& Today - L.A. Guns - Part II
by Keavin Wiggins
Back to Part I
Tracii took a little time off from the
group in 1991 to take part in the supergroup “Contraband” that also featured
Michael Schenker, Ratt’s Bobby Blotzer, Vixon’s Share Pedersen and Richard
Black from Shark Island. The supergroup was to be short-lived like most
projects that Schenker is involved with and Tracii returned his full attention
to L.A. Guns.
The band release a 5 song EP in 1992 called
which included a L.A. Guns style cover of the James Brown classic “Papa's
Got a Brand New Bag”, an ode’ to Tracii’s punk roots with a cover of Generation
X’s "Night of the Cadillacs" and an equally impressive interpretation of
Bowie’s “Suffragette City”. One song on the EP seems to be prophetic though,
“Ain’t the Same 92”. Paul Stanley said once that being in a band is like
a multiple member marriage. And we know that marriages end everyday for
silly reasons, only those involved know the real story but it seemed that
Phil Lewis had a falling out with drummer Steve Riley and Phil gave him
his walking papers. When asked what happened, Riley contends that he was
fired after hitting Lewis over the head with a newspaper. Only in
Rock –N- Roll!
In 1994 L.A. Guns regrouped in the studio
and recorded their fourth full-length album “Vicious Circle” with Michael
"Bones" Gershima on drums. A revolution in music called “grunge” had happened
since the band released their last full length album and the critics and
radio lionized most groups that came out in the 80’s as
passé’. While Tracii and company did try to incorporate a bit of
the grunge feel in this album, forgoing some of the solos that marked their
earlier effort while attempting to stay true to their roots, the
album hit with a thud when it came out in February of 1995. Polygram provided
little support or promotion, concentrating instead on gaining a foothold
in the new "grunge" scene, L.A. Guns was one of many hard rock bands on
the label that were handled with lukewarm support from the company's publicity
department. As a result a less than groundbreaking “club tour” followed
and Polygram being the major label that they were decided to part ways
with L.A. Guns. In the resulting mayhem Phil Lewis, Mick Cripps and Michael
"Bones" Gershima threw in the towel.
It looked like it was to be the end of
L.A. Guns but Tracii had other ideas. He got together with former drummer
Steve Riley and Kelly Nickels, deciding to give it another go. They found
an able vocalist and guitarist in the group Boneyard and recruited them
to join the new L.A. Guns. Now with former Boneyard/Cherry Street vocalist
Chris Van Dahl, Tracii and Johnny Crypt on six-string, Kelly Nickels on
bass and Steve Riley on drums the group was ready for a comeback. They
lined up a deal with CMC International and began recording what was to
become their six full-length album.
Unfortunately, the recording didn’t go
off without a hitch, as Kelly decided to partways with the group half way
through. Instead of bringing more new blood into the group, Johnny Crypt
took over on bass, leaving Tracii the solo axeman in the band.
The new album “American Hardcore” hit
the streets on Oct 29, 1996 and showed a turning point for the group. The
group took things a bit heavier this time around
with vocalist Van Dahl sounding closer to Pantera than the L.A. Guns of
yesteryear and Tracii's guitars took on a hard edged tone. The new L.A.
Guns spent the next year on the road promoting the album. 1997 brought
mermers of a possible return of Phil Lewis to the group, however Phil had
other ideas and L.A. Guns was in search for another frontman once again.
They found the throat in the form of Ralph Saenz whose claim to fame was
fronting The Atomic Punks, a Van Halen tribute band. This lineup produced
an EP titled “Wasted” which hit the streets in September of 1998 and included
a new version of “The Ballad of Jayne”.
This lineup was to be short lived as Ralph
Saenz decided to pursue a solo career leaving the group high n’ dry half
way through the “Rock Never Stops” tour with Warrant, Slaughter, Quiet
Riot and Firehouse. Tracii
and band then recruited Love/Hate frontman Jizzy Pearl to take over on
vocals and they lined up a deal with Parris Records. But more personnel
shakeups were in the works when Johnny Crypt left the band. At the time
the new lineup was recording “Shrinking Violet” Cleopatra approached Tracii
and Steve about reuniting with Phil, Kelly and Mick and rerecording a number
of their past hits and some new songs for what was to become “Greatest
Hits & Black Beauties”. The money was right and it seemed like a good
time to try to work together again. Meanwhile the Jizzy Pearl fronted version
of the group did go out on the road during the summer of 1999 in support
of “Shrinking Violet” with Poison, Great White, and Ratt on the "Exiled
From The Mainstream" tour.
The band returned home from the tour and
the reunion became official when Steve Riley, Phil Lewis, Kelly Nickels,
and Mick Cripps reunited with Tracii for a reunion tour in October of ’99.
Their first night back together was captured for posterity on “Live: A
Night On The Strip.” Cleopatra came a callin again and asked the band to
rerecord their most successful album,
“Cocked and Loaded”. Tracii now thinks that it was a mistake since
the original album was still readily available but the new version “Cocked
and Re-loaded” hit the streets on Aug 1, 2000. That experience in the studio
proved fruitful and the band soon returned to churn out an entirely new
studio album. The band inked a deal with Spitfire Records. Some more bumps
were in store for the group as Kelly Nichols and Mick Cripps announced
they couldn’t commit to the group and left. Filling those vacancies
have proven to be a game musical chairs. Mick did play on the album and
a bassist named Muddy was brought in to replace Kelly.
“Man in the Moon” was released by Spitfire
on April 24, 2001 and musically seemed to pick up where “Hollywood Vampires”
left off. L.A. Guns was back! A promotional tour followed the album
release and the single “Man In The Moon” caught the attention of hard rock
radio helping the group sell twice as many albums as they expected.
L.A. Guns enter 2002 primed and ready
to go. Muddy
left the group in late 2001 and was replaced by Adam Hamilton who had previously
played with CC Deville, Joe 90 and NO 9. The band has mapped out a U.S.
tour for early 2002 and is expected to enter the studio later this year
hoping to have a new album out on Spitfire in September. Tracii recently
told fans on his website that for the first time in his career his label
asked if he could make the next album heavier with more rippin guitar solos
and Tracii is more than happy to accommodate them.
Through the ups and downs, L.A. Guns have
endured to rock another day. When you meet Tracii in person, it’s really
amazing how down to earth and levelheaded he is after all he had been through.
He seems genuine in his passion for music and making music seems to be
the driving force in his life. Sure his old bandmate
Axl enjoyed far more success but you know what? Who do you think is happier?
As long as there is a Tracii Guns there will be an L.A. Guns, a band that
came from the streets of Hollywood, who never lost sight of who they were,
carried on through the changes in popular taste and continue to do what
they do best… ROCK!
We Salute You—L.A. Guns for never giving
up or selling out! You guys earned your spot in rock history and the best
part is the story isn’t over yet…
here to check out the "All Access" special with L.A. Guns. An exclusive
video interview with Tracii and Phil.
you want more?
L.A. Guns music online and hear samples!
the official L.A. Guns site for all the latest
Keavin Wiggins is the
Managing Editor of the iconoFAN Network.
Photos by Keavin Wiggins
Copyright 2002 Iconoclast
All Rights Reserved