If you have had trouble keeping up with L.A. Guns over the years, it is completely understandable.
More than 50 musicians can say they have been an L.A. Guns band member at one time or another, and the group has split into two factions twice during their existence, once when guitarist Tracii Guns left in 2002 and more recently when drummer Steve Riley left and formed Riley’s L.A. Guns.
Though their relationship has been unstable from time to time, Guns and singer Phil Lewis have an undeniable synergy that has kept them relevant for nearly 40 years.
The latest iteration of L.A. Guns will be at The Eclectic Room in Angola on Thursday, July 13, with opening acts Superhawk, Mentally Unstable, and Plan B.
w/Superhawk, Plan B, Mentally Unstable
7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 13
The Eclectic Room
310 Wendell Jacob Ave., Angola
$25-$35 · (269) 625-4728
Creating music they enjoy
Released in April, Black Diamonds is the latest album featuring Guns and Lewis, their fourth release since reuniting in 2016. It may surprise fans familiar with the band’s early glam/sleaze sound that this album has a decidedly ’70s vibe.
In an interview with Whatzup, Lewis said that was done on purpose.
“Tracii and I are children of the ’70s,” he said. “We grew up with LPs, and we had record players. Back in the day, the first thing you’d do when you’d go over to a mate’s house or a girlfriend’s house is look through their records. That’s a long, lost pastime in music that is now gone. It’s not that we’re on a mission to revive that. It’s just the way we like to do things.”
Lewis went on to say that when the band was starting out, their sound may have been different, in part, because they didn’t have as much control over it. Record labels were much more powerful and were able to dictate much of the direction of the bands of that era.
Now, L.A. Guns make the music they want.
“We were sort of pushed, but we didn’t mind,” Lewis said. “We signed up for the rich and famous contract, make no mistake, and did whatever it took to get us a gold or platinum disc. Now, it’s a very different thing. We know we aren’t going to sell millions of records, and we don’t care. That’s not why we’re doing it. We really, really, at the end of the day, like to sit back and listen to a finished track and say, ‘Yeah, that’s me. That’s us. That’s how we can sound.’ Money can’t buy that.”
The history between Guns and Lewis dates to the mid-80s when Guns invited the singer to join an already formed L.A. Guns, replacing original singer Paul Black. They released four albums before the grunge movement toppled the genre and left the band searching for direction. A subsequent reunion followed, but that was short-lived.
“We didn’t talk to each other for 12 or 15 years, but about five years ago, we buried the hatchet,” Lewis said.
Now they are making up for lost time.
Recording early on
In the years since they reunited, L.A. Guns have put out four of the best albums of their career.
“We’re incredibly proud of them, not just because they’re solid, but because the music is so varied,” Lewis said. “What I love about this band is that we can do anything. It keeps it fun for the band and it makes it fun for the listener, too.”
Many of the songs from those days remain popular with fans and are often prominently featured in the live shows. Lewis attributes their continued popularity, and the demand to hear them live, to heavy exposure on MTV.
“It’s hard to explain to people now about the influence MTV had on the industry and the business,” he said. “For us and our peers, those videos created something in people’s consciousness that they will remember forever.”
He likened it to a smell or sound that takes you back in time.
“That is what these songs do, and I’m proud of that. They’re good songs, they were in heavy rotation, and they put us on the map.”
The band was full of energy during those days, Lewis said, and the hardest job for the label was to get them to focus and “chill us out. We recorded a punk rock album in Fleetwood Mac’s studio, and that was weird, but that’s where they put us.”
When they recorded the follow-up, Cocked and Loaded, the band had the confidence of the first album behind them and a little more input into the direction of the band.
“It gave us the impetus to just go in and do a new record, exactly the way we wanted in a studio we wanted, without the restrictions of the first album.”
The recording of their third album, Hollywood Vampires, was steeped in overabundance and “was a very expensive record,” Lewis said.
“Because the first two had done so well, they threw all this money at us. We had three or four studios going simultaneously at $300 an hour. It’s slick and it’s a big sounding album. Sonically, it’s amazing, but, here’s the thing, we spent more on videos for that record than we have on the last five studio albums combined.”
New music on horizon
New music will likely continue to come at a rapid pace with Lewis crediting Guns for that.
“We’ve got a very driven leader who can’t put that guitar down, so why not?” he said. “He keeps coming up with these great riffs and we keep building on them. Again, at the end of the day, it really comes down to doing what we want to do. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be in the spirit of rock n’ roll? Do whatever you want? That’s what we do.”
Their tour was born out of that same attitude. They are doing what they want, having fun, and seeing no reason to apologize for it.
“I’ve got enough money to last me the rest of my life, as long as I’m dead by the 28th,” Lewis joked. “Touring is just fun for me and I am looking forward to it. We’re going to do a few songs from this new record and the hits that people expect. Come out, have a good time and, probably, bring earplugs. It’s going to be loud.”