GUNS N’ ROSES bassist Duff McKagan has opened up about his own battle with depression, just four months after the passing of his good friend Chris Cornell.
The SOUNDGARDEN singer died in May as a result of suicide by hanging himself inside his Detroit hotel room. A recovering addict with a prescription for the anti-anxiety medication Ativan, he had discussed his long struggles with depression and dark thoughts in a numerous interviews over the past decade.
McKagan, who is currently on the road with GUNS N’ ROSES as part of the “Not In This Lifetime” tour, revealed his own mental-health issues during an appearance on the “Talk Is Jericho” podcast hosted by FOZZY singer Chris Jericho.
Speaking about the death of his longtime pal, McKagan said: “My daughter Mae and [Chris‘s] daughter Lily were born two weeks apart [in July 2000]. And Susan [Holmes, Duff‘s wife] and I, we were in Seattle then. So Susan Silver [Cornell‘s then-wife] and my Susan were pregnant at the same time, and we hung out a bunch when the girls were little babies. And then AUDIOSLAVE started when VELVET REVOLVER started, and we played gigs with them.”
Calling Cornell‘s suicide a “shocker,” Duff admitted that he has “had little touches of depression in the last seven, eight years. It came out of nowhere; I’m not that guy,” he said. “But I’ve had a panic disorder since I was sixteen, and they always said that’s a subset of depression. And I’m, like, I don’t have depression. I have panic attacks here and there, like in the weirdest places ever, and I’ve learned to deal with them. I learned by the time I was twenty I’m not gonna die from a panic attack; you feel like you’re going to.”
McKagan recalled one particular incident that made him realize the seriousness of what he was facing. “About five years ago, I was in a movie theater with my wife Susan, we went to the movies, and my seat sunk down five feet,” he said. “And I looked around, I thought something happened to the theater, like there was an earthquake. But no, I had an attack of depression, just a feeling of moroseness. And I couldn’t live like that. We got out of the theater, and I’m shaking. It’s hard to explain what it felt like. But [my wife] drove me home, my friend came over, and we got somebody else on the phone, and it was depression. And it passed. And then I went and saw some people about it and I had a couple of more of those episodes.”
Although Duff says that he doesn’t have “chronic depression,” he can relate to the feeling of despair and helplessness that Cornell and LINKIN PARK singer Chester Bennington, who committed suicide in July, must have felt before they decided to take their own lives.
“If there was depression involved, then all bets are off,” Duff said. “I’m not gonna judge ’em anyhow. I’ve been in and out of alcohol and drug addiction, and I’ve got it all. So I’m not one to judge. But if there was depression involved, then it’s a real thing, ’cause I understand.
“When I sunk five feet down in that movie theater, I couldn’t live like that,” he continued. “You can’t breathe, you can’t eat, you can’t… all your bodily functions just go; you have no control. And I’m a strong dude. I think positive and I apply a lot of principles to my life and through martial arts and through stuff, and I can see and deal with shit — bad shit, and good shit. And be a dad and be… those things that I rise to, ’cause I love it. But when I had depression, I couldn’t be any of those things; I couldn’t be anything.”
The “Not In This Lifetime” tour features classic GUNS members McKagan, Slash on guitar and Axl Rose on vocals, backed by drummer Frank Ferrer, guitarist Richard Fortus, keyboardist Dizzy Reed and second keyboardist Melissa Reese.