Phil: "I don’t think even Tracii would be stupid enough to compete with us at this point.”
Phil: "The LA Guns debut along with Cocked & Loaded “sounds like shit.”
"I just don’t understand why he came up with this stupid decision to quit his own band and do a side project with a bored millionaire." Phil Lewis on Tracii Guns and Nikki Sixx
Metal Sludge exclusive with LA Guns singer Phil Lewis
By: Keith Ryan Cartwright
Metal Sludge Contributor
Phil Lewis said that working with longtime friend and sometime collaborator Andy Johns gives him and his band mates a confidence they wouldn’t otherwise have. “When the guy who recorded the vocals to Stairway to Heaven tells you, you’ve just done a good take,” Lewis elaborated, “you tend to believe him.”
The man famous for working with Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and Van Halen has obviously taken a liking to Lewis’ longstanding version of L.A. Guns. They’ve worked with the famed producer for 10 years – beginning with 2002’s Waking the Dead – and they’re recently released Hollywood Forever debuted at No. 25 on the Billboard Hard Rock Album Chart.
Lewis likened Johns to being an uncle and said the recording process is a “full-contact production.”
Claiming he has no interest in working with producers like Mutt Lange or Bob Rock, Lewis said in the future he would rather wait six months for Johns, than to record with someone other than the man whose career catalog has sold in excess of 160 million copies. “Andy’s flexible with me,” said Lewis, who added, at this point in their career, it’s important for the band to “stick to our template.”
He said that means no auto tuning the vocals or using any drum loops.
LA GUNS – Scotty Griffin, Phil Lewis, Stacey Blades & Steve Riley
There’s also formula for the songwriting that stays true to verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, solo, chorus and out. “You don’t get too precious about it,” Lewis said. “It’s only music.” That’s why Hollywood Forever is anything but a Lewis solo project. In fact, when the songwriting process commenced in early January, Lewis said, all four members – Steve Riley, Stacey Blades, Scotty Griffin and Lewis – came to rehearsal with four or five songs each.
They wound up recording 14 songs – 13 originals and one cover – over a six-week period beginning in late January. Lewis said the deal with Deadline Music, a division of the Cleopatra Music Group, came about quickly and in order to meet a summer release date of Tuesday, June 5, the band didn’t have time to agonize over some of the smaller details during the recording process—instead trusting Johns.
“I would have liked to have had a little bit more time on the mixing,” Lewis admitted. “I would have liked to live with it for a couple of weeks and made a few changes. We didn’t have that luxury.”
This is their first studio album since releasing Tails from the Strip seven years ago. In addition to three studio albums, L.A. Guns has released two other albums worth of covers material –Rips the Covers Off (2004) and Covered in Guns (2010) – since guitarist and namesake Tracii Guns left the fold.
Guns originally left to join the ill-fated Brides of Destruction with Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx.
“He quit the band,” Lewis said. “He left and we moved
on and, no, we didn’t want him back. We were relieved, to be honest.”
Although the band has had a long and contentious
history – Riley was fired in 1992 and rejoined two years later after Lewis quit – Lewis remains adamant that the group had no intentions of kicking Guns out at the time of his departure.
“Everything was going fine,” said Lewis, who rejoined the classic lineup of Kelly Nickels, Mick Cripps, Guns and Riley in 1999, “and I just don’t understand why he came up with this stupid decision to quit his own band and do a side project with a bored millionaire, who was obviously not going to give up his day job. I don’t really want to be in a band with somebody who is going to make dumb calls like that. You’re on the road with your brothers and you gotta have people watching your back. He just never had out back and I’m glad he’s gone.”
If any good came from the split, Lewis said L.A. Guns was featured in both the L.A. Times Calendar section and Rolling Stone Magazine, discussing the fact that two versions of the band existed.
After all, any press is good press.
A few old friends say hello, Leslie Sanders, Stevie Rachelle, Stacey Blades & Phil Lewis
Lewis said he and Riley refer to it as “damage control.” There was a time when, according to Lewis, they would book German tour dates for August and that “mysteriously Tracii would get shows in August. We had to deal with that shit for awhile.” After dealing with that for the past couple years he’s hopeful that the release of Hollywood Forever will be the end of the L.A. Guns storyline for the founding guitarist traipsing the world with a second version.
“I don’t think even Tracii would be stupid enough to compete with us at this point,” Lewis said. “The guy has been doing his version for like six, seven years and the guy hasn’t put out a single song—not one song—and we’re like on our third album now, so that tells you what’s legit and what’s not.”
Guns did release Acoustic Gypsy Live – an album of mostly rerecorded music, two covers and one new original – in 2011, only to have singer Jizzy Pearl quit the band less than 48 hours before its release date.
Lewis is currently on tour with L.A. Guns and the band is performing in the U.S. and Europe throughout the remainder of 2012. They released their first single, You Better Not Love Me, and the video can be found on YouTube.com. Lewis called the next few months an “interesting” time of year.
“We’ll go from playing a big festival with thousands of people and the next night we’ll be playing our own club shows,” he said, “so it’s never boring.”
Lewis said fans can expect to hear them perform what he refers to as the “nuggets,” which are songs like Ballad of Jane, Sex Action and Never Enough, but added that he and his band mates feel like the new material has gone over equally as well.
Talking about the future only led to his wondering how that would have been different had the band worked with Johns in early years.
“I think if we would have had Andy on the first two records we would have been a lot bigger,” Lewis said, “and things would have been a lot better for us. We were basically getting a couple of chump producers from the record company when we first got signed, and it really wasn’t our say.”
Lewis said their 1988 self-titled debut along with their follow up Cocked & Loaded “sounds like shit. It really does,” he continued. “Sonically it’s just fucking horrible, but it’s got a good vibe and the songs are alright, I don’t know, it is what it is. It put us on the map, but I wish we would have had Andy to record it and it would have ended up a whole lot better.”
Keith Ryan Cartwright is the senior writer for PBR.com. In 1993, he interned for Dennis Rider Management, while Ugly Kid Joe embarked on a worldwide tour with Ozzy Osbourne. Cartwright currently resides in Fort Worth, Texas.