"Lemmy showed me the importance of being aggressive. He didn't take any bulls**t, and I loved that": Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan on what Lemmy from Motorhead taught him

Duff McKagan and Lemmy
(Image credit: Mat Hayward/Getty Images| Pete Cronin/Redferns)

Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan has hailed the late, great Lemmy as one of the key influences upon his playing. 

In a new interview with bass player, McKagan pays respects to musicians who have been integral to shaping his sound, Prince, The Clash's Paul Simonon, Sex Pistol Steve Jones and Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones among them.

He is particularly complimentary when it comes to discussing Motorhead's iconic leader, who passed away in 2015.

"Lemmy's bass playing reminded me that you can still be punk as fuck on bass," he says. "But the thing with that is you have to hit the notes, you know? You've got to hit the notes; you can’t go out there and be a sloppy motherfucker. Lemmy showed me the importance of being aggressive, and that when you play with a pick, you can jump, but don't be playing two notes at once.

"It's so important to hit your notes, and that guy was so fucking good at doing that. His sound was massive; it sounded like it was just a mess of bass, but he was fucking hitting all the notes. If you ever saw Mötorhead live, you'll know he knew what he was doing; it was obvious. But also, come on, man, Lemmy was an amalgamation of all the best things within punk and metal. He didn't take any bullshit, and I loved that."

Speaking to this writer in 2019, McKagan explained how hearing Ace of Spades changed his life.

"I was a Seattle punker, and we all listened to AC/DC and Cheap Trick and The Sweet and Montrose, anything that rocked we were down with," he stated. "But when Ace Of Spades came out on seven inch it was like, Holy fuck! It showed us that there was a whole new direction we could go in. I don’t know any rocker for whom this song didn’t change their trajectory and perspective.

"My band Loaded toured Europe with Mötorhead and I got to play guitar onstage with them every night which was amazing.

"Lemmy is God-like," McKagan continued. "I remember being at an awards show in London with my wife Susan, who’s super-hot, and she wore this dress that was super-revealing, to the point that she had to wear a coat over it. But Lemmy was there, and I was like, Honey, we have to go and show Lemmy your dress. He was the only guy who got to see her in full, and you could see everything, because y’know, he’s Lemmy and you have to pay respects to the godfather."

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.