Under the Influence: Duff McKagan

Raised in Seattle, founding Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan shares his favourite punk albums from childhood and beyond

Feature by Duff McKagan | 05 Oct 2012

1. The Germs – (GI) (1979) 
Now this is an important record. It’s the first American hardcore punk record with some production. It was mind-blowing at the time, like, wow – there’s fuckin’ real guitar blaring out of the right side and you could hear everything, especially Don Bolles on drums. Darby Crash’s lyrics were this different thing where you couldn’t hear one word he said but he made you read the lyrics. It was like really dark poetry that you couldn’t figure out – we were too young too figure all that shit out. As a record, when you first hear it, you can’t understand it at all. Then on the fourth listen it becomes one of the best you’ve ever heard.

2. Iggy and the Stooges – Raw Power (1973) 
This is a record that has really been a soundtrack for life. One of my older brothers had this so I got to hear it really early on when I was about 9. It melded in with the other records I started to hear later on around 79 when I was 15. I had a basis for punk rock, and this was it – Raw Power.

3. The Damned – Damned, Damned, Damned (1977) 
We had a punk rock guitar hero in Brian James and they just had great songs. They wrote these concise little 2 and a half minute songs. They were like The Who to us – Rat Scabies, Captain Sensible, Dave Vanian. That was a real band. It was heartbreaking when that first incarnation stopped. But they made a couple of great records, that’s for sure.

4. Killing Joke – Killing Joke (1980) 
Holy fuck, Killing Joke still gives me chills. It can get dicey when you’re using synthesized sounds in music, they might not hold up through time, but this record is still so brutal and beautiful. If there’s too many light spaces in your life, the first Killing Joke record will fill ‘em up. I saw them last year and they were so good. Everyone sings every song at their gigs. Everyone you see there – even though you don’t know them – is suddenly your mate. They still have that power.   

5. Refused – The Shape of Punk to Come (1998) 
This isn’t an early record, but it’s one that colours in the spaces just like Killing Joke. I got to see Refused recently – they’re a band I never thought I’d see live. That’s the kind of gig you go to by yourself. In the late 90s, my wife was having our kids while I was going to college at Seattle University. If you remember, those days were not great for rock music, maybe besides bands like The Hellacopters, Zeke, and Queens of the Stone Age – who were making a record at the time. I was thinking ‘well, maybe fuckin’ rock is done!’ Then, in ’99, [Refused frontman Dennis Lyxzén’s other band] The International Noise Conspiracy were coming through town. I said ‘who’s that?’, then a friend pointed me at Refused and said ‘listen to this.’ If you listen to the first Velvet Revolver record, all we were listening to was The Shape of Punk to Come. We have this song called Illegal Eye and that riff at the beginning came about after cranking Refused in rehearsal.

Duff McKagan's Loaded play Alice Cooper's Halloween Night of Fear III at The Usher Hall, Edinburgh on 31 Oct. http://www.duff-loaded.com