Questions & Answers on Adversity, Buddhism, and Your Kid's First Bass


Questions & Answers on Adversity, Buddhism, and Your Kid's First Bass

  • Questions & Answers on Adversity, Buddhism, and Your Kid's First Bass

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    Duff McKagan's column runs every Thursday on Reverb. He writes about what music is circulating through his space every Monday. Got a question for Duff? Send it to
    We are going to try something new here this week. You've sent in your questions, and I've done my very best to answer them in a satisfactory fashion. Just so you all know, though, my two daughters are convinced that I am not the sharpest tool in the shed. You have been forewarned!

    Q: I just picked up a junior bass for my 7-year-old for Christmas. Any suggestions to help the little guy get started in the right direction? --Tommy Blackburn, Ekron, Kentucky

    Duff: When I was a kid, I was fortunate that there was a bit of peer and sibling pressure to at least play SOME sort of musical instrument. But from a young age--and what made a HUGE difference--was that there was music in my house all the time, and I was really, really into the mystery of the whole thing . . . and trying to unlock it.

    With your little guy, I think that it is really important that he learns what he wants to learn. That is to say, don't force it. Find him a teacher who will inspire him to learn the music that he wants to, rather than a set-in-stone lesson. Music is an art that has many varied avenues of entry.

    Q: What is the best book you have read about overcoming adversity? Who is your favorite author? Or what book inspired something inside you? --Dionne

    Duff: This is a subject that reminds me of another question that I'm asked in interviews from time to time: "What are your top 10 favorite records of all time?" I always say 10 different records every time, and kick myself for not including such-and-such a record, etc.

    So, my answer, as of this writing, for a book about overcoming would be Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air. This book really set a high-water mark for me as far as what human beings could endure physically and mentally . . . and just how heroic we can be when put to the task.

    I have so many favorite authors. I love the dark style and cadence of people like Ernest Hemingway and Cormac McCarthy. I love the descriptive narrative of Stephen Ambrose, Joe Simpson, Krakauer. For a sweeping story of industry, I will take Upton Sinclair. For a story of the street? Iceberg Slim. I could go on for days . . .

    Q: How are you not deaf (or have hearing damage) after all those years of rock and roll? --Allysha, Kalamazoo, Michigan

    Duff: What?

    Q: Have you have read any philosophical or, like, Buddhist or spiritual literature? You seem, at least from what I've read of your column, very comfortable in your skin, and you put your focus on important things, like family and well-being in general. Or is it just wisdom that comes when you've lived your "wild years"? --Juha Aatola, Finland

    Duff: It is all a serious "work-in-progress" situation for me. I am very fortunate to have had some amazing teachers, either currently or involved in my life thus far. My mom, for sure, comes in at the top of that list.

    Martial arts were a huge part of my first couple of years of sobriety, and my Ukidokan teachings and sensei remain a fulcrum which my whole being swings upon.

    I think for me also, being in group situations (a big family and rock bands) has really helped me to discern that while, yes, I think I am rather damn kick-ass sometimes, I realize that life and its inhabitants do not revolve around me!

    And truthfully, a huge part of my self-discovery has been in my writing of words over the last couple of years. In writing--especially writing about my own life publicly--I have had to tear apart where and what MY part in all of this mess has actually been. Very humbling shit for me.

    I suppose that I am happy that at least I come off as being comfortable in my own skin. More and more these days, I try to just not react to things that can set me off. I used to have a pretty short fuse, but martial arts and sobriety have chilled me. But comfortable with myself? Not even anywhere close!

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