“I don’t think he’s unsung. I think he’s sung pretty well.
“He was a big part of that band, but everybody was. Steven [Adler], some of the beats that he would start would inspire a riff. And how do you give that credit to a drummer who doesn’t have a guitar?
“You gotta credit Axl to pushing us to get the riff for ‘Michelle.’ Because it was a double time and the original riff for ‘Michelle’ wasn’t the riff it was. It was this fast kind of goofy… I forgot what it was.
“Izzy had like these cool riffs, but the rest of the band would take it and make it like this whole other thing. It’s hard to say.
“If you wanna say that anybody was unsung, then everybody was unsung. Izzy rolled, he was a super cool guy for sure.
“We all had our demons and we faced them at different times. And he had his kind of in the midst of all of that. We all had them, make no mistake about it. [Laughs] But that’s a whole another story.”
Asked on what his contributions to “Appetite for Destruction” were, McKagan replied:
“It’s so hard to say because everybody has a piece of every song. Like ‘It’s So Easy’ is a song I recorded on 4-track, a version of it.
“I learned how to play open E tuning on guitar from Wes, my neighbor. And when you are learning new tuning on the guitar you write like 19 songs in 25 minutes. This new tuning just opens up a whole new world.
“So ‘It’s So Easy’ was a thing I recorded and Axl loved it. ‘Paradise City,’ I had like a lyric for that with three chords. ‘Welcome to the Jungle,’ the first riff is from this old punk rock band.
“So there are so many riffs, and I hate to even say they’re mine because it was such a band thing. I think maybe back then because you’re young, you’re not like ‘That part’s mine!’ You learn to really shake that. Those were just really band songs.
“We just played a lot, rehearsed a lot. Axl would come in and start singing on something. And he’s like, ‘That part’s wrong, you gotta change it. It doesn’t work.’
“OK, what does that mean? ‘It’s gotta be more angry!’ And you learn. He has such amazing instincts. At first, you’re like ‘He doesn’t even play guitar, what does he know?’
“But after being frustrated, Slash would finally play some riff, like just being pissed off. Like ‘Oh, there it is!’ And you’d learn whatever Axl’s instinct was. You’d fight through it, and finally, land on something.
“And like ‘Where do we go’ at the end of ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ was ‘Okay, where do we go in the song now?’ So that was like a place setter in lyric. But it ended up [in the song]. ‘Oh, that actually works for the song.'”