By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
"It just started off as a project," says Reading. "I was looking for singer-songwriters to work with, and the guy I found just happened to be in this other band you might have heard of before."
Loaded made a record that was licensed to EMI for release in Japan, followed by a tour there. They played well-received shows at rock spots like the Pretty Ugly Club and the Viper Room, and recently returned to the Viper to reveal two new band members, Stuart Dahlquist and Dave Kushner (Squires and Rouse left when Alien Crime Syndicate got signed). Though Loaded have been known to pull out the odd Guns gem or two, it's their new material that explodes onstage. Furious beats and dissonant chords collide with punk rock attitude and moody rumination on some tunes, while others roam languidly from gloomy to groovy. McKagan is the focal point, of course, playing lead guitar and singing with the urgent sex appeal that made him the object of groupie lust back in the '80s. Inevitably, as more people hear his new stuff, the Guns comparisons will abound.
"I think people would be hard-pressed to link the two," says McKagan. "I learned stuff from those guys, and I'm sure they learned from me. It's kind of like, you are what you eat. Your songs are what you are."
Loaded's lyrics provide an eye-opening glimpse into McKagan's roller-coaster past, from "Seattlehead," which recounts his depraved L.A. exploits, to "Then and Now," which metaphorically looks at drugs like coke and heroin. Sonically, the band meshes McKagan's hardcore roots with a twangy touch that on a few tracks bears a distinctly GN'R-ish stamp.
DARK DAYS IS A STRONG OFFERING from a former rock god, and one that GN'R fans should check out while they wait for Sir Axl to lay his egg. But then, if Axl weren't so eccentric, would anyone even care about what he's up to? Slash's band Snakepit hasn't done all that well, and who even knows what's become of Izzy Stradlin? In today's musical climate, where spiffy punk pop and swanky hip-hop dominate, it remains to be seen if gutterball rock & roll has any comeback potential whatsoever.
And laid-back Duff McKagan couldn't care less. He's done the fame-and-fortune thing, and now he's enjoying the music. "I may have been a bass player in a big band, but that was some time ago," he says. The two gals in the booth behind him come over and shyly ask for his autograph on their Rainbow pizza boxes. He happily obliges. "We're a new band just like anybody else, but one thing we've got going for us is, we're real. We're not writing a single to get signed or any of that crap. And that holds enough weight for me, you know?"