Fireworks

Fireworks Magazine Online 42 - L.A. Guns

No one can deny L.A. Guns was one of the original American glam rock bands of the 80s. Its founder Tracii Guns also co-founded the successful Guns N’ Roses and in the last decade co-formed Brides of Destruction with bassist Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe. Talking from Brazil, the guitarist shared with Mónica Castedo-López some very positive philosophy, an extreme sense of humility and highly appreciated honesty. In good spirits, the chatty Tracii spared the time and humour to answer all of the questions regarding the present co-existence of two versions of L.A. Guns, his and the one with drummer Steve Riley and singer Phil Lewis, as well as the main reason for this interview, which is the deluxe re-issue of the 1999 album ‘Shrinking Violet’ featuring Jizzy Pearl.

I’d like you to clarify the pretty confusing situation of the co-existence of two versions of L.A. Guns, yours and the one with singer Phil Lewis and drummer Steve Riley.
I don’t understand it, but I’ll tell you why I don’t play with Steve Riley. When I did Brides of Destruction I found out from one of our record companies that they had been sending royalties to our publishing company with Steve Riley’s address and he had never been paying me royalties. I dug further and found out that he’d been receiving royalties since 1994 that I never received. So I said, okay, I’m not going to play with this guy anymore, for obvious reasons. Then when I was finished with the Brides my band is L.A. Guns and I had to figure out how I was going to do it. Those guys are lucky enough that when I went to do the Brides I said ‘Hey, you guys continue on and when I’m done, we’ll continue’. They took advantage of the situation and if they’re comfortable playing in somebody else’s band without that person, more power to them. It doesn’t affect me, but they are the subject of a lot of jokes. They’re in their 50s and whatever, I really don’t think about it that much.

But you’re on friendly terms with Phil Lewis.
I talk to him, but you know what? There’s something wrong with that guy. He sends these really beautiful emails saying he wished things were different and then he’ll go in the press and say things like ‘Tracii is just the mascot for L.A. Guns’. It’s like ‘dude, fuck you!’ I don’t care about Phil Lewis. I don’t care about Steve Riley. They’re people that were in my band for a few years and we made some great music and had some good times, but most of the time they’re these arrogant old rock and roll people that are ugly people. I don’t want to know them, I don’t care anymore. I like to have fun and play music, I don’t care about being a rock star or pretending that I’m in Led Zeppelin. These guys like to fancy themselves as special ...and Elton John is special, not Phil Lewis. I’m not special, I’m not Jimi Hendrix, I’m Tracii Guns, but some people have to take themselves very seriously and I just don’t and never have. It’s more important to have a great time because I’m going to die someday and I don’t want to be that special to myself to where it gets in the way of having a good time and travelling the world doing it. That’s always been a problem with my life because I’m very free-spirited and I like to do a lot of things with music and people don’t like that. They want to hold me down in one place ...‘you belong to us’. Fuck you!

Who owns the L.A. Guns name?
Legally there’s a trademark of the shield logo that is on the very first record. That trademark is owned by me and Steve Riley. It was an idea he had in 1994 because no one had ever trademarked a logo. You can’t copyright a name, like a word, it has to be a logo or a brand, so when that happened that gave Steve the right to use that logo, which includes the name of the band, but in no way, shape or form does anybody own the name L.A. Guns except me. It’s something I created when I was 17 years old, nobody is ever going to argue that fact, that’s just the way it is, but since legally there’s a trademark and I tried to cancel it but I would have to follow with a lawsuit to go after the royalties. It’s very expensive and it takes a very long time, so a few months ago I decided to walk away from it because it’s not affecting the production of my band or what my band does.

Is Steve angry at you for naming your band L.A. Guns?
Oh, yeah! They’re so mad, they can’t believe it! How can Tracii Guns have L.A. Guns? That’s what I mean, it’s that attitude of denial where they think that they should have the name even though not one of those guys ever had an original idea or a creation in their lives. Phil had a band called Girl, which I liked very much and he had a lot to do with that band. He put that band together, but he did not put L.A. Guns together. Steve Riley was always a hired drummer in L.A. Guns. It’s a joke! It’s ridiculous and desperate! In the end, it’s stupid, that’s all I can say.

Given the success of Guns N’ Roses and the fact that you were a co-founder of that band, do you have any regrets?
No, because once again it’s the people you have to live with. If everything is about money, you are going to kill yourself, because if somebody is making your money and you get angry about it, it makes you feel sick. So I was very lucky to re-do L.A. Guns when I left Guns N’ Roses and be able to continue on what I always wanted to do. It seemed the bigger Guns N’Roses got, the more proud I got. I have two bands, one I don’t play with anymore that’s huge, and I have my own band that is doing really well. So I felt like I had two great things at the same time, as opposed to competing with my old band, because the most important part of that was that ‘Appetite For Destruction’ was such a great record that I was a fan of that record. I love that record, so it’s really hard to become sad about anything that happened. I felt I had the best of both worlds: Guns N’ Roses is my band, I helped create that but now I don’t have to deal with the drama and the band is very successful. Now I’m back in L.A. Guns, we’re very successful but I can still walk around the street and I don’t have people up my ass all the time and I didn’t have to deal with people doing lots of drugs in L.A. Guns. It’s always a happy spot for me more than anything, but if I dwell on the amount of money, then it could make me sick, so I never really thought about it, but every lawyer and every manager I ever had they thought about it. They’re like: ‘Let’s go sue them’ and I’m like: ‘Let’s not! Let’s concentrate on what I’m doing instead of what already happened’ because there’ll be managers and lawyers and agents that are not being creative, they’re only there to make money. And in the music business you don’t sue other musicians. People don’t like those who do that. I want people to like me and my music, not to be known as the guy that’s suing people.

Read the full three page feature with LA Guns in Fireworks #42, out now!

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