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In Their Own Words

Duff McKagan: From Guns N' Roses To Stocks N' Shares
Luke Turner , April 3rd, 2009 10:45

Once, Duff McKagan was confused by a credit card. Now he's got a degree in finance and writes about the economic crisis in Playboy. Here he explains this strange journey

The initial confusion of not knowing what a credit card was drove me to find out about money. This will tell you a lot about how I am in general, if I don't know something about something I'll try my best to find out about it. When I was 30 my pancreas had burst, and I was faced with sobriety or death. I was desperate to find things to fill my time. I was sat at home shaking from alcohol withdrawal, and one of the things I did was started looking through my financial statements from the past six years, and they didn't make sense, and I was too embarrassed to ask anybody. So I enrolled in a single course, and was kind of fascinated by how the economy works.

I did that initial course at a community college down in LA. The professor was a cool guy, and he said it seems you have a knack with this thing, you might want to take some more classes and get into business school. But for me to get into a proper business school, because I didn't graduate High School I had to get a Graduation Equivalent Diploma. So I went and applied at Seattle University, and they said I had to write an entrance essay. I thought what the fuck is that? I asked a friend of mine and he said 'tell them everything, tell them that you're an alcoholic and you have kids and you're sober now'. So I told them the story of my life, and they said 'well that's all good, but you have to go to college and take this course and that course and get straight As'. So I did what I had to do and they let me in.

I'm trying to help other people get informed with my finance column in Playboy. Most of us are like me, that 30-year-old guy who was confused and too embarrassed to ask. So in my financial column I break things down, I don't use financial jargon and I explain it in plain English. We are the most important factors in this economy, you and me and everybody reading this. We're the workers, we're the taxpayers, we make the economy work. We're the most important people, yet I always feel like we're worker ants. This column is my stab at trying to educate us.

One of the most important things I learned in college was how the economy is cyclical. This is the worse we're going to see it in our lifetime, because from this all of our financial systems will learn lessons. The UK can blame the States but the financial institutions all bought those securities, those bundled up securities, they knew what they were doing. Those smart dudes up there, those executives getting their fucking bonuses, they knew what they were buying, what they were doing with people's pensions. It is too late to blame anybody.

I'm a world citizen. I've been travelling since I was 19, so I grew up realising that the United States wasn't the centre of the fucking universe. I was reminded all the time how Europe was afraid of Bush and more so Cheney. It ashamed me that he got a second term. I'd do interviews and people would ask if he'd get re-elected, and I'd say, no fucking way, there's no way of him getting re-elected. And of course he did. So when we voted in Obama, we voted for the smartest guy running into office, I was very proud. He's smarter than you and me and or anyone involved in putting together this interview. He's smart. My parents grew up in the Depression, and my mum's dad got work because of Roosevelt's New Deal, and they built dams and highways and put people to work, and he could provide for his family. And of course those dams and plants meant that Boeing could expand and become a big airplane manufacturer, and it meant that in the Second World War we were ready to supply planes at first, and then we were ready to get involved in the war and supply tanks and shit.

What people don't realise, after the war when Eisenhower came in, we had to pay for it and taxes went way up. I don't think anybody is into high taxation, but if they've got to raise my tax bracket by three per cent to make some of this stuff happen, then yeah. We've all got to think utilitarian at this point, right? I am optimistic. It'll turn around, because we've elected a smart guy. This whole G20 thing I'm not so into, I was here in Seattle when the Battle In Seattle happened. I was going down to protest when the cops came in, and we turned around and went home. The G20 thing has got to go, but I'm optimistic about the moves that Obama is making.

Duff McKagan's new band Loaded release new album Sick on April 6th. Loaded also play this year's Download Festival