Steve Riley has spoken to “Rock Talk With Mitch Lafon” about the version of L.A. GUNS that will perform at next year’s M3 Rock Festival, set to take place May 3-5, 2019 at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. Joining the drummer will be returning members Kelly Nickels (bass) and Scott Griffin (now on guitar after switching from bass), along with vocalist Jacob Bunton, who has previously played with ADLER and LYNAM.
Asked by host Mitch Lafon why he chose to use the name L.A. GUNS for his appearance at M3, Riley said: “I’m 63. I’m in really good shape, but the deal is that I don’t wanna tour like [I did] anymore. What I just finished doing for the last… I’ve gotta tell you, maybe 15 to 16, 17 years, and I’ve been in L.A. GUNS for almost 30, but those last 15 years of having to do small, small venues, like three or four hundred miles outside of Pittsburgh, I can’t do that anymore. Anyways, I don’t wanna do it. And they’re kind of demolarizing, because you don’t get the right equipment, you’re on a really, really small stage, you’re going on at 12:30, one o’clock at night. And it’s just the whole thing. So what I would do is I would do some good gigs.”
He continued: “The thing is that I have no reservations about using [the name] L.A. GUNS. ‘Cause I did it alone with Tracii [Guns, guitar], I did it alone with Phil [Lewis, vocals], and I’m gonna do it alone with Kelly. These are original members, and I own half the name. I’ve been in L.A. GUNS longer than anybody — even Tracii. I’ve been the one constant in L.A. GUNS. The thing is we both own the name. The way it’s structured is he can take one [version of the band] out, I can take one [version] out. When I was with Phil, [Tracii] took one out with a bunch of unknowns and bashed me and Phil through the entire thing. And with me and Kelly, it changes the dynamics a little bit. I might have done the ‘one and done’ if it was me and some alumni that were late guys that played with us in the latter stages of L.A. GUNS. But with Kelly and him itching at the bits to go out and play these songs that he co-wrote, it changes the dynamics a little bit.”
Riley added that he has no desire to compete with the other version of L.A. GUNS, which features Guns and Lewis.
“We’re not gonna try to do a hundred, hundred and a twenty-five shows like they’re gonna try to do,” he said. “We’re not gonna try to match them and go out there and do club for club. What we’re gonna do is take M3 as one show and do M3. If something really cool came up, we would consider it. That’s where it’s at right now. There’s no tour booked. There’s no other dates other than M3.”
Since being founded by guitarist Guns and drummer Rob Gardner in 1983, more than 50 musicians have performed under the L.A. GUNS moniker, including Axl Rose (who fronted the group prior to forming HOLLYWOOD ROSE, and then again for a brief period after that band’s breakup), Ralph Saenz (better known as Michael Starr of STEEL PANTHER), Jizzy Pearl (LOVE/HATE, QUIET RIOT), Chuck Garric (ALICE COOPER), Chris Holmes (W.A.S.P.) and Keri Kelli (NIGHT RANGER, RATT).
In 1987 — two years after Guns left the original lineup of GUNS N’ ROSES to restart L.A. GUNS with a group of musicians, including Mick Cripps — the band ‘s “classic lineup” was solidified with the additions of vocalist Lewis (GIRL), Nickels and Riley. Those five members appeared on the group’s first three albums — its eponymous 1988 debut, 1989’s “Cocked & Loaded” and 1991’s “Hollywood Vampires”.
When Riley left the band in 1992, it began a rotating door lineup that continues in full force in 2018, a year in which four guitarists have performed alongside Guns. The group’s current lineup officially features Guns, Lewis, drummer Shane Fitzgibbon, bassist Johnny Martin and bassist-turned-guitarist Adam Hamilton, who played with the band from 2001 to 2007 and rejoined earlier this year after the departure of Johnny Monaco (ENUFF Z’NUFF). Because Hamilton is unable to tour extensively, however, the group recently announced that FASTER PUSSYCAT guitarist Ace Von Johnson will join them on longer tours.
For a number of years after Guns left the band in 2002 to focus on BRIDES OF DESTRUCTION — a group that also featured MÖTLEY CRÜE bassist Nikki Sixx — there were two competing versions of L.A. GUNS: one featuring Lewis and Riley, and another featuring Guns. After the latter incarnation disbanded in 2012, Guns and Lewis gradually began making amends, performing a full set of L.A. GUNS material together at a Las Vegas concert in 2015 before officially joining forces (while initially being billed as L.A. GUNS’ PHIL LEWIS & TRACII GUNS) for a handful of concerts the following year. For the past two years, the group has toured and recorded simply as L.A. GUNS.
Photo credit: Cole Riley