Steve Riley's version of L.A. GUNS recently released its debut single, "Crawl". The track is taken from the band's first album, "Renegades", which will arrive in late summer or early fall via Golden Robot Records.
Riley's version of L.A. GUNS is not to be confused with the band led by guitarist Tracii Guns and vocalist Phil Lewis, which issued two well-received albums, "The Missing Peace" and "The Devil You Know", plus the live release "Made In Milan", under the L.A. GUNS name over the last three years.
Riley's version of L.A. GUNS made its live debut last May at the M3 Rock Festival. The drummer is joined in the group by Orlando, Florida-based guitarist/vocalist Kurt Frohlich, bassist Kelly Nickels (a member of L.A. GUNS' "classic" incarnation) and guitarist Scott Griffin (who played bass for the band from 2007 until 2009, and then again from 2011 to 2014).
In a recent interview with "The Classic Metal Show", Nickels spoke about Riley's decision to call his new band L.A. GUNS. He said (hear audio below): "This is what it is because we put a lot of work into the band. We split everything equally back then, and we all contributed to the songwriting and to the playing and the meet-and-greets and the charity stuff and all the things — we did everything together; everybody always put a hundred percent into everything back then. And we feel like we have as much a right to play those songs — I should be able to play the songs I wrote, and so should Steve.
"Steve's played every show since the first album was released," he continued. "No one ever asks what happened to the old drummer. And I know, but I won't say, 'cause I would let him tell that story, but I was there. And we were lucky to get Steve. He's taken care of all the business for the last 30 years, and he's the only guy who never quit, and that's a fact. And legally, he has a 50 percent right to use that name — trademarks, whatever. He feels like he's earned it, and I'm not gonna argue with him. If you feel like that, Steve, you've been there the whole time. Mick [Cripps, guitar] quit, Phil quit, I quit, Tracii quit, everybody's quit and come back to him and they quit again, but it's always Steve who's been back there keeping that groove for everybody for all that time. But at the same time, I totally understand how people feel. I get it. It's complicated, and it's a shame. But we're just playing music. And you don't have to choose — you don't have to feel bad about liking one person or the other. As far as we're concerned, we're just putting out some tunes, we're playing tunes that we wrote and played on. It is what it is, unfortunately.
"We are in our mid-50s and we're lucky to be alive," he added. "We have this chance to go out and play. To start from scratch, though, would be totally impossible. Change the name — you build your name; it's what you have. And you worked on that name a lot, you put all this effort into that name, so you can't just really change it — it's not that simple. It's complicated. We don't have that press machine to get it out and change it and everything."
According to Nickels, when the L.A. GUNS signed their original contract, the agreement was that "the last guy in the band has the name with him — the last guy out of us five who is still in the band playing gets the name.
"This is a matter of dignity," he clarified. "This is a matter of pride. This is a guy [Steve] who's done all the business, made all the phone calls, all the booking agents, all the promoters — everything. All the business, all the taxes — he's done it all for the last 30-something years, and I'm not gonna argue with him, man. I'm totally fine with it. I feel like we got it right. I feel they [Phil and Tracii] started it. They wouldn't have us in the reunion, and so am I am supposed to sit home and rot?
"It's only rock and roll, man," he reasoned. "We're not hurting anybody. We're just all hopefully putting out cool music that people like. If you like it, that's great. If you don't, that's fine too, man. Just be happy. Don't worry about it."
This past January, Riley was sued by Guns and Lewis in California District Court. Joining Riley as defendants in the case are the three musicians who perform in his recently launched rival version of L.A. GUNS; that group's manager, booking agent and merchandiser; and Golden Robot Records.
The complaint, which requests a trial by jury, alleges that Riley's version of L.A. GUNS (referred to in the case docket as "the infringing L.A. GUNS") is creating "unfair competition" through its unauthorized usage of the L.A. GUNS trademark. In addition, Guns and Lewis are seeking relief from and/or against false advertising, breach of contract and unauthorized usage of their likenesses.
At its core, Guns and Lewis's complaint calls into question Riley's claim of partial ownership of the L.A. GUNS name and logo and alleges that his usage of both has been unauthorized. In addition, Guns and Lewis claim — as Guns has done publicly in the past — that Riley has embezzled much of the group's publishing proceeds over the past two decades.
Despite leaving the band soon after the release of 2002's "Waking The Dead" to focus on BRIDES OF DESTRUCTION (his short-lived supergroup with MÖTLEY CRÜE bassist Nikki Sixx), Guns "is the owner of common law trademark righs" for the L.A. GUNS name and logo, the complaint claims. It notes that Guns founded the band in 1983, four years before Riley joined, and that Riley did not perform on the group's 1984 debut EP and contributed to just a single track on their 1987 self-titled full-length debut.
According to the complaint, Guns "has been injured by Defendants' unfair competition," while he and Lewis have "suffered harm including damages and and irreparable injury to their goodwill." It also claims that Riley's L.A. GUNS was formed "with the intent of tricking and confusing consumers into believing that the infringing L.A. GUNS band is the original [Tracii] Guns version" of the group.
In addition to actual and punitive damages, Guns and Lewis are seeking a "permanent injunction" that restrains all of the named defendants from using the L.A. GUNS name, logo and likeness, as well as "a declaration that Guns is the sole owner of the common law trademark rights" for the L.A. GUNS moniker "and any related design marks."