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Duff McKagan Offers Advice for Band Survival on the Road

Duff McKagan
Kevin Winter, Getty Images
It’s great to jam out with your buddies, but you really find out a lot about a person when you spend every waking hour with them on the road and even the best of friends can start irritating each other. Luckily, Duff McKagan, who knows a thing or two about performing with some rather unique personalities, has offered a few tips for survival on the road in his latest Seattle Weekly column.

McKagan, who has been part of combustible acts like Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver, says in introducing his 10-point list, “There is definitely an art to the dance that is being in a band. All kinds of crap can happen if band members let some of the following things go unattended. As an aside, it is healthy for a band’s creative juices to have a bit of a rub within the band. The release of tension onstage can be magical.”

With that said, McKagan’s guide to surviving in a touring band is as follows:

1. Don’t be a dick. Yes. That simple.

2. Get used to having little to no personal space for weeks at a time. A tour bus or a van, and traveling through airports together, can be small enough, but add small backstage dressing rooms, rehearsal rooms, and studio control and you have the condition for someone in your band to blow their top.

3. Personal hygiene. (see #2)

4. Respect off-limits places. For example, when you draw the curtains to your bunk on the bus, no one should be allowed to f— with you. No punching in the dick, even. Each others’ girlfriends/wives/husbands/boyfriends are also off-limits.

5. Share everything. Clothes, chocolate, drugs, whatever. If it’s expendable, it is a “band” item.

6. Hug it out. Being in a band is the best place I can think of to be as up-front as possible. If you let something stew, it’ll grow into a mountain of nonsensical black mud in no time.

7. Read books and keep informed. The conversation can get old if you don’t have some good new topics to bring to the table. Gossip and c–k-talk only go so far.

8. Keep in touch with Mama Kin. Yes, definitely phone home and text as much as possible. It keeps one a bit sane, and leaves one with at least a modicum of a cornerstone.

9. Write a riff. Keep bringing fresh ideas to your band.

10. Don’t poo in the same room that someone else is eating in. Unless of course said eater gives the “poo OK.” If a “poo OK” is granted, you have a band that will NEVER break up!

These days, McKagan has more control over how things play out as a touring member and leader of Duff McKagan’s Loaded. The bassist has also become a well-respected columnist, and an archive of his Seattle Weekly pieces can be viewed here.

Next: Duff McKagan's Loaded Unveil 'The Taking' Film in Vignettes

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