Tag Archives: Velvet Revolver

Committing Idolatry: Duff McKagan’s “It’s So Easy (and Other Lies)”

12 Jun

Wow. Talk about idolatry. Here are just a few adjectives to convey how I feel about Duff McKagan’s It’s So Easy (and Other Lies):

Touching

Inspiring

Honest

Present

Human

But don’t put rock star up in there. McKagan makes clear that he doesn’t love the term and does well to paint the perfect clichéd image of two words he despises but knows describe him to a T and shatters that clichéd image into a million pieces.

Writer. There’s another adjective to describe him, and McKagan crafts a killer story.

Cautionary tale? Absolutely.

All the sex, drugs and debauch you’d expect in a biography about a famous rocker from the 80s? Yup.

The story of a man who falls from grace, and rises from the brink of death to overcome trial after tribulation after trial only to come out the other side smarter and wiser for it? Paging Joseph Campbell…

To borrow a phrase from another Seattle-ite (Cameron Crowe) taken from a movie set in Seattle (Singles) steeped in the Seattle-based sound (grunge), Duff McKagan, you are Mr. Sensitive Ponytail Man. And that would be scratching the absolute surface. McKagan’s also a finance guy, passionate academic, mountain biker, mountain climber, marathon runner, sports columnist, self-proclaimed dorky father of two, and oh, yea, he plays music from time to time, too.

My inability to get my nose out of a biography such as this usually hinders on the ordinary element extracted from these extra-ordinary lives. I know that may not make much sense, but the whole sex, drugs and rock & roll motif has always been very intriguing, and with pop culture serving as a totem I’ve always been drawn to, the human, average-Joe element is how it becomes relateable. McKagan does that with a such a present, self-awareness, I was a bit awe-struck.

McKagan used drugs and (mostly) alcohol to quell his panic disorder and tamper his insecurities while also serving to perpetuate an image he felt he needed to feed and uphold. In a heavily diluted way, that resonated with me. I could definitely connect the dots to my own journey as I wade through my own issues and insecurities and trying to get away from an image that no longer fits. McKagan overcame his issues, in part, through martial arts and meditation, and I’m now doing so through yoga and meditation. It’s a never-ending process, and it is fucking work, something else McKagan seems to understand and explain in unabashed detail.

I think it’s important and almost a responsibility for celebrities to tell their stories with the most bare bones truth and great detail, especially when they’re suffering from something like bipolar or panic disorder or addiction. That is why I loved It’s So Easy, and why I loved Fall to Pieces by Mary Forsberg Weiland. It’s also why Not Dead and Not For Sale by Scott Weiland fell flat.

Speaking of and to put this into a slightly less-biased context, I was never a huge Guns N’ Roses fan. Of course, how could one avoid the band’s grandiose “Don’t Cry” and “November Rain” videos, especially when my career goals at the time were to direct music videos. How could one avoid their grandiosity, period.

Axl Rose’s antics tended to wear thin with me, which is funny because it recently dawned on me that Jim Morrison pulled some of the same shit, and I tend to hold him in a very different light. While Rose and his ego annoyed me, I always liked McKagan, Slash and later, Matt Sorum and Gilby Clark. Naturally, and given my love of Scott Weiland and STP, I latched onto Velvet Revolver. And then I grew increasingly intrigued by McKagan’s journey after surviving a near-death experience when his pancreas exploded, hearing murmurings that he’d gone back to college in pursuit of a finance degree. Wha-? That sounded more like the trajectory for someone who’d been in a band that only achieved mid-level success before fading into the ether. Not a guy who played bass in not one, but two of the biggest rock acts the world had ever known.

If you’re into rock bios, It’s So Easy (and Other Lies) is a must read. I laughed, I cried, I loved this book. Read it: ASAP.

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Scott Weiland Scratches the Surface with Memoir

18 May

When I read Fall to Pieces by Mary Forsberg Weiland, Scott Weiland’s now ex-wife, I devoured it. It was such an insightful and awesome biography – I loved, loved, loved it. I think it goes without saying, therefore, that I was highly anticipating Scott Weiland’s memoir, Not Dead & Not for Sale, with sky high hopes.

Those high hopes were quickly dashed.

Dancing Around Insight

Not Dead and Not for Sale tiptoes around stories already easily found in the press about Weiland, his troubled relationship with his ex-wife, his troubled relationship with Stone Temple Pilots, his troubled relationship with Velvet Revolver…that list could go on and on. The book reads like a rapid fire rebuttal to all the headlines, mishaps and intimacies provided  by Forsberg Weiland in her book. Where are the gory details? The nitty gritty, down and dirty about all the band in-fighting, the make-ups and break-ups, the sex, drugs and rock & roll I’ve come to expect from a musician’s memoir? (It’s shocking I would expect that, I know) All still locked in the vault of the mind, apparently. The entire book reads like an overview. A very, very brief overview.

Weiland starts to go there but can’t quite commit, circling back to his love of drugs, drink and, of course, Mary. He provides about four “in-depth” anecdotes in a 288 page span, and they wade in quite a shallow pool. They don’t seem to contribute to the larger arc of what the public already knows to be the Scott Weiland story of love, drugs and second, third and fouth chances, either.

Perhaps the book should’ve been called Between the Lines, the first single off their latest album. Weiland vollies between adoration for his ex-wife and getting his digs in in the very next sentence. A product of a wound that is still fresh? One would almost hope. The hurt is there, the love is there, the struggle to call a truce between the two is there, but Not Dead leaves the reader wanting. It’s understandable desiring to keep some things sacred and private. Don’t write a memoir.

To boot, the book is loaded with fillers – two inch margins at the top of every page, pictures throughout instead of featured in the usual mid-section, and text in a 64 pt font appear on every other page. Song lyrics are peppered throughout, as well, but, again, every STP/Velvet Revovler fan knows the songs and, again, Weiland isn’t telling his readers anything we don’t already know.

“What’s real, and what’s for sale?”

Like the lyrics in the STP song, “Vasoline,” it’s hard to dissect the truth, especially if you’ve read both Fall to Pieces and Weiland’s memoir.

A big beat in the Mary-Scott decades long plotline is the day Forsberg Weiland torched $80,000 worth of Weiland’s wardrobe on their front lawn in Toluca Lake, California. Forsberg Weiland starts the story off by saying the family was moving from one home to the next, and she needed Weiland to take their two children to a hotel so she could concentrate and pack. She didn’t realize it at the time, but she was having a major psychotic break with her bipolar disorder.

Weiland has a wildly different take on how that story began. He writes that he was already moved out, the couple had already broken up and Forsberg Weiland wanted him back after hearing he was dating someone new. She kicked him in the face and later strangled his mother – some heady accusations and not hard to imagine why she would leave those out. So which is the truth? Fall to Pieces came first and was a better read. First impressions count the most. By the time you reach this point in Not Dead & Not for Sale it’s the final nail in the coffin.

Weiland’s memoir is an entertaining read for any Scott Weiland/STP fan, but if you’re looking to get behind the curtain and see the magical, all-powerful Oz, look elsewhere. I so wanted to love this book, but sadly, Not Dead & Not for Sale left this fan wanting more.

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