Duff McKagan Gives Us the Lowdown on Walking Papers and Rockstar Energy UPROAR Festival’s “Battle of the Bands”
By: Rick Florino
Duff McKagan embodies the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll. No matter what band he’s playing with, you’ll instantly recognize that signature bass wallop he packs. There’s nothing like it. It’s that same spark he channeled back on “It’s So Easy” from Appetite for Destruction, but it’s transmuted into magnificent permutations whether it be Loaded, Velvet Revolver, or now Walking Papers. The latter are igniting crowds all summer on the Rockstar Energy UPROAR Festival, and McKagan’s keeping rock ‘n’ roll alive every day he takes the stage.
UPROAR’s Rick Florino spoke to Duff about Walking Papers, the Rockstar Energy UPROAR Festival, judging the “Battle of the Bands” with long time buddy and Alice In Chains singer and guitarist Jerry Cantrell, and so much more in this exclusive interview.
What guided you to Walking Papers?
Barrett Martin and Jeff Angell had the germ for this band. I knew Jeff’s songwriting was epic, and his lyrics are especially outstanding. I can say that about him, because I’ve admired him for fifteen years. Everybody in Seattle has. Everything has its place on this record instrumentally. I’m really proud of this record, and I’m proud of this band live. It’s kicking ass. The shows have been extremely fun. I can say it’s an honor to play in a rhythm section with Barrett.
What attracted you to the Rockstar Energy UPROAR Festival?
Well, initially, Sean Kinney called. Jerry Cantrell, Sean, and I have been pretty tight buddies since 1990 or something. They approached Alice In Chains about co-headlining the festival, and Sean was really pushing to make this a sort of different UPROAR with a mixture of bands that could really interest and challenge an audience. The whole bill is like that. Sean knew our record would be coming out about the time of this tour starting. We talked about it, and John Reese who co-owns UPROAR spoke to me. It’s a family thing really. Reese was my tour manager in Guns N’ Roses. I’ve known John’s kids since they were bumps in bellies. I’m of course good pals with the Jane’s Addiction guys. There’s a lot of cool bands on this thing like Middle Class Rut and Danko Jones.
What appeals to you about judging the “Battle of the Bands”?
I don’t look at it as a “contest thing.” I could never be a pure judge of a battle of the bands like, “This band’s the best band here right now!” That would just be my opinion. I don’t usually do that. I thought this would be a good idea. Jerry and I are the two guys, and I thought it’d be best to do this to expose all of the bands on the list for the “Battle of the Bands.” I’ve seen some really cool groups. It’s not like I go out there every day, cross my arms, look at the stage, and say, “Hmm…” I’ve seen a couple good bands that really stood out. In New Jersey, I had just worked out, and I was sitting on these steps to the third stage, dripping from sweating. This band went on, and I didn’t even realize it. I thought, “Fuck, these guys are killer. Who the hell is this?” It turns out it was one of the bands competing in the “Battle of the Bands”—Black Clouds. I don’t know how we’re going to choose the band at the end. It’s going to be a tough thing to do.
I really want it to be known that if it goes down anyway and we pick a “winner,” it’ll just be because that’s what you’ve got to do at the end of this thing [Laughs]. I really appreciate the effort from everyone. You see all of these bands who are on tour. Some are scared and some aren’t. It’s all a positive thing though. I wish everyone the best.
UPROAR seems like the perfect platform to launch this band.
It’s great for Walking Papers! It’s really profoundly great for us. Our record came out, and two days later, UPROAR started.
What’s been the best UPROAR Festival show so far?
I’ve got to say all of the places we’ve played have been great so far. We’ve played like nine gigs. Boston was great. It was packed that day. Even the first gig in Scranton was great for us. Everyone was getting the kinks out in every band. New Jersey was killer. Toronto was really good to us. It seems to be building a little bit. You can tell we’re a new band, and more and more people are hearing about us and coming for that 5:40 slot to see us. It’s really cool. It’s really cool to be a part of this band right now.
What have you been listening to?
We’ve been listening to these classic records at night on the bus. We’ve got a whole list of Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska, and classic Led Zeppelin. Then, you have the argument, “What Zeppelin record do you choose?” My daughter just got me back into Radiohead’s Ok Computer. She turned me on to a new band called Purity Ring from Canada. They’re like electronic-infused Siouxsie and the Banshees. I’m digging Middle Class Rut right now.
What’s next for you?
I take it one day at a time, man! There’s this tour, and then I’m sure another tour. I’m really enjoying what I’m doing with Walking Papers. It’s all about that gig-of-the-day.