Download 2011: Duff McKagan remembers 1988 GnR tragedy plus Children of Bodom, Avenged Sevenfold, Evile, Black Veil Brides and BMTH

Guns n'Roses 1988

Flashback: GnR in 1988

Duff McKagan has played at Donington five times including twice with Velvet Revolver and now twice with Loaded. But he’ll never forget the tragic deaths of two fans when Guns n’Roses played in 1988.

The bassist recalls: “That was the end of innocence for me. We’d opened for Aerosmith in the States and the record had really blown up. Things were going bad at the show – we’d stopped it a few times, then we found out later that two people had died.

“I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it here. I was crying. I didn’t know how to handle any of that. So I called my oldest brother at home in Seattle.

“I still feel a responsibility when I come back here. I feel it’s sacred ground for me.”

* * * * *

Avenged Sevenfold singer M Shadows admits life without drummer Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan remains difficult 18 months on.

The band lost him when he died of an accidental overdose at Christmas 2009. They completed last year’s album Nightmare with Dream Theater sticksman Mike Portnoy, who then toured with them, leading to his departure from the prog metal band.

Now they’ve recruited permanent replacement Arin Ilejay. Shadows says: “He’s a good fit for the band right now. But it’s tough – the guy was such a big part of our lives. It’s a hole we’ll never fill. Everything seems a little bit darker and number.”

Speaking of tonight’s Download set, their first UK show since Sullivan’s death, the singer says: “We’re ready to make a big statement. It’ll be a beast of a set with epic shit going on.”

* * * * *

Children of Bodom’s Alexi Laiho didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy much of this year’s festival because the band flew in from LA to play then flew out to Japan for another show.

He says: “The fans in Japan are crazy. They know what brand of cigarettes you smoke and they bring you four or five packs. This time I’d love them to bring sleeping pills – I’m shot.”

* * * * *

Ol Drake of Evile has learned the hard way not to go boozing before a performance. He says: “No one’s ever going on stage too drunk to play. It’s like an unwritten rule.

“Once in Colorado me and Joel went for a couple of pints before the show. It’s really high up there but we didn’t know that, so walking back from the bar it felt like we’d been out all night because of the altitude.

“We got back to be told we were on in 15 minutes. We were setting up the gear but not even able to plug leads in. We ended up playing to a theatre full of people thinking, ‘Oh, shit…’”

* * * * *

The Black Veil Brides would love to break a taboo by including real dead bodies in their show.

Guitarist Jinxx says: “We’d actually explode people on stage. If people donate their bodies to science we could put a bomb inside them then blow them up. Snuff performance – no one’s ever done that.”

* * * * *

Bring Me The Horizon bassist Matt Kean wasn’t fazed by the band’s first appearance at the festival in 2009 – because he couldn’t see what was going on.

He says: “I’m short-sighted so I could only see the first few rows. It was just a few people and then there was a blur that kept moving. So it didn’t bother me.”

Drummer Matt Nichols recalls: “We tried one cover once – Cherry Pie by Warrant. It was rubbish.”

Related stories: