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14 June 2012|
It hasn’t been that long since I found out that there were actually two versions of the band L. A. Guns! At first it was very confusing and I didn’t really see or hear anything L. A. Guns like in Tracii Guns’ version when I saw their gig in 2009. But in October 2011 I finally saw the L. A. Guns at Camden Underworld, London. With all honesty and a fan’s objectivity I have to say that the one with Phil Lewis and Steve Riley left the biggest impact on me.
Now that L. A. Guns have a new album out, seven years since ‘Tales From The Strip’ back in 2005), it’s time to take another look at the former glam rockers from the 80s L.A. scene and see what they’ve got to offer the audience of 2012. Nage Drake talks to Phil Lewis about the album and tour…
Since February this year you have had at least one gig a month in several states and countries. When did you manage to record the album?
We took January to write and February to record. The whole process took about 13 weeks to complete.
When will it be available in the UK?
June 5 is the release date here in L A. UK should be quite soon after.
Can you compare how making music has changed since you started? Has the technological progress made it easier or do you prefer the way it was before?
One thing I’ve noticed is no bands makes demos anymore. I guess with laptop recording there’s no need. Yes, recording has come a long way since I first recorded on Mr. Edison’s Cylinder phonograph, ha ha!
Who picked the name for the album and the cover, and why these?
I did! Nobody came up with anything better so it stuck. I like the name ‘Hollywood Forever’ and its connotations, and I have a thing for Victorian statues rotting gracefully in Highgate Cemetery so I just combined the two elements. The statue we chose is a real babe even if she’s a hundred and fifty years old.
There will be videos released for three songs from ‘Hollywood Forever’. Which songs are those and why did you pick them? Is there any story behind the ideas for these songs and videos?
We made videos for ‘You Better Not Love Me’ because it’s the first single and one for ‘Aran Negra’ (Black Spider) for the Latin market and one for ‘Requiem’ because we all love the song so much. Favourite!
There have been quite a few changes in L. A. Guns over the years. What are your thoughts on and expectations of the current line-up?
No too many line up changes over here. Adam Hamilton quit to focus on being a producer. Scotty replaced him and stayed with the band two years and left for a year to do pant in Vegas and he was replaced with Kenny who’s very solid. I don’t want to dwell on an ancient history, we’re a totally different band from the guys who recorded ‘Sex Action’.
Who wrote the most songs and lyrics on ‘Hollywood Forever’ and how do you decide which songs end up on the album?
I wrote most but not all the lyrics. It was important to have each member bring in finished songs because we were under such a time crunch. Stacey wrote everything on the song ‘Hollywood Forever’ after we decided that was going to be the album title. And Scotty ran out and wrote one too. We ended up using both.
How are the members’ responsibilities shared when you’re on tour?
We tour like a well-oiled machine. We know what has to be done before we leave and we deal with it. There are no cry baby rock stars in this band. Steve and I have been on the road for 40 years I think by now are pretty good at it. The hardest part is the travel. Late nights and early flights are brutal. That’s what we get paid for… we do the gigs for free!
Speaking of touring, you’ve recently finished a small European tour. Can you tell us about the audience in the cities and towns you visited this year?
We drove 10 hours deep into the heart of the Czech Republic and we noticed that all the girls had milky white skin and were all heroically endowed. Great crowd though. They don’t get much and we gave ‘em everything we got. It was a great night but the 10 hour drive back the next day was a bitch.
Comparing this to the last year’s UK tour – where did you receive the biggest response at a gig?
We pulled in a big crowd in Austria but that’s not always necessarily the best response. A rainy night in Holland in a very cool little bar with a small crowd having the time of their lives is a good response in my book as well.
You have many old and also new fans at your live shows. I only found out about L. A. Guns thanks to a Scottish band Peepshow about three years ago. Now, the younger fans often use social media. What is, in your opinion, the best way to communicate with them?
We have a LA Guns Facebook page, and individuals. We used to have a MySpace account that I loved but alas that’s gone. We also have www.laguns.net that has a very active message board.
Your career as a singer involves other acts, not just L. A. Guns. Do you currently have any side projects; perhaps a solo or Heavy Metal Kids?
I did the HMK’s for a change because of my old friend and idol Gary Holton, who passed long ago but who’s music and punk rock sensibilities are still a huge part of my life. I’d love to do more shows with them but it looks like I’m going to be too busy for the next year.
How do you prepare for a live performance from the singer’s point of view?
I bath myself in goatskin oil and shave off all my pubic hair with a cut throat razor… just kidding! That’s what I do when I’m home. I do my Seth Riggs voice warm-ups and take the piss out of Stacy’s stage outfits while we’re getting ready to go on.
Last October in London it was the first time I saw L. A. Guns with you on vocals live. I have to say I was really impressed and that show left a huge impact on me. You are an amazing frontman and that’s what my next question is about: What makes a great frontman and singer?
Great voice, infectious charisma. Sex appeal and style. None of the qualities I possess but I’m pretty good at faking them.
Nikki Sixx’s Heroin Diaries read: ‘LSD. They all have Lead Singer Disease.’ Would you say it’s true? Does a singer need that big an ego?
I say Nikki Sixx and his Heroin Diaries are a total fraud. Anyone that was ever addicted to Smack or any opiates knows not to glorify addiction. It’s incredibly irresponsible. It’s total crap as well. Nikki may have dabbled a little but him and most of the dinosaur rock stars of that era were doing tons of blow or cocaine. There was very little heroin in LA in the 80s compared to London. Sixx as a teenage millionaire had a very thin grasp on reality. I don’t give a fuck what he thinks about singers.
On a very different note now – how do you see today’s economy influencing music and recording industry? Is it predominantly the music or merchandise sales that you manage to live and tour of?
The bad economy has been good for us actually. We’re working more than ever and even scored a new record deal, so as bad as I feel for peeps that are hurting right now, we’re doing fine. Not great but keeping busy and taking care of our responsibilities.
You were included in a movie a few years ago. What movie was it and how did you come across acting? Would you take another acting opportunity if provided?
Just a silly low budget gore movie called ‘Witchmaster General’, where I play a voodoo doctor embroiled in a murder for hire caper. When I accepted the part I assumed it would be a small role, I didn’t expect to play the lead role. It was a challenge learning all the lines. The acting part was all done in one evening right after I’d done five East coast shows in a row, so I was quite delirious.
How is life in L.A. treating you? You ran away from London a long time ago. Is there something that you like about your home country more than The States?
I love LA but I’m not here very often with touring. The city’s a whore just like Duff says in his song and I try to distance myself from the celeb thing. But the weather’s fantastic and I have so many good friends here now I don’t think I could ever go back to England. Hollywood’s been much kinder to me than London ever was.