Noise

Talking music, fashion and writing with Susan Holmes-McKagan, wife of Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan

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Susan Holmes-McKagan, left, and Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan, right.

This weekend, when Susan Holmes-McKagan heads to the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, it’ll only be her second time ever seeing her husband, bassist Duff McKagan, perform with his classic Guns N’ Roses bandmates Axl Rose and Slash. Holmes-McKagan, a model and fashion designer, married the prolific musician in 1999, after his initial days in GNR were over, and her first chance to see him reunited with his old bandmates came last week at the surprise GNR gig at the Troubadour in LA, the first show for the classic trio since 1993. “It was a pretty magical night,” Holmes-McKagan says. “I've just witnessed Duff and the other guys rehearse a tremendous amount, and I just know everyone in the world is so excited to see this band together on one stage and perform live.”

Thousands of fans will get that chance this Friday and Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena, and Holmes-McKagan will be there among them. “It’s fun for me to see the crowd's reactions on which songs they freak out on,” she says. “They’re playing a lot of the old stuff, which is killer, and then they’re playing a bit of the new stuff, too, which sounds incredibly kick-ass, too. When you’re there live in the room and feeling the energy of the room, it’s just an amazing feeling.” This weekend will be a family affair for the McKagans, with Susan and her daughters Grace and Mae all in town to see GNR.

The whole family will be on tour with GNR this summer, as well. “We've already secured our really cool tour bus for not only the wife, me, but our daughters and our dogs,” Holmes-McKagan explains. For the couple’s older daughter, 18-year-old Grace, it might also be a preview of things to come, since Grace has been splitting her time between school (as a college freshman) and her own band The Pink Slips, a collaboration with Isaac Carpenter of Awolnation (as well as Duff’s band Loaded). “He works so strongly with Grace on her vision,” Holmes-McKagan says of Carpenter. “Grace is truly a talented writer. She's very inspired by David Bowie, Iggy Pop, that genre of music.” While her dad’s band headlines Coachella, Grace and The Pink Slips will be performing at Coachella parties put on by Galore and Interview magazines.

Holmes-McKagan is also busy with her own projects. In addition to her long-running swimwear line (available at susanholmes.net), she’s also working on a novel inspired by her experiences in the fashion and music worlds, due out in summer 2017. Her husband has written two nonfiction books as well as columns for Seattle Weekly, Playboy and ESPN, and the two are mutually supportive in their writing efforts. “I of course read his first draft on his books,” she says. “It was a learning process for me to witness him go through the motions. I saw how much hard work it is.”

As a fashion designer, she’s created custom swimwear for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue for the past 12 years, including 59 different suits in a single issue, and she recently opened a pop-up shop at swimwear boutique Boom Boom Brazil in her hometown of San Diego. “That was kind of like a school for me, in a way,” she says of her years modeling for top designers. “Like Keith Richards never took guitar lessons—I never went to fashion school. How could I not learn a little something?”

With fashion, writing and family, Holmes-McKagan has a full schedule, but for this weekend she’s happy to be in town supporting her husband. “I’m very blessed,” she says. “He’s a good guy, great family man. He works tremendously hard, stays focused.” Of course, even rock stars and supermodels occasionally get jitters. “I’m just nervous for him,” she says of the weekend’s concerts, “because he’s nervous a little.”

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Josh Bell

Josh Bell is the film editor for Las Vegas Weekly, where he's been writing movie and TV reviews since 2002. ...

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