20 Questions with X-LA Guns frontman Paul Black
Paul Black’s L.A. Guns "Black List" CD cover.
Left to right: Tracii Guns, Mick Cripps, Nickey Alexander,
Paul Black & Robert Stoddard.
Every once in a while a skeleton will stumble out of the closet. It seems as if a skeleton, and a CD full of long lost tunes has done just that in recent months. Songs that are 20 years old, and a band that many have known of from years of touring, hit singles, and an array of member changes. But before all of that even took place, there was a beginning to LA Guns that many do not know of, that is unless you were hanging out on the Sunset Strip in 1985.
Here is an in depth look at Paul Black the original LA Guns frontman and his story.
1. This is your chance to plug your new CD, website, and more?
Well I’ve laid low for years. Kinda got a bad taste in my mouth for the music business. But now I’m back and I’m doin a lot. I finely released the original L.A. Guns songs on November 7th.and’ it’s getting great reviews. The Album is Called Black List and it’s available at www.blackcitymusic.com. and record stores nationwide. I’m documenting all my other bands as well. Black Cherry is coming out with a record called Ashes To Diamonds. Curtis Grant (Black Cherry Guitarist) just started a Black Cherry Myspace. http://www.myspace.com/44546666.Also, I’m working on putting out the first Mau Maus album ever- Psychotic, which I played drums on. Robbie Krieger of The Doors produced the album in 1983 but it was never released. Robbie and I are planning to get together to remix the record next month. Also, I’m filming a documentary about the Mau Maus and its lead singer Rick Wilder. Down the line I’ll be putting out some of The Joneses stuff (also with me on drums) and I’m on the Hollywood Rocks Box set which Cleopatra just put out Three times With Black Cherry, L.A. Guns, and The Joneses. But right now I’m in Memphis Tennessee recording at Sun Studio doing pre-production for a Paul Black Solo record called It All Comes Back. When I get back to Hollywood, I hope to use a lot of my friends from Dogs D’Amour, Black Cherry, GNR, Faster Pussycat, Jet Boy, The Zeros etc…as guest stars. The Final Tracks will be recorded at Swing House Recording.
2. Let’s cut to the chase. LA Guns was a local band you helped to form and fronted, then just when things started to get really good you quit and were replaced with Phil Lewis (Girl). The band signed a deal and the rest is history. How did it make you feel as they took off with a few hit singles, MTV play, tours, the fame, and success without you?
Mixed. The first singles for the first two records were mine as well as most of the concert favorites so on one hand I’m proud that my music was on MTV and launched their success but, it was upsetting that nobody knew my part in that. The credit for those songs should have been the springboard for signing my new band Black Cherry (which was actually a much better band). But unfortunately for Black Cherry and for people who didn’t get to hear Black Cherry, the New L.A. Guns line up did not have enough integrity to credit me with my own songs and instead felt the need to lie, cheat, steal and deceive the public and they’re still doing it to this day. Any mentions I ever got from the new LAG members promoted me as a drug addict, not a musician, and they don’t even know me. I don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs. Taking credit for my work and putting me down on top of it was awful.
Even the official LAG websites history still refers to me as merely a drug addict who just happened to be in the band instead of the founding singer who wrote the music and created the original sound and they still haven’t added Black List as part of the L.A. Guns discography even though it is actually the most legitimate and authentic L.A. Guns album to date with all five original members playing on it. Even Jizzy Pearl who was briefly associated with the band and Axl Rose who was never a part of this L.A. Guns receive more recognition than me. Robert Stoddard and original drummer Nickey Alexander who carried the band during its rise to popularity and to the record deal (without Tracii in the band) were also cut out after we got involved with Polygram and now they’re almost never mentioned. But they ARE on the Black List record with real music real stories, pictures and all. Probably the coolest thing about the Black List record is that it really does finally set the record straight, at least for people who want to know the truth.
In regards to how I feel about their fame and success without me? That never bothered me so much as what they did to my music. And how the shitty record company politics smothered Black Cherry and their success because of the lawsuit that could have been avoided with just a few simple credits.
3. Now getting into the dirt. You filed a Lawsuit against LA Guns and Polygram records. You said: "my former band LA Guns, recorded 9 of my songs, and didn’t credit me or pay me." What became of that and did you get any doe?
OK, Here’s the dirt. I did everything possible to avoid a lawsuit but I couldn’t simply let the songs go. I told my lawyer to just settle with them by negotiating a percentage, credits, co-publishing deal or just selling the songs outright. I thought it would be in all of our best interest to try and work out something that was mutually beneficial. Tracii and Mick gave me the impression that they felt the same way but I never got any proposals from them to resolve things and all my proposals were turned down flat. All I got were insulting letters from my former lawyer who had turned her back on me to represent the new L.A. Guns line up.
Then my drummer (Scott Lipps) made a statement in an interview for a magazine stating that I wrote the songs for L.A. Guns first record and that when LAG took my songs we (Black Cherry) dropped half our set so that we wouldn’t be playing the same songs as them. It was a true statement, but when that magazine hit the streets, I received a threatening letter from L.A. Guns/Polygram attorneys. Creating feuds is how lawyers make their money so they deliberately insulted me by demanding I apologize and threatened to sue me if I didn’t retract Scotts statement. They were basically saying fuck you, file a law suit or go away and get nothing .I sent a letter back refusing to retract Scotts statement and attached a formal lawsuit. The lawyers got what they wanted. They had no interest in resolving the dispute for us and we (L.A. Guns and I) were all dead meat.
Since I had no money, my litigating lawyer was on contingency and his scale increased as we got closer to the court date. Polygram and Lag Lawyers were getting $450 an hour. The lawyers had the power to settle the suit as they saw fit, and at $450 an hour, they saw it fit to stretch it out as long as they could and soak us for everything. We were all screwed.
The original LA Guns line-up!
After three years of a lawsuit I really wanted it all to end. I accepted a settlement giving me back most of my songs (or so I thought) and some money- $115,000. After paying the lawyers, court costs and taxes, I got to keep about $20,000. Which after 3 years in L.A. Guns and 3 years of a lawsuit was a little over $3,000 a year. I paid off some debt, bought a guitar and a used car and was broke again.
They also agreed to pay me continuing royalties and fully credit me on my songs from that point on but those agreements have been breeched time and time again. Plus, I recently found out that after all these years polygram/Universal has only been accounting to me for 25% of my song royalties because L.A. Guns sold 75% of my publishing to Polygram behind my back prior to settling with me. I have no Idea how much money they got for my songs but I never authorized that sale or saw a penny from it. People have just been doing whatever the fuck they want. It’s unbelievable.
But the most deceitful thing that happened during the lawsuit was that Polygrams lawyers and L.A. Guns told me that they had erased the masters to my demoed performances and the songs, which earned them the deal after I insisted that those tapes be returned to me. That killed me. It was like burning my diary. I couldn’t believe they would destroy the music and three years of my life? It all turned out to be a blatant lie though because in time my performances started to surface on other Polygram releases. The label didn’t even realize that when they were pulling my demos off the shelf to be released, that it was the original line up performing, and not the band the management had put together to sign their contract. I found out that all my original demos were still in the vaults at Universal so I requested my tapes back again. And if you can believe it Universal actually told me have L.A. Guns verify that these tapes are of the original line up with me singing before they would consider returning my music.
Mick Cripps was willing to show up and review the tapes to set the record straight and so that we could retrieve the tapes. I believe Tracii would have too if I had asked him. But I ran into a brick wall with Steve Riley. He seemed threatened by the idea. Riley knew that I had the rights to the songs and recordings and he absolutely did not want these tapes surfacing. Riley also managed somehow to have some of my publishing royalties diverted to his new publishing company without accounting to me. How it is that a drummer who I’ve never met is getting a piece of my songs is beyond me. In any case, when I called him, he refused to cooperate. After the misery we’d been through already I obviously didn’t want the hassle, headache and legal cost of forcing him to testify so, as a result Mick, Tracii and I had to put the Black List record together from cassette demos that have been sitting around for years and needed to be restored. And actually I’m really happy with the results. Even though these were restored demo cassettes, Black List has been getting really great reviews.
4. After LA Guns you formed Black Cherry. The band did shows with Iggy Pop, Janes Addiction and other critic faves yet no deal came to be. Where are the members of that project now and is there a re-union in the works yet?
Black Cherry was a great band. Which suffered from the Polygram suit. Several Major labels were contacting me directly. Capital, A&M, Virgin, Arista and others all said they wanted to sign Black Cherry but needed this lawsuit to be concluded before they could act. It was right there for us but we couldn’t do a thing. My lawyers and LAG’s Lawyers stretched things out as long as they could. By the time things settled it was too late for Black Cherry. We were breaking up and times were changing.
I hadn’t talked to any of them for some time until recently. They all got wind of the fact that I was gonna play some show with LAG and tracked me down telling me to book some shows for Black Cherry. So Black Cherry will be doing some shows in March. It’s gonna be great. We’re planning it for my birthday on Saint Patricks Day Friday March 17th in Hollywood, and Saturday March 18th in San Francisco. The Zero’s and JetBoy will be on the bill too so it’s definitely gonna be the show to be at.. Hopefully I’ll have the Ashes To Diamonds record done by then. I am really excited about playing with Black Cherry again after all these years. I loved that band. When I was in Black Cherry my life was all rock & roll. Even though we didn’t get an album out we did some great shows. Playing with that band was some of the best times in my life. These guys are itchin to play and there ready to rock n roll and they’ll be coming from all over. Bassist Mike Stevens is coming out from Maryland. Guitarist Curtis Grant Is coming from San Francisco Drummer Scott Lipps is coming from New York and I’m still in L.A.
Black Cherry 8×10 Press Shot
5. Rate a Sunset Strip singer 1-10. 1 being a joke and 10 being the shiznit.
W. Axl Rose = 8
Jani Lane = 5
Perry Ferrell = 8
Stephen Pearcy = 5
Vince Neil = 5
Taime Downe = 6
Phil Lewis = 5
Jizzy Pearl = 6
David Roach = 7
Steve "Sex" Summers = 6
Paul live with some guy named Axl.
6. Is true greatness and mega multi platinum success just barley missing Tracii Guns or it our imagination? He quit Guns N Roses, was in Poison for a minute until CC decided he was coming back, shared the stage with Nikki Sixx in BOD and has now joined Quiet Riot who are 2 decades removed from the super success of Metal Health. What makes Tracii such in an demand guy with all these other projects and bands?
Well, looking at the bands your naming it’s not just coincidence. Tracii just happens to have the style down that those paticular artists want. Plus, if I remember right, he actually took guitar lessons from Randy Rhodes. Personally I never really cared too much for the hot dog style of playing. But Tracii is good and can play some pretty tasteful licks. Writing with him was kinda tricky and unusual. He’s got lots of ideas.
I used to listen to him jam during rehearsals until I heard a lick or progression I liked that would inspire me. I’d have to be quick to stop him before he went on to the next thing. That’s how we wrote One More Reason to Die. I walked in on rehearsal, depressed, sick, broke, my relationship falling apart I literally wanted to die. Tracii
was fooling around with a lick while he was testing his amp but he wanted to start rehearsal and I said we have to work on what you were just playing first. Within
about 30 minutes we had the song arranged with all the lyrics. I felt better after writing that song.
7. LA Guns has had a history of band members coming and going. Phil Lewis was replaced more than once by Ralph Saenz, Roxy Dahl and another time with Jizzy Pearl – did you ever get a call from Tracii about stepping back in? If not, why do you think that was?
I never really thought they would ask me because I sued them. And quite frankly if they had asked me ten years ago I would have said no. I was really surprised when I got a call from Mick Cripps a few months ago telling me Tracii wanted to get the original band back together for some shows and asked me if I’d be willing to bury the hatchet and do a reunion. When I talked to Tracii he seemed excited about it. So, in light of the fact that Black List was coming out and it was now 19 years since our last gig, I told em I’d do it and I was really looking forward to it. I wanted to put the bitterness behind and do some fun shows with my old band mates and play the songs we had written 20 years ago. But now were all busy with other things and the Idea has been put aside. But the good thing is that the Idea sparked off an even cooler reunion cause Black Cherry is definitely gonna play in March for the first time since 1990 and everyone in town is gonna be there.
8. If you could smack in any rock star in the mouth, who would it be and why?
Jon Bon Jovi, for periodically disrupting my radio listening pleasure.
9. Pick your Poison…
Rock City News or LA Rocks = Rock City News
The Country Club or FM Station = Country Club
Warrant or Poison = Poison
Handing out flyers or handing out lawsuits = Handing Out Flyers (I hate lawsuits)
LA Guns w/ Phil Lewsi or LA Guns w/ Jizzy Pearl = Hmm I never saw L.A. Guns with Jizzy. I’ll give it to Phil
10. Hollywood is very image conscious. Do you think if you would”ve gotten a nose job things may have turned out differently?
What do you mean? This is my nose job.
A profile of Paul, a microphone and his mega honker!
11. Sunset Strip quiz. No cheating either, answer the question and give
a comment about what you though about the band, or individual?
The singer for Taz was named = Taz Comment= rymes with Raz (L.A. Guns original manager) (Answer = KK was the singer)
Did Paul Lancia front Pair-a-dice or
What band did Jim Torgeson play guitar for that Riki Rachtman fronted = Virgin Comment = He was in Cathouse and Barbie too I think. Nice guy. Great hair (Correct. Jim was in Virgin, and in that gay ass band Barbie as well. He is a Sludgeaholic as well)
Who sold stage clothes in the lower level of Gazzarris = Jani Lane.comment= I used to like Cherry Pie until I heard the son (Answer = Al Bane for Leathur)
Mr. Insane was a member of what band = The Zeros. comment = great purple haired drummer & singer. I wish he would rejoin the Zeros for the upcoming Black Cherry, Jet Boy Zeros shows in March. yeah! I think I got one right. (Correct. The Zeros ruled!)
12. What do you think seperated the signed bands who went Gold & Platinum to those who got a deal but came up short. Examples: Poison, LA Guns and Faster Pussycat compared to Jetboy, Junkyard, and Rock City Angels.
There are lots of things. Of course songs and sound are important. good management, good promotion, image. And of course back then you had to have a label behind you and if you made enemies with the wrong people you could get buried. That’s why I’m OK with people bootlegging my stuff. For people like me it keeps the music alive. Major labels and bad management killed it for me. I’m also pretty happy with the Internet for eliminating artist dependency on labels to make their music accessible.
13. Name 3 bands who had no business getting signed off the strip, and who are 3 bands that should’ve gotten a deal?
There were so many bands in the 80’s I couldn’t believe were signing deals but I can’t remember who they were. Without a doubt Black Cherry should’ve signed a deal. The Joneses deal with Geffen should have definitely gone through. The comatones had great songs a great image and sounded great. They should have been signed..
Black Cherry flyer for X-Poseur 54 gig!
14. Kill, fuck, marry! (Tracii Guns, Traci Lords, Gunnar Nelson)
Thanks a lot. OK well definitely fuck Traci Lords. And since I don’t know Gunner I’ll kill him. So, by default that would mean I’d have to marry Tracii Guns but that’s OK I’ve sued him before now I’ll just sue him for divorce. He can have the cat. I’ll keep the dog.
Paul & Tracii before the lawyers got ahold of them!
15. Of all the bands you shared the stage with, who were the biggest dicks and who was the coolest?
Blue Oyster Cult- Biggest Dicks.
Johnny Thunders-Coolest. Although, he broke my toilet when he stayed with me.
16. What are your fondest memories about the following
The Roxy = Headlining show with L.A. Guns. Showing up late to a packed house then sitting down for a cigarettes break in the middle of the set to watch our drummer Nickey whip a girl on stage thinking he was actually so good with the whip that he would be able to accurately hit the cigarette hanging from her mouth. The audience was horrified
Bordello = Girls walking around in their underwear
Cocoanut Teaser = Tacos and hanging from the ceiling
The Central (Viper Room) = metal shop and meeting iggy pop
Gazzarris = The Godfather
Whisky-A-Go-Go = Duff spilling his beer on me just before I went onstage with
Cathouse = Girls walking around in their underwear
X-Poseur 54 = Hanging out in the the girls bathroom with the Black Cherryettes
Troubadour = Taime Down doing our lighting.
Scream = Black Cherrys first show with Janes Addiction
17. What was the largest pay day you ever received for
your musical contributions to the world?
$115,000. I got to hold the check for 5 minutes before signing
it over to the lawyers
(Editors note: Going back earlier in this interview Paul said he got to keep
$ 20,000.00 out of $ 115,000.00! What a fucking shame! 85k to the lawyer? Ouch!)
18. What are the 3 high points and the 3 low points of your music career to date?
high points 1. Three-way drum jam with Joey Kramer, Steven Tyler and myself at
Joey Kramers house. 2.The forming of Black Cherry.3. Supporting the Lords of the
new church at Fenders Ballroom.
Low Points.1. The Law suit against my former band L.A. Guns 2.Black Cherry
Breaking Up 3.The Mau Maus dissolving.
19. Word Association:
Tracii Guns = Junk Food Junkie
Brent Muscat = Japanese Translator
Paul Stanley = Are you ready to rock N Rolllllll….!!!!!!!!!
Rueben Blue = Big smile… Can I get a picture?
Riki Rachtman = Black Cherry Corvette
Robert Stoddard = L.A.P.D.
Mick Cripps = Monster Tattoo
CC DeVille = Clown
Slash = Where’s your face?
Nickey Alexander = Ringo Star
20. The Last of Paul Black…
Last gig you played as frontman for LA Guns = March 1987
Last time you played any gig at all = As a singer 2000 as a drummer 2004.
Last fast food you ate = Yook Hwe Jang for breakfast
Last rock star you shook hands with = hmm I think it was Duff or Slash or maybe Izzy
Last 80s CD you listened to was = Black List
Last time you had eyeliner and hairspary on = Last week. eyeliner, no hairspray
Last time you signed an autograph = Last week signed a copy of Black List
Last time you had pizza at the Rainbow = 11 years ago
Last time you cried = last week
Last time you visited Metal Sludge = yesterday
A big thanks to Paul for stepping up and slinging the Sludge!
Rip & Sludge