Duff McKagan

Duff McKagan

I was never able to interview Guns N’ Roses back in their heyday, but in June 2007 I spoke with both Duff McKagan and Slash in their capacity as members of the Scott Weiland-fronted Velvet Revolver, which was about to release its second and last album.


Duff and I chatted in a bedroom at the Chateau Marmont, but he passed on my suggestion that we do it lying in bed together. Here are some edited highlights focusing on his personal and financial life.

YOU DON’T DO ANY VOCALS AT ALL-

-Scott doesn’t, it’s not his bag for anybody else to sing.

YOU OFFERED, BUT WERE POLITELY TURNED DOWN?

Aaaah, it’s a weird thing for me to really talk about because it’s not like I’m bummed out about it, really. We had to make compromises. I was used to doing things a certain way, writing lyrics, writing melodies, singing, the whole thing. Scott was not used to that, at all. His argument was, “Look, you guys get to play guitars and write stuff. I don’t get to do anything expect write lyrics.” It’s a good point, y’know? He comes up with great backup vocals. That’s just the way Velvet Revolver works. It’s not like I’m going, “Fuck, I wanna sing.” It’s none of that. I’ve never considered myself a great singer.

IT SEEMS LIKE A WASTE OF TALENT

Yeah, yeah, I know. I dunno. Maybe on the next record. I just don’t know if that will ever happen in Velvet Revolver, unfortunately. I think it is a side of this band that hasn’t been explored, the melody and lyric-writing.

ON THE USE YOUR ILLUSION RECORDS, A QUARTER (*) OF THE SONGWRITING CREDITS MUST BE YOU? (* NOT EVEN CLOSE)

Yeah, sure. Easy. And Appetite (For Destruction), Izzy (Stradlin, pictured below with Duff in 2003) and I wrote lyrics and melodies for a lot of the songs.

“PARADISE CITY” WAS YOUR ONE, RIGHT?

Yeah. “It’s So Easy.” (melancholy pause) Ahh, it is what it is.

ARE YOU THE BUSINESSMAN IN VELVET REVOLVER?

I guess I am, yeah. People look to me for stuff. I’m interested in business. It’s just the same as I’m also interested in history. I’ve studied history and I’ve studied business. I understand how it works. It really stemmed from not wanting to get ripped off anymore. So I do everything I can do so this band doesn’t get ripped off. We’re the last ones to get paid. We work pretty hard for the money we make.

YOU GUYS OWN THE PUBLISHING, AND YOU HAVE AN ADMINISTRATION DEAL?

Yeah, yeah. That’s it. Obviously that worked out great because we sold shitloads of records. Nowadays, 3 million records is a shitload now. It’s like 10 million back in the early ’90s, late ’80s. You have to get creative on how you make your money now. A lot of licensing for commercials, fuckin’ Playstation, Guitar Hero, or whatever it might be. Ringtones.

DO YOU GO TO MEETINGS IN YOUR SUIT AND YOUR TIE WITH YOUR BRIEFCASE?

No, I wouldn’t go that far.

DO YOU READ THE WALL STREET JOURNAL?

I do. What I do is I get the Wall Street Journal online. I just look at what’s going on. I have a Blackberry so I get the daily Wall Street headlines. Things that are happening.

WHERE’S THE SMART MONEY GOING THESE DAYS?

Diversification, always. I have mutual funds. I have a lot of individual stocks. I’m across the board, really well diversified. And then real estate has been a thing for me.

BUYING PROPERTIES, DOING THEM UP AND FLIPPING THEM?

I don’t flip. I just buy properties and hold.

IN THE SEATTLE AREA, OR DOWN HERE (IN L.A.)?

Both. And Hawaii. Wherever I can. Wherever I see fit. Also for me, another security is vintage guitars. It’s massive. A ’59 Les Paul Sunburst, good condition, is worth $400,000.

HOW MANY OF THOSE DO YOU HAVE? A COUPLE DOZEN?!

I won’t go there. No, I don’t have a couple dozen, I wish.

YOU MUST BE THE RICHEST GUY IN THE BAND?

(laughs) I don’t know!

WHAT’S YOUR NET WORTH?

That’s nothing I care to talk about.

DID YOU LOSE HALF OF IT TO YOUR FIRST WIFE?

No. No, no, no.

DO YOU HAVE A PRE-NUP WITH THE CURRENT ONE (SUSAN, PICTURED WITH DUFF IN 2006)?

I did, until 10 years. But she made as much money as I did (from modeling).

WERE YOU RIPPED OFF WITH GUNS?

Luckily I wasn’t. None of us got ripped off. There’s more potential to get ripped off now, because I think it’s so corporate now. You always can get ripped off. Guns, we could have made a lot more money than we did. But we didn’t know how to take advantage of it. We didn’t know what money was. I didn’t know how to invest in stocks or anything back then. So I just didn’t.

YOU JUST KEPT THE MONEY IN THE CHECKING ACCOUNT?

T-bills, yeah. Better than nothing.

DO YOU SPLIT YOUR TIME BETWEEN LOS ANGELES AND SEATTLE?

Not really split, I wish it was split. The more that we’re here in L.A. I realize I don’t really need to be here. If the band’s rehearsing or I’ve got a press day, I can just come down.

YOUR PRIMARY RESIDENCE IS SEATTLE?

Yeah. We live on a lake there. It’s fuckin’ awesome.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN MARRIED FOR?

We’ve been together for 11, we’ve been married for nine.

HOW DO YOU KEEP IT TOGETHER. IT’S A RARITY IN ROCK ‘N’ ROLL TERMS TO BE MARRIED FOR SO LONG?

We’re one of those couples. Each year passes, we see more people falling off by the wayside. We know one other couple that’s been married longer than us. We joke that we should have an awards show for longevity in marriages, but the only people that show up are us two couples. It’s tough in this world, but I think it’s tough in any world to be married. But we have our kids. We all played Monopoly last night. Great. Nothing better than that that, the four of us sitting around playing Monopoly.

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NOTE: The above interview does NOT appear in my gossipy rock bio Strange Days: The Adventures of a Grumpy Rock ‘n’ Roll Journalist in Los Angeles, which DOES include a Q&A with Duff’s old bandmate, Steven Adler. It is available here. For more info, go to strangedaysbook.com

Copyright © 2007, 2013 by Dean Goodman. PLEASE DO NOT CUT AND PASTE THE WHOLE THING

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