Duff McKagan has written and recorded a brand new song, How To Be A Man, with his former Guns N’ Roses bandmate Izzy Stradlin. The lead track on this issue’s cover disc, it’s taken from a three-track companion EP to McKagan’s forthcoming second book of the same name.
But while there are tenuous plans for the duo to work on further material, the bassist is keen to distance himself from any suggestion that the McKagan-Stradlin partnership could lead to a GN’R reunion.
With the current line-up of that band reportedly set to undertake an indeterminate hiatus, Duff, who remains on friendly terms with both Axl Rose and Slash, could easily be viewed as the conduit for such a proposition. But while he recently volunteered – “I never say never to anything these days, you never know what’s around the corner” – McKagan insists that the latest team-up with Izzy, the rhythm guitarist who quit the Gunners back in 1991, is attributable solely to friendship.
“I’ve played on three or four of Izzy’s records for iTunes and they’re done pretty spontaneously, and like those sessions this one was done for fun,” he tells Classic Rock.
The recording took place at the studio of Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme, who lives “just down the street”.
“We kept things secret; just went in there and had a blast,” Duff enthuses. “I sing lead and Izzy sings back-up.
It’s a super-kick-ass song. It’s a rock’n’roll song.”
The duo have also recorded a second track, entitled Kill The Internet, with Jerry Cantrell of Alice In Chains on guitar and Stone Sour’s Roy Mayoga on drums. Asked about the possibility of a full-length collaboration, McKagan is coy. “It’s just neighbourhood stuff – Roy lives a couple of blocks from me, so does Jerry. But even just talking about this stuff in such a public way makes me feel a little uncomfortable. Whether people like it or not is a completely secondary consideration – we did this for ourselves.”
Newly published by Da Capo Press, How To Be A Man (And Other Illusions) is a follow-up to McKagan’s 2011 autobiography, It’s So Easy (And Other Lies). Stuffed with tips of what to do and not do in many given situations, it’s an often hilarious compendium of knowledge accumulated by the bass player during his first 50 years on planet Earth. It’s also a clever way of writing a new book without merely repeating the formula of its predecessor.
“You got me bang to rights, man!” says McKagan. “It’s me stretching out. I tell some stories about travel, plus factoids and stuff for us gentlemen. I make some observations, but it’s supposed to be fun. I’d love to write something serious in the future – some gnarly history book about war – and maybe I will.”
In separate chapters Duff recommends alphabetical checklists of must-own literary and musical recommendations. It’s all good, authoritative stuff, though we did notice one glaring factual error – Princess Diana wasn’t Welsh.
“Whaaat?!” he cries disbelievingly.
Diana Spencer was married to the Prince Of Wales, but she was an English rose.
“Oh no, man. I fucked up. Tom Jones was Welsh though, right?”
That’s correct, but there’s another potential flaw. Early on he states: “Once I was sober, I realised I had no tee-total friends”. Izzy would’ve been in that category, though, surely? The line goes momentarily silent.
“Yeah… except for Izzy. Wow. You’re good, dude,” he laughs, before picking up the story. “Izzy gave me great encouragement when I got sober, once he realised that I was serious about it all. I would call him every couple of weeks. Those conversations were among the little goals I set myself: ‘Call him again in two weeks. That’s another two weeks of sobriety’.”
McKagan won’t be drawn on a recent press story in which original GN’R manager Vicky Hamilton claimed she could end the long-running feud between Axl and Slash. Talking in promotion of a new book called Appetite For Dysfunction, Hamilton said: “We shared so much history, I sometimes think that if I had them both in a room together that I could fix it.”
“Vicky was nice, but when I read something like that I go: ‘Huh?’” he laughs nervously. “That’s why I wrote a song called Kill The Internet.”
Asked about his own future plans, McKagan reveals that a new album from his band The Walking Papers is “already made” and awaiting release. “I wish that we could bring Kings Of Chaos to the UK,” he adds, referring to the supergroup comprising members past and present of Deep Purple, Def Leppard, Aerosmith, ZZ Top and more. “That’s something we’re working on… wouldn’t it be great?”
McKagan did almost step in to assist Quireboys frontman Spike by joining the singer’s side-band Free House for a pair of imminent UK dates, filling the bass role intended for the late Andy Fraser. (Spike’s Free House play the Borderline in London on June 7 and 8; the rest of their intended dates are now cancelled.)
“That’s something I wish I could’ve done,” Duff sighs. “I was so honoured that they asked me, but my daughter was graduating high school and there was no way I could miss that.”
File under how to be a good man.