Memoir by Guns N' Roses bassist honest, compelling


Duff McKagan is known as one of rock’s finest bass players, but his journey to fame was not an easy one. Struggling through a maze of alcohol, drugs and the rigors of the music business, it would take a near-death experience to bring McKagan back from the brink of self-destruction.

So, considering all that he has experienced, the title of his book, “It’s So Easy (and other lies),” is perfectly appropriate for a rock memoir.

McKagan left Seattle for Los Angeles at the age of 20 to escape the heroin-hazed scene that was developing there. After several false starts, he eventually met up with a couple of scraggly guys, one a wild-haired but talented guitarist named Slash, and they, along with drummer Steven Adler, would put together what would be the foundation for “Guns N' Roses,” a band that, along with singer Axl Rose and guitarist Izzy Stradlin, would later sell millions of records.

With GNR, McKagan recorded some of rock’s most iconic songs, including “Sweet Child of Mine,” “Paradise City” and “Welcome To the Jungle.” He traveled the world and played with some of music’s greatest musicians, but nearly killed himself with alcohol and drug abuse.

McKagan found himself at a crossroads after the dissolution of GNR and a medical crisis in which his pancreas exploded from all the drinking and drugs. He chose to clean up and began a rigorous and often ass-kicking climb back to restored health.

McKagan tells of his adventures, both good and bad, in this honest and compelling memoir. He doesn’t hold back when describing the sordid conditions in which he and his GNR bandmates lived or the incredibly dumb stuff they did.

It is inspiring to read how McKagan overcame the odds and pulled his life together. He married model Susan Holmes and they have two daughters who McKagan obviously adores — the stories of his girls are a sweet highlight of the book. He went on to put together another band, Velvet Revolver, with Slash, second GNR drummer Matt Sorum and STP singer Scott Weiland. He also has his own band, Duff McKagan’s Loaded, and went back to college.

I spoke with McKagan a couple of years ago about his newfound love of writing (he has a regular column with the Seattle Weekly newspaper as well as a column in ESPN magazine). At the time he told me he was kicking around the idea of writing a book. It’s great to see that he followed through, and “It’s So Easy” is a fascinating look at how one guy managed to turn his life around, even if it wasn’t so easy after all.