L.A GUNS DRUMMER STEVE RILEY DISCUSSES ALL THE BAND’S LINE-UP CHANGES AND SAYS “I OWN HALF THE NAME”
Ruben Mosqueda of Sleaze Roxx spoke with L.A. Guns drummer Steve Riley. Sections of the interview appear below.
Sleaze Roxx…[When] I last spoke with you when you were doing promo for Hollywood Forever. Things appeared to be going full steam ahead. You and [singer] Phil [Lewis] were doing L.A. Guns, and Tracii was doing his thing.
Steve Riley: Well, first I’d like to say that I’m the only member from the “classic line-up” that hasn’t ever left the band. I’m the guy that was handling all the business side of the band and I’d put things together, put together tours and made records happen. I’m the only guy that hasn’t ever left the band. I’ve always been the guy that has tried to talk the “classic” members out of leaving, because I think it’s important to keep the “classic” line-up whenever possible. This goes back to my experience with the line-up of W.A.S.P., that I was a part of, breaking up. It changed the band. Unfortunately, all of the “classic” members left at one point or another. Mick [Cripps] and Kelly [Nickels] left in the mid-’90s. Tracii [Guns] left in 2002. Phil [Lewis] and I kept the band’s legacy alive and well for 15 years after that. Then, Phil decides that he wanted to leave. That was the second time that he left.
I’ve always kept L.A. Guns going and that’s what I’m doing right now. Kelly is back on board and I have been a member of the “classic” L.A. Guns line-up since 1987 and I’ve never quit on the band. I consider this L.A. Guns and with Kelly back, this is just awesome. I know there’s a lot of confusion out there right now. We’re designing our logo to set us apart from Phil and Tracii. We’re also listing the band members on everything that we are doing. It’s sad, but it’s one of those things that happens with “classic” line-ups — they break-up. You have one member trying to keep things together and trying to convince people to not leave but they do. I’m going forward and moving on brother.
Sleaze Roxx: Steve, was there ever a point where you thought, “Hey, maybe we should call this something else?” I think something like “Cocked & Loaded” would be a great name and has ties to L.A. Guns.
Steve Riley: Ruben, I NEVER went down that road. The reason that it didn’t cross my mind is because I kept the name, the brand going for all those years. I saw “classic” band members come…Let me say this, I haven’t been opposed to the “classic” band members from coming back. I welcomed them with open arms. I’ve always been open to people coming back and have always pushed forward. I’m doing that with Kelly. I don’t think that most people are aware that Kelly wrote the band’s biggest hit [The] Ballad of Jayne. It’s so awesome to have him back.
I NEVER considered calling it something different. I think if someone wants to go out and do something, THEY should call it something else. No, I won’t call it something else. I own half the name. This is almost like what happened in 1995 when the “classic” members left and Tracii and I decided to keep moving forward. So then Tracii leaves in 2002 and Phil comes back, and we keep going. I’ve invested too much in my 35 years, between handling the business end of things, getting tours and putting together record deals… It’s great to have Kelly back in the band, a guy who wrote some of the band’s hits. Tracii can call it L.A. Guns if he wants. Unfortunately, I can’t fight it because he and I own the name.
Sleaze Roxx: How did you reconnect with Kelly and did anyone reach out to Mick about being a part of the band again?
Steve Riley: Kelly contacted Phil and I in 2012. He wanted to rejoin the band, before we recorded Hollywood Forever. I was totally into it. He’s a “classic” member of the band and I was in favor of him coming back. As much as I was into it, Phil was equally against it. I was disappointed that it didn’t happen because of that. I’ve been friends with Kelly since 1987 until the present day. He was sent some material by those guys [Tracii Guns and Phil Lewis]. They wanted him to join them. He said he listened to it and he didn’t like it. He wanted to start from scratch with some fresh ideas and according to him, they were offended [and] that’s [when] they went online and tore him up and said all this crap about him. I was sad. He’s not like they said…he’s a sweet guy. They were upset and that’s how they dealt with it.
After all of that took place, he called me and said “I’d like to come back.” I said “Kell, come back. You’re my brother, you always have a place here. Let’s do this.” He was really hurt by the guys, but I welcomed him with open arms and we got to work. We were offered the M3 show, we asked Mick [Cripps] if he wanted to be a part of it. He was working on his own thing. That was cool. We’re both cool with Mick. He gave us his blessing and we did the M3 Festival. Things happened so quick. We got management and then we got an offer to do a record. The response has been positive and very quick. So we’re on Golden Robot Records, we have an album ready to go and I have my brother Kelly Nickels, the other half of the “classic” rhythm section, back.
Sleaze Roxx: When Phil left this last time, how was that for you?…
Steve Riley: Well, when Tracii left in 2002, Phil was upset. He went on a rant online about how much he disliked the guy and how he’d NEVER share a stage with him again. I stayed out of it. I didn’t go on the internet and sling mud at him. I don’t like putting people down. I don’t like those situations. It’s not me. Unfortunately, Phil did, and it was 15 years of him putting Tracii down When he decided during the middle of our 2016 tour that he was going to do some shows with Tracii, I was taken aback. I was like “Whoa, really?” Well, then he was doing some shows with him in 2017. It was strange that we had shows booked from June 2016 through New Year’s Eve 2016. The whole time I’m thinking, “You’re going to be doing shows with this guy that you claim you dislike so much?” I wasn’t really mad. I was more disappointed than anything. I was confused. He went off on Tracii every chance he got for 15 years then he left to work with him again. I was at a loss for words.
I was fine with him working with Tracii. Phil said “Listen, I’ll only be doing six months worth of shows. I can’t do anymore than that because I can’t stand the guy.” So, when he decided he was going out as Tracii Guns and Phil Lewis of L.A. Guns, then I had to figure out how I was going to regroup and keep L.A. Guns going,…Then they decided to start calling themselves L.A. Guns. I think that they created the confusion. They called themselves one thing, then called themselves something else. They started another L.A. Guns when L.A. Guns never ended. They can’t stop saying shitty stuff about us [laughs]! We’re not going to go there. We’re just not. I think the fans are aware that Kelly and I are taking the high road in this whole thing.
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve been pretty consistent in staying out of the mudslinging, which is refreshing. I recall years ago when Tracii was on That Metal Show, he went off on you on the show, which made for an uncomfortable moment. I don’t recall you taking the bait on that.
Steve Riley: You know what Ruben? When I saw that show with Eddie Trunk, who’s a good friend, going back to my days in W.A.S.P. — when I saw that show and Tracii said what he said, Eddie Trunk asked me if I wanted to go on his [show to] reply back to him. I accepted, but I wanted Phil to come on the show too. It was only fair as we were “classic” members of the band. Eddie was in favor of it. So Phil and I appeared on That Metal Show, but it was like two-three months after Tracii’s rant had aired. I thought it was funny that everyone was expecting me to go after Tracii [laughs]! They were prepared for me to dig into him and say all sorts of s–t. If you recall in the episode, I was basically only able to say that I was disappointed that he said those things, before Phil went off on Tracii [laughs]! I didn’t get to say much. I wasn’t going to. I didn’t need to stoop to that level. Pull up that episode and watch it again. I didn’t say much, then Phil who was seething, goes off on Tracii. It’s unbelievable that he said all that about Tracii on camera and a few years later, he goes back with the guy for a little bit more money? It’s just so disappointing.
Sleaze Roxx: Have you checked out any of the albums that Phil and Tracii had recorded since they’ve teamed up? If you have, what do you think?
Steve Riley: I haven’t purposely been avoiding their albums. I just haven’t had a chance to listen to them. So I haven’t heard anything from the two albums that they’ve done, but I was checking out a poll online where the site had our single Crawl and their new single Let You Down. It was there in front of me so I clicked it and listened to that. It was this slow tempo song…So I have listened to their single… I don’t know. I’m not going to put it down. I don’t think I can judge that. It doesn’t have an L.A. Guns feel to it. I think Crawl is more true to what L.A. Guns is. Kelly and I don’t want to drift too far away from what we are.
Sleaze Roxx: So Renegades is ready to go. We have heard Crawl and you’re telling me that it is representative of what we will hear throughout the album?
Steve Riley: The next song is going to hit you over the head! It’s pretty close to something that would come from L.A. Guns in the early days. Everyone contributed to the album. We all wrote. We brought in song ideas and we put the songs together as a band. You’re going to love it. It’s got a lot of depth to it — rockers, ballads and everything that you’d want from an L.A. Guns record. I’m so proud of it.
Sleaze Roxx: What are you looking for as far as a release date? And are live performances on hold until 2021?
Steve Riley: The initial plan was to release Crawl, then hit the road…Well, then the pandemic ruined the original plan. We went ahead and got Crawl out there. In June, we’ll release single number two and work it through July, and then the record will come out at the end of July or early August. Right now, the tour is set to start in August. We have our fingers crossed because it’s beyond our control…If everything gets cancelled this year, God forbid but it might, we’ll have to figure something else and probably do another single and release the album in the fall.
Read more at Sleaze Roxx.