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Duff McKagan's Loaded: Off Bass

Originally published in Guitar World, June 2009

Duff McKagen talks to Guitar World about his band's second album, Sick.

Duff McKagan made his name playing bass for Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver. But when it comes to being frontman for Loaded, his punk-inspired side project, he’s strictly a six-stringer. Says Duff, “Singing and playing guitar is way easier than singing and playing bass. I don’t know how Sting does what he does. He’s a freak of nature.”

The Seattle-based group released its debut album, Dark Days, in 2001 but parted ways after McKagan joined Velvet Revolver in 2002. The band reunited in 2008 during Velvet Revolver’s own dark days with former frontman Scott Weiland. Says McKagan, “When it was getting really dramatic, it was nice for me to step away from it, musically, and just go play with Loaded up in Seattle.” The sessions yielded the Wasted Heart EP in 2008. Now comes Sick (Century Media), Loaded’s second full-length release in eight years. Says McKagan, “I guess it’s never too late to make that second record.”

McKagan and the band—guitarist Mike Squires, bassist Jeff Rouse and drummer Geoff Reading—decided to write a new album when, at a Christmas benefit gig, they realized how many good unrecorded songs they had. Although McKagan wrote most of the songs on Dark Days, much of Sick was composed by the band or with other writers. One track, the somber “Mothers Day,” took shape from McKagan and Rouse jamming together on bass guitars. It was called “Two Basses” until McKagan wrote lyrics about friends he’s lost to drugs.

Surprisingly, although doing time in GN’R and Velvet Revolver cemented his association with Slash, McKagan credits former Gunner Izzy Stradlin as the guitarist that most influenced his own rhythm playing. “I think from Izzy I learned where a rhythm guitar player should be, within the band,” McKagan says. “As a result, I don’t overthink it.”

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