Reformed Gn’R Bass Player Duff ‘Rose’ Mckagan Narrates His Recent Bio It’s So Easy And Other Lies From The Concert Stage At The Moore Theatre, Seattle.
Slash, Nikki Sixx, Dave Kushner, Matt Sorum, Mike Mccready. Unseen Footage & photography courtesy of Marc Canter.
Appearing on stage, sharply dressed and a little older than his years, Duff ‘Rose’ McKagan is one way to describe the epitome of a changed man. This may be largely due to the fact that his pancreas exploded & the hardcore drinker’s abdomen suffered 3rd-degree burns. Now, tracing back his former self, a drug-addled vodka binger on a gargantuan scale, tells how he journeyed to find resolve with a life changing second chance.
It’s So Easy And Other Lies, in essence, is a biographical documentary as told through a book reading concert performed by his side band Loaded. This concert biopic, as told from the stage complete with backing band & amps turned low, steel pedal included, gives Duff the opportunity to be painfully honest, & at times bleak with a few light touches thrown in. It’s a cosy affair on the candlelit stage beneath the Moore Theatre’s crystal chandeliers.
Here the tale begins, in the form of narrative story telling, musical performance, interviews and animated sequences with Duff reflecting on his early career in many punk bands who’d gigged on the Seattle music scene. One he was involved in, namely, The Vains amongst many, in the summer of 79 as a 15-year-old & his first concert.
Together with the punk scene that was in Seattle back then, there was only one place that would book bands and this was the Gorilla room. Otherwise, you had to tap into the punk ethos of doing it yourself, hence stealing grocery crates and nailing ply board down. Now they had a stage, he jubilantly recollects. As the story unfolds, there’s more juvenile crimes afoot, hot wiring cars with a childhood buddy to get home. ala’ (Screwdriver in the ignition barrel of old VW Beetles), to using uppers and downers and developing a serious drinking habit as a school kid. Meanwhile, the film serves up a few snippets of nostalgia as Duff shows his sketchy hand drawn flyers and old lyric sheet scribblings.
With the urge to get out of Seattle, and head off to L.A which seemed a better option than the heroin-infested northwest, where, says Duff, ‘everybody was trying it’. The wiry four stringer talks of an epidemic of heroin washing through the Seattle streets, motivating him to head for pastures new. Answering an ad in Recycler Magazine from L.A native Slash, Duff tells how he met up with the British-born guitar hotshot in Canters Deli.
Both parties recollect the meet with equal vividness. Slash remembers him walking in with blue hair and a pimp coat, and Duff in turn, remembers approaching the booth and seeing ‘All this fucking hair’ which Duff says of Slash ‘hid a shy introvert’.
That meeting followed up with eating barley soup and vodka, courtesy of slash’s hidden bottle stashed under the table. Not even 21, this was as close as they could get to being in a bar. After that, they headed up to his place where for the first time Duff met the top-hatters pet snake and witnessed his proficient guitar playing.
Slash defines the early rehearsal sessions as when ‘they became a very tight band’, & Drummer Steven Adler so succinctly put it, they set out to ‘make music to get your feet stompin’ and the hands clappin’. Duff recalls after hearing Axl scream, the bad ass ‘Keith Richards’ of Izzy Stradlin, a former cross-dresser in the punk band Naughty Women, that “The chemistry was immediate”.
This was just one facet of the story that would lead guns n roses to become the biggest L.A sensation and earn them the moniker ‘ The most Dangerous band in the world. In a cut scene, Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx talks of GN’R joining them aboard their tour. He compares it to the L.A hell raisers getting a break like they did from the affable ant snorting Ozzy.
Shift a little forward into the story we have the onset of acute indulgence, owing much to the fact of his marital breakdown. Not much is covered here in the film but this is where the drugs & alcohol really scale up to breaking point.
Things start to implode for GN’R as the arena tours got massive. There’s focus on that show where Axl leapt from the stage in an attempt to seize a camera brought into the venue at the Riverport Amphitheatre, Maryland Heights, Missouri, 1991. Back on stage, Axl, cast his microphone down thanking the ‘lame ass security’, announcing “I’m going home”. A riot ensued & the venue was totally sacked. Amazingly, grainy footage shows two guys attempting to haul the grand piano off stage. Chairs were up rooted and torn away from fixings & flung into disorder. Outside the city became a war zone as the adrenaline-charged teenagers rioted with the police. The band, fleeing the decimated venue were whisked to safety after nearly being exposed on the account of Slash’s hat prominently poking up in the van windows.
The pivotal moment in this film comes when Duff lay wasted, stricken with a swollen & burst internal organ. It was all the rehab he needed. This wake-up call was further bolstered by his wheelchair-bound mother, a sufferer of Parkinson’s disease, forced him to see what a disappointment he’d become. ” At the lowest point in his life, when she visited her youngest son in hospital, he reflects how bad he’d been hurting his mother. “She shouldn’t see me like this” “I should be me taking care of her’. It was clearly time for the organ abuser to figure out what he’s going to do with a second chance.
And he did.
Into the picture comes Kick Boxer Legend Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez. The full contact Martial Artist known as the trouble shooter became his mentor. Pursuing Martial arts, & pushing himself into a regime of mental and physical workouts, Duff focused on transforming his life around. He fell in love with Susan ‘The Body’ Holmes and realised he was ready to become a father, securing his first born daughter grace then second girl May. Notching up the achievements Duff attended Seattle University aged at the never too late prime age of 32 & graduated.
But turning the page on It’s so easy and other lies, the film does take a downslide just a tad. Juggling being a good husband and father, and now committed to new band Velvet Revolver, which included Slash and GN’R Drummer Matt Sorum. He found Juggling sobriety and being with former heavy booze and drug consumers tempting…
Matt was drinking, in fact being first one to come off the wagon, & as Slash recounts, there was a bottle of Jack up on the studio shelf which sealed the deal for further temptation. Matt complains then backstage everyone was reading books. ‘What fuck happened to rock n roll?’. Duff, thinking taking pills would be a better option relapsed to taking Xanax pills & upped the dose to 22mg a day.
After breaking his resolve, he realised it was time back to the dojo and find solace in the mixture of martial arts and spiritual healing. Things are looking good as the film draws the viewer closer to its conclusion. Finishing up, Duff reveals a picture of an idealistic life like that of a Norman Rockwell painting, & the film wraps things up with a performance of the Johhny Thunders ‘ You Cant Put Your Arms Around A Memory’. It’s sing-a-long time as GN’R trashed punk gets the audience involved when the track segues into the acoustic classic ‘Patience’. Here he hands the final moments over to the audience to sing in chorus before closing time.
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