||TRACII GUNS OF LA GUNS: "ME AND PHIL LEWIS TOGETHER IS SOMETHING SPECIAL."
13th March 2017
Words: Isabel Ewen
Singer Phil Lewis rejoins guitarist founder of LA Guns, Tracii Guns, in the new LA Guns line-up that is touring the UK this month. Guns and Lewis last recorded and released an album together as LA Guns fifteen years ago, 'Waking The Dead', and will be releasing their collaboration and follow-up to this album in June 2017.
Isabel Ewen spoke to Tracii recently about all things LA Guns.
Is the new album close to being finished? Could we see a release date this year?
"Oh definitely, yeah, I mean we're just about done, a couple more things to sing, and then it goes off to the mixer and as long as I can get it in by mid-March, it'll come out June.
"It's a good band. It's powerful. I wouldn't want to go on after us. That's how I always judge the band, you know, if it's firing on all cylinders, I wouldn't want to have to go on after the band and that's where the band's at right now. The energy is really high. Of course, the songs are good, they are LA Guns songs, so it's all very good right now at the moment."
Where's the inspiration coming from with the songs that you're in the process of writing.
"A lot of the things that I work on, because typically with LA Guns, Phil and I, I'll bring in a giant amount of music, and then we kind of pick and choose what inspires Phil to write to. We're not really singer-songwriter type of song writing, you know, guys. We have a very big blues influence and kind of some atmospheric influences and stuff like that, so, generally on this record, we looked toward our last record that we did which was 'Waking The Dead' and the goal was always to, you know, look at the things that we did in the past and how to make them stronger, more meaningful, more powerful, without really landing in brutal Metal land which sometimes we do land in, that really heavy, heavy, heavy, kind of thing.
"And generally, Phil's vocal style and his way of writing kind of off-sets that balance of the heavy music, that's something that's possibly more mainstream or identifiable, you know, so there's a lot of classical music on this record, there's a lot of, you know, kind of typical sleazy LA Guns, high energy, riff rock. There's a little bit of, kind of sloppy New Orleans, kind of sweaty, you know, kind of blues-ier stuff too. It's a big record.
"It's going to be a double vinyl record so it's coming close to being, you know, eighty minutes long, something like that, with two in particular things that are called, if I can wake up I can remember, anyway, two big pieces that kind of fit together at the end of the record which are kind of inspired by that show, you know, Vikings, so you can imagine, you know, if you were to set the music to that TV show, it's very epic, you know, a lot of death and gore.
"It's about a man who lost his faith. It's called 'Heart Turned Black' and then the second part is called 'Earth Turns Black'. Those words were chosen because they have the same letters and I didn't want to put something like 'something' part 1, 'something' part 2. Heart and earth have the same letters, so it's the same as 1 and 2.
"That's particularly different from most of the record and there's a song called 'Sticky Fingers' that kind of goes along the same lines as those two songs. And then the rest of stuff is pretty much what LA Guns fans would expect and what they would want, a little bit, in a new refreshed way, so it's what we're particularly happy with, where we are today, this record that's going to come out."
Although L.A. Guns was formed in 86 with the first album out the following year, you've joined other groups over the past couple of decades, including a couple of supergroups. But LA Guns is the band you come back to. Do you think this is often the path of a musician, to keep what they started going?
"I think the thing is, is that, with Phil and I in particular, we have a certain chemistry that's undeniable. And, you know, when you're at your loneliest you know, you wanna go home right? You know, so, we both felt like it was time to go home and be comfortable with that undeniable, you know, relationship that we have musically and, you know, I mean right away, the first time we got back together and played, you know, it's so obvious, you know, you can't deny it, at some point in your life, you can't deny what's real."
Thank you. I need to ask what you think about the Guns N' Roses Reunion Tour, considering you were involved in the roots of that band.
"I think it's fantastic, you know. I think, you know, I wish they would have done it sooner and I would like for them to put out new music, you know because, as like Metallica and Def Leppard and other bands, putting out new music and it validates rock'n'roll music, you know. To go out and only play live to make a lot of money is great, but also, you know, kind of shake up a very stagnant rock music scene.
"I think it's important for Guns N' Roses to put out new music because I'm sure it will be received very well and as Metallica has and we all need to do that, you know, to be validated you have to have new music that people latch on to, you know, AC/DC always put out new records, and I don't necessarily buy into Kiss' point of view that people are just going to take our music if we record a new record, it's not about just money, it's about giving your fans something, you know, new, to latch on to.
"I think that the soil is very fertile for this kind of music right now, you know, I think particularly the older fans, they really want something, you know. I think for a while they didn't, everybody was kind of questioning what was happening, what was coming out was new, but the proof's in the pudding, the stuff that's classic lives on and on and on, and now it's back to that point, classic rock music is, I mean at least in the last thirty years, that's always been the calling, you know, all the way back to the blues, so I think everybody's headed in the right direction, I think everybody's coming to the realisation in that as we get more and more mortal, of how important it is to, you know, do what we're supposed to do.
Stay truthful to yourself?
"Yeah. I mean, all musicians, we're fickle creatures, you know what I mean, like, we always want to be better or, you know, we have to feed that ego somehow, you know, and when the ego does the talking, you know, the immediate satisfaction goes away pretty quickly, so you know, it's all lessons to be learned, and I think you can look at everybody from Elton John to Aerosmith, to The Who, you know, even The Eagles, you know, you gotta get real eventually."
Can egos get in the way of musicians speaking to each other, I mean, would you like to speak to Axl Rose ever again, or is it a case of not in this lifetime?
"Oh no, of course I would, I mean, you know, we don't have a bad relationship or anything, we haven't talked in twenty-five years, but it's not... we don't have a bad relationship, we just have kind of a non-existent relationship for all these years, but you know, he says wonderful things about me, I say wonderful things about him, that are mutual. It's not high school at all."
Music's the perfect example of combining the material and spiritual aspects of life. The world wouldn't be the same without the spirit of music touching us. Is it for you about a spiritual experience?
"It is. One hundred percent, that's the only reason I really play music because there's a certain soul tickling thing in the creation of music and there's another soul tickle when you record the music, particularly when you're in control of creating that audio palette in the studio, kind of scratching your soul, and then of course you get to perform it, and I've been really fortunate to be able to express emotionally through the guitar, live, my whole life and for me that's where the addiction lies, it's really in the live performance, you know, having great nights out, pretty off nights, things like that, never playing the same thing, but music leads back to why do we create new music?
"And you create new music because you have force to create new music, you know, if you're a musician you know you're forever creating, using that side of the brain or the other type of musician is forever reading music and being part of a large ensemble or studio situation, but for guys, rock'n'roll is very, very spiritual and it touches its fans that way and I think that's why, over and over again, you have the cycle of rock'n'roll in particular, I mean, you know you have a little bit of a rockabilly revival, which is a blues based music, and we always have the blues, the blues is going nowhere, it's never leaving, then we have popular music, popular music comes and goes in certain terms of what is popular at the time.
"A lot of it has to do with the state of the collective, you know, psychosis that goes on in the whole world, you know. The world is depressed people look for an escape, if the world is rich and doing tons of cocaine, well then they like party happy music, you know, it's all connected, and its connected very deeply and I think a lot of people really realise that when they get older, how like in their teens and in their early 20s, you know music that they heard then associates with different times and emotions in their life and as people become more mortal and older, they tend to like start leaning back, further and further into that music that was developing time and their emotions, so, LA Guns is certainly one of those bands who touched a lot of people in a four to five year period, and as much as we're coming back around, they're coming back around and that's what's making this really exciting for us, it's actually very unexpected, but it's proving itself."
Great. And finally, do you see your personal style causing a ripple effect in the pool of rock'n'roll.
"Yeah, I mean, especially being outside of LA Guns for sort of like fifteen years, always questioning, like, why do people like that so much? Why do people like that so much? My style, my popular style is a style in which I play guitar when Phil Lewis is singing. That's when it's something special, that's when it's not basic, that's when it's not common, and those are the elements, you know, that's why we're doing this, you know, because, that's where it's at for me personally and that's where it's at for Phil personally.
"I would like liken it a lot I guess to Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy, certain things they do and they shine best when they do that together. It's just a realisation, that's definitely my style, playing guitar with Phil Lewis singing.
Is there any message you'd like to put out to your audience here?
"Keep it cool man, keep it cool."
Catch LA Guns on tour in the UK here:
13th March: The Brook, Southampton
14th March: The Waterfront, Norwich
15th March: The Tivoli, Buckley
17th March: Bierkeller, Bristol
18th March: Civic Hall, Wolverhampton
19th March: Live Rooms, Chester
21st March: The Assembly, Aberdeen
22nd March: 02 Academy, Sheffield
24th March: 02 ABC, Glasgow
25th March: 02 Academy Islington, London