Interview: PHIL LEWIS of L.A. GUNS

GRTR!’s Nikk Gunns catchEs up with Phil Lewis of L.A. Guns to hear about how he reunited with Tracii Guns and the band’s upcoming UK tour dates.

You’ve been making music for a while now- sum your career in one sentence…

It’s had its highs and lows but still here, still enjoying it, still crazy!

You’re currently recording a new album, the first L.A Guns album to feature you both in 15 years, how’s it sounding? There are a lot of people who can’t wait to hear this…

It’s sounding really good. At first I was only going to do a couple of songs on it and then once Tracii started playing me his ideas, and we started jamming like we do, it began to take on a new importance.  We’ve been working intensely on it for a short time by album standards, for the last 4-6 months. In the old days that’s something we would have taken a year on, maybe 18 months. I’d describe it as a cross between Appetite for Destruction and Pyromania – its gritty and real like Appetite and it has a sleazy, dirty lyrical vibe, but sonically it’s great, we really care about the sound and we are also releasing it on vinyl.  It’s going to blow people’s minds.  Those two records come to mind when I’m working on this album. I know that’s really sticking my neck out, but we’re not f***ing around here.

There has been a bit of history between you & Tracii, good and bad, many fans feared they would never see the pair of you working together again, how easy was it to get back together?

We had a 10 year separation. He did something, it gave me the hump. It wasn’t anything personal; he just made a decision that made things very complicated. I was pissed off at him for a long time and it became a decade. It got to the point where I couldn’t continue bearing a grudge after so many years. It felt bad at the time, but he really hadn’t done anything wrong – and we just found ourselves in similar circles and one day we just spoke like, ‘Hey, how you doing?’.  I had a solo acoustic show in a club in Vegas and said to him ‘why don’t you get up and play a few songs with me’ and he said, ’that would be great’. That broke the ice. After that he had a show coming up and asked me come out and sing a couple of songs.  We start getting together and being creative…he just has good energy and I think the two of us are a great team. People talk about Jagger and Richards, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry – for me it is that. I’ve worked with many other guitars players, but it’s not the same. So once we got our feet wet and we heard what we were capable of doing it became important for the legacy of the band and for fans to hear. For those fans that have stuck with us for a long time – I think they deserve that.

When you originally formed the band, did you expect to still be out there as L.A Guns all these years later?

Hell no!  I came out for an audition in 1988, I thought I was going to be here for a fortnight!

The band is touring the UK shortly, what can we expect to see in the set-list?

Songs that people know and love – the classics.  At least one song from every record we’ve done. The band sounds good.  Right now we’re booking two nights in a row at places like the Whisky so we don’t do exactly the same set both nights. With that mind-set when we come over to the UKand do these shows it will be varied each night – with 5 or 6 songs we didn’t play the night before and won’t play the following night.

There is still a lot of love out there for L.A Guns, it would have been easy to go out as a nostalgia act but the fact that you have a new album on its way indicates there is still a lot of life in the band, what are the plans for the next couple of years?

Albums are milestones. You remember where you were, what you were doing, where you were living -when you hear an album back it all comes back to you, whereas gigs are a blur and the memory often evaporates  whereas albums are tangible and that is the thing that keeps it interesting. We could just go out and play Never Enough and Sex Action and I Wanna Be Your Man and people would be happy with that , but it would get a little bit boring. I don’t care whether the new material sells millions of copies or not. New music justifies me as an artist and recharges my batteries creatively.  I’d like to throw in a new song every now and then live, I know everyone rolls their eyes but these new songs are f***ing good!

What have been the most memorable live shows for you and why? Is there a career highlight that you will look back on as a defining moment?

I was in New York recently staying in Manhattan doing some recording and we drove by Madison Square Gardens. At that point it reminded me of the time we played there – we played there once or twice, but the first time we ever played there was with AC/DC, it was around 89 or 90 and they were so nice!  Their stage show came up from underground so that meant that as we were the opening act and their stuff was all below deck, we had the whole stage to play our set!   It’s such a legendary venue and we did great, and the guys from the Beastie Boys said we were killing it, and that was the night we were awarded our gold record for our first album. It was an unforgettable night.

There was a feeling that rock music was in danger of fading away but with a number of classic bands reforming this seems to have given the genre a bit of a boost, do you get that feeling?

I do. I’d like to see more new, original bands coming out though. At one time when I was growing up and in my early 20s everyone was in a band, everyone was doing something musically and could play guitar and drums and that was just normal, I’d like to see more of that.  But it’s definitely a good thing.

Has the advent of social media meant that you feel closer to your fans these days? With Facebook, Twitter etc it does make it easier to interact- do you see this as essential to a bands survival now?

It might be essential for a new band. I like it, I think it’s a good way to let people know what’s going on and I have befriends fans on Facebook and for the most part they are cool.  When I was growing up and seeing Deep Purple and Black Sabbath you were lucky if you could get a glimpse of the back of their heads as they were leaving the venue – that was all you got and the only interaction apart from fan mail – which was of course rubbish as they weren’t answering it. So there is a real connection now between artist and fans thanks to social media – however it does take away a lot of the mystique.

Now you are working together again, is there anything that you haven’t yet done in your career that you aim to achieve?

I’ve done so much; I’ve had a very charmed life – that’s because I understand the importance of charm!  I’m incredibly grateful, as I said it had its highs and lows, but the adventures I’ve been on, the people I’ve met and the music…I wasn’t really much of a musician when I started, but I stuck with it and I’m really proud of the records that I’ve made.  It would be great to go on a big tour with this record once it’s out, it would be nice if Mr Coverdale gave us a call and asked us to come out. Right now I’m happy with the way things are going and sounding.

Have you got a message for your fans here in the UK?

I’m really looking forward to coming back to the UK. I’ve been back in some many different versions -solo, various LA Guns line ups. But this is the big one, this is the most excited I’ve been to come back to England since the first time I came back with LA Guns in 1988. It’s going to be great!

Friday 10 March – Belfast, Limelight 2
Saturday 11 March – HRH AOR
Sunday 12 March – Swansea, Scene Club
Wednesday 15 March – Buckley, Tivoli
Thursday 16 March – Bristol, Bierkeller
Friday 17 March – Basingstoke, Stage
Saturday 18 March – Wolverhampton, Civic Hall
Sunday 19 March – Chester, Live Rooms
Monday 20 March – Doncaster, Diamond Live
Wednesday 22 March – Sheffield, O2 Academy
Friday 24 March – Glasgow, O2 Academy
Saturday 25 March – London, O2 Academy

The latest Josh Taerk live session was streamed on Sunday 12 December. The session above was a Halloween Special streamed on 31 October 2021. Josh’s next session is Sunday 30 January 2022.

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