Stop kidding yourself.
You’re not interested in Duff McKagen’s autobiography because you think that his current project, Loaded, is a tour-de-force punk rock machine that highlights the multi-instrumentalist’s skills. You’re not interested in it because you thought that Velvet Revolver is/was an underrated supergroup that never quite received its due. And you’re not reading it because you thought his columns in The Seattle Weekly and Playboy were enlightening and informative.
You’re considering reading it because you want to revel in some insider dirt on Guns n’ Roses.
Maybe you’re looking for insights into Axl’s twisted mind, maybe you’re hoping to hear bloody recounts of intra-band squabbles and fistfights, maybe you just want your next fix of salacious details on rampant sex and drug use.
What you’ll get if you read the 366-page autobiography (written along with collaborator Tim Mohr) is not just an insider’s look at the Guns’ precipitous rise to fame and subsequent disintegration (at least from its original form) or your basic substance abuse-rehab-recovery story. Duff, it turns out, has actually led an interesting, though not always pleasant, life.
Though typically thought of as a metal band or even a hair-metal band, McKagen and others in the band brought a hearty punk rock pedigree to Guns n’ Roses. McKagen grew up in the Seattle punk scene playing a variety of instruments from an early age. You may expect It’s so Easy to be filled with cameo appearances of hard rock and heavy metal icons (and there are a few), McKagen’s connections to the Seattle scene mean that there are more glimpses of musicians and bands from that geographic area than elsewhere (e.g., run-ins with an early version of Soundgarden and Andy Wood from Mother Love Bone, whose former members went on to form Pearl Jam).
And while the recounts of the bizarre (almost inhuman) excesses of drug and alcohol intake Mckagen engaged in are definitely a source of interest, the activities he engaged in as part of his recovery are perhaps more interesting. He trained for years with a world-renowned martial artist. He entered college and obtained a bachelor’s degree in finance despite having dropped out of school initially at the age of 14. And despite all of the havoc involved in Guns, the chaos of the music industry in general, and having two divorces on his record, he is now an apparently-happily married and responsible father of two and a part owner in a financial investment firm.
Along the way there are plenty of interesting tidbits of trivia. Did you know that Duff beer from The Simpsons is named after McKagen, who was known for his copious alcohol intake? It’s an entertaining and often gut-wrenching read, and McKagen comes across as being a tad more thoughtful and measured than your typical rocker. That tendency has frustrated some who expected Easy to contain more mudslinging at Axl Rose, but he definitely does not make Rose out to be a saint and besides, the two have apparently reunited as friends.
At any rate, It’s So Easy is worth a read for Guns fans, even if only for the insights into the dynamics that made that band so good and so self-destructive.