Written by Gareth Franklin
I’ll be honest – before watching this documentary, I knew only the very basic stuff about Duff McKagan. You know, the stuff pretty much everybody knows – he was in Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver. Quite sadly, I wasn’t really sure what instrument he played. I mean, I’d heard of him – most people have. But I didn’t know diddly squat about him, or what made him who he is. This documentary felt like the perfect place to start.
It starts off pretty nondescript, with Duff on-stage narrating while a drum beat and bass line punctuate the background. We then join him in his car briefly, travelling down the streets of his childhood before entering a cartoon-version of his first gig. I won’t give too much away, otherwise there’d be no point in you watching the film, but it’s clear from the outset just how much the music world meant, and indeed still means, to him.
This film really does give you a great insight into the man himself – his influences, his family, his musical heritage. It’s refreshingly honest, though from what I’ve heard of Duff, this shouldn’t really be a surprise. He’s incredibly open about what he got up to in his youth, starting with drugs and “borrowing” cars.
Duff doesn’t try to give excuses for why he took drugs – rather, he gives reasons. There’s a subtle but important difference. He’s not asking for forgiveness, he’s just saying “yeah, I did this”. I think this is the first thing that really drew me in to this film. Usually if I watch any documentaries like this, I tend to lose interest pretty quickly and start looking at my phone. Not here. Duff’s voice is pretty much perfect for telling his own story – I can’t imagine anyone else doing it.
Listening (and of course watching) to his first meeting with Slash is slightly eye-opening, yet doesn’t really surprise you a huge amount – if you had to picture them meeting, this is pretty much how you’d imagine it.
At this point, I have to mention the background music – it’s almost worth watching it twice just for the music. The first time, listen to Duff and his story; the second, try and pick out the tunes that are being played. You’d think this would be really distracting, but it’s not. If anything, it serves to show you how far Duff has come from his earliest days to the dizzy heights of Guns N’ Roses.
There are a few bits that make you realize just how down to earth Duff is – a perfect example of this is the “cake” incident about 20-odd minutes in. Juxtaposed with this are the incidents that show just how different life is for Duff in LA as opposed to Seattle.
The most perfect song choice in the entire film has got to be when “November Rain” is used – this comes in just as we start to see just how hard the drink and drugs habits hit Duff. If you’ve seen Amy, you’ll know the feeling of apprehension that you feel when you see someone start to slide slowly (at first) off the rails. The key difference here is that there’s something of a happy ending to Duff’s story – but that doesn’t stop the feeling from clawing at your gut as you watch, praying that someone or something will happen to help him turn his life around.
It’s horrifying to hear just how close Duff came to death – and if, like me, you don’t mind the odd tipple, it’ll make you think twice before you pick up your next drink. Hearing Duff tell it himself makes it hit home even harder. You can clearly tell just how much this episode has affected him. There’s no sense of shame – it’s more a sense of his own mortality.
And that is precisely where this film’s strengths lie. When I started watching it, I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. Sure, it’s the life story of a Guns N’ Roses member…but how would that affect me? In very profound ways, as it happens. This film will show you a completely different side to Duff from the one you’ll be used to. It’s certainly made me respect him even more – not just as a bassist, but as a human being as well.
Even if you’re not into Guns N’ Roses, or you don’t particularly like autobiographical documentaries, check this out – the impact it’ll have on your life, even for a split-second, is worth it.
SYNOPSIS: ‘It’s So Easy (And Other Lies)’ is the authorized music documentary that chronicles the incredible life of Duff McKagan – founding member and bass player for Guns ‘N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver and Loaded. Guns ‘n’ Roses remain one of the greatest rock bands in music and Duff tells of the Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle that nearly killed him. In the documentary, Duff plays a live set of acoustic Guns ‘N’ Roses songs whilst reading excerpts from his book and this is intercut with interviews from rock luminaries such as Slash (Guns ‘N’ Roses), Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) and Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue).
Directed and produced by Christopher Duddy. Produced by Steven G.Kaplan, Daniel Zirilli and Duff McKagan. Executive Producers are Lise Romanoff (Vision Films), Gato Scatena (S&R), Jordan Rosner, Hans Stangl, Birgit Stein and Kati Thompson. Entertainment One release the film in the UK in association with Vision Films.
Facebook: /RockScreen (Entertainment One UK page)
Twitter: @DuffMcKagan, #itssoeasymovie
Running Time: 1 hr 20 mins