Duff McKagan Reveals His List Of Favorite Bassists Of All Time
via Fender / Youtube
Duff McKagan is widely known as the bassist for Guns N’ Roses, but his musical journey encompasses much more. Before his time in Los Angeles, he played the drums and guitar in various bands. However, it was several bassists who truly ignited his passion for the instrument.
As he gears up for the release of his upcoming solo album, Lighthouse, on October 20, McKagan sat down for an interview with Guitar World. In this conversation, he opened up about the influences that have shaped the album’s unique sound and gave a nod to the seven bassists who left a profound impact on him. McKagan explained:
“I will always write punk-rock songs because that’s where I came from. And my lyrics are always me telling the truth and are often based on my own experiences.
“But I think the more mellow side came in when I met and played with [Screaming Trees’] Mark Lanegan after I got sober in the ’90s. We started hanging out a bunch, playing acoustic guitars, and that stuff really hit me. I was like, ‘Fuck, I hope to one day be able to do what he’s doing.'”
“I have songs that maybe you’ll hear one day where you’ll say, ‘Oh, hey, there’s he is doing his Killing Joke thing.
“I can get my post-punk on as much as possible, punk and hard rock. And there’s stuff like ‘Shakedown,’ which is like a pure Vibrators track. The music I’m making now really combines my journey, which includes learning how to play acoustic guitar and telling stories based on what I’ve experienced and been influenced by in life.”
McKagan’s lyrics show his musical development, from his early punk days to his study of mellower acoustic tones, all of which were influenced by the different performers that have affected his career.
Discover the bassists that McKagan holds in high regard and hear his thoughts on each of them in the following list:
McKagan was initially not a bass player, but when he decided to become one, he drew inspiration from Prince’s distinctive studio bass playing. Prince’s high-end sound influenced McKagan’s bass style in Guns N’ Roses, evident as early as Appetite for Destruction. He incorporated a round, pronounced bottom end into his playing, thanks to Prince’s influence.
2. Lemmy Kilmister
Lemmy Kilmister taught McKagan that you can still be punk and aggressive on the bass while hitting the right notes. Lemmy’s precise playing with a pick and aggressive approach left a lasting impression on McKagan. He emphasized the importance of hitting the notes and praised Lemmy’s massive, well-controlled sound.
3. Paul Simonon
McKagan was greatly influenced by Paul Simonon from The Clash when he began taking bass guitar seriously in 1984. He admired Simonon’s stellar basslines and his ability to craft a unique style that stood out in a sea of great bass players.
4. Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn
Duck Dunn had a unique bass style that McKagan admired. Although he didn’t take lessons from Dunn, he did have the opportunity to gain valuable insights and wisdom about the bass. This happened during a period when McKagan was learning from various bass players across different genres.
5. Randy Rampage
Randy Rampage from D.O.A. had a significant impact on McKagan’s style. His influence was evident in McKagan’s early photos. Rampage’s skills and his punk rock attitude, much like Lemmy’s, left a lasting impression. The rhythm section he formed with Chuck Biscuits was exceptional, especially in the punk rock scene.
6. Steve Jones
Steve Jones’s bass playing on Never Mind the Bollocks was highly influential for McKagan. He highlighted the importance of bass placement within grooves, especially in collaboration with Paul Cook’s drumming. Jones’s ability to find the right spot within the beat influenced how McKagan approached bass grooves throughout his career.
7. John Paul Jones
Listening to Led Zeppelin made McKagan realize the exceptional talent of John Paul Jones. Jones’s ability to effortlessly incorporate minor notes into a major blues scale was a source of inspiration for McKagan. He gained a deep appreciation for Jones’s fluid, effortless, and beautiful bass playing during a tribute to Jimmy Page in Seattle. Jones’s talent was, in McKagan’s words, “unattainable” and remarkable.