By Johnny Papan
On the road with Guns N’ Roses during their Not In This Lifetime reunion tour, bassist Duff McKagan felt like he was driving through a vast landscape of disillusion and injustice. Donald Trump had just been elected as the President of the United States and McKagan believed he was watching the “land of the free” become a vista of ruin and fear.
This is the inspiration behind McKagan’s acoustically driven solo release, Tenderness. The title track suggests the social and cultural divide being marketed to us is leaning on humankind’s natural curiosity for catastrophe. McKagan says we just need a little tenderness to see through it and hopes the album can mend the turmoil caused by this media-enhanced political divide.
“Before we started this Guns N’ Roses tour something happened in America where three cable news networks started acting like soap operas,” he says. “Everybody would pick one and watch. People stopped thinking on their own; I was sucked into it as well.”
McKagan compares America to an “obsessed TV show” fuelled by a commercialized political tug-of-war.
“There was no kind of journalistic responsibility going on, it’s just pure commercialism. I wrote for the Seattle Weekly for five years and there is this journalistic integrity you try not to harm. I think that went out the fucking window.”
A self-described student of history, McKagan claims these distraught moments in history happen in cycles and the storm will pass. He hopes Tenderness can not only have a meditative effect on listeners, but also bring them together.
“When we play shows, it’s a celebration of our music,” he says. “Nobody asks who you are voting for; it doesn’t matter. Everybody is there to have a good time. It’s a really uplifting thing. I would start talking to people, and this ‘divide’ the news is talking about just wasn’t there. When there’s a tragedy like a hurricane or 9/11, it doesn’t matter who you voted for; everybody has each other’s backs. That’s when you see the true identity of this country: people coming together.”