DUFF MCKAGAN: I Hope That One Day AXL ROSE And I Can At Least Talk And Be Friends

Steve Bell of Australia's Time Off magazine recently conducted an interview with VELVET REVOLVER/ex-GUNS N' ROSES bassist Duff McKagan. A few excerpts from the chat follow:

On the fact that their collective pasts may put more pressure on them to produce the goods, and opens them to more public scrutiny than the average band:

"I don't think any of us pay any attention to that at all. I've never, ever felt pressure — I've never felt pressure to follow up one record with a better record. It's just about keeping it real, and if people dig it then that's cool, and if they don't that's cool too.

"Once you start trying to make music a product and start following a formula — and I know bands who do this, they follow the formula of their hit record instead of just following their instinct of what a good song is to them — then it's all over. You've got to write for yourself first."

On how the material from the band's second album, "Libertad", is being received:

"It's been going over good. We've done a lot of South American dates, and that was pretty unreal. It's a great place to start a tour if you're us. We didn't know how many fans we had down there, and it was fucking insane.

"Then we went to Europe — that was great. We did a couple of North American runs, which were also cool — we had ALICE IN CHAINS opening on the last one. They're fucking awesome and really good friends of ours, so it was cool. It's a fun record to play live, and it's great now that we have obviously a couple of records worth of material to play.

"We're doing a cool thing in the middle of our set where we strip everything down and do some old songs from our collective bands — some STP and GN'R songs. Songs that you might not expect us to play, and we sort of sit on stools and do them semi-acoustically. It's pretty cool. It's worked really well, I think it's powerful."

On being able to embrace their incredible pasts:

"It's better than having a past that you're fucking trying to hide from — maybe if I'd been in WINGER we wouldn't be so open to it. Nothing against WINGER, of course, but you know what I'm saying. I mean it's true — the songs we wrote in GUNS N' ROSES were fucking killer songs, and they're great to do live, so why not?"

On whether the former members of GUNS N' ROSES feel that Axl Rose is tarnishing the amazing legacy that they left behind:

"I haven't really paid attention to it — maybe part of me doesn't want to. Probably a large part of me doesn't want to. I haven't tried to analyze it too much. As far as the name being tarnished, I think that's for the fans to figure out on their own.

"I have my own feelings about it and I keep them pretty private, but I hope that one day Axl and I can at least talk and be friends. Because we did a lot together. We did some pretty amazing things, and it's kind of a shame. He's always talking trash, and it's kind of goofy at this point, I think."

On the the biggest change that McKagan has noticed in the music industry between the '80s and now:

"The biggest difference now — and this is really over the last, like, seven years — is back when Gunners was doing it a tour was still thought of as something to promote your record. That's the way it had been since the 50s, but now with record sales slumping everywhere bands are figuring out other ways to make money on the road.

"So now, really, a record is sort of like advertising for your tour. That's where bands are getting smarter about touring economically, and paying more attention to merchandise and T-shirts and all that shit. Doing 'meet-and-greet' packages — all kinds of shit. And it's now not a bad thing to have your song on a commercial, or in a movie or on a ringtone — that's just the way it is now.

"Whereas ten years ago that would have been fucking 'selling out!' It's not even considered selling out any more, it's just good business. So really the biggest change in the music industry is actually the business of music. Not much has changed as far as songwriting or the attitude towards playing music live — you keep it real and you keep it honest, and the rest will follow."

On having had some pretty incredible adventures over the last 20-plus years:

"I guess so, man. I wish I remembered more of them. There's a period from '90 to '93 that I don't remember, but for the most part it's been great. I'm alive to tell some of the stories anyhow, and I look back and know that I have had a pretty great run.

"I'm 43 now and I'm still out doing it, and still kind of looked at as a semi-viable proposition as a musician. And I think I've fucking earned that by now. Obviously the most fun thing for me is having a great family, and being a father that my girls look up to, and leading for them by example. For me that's the most important thing — this rock music is all sort of just frilly extra stuff."

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