INTERVIEW AND LIVE PICS BY MARKO SYRJALA
L.A. Guns are best known as veterans of the Sunset Strip’s hair metal scene. The band was formed in 1983 by guitarist Tracii Guns, and after several line-up changes, they found the right members. The classic line-up then consisted of Guns, vocalist Phil Lewis, drummer Steve Riley, bassist Kelly Nickels, and guitarist Mick Cripps. Their late 80’s/early 90’s albums COCKED AND LOADED, and HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES were highly successful. The ’90s proved to be a difficult time for L.A. Guns, as it was for many metal and hard rock bands. Many line-up changes and unsuccessful albums followed, but the band finally got back on track with the 2001 album MAN ON THE MOON, which once again included Guns, Riley, Cripps, and Lewis back together. The next album WAKING THE DEAD, followed in 2002. Although that album had many great reviews and the band had some good tour offers, Tracii Guns decided to quit and concentrate on his brand new project, Brides of Destruction, which also included Nikki Sixx from Mötley Crue. The band lost their record deal and already booked a tour but decided to carry on with a new guitar player. Stacey Blades (ex-Roxx Gang) stepped in, and the album TALES FROM THE STRIP was released in 2005, and since then, the band has been actively touring across the globe. The current version of L. A Guns includes Lewis, Riley, Blades, and the latest addition bassist Scotty Griffin. The band arrived in Stockholm in late October, and then we had the honor to sit down with Mr. Riley and hear the latest news and other interesting stuff as well… Read on!
WHAT’S GOING ON WITH L.A. GUNS?
Okay, Steve. First of all, it’s 2011. What’s going on with L.A. Guns at the moment?
Well, we’re just finishing a world tour. We started in Korea, went to Norway, Denmark, the UK – all of the UK and then back to France, Netherlands, Belgium, and up to Sweden, and then we have two weeks off when we go to New York and Florida. So we’re just working, working, working.
It’s been a while since the latest L.A. Guns studio album, TALES FROM THE STRIP, came out. Do you have any plans for the next album already?
Yeah, yeah, we do. We are going back over the holidays when we’re recording. We’re going to start pre-production, and when we go back, and then we got some dates and then go back to pre-production and then record over Christmas and New Year’s and maybe get something up by February?
Do you already have some songs written for the forthcoming release?
We already have a bunch of songs put together, and we got to put some more together. We got nice pre-production to go.
Any ideas who’s going to release the album this time?
We don’t, because two labels we’re talking with right now I got to go back to take care of business. I got to figure out who we’re going to go with. Might be Frontiers Records?
TWO VERSIONS OF L.A. GUNS?
It’s more than confusing for the fans that there are currently two versions of L.A. Guns touring out there. Isn’t that ridiculous in a way, and is there anything you can do about it?
It’s – you know what, this is the real L.A. Guns, this is the band that Tracii Guns quit and he went and did four projects, and they didn’t work, and he started his own L.A. Guns. Now we hear he’s got a chick singer. Singing Phil’s lyrics, I bet they’re all about chicks. So it’s all fucked up, so he could keep making a fool of himself and me and Phil; we don’t want anything to do with them because he started this second L.A. Guns it’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous.
Isn’t it like that you and him, you own the name L.A. Guns in half?
Have you ever tried to buy him out and get the whole name for yourself?
Ah, you know what I offered once, and he turned it down, and we have one other option, to go to court. And that, to go to court and both bands have to shut down for a few years, and we’re not going to do that. The best thing to do is to do the best shows we could do and show people what the real L.A. Guns is, and he takes that other thing out that sounds nothing like L.A. Guns, so that’s the way we have to fight this war.
If you ask me as a fan, I think he’s ruining the name L.A. Guns with all those ever-changing line-ups?
He’s blowing it. He’s blowing it from himself. We’re doing a mop-up tour; this is a damage control tour. We have to come over – he’s been over here with three different singers, and now he’s got that girl singer, and it’s all just fucked up for him, and we have just to mop up the mess right now and show people and let them know the real thing, you know. The fans, they’re very aware that you got to have Phil Lewis singing. Period. You got to have Phil Lewis singing.
But you’ve also been in this situation with when L. A Guns, we’re having a bunch of different singers in the ’90s like Jizzy Pearl. How was that time for you and the band?
Not so good, and I like Jizzy he’s a good friend, but I didn’t like doing it with him because again – but that was different. Phil was out of music at the time. He wasn’t playing. We weren’t going against another L.A. Guns. We were just trying to carry on. It was still very difficult for us because Jizzy doesn’t sound like Phil, and it sounded like a different type of band, and I was very uncomfortable with it.
Actually Jizzy had the same problem when he was singing for Ratt when Stephen Pearcy was out from the band and…
It was exactly the same thing. You got to have Stephen Pearcy in Ratt. He sang all the songs, he wrote all the lyrics, and he wrote the melodies. He’s just like Phil, so you have to have the original singer in a classic rock band. You have to have the original singer, at least the original singer. But it’s also good to have the original drummer. (laughs)
L. A Guns live at Stockholm in 2011
TIME BEFORE L.A GUNS
Tell us something about your brief time with the band Keel in the early ’80s.
Yeah, that was fun, and they’re good friends of mine, and I got to work with Gene Simmons again. I’ve known Gene since the ’70s, and that was a lot of fun, but when I got the offer to do W.A.S.P., it was no comparison. I went with W.A.S.P. immediately, and I had just finished the Keel album, and so I at least got to play in the album and do the album with them, a couple of shows with them, and then when Blackie called me up and said that they just finished their album and says “You want to go over to Europe with us?” I was like, “Yeah, I do.”
How was it to work with Gene Simmons in the studio?
Oh, very good. It was great. Gene’s a great guy, and he’s a good producer and everything, and he’s just really fun to work with. And Gene helped out the whole project too with his name and everything, and I don’t think Keel would’ve gotten the exposure if Gene didn’t do the album, you know what I’m saying. So he really helped Keel.
How about the W.A.S.P. thing then… You stepped in the boots of Tony Richards after the first WASP album was released. Did you actually play any parts on that album?
No, no, no, because I was doing the Keel album. When they were doing their first album, I was doing the Keel album. As soon as we both finished the albums, he fired Tony Richards, asked me to join, and the same thing with LA Guns. I was doing LIVE IN THE RAW with W.A.S.P, and then L.A. Guns was doing their first album, and they fired their drummer. It’s the same exact situation, and as soon as I got out of W.A.S.P. I went right with L.A. Guns, and it is very fortunate timing.
That first WASP tour you did, it must have been a great tour, when you we’re doing all those stage tricks there, and you were shocking the people then?
Oh, the first tour was great. We did all that great stuff. We had the chicks on the rack and everything. And we did that in Europe, and we did that in Japan, and then Blackie decided to drop it. When we went back to the States, and it was a mistake. So we never finished that first album doing the entire show. And the second album was a lot of fun to do because the band came off the road from a year and a half of touring. We went right in, and we did that LAST COMMAND album with “Wild Child” and “Blind in Texas,” and everything worked really great on there. The first two tours with W.A.S.P were really fun to do. I toured with them for the first one, and I recorded the second one.
After the LAST COMMAND album, you started to have some problems with Randy Piper?
No, we didn’t. Blackie did. Blackie fired Randy, and he not only fired a member of the band, but he also fired a very important member of the band. He was the second vocalist. He played a lot of the leads, and the good thing about those first two albums is Randy and Chris, one played like Billy Gibbons, Randy and one played like Eddie Van Halen type with this Chris, and it was a great mixture. When Blackie started to play guitar, it was just Chris doing the leads, and it was uneven. But it was very even with Randy and Chris, so, you know it was – it as a bad move. Blackie should have stayed on bass and kept Randy because that lineup of W.A.S.P. with me, Chris, Randy, and Blackie was a great band. It was a great band. He should have never fired Randy. Then he fired me, and then he fired Chris. And now he’s got a band with, you know, just him and some good players, but it’s not W.A.S.P., it’s not the W.A.S.P., you know.
How about Johnny Rod then, how he was to work with back then?
He, Johnny Rod, is a good guy, and he’s a good bass player, but he didn’t fit in. He was – did not fit in. You know Kelly Nickels tried out for once, and I thought that Kelly should have got the gig because he was tall and he was – he looked like he could have fit in, and he came down on the audition, and I thought that he should have got the gig, but Blackie gave it to Johnny Rod instead, and it was the wrong move. They don’t work. It did not work.
Actually, it’s funny that three weeks ago I did meet Chris Holmes when he was here with his band Where Angles Suffer and…
Yeah, I heard that they played in Europe.
It seems that you know the band, so how do you like the band name Where Angels Suffer or WAS?
I think it’s a funny thing and I love Chris, he’s still a very good friend of mine and so is with Randy and I still even get along with Blackie too but the – anything that Chris can do I’m happy because he got into a rut and he was drinking a lot, and if he’s playing I’m happy for him. I really am. I’m happy for Chris.
He did look like a very happy human being now.
Yeah, yeah, because he’s on stage, and he’s playing, and he got fucked over by Blackie. He really did, he co-wrote many of those big songs on the first couple of albums, and they screw them out of his publishing.
Yeah, he actually told me about it, and…
Well, he got drunk, and they made them sign the papers while he was drunk, and I saw it all go down. It was terrible, really terrible.
THE FUTURE AND LAST WORDS ABOUT TRACII GUNS
Well, as you said, there’s a new album in the works, but is there any chance that you could re-release some old stuff as well? Some of the L.A. Guns albums are hard to find nowadays.
Maybe we might, but we’re trying to concentrate on new material right now. I mean, we can’t wait to get in this – on the holidays and do a new album. We got a bunch of material ready to go, and that’s what we’re really concentrating on is doing that because TALES FROM THE STRIP turned out so good that with Andy Johns and we’ll go back in with Andy Johns and do a new one. Oh yeah, we’re going to do another one with Andy.
Do you have all the rights to the old albums?
You know what – only half of the rights, so we would have to through Polygram to do some of that stuff again. So it’s a little messy, a little messy, but right now, it’s only new stuff we’re thinking about. We’re not even thinking about old stuff right now. Because you know Stacey’s been with us for like eight, almost nine years now. And after we did TALES FROM THE STRIP, when we knew that it sounded good and we did it without Tracil, we want to do more stuff now. We have a lot of material, and we want to do it with Stacey and Scott.
Ok, Steve, this is the very last question, is there anything you are missing about Tracii Guns?
No, I mean, you know we were enjoyed doing that material with him, and we had fun and everything, but now that he did this other LA Guns, we’re very angry with him. We don’t want anything to do with them because he did that. It was bad enough that he quit with the band to go Brides of Destruction that was bad enough. Then we lost the world tour, and we lost the record deal. That was bad enough, but for him to go out and take another LA Guns out that did it, it did it.
Has he tried to come back in the band since the departure?
No, no, because he won’t have anything to do with me, nothing. He’s tried to work with Phil, and Phil wanted nothing to do with him either. But I, me too, I don’t want anything to do with him. He is ruining the name, and he looks foolish now. And now that he’s got a girl singer, he’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. This girl’s going to sing Phil’s lyrics, and they’re all about chicks. What’s that all about?
I was thinking the same. Okay, thank you. Thank you.
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