South By Southwest (SXSW) then we’re playing the Golden Gods Awards with the original ALICE COOPER BAND – and that’s going to be awesome. Then we’re going over to the festival season in Europe and we’ll be the main support for a bunch of JUDAS PRIEST gigs on their last tour. This band is funny, we can play for a metal crowd or we can play with The Gutter Twins or The Soundtrack Of Our Lives and be considered like an alternative band. I think Velvet Revolver was the same way. We did the Ozzfest, but we also got played on alternative radio. Is it called ‘alternative’ anymore? ‘Modern Rock’ - it’s called ‘modern rock’… ah, it’s just so dumb.”
Bravewords.com: I interviewed Matt Sorum recently and was talking about the possibility that 2011 is the year that Velvet Revolver will get back together. Has there been any progress in finding a new singer and getting the Velvet Revolver machine running again?
DM: “I think there’s unfinished business and we haven’t been able to make our best record yet.”
Bravewords.com: The first one was pretty damn good…
DM: “The first one was good – yes, but I think there’s this great raw record somewhere in there that we haven’t made yet. Having been around as long as I’ve been, I know things are supposed to happen when they’re supposed to happen. Matt, Slash and I getting together for the first time in 2003 after having not played together in anger for nine years or something like that. I didn’t have plans on us getting together and playing back then. So, you never know what’s going to happen and I just don’t play the guessing game anymore especially in the press and even for my own well-being. I just do the work that is in front of me. That’s all I can say and Loaded is good honest work in front of me. We have a record coming out and we have a movie coming out.”
Bravewords.com: A movie?
DM: “It’s a film.”
Bravewords.com: is this a documentary?
DM: “It’s not. It’s a madcap…”
Bravewords.com: Like a Hard Day’s Night?
DM: “That and maybe a little of Inception. Our drummer gets kidnapped and it all happens in one day. There’s a ransom and he does something untoward to goats. Our new record (The Taking) is the soundtrack for the movie and the only dialogue in the movie is some fucking arcane shit that we came up with off the cuff while we were filming the thing. There are a lot of cameos and some pretty funny shit. If anybody sees the humor in this whole rock ‘n roll buffoonery, it’s the guys in this band. We found this filmmaker in Seattle and we had this caffeinated idea to make a movie. Usually, caffeine wears off at 10AM and all those silly ideas you had while you were high on coffee just go away, but this one stuck and it’s pretty fun”
Bravewords.com: How can fans sees this? YouTube? Will it be released on DVD?
DM: “It’s going to debut at the Seattle International Film Festival. Seattle is a big deal because we’ve been filming there. The mayor and all these sports figures want to be in the movie. It’s been in the local press and the filmmaker is from there… and it’s a prestigious film festival. So, it’ll be at film festivals and maybe little art-house theatres at first and eventually on DVD I guess or hopefully on VH1.”
Bravewords.com: You mentioned that the music from your new album, The Taking, will be the soundtrack. Where the songs written specifically with the movie in mind? Or was this an after thought?
DM: “No, once we listened to the record and were about to mix it (imagine four guys on a ton of coffee) – we thought ‘this is cinematic in scope!’ We did five minute webisodes for our last record and we thought we’d make one long webisode for this, but that’s called a movie – so here we are.”
Bravewords.com: Let me ask you about Meridian Rock. The wealth management fund you just created.
DM: “Do you really want to cover all of this?”
Bravewords.com: Is that too big in scoop for you?
DM: “Well, no. We can cover it.”
Bravewords.com: I’m interested in this because you’re doing one of the things that most ‘rock stars’ don’t do. Yahoo! Sports were talking about the former Oakland Raiders quarterback, Jamarcus Russell. He went from being a #1 draft pick in 2007 with a multi-million dollar contract to having his home foreclosed. That could easily have been your story, but it wasn’t. You went back to school and now you’re into wealth management – that’s remarkable.
DM: “What am I doing? No, it’s a big deal and it keeps me sane. I woke up out of a stupor at thirty and I was a millionaire, but I didn’t know what the differences between a stock and a bond was. I was too embarrassed to ask anybody. I was this dolt millionaire and we just have to look at all of us rock guys and sports guy that are broke (Jamarcus Russell is the perfect example of that). You often hear about guys that were in big bands and are now broke at sixty. I was thirty years old and I was like ‘oh, fuck. Am I going to be broke? I don’t know. What’s does my money mean? What does it do? How does it function?’ I came from a middle-class family. My dad was a fireman and there were eight kids. We didn’t have any experience with money. My first cheque for eighty grand might as well have been for a billion dollars.”
Bravewords.com: And I’m sure you invested it wisely.
DM: “I was too afraid of money even then. I was like ‘shit – what do I do with it?’ One of my older brothers came down in ’89 and I had more than 80,000$ at that point. I bought myself a brand new Corvette – which is not a Ferrari. It’s not even a BMW, but it was a new 30,000$ Corvette and my oldest brother said ‘oh really? So, this is how you’re going to roll?’ My parents grew up in the depression and my family didn’t roll beyond our means. I think a Corvette was well within my means, but my brother’s point was taken which was ‘don’t fucking start behaving like this. Don’t be one of those guys.’”
Bravewords.com: Do you credit your brother in keeping you grounded?
DM: “All my brothers and sisters. So, I came out of my stupor and I got into a business school. I had to jump through a bunch of hoops – community colleges and whatnot, but I finally got into this school I wanted to go to in Seattle. Then the rumors started getting around that ‘Duff is a fucking investment guru,’ but I was only taking math in freshman year. I started getting calls from peers and they’d ask ‘what do I do?’ and that was a trusted place. So, I started to see a need for this – not for my financial gain, but as at least a place where I could educate. When I started writing that weekly financial column for Playboy, I was educating everybody. I started explaining some of the technical jargon and I was saying ‘no more can we blame others’. We have to take responsibility for loans we take out and if you have a house –it’s your home not a fucking ATM. It’s time to learn and not say ‘I didn’t know’. So, I met a guy in England about a year and a half ago (Andy Bottomsley). I had been looking peripherally for a partner to, at least, discuss this business with… Andy is the smartest guy in the room and a good man. He’s got a great wife and great kids. He’s a solid guy and I told him about my idea – that there’s a whole area out here not being attended to and as a matter of fact it’s my peers. It’s my bros.”
Bravewords.com: Right, this is specifically aimed at musicians…
DM: “To begin with, but even at sports guys. They’re fucking shaking in their boots.”
Bravewords.com: Like you said Jamarcus is the perfect example. He had a multi-million dollar contract, but his house is now in foreclosure.
DM: “I can’t really say it’s his fault. They guy came from where he came from and he was handed all kinds of money and everybody had expectations of him like ‘oh, you’re a big pimp,’ and he’s rolling with ten dudes. They’re probably ripping him off and who else? The lawyers and… next thing you know his house starts getting notices and he probably wasn’t even aware until he gets the final notice that says ‘you’re being foreclosed’.”
Bravewords.com: Were some of the reasons you’re doing this have anything to do with your past band and maybe past managers or whatnot that might have taken advantage of you? Was it a case of you saying ‘never again’?
DM: “Yes. Once I started to figure out the financial statements… not that Guns ‘N Roses got ripped off. We scared everybody. We told everybody right from the beginning that if you rip us off and we find out about it – we’ll fuck you up. That’s not business acumen.”
Bravewords.com: Well no – that’s bullying. It’s street justice.
DM: “It’s street justice, but that’s all we had. Beyond that we were just hoping that if we got ripped off somebody would notify us. We didn’t have our own methods to figure it out. We could have done a lot better financially then we did. We spent way more than we made on the road and etcetera & etcetera, but that was a long time ago and I’ve learned the lessons that are valuable. They were really valuable with VR. We did good upfront deals that were fair to the band and fair to everybody else. For my part, I got kids and a wife…”
Bravewords.com: I have one question about Guns ‘N Roses. Simply put are you tired about talking about Guns ‘N Roses?
Bravewords.com: You are?
DM: “Yes, and especially right now. I’m doing the press rounds for my new Loaded album, The Taking…”
Bravewords.com: Does it get frustrating?
DM: “Yes, of course. I haven’t been in the band for a million years. I write this Seattle Weekly column… I’m a precious writer guy now you know. I’ll do the finite column that says everything you need to know and all you writer guys out there can read it and not ask me anymore questions about Guns ‘N Roses or JANE'S ADDICTION or whatever. Here’s the real story. Here’s what happened, but of course not everybody read my God damn column. Even though, I’m this precious writer who thinks everybody reads my column.”
Bravewords.com: We all think that…
DM: “Of course. GN'R stuff – I get the attraction, but I don’t get why people keep asking.”
Bravewords.com: Right, because there’s nothing new to tell.
DM: “At all.”
Bravewords.com: Recently, I interviewed Alan Niven. Are you still in contact with Alan and what did he mean to you and your career? Is he one of the business manager’s that screwed you over?
DM: “No, he didn’t screw us over. He didn’t screw me over. At the time when the band needed a hard-fisted motherfucker, we found one with Alan Niven. He’d get into fistfights for the band and that was at a time when the band was fighting for every inch of space and every tour. Alan was maybe not the most professional at all times, but neither were we, but he seemed to fit with us. None of knew enough about business then to know what was right or what was wrong. It was all feel and Alan felt great and he probably said some things to certain members of the band that didn’t want to hear those certain things at certain times. Alan was not a guy to mince words. He would tell you and I respect that. I wish I was less of a word mincer, but I’m not. We all have these protective mechanisms inside of us, but who likes confrontation? Nobody does. Anyhow, he was a guy who doesn’t mince his words and I respect that.”
Bravewords.com: What’s next for Loaded? You started in ’99. We’re now in 2011 and this is your third album. Have you already started thinking ahead to the next new album?
DM: “Jesus – NO! We’re just releasing this one. One thing at a time my man. I don’t think that far ahead and I never have. I have a full plate right now with just launching this record and touring it. We’re always in a state of writing and this is my band and it’s given me a lot back in the last three years… and the FANS have given a lot back, so it’s an important thing to me. It’s my only musical outlet at this point.”
Bravewords.com: Is it important for you to still have a musical outlet?
DM: “Yes. I’m still looking to write that perfect song and on the eve of my 47th birthday last month, I went to see MOTÖRHEAD in Seattle. There’s Lemmy fucking twenty years older than me and he rocks harder than any five nineteen year olds that are at the top of their game - combined. It was the best birthday present. He hasn’t lost anything. He’s got that drive… that thing and I think I have that same malaise as he has. It’s never going to get out of my system.”
For more visit Duff-loaded.com.