In 1987, Guns N' Roses exploded on the music scene with "Appetite for Destruction," an album that sounded nothing like the hair/glam metal groups dominating radio and MTV. In fact, "Appetite's" edgy, raw songs didn't sound like much of anything popular at the time, period. Bassist Duff McKagan, one of the band's original members, lived Guns' chaotic rise to the top, only to watch the band steadily disintegrate into a current incarnation barely recognizable to its origins.
Since leaving GN'R in 1997, McKagan has played in groups like Velvet Revolver and (briefly) Jane's Addiction, gotten sober after battling serious health issues caused by his excessive lifestyle, and even penned a memoir, "It's So Easy: and other lies." On April 14th, the band will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
We caught up with the Seattle native to talk about Guns' place in music history, what Saturday's honor means to him and his beloved Super Sonics, a team he still deeply misses. The show can be heard by clicking on the module, and a breakdown of talking points is below.
- (1:40): McKagan tries to verbalize the surreal feeling of entering the HOF. Music awards have always felt strange to him, since there's no tangible "stats" to measure achievement beyond sales, which isn't necessarily the same thing as greatness.
Marc S Canter/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
McKagan playing with Guns during the club days.
- (4:50): McKagan reminisces on band's legacy and how, once "Appetite" started flying off the shelves, other bands started to look like GN'R, everyone started to "get my humor," and women suddenly "discovered how good looking I was." In other words, he was officially a rock star now, which took getting used to.
- (10:50): As a one-time member of the Seattle music scene, what was it like for McKagan to see the grunge scene blow up years after he left?
- (12:40): Similar to how people wonder how many titles the Kobe-Shaq teams could have won if the superstars had gotten along, McKagan concedes the band's constant drama equaled potential left on the table.
- (16:30): After playing in bands fronted by Axl Rose, Scott Weiland, and Perry Ferrell, it's safe to say McKagan is incapable of being thrown for a loop by a lead singer.
- (20:20): McKagan describes how writing columns for the Seattle Weekly, Playboy and ESPN eventually led to a book, and the experience of looking back on his life.
- (23:05): McKagan shares his bitterness towards the Sonics' relocation, Clay Bennett and his plan to bring the team back to Seattle.
- (29:30): Even before Rose publicly stated he wanted no part of the the HOF induction, McKagan expressed doubts over a full reunion and performance. At the risk of putting words in McKagan's thought bubble, I'll go out on a limb and predict he anticipated Axl being a problem.