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All in One Piece
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Clean. Sober. Dangerous. That's how Michael "Duff" McKagan would like us to think of himself and his legendary pals Scott Weiland, Slash, Matt Sorum and Dave Kushner.

And how the Velvet Revolver bassist views few of the so-called bad-ass rockers of today.

Just ask Marguerite, the Guatemalan native McKagan and his wife Susan hired as nanny to their two girls.

"Her two favourite bands were Nickelback and Creed," McKagan deadpans. "Not my two favourite bands, but she's young. So I took her down to a Creed show and I found there was no danger anywhere -- in the whole place!

'I CAN'T TAKE ANY MORE'

"This band just clocked in and you could tell the guys had said the same thing through every song the night before and the night before that.

"I finally had to give her cab fare. I said, 'I've gotta go. I can't take any more of this.' "

He probably wasn't the first to say it. But few were more ideally situated to do something about it. So McKagan and fellow Guns n' Roses in exile Slash (guitar) and Matt Sorum (drums) joined forces, putting an end to years of speculation regarding just such a project.

The power trio further hedged its bets by recruiting former Wasted Youth guitarist Dave Kushner and vocalist Scott Weiland, he of Stone Temple Pilots fame.

The results can be found on the Velvet Revolver CD Contraband. And from the GNR-worthy rocker Do it for the Kids through superior power-ballads like Fall to Pieces, the evidence suggests the band's resident rock legends have not missed a beat.

Just don't call them a "supergroup."

"We are who we are," McKagan suggests. "We did this for ourselves. We weren't trying to be a modern rock band; we weren't trying to keep up with the times. The mixture of these five guys was something fate put into our laps."

Perhaps it is McKagan's fate to forever stand next to Saul "Slash" Hudson. It's an image that remains firmly planted in the minds of millions well over a decade since the pair (with drummer Matt Sorum) last played onstage together as members of GNR.

That supposedly still-active band ("I have neither the time nor the interest to keep up with that," McKagan says with a sigh) defined rock 'n' roll through the late-'80s and early '90s.

And while it all ended in tears, the bassist carries fond memories of the band's early days.

McKagan had already tasted notoriety as the drummer for hardcore band The Fartz in his native Seattle. But as heroin became his bandmates' drug of choice, the teenager fled to the calm and clean living of Los Angeles.

"I just wanted to go in a different direction," he recalls.

"I was looking for a higher plane. I didn't know what it was, but I found Slash right away through an ad in a newspaper and then Izzy (Stradlin) moved across the street from me."

The former had seen punk bands like The Germs, he says; the latter was into The Ramones. Add to that mix a metalhead drummer (Steven Adler) and a vocalist into Nazareth and you have what McKagan calls, "A really eclectic mixture of guys that somehow the electricity hit."

Call it fate.

'WE WERE FOR REAL'

"We were for real," McKagan says of GNR.

"We weren't putting on a show; we were just being us.

"We didn't have choreographed shows like Poison or something. We played more gigs with bands like Fear and Social Distortion than we did with the other side of the fence. We just did what we did and kept doing it."

For a while. But McKagan soon found that substance abuse is not just a Seattle thing: It's a rock 'n' roll thing. Or at least, it was.

"My pancreas exploded in 1994 as a result of all the extracurricular sh*t," McKagan reveals.

"Since then, I've had my shi*t together. I go out on tour now and remember gigs. I can tell you where we were at any given month last year. Plus, we're a much more ferocious band than we would be if we were all stoned."

We can see for ourselves at Wednesday's Corel Centre show. It'll be fun, McKagan promises. Fun, dangerous and a little nostalgic --given the inclusion of vintage GNR and STP songs.

"It's really fun to play those songs," McKagan enthuses.

"And they're our songs, so it's just a little icing on the cake. But it's mostly younger fans at the show, so for them it's like, 'Wow, these are the guys that wrote those songs!'"

'MORE DANGEROUS'

Or, to put it another way, 'Wow, these guys are way more dangerous than Creed!'

"A lot of people say, 'You guys are bringing rock 'n' roll back,' " McKagan concludes, "but it's not us, man. It's the kids. We're just doing what we do.

"That wasn't our mission statement: Let's bring rock 'n' roll back. It's these kids who are coming. And that's the way it used to be."
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