L.A. Guns

Their song’s title and hook “It’s Never Enough” from their Platinum 2nd LP Cocked & Loaded (released in 1989) comes to mind when summing up L.A. Guns continuous drive and high standards of work ethic in making music. From their debut album L.A. Guns released in 1988 (which went Gold), to this present album which is in the making, founder Guitarist Tracii Guns and Lead Vocalist Phil Lewis are still going strong with the same extraordinary, creative talent that they had from the start.

Catching up with Lewis during the downtime of this current pandemic, he revealed some details of their new music, his inspirations, some fond memories of past experiences, and what fans can look forward to from L.A. Guns.

Ohio Music Experience: The new song was just released, “Let You Down.” It’s Awesome! What was the inspiration?

Phil Lewis: Well, we are currently working on a new album and it will be the third record that Tracii and I, since the reunion, are working on. He’s just a workaholic, you know. He just wants to make the best use of the time. He even, had it not been for this lock down, we were already planning to start the record. It was just the first song that we approached, and because of this lockdown it was like, ok instead of just like roughly going over it and then recording it the traditional way, let’s just all do our own bit wherever we’re at. In Tracii’s case it was Denmark. My case it was Vegas and then Adam Hamilton compiled it in LA. He played drums on it. Unfortunately, we couldn’t have our drummer, Scot Coogan play on it, because we couldn’t get into a studio. Drums are the hardest thing to record, let’s face it. So, we went with Adam, and Adam is an honorary member. I mean, he’s been in this band three times in a different capacity. He’s been a bass player. He’s been a drummer and a guitar player. The only thing he hasn’t done is been a front man. He could do that too I have no doubt. So yeah, it was a very different way of doing it and of course, you know, when we first put the song together, we knew we had something special and it was once again, Tracii was like, let’s just put it out instead of just making it part of this record, just another track on this record. Let’s highlight it. It just happens to be the first one that we’re working on. I told him recently, I thought it would be a great idea, you know what Space rock is?

Ohio Music Experience: No.

Lewis: Well, if you go on YouTube and type in space rock. What it is, is this sort of meandering melody, spacy guitar riffing. Sort of very 70’s sounding. It’s really not singing on it. It’s very triffy and needs these, they’re like trumfits really. They go on. You’ve got two hours of music, three hours of music, and it’s just so groovy, slow cool electric guitar. It’s great! You should definitely look it up.

Ohio Music Experience: Ok. Yeah, I hear that in the beginning of the song (“Let You Down”).

Lewis: Exactly. That’s where I’m going with this, and I was like you know, you got to do a space rock album and I didn’t mean, just a few seconds. I meant like, hours of it, (he chuckled), but I’d like to think that I played a little bit of an influence in the creation of that, musically anyway. Yeah, it just turned out great didn’t it?

Ohio Music Experience: Yes, it did and your vocals are very strong. Looking forward to the album. Is there a theme with this album? How did the rest of the songs come about?

Lewis: No. There isn’t a theme as yet. There really hasn’t been much of a concept other than put together the 10 or 11 best songs that we can. The best songs that we like, and that’s pretty much been the MO since this reunion. I let Tracii do the writing, the instrument writing. I want him to be playing, you know, when we do it live, the stuff that he creates. My own solo writing songs, I’m saving that. I’m doing those myself. I’m actually working on one today and it’s very different. It’s much more of a Brit pop kind of a, sort of an oasis kind of a thing that just wouldn’t be right for L.A. Guns and I wouldn’t really want Tracii to play that kind of stuff. It’s beneath him to be honest. I mean, he’d be bored. I’d much rather him write these intricate pieces that he really enjoys playing live instead of me bringing, I mean like “Over the Edge” which is very, very simple. I could teach you that in two minutes.

Ohio Music Experience: Who would you say are your musical influences?

Lewis: Oh, I like this question a lot.

Ohio Music Experience: Oh Good!

Lewis: You know, I think it started with The Beatles on the radio and then, uh, I’m old, (he laughed), and sometimes I curse God for making me old, but then I think about how lucky I was to be a teenager in the 70’s and how incredibly amazing it was to be able to go to the (Royal) Albert Hall and see Black Sabbath or go to Alexandra Palace and see Rory Gallagher or Deep Purple. I saw (Led) Zeppelin. I was right in the middle of, an epicenter of it in London around like ’75, ’76, and the influences were just completely overwhelming. Well for start, everyone I knew and everyone back then sort of tinkered. You know, sort of could play their guitar or was involved in music somehow or other, or knew somebody that was. There was just so many bands. So much going on, and it was a just really, really exciting, creative time. Well Humble Pie, Steve Marriott. I saw him live in Hyde Park. A free concert. It must have been about ’74,’75, and they were absolutely mind blowing incredible. This is the Humble Pie with Steve Marriott and Peter Frampton at the time. The original band, and I just never heard anything or seen anything as cool as that. Making eye contact with Ozzy (Osbourne) when I was fifteen, right at the front at the Albert Hall and stuff like that. It was just such an obvious path for me. Even though, I’ve got to be honest. I have no musical training whatsoever. Just the love of it. The love of the craft and just working at it and getting better with each recording. Getting better with each gig.

Ohio Music Experience: Years ago, when I interviewed you guys, you told me that music chose you when you were young? You taught yourself, right?

Lewis: Yeah, yeah. You know, I’m doing the best I can right now keeping busy. I think my phrase I usually say in this situation, you don’t give up the road. The road gives up you. It’s like an old country saying, and right now it seems like the roads given me up (he chuckled). It’s given everyone up unfortunately. So, the challenge is to keep busy, which I’m definitely doing with this recording stuff at home and then, I like to read, and I’ve been buying books for years with the sole purpose of sometime if I ever do slowdown, just you know, reading. Now, there’s nothing but time and I’ve really been enjoying reading books that I’ve had for a while that I thought I’d get to later and I’m getting to sooner. Mostly biographies. I’m reading Billy Idol’s biography. I did Steven Tyler’s biography. I love biographies, especially rocker biographies. I’m having fun doing that. As I said back then, everyone had a guitar. Everyone could play a few chords and that’s all I needed, was trying a guitar that would stay in tune and learn how to play a C chord and a D chord and an E, and if I was really tricky, I’d do an F. Once I learned my five, seven chords, I was off. I was doing open mic nights. I was doing Cat Steven’s songs. I’d figured out how to sing and play at the same time. I figured I could do that and that was great! That’s something I do feel blessed I can do because a lot of people can sing and a lot of people can play, but two things together. So yeah, the enjoyment I love. The last gig I did before lock down was a solo acoustic gig in Arizona, and I love doing them. So, we’ve been so busy that I don’t get much chance. I plan on doing it when this thing opens up again. I think like solo acoustic gigs are going to be the kind of thing people might want. Certainly locally. I’m in (Las) Vegas and I can see that being something of interest to people. People are just dying to get out. Aren’t you dying to go out?

Ohio Music Experience: Yes. I was just thinking that sounds pretty great! So, you think those type of gigs may be taking place first? I think the big arena concerts probably won’t happen for a while.

Lewis: Yeah. That might be a while, but you know something, a more intimate setting might be feasible huh?

Ohio Music Experience: Yes, let’s hope so. I did notice that you guys are booked for the Monsters of Rock Cruise next February. Do you think that’s still going to happen?

Lewis: Well, you know. Fingers crossed. The list of gigs. The disappointments that we’ve had in the last few weeks is very depressing. We were supposed to play Wacken festival in Germany. Something we’ve always wanted to do. Right now, we were supposed to be in Ibiza. We were going to be headlining the HRH, the English festival, in Spain. In the island of Ibiza. We were all set to go there. We should be there right now, actually. Try not to think about it too much and just focus on music. Read my books and just try and keep busy.

Ohio Music Experience: Do you think you’ll do a biography or an autobiography?

Lewis: Yeah, I mean. I’ve gotten like various stages into it. Now is a great time to do stuff like that of course. I found, I’ve been doing a fair bit of Facebooking and Instagraming, and I’ve found groups of people that were around in the late 60’s, early ‘70’s that I don’t remember too much about. It’s an era that I’m really fascinated by. Especially London history with the gangsters. With the Kray Brothers and stuff like that. So, I’ve been connecting with some people that were around at that time and you know, that would be the start of my biography, would be around that time. It’s pretty amazing. When I think about it, I see it in black and white. You know. It’s late 50’s, early 60’s ‘cause everything you see from that era is, all the pictures were black and white. So, I just think of it like that, but It’s really one of my favorite eras in history and I’ve been making lots of friends in like chat rooms and stuff from around that time that is very inspiring. There’s so many people, Facebook and Instagram, I know it’s just full of narcissistic people and for a while there, it was just overwhelming and it was just like, wait a minute. What’s going on here? So, I’ve been cleaning house, and now all my feeds are stuff that I’m interested in. Not some girl with duck lips. No offense to girls with duck lips. It’s just that that’s really not what I’m terribly interested by, (he laughed).

Ohio Music Experience: Another thing you mentioned back then was that you did some photography.

Lewis: Yeah.

Ohio Music Experience: Is that something that you still dabble in?

Lewis: A little bit, but you know everyone does photography, now don’t they? You know, everyone’s got a camera in their phone and some of those photos taken on phones are absolutely stunning. I really enjoyed the process of photography. Like the old film. The negatives. The apertures. Setting a manual camera. That was my kind of photography. I really enjoyed that. It’s somewhat redundant now. There are few people that do it and it’s a great hobby, but I’ve got so many other hobbies, I just don’t have time. I mean, I still take pictures, but like everyone else, I just take them on my phone now. I’ve got cameras. Beautiful cameras. I hardly ever use them now.

Ohio Music Experience: What other hobbies do you have?

Lewis: Well, I’ve got big into vinyl, LP’s and that whole like ‘70’s High Fi, early pioneer tube amps and really heavy speakers. I live in a detached house, so I can make as much noise as I want, whenever I want. So, I do, and I’ve got about 12, 1500 LP’s. Mostly rock from the 70’s you know, like (Black) Sabbath, (The) Doobie Brothers, Cream. That’s something I really enjoy doing, and during the course of the day, I’ll look through my LP’s, decide what I’m going to play that night, and I really enjoy it because that’s something else I haven’t been able to do for a while. Just go record shopping. I’m jonesing for that. You know, you can still get stuff online if there’s something I want, but that takes the fun out of it. I like going with a blank slate, going into a record shop and going through and just finding stuff. Yeah, that’s one of my favorite hobbies, and then I’ve got a little motor bike collection that sounds fancy, but it isn’t. It’s only three or four and rarely are they all working. So, there’s always something to do with those.

Ohio Music Experience: I was on the set for “Electric Gypsy” in the desert (covering the video for a national magazine article).

Lewis: You were there for that? Wow! Well you know, we were all so terrified of dropping those bikes. They weren’t ours as you know. They were like local bikers who were very generous, (he chuckled) to let us ride their love machines, on the gravel as well. My God. Terrifying! I was behind Steve Riley (original drummer), he’d never been on a bike in his life and we were by the train tracks and he’s on the gravel, and then all of the sudden a train comes by and he starts wobbling, and I was like, oh shit! This is going to be bad. But, to his credit, he rode like a champ, and it’s a great, great clip in the video of him riding and the train going by, but it was slightly terrifying. So, don’t take it personally, I don’t remember too much. Where was that? I’m trying to remember. I’m out in Vegas and its somewhere between Vegas and LA. I should take a look next time and see if I can remember any land marks. You know some of the stuff it should still be there.

Ohio Music Experience: Yeah, let’s hope. So many things are gone now.

Lewis: It’s tragic. You know, that’s one of the reasons why I became disillusioned with LA. All the cool places, all the cool bars, all the cool clubs. They’re all closing down. House of Blues went down. It’s only the Whisky (a Go Go) and the Rainbow (Bar & Grill). I hear the Troubadour’s on the ropes now. It’s not the LA I remember and I’m in Vegas as I said, and its close enough for me to get there in four hours or 40 minutes if I get on a plane. So, I do feel that I’m actually in a suburb in a way, and I can get in there any time.

Ohio Music Experience: What would you say is the secret to your success, the longevity? You and Tracii and the band?

Lewis: We’ve had moments, we’ve had more than moments where we haven’t liked each other, but we never lost respect for each other. I’ve always respected his ability and his work ethic and you know, just his skills, and I think there are teams. You know, there’s Mick Jagger and the Keith Richards, there’s Roger Daltrey, the Pete Townshend combination, and we just have that. I’ve worked with hundreds of other musicians, guitarists and Tracii’s worked with dozens of other singers. It’s just something about the chemistry, the two of us, that fits, hence the title of the reunion record The Missing Peace, and we’re just really lucky to have that, and it was pretty much instantaneous as well from the moment I joined the band. He invited me to come out and audition. I met the guys the night before. The next day we went into the studio. They were all plugging in and tuning up, and singers I just go over and check the microphone, make sure it’s on, hi hi check check one two, and Tracii looked up while he was tuning guitar and goes, “oh yeah, ok that’s it. You’ll do. You got the gig.”

Ohio Music Experience: Oh wow!

Lewis: Yeah, that was it. Before I even sang a note. He was like,” ok that’s it. You’re in” (he laughed).

Ohio Music Experience: You were in Girl prior to that correct?

Lewis: Yeah. Tracii was a huge Girl fan, and soon as he found out that I was available, that was great! We were on each other’s wave length right from the beginning. So, we’ve got that. Yeah, you know, he’s a little bit scary too. He scares me a bit. That’s good too. It’s not that he’s bad, just that you know, you don’t want to fuck up with Tracii. He gives the very best of himself. He never writes anything crappy. He never does anything just for the sake of it. Everything he does is very focused, and he expects the same from everyone that he works with, and so there’s no fucking around (he laughed). That comes later.

Ohio Music Experience: Yes, I remember you guys were always a hard-working band.

Lewis: Yeah, no we are the hardest working band. I’m pretty sure of that. That’s why it’s maddening to not be doing it right now.

Ohio Music Experience: What would you recommend to an up and coming musician or up and coming band?

Lewis: You know, I would just really, really absolutely salute them and wish them all the best because as I said, in the 70’s when I was a teenager, bands were everywhere. You could put a band together. It was fluid. The musicians were switching from one band to another. There was so much of that. Of course, there isn’t now. It’s pricks like Simon Cowell that came and fucked it up with these awful singing shows that basically eliminated bands. I’m not saying that they’re entirely responsible for it, but they played a big part in the demise of the band. Concept of the band. It’s pretty much all but gone. So, there are bands that are doing great. There’s Greta Van Fleet. Good luck to ‘em. They sound great. I mean, I know its kind of a tribute. Then there’s another band that they come out with us a lot called The Darbies and they got great potential. They got great songs. They look fantastic. They’re young and hungry. I just hope that there is an outlet. I hope there is somewhere for them to go. We’re ok because whether we like it or not, we’re part of a nostalgia movement. We’ll always have that. We do try and separate ourselves from that musically. We’re doing new stuff now that is very, very different from the stuff that we did back in the 80’s. It’s a different band essentially. So, yeah, we’re blessed to have that. We can always work. We have a name. We do what we can for these young bands, and our fans loved them actually. They went down really well, but you know where they go from there, that’s really tricky. My advice I suppose would be to a, well definitely get a vasectomy because you have a kid, it’s all over. You can’t do that. You can’t be an aspiring first-time, young musician and have a family. You can’t have both. It’s absolutely impossible. That comes later. Tracii just had a baby boy. The cutest little baby you’ve ever seen! You know, we’re old fogies. We’re supposed to make babies now, but not when we were in our twenties. Amazing isn’t it. We got through; we didn’t knock anyone up!

Ohio Music Experience: Please tell him congratulation! That’s awesome!

Lewis: Thank you. Yes. I will. I’ll be sure to.

Ohio Music Experience: Is there anything else you want fans to know about the album, new videos?

Lewis: The response has been fantastic. The likes and the comments. You can look it up on YouTube. The song is called “Let You Down.” It’s a lyric video.
Something definitely to do and enjoy! L.A. Guns incredible talent just keeps growing, and this new album will certainly be a must for all fans to add to their collection.

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