As the world of music changes and evolves, humans never stop appreciating some of the archetypes of rock and roll, and sometimes we need to appreciate the pioneers of a generation. Back when glam metal and hair metal was emerging, a not so little band called L.A. Guns who formed in 1983; and though labelled this way, they don’t associate themselves with glam metal the way many people see them to be, but more about that soon.
Ahead of the band’s upcoming Australian tour, we grabbed vocalist Phil Lewis for a little chin-wag.
L.A. Guns are coming down to Australia in just a few months, when was the last time the band was down here?
“We’ve been there twice. First time we went there was amazing, we did great. We did about 4-5 shows and it went really well. The second time we came out was an unmitigated disaster, the promoter completely dropped the ball. We knew that we were screwed the second we got off the plane and no one was there to pick us up from the airport and we weren’t able to get to the hotel.”
“The crew hadn’t been paid and it was a very ‘Spinal Tap’ experience. We didn’t end up doing a single show, actually that’s not true, we played a club show in Melbourne and it was alright, but both those times for me, were without Tracii (Guns; lead guitarist), so this will be the first time that him and I have come down together- so I pretty much consider that to be the first L.A. Guns tour.”
Wow, what a joke. So what have L.A. Guns been up to recently, I believe up until not so long ago you had a tiny break of around 15 years?
“Well yeah, that was until about 2-3 years ago, there was a very long hiatus, Tracii and I hadn’t seen each other at all and there was a charity gig being put together in Las Vegas. It happens every Christmas time, it’s Toys for Tots and it raises money for kids and what not. Tracii so generously volunteered to play the event and the guy who was putting it on knew I was going to be in Vegas at the time so he invited me down to do a couple of the songs. Being a charity event and no one getting paid and a good cause, I had no reason to say no it, so it just so happened to be the first time I’d seen him.”
“We hadn’t seen each other in 15 years and surprisingly enough we didn’t talk that much before we played, but as soon as we went on stage and started playing the first song, it was the chemistry and magic like we’d been playing that song for decades. Somehow something happens between him and I when we play and it just takes it to another dimension, hard to explain. It’s like the dichotomy of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and I really do believe Tracii and I have that.”
Kind of like muscle memory that you can never forget, right?
“Very much so, and we’ve both grown up a lot since these 15 years apart and he’s a lot more sensible than he was, and he produced ‘The Missing Piece’ the name of the new record that we put out in October last year. He did a phenomenal job putting back the band together, putting those songs together, getting me back and overall putting out a very definitive L.A. Guns record. It’s classic but it’s new. It’s contemporary and classic, it’s fantastic, and you just gotta listen to it.”
“Every song is different and you don’t just skip tracks, you don’t pick favourites, it’s really best if you listen to the whole thing from beginning to end, it’s not quite a concept album, but in a way it is. We play a lot of it live and it’s always tricky for a band to do that ‘cause people want to hear your nuggets like ‘Sex Action’ and ‘The Ballad of Jayne’ but we also incorporate a lot of this new record in our set.”
So people need to listen to it front to back right?
“That’s what we used to do, when we heard an LP, I’d just switch the world off, open up the date fold and I’d read the lyrics and sing along – it was a real immersion. I think that kids today don’t know what they’re missing.”
I think you’re right, it’s great to focus on a new album to fully appreciate it. So Phil, when you hear the term L.A. Guns, many people think glam metal, hair metal, 80s music and a whole lot of fun. If you look back on the early years could you have ever imagined that your band would have such a huge influence on rock and roll for years to come, and be labelled this way?
“I don’t know about the hair metal and the glam, we’re just a back-street rock and roll band, you know? We wore leather, we wore cowboy boots and it was a like a gang. It’s a little bit like The Police being lumped into punk rock, it’s the farthest thing from punk rock, but because The Police came out at around the same time, we suffered from the same thing. We would have way preferred to have come out in the 70s than in the 80s because we could separate ourselves from that to be honest.”
Interesting, so you don’t see yourselves as one of those ‘sunset strip’ bands then?
“We weren’t trying to make our hair bigger than any other band, we weren’t trying to be cheesy, we weren’t trying to make cheesy videos that girls were going to like. We were a guys’ band, we weren’t sucking up to the chicks like Warrant who were just going out of their way to be cute and to be funny and to have big hair and big teeth; we were never that.”
“We did do some partying and we did party with those guys and were friends, but we distanced ourselves from it. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m English and I came from London [but when I] came out to L.A. just as things were exploding, it was like I had died and gone to heaven, there were parties going on and there was a great gig happening every night. It was so alive, absolutely amazing. So I went from London overnight to L.A. and I never left.”
So what’s next for L.A. Guns, will you be continuing to tour for an indefinite amount of time or is this a one-off?
“We’ve been touring for the past year or so, so we’re going to take March off, we’ve got a cruise coming up in a couple of weeks, we leave from Miami, and go down to Jamaica and then work your way back up, we’ve done a few of those, that’s coming up soon. Then there’s a festival called M3 which happens every annual festival year in the Baltimore district and then of course Australia and New Zealand, we’re incredibly excited about that.”
Very exciting, so finally what can fans expect from the live shows down under?
“Well a whole lot of energy, a whole lot of character, this is a band who actually look at each other, you know a lot of bands don’t look at each other when they play, they’re in their own cosmos, they’re in their own world and it’s all about them and their ego, but this band isn’t at all like that. We give each other visual signals of what’s going to happen, and it’s great – it’s an unholy communion, a profound communion is my term for it and you’re going to get that, you’re going to get all the hits and more. You’re going to get a whole lot of new stuff as well, a bit of everything.”
Sounds like a really great tour, we’re all really looking forward to checking out the shows soon!
Interview by Ricky Aarons @rickysaul90
L.A. Guns – The Missing Peace Australia Tour
May 17th BRISBANE, Wooly Mammoth
May 18th MELBOURNE, Max Watts
May 19th SYDNEY, Max Watts
May 23rd PERTH, Rosemount Hotel