Duff McKagan on Navigating Fatherhood With Parental Advisory Stickers
Nearly three decades ago, Guns N’ Roses put out Appetite for Destruction, an album that featured a particularly unsavory album cover and a song called “It’s So Easy” with some even more decidedly unsavory lyrics (“Why don’t you just [dramatic pause] fuck off?!”). These days, that song’s cowriter – erstwhile G N’ R, Velvet Revolver and Loaded bassist Duff McKagan – is still rocking, but he’s also living a more responsible life. He got married in 1999 and subsequently went on to become the dad to two daughters. So, in the spirit of Father’s Day, Rolling Stone decided to ask the bassist, just how does a man responsible for multiple Parental Advisory stickers raise kids and keep playing music?
“I swear,” McKagan tells Rolling Stone. “And we’re finally at the crossroads now where the older one started swearing at home and is kind of like, ‘Fuck!’ And we’re like, ‘What’d you say?’ ‘Oh, nothing, dad.’ But it’s a natural. It’s an old word, right? It’s from the 1500s or 1600s. But once she got away with it once she started saying it with everything. She has a band [the Pink Slips], and she was using it in, like, every song so I was like, ‘Hey Grace, maybe don’t overdo it with the F-bomb.’ But kids will do that. I did it, I’m sure. . .I try not to swear too much in life. I think it’s, especially since I started writing [books], it’s like, ‘There’s better words that can fill that little void than “fuck,” “shit,” “cock,” “balls.”‘”
He also says he has learned a lot about fatherhood just by raising daughters. “One thing I’ve discovered is that they are observing everything I do,” McKagan says. “They don’t care what I do outside of the house. They could give a rat’s ass, really ’cause I’m their nerdy dad. But they still they watch everything. You can’t come home and strip down to your underwear and start swearing. You have to keep your shit together at home because they’re watching you, and they will, I think, act like you and judge other dudes in their life off of your actions. I felt the weight of that a few years ago when the girls were just approaching teenagerdom.”
But he’s nevertheless changed his musical lifestyle to become a better dad, implementing what he calls a “12 Day Rule,” where if he’s on the road he either flies home or the kids come to him so he is a part of their lives. It turns out, it’s a good experience for all parties involved. “I think Velvet Revolver started when Grace, my oldest, was about seven, so they got to come out on the road and go through Europe and that is the best experience to have your kids: You’ve got your rock band, you’ve got your family that you love, and you’re all together,” he says.
McKagan wrote extensively and often humorously about fatherhood and family life – and how it relates to being in a band – in his latest book, How to Be a Man (And Other Illusions), which came out in May. Less a how-to guidebook than a lighthearted memoir, the tome traces a recent period in the bassist’s life that stretched between playing covers in a supergroup with some of his former G N’ R bandmates to reuniting with Axl Rose onstage for a brief tour. To go along with the book, he also put out a new EP of music that features his old Appetite for Destruction bandmate Izzy Stradlin, as well as Alice In Chains singer-guitarist Jerry Cantrell and Stone Sour drummer Roy Mayorga. The title track is streaming here.