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Rock bios have been increasing in number lately, but few are as enjoyable as founding Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan's memoir, It's So Easy . . . and Other Lies. While Duff is candid about his addictions and the collapse of the classic Guns N' Roses lineup, he eschews the easy tabloid approach and aims instead for the big picture, giving as much attention to his early life in Seattle and more recent events such as his 1999 marriage, his enrollment at the University of Seattle's business school and his training in martial arts. The details of Duff's eventual physical and spiritual rebound make for an intense and satisfying read. As in his book, McKagan is a grateful, personable guy whom you've seemingly known your entire life.
OC Weekly: A lot of your early drug and alcohol use was to manage panic attacks. Do you want the book to reach out to people going through the same thing?
Duff McKagan: After I had my relapse with Xanax and began writing for [OC Weekly's sister paper] Seattle Weekly, I found that I could get across my intentions or thoughts better in writing. I was writing these side pieces that were private, and I wasn't sure what they were going to be for. I realized that if a guy like me, a normal guy, can get through extraordinary circumstances, fuck it, anyone can. So if one person finds something that turns around their life [in my book], that would be awesome.
What was it like to go from being in Guns N' Roses for more than a decade to then finding yourself a freshman in college, learning how to use Microsoft Excel?
[Laughs] I didn't really have that sense of entitlement. I think college will do that for you, and martial arts will [also] bring you back into the real world. I had a GED, so I didn't have full high-school transcripts. I just thought I could go to Seattle U and enter, write them a check. It was from that dumb-assed move that I started getting chopped down. They said, "Mr. McKagan, where are your transcripts?" I don't know, somewhere. "Well, you've got to find those and write us an entrance essay." I did all that. "Well, that's a good story, but your grades can't get you into Seattle U. What you can do is go to community college, take a full load of courses, get A's and come back." That chops you right down from any high station you might think you're at. So finally ending up at Seattle U with those really smart kids, it was just too much work for me to even think like that. I just really wanted to go to college. It was as fun for me go to college as it was playing some of the best gigs we ever played. Some people might read this and say, "What the fuck is he talking about?" But for me, it was brand-new. I was thirsty for knowledge, and I was in the best place I knew of to get that knowledge. From an Oct. 5 Heard Mentality blog post.
This column appeared in print as "Duff McKagan Wrote a Great Book."