|Former Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan is awaiting word on the fate of his second solo album, Beautiful Disease, in light of the recent Universal/ PolyGram merger, which will effectively shut down his record company at the end of this month.
Originally slated for a Jan. 26 release on Geffen, the disc was quietly pushed back to a March 9 release date; however, that can change. "My first instinct was, Oh shit! I've done all this hard work and now what?" McKagan recalls. "You're not going to work here? This is not going to be a company? This building is not going to be here?"
Beautiful Disease is an important album for McKagan, following the critical and commercial failure of his first solo outing in 1993, and his less- than- exemplary work on albums by the Neurotic Outsiders and 10 Minute Warning (not to mention his brief acting debut as a "punk-rock vampire" on the sci-fi television series Sliders).
"I put all my eggs into this basket," McKagan says. "I finished my last semester of school last spring and I told them I'm not going to be back for a few years because I'm going to go work this record. It was hard work. I recorded at home, mostly by myself. I spent 10-12 hours a day on it, every day for a year."
McKagan gave up alcohol and drugs four years ago, following a near-death experience where his pancreas ruptured. In that time he enrolled in school and took up kick-boxing. In light of this, Beautiful Disease is an unusually dark piece of work, focusing on the seedy underbelly of life in Los Angeles much in the same vein as Hole's Celebrity Skin and Marilyn Manson's Mechanical Animals.
"This album is kind of like my diary, and I guess that's where you vent," McKagan says. "When I sing the songs live, I feel really good afterwards. It must be like hitting the heavy bag or something. It's just a an objective view of stuff I went through over the last 10 years."
One song, "Who's to Blame," deals directly with the dissolution of Guns N' Roses. "About a year ago, Axl and I met and made tapes and met with Slash, but he's hired all new guys now," McKagan says. "I'm probably just as confused about the situation as anyone. It all stems from big business stuff. I chose not to go that route. I'm not in it for the money. I backed way away from it because it's the real ugly side of music."
Meanwhile, McKagan has taken time out to write some songs with Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan, for an undisclosed future project. He will also make an appearance on Izzy Stradlin's next solo disc.
"I'm just going to keep moving forward and pretend nothing is going to happen," McKagan says. "Until I'm told differently, [Beautiful Disease] is coming out in March. I've got people reassuring me that it's going to be fine and that Interscope [the label that will now decide the fate of his Geffen album] wants to put it out.
"Then again, I know the record industry. I might get a call tomorrow saying they're passing on it. There's nothing I can do about it. I worked too hard to let a corporate merger get in my way. I've got a band together and I'm ready to go.