In a newly posted feature by music writer Joel Gausten, L.A. GUNS singer Phil Lewis discusses his reunion with guitarist/founding member Tracii Guns and shares his thoughts on the time when two separate versions of the band existed. An excerpt from the story appears below.
Far from an overnight success, L.A. GUNS paid their dues in Los Angeles for five years before the release of their eponymous debut album in 1988. Before settling on what many fans consider to be the classic L.A. GUNS lineup — Lewis, Guns, bassist Kelly Nickels, guitarist Mick Cripps and former W.A.S.P./ KEEL/STEPPENWOLF drummer Steve Riley — the band went through a conveyer belt of musicians including WEIRDOS/GERMS drummer Nickey "Beat" Alexander, MAU-MAU'S/JONESES drummer-turned-singer Paul Mars Black, one-time THE DOGS D'AMOUR member Robert Stoddard and — for a brief time — Axl Rose. With the addition of Lewis (formerly of the U.K. glam rock group GIRL with future DEF LEPPARD guitarist Phil Collen), L.A. GUNS soon hit the big leagues. The band's 1989 sophomore release, "Cocked & Loaded", reached the Billboard Top 40 and scored a massive hit with "The Ballad Of Jayne". Then, everything began going very wrong.
With subsequent albums failing to match "Cocked & Loaded"'s success (an issue helped along by the rise of grunge) and internal squabbles wearing the band down, the ensuing two decades saw L.A. GUNS jump from label to label and lineup to lineup. The long list of members to pass through the group since the mid-'90s includes former 7% SOLUTION singer Ralph Saenz (who later found notoriety as "Michael Starr" of the glam metal parody act STEEL PANTHER), LOVE/HATE's Jizzy Pearl, bassist/producer Mark "Muddy" Dutton (BURNING TREE, CHRIS ROBINSON BROTHERHOOD), FASTER PUSSYCAT's Brent Muscat and female vocalist Dilana Robichaux ("Rock Star: Supernova"). To make matters even crazier, recent years saw two versions of L.A. GUNS — one featuring Lewis and Riley, the other featuring Guns and a revolving door of players (including the brief returns of Black and Alexander) — playing on the road. This is only a brief taste of the insanity; it would take a full book to properly explain the twists and turns in the L.A. GUNS story.
With Lewis and Guns rekindling their personal and professional connection, where does that leave the singer's version of the band with Riley? Is there a chance of that incarnation of L.A. GUNS also existing in 2018?
"I doubt it," Lewis replies. "It's nothing to do with me. When I was out of the band, Tracii and Riley registered the band's name and split it 50-50 with no stipulations whatsoever. They're both free to use it, but it was a terribly low time in the band's history when there were two versions of the same band at the same time playing. It was very confusing, but we did get the dubious award for the highest band member [turnover] in 'Spinal Tap' history. I think we've got 47 people out there saying that they were once members of L.A. GUNS.
"Things had kind of gotten a bit stale [with Riley]," he adds. "We hadn't put anything out for over five years since [2012's] 'Hollywood Forever', which I thought was a great record. I was always bugging Steve to get back in the studio, but he just wasn't into it."
The complete feature is available at www.joelgausten.com.