Guns N' Roses bassist returns to punk roots
May 22, 2009
A key member of Guns N' Roses in its heyday, McKagan helped build an empire that stands as one of the most heralded metal bands, selling more than 100 million records. After a split with vocalist Axl Rose, McKagan, guitarist Slash and drummer Matt Sorum moved on and formed Velvet Revolver and sold a whopping 3 million copies of their debut.
What people might not know is that McKagan's roots lie deep in the punk scene that grew out of Seattle in the early '80s. That's where Loaded comes in. Started in 1999, the band recently released its first album since 2001 in "Sick."
It's not only a smaller, more laid back release for McKagan, but a way to show off his chops as a vocalist and guitarist.
"To me, Loaded has always been kind of like a safe little place to go and duck out for a second," explained McKagan during a recent interview with the Tribune from his home in Los Angeles. "We have a wide release of this record. I think Loaded's gonna be able to stick out."
Loaded infuses Stooges-like punk tunes with Velvet Revolver and GNR-style rock anthems. It's a combination that works well.
"It is crazy how it all does kind of connect," McKagan said. "I guess because they're all band-written songs. They just sort of inform the listener of the different moods that Loaded is and probably the different genres that we're capable of. I think it also shows a band that has been playing together for awhile."
Considered a Seattle band, Loaded has seen several lineup changes over the past decade, including Velvet Revolver's Dave Kushner and Presidents of the USA's Dave Dederer. The current lineup includes guitarist Mike Squires, bassist Jeff Rouse and drummer Geoff Reading.
With GNR and Velvet Revolver, McKagan played bass and added backup vocals, making his front-and-center role in Loaded a new experience. He's avoided the lead singer ego pitfalls felt by his bigger bands — not that his bandmates would ever let him get a big head.
"I've played with a couple of great lead singers (but) with it came some other things that get to be a chore. Probably with every band there's something like that. I'm the biggest princess in (Loaded) and I'm not really a princess at all," McKagan said jokingly. "They've looked at me a couple of times like 'Oh really, dude? Really? That's how it is?' We're just kind of like a punk rock band. We tour, we stay on the bus. We don't get hotels. We hope to God that the club has showers."
As Velvet Revolver sits idle, sifting through countless lead singer auditions following the departure of Scott Weiland, McKagan said he's not putting himself in the running as vocalist.
"I think if those guys in Velvet Revolver wanted me to sing, they would've approached me by this point," he said with a laugh. "(Velvet Revolver) is a band that needs that lead singer guy. For me, playing bass and singing lead vocals, it's really, really hard. That's why I play guitar in Loaded 'cause it's a lot easier for me to sing and play rhythm guitar."
"Singing Velvet Revolver songs, you're playing poly rhythms on the bass against the vocals and that's where it starts to get like 'What the (heck) am I doing?' You're concentrating. (Rush's) Geddy Lee is a freak of nature, or Sting. I don't get it."
This isn't Loaded's first go 'round, but it feels right for McKagan as his other band takes a break.
"We played a show up in Seattle a few nights ago ... at the Showbox," he said. "I think it's about 1,300 and it was packed. Loaded's reached the point in Seattle where we're kind of on the rise and there's a buzz about the band. Finally, in our hometown. Finally, after 10 years."
"This is the lineup where it finally felt right," he continued. "Like 'Well, this is a real band.' I think before that I was just sort of making music 'cause I need that in my life. We always talked about doing this second record. We didn't think it was gonna take seven years, but it did."
"Everything happens for a reason and these are my really good friends and I think friendship comes before business with this band and that's also very cool. I've got no stress."http://www.greatfallstribune.com/article/20090522/LIFESTYLE/905220307/Guns+N++Roses+bassist+returns+to+punk+roots