“Nightrain was written on acoustic guitar”: Duff McKagan on the making of Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction

“A lot of times we wrote on acoustic guitars ‘cause that’s all we had,” says the bassist.

Slash and Duff McKagan of Guns N' Roses

Image: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

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Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan has reflected on the making of the band’s epic debut album, Appetite for Destruction.

On a recent episode of the Broken Record podcast, McKagan details the creative and production process behind what would go on to be one of the best-selling and most celebrated albums of all time.

“Coming up with the music and then finding a producer later, that’s two different things,” says McKagan of the band’s search for the right person to oversee recording sessions [via Blabbermouth]. “We were done [writing the songs for] Appetite, plus [we had other] other songs, by the time we started looking for a producer.”

“We knew our songs well enough that we didn’t want a producer who would get into the songs. We didn’t want somebody touching a note. ‘You’re not gonna touch a note.’ We wanted it to sound like we sound in our little rehearsal, because it sounded fucking great.”

Among the producers considered was Robert John “Mutt” Lange, “who’d done [AC/DC’s] Back In Black”, a “great dry-sounding record”, says McKagan, though Lange was eventually deemed too expensive to hire.

“We got 250 grand to make our first record, and that would have to pay for — including an advance to us so we could live, stop our jobs. But we’d written songs.”

A lot of which were “on acoustic guitars, ’cause that’s all we had,” McKagan recounts. “Nightrain was written on acoustic guitar.”

“We’d drink the Night Train, this cheap booze. It was – I don’t know – $1.27 a bottle. And we were gonna go out and flyer for a gig that night, which is something we would go out and do together. At least a couple of us would go. This night we were going out as a band. We were gonna cover a whole area. And you walk. You got your bucket of paste and you got flyers in there.”

“And we just kept singing the chorus for Nightrain. ‘cause we’d all got together, I think, at [GNR guitarist] Izzy’s apartment beforehand and came up with the genesis of that, and we were singing it.”

“Because we didn’t have phones and shit to record stuff. So you’d have to remember what you wrote,” the rocker continues. “So a lot of times you’d just go around singing it. But we landed on some really cool shit. I remember landing on the notes for [My] Michelle. We just played that riff for hours. And then you have to come up with other bits.”

Listen to the full podcast below.

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