Rock stars who pen their autobiographies are pretty common. Rock stars who write columns for alternative weeklys and ESPN.com? Not so much.
In the years since Duff McKagan left Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver behind, he has emerged as something of a renaissance man. He writes about sports for ESPN.com, has his own wealth management company, Merdian Rock, for musicians, and now, is an author with the book “It’s So Easy (and Other Lies),” which was recently released by Simon & Schuster. And he still rocks out with his group Loaded.
The book takes its name from a Guns N’ Roses song, and details McKagan’s triumphs and struggles. The Seattle-born rocker rose to fame in the late 1980s with Guns N’ Roses, but would eventually become addicted to drugs and alcohol, until an epiphany one day changed McKagan’s life.
McKagan, who’s married with children, talked about that life-changing moment, his writing career, Guns N’ Roses and his fantasy football nightmare during a recent interview with The Associated Press.
AP: The title of the book is “It’s So Easy,” and yet it hasn’t been so easy. What made it hard?
McKagan: The band started to take off, and moving to L.A. was great. But I suffered panic attacks, young. And I found that drinking would dampen down the panic attacks. And I always thought to myself, “When I get up some free time, I’ll deal with this,” but as the band started to take off more and more, I got the panic attacks greater and greater, and I was drinking more and more. And then I found drugs, cocaine. I could drink more if I did cocaine, but cocaine would give me more panic attacks, and it would be this caustic kind of stew of action and reaction.
AP: What made you change?
McKagan: I found reason in the hospital. My mom – I’m the last of eight kids – had Parkinson’s (disease) at the time. She came to the hospital, and she was suffering Parkinson’s shakes and she was in a wheelchair. I’m the youngest son. I realized then and there that order of things was wrong. I was supposed to be taking care of her.
AP: You have said that kickboxing turned your life around. How did that happen?
McKagan: I looked like hell and there were boils coming out of my skin from drugs like leaving my body and this trainer said, ‘There’s somebody I want you to meet,’ and they took me to this dojo ... He introduced me to sensei (teacher) Benny, and I could tell right away that he could see right through me, down inside of me and knew instantly. Still to this day, he’s been my sensei for 16 years, 17 years, and I can tell you in that time, I’ve said no more than 500 words to him.
AP: How comfortable was it for to put your life in a book?
McKagan: While it may seem like I revealed a ton in writing, you can reveal what you want to reveal. I keep my private life as private as I can. I revealed the important things as they relate to this book and the subject matter of this book.
AP: You do quite a bit of writing, how did that start?
McKagan: In 2008, I started writing for Seattle Weekly. I thought that maybe I would last a couple of weeks and I’d screw it up and they’d find somebody else. But I really found a voice and I like it. Those first two weeks turned into four, then six and eight. Now I’m there 170 weeks or something like that. After about a week, Playboy.com asked me to write a financial column because they knew I went to business school.
AP: Now that you’re a writer, what comes first?
McKagan: Music takes precedence over everything. Writing is something you can do on the road, backstage, on the tour bus, on a plane. I get some of my best writing done on a plane. My bandmates are so used to me writing.
AP: Do you feel you’re breaking the mold of what a rock star is thought to be?
McKagan: I think the mold was formed, especially in America, by some outlandish characters that became a stereotype and a pigeonhole and all of that. A lot of the most prolific musicians I know are the smartest, most sensitive people that should be running the world.
AP: Any chance Guns N’ Roses would get back together?
McKagan: Of course there’s a chance. I don’t know how real that chance is. It’s not something I ever write about or talk at home about or with any of those principal people about, ever.
AP: But you have played with Axl (Rose) recently?
McKagan: Just one. I played a couple songs and he was in London (at the) same hotel and one thing led to another.
AP: You play fantasy football. Who’s in the league?
McKagan: Jerry Cantrell, actually all of the Alice (in Chains) guys. Jay Ferguson, ESPN guy; Jim Wilkie, ESPN guy; Anne Wilson, from Heart. She’s killing it. There’s a comments board, and Anne Wilson can throw down. She knows what she’s talking about.
AP: Who’s on your team?
McKagan: Ben Roethlisberger is my quarterback.
AP: And finally, how are you doing this season?
McKagan: I’m 0-4. Sean Kinney (from Alice in Chains), who doesn’t know anything about football, drafted a kicker in the second round. His team beat me.