Steve Riley Wishes Tracii Guns Would ‘Cool Out A Little Bit’
L.A. Guns singer Phil Lewis and the band’s co-founding guitarist Tracii Guns recently inked a deal with Frontiers Music Srl for the release of a new L.A. Guns album, tentatively due in June 2017. Guns and Lewis began working on new music together again after playing periodic dates together billed as “L.A. Guns’ Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns” around the tour schedule of the other long-running incarnation of L.A. Guns, which Lewis continues to front.
Left out of the Guns/Lewis reunion is longtime L.A. Guns drummer Steve Riley, who currently sits behind the kit for Phil’s other version of L.A. Guns. After leaving W.A.S.P. in 1987, Riley joined L.A. Guns and played on the band’s most commercially successful albums. However, he and Tracii Guns have a fractured relationship, which came to a head in 2002 when Tracii left L.A. Guns to focus on Brides Of Destruction.
Tracii told radio personality Eddie Trunk recently that he has no intention of ever again playing with drummer Riley. “Without going into details, it’s just…You’re supposed to be brothers in a band like that, and we were in that last crew of a band of brothers; you fight it out together. You’ve got each other’s back. And when the trust is broken, that’s it, man,” he said. “Later, dude.”
Guns did not elaborate on what caused the relationship between him and the drummer to break down, but added: “Phil and I are like Cain and Abel; we can go at each other day in and day out and still be able to function as brothers and still have each other’s back. We’re that close. Steve Riley is a hired drummer. And since the awe of him being in W.A.S.P. has worn off, I’ve played with drummers that are just like so much… a billion times better musicians and more interested in being musicians that I have no reason to ever play with him again. He’s not a defining factor in a musical unit; he’s just a solid drummer. And he would argue that point, but I know. I’ve played with Brian Tichy and Shane Fitzgibbon and Vinny Appice, and they’re in a different league.”
Tracii said that the only way he would be willing to reunite with Riley is if he was offered enough money. He explained: “Believe me, I’d love someone to come up to me and say, ‘Hey, we can set your kid up and your great grandchildren up for the rest of their lives by getting Steve Riley back with all the original guys of L.A. Guns, I’m not stupid; I’d be, like, ‘Yeah, okay.’ But that’s in no way a reality in any universe.”
Now Riley provides his thoughts on the Lewis/Guns reunion, as well as his gig at Vamp’d in Las Vegas with his former W.A.S.P. bandmate Randy Piper, marking the first time in nearly 30 years the two have shared the same stage. The duo will be sitting in with Sin City Sinners.
When is the last time you played with Randy Piper?
“It’s been forever. Almost 30 years. I’ve seen him in between and I know he’s stayed active, and I’m so looking forward to playing this Thursday at Vamp’d in Vegas. The Sin City Sinners, they’re a great band and good players. Randy and I are going to sit and play half a dozen, maybe eight of the old W.A.S.P. songs from the first couple of albums. It’s going to be a blast.”
Do you think this will lead to anything serious?
“I hope so. A lot of bands have gotten back together and had reunions. The original W.A.S.P., we have never gotten back together. I’m talking about the four guys who were on the first couple of albums. Blackie [Lawless] has always had good technical players with him, but we had four personalities in that first lineup of W.A.S.P. It was not only great players, but we had personal things going on, too, where each guy was controlling a section of the stage. If it was up to me, I would love to see, even in a limited edition, a W.A.S.P. reunion where all four of us got together. Even if it was limited, that’s what a lot of bands are doing; they’re doing their regular gigs, then specialty gigs on the side. Even if it turns into something like that, I’m totally down.”
Have you been in touch with Blackie at all?
Riley: “I haven’t talked to him for about five years. The last time I talked to him was when W.A.S.P. and L.A. Guns went on a tour together in the U.S. It was a lot of fun seeing him. We put everything aside. We had so much fun, the four of us in those three or four years.”
You left W.A.S.P. for L.A. Guns. Do you think you could have hung around longer?
“I was ready to do the long run with W.A.S.P. It really got to a point where you could almost feel that the four of us, the four original guys were not going to be in the mix for long. Blackie, it was his band. It was his project. We all knew that anyway. We all loved putting our little piece into it during those early years. What’s really promising is that Randy has been in touch with him [Blackie]. Those two… they had a pretty bad falling out when Randy was let go. I’m glad to hear that they’re talking and they’re friends again. I’m still friends with Blackie, Chris [Holmes] and Randy. If they’re talking, it raises the possibility that we could do some dates. I’m not saying it’s done. I’m just saying with open communication, it’s really promising to see.”
The big one would be getting Blackie and Chris together. Chris is in France now, though.
“With Randy calling me, we touched base on what songs we’re going to do and we talked about Chris and how he made a great move by going to Europe and getting away from all the things that were destroying him. He cleaned up and he’s been in touch with Randy, and he has done some shows with Randy. So just hearing that, and I love the guy so much, that makes me feel really good. He’s a real brother of mine. It’s nothing worse than watching someone destroy themselves. So if he’s doing well, we’re all doing well.”
Time certainly isn’t on your side, but, a full-fledged W.A.S.P. reunion would certainly be received very well.
“Absolutely. The good thing about it is that we’re all still alive. Everybody has stayed active musically, so it’s not like picking somebody out of the mothballs. Everybody’s been playing a lot, so this is maybe the first salvo with me and Randy playing some shows and doing the old W.A.S.P. material. I hope it leads to something, even a limited thing like what Dokken is doing, it would be great and I’d be all in.”
As for L.A. Guns, Phil and Tracii are doing an album next year. But you’re still a member of the existing band. What’s your take on the current situation?
“Here’s the deal: I have always been in the mode since the ’90s that you could do one, two, maybe even three things if you juggle them around. It’s not like in the ’70s and ’80s when you were tied to one specific project and you couldn’t do other things. Nowadays, especially because of how the financial situation is, most of the money is made instantaneously, it’s live or in advance. The thing is, I have no problem with that at all. I know me and Phil are partners. I know I have a ton of gigs on the book with them. I just saw him; we just did two really great shows on the Monsters of Rock Cruise. We have a lot of shows to finish the year. I know people must wonder if I’m bugged at all by them doing it. I’m not at all. If you have an extra way to pull in some money as a musician, go for it. I’m all for it. I realize that these specialty shows are going to go on and there will be two or three people [doing them], and everyone will go back to the band’s they are working with. That’s what Phil is doing right now. But we’re going on and moving on and they’re already booking next year for us. I don’t have a big problem with it at all. I just want people to know that. This is the genesis of what started with Tracii. Phil and I thought Tracii, he could have done his thing with Nikki Sixx and stayed in L.A. Guns.”
Brides Of Destruction.
“Yeah, we thought he could do both. We were upfront with him saying, “You could do both.” We had an Alice Cooper tour and a record deal. We were like, “You could do both.” I’ve been thinking along these lines. It’s possible to do both. Nikki proved it; he went back to Motley Crue. I just thought Tracii could have done both at that time and stayed with us instead of creating this whole mess. That’s how I think now if Phil is doing the specialty gigs with Tracii or recording, that’s fine with me.”
So you can confirm the version of L.A. Guns with you, Phil, Michael [Grant], and Kenny [Kweens] will continue, right?
“I can confirm it. When I talked to Phil, he wanted me to understand that. If he does anything on the side, it’s for financial reasons. I can totally understand that because there’s not a lot of different avenues for money coming in for bands. I’m not going to stand in anybody’s way if they can make extra money playing. Go for it. As far Kenny, Michael, Phil and Steve, we’re booked for the whole rest of the year and they’re already booking us for next year. Phil’s in this band and he’s doing his thing and will do his specialty stuff with Tracii and we’re all fine with that.”
People may be confused by which L.A. Guns version to pay attention to. There were two versions of the band going on up until 2012. And now this is happening with the version you’re in, then the Phil and Tracii version. Do you think it will be confusing again?
“I was going to test it on this cruise. The Monsters Of Rock Cruise was after they had done that show at Irvine [on September 17 as part of the Hair Nation Festival]. I was going to test the waters on that one and see if I’m going to be asked about it, is there going to be tons of confusion again? It wasn’t really a big issue. We did two blazing shows in front of a huge audience up on the pool deck. It wasn’t even an issue at all. It’s not an issue between Phil and me. It’s a total understanding that he’s going to do this and there’s some nice money on the table. Go do it, man. You’re old enough to do something like this and try to take every kind of income you can. As far the band, L.A. Guns, he’s with me, Kenny, and Mike, and we’re blazing on.”
Do you have a relationship with Tracii?
Riley: “He’s made it into this huge thing and I just don’t do the ‘Internet war’ back-and-forth with anybody. I never will. That’s just not me. I know he’s done it and he’s done it on TV, and that’s alright; I don’t give a shit. I just let it roll off of me. If he’s going to use me as a crutch for why he’s not in the band, then that’s okay. I’m okay with all of it. I’m even okay with playing with Tracii again. He’s like a little brother. He’s part of the original band and I have no problem with him. Just like I don’t have a problem with him playing with Phil and writing some songs. It’s fine. It’s all good. I don’t have a problem with him; I wish he didn’t have a problem with me.”
What does that stem from? Brides Of Destruction? Or maybe going back to the ’80s?
“I have always done what I do right now, and that is direct traffic and make things happen. There’s gotta be somebody in the band who wants to do it. It’s not a cool thing to do; you usually want somebody else to do it. I’ve always done it from the beginning when I joined in ’87. I don’t know if it’s that. I don’t know what it is. I do know he left the band on his own. He was never fired. We actually tried to talk him out of it. I became a crutch for him for why he was out of the band and this whole mess. Me and Phil really tried to talk him out of leaving and this is what happened afterward. I wish the guy would cool out a little bit. But he hasn’t, but I have no problem with him.”
He recently told Eddie Trunk you were a “hired drummer.” How did you take that?
Riley: “I don’t know…I thought I was his favorite drummer. [Laughs] That’s what he told me, that I was his favorite drummer and I could play anything he wanted. The thing is, that’s the Internet stuff that goes back and forth. He likes to play it; I don’t like to play that game at all. To me, it’s so high school that I can’t even think of myself getting into that back-and-forth with anybody on anybody. I’m still surprised he’s going there. Even Phil was surprised he went there. Phil was like, ‘What?!?’ I was like, ‘I know, I know…’ He needs to pull back. It looks kinda foolish.”
By your estimation, do you think this project with Phil and Tracii will last?
Riley: “I don’t know because those guys have their own history of interacting with each other. I came in as the last one of the original L.A. Guns. I was still in W.A.S.P. when L.A. Guns were doing their first album and I was doing ‘Live…In The Raw’. I came in last and I guess the honeymoon has been over and they were already at each other’s throats. [Laughs] I just know me and Phil are right around the same age, we have been recording since the ’70s, both of us had deals in the ’70s. We know what it takes to work and we did a lot of work this year. A lot of miles. We can live with each other on the road. That’s why he’s being upfront with me and telling me, ‘Go ahead, book the band. This is something I’m doing on the side.’ He’s trying to make it very clear to me. I appreciate him doing that. Any confusion in my head is gone and I know we’re moving forward.”
That’s very professional of Phil. We don’t see that a whole lot. Usually, it’s behind each other’s back.
“We just had a nice talk about it and said, ‘What is it, actually?’ He explained it and I said, ‘Okay, right on.’ It’s not going to affect us at all. There’s a little bit of blocking out three weeks of the beginning of next year. It’s really a dead part of the year anyway. We’re going to explore doing more things with Sin City Sinners, Randy and I at the beginning of the year. Maybe get Chris Holmes over. We’re going to screw around with this W.A.S.P. thing for a bit. I hope everyone does stuff on the side. It’s all good with me.”