My band Loaded just concluded the first part of a month-long odyssey in which we played nine nights in a row in a brutal tour of Britain and Ireland. That's insane.
Duff McKagan is the frontman of Seattle's Loaded, and the founding bassist of Guns 'N Roses. His memoir, It's So Easy (Simon & Schuster) is out now. His column runs every Thursday at seattleweekly.com/reverb.
Not in my boundless-energy punk-rock band days, or in any other band since, have I ever tried doing nine nights back-to-back. AND the only reason a band like ours can even attempt this now is that our buffoonish antics offset the strenuous and often tension-filled profession that is playing in a touring rock band. It is hard fucking work.
Plus, on the tour bus, we have supplanted cocaine, late nights, binge drinking, and shacking up with some strange man . . . er . . . woman, with the more intellectual hobbies of reading books (I've got The Invisible Bridge, and the guys are all reading MY book . . . of course!), crossword puzzles, and watching our lead guitarist, Mike Squires, play Scrabble on Facebook.
Sitting here at London's Heathrow airport, about to fly to South America for another run of shows, has given me time to reflect a bit on the mad dash that has comprised my life since Halloween.
Day 1: Fly from LAX to Heathrow, grab my bag and guitars, and drive four hours to York. Do sound check, drink massive amounts of energy drinks, stroll the "Shambles" (the medieval part of York), and play a rock show. The gig was at a place called Fibbers, one of those low-ceiling clubs you wish every rock venue was like. Loud, sweaty, and ferocious!
Day 2: Wake up in Glasgow and head over to a bookstore to do my first signing in the UK. Thing is, they had only 30 books, and 350 people showed up. I e-mailed the publisher to convey my disappointment. They are embarrassed. Fortunately, the show in Glasgow was especially fierce.
Day 3: Get on a ferry and go straight to a book signing in town, do some interviews, and then play Belfast's Spring and Airbrake. We've been here before, and now we even know a few people in town. We get some sleep on the bus in front of the club, and wake up and do a national Irish radio show, live to the whole isle, before driving to Dublin (about the same distance as from Seattle to Bellingham).
Day 4: Do another radio show, do another book signing, and play a rock show where the whole crowd at The Academy seemed to sing every lyric to every song . . . in unison. Magical. Back to the ferry.
Day 5: Wake up in Wrexham, Wales. Go get stuff from a drug store (like toiletries and such). Bassist Jeff Rouse and I notice that there are an inordinate number of young girls pushing baby carriages. We then find out that Wrexham is the teenage-pregnancy capital of the UK. Ah . . . Later I introduce "Sleaze Factory" (a song about fucking . . . er, sex) as a dedication to Wrexham's youth. Afterward, we hop the bus and I get into a fight with Squires.
Day 6: Wake up in Oxford. Make up with Squires and head off to find a gym. The gym I find is the Oxford University Fitness Club, and I find myself catching Rob Lowe out of the corner of my eye time and time again. When we play Oxford Academy that night, we find out that it is Bonfire Night, but still con ourselves into believing that all the town's fireworks are Oxford's way of welcoming Loaded. Back on the bus.
Day 7: Wake up in Leicester, go to book signing. Work out at Leicester University gym, and rock like crazy. My wife showed up in London, so I take a car to London after the show and proceed to have "fancy time" with the Mrs. McKagan.
Day 8: Drive up to Bristol and play the famous Fleece club. It was absolutely packed—this crowd had seen the YouTube of the Dublin show and wanted to outdo their Irish neighbors. It made for a great show. I drive back to London. More "fancy time."
Day 9: London show. I always get nervous for these big-city shows. My back was hurting, so I got myself a massage. The therapist asks me what I do for a living as she is digging into my muscles. She says that she has never felt a body so badly torn up. Whatever. We play London, and it fuckin' KILLS.
Throughout all of this tour, members from our UK "Seattlehead" fan fellowship show up. Most of these people write into seattleweekly.com . . . and it is always an honor to have some of these people around. They help us get through tours!
Day 10: Go to the Classic Rock Awards and see Jeff Beck and Chrissie Hynde play "I'll Stand by You." Incredible!
Ah, so I hear my flight number being called. Stay tuned for another installment of "Journals of the Jubilant but Often Jet-Lagged Journo."