Hard Talk

L.A. Guns: Interview with Phil Lewis

One thing most anyone can agree on when there is mention of the Hollywood metal scene, the name L.A. Guns always pops in their heads. Not much thought has to go into knowing that they were one of the pioneers of the whole sleaze/glam genre that took over the airwaves in the mid to late ‘80’s. With several label changes and numerous line-up changes, L.A. Guns are still true to the scene in which they had a hand in creating. It all comes clear with one listen to their latest release, ‘Tales From The Strip’. And today’s line-up is stronger and more crafted than ever before. Phil Lewis-vocals, Steve Riley-drums, Adam Hamilton-bass and Stacey Blades-guitars are burning up the speakers with each and every track on the disk. The band has written some of it’s best material to date with this release. As Phil states, “ although it’s got a new sound to it, it also has an old school sound as well.” And after this interview I went out and bought it for myself. I can’t argue with Phil one bit. This is truly a great L.A. Guns release. Keep rockin’ guys.

JH: First off, what’s going on in the L.A. Guns camp?

PL: Well we’re not doing much at the moment. We had a great year. We did a lot of shows. Had a lot of fun. Went to a lot of countries. Put out a great record, that we feel really good about this year. You know now we’re just kind of kickin’ back. Christmas time and all. Just sort of enjoying a little down time. We’ll be back in the saddle early next year. Got some fly-in shows to do around the country. We’re lined up to do a bunch of festivals in Europe and in Scandinavia in the summer. Just kickin’ back doing a lot of press stuff for the record still.

JH: Now that’s for “Tales From The Strip”?

PL: Yes, yes. There is still a lot of interest in it.

JH: So the new album is in a way sort of ,autobiographical? To some extent?

PL: Well sort of. There are some songs that are autobiographical. I think it’s a record with a central theme. But I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s a concept record. It’s not like you know we’re trying to be Queensryche or anything.

JH: Well like I said before, I have not had the chance to hear it yet. So could you give us a description of it?

PL: Well it’s a little round thing. It’s silver, you put it into a cd player and it goes around and around…..

JH: Really? Quickly too? How about sonically?

PL: No really, it sounds great. It’s got like an old school sound to it. We used our friend Andy Johns, Andy of the Led Zepplin, Rod Stewart producer fame, who made it sound really great. And the last 3 releases. The playing is brilliant. Steve Riley’s never played better. In fact he’s play so well that we actually gave him his own track. The album features a drum solo.

JH: Wow, you don’t ever hear that any more.

PL: No, nobody ever does it anymore.

JH: I haven’t even seen/heard one at a live show in like forever.

Phil LewisPL: Yes I know. But we have the guy who produced “Moby Dick” , the guy responsible for the ‘Led Zepplin II’ sounded. So we were really fortunate to have Andy on our dream team. And he made us sound great again. He did it with “Waking The Dead”, he did it with “Rips Off The Covers” and actually each record has gotten better. Sound wise. It was a great album to write, it was great fun making it and recording it. I actually…..I’m still listening to it. Uhm, for fun. Yeah it’s unusual for me to be so still into it. I love playing it to people.I just did a weekend gig with my other band called ‘ Angel City Outlaws ‘. With Bobby Blotzer, Robby Crane and Kerry Kelly. We did a couple of shows in Arizona. And that went well. It’s just a cover band. We go out and do like Zepplin, Thin Lizzy and Stones and have great fun.

JH: So how much has the ‘80 Hollywood metal scene changed to date?

PL: Changed?…..Yeah, it has changed. changed for the better. It’s a great rock scene here. A great musical community. (for some reason I lost some audio here for a few sentences). There really hasn’t been anything to replace it. There’s never been a scene after the early ‘80s metal scene that was that good. There’s always going to be a scene here. There will always be a ton of great bands to come out of here.

JH: Now I want to apologize again for my lack of Guns history.

PL: Your fine.

JH: So I read that Traci left in ’02? How did that come about? And were there any thoughts of just hanging it up as well? (The band L.A. Guns)

PL: it was a very bad decision. A very selfish decision that Traci made. To leave the band, during the, right after we made a great record. And we had a whole European tour lined up, playing with Alice Cooper in like 16 different countries. Everything was going great and he decided that not only did he want to do a side project, which I thought was great. A great idea. But he did want to be in L.A. Guns anymore. That was very disappointing. So he split at a very crucial time for us. Left us to scramble. We had different guitar players for awhile. Chris Holmes from W.A.S.P. cause Steve knew him from the band. And that was great fun. He was a madman. There was never a dull moment. we went through a bunch of different people. We had Kerry Kelly for a long time. We knew these weren’t going to be permanent, but is was great fun for awhile. You know we soldiered on. And then we got Stacey Blades. He been with us now for 3 years.

JH: And what was it when you were out of the band for a few years there?

PL: Parenthood.

JH: Understandable.

PL: I had a little girl. And after not having much of a family life myself, I didn’t want to miss it. I wanted to be around for her.

JH: That’s great. Very honorable.

PL: Thanks. And I was sick of being in that rock-n-roll sausage machine. Just cause we sort of got ourselves in a rut a bit. So I decided to take a sabbatical. I actually retired. I was over it. I never expected to come back into music. I would always be a musician and play but I never thought I was going to come back and do the 24/7 full time thing. So 6 years ago I got back in and it’s really been great so far.

JH: Tell us about today’s L.A. Guns line up.

PL: We are the new and improved L.A. Guns. Contemporary. But without using turntables and scratching . Still, we’re old school . With a new sound. It definitely doesn’t sound like the first record.

JH: With such a strong band backing you, and with your notoriety, did you ever consider making an album, this album under a different moniker?

PL: What? You mean getting the original band and putting out a record and saying that we’re someone else?

JH: Yes.

PL: What just to see what the reaction would be? That seems like a lot of work . I’m proud to be in L.A.Guns. Especially when we put out a really great record. I would hate to put it out anomalously. I’d want everyone to know it. But I guess it would be sort of a neat thing to do. Didn’t The Alarm do that?

JH: Not sure.

PL: Yes, they put out the song they recorded. In Europe and all the dj’s loved it and they found out it was The Alarm and they stopped playing it.

JH: Now there are also rumors/talks that original singer Paul Blakk will be getting back together Traci and Nicky and Mick to do shows under the name L.A. Guns. What do you think of that? And has anything come about yet?

PL: I don’t think that Mick, Nick or Kelly are committed into doing something like that. They might do the odd show here in town. I think that would be great. I’d love to see it. But I wouldn’t ever see it as a threat. I can’t even see them treating like it was going to be some long term project or anything. And it should be called L.A. Guns. They are the Original band. We’re like the new originals. Like a Spinal Tap. I don’t even see it a any sort of distraction.

JH: So what’s next up for you after the holidays?

PL: So Kerry Kelly has a couple of tribute records he wants me to sing on. A Motley Crue record, where I’m going to do Dr. Feelgood. And then a Guns & Roses “NightTrain”. I’ll be doing that right after Christmas and , and doing our Angel City Outlaw thing. Maybe even writing a few songs together. I’m in a real writing mode. I constantly am keeping busy. Always writing. And waiting for these killer L.A.Guns shows to start rolling in and do a great summer tour. And after that we’ll start thinking about making another record. And step it up a bit maybe with a bigger label. Shrapnel is a great label, but just step it up a notch. Some people think I’m delusional but that’s what I would like.

JH: Well that’s about all I’ve got for you. Anything you want to add?

PL: You go get the new record.

JH: I will. This week.

PL: Go get the new record, I’ll check out the site and tell me what you think.

JH: Will do.

PL: Thanks a lot.

L.A. Guns Ball-Buster Interview conducted December 20th 2005.

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