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Exclusive! L.A. Guns Are Waking The Dead!

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Sunday, March 9, 2003 @ 9:51 PM

L.A. Guns, Sans Infamous Axema

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It is the day after the infamous club fire in my native Rhode Island. The Great White show at “The Station” is the top story on every major news outlet, and the subject of concern for more than a few people in attendance this evening. I mention this because it bears mentioning. This interview was set up only a few days prior for me, as a “representative” of KNAC.COM -- but I had been to “The Station” many times… I knew well the club’s small size, I have seen a few bands there… it is as much in the back of my head this night as anyone’s…

L’Amour is a famous, well-maintained rock club deep in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, New York. It is the pre-eminent venue for metal lovers in the Five Boroughs, and upon walking inside I note instantly the presence of red “EXIT” signs and sprinklers on the ceiling. I make my way to the bar, and hear the subject of the fire bandied about the rock crowd as I pass by rockers male and female, young and old. It is a horrible, frightening tragedy: Yet the turnout is strong for LA Guns…

After the band takes the stage at 1:30AM, they are only one song in when Phil Lewis addresses the crowd… a quiet, poignant nod to the previous night’s events. He offers up hopes and prayers for the victims and their families, and dedicates the evening to the crowd who came out to see the rock music they love – tonight -- and for the people who lost their lives in Rhode Island.

After the show, I will be turning on my tape recorder and chatting with LA Guns. They are on their first tour without founding member and namesake Tracii Guns, who is working on a project with Nikki Sixx. I had my doubts about what the show would be like, but with the addition of guitar-slinger Kerri Kelli, and Faster Pussycat’s Brent Muscat -- I was pleasantly surprised. I have forsaken a show review and attention to set list in favor of just enjoying the music over a beer. However, their set included a few tracks from the great, recent Spitfire release, Waking The Dead, as well as concert staples “Sex Action,” “Ballad Of Jayne,” “Rip N Tear,” plus some long missed favorites -- “Long Time Dead,” “Kiss My Love Goodbye,” and the great, under-rated “Beautiful” from Man In The Moon.

After the show, the whole band comes out to chat, meet, greet, sign autographs and shake hands with their fans. I make my way backstage to meet up with Brad Nelson, their tour manager, and get situated for what was to be a brief interview with Phil, and maybe Steve. Pretty much, prior to the tragedy in Rhode Island, I had wanted to discuss the departure of Tracii, and the resulting changes. Mr. Nelson kindly assembled the entire group, and I realized the need to be extemporaneous and include each member’s input -- as the five men who make up LA Guns stood around me in a huddle, and I turned on my tape-recorder, the ease and charm of this company of players made me mindful of the fact that, whatever lineup changes they have undergone, whatever struggles they face as a touring group in a descendant genre of rock music, and, touched as they were by the previous night’s events -- once thing remains clear and unshakeable -- LA GUNS IS A BAND.

Phil Lewis, singer, standing in front of me
Steve Riley, drummer, on the couch to my left
Adam Hamiton, Bassist, standing between Steve and Phil
Brent Muscat, guitarist, on the couch to my right
Kerri Kelli, guitarist, crouching down between Brent and Phil

KNAC.COM: Okay… first things first, I guess… so you guys all heard about Great White in Rhode Island? Some of you played there, at “The Station”…
PHIL: Yeah…we played there often.

KNAC.COM: It was a very small stage…
PHIL: It was no place to have pyro… you don’t need pyro in a little place like that, man -- that’s so stupid…
BRENT: You don’t need it… when you’re a rock band -- what do you need it for? You just go out and play the rock… it’s not like-
KERRI: And when you’re that kind of a venue…yeah…

KNAC.COM: Those of you who played it… you might remember the low ceiling…
ALL: Yeah… so small.
PHIL:: Not the place you do that… Fuck, man, you do pyro in arenas, in theaters… not in a small club, that’s so so stupid. It breaks our hearts… those people…we love Rhode Island, man… lot of rockers there, as you know.
BRENT: Bless their hearts…

KNAC.COM: It was nice of you to mention that tonight.
PHIL: Well, I’m not very good at speeches or anything, but you’ve got to say something, ’cause it’s in everybody’s head.
ADAM:: We had friends that were fans that were there.
BRENT: Some of the guys in the crew and the band…

KNAC.COM: And last I heard, they still hadn’t found out about Ty Longley…
ADAM:: No… he’s… he’s gone… he’s gone… we heard…
KERRI: We just found out … he’s dead… this is one of the most surreal moments I’ve ever had…
PHIL: You know -- it’s awful… horrible… there’s so much confusion around… we had a gig burn down on us too -- we were doing a show with Bar 7 – we were out on tour -- we were up in upstate New York…
BRENT: No, we were in Port Jefferson, and it was The Village Pub in Port Jefferson, and it caught on fire…
PHIL: ...And it caught on fire and we had to stop… and fortunately no one was hurt that night. These old clubs… it’s so sad…
STETE: Out hearts are with those people tonight… their families…

KNAC.COM: I’m sorry… I don’t mean to dwell on that…
BRENT: It’s okay…

KNAC.COM: So… the new album… it’s fucking amazing… great rock… I love it…
PHIL: So do we, man, we’re really proud of it.
BRENT: That’s why we’re out working it.

KNAC.COM: Now obviously… alot of people have that in mind and want to know… there is a little bit of… a line-up change… again…
PHIL: Well, yeah, you know, but… I think that the boys picked up the slack, you know they… they… sounded great -- and obviously we’re talking about Tracii -- and Tracii chose not to… to be here -- it’s his… his choice. It’s not like we said he doesn’t even count -- it’s Tracii’s always, you know, gonna be a bro, you know? We love the guy but if somebody doesn’t want to hang, we ‘re not going to sit around… we’ve got fans, we’ve got responsibility… and a desire to come out and play…

KNAC.COM: And great material…
PHIL: And great material, too, so you know, we’re not going to sit around… and whine about it.
ADAM:: We were supposed to do Europe with Alice Cooper, and Tracii, actually, in the initial stages asked John Corabi to fill in… and we were like “that’s fine…let’s just go do the dates… it’s gonna be cool,” and then John started playing with him, so, we…
PHIL: It was a big fuck-up at that stage… but I think we picked up the pieces.
ADAM:: And who better to do it -- these guys are like part of the family!
STEVE: And we got through all the shit… and these guys have got their own people they bring out to see them.
ADAM:: We didn’t even have to rehearse, we just said, “Let’s do it!” and they were like, “Let’s go!” and it was perfect.
BRENT: I played with Phil and LA Guns before… in ’99 or 2000.
PHIL: And Kerri, man…
ADAM:: It’s all about the songs… people want to come out and hear the songs…
STEVE: Absolutely…
PHIL: And they’re both just amazing, amazing guitarists!
BRENT: And like I said, I played with these guys before, and I love Tracii, you know, but these guys are just the coolest… (points to Kerri Kelli) and THIS guy… good lookin’ and he plays fuckin’ hot…
PHIL: GOD ON FIRE! (laughs)
KERRI: …and he’s a good-lookin’ kid?
ALL: “HE’S A GOOD-LOOKIN’ KID!” (laughing)
PHIL: A damn good-lookin’ Irish kid who can play… we’re really honored and privileged that he can be here.
KERRI: I’m just happy to be here -- these guys are great guys!

KNAC.COM: So this is like one big family… no bad blood, just – like brothers bickering?
ALL: (Agreeing) Yeah…
BRENT: Tracii actually came and jammed with us in LA…
ADAM:: It’s all good…

KNAC.COM: So you’re out touring the new CD, Waking The Dead…but you mix it in nicely with older stuff…
PHIL: Yeah…we did “Revolution,” “Waking The Dead,” uh…”Don’t Look At Me That Way” and “Hellraiser’s Ball.”

KNAC.COM: And you work in “Beautiful” from Man In The Moon, which seems to be growing in popularity at every show… it got a huge response tonight…
PHIL: We are considered to be a, you know, ‘rock-metal’ band, but we’ve got a lot of different influences that come out in our music… Beatles, Zeppelin, The Stones… among other things… but sometimes that can work against us, but it doesn’t matter, you know? We do different styles to mix it up, like “Jayne.” “Ballad Of Jayne” is almost like a country song when you think about it. We just love to play, and make good music.

KNAC.COM: And you’re out there doing it… it must feel good.
STEVE: It’s nice… a nice feeling.
ADAM:: We love playing out.
PHIL: It feels great!

KNAC.COM: Steve, you’re usually very quiet -- you’ve been through a lot of changes, with line-ups and things like that, how do you feel about how things have progressed and where they stand now?
STEVE: I’m so happy with the album. We’re so happy with the way Waking The Dead turned out, you know? With the developments with Tracii and everything, we lucked out getting these two guys in -- we just lucked out -- because they’re all brothers, from the same school. They both have been around so much -- they have their own draw, you know, they fit right in. They like playing with us, we like playing with them… it’s easy to travel with them… there’s not a lot to complain about. Tracii leaving at first was dramatic, but then we just said, “What are we going to do about this? Just sit around?” Not in the middle of Waking The Dead…We’re determined to back this album this year, you know? We’re going to Europe with it…

KNAC.COM: You’re definitely going to Europe with it?
STEVE: Europe and then back here. We’re going to do a full summer package of touring, so we’ll be touring and working all year… and everybody’s into it.
KERRI: We’re just gonna come out and have a good time.
STEVE: It’s really flowing easy… no headcase -- which is not to say Tracii’s a headcase -- we just don’t have one around at all, which is great.
ADAM:: Bottom line… we’re comin’ to play.

KNAC.COM: And you’re bringing the show to England…(to Phil) when was the last time you played there?
PHIL: Yeah, going in April… the last time we were there? Well, we were over there just after “9-11”, actually, and we left to go over like a week after -- it was amazing. The British were really, really responsive… really glad that we went over and didn’t wuss out.
STEVE: Now we’re going back over… we’re going to do England, Scotland, Spain, Italy… what else? We’re doing at least four countries over there.

KNAC.COM: (to Brent) How does it feel leaving Faster [Pussycat] to do this?
BRENT: Well, I played with Phil at first in The Liberators, so I knew some of the songs. When I met Phil at first, we clicked right away. I met him in a bar (Phil is laughing) and I was teasing the girl I was with -- I was teasing this girl going, “That’s Phil Lewis over there…” and I was just kidding and she went “Wow! Really!” And then Phil came over by us, and goes “Hey, Brent…” and I went “It really IS Phil!” I was just joking, but it really was him… and he says, “What are you doing?” and then we started playing together working on songs, and now he’s like a best friend, you know what I mean? He looks out for me like an older brother or something and he got me into LA Guns in ‘99 or 2000 for the summer tour and I love it! Playing their songs is a challenge; it’s sophisticated music and it makes me happy because it pushes me to play well… and not to knock Faster, whatever, they’re just takin’ a break right now. Phil’s right -- it’s like, it feels comfortable. Feels like I’ve been there always… and when I played the stuff of theirs, it’s like déjà vu -- it’s like I know this stuff, and it feels really good.

KNAC.COM: Phil, you sound better than ever these days.
PHIL: Thank you. Thanks. It’s just, uh… I get really, really amped by it, playing out live and I enjoy the crowds, and I’m really happy with the new record… and as long as we can continue to deliver the goods then… I’ll feel great.

KNAC.COM: You’re also playing a lot of stuff that you haven’t played in a long time…
PHIL: “Long Time Dead”… I love that song. “Crystal Eyes,” “Kiss My Love”… but “Long Time Dead” is great to have again. The two boys really jam on it , and show what they can do.

KNAC.COM: Any future plans as far as recording goes?
PHIL: Aw, I don’t even want to go anywhere near a studio for some time.
STEVE: When the album came out, we were supposed to be going to Europe to do the Alice Cooper tour…
ADAM:: …opening for Alice Cooper…
STEVE: We were just gonna keep blazing through, but we’re playing… we’re gonnna go hard after this album… we’re so proud of it!
PHIL: We’re just going to stay on tour. As far as we’re concerned, this album just came out of the shoot at this point… the people that were too young to see us back when are coming out now. We’ve started to find a whole new generation – audience -- that are getting into this music… even if we are a bunch of old farts…

KNAC.COM: Well, that kind of begs the question, what are you listening to now that you like -- any new stuff?
PHIL: Aw, you know. I love Monster Magnet… let’s see, in terms of heavy bands? We love “Rage”…Audioslave…
ADAM:: Audioslave…
STEVE: Miles Davis…John Coltrane…
KERRI: Queens Of The Stone Age…
ADAM:: Good music is good music.
STEVE: Billie Holiday…
ADAM:: I like The Donnas new record…

KNAC.COM: (to Kerri) Do you feel any pressure coming in and stepping in for Tracii?
KERRI: I-- actually, no… some people are like, “DUDE! WHAT ARE YOU DOIN’?” This and that… whatever. I don’t even try to think about it that way, you know? These guys are great and they’ve got great songs… I just want to play the songs and have a good time.
PHIL: If it wasn’t for him, I swear to God, we wouldn’t be here, you know? We wouldn’t bring out some fuckin’ half-assed guitar players to make some dates.

KNAC.COM: Kerri, what are you playing up there?
KERRI: Same old stuff that I’ve been playin’… Morley wah, Dunlop tremolo pedal, and an old Phase 90, and an Ernie Ball volume pedal… same old thing -- so that’s it.

KNAC.COM: Okay, then… I’ll try to wrap this up so you can get back to your friends here… Is there anything you want to say -- anything you want to leave on?
PHIL: Well, you know, KNAC was around when we started, and with all the changes that have happened with us, and radio, and KNAC… it’s great to see that you guys –KNAC -- are still hanging in there by us.
BRENT: I want to add, buy the new LA Guns album… it’s so fuckin’ great, it’s really the best album they’ve done in years! When I heard it, I said, “I gotta play with them!” I even told Phil… and he said, “If you can play the solo for ‘Don’t Look At Me That Way,’ you can come play…” so I went home and listened to it and got it down (makes loud noise imitating guitar notes) and… it’s fuckin’ great. It’s heavy -- it’s awesome…
STEVE We just want our fans and friends to know we’ll be around soon… LA Guns is still a band.
KERRI: HEY! Is that girl still workin’ at KNAC? The one with the… (All begin laughing.)

KNAC.COM: Which one?
KERRI: (smiling) the one with the (holds out hands in front of chest)…

KNAC.COM: The Rack?

KNAC.COM: I think she’s in Texas now…
KERRI: (dejected) Aww… I remember her when we went down there to KNAC, with Ratt, four or five years ago… and she was hanging out…

KNAC.COM: So to speak…
KERRI: YEAH, EXACTLY…! (laughs) Yeah… she was cool… (looks at floor) too bad…

KNAC.COM: I don’t know how to follow that, so I think that’s it. That’s a wrap!
PHIL: All right then… thanks for everything! We’ll see you all soon!

(Special thanks to Brad Nelson for getting the whole band to sit down after the show.)

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