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Monday, September 19, 2011
Updated: September 20, 12:06 PM ET
Duff McKagan's signature bass snowboard


Signal Snowboards has been running an often-hilarious and always-inspiring video series online called "Every Third Thursday," that documents the Signal crew's crazy, creative outlook on building snowboards. Once a month, the crew gets together, comes up with a crazy concept for a custom snowboard, builds it and then tests it out on the hill. So far they've made a paintball snowboard and a turntable snowboard, to name some highlights. Last week they decided to step up and make one out of a Duff McKagan signature Fender bass.

It just so happens that the former Guns N' Roses bassist, and current lead singer and guitarist for the band Loaded, is also a columnist for ESPN The Life. So we called up the multi-talented rock god/sports blogger to see what this interest in snowboarding was all about.

ESPN: So how did you get involved in this project?
Duff McKagan:
A mutual friend introduced me to Dave Lee in California. He took me down to the Signal factory and showed me around, and Dave told me about this idea he had to build a bass snowboard. I didn't really even understand what he was talking about, though. His idea was kind of crazy. So I just put him in touch with Fender and it went from there.

So you and Dave just met? It looks from the video like you'd been homies for awhile.
That's Seattle homie stuff right there. It's a Northwest thing. That's how Seattle guys get along when they meet out in the world. We just become friends at the drop of a hat. But Dave is a really good guy, so he makes it easy. All of the people at Signal are like him. The whole energy of the place is really positive, very genuine. It was cool to see.

So are you a snowboarder yourself? How did they think to tie you in to this?
I suck. I've been doing it for 17 years, but I ... really, I just suck. I'm a latecomer to snowboarding, even though I grew up in Seattle. I was the last of eight kids, and it just wasn't our lot in life to be able to go up to the mountain and be able to pay for lift tickets. But after I got sober a friend of mine decided to take me snowboarding. I'd never been up a chairlift before, but he told me it was just like skateboarding. So I went up with him and he left me at the top of the mountain. I had to figure out how to get down. And that was my learning day.

Sounds about right.
But I learned and really kind of took to it. I get to go maybe four-five times in a season. So multiply that times 17 years. It's about 50 days, which is why I suck. But I like it. I don't do tricks or anything. I just carve.

And you used to skateboard?
Hell yeah, man, it was the 70s. Punk rock. Everybody was a skateboarder then.

So this bass they used -- it's your signature model? What's the story with it?
Well, when Guns N' Roses first got a record deal, I used our first advance to pay three months of rent on this s---hole apartment, and then I used the rest to buy gear. I bought this 1986 Japanese Fender -- this model that they only made for one year. And I played it on Appetite, and all the Guns albums, really, and it just became my bass sound.

So Fender started making basses for me -- just for me, though, because it wasn't a production model. And 20 years later they decided to turn it into a signature model. So now it's in production, the Duff McKagan Fender bass, which is a huge honor. That's the one they used to make the snowboard with.

Did you mess around with it? Was the bass playable?
Not in the classic sense. I couldn't play a gig on it. You couldn't fret any of the positions. But it was ridiculous. It had everything -- tuning pegs, pickup -- but it wasn't "playable," for a lot of reasons, but mainly because the board bends. Still, the thing was ingenious.

The people at Fender thought so, too. Last week, actually, Fender opened a huge new, beautiful museum out in Corona, Calif. They had a big fancy reception, with every Fender artist you can think at the party. It's such a big honor to have a guitar up on the wall, and they're all up there.

And the snowboard was up on the wall, too, underneath my bass, and it was the talk of the night. Everybody had their iPhones out filming it, watching the video. I don't know if it's going to live there, but I hope it does. It's such a cool piece to have in a museum like that. It really looked great up there. Those guys did an amazing job.