Duff McKagan, best known as the bassist for Guns N’ Roses, shares his passion for reading with freelancer Gillian G. Gaar.
There are a number of topics you might expect to come up during an interview with Duff McKagan.
One would be his years as bassist for Guns N’ Roses, the multiplatinum-selling, Los Angeles-based hard-rock band he helped co-found. Another might be his harrowing descent into — and eventual recovery from — the substance abuse that almost killed him. Or his return to the forefront as a member of the Grammy-winning hard-rock outfit Velvet Revolver.
But instead, McKagan — who chats about his new book, “How To Be A Man (and Other Illusions)” (Da Capo, $25.99) with Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic at the Neptune Theatre on Sunday — wanted to talk about a passion shared by many other Seattleites — reading books.
Duff McKagan: How To Be A Man — In conversation with Krist Novoselic
7 p.m. Sunday, May 17, at the Neptune Theatre, 1303 N.E. 45th St., Seattle; $10 (877-784-4849 or stgpresents.org).
“I’m such a book nerd and always have been,” he said enthusiastically in a phone interview, noting that he’s currently making his way through Erik Larson’s “Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania.”
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He readily admits to becoming tongue tied when he recently encountered Jared Diamond, the scientist author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” in an airport lounge.
“He’s one of my favorite authors,” McKagan said. “He is Indiana Jones personified! He invited me to his house for dinner, and I got to see his library and where he writes. I saw a chapter of the latest book he’s writing, written by hand, in mechanical pencil, and a stack of the books he referenced for that chapter. The research that he does — incredible. [Diamond and Larson] do take more time than somebody like me writing a book — they take like six years!”
McKagan was born in Seattle and returned to his hometown from L.A. in 1999. His first book, the 2011 New York Times best-seller “It’s So Easy (and Other Lies),” was a memoir about his years in the rock ’n’ roll fast lane (a documentary based on that book plays at this year’s Seattle International Film Festival).
“How To Be a Man” is more lighthearted.
“I think the title is the most serious thing about the book,” said McKagan.
It comes from one of the columns McKagan wrote for the Seattle Weekly, and is similarly themed: “Just some funny observations,” he said, along with helpful advice on dealing with the work/family balancing act, financial planning and, yes, book suggestions. (There is a chapter called “Skip the Strip Club, Hit the Bookstore.”)
McKagan riffs on why he loves his BlackBerry in the face of “iPhone snobbery” and turns it into a statement on the importance of loyalty. He casts an old-school eye on dating, advising that “phone calls and sweet notes” make a better impression than rampant texting.
If it’s odd hearing the line “doing laundry is man’s work, too” from a tattooed rocker once proud of Guns N’ Roses’ reputation as “The World’s Most Dangerous Band,” there’s no doubt his newfound serenity is hard won. One chapter is titled “Don’t Die Young, You’ll Miss Out On Being Fifty.”
McKagan just released an EP, also titled “How To Be A Man,” featuring a guest appearance from Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell.
As a writer, however, McKagan is now confronting a problem familiar to many an author: What should he write about next? “I don’t feel I’ve really achieved much in writing yet,” he said. “Writing’s another expression of art, really, that I’m just kind of discovering as I go.”
Note: This article was corrected on May 13, 2015. In an earlier version, author Erik Larson’s name was misspelled.