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GNR’s Duff McKagan: Skinheads Ruined Punk Rock With Their Nazi Bullshit

Bassist Duff McKagan remembered the very early days of GN'R, telling Eddie Trunk:

duff

“When I first answered the ad for Slash and Steven [Adler] for this band Roadcrew. It was in the paper, and the guy’s name was Slash, and I’m like ‘He’s a punk rock guy.’

“Punk rock was kinda dead in ’84. All the kind of skinhead guys started coming in from the suburbs, and they ruined punk rock.

“Like, this Nazi bullshit. Like, you’re not a fucking Nazi, you’re from the suburbs. But this was happening all over North America. Just a bunch of dumb shits.

“They thought slam dancing was fighting. So I was like ‘This isn’t rock ‘n’ roll anymore, this is something else.’

“So whatever was gonna be next was gonna be up to guys my age. So I met the guys my age. And we were like ‘What ever’s next is gonna be up to us, whatever that is.’ And Steven had this huge drum kit when I met him and Slash.

“It’s like double bass drum, shit ton of toms, way too many cymbals, all this stuff, and he would play all of it at once. Where’s the beat, you know? But he had a groove in there. He had this little engine that was really interesting.

“Some people are just born to play drums, or some people are born to play guitar. He was born to play drums. I played with drummers that shouldn’t have been drummers. It looked like such an effort back there.

“So when Guns N’ Roses became those five guys, Izzy and I started taking his drums away, hiding them. So he ended up with a single kick drum, snare, no rack toms, one floor tom, hi-hat, crash, a ride, and a cowbell. So from that huge kit down to this Ramones kit. So he had to use what he had. Our point was ‘Let’s get to the groove.’

“So Steve and I would listen to a lot of like Cameo, Sly and the Family Stone, stuff with groove and a beat. And I hadn’t been a bass player until… I played bass in punk rock band, and I played guitar, and I played drums. I really had to figure out which one of those I was gonna do, so I moved to L.A. thinking ‘Well, I’ll do one of these three.’

“So that band I went to play with Steven and Slash was bass. And then Guns started as it was. ‘I’m gonna be a bass player, so how do I do that? Which bass players to emulate? Which style? What am I gonna be? And how am I gonna be different?’

“And back then bass players were… There was Lemmy [Kilmister], Paul Simonon from the Clash, Nikki Sixx… It was a cool thing to be. So like, ‘Let’s make our rhythm section a thing.’

“So we listened to a lot of that kind of stuff. Sometimes play along to and, and then we’d play our songs. So you hear those semblances of RnB and funk.

“But we made our thing, we made it very rock ‘n’ roll. But it was a lot of work. Because I wasn’t a bass player. I was thinking like a drummer.”

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