“It’s So Easy and Other Lies”
Starring: Duff McKagan, Slash, Nikki Sixx, Mike McCready
Director: Christopher Duddy
Released By: XLrator Media
Release Date: Opens June 3, 2016
By Carol Anne Szel
You know, you think you know everything about a person. Or at least all you need to know about them. And then they write a book, or in this case an authorized biopic about the book that they wrote, opening our eyes about their lives. And suddenly you realize you knew nothing at all.
Well, Guns n’ Roses Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musician Michael “Duff” McKagan opened my eyes and ears to his world as he spewed out his heart and soul in the film “It’s So Easy And Other Lies” released June 3 in select theaters across the country.
The film takes us on his life’s journey to hell and back again The story of a young teen’s angst and rebellion leading to a lifestyle of drinking and drugging, to a driven young man’s celebration of musical success with a life of more drinking and more drugging.
Along the way we are taken from an animated Duff waking up in the fetal position curled up in bed, to the live band coming out in suits onstage as Duff starts slowly and steadily reading an excerpt from the book, then moves us along to driving in his car while he opens up about his childhood trials and tribulations as a young punk rocker with spiky blond hair living with his family in rural Seattle.
All the time flashing back in photos to his life, we see Duff sitting in a room today telling about his use of pot in fourth grade to adding alcohol a year later and then advancing to LSD and “all other drugs” in middle school. The film takes us to a bevy of family members who appear telling their stories with McKagan, and friends from his childhood with whom he went on in his high school years on a rampage of doing drugs, being in bands and stealing cars.
The summer of 1984 he knew he had to get out of Seattle if he wanted to make it in the music business and move to the bigger, yet not necessarily better, life in Los Angeles. “I wanted to get away from Seattle heroin” scene he said, as the screen showed some RIPs to fellow musicians and friends like Layne Staley and Andrew Wood, who lost their lives to the disease of addiction.
The film moves quickly to a scene in LA’s famous Canter’s Deli where he met Slash, Steven Adler and Izzy Stradlin from Guns N’ Roses, the inception of the band that would take on the world and win. In March of 1985 he met singer Axl Rose who he said gave one of his infamous screams which blew his mind, and he knew they were onto something huge.
Cut to Motley Crue inimitable bassist Nikki Sixx talking about how his band took the newly formed Guns N’ Roses out on their 1987 world tour, and the Guns N’ Roses #1 status following in 1988.
The doc shows a bevy of people talking about Duff’s life and the band’s new LP at that time, including family, friends, Slash and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready. McKagan then appears along with family photos in a synopsis of his father’s infidelity while they cut live to the onstage band playing the Gn’R hit “November Rain” as a backdrop.
The film then chronicles Duff McKagan’s first marriage which ended in a haze of vodka and cocaine, goes into what he calls anxiety attacks that ran in his family, and animated images mixed in with mostly old magazine clips and home movies. His drinking and drugging with Slash went on “24/7 for years,” Duff proclaims. It’s riveting, as he explains that there was “anger from within, and more ominously without.”
He discusses an overdose, “I’m a fuckup,” he tells in the doc, and then relates to us how he got his life together through martial arts and meeting his current wife, Susan Holmes McKagan as “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is played by the band onstage behind him. After attending the Seattle University for accounting at 32 years old and after a life of turmoil and discontent, Duff started the band Velvet Revolver and soon fell off the wagon in a studio while mastering the LP. After a bout of pill-popping and hiding his disease from his wife, he sobered up after that relapse in 2005 and is living a now, as he coins it, a “Norman Rockwell life” with two kids and a loving wife. He had a family who needed him. “You can’t put your arms around a memory,” he states.
A well-done, riveting, gritty, honest, well-produced look back at a life truly of a rock 'n' roll rollercoaster and back to safety again. One day at a time.