Sunday, 6 December 2009

A Q&A with Mike Squires from Duff McKagan's Loaded

Mike Squires plays lead guitar in American punk band Duff McKagan's Loaded, he recently agreed to do a short interview with me; discussing everything from how he got into guitar to the events of the band's most recent tour.

So Mike, let’s start at the beginning. How old were you when you first picked up the guitar and who or what inspired you to do so?

MS: I bought my first electric guitar from a pawnshop when I was 12. It didn't really stick the first time, though, and I didn't get past learning Kiss' "War Machine" with my thumb on the fretboard. I got my "real" first guitar at for my 15th birthday/Christmas and I never really looked back. I have an uncle who was playing drums at the time and he wanted someone to play with, so I was thrown headlong in to the fire. We would play for hours and hours every day. I'd play for sometimes 6 or more hours a day then. We still weren't ever any good, though!

SD: You’ve been playing with Duff and Loaded for several years now; how did you originally become involved with the band?

MS: I had been struggling to get gigs for years and was just starting to come in to my own a little bit. Duff happened to be making the "Dark Days" album with Martin Feveyear, who I had done some work with in the past, and they were having a Hell of a time finding a guitar player that worked well in the mix of things. I knew Geoff Reading just a little bit at that time, too. They invited me down to play on a song or two, I was SO nervous. Duff was really happy with what I played and asked me if I would be interested in playing in the band. That was pretty much it. I'm just glad that Duff turned out to be such a cool guy because I never last long in bands with folks that I don't enjoy being around!

SD: Playing in a rock band must really take it out of you! When you’re not touring the world or recording in the studio; what do you do to unwind and relax?

MS: Hm.....well, I recently started giving guitar lessons, for one. It keeps the guitar in my hands, makes a little bit of money, and keeps me on my toes. I try to see my girlfriend when I'm home, too. That's a no-brainer! I otherwise spend my usual wasteful amount of time playing on-line scrabble against anyone that will challenge me. I end up going record shopping a lot. There are a bunch of used LP shops in my neighborhood and it will probably be the death of me! I do try to travel as much as I can afford to when I'm not on tour, too. You only live once and I'd like to see as much of this planet while I'm here to enjoy it!

SD: The album, Sick, in my eyes is a modern classic. Can you describe the writing process for such an album? Were the songs there before you hit the studio or did they evolve whilst jamming with the other members?

MS: Well, we were practicing for a benefit show and it all occurred to us that we could probably make a really, really kick-ass record. Plus, we all knew that this would be a prime window of opportunity to make it happen. So, it just started. We all had some ideas so we shared and developed them together, mostly. Some more than others. The great thing about this band is that no one gets bent out of shape if someone else has a good idea for a song that they brought to the band regardless of how developed it is.

Some ideas, like "Executioner's Song" started from a jam. Duff had a couple of songs that were either done or nearly done that were on the album, too. On those songs, we just sort of put the "Loaded" stamp on them. Meaning, they became more "our" songs after we played them for a while and put our mark on them. It was, for the most part, pretty effortless to make that record. All of the pieces just sort of fell in to place and created a really cool vibe that plays straight through from start to finish.

SD: There was one song, Executioner’s Song, which featured on the Wasted Heart EP but was sadly omitted from the actual album. Was there a specific reason for leaving this track off the album?

MS: Well, we couldn't very well put all of the songs on the album, so something had to be cut. Executioner's Song seemed, as far as vibe in concerned, to be the biggest odd ball when we lined all of the songs up and tried to think of the LP as a single, long-running piece of work. So, it is exclusive to the EP. I think it kind of makes it even more of a special song, though. It has become a staple in the live sets and people really seem to dig it.

SD: One of the finest songs on Sick is Translucent, which features bassist Jeff Rouse on vocals. Mike, have you ever had the desire to put your voice forward to be used as lead vocals on a track?

MS: Jeff sounds killer on that song, right? Well, I sing on some demos that I record at home and that is enough singing for me. I enjoy singing back-ups and doing the demo thing but I'm not interested in singing lead any time soon. My voice just isn't that great (except for the occasional ACDC cover) and I don't really like the kind of attention that the traditional singer position in a band garners, anyway.

SD: Geoff Reading recently walked away from the band for personal reasons and was replaced by the very talented Isaac Carpenter. How did the search for a new drummer take place? Was it a lengthy process or was Isaac the obvious choice to take Geoff’s place?

MS: We knew that Geoff would be sorely missed, and he is. I still am in regular contact with him and I'm glad that he's still in my life. Replacing him in the band ended up being easier than we thought it might be, though. We played with a few people before we contacted Isaac. There were some folks that were really, really great. But, we were still holding out for that ONE guy. We had all seen and shared bills with Isaac's older bands, Loudermilk and Gosling, and were huge fans. It hadn't even crossed our minds to call him, but when it was brough up it seemed like the obvious thing to do. We called him and he was excited about the idea. So, he came to our practice compound while he was on tour and passing through town. He walked in and played 3 songs flawlessly without ever practicing or playing them before. He had just listened to them a bunch and mentally learned them. That is the kind of talent that he has, though. He's pretty incredible.

SD: Touring with Loaded has taken you all over the globe, where is your favourite place in the world to play and where does the band feel most comfortable performing?

MS: Oh, man. I have to be careful here! Loaded fans are pretty great everywhere and have been so kind and responsive. I obviously like going to places that I've never been before. Argentina was incredible and super fun. Plus, it was the beginning of Summer there when we visited and Winter was setting in at home! I'd have to say that Glasgow and Dublin might be my two most comfortable places, though. The crowds are super surly, rowdy, and fun. Plus, talking to people after and before the shows is always awesome and super welcoming. I'm pretty sure that the band shares my sentiment. We are usually just comfortable playing on a stage knowing that we're together and that the crowd is with us, though. That is what brings it all together.

SD: You’ve recently completed a tour of South America; how did you find the South American fans? I believe they have a reputation of being a bit over the top, to say the least!

MS: Uh, yeah! The crowds there were great. There is a very dramatic element to the fandom, though. It wasn't so much an issue with me, as much as it was with Duff obviously. The crowds were just sort of swarming where ever we were. It was security bringing us between every van and door and keeping folks away. There were people at all of the airports, crying and bringing gifts. It is pretty incredible to see the impact that Duff has had on some people's lives! I'm really not used to it, yet. It ALWAYS catches me off guard. I mean, I was and remain a HUGE Guns fan, but I never cried or attacked anyone when I met them. It is almost an uncontrollable emotional thing for a lot of fans, especially in South America (and Japan).

SD: Can you tell us what’s next for you and Loaded? Is there a new album in the pipeline, possibly further tours or are you guys planning on taking a small break?

MS: Well, we have the Holidays going on and we're always planning something. We're slowly developing new ideas for a new album, which we're hoping to get recorded as soon as possible. I'm not sure exactly when that will be yet, but we're hoping to be touring and supporting it by next Summer (2010). We're shoring up a trip to go and play in Iraq and Kuwait for the troops that are deployed there and are all VERY excited about that. We'll be hoping to get to Japan to support Sick, which just came out there, as well.

SD: Mike, we look forward to hearing from you and Loaded in the not too distant future! Thanks a million!

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