In a recent interview with Talking MetalRiley spoke about his decision to call his new band L.A. Guns. He said (via blabbermouth.net), “Here’s what the situation is in a nutshell. I was the only one that stayed in L.A. Guns I’m the longest-tenured member in L.A. Guns. And even though I came in pretty much last at the very beginning, I’m the one that stayed with the band. Tracii quit in 2002 — he quit L.A. Guns, this band; he quit it. And he went on and he did other projects and was out of the band for quite a long time — 15, 16 years. And Phil Lewis and myself, we kept moving on, and it was L.A. Guns— we were the original L.A. Guns. Because Mick Cripps and Kelly Nickels decided to leave too, and they’re still very tight with me and really good friends with me, but they decided to leave and they wanted to do other stuff. And I totally understood it. But Phil, Tracii and myself, we wanted to keep going on, so L.A. Guns went on. And Tracii ended up leaving the band, and then Phil and I, we went on for, like, 15 years — L.A. Guns kept moving forward and doing albums and working with [producer] Andy Johns. Then Phil Lewis decided to leave the band too. And I’m still in the band, and I’m still running the business. And we’re L.A. Guns.”

So this is L.A. Guns,” he continued. “And Kelly decided he wanted to come back and get involved again, and that was a great situation. When that happened, I was so happy because I felt like we were a great rhythm section and we did some really great stuff together and we’re really tight friends. So he came back before this M3 show last year.

Yeah, this is L.A. Guns. I’ve never left the band — I’m pretty much the only one who never quit the band. And I just kept it going and I ran the business from day one — I joined in ’87, all the way up to now.

So, this is L.A. Guns. Kelly and I consider this L.A. Guns. And if [people] have to differentiate it with saying ‘Steve and Kelly Nickels’s L.A. Guns,’ that’s cool with us too, because we know the other two guys are out there [recording and touring with their own version of L.A. Guns].

But, yeah, this is the band — this is the band that I joined and never quit, and pretty much everybody, all the original members, quit or left the band at one point or another, and I just never did. So I feel very strongly about this is L.A. Guns.”

Riley’s version of L.A. Guns made its live debut last May at the M3 Rock Festival. The drummer is joined in the group by Orlando, Florida-based guitarist/vocalist Kurt Frohlich, bassist Kelly Nickels (a member of L.A. Guns’ “classic” incarnation) and guitarist Scott Griffin (who played bass for the band from 2007 until 2009, and then again from 2011 to 2014).

This past January, Riley was sued by [founding member, and namesake Tracii] Guns and [original singer Phil] Lewis in California District Court. Joining Riley as defendants in the case are the three musicians who perform in his recently launched rival version of  L.A. Guns that group’s manager, booking agent and merchandiser; and Golden Robot Records.

The complaint, which requests a trial by jury, alleges that Riley’s version of of the band (referred to in the case docket as “the infringing L.A. Guns”) is creating “unfair competition” through its unauthorized usage of the L.A. Guns trademark. In addition, Guns and Lewis are seeking relief from and/or against false advertising, breach of contract and unauthorized usage of their likenesses.

Guns and Lewis’s complaint calls into question Riley’s claim of partial ownership of the L.A. Guns name and logo and alleges that his usage of both has been unauthorized. In addition, Guns and Lewis claim — as Guns has done publicly in the past — that Riley has embezzled much of the group’s publishing proceeds over the past two decades.

Despite leaving the band soon after the release of 2002’s Waking The Dead to focus on Brides Of Destruction (his with Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx), Guns “is the owner of common law trademark righs” for the L.A. Guns name and logo, the complaint claims. It notes that Guns founded the band in 1983, four years before Riley joined, and that Riley did not perform on the group’s 1984 debut EP and contributed to just a single track on their 1987 self-titled full-length debut.

According to the complaint, Guns “has been injured by the Defendants’ unfair competition,” while he and Lewis have “suffered harm including damages and and irreparable injury to their goodwill.” It also claims that Riley’s L.A. Guns was formed “with the intent of tricking and confusing consumers into believing that the infringing L.A. Guns band is the original [Tracii] Guns version” of the group.

In addition to actual and punitive damages, Guns and Lewis are seeking a “permanent injunction” that restrains all of the named defendants from using the L.A. Guns name, logo and likeness, as well as “a declaration that Guns is the sole owner of the common law trademark rights” for the L.A. Guns moniker “and any related design marks.” 

6 Responses

  1. Using the LA Guns name is deceiving and he knows it. I wonder if they have proof of him snaking royalties ? They should have to advertise that they are LA Guns without Phil and Tracii . It reminds me of everytime I go to see Dons version of Dokken theres always at least one person I talk to that says they can`t wait to see George jam tonight ,lol.Then I have to tell them its Jon Levin he`s just got Georges old haircut,lol. Last time I saw Kiss this dude couldn`t wait to see Ace do shock me and see his smoking guitar,lol. I dunno, maybe I`m the goofball but it just doesnt seem right.

    1. 100% agree with you, Ray. It’s a messed up situation seeing these groups limp around today using the crutch of the classic band name. And for those fans that may not be “in the know” on these things, they are in for disappointment when they see these bands perform.

      Using Riley’s logic, then both Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer can claim they are the real Spaceman and Catman, respectively.

  2. I think the thing that bugs me most is Phil and Tracii have had some good momentum going since they`ve gotten back together. It appears to me that Steve is trying to take advantage of that and snake some of that success by using the LA Guns name and getting his own scrubs to fill in.

  3. This is SO not the Kiss situation. I don’t think there’s a person on the planet not named “Vinnie Vincent” that doesn’t concede that Paul and Gene own the Kiss trademark. I’ve read interviews with both Peter and Ace that acknowledge that (even if they aren’t too thrilled with their decision now).

    What would be the same is if Pete and Ace decided to form their OWN Kiss and try to sell it as the real deal. But that’s not happening.

    And by the way, it’s 2020. If you’re not aware that it’s not actually Ace and Peter at this point it’s certainly NOT the band’s fault. They’ve made no bones, in virtually every interview, that it’s not them (and why).

    1. Stadler, I don’t mean Ace and Peter owning the name “KI$$” and forming a competing KI$$ band…i meant that, using Riley’s rationale of being the “longest tendered member”, both Tommy and Eric can use the same rationale to claim they are the real Spaceman and Catman…which I think is B.S. claim, just like Riley’s claim of being LA Guns is B.S.

  4. look this is pretty much business 101 , if you own or co-own the copywrite/trademark on a name, logo, business name, band name, piece of music, book, art, film, invention etc… and have the documentation to prove you created it or co-created it you own it legally – if there is no reliable legal documentation things can get dicey , if its a he said /he said -then you have to get lawyers involved , witnesses get interviewed maybe depositions are taken- and in the world of rock huge ego’s are also involved – i’m sure this will be sorted out soon in court – but there is no big rush right now with the concert season effectively ended for the summer – i’ll be looking for the outcome of this –

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