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Duff McKagan


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Michael Andrew "Duff" "Rose" McKagan (born February 5, 1964), is an American musician and writer who is best known for his thirteen-year tenure in the hard rock band Guns N' Roses. He is currently the bassist for both Velvet Revolver and Jane's Addiction while he is also the lead vocalist and guitarist for his own solo punk rock project Duff McKagan's Loaded, and a weekly columnist for SeattleWeekly.com. He also writes a weekly financial column for Playboy.com called Duffonomics.

Early years (1964-1984)

Michael Andrew McKagan was born in Seattle, Washington, the youngest of eight children born to Elmer (Mac) and Alice (Marie) McKagan. They were a musical family with every member playing at least one instrument. It was his brother Bruce who taught him his first bass lines, though he developed his own skills playing along to 1999 by Prince and Black Flag's Damaged.

While growing up, McKagan was a fan of such acts as James Gang, Sly Stone, Led Zeppelin, Vanilla Fudge, Jimi Hendrix, and New York Dolls. His idol at the time was Johnny Thunders

Although best known as a bass player, McKagan also played drums in several bands, including a stint with Seattle pop-punk band the Fastbacks (which he joined at the age of 15 in 1979) and The Vains with Chris Utting. Between 1979 and 1982 he led and played guitar in punk band The Living who opened shows for Hüsker Dü and D.O.A. and had a devoted following. Initially the band included Chris Utting (The Vains) and McKagan and Utting would switch on drums and guitar to play songs penned by John Conte, Utting and McKagan. By 1980, Utting was out of the band so McKagan could focus on guitar and newcomer Greg Gilmore was brought in as full time drummer at which point the band became considerably more powerful and focused. The band played numerous shows and recorded as yet unreleased demos. The Living were notable for the presence of future Mother Love Bone drummer Greg Gilmore (as well as Todd Fleischman and charismatic frontman John Conte). At the time, Greg Gilmore also played in the heavy psychedelic band Chubby Children before moving on to Mother Love Bone. Besides drums and bass, McKagan also has the ability to play other musical instruments: he plays guitar and even played piano on the song "Misery" from the Loaded album Dark Days.

In 1984 McKagan worked for a short time at Black Angus restaurant in Northridge, CA as an appetizer server, before making it big time with GNR.

Answering an ad for a bass player in a local magazine, McKagan headed to California, at age nineteen. In California, he met guitar player Slash and drummer Steven Adler of the band Road Crew at L.A.'s legendary 24-hour deli and rock hangout, Canter's. McKagan expected some punk with a penchant for '70s rock, but found two long-haired guys instead.

“ When I met Slash and Steven for the first time", he said, "it was weird, 'cause I'd never met guys like this before — L.A. locals. We went out that night and got drunk, and then we had this ill-fated band. It was Slash's band, Road Crew. ”

He describes his home city as "a rowdy rock 'n' roll town with a hip underground."

Guns N' Roses (1985-1998)

From the wreckage of the bands L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose, Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin joined Tracii Guns, Ole Beich, and Rob Gardner to form Guns N' Roses. Initially formed to meet booked gigs for the disbanded acts, the new line-up was finalized on June 6, 1985. McKagan became the band's bassist, replacing Ole Beich, and after two days of rehearsal, the newly formed group played their debut gig as GN'R on a Thursday night at the Troubadour. As with ex-rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, McKagan also had his crack at handling lead vocals on GN'R songs such as Use Your Illusion II's "So Fine" and a handful of songs off of the cover album The Spaghetti Incident?, including live favorite "Attitude", originally by The Misfits.

He brought his punk rock influences to the group, being a huge fan of Sex Pistols, Ramones, and The Clash; even citing Paul Simonon of the Clash as his favorite bassist. He is also a huge fan of Sid Vicious.

Adler and Izzy departed the band in 1990 and 1991, respectively. Meanwhile, in 1990, McKagan and Slash co-wrote and played a few songs on Iggy Pop's "Brick by Brick."

Believe in Me (1993)

After a half-hearted attempt at drug rehabilitation, he kick-started a solo career with 1993's Believe in Me. The album was a project in which McKagan played almost every instrument on every song.


On May 10th, 1994, McKagan became seriously ill due to his pancreas swelling to the size of a football (due to acute alcohol-induced pancreatitis). McKagan had tried to curb his drinking and drug habits, by giving up cocaine and vodka, and switching to wine and lite beer. McKagan was at his home in Seattle, and had fallen out of bed onto the floor, unable to get up. McKagan experienced sharp pains in his stomach. McKagan managed to call a close friend, and was taken to Northwest Hospital and Medical Center in Seattle, WA. .

McKagan's swollen pancreas had leaked digestive enzymes into his body, giving him third degree burns in the lower parts of his body. McKagan's doctor's did not operate right away, instead McKagan was monitored for a few days. If an operation took place, McKagan would spend the rest of his life on dialysis. The swelling went down, and McKagan had learned a harsh lesson. The doctors told him that if he did not quit drinking, he would be dead within a month, so McKagan decided to get sober.

Solo years (1993-2000)

In 1995 he collaborated with Slash in his solo project "Slash's Snakepit", co-writing a song called "Beggars and Hangers-On", which he played live at the Palace during a Snakepit show in May of that year.

McKagan also tried an acting career in 1997. He had a part in the TV serial Sliders, which aired in May of that year, as a dead rocker vampire.

On August 27, 1997, he had his first child, Grace, with model/swimsuit designer Susan Holmes. They married on August 28, 1999. On July 16, 2000, they had their second child, another girl, Mae Marie.

Then, he participated to the album Humanary Stew: A Tribute to Alice Cooper, and helped his former GN'R bandmate Izzy Stradlin with the album Ride On.

In 2000, he put together another band called Mad for the Racket, also known as The Racketeers, with MC5's Wayne Kramer and Damned's Brian James. For a drummer, they recruited several guest stars, such as Stewart Copeland (Police), Clem Burke (Blondie), and Brock Avery. In 2001, he reunited with Loaded for the club circuit in Seattle. He also ran a marathon in 2001 with bib number "11468."

McKagan produced the debut EP Get Off by Betty Blowtorch and also appeared in the documentary film Betty Blowtorch And Her Amazing True Life Adventures, directed by Anthony Scarpa.

Neurotic Outsiders (1995-1997, 1999, 2006)

Originally a gathering of friends jamming together at the Viper Room, McKagan formed the group Neurotic Outsiders with Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, John Taylor of Duran Duran and fellow Guns N' Roses band mate Matt Sorum. They recorded one album, Neurotic Outsiders (1996) on Maverick Records, and did a brief tour of Europe and North America.

They reunited briefly in April 1999 for three shows at the Viper Room.

The band reunited on December 7, 2006 for one performance.

10 Minute Warning (1997-1998)

Following his departure from Guns N' Roses in 1997, McKagan moved back to Seattle, where he met with many of his old friends, including Stone Gossard. It was him telling them how great they used to be, that encouraged the members of Ten Minute Warning to reunite that year, with new vocalist Christopher Blue replacing Steve Verwolf, who was serving a term in Federal Prison. It was at this time that the band finally recorded and released 10 Minute Warning on well known Seattle label Sub Pop - nine tracks including two new versions of songs originally recorded by The Fartz (Is This The Way? and Buried), and also the original version of Mezz, which was later re-recorded for McKagan's unreleased solo album, Beautiful Disease. The album was eventually released in 1998. However, by this time Paul Solger had quit due to "musical differences". Ten Minute Warning played its last show on August 22, 1998 at the Roseland theater in Portland, Oregon.

Loaded (1999-2002, 2008-present)

The original line up of Loaded was Duff McKagan on bass and vocals, Dez Cadena, of Black Flag fame, on guitar, Michael Barragan, formerly of Plexi, on guitar, and Taz Bentley, formerly of The Reverend Horton Heat, on drums. They put out the live record, Episode 1999: Live, due to McKagan's second solo record, Beautiful Disease, becoming lost in the legal shuffle when Geffen and Interscope Records merged and McKagan was dropped from the roster of the "new combined" label. He had lost all commercial rights to release the record. The group soon disbanded with McKagan and Bentley becoming part of Izzy Stradlin's rhythm section for his tour of Japan supporting Ride On

In 2000, McKagan reformed Loaded, remaining as the lead vocalist but switching to rhythm guitar, adding drummer Geoff Reading, of New American Shame and Green Apple Quick Step, guitarist Mike Squires, of Harvey Danger and Nevada Bachelors, and bassist Jeff Rouse, of Alien Crime Syndicate. Although both Squires and Rouse joined after the recording of debut album Dark Days, Dave Dederer formerly of The Presidents of the United States of America took up recording duties for the album, this would remain the main lineup of Loaded until 2009.

In 2002, while on tour, both Squires and Rouse left Loaded to join the reformed Alien Crime Syndicate, former Wasted Youth and Electric Love Hogs guitarist Dave Kushner and former Asva and Burning Witch bassist George Stuart Dahlquist were brought in to replace them. McKagan and Kushner went on to form Velvet Revolver, putting Loaded on hiatus.

In 2008 Loaded returned with Squires and Rouse returning to the group. They recorded a new album and released Sick in 2009, they also released the EP Wasted Heart months earlier in 2008. They have since toured with Mötley Crüe and Black Stone Cherry. In 2009, Geoff Reading departed the band with Isaac Carpenter, formerly of Gosling, Loudermilk and The Exies joining the group as his replacement. They plan to record and release a new album in 2010.

Velvet Revolver (2002-present)

Since April 2002, McKagan has played bass guitar for the group Velvet Revolver together with ex-Guns N' Roses' members, Slash and Matt Sorum, as well as guitarist Dave Kushner and former Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland. Their debut album Contraband was released in 2004 and peaked at the top of the Billboard 200 chart. The group's second album, entitled Libertad, was released on July 3, 2007. McKagan toured with the band, until Singer Scott Weiland left the band on April 1, 2008, to reunite with Stone Temple Pilots.

Jane's Addiction (2010-present)

Following the departure of bassist Eric Avery, McKagan began writing with Jane's Addiction with a picture of the group working together posted on Navarro's twitter page. It was confirmed by Dave Navarro on his Dark Matter radio programme that McKagan had indeed joined Jane's Addiction on a permanent basis.

On joining Jane's Addiction, McKagan stated:

“ Something like a chance to write, record, and perhaps even perform with a band of the quality of Jane's Addiction does not come around every day. I have a lot of respect for this band and the guys in it. The music that we have been writing is an extension of that mutual respect. I have been a huge fan of Eric Avery since the mid-'80s, when I would go to see them play at clubs down in Los Angeles. This is not, in my mind, about me replacing him, in any way shape or form. Perry Farrell is an absolute visionary. Dave Navarro has always been a guitar player who I have had a lot of respect for. Playing in a rhythm section with Stephen Perkins is almost trance-like. Kick-ass for sure. I also want to make it clear to Jane's Addiction fans that I really appreciate all of the kind words and sentiment directed to me.

The new lineup of Jane's Addiction made their debut, performing at singer Perry Farrell's 51st birthday celebration, at Les Deux in Los Angeles, California on March 30.

In April, the group announced two European dates, scheduled for June, taking place at the GelreDome, in Arnhem, Netherlands, and an appearance at the Rock in Rio in Madrid, Spain. Preceding these shows in Europe was a one-off Cinco de Mayo concert that took place at the Bardot in Hollywood, California on Wednesday, May 5. During the show, they debuted a new song titled "Soulmate".

Other appearances

McKagan toured with The Presidents of the United States of America.

On March 6, 2006, McKagan made an appearance along with Pantera and Down vocalist Phil Anselmo, playing guitar for Alice in Chains for VH1 Decades of Rock Live show. Duff also joined the band for the reunion tour, playing rhythm guitar on selected songs.

He also played some songs on Zilch's album Skyjin, a tribute to hide.

In 2001 McKagan appeared on Mark Lanegans fifth solo album Field Songs and in 2004 Duff also appeared on the Mark Lanegan Band album Bubblegum along with Izzy Stradlin.

In 2009, McKagan appeared at his daughters school, The Buckley School's benefit charity concert and Loaded members Mike Squires and Jeff Rouse, where they covered Knockin' on Heaven's Door by Bob Dylan.

McKagan has started doing an occasional hour-long radio show on KISW 99.9FM in Seattle called 'Duff McKagan's Radio-Loaded.'

McKagan appears on Slash, the first solo album by Slash. McKagan plays on "Watch This" with Dave Grohl on drums.

McKagan, along with his Velvet Revolver band mates, Slash and Matt Sorum, will appear on the fifth studio album by American R&B-soul singer–songwriter Macy Gray, The Sellout, scheduled for release on June 22, 2010 in the US.

Duff will publish a memoir book in Fall 2011.

Personal life

In April 1994, McKagan was one of the last confirmed people to see Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain alive. He sat next to Cobain on a flight from Los Angeles to Seattle.

On August 27, 1997, he had his first child, Grace, with model/swimsuit designer Susan Holmes. They married on August 28, 1999. On July 14, 2000, they had their second child, another girl, Mae Marie.

In 1998, Duff returned to school and received his GED. He eventually went to the Seattle Community College, and later to the Seattle University, earning a Bachelors Degree in Finance. After looking over the financial record from his Guns N' Roses days, he decided that he wanted to understand the process more.

Duff currently writes a financial column for Playboy Magazine.

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