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McKagan onstage with Loaded and his Fender signature P bass, which has a Seymour Duncan STK-J2B bridge pickup, a split P-bass pickup with alnico magnets, a 3-position toggle, and three knobs—two Volumes and a Fender Treble Bass Xpander (TBX). Photo courtesy of MissionPhotographic.com
How did Date bring out the best in you?
Going into the project, Terry was firm about making sure we got any extraneous shit out of our heads before working. He was like, “How about you finish that game of online Scrabble? It’s time to man up and make a record.” When we began to work, he didn’t kiss our asses or anything, but he was complimentary about our playing and our songs. I think that—and knowing Terry’s legacy—gave us all a lot of confidence and took things to another level.
As a veteran of the music industry, have you found it hard to adapt to changes in recent years?
Not really. I enjoy the challenge of staying ahead of the curve and remaining both artistically and financially viable. For the new record, we’re working on a feature film, also called The Taking. It’s basically a madcap adventure in which our drummer, Isaac, is kidnapped and we have a day to come up with a ransom—sort of like the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night meets Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same. It will be in art houses this summer, and it’ll give people a chance to see our wonderful sense of humor. Of course, we take ourselves seriously when we write and play music, but we always see humor in all the rock ’n’ roll shit—we’re in on the joke. In any case, we might repackage the album to include a DVD of the film. Special touches like that are what help a band survive in this day and age— something extra for fans where they feel like they’re included in our wacky little club.
Duff McKagan’s Gearbox
Photo by Lance Mercer
Various vintage Les Paul solidbodies of undisclosed model and year, 1973 Gibson Les Paul Custom, 2008 Gibson SG, 1988 three-pickup Gibson SG, two Burny Les Paul copies (one black, one goldtop), Sparrow Guitar Co. Rat Rod, Fender Jim Root Telecaster modified with passive electronics and Seymour Duncan pickups, Fender Duff McKagan P Bass
Marshall JCM900 guitar head driving a vintage Marshall 4x12, assorted Engl guitar amps and cabs, Gallien-Krueger 2001RB bass head driving assorted Gallien- Krueger cabs
Dunlop Heavy Core guitar strings (.010– .048), Dunlop Tortex .73 mm picks (for guitar and bass), Rotosound Swing Bass RS66LF 4-string set (.045-.105), Rotosound Swing Bass RS665LD 5-string set (.045-.130)
Loaded Lead Guitarist Mike Squires' Gearbox
Photo by Lance Mercer
Washington-state-native Mike Squires—a self-professed “gorilla on the guitar”—is Duff McKagan’s lead ace in Loaded. Squires was strictly a metal player before he heard Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction , but he says the album changed his life. “From listening to Slash, I realized I could be a shredder and be melodic—I could be technical and greasy at the same time and approach pop songs like a punk,” he says. Squires, who has played with a number of Seattle rock bands, including Eat the Feeling, Harvey Danger, and Alien Crime Syndicate, joined McKagan’s Loaded in the early 2000s and has since used a nicely streamlined rig to power his unhinged playing approach. It includes two 2007 Les Pauls (a Custom and a Traditional), a Yamaha SG1820, and two custom Saul Koll solidbodies—a mid- ’90s DuoGlide with three P-90s (“It’s as sexy as anything on earth, and it’s been through absolute hell with me”) and a Tele-shaped, 24 3/4"-scale Koll with a mahogany body, a set neck, two P-90s, and a Bigsby. “The Koll has an angled headstock to avoid the standard string trees,” he says. “It’s basically a Les Paul Junior disguised as a Telecaster. I used it on ‘Indian Summer.’” Squires uses Dunlop DEN1052 .010–.052 strings and Dunlop .73 mm Tortex picks. His amps include an Engl Tube Preamp E530 and an Engl Tube Poweramp E840/50, a 1997 Bogner Shiva head, and an early-’70s Traynor YBA-1, all plugged into an old white Marshall 1987X 4x12 cab. In the studio, he also uses a Marshall Bluesbreaker combo.
Jeff Rouse’s Gearbox
Photo by Lance Mercer
Like guitarist Mike Squires, Loaded bassist Jeff Rouse played extensively with Alien Crime Syndicate—a powerpop group originally from San Francisco. Rouse has also held down the low end for bands like Vendetta Red and Sirens Sister, and he currently has a heavy solo project called To the Glorious Lonely. Rouse is known for his mean but melodic rumble, a sound he gets with a minimum of fuss. On The Taking, he used a pair of brand-new Yamahas—a BB2024X 4-string and a BB2025X 5-string—that he plugged into a Tech 21 SansAmp RBI and a Gallien-Krueger 2001RB head driving a GK 410RBH 4x10 cabinet. “The tonal quality of those basses is just amazing,” he says. “Because it was so easy to get so many great sounds, I went in at noon to record my parts and had finished everything by 10 that night.” He uses Rotosound Swing Bass RS66LF and RS665LD strings (4- and 5-string, respectively) and Dunlop 1 mm Tortex picks.