Stacey Blades / Scotty Griffin – L.A. Guns – 06/04/2012

By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.

Today, glam-metal veterans LA Guns are releasing their highly anticipated, 14 track CD (produced by legendary producer Andy Johns) entitled, “Hollywood Forever.”  And while the band (which consists of core members: Phil Lewis – vocals/guitar and Steve Riley – drums, with Stacey Blades – guitar and Scotty Griffin – bass) has faced much adversity over their career, most notably the annoying nuisances of ex-member Tracii Guns quitting the band and then touring with a different band as LA Guns, their resilience and hard work has now started to pay off.  The band just played the high profile, 80’s rock festival M3 in Maryland and won over anyone that wasn’t already a fan with their incredible high energy performance.  This coupled with their outstanding hard rocking new release, has LA Guns on the path to become even more popular than ever before.

What follows is an exclusive interview with LA Guns members: Stacey Blades and Scotty Griffin.  During this chat we discuss the bands M3 performance, the new CD and much more.

RockMusicStar:  LA Guns just played the M3 festival and your band really had an awesome performance.  Many of the rock and metal message boards were glowing with praise.  What did you think of your performance on that festival?

Stacey Blades:  It’s weird; those big festival shows go by so fast when you are playing them.  When you are playing in front of that many people, it at times seems like a dream.   It’s a different vibe compared to a theater or club show.  So it went by quick and it was almost like being in a euphoria kind of state.   After watching some of the footage, I thought, yeah we were pretty good.

RMS:  You cancelled a few shows before your M3 performance, what was the reason for the cancellations.

SB:  Yeah, we just finished a three week long European tour and we were just fried, it was a tough tour.  We were like on the flight home, thinking if we don’t cancel these shows before M3, one of us if going to die.  (Laughs)

Scotty Griffin:  If we didn’t cancel those gigs, we would have been all haggard, because it would meant that we would have had to play a gig at Dingbats in New Jersey the night before, and then drive all night to play the M3 festival in the afternoon.

SB:  So, yeah, it didn’t make sense.

RMS:  Do you wish that you could have played a longer set at M3?

SB:  Yeah, of course.  But on festivals like that, you’re lucky if you get 45 minutes.  The year before that we only played for 30 minutes and that was ridiculous.

SG:  It was weird, the year before, they told us to cut a song, but this year, as we finished our set, they kind of said that we could play another.  But we had just finished our encore.  But this year was better for us.

SB:  Yeah, this year was a complete opposite of last year.

RMS:  You’re currently promoting your new CD/LP/Digital download, “Hollywood Forever.”  I’ve heard it and I’m telling you, its one great rock record.   I thought your last release, “Tales from the Strip” was the album of the year when it came out in 2005, and this one is even better.

SB:  We kind of look at it as kind of like a top form athlete that is put to the test.  Since it was seven years since the last release, the pressure was really on.  We had to write an album that was just as good as “Tales from the Strip,” if not better.  But I’m really proud of everybody in the band, everyone really stepped it up.  There are some amazing songs.  We played around 80 shows last year, so everyone was really playing their asses off and in tip top shape.  Once we started the pre-production we were happy with how the songs were shaping up.  And we were just happy to be in the studio, especially with Andy Johns as our producer again.  And we were excited for our fans, because it was such a long time between releases.

RMS:  It seemed like you weren’t in the studio too long, I read somewhere that it was less than a month.

SB:   I was more like six weeks.

SG:  Yeah, with pre-production.  When we started, we had no finished songs, just maybe a riff here and there.  So in just in a month’s time, we laid down all the tracks, but we still needed to work on the lyrics.  But, overall the recording and mastering took about six full weeks.  But yeah, it was kind of like old school doing it that way.

SB:  We were playing so well, that when we were recording the bed tracks, and guitars and everything and Phil was singing he ass off, we didn’t need to do it in multiple takes.  Yes, there were songs that we did spend a lot of time on, but there were others that shaped up rather quickly.  And with everyone playing so great, we really didn’t have to dick around a lot in the studio.

SG:  When we did the drums, originally, I was just playing along, and it sounded so good that we left a lot of the bass in, so it was live drums and live bass on the whole album.

SB:  You can definitely get the vibe from that when you listen to it.

SG:  Kind of like what Zeppelin use to do, and we had Andy Johns who did a great job recording us, so what do you expect.

RMS:  Andy Johns has produced four LA Guns releases.  What do you personally like about him as a producer and what does he bring out in you?

SB:   Andy has a great track record and we know him well.  We know how to read him and he knows the band, personally, very well.  As for me, he really had to pull me back because I went in with the mentality that I was going to play over the fucking top.   But in actuality in some of the stuff I was doing, I was playing a bit too much.   So some of my solos were actually re-cut and they came out much better.  But Andy’s got such a great ear, he is one step ahead you.  He tell you to play something, and sometime I would begrudgingly do it and after I would hear the result, it would be like, “Wow you were right.”  And he lets the band BE the band.  It’s just a great relationship that we have with him.  There are a lot of jokes and stories.

SG:  He knows what you want, sometimes before you even realize it yourself.  It’s almost like everything he touches turns to gold.

SB:  He is all about getting the right sound and performance.

RMS:  Were you already signed to Cleopatra Records before you started writing the new CD.  Or did you shop the demos and then get signed?

SB:  No, we actually signed the deal with Cleopatra at the end of December.  We did talk to a few other labels, and they were really trying to break our balls, and there were a lot of compromises and going back and forth.  Once we started talking with Brian Perera at Cleopatra about doing a record, his eyes lit up.  We always had a great relationship with Brian.  But they just jumped on board and they are really behind the album and really behind the band.  They have been doing a great job marketing the album and they have some great ideas for the rest of the year.  They are putting money into the band.  So, it’s a nice change to have someone that’s really working with you.

SG:  After we signed the contact, we went right into writing.

SB:  So yeah , it was “Shit…., now we have to write an album.”  (laughs)

SG:  Yeah, and we have to have it done by when ?

SB:  We had to deliver it by the end of March, so the pressure was on, but I think that it worked in our favor, because everybody really dug in, and spent hours working on songs.  Scotty and I even contributed lyrics on this album, which is something that Phil has always done by himself.  So that put even more pressure on us, because we wanted to write the best lyrics that we could.  But in the end, it all came together and sounds great and it was just magical how it all came together.

RMS:  It really is a very solid and riff oriented release.  I would like to ask you both to comment on some of the songs on the release, and tell me the inspiration behind them.  Let’s start with the title track, “Hollywood  Forever.”  

SB:  That was one of the first songs that I worked on.  The song was based on rhythm parts and drum patterns.  And those kind of dictated my song ideas.  I have a little Fender-g  practice amp, and it has about one hundred different drum and rhythm patterns programmed on it.   And I tweaked sort of a shuffle drum pattern, and I just let that play and I played along to it and the song just kind of come out of that.  And then Phil asked if I had and lyrics and I told him, give me a day.  (laughs)  I think that was our first song that we worked on, right Scotty?

SG:  I think so.  Phil had a couple that he brought in, but that was the first one written in full for the new album.

SB:  Right.  Yeah, I wanted it to be kind of an old school type, Deep Purple kind of song that was really pumping and driving.  I’m happy how it came out and I think that we really kicked ass on it.

RMS:  That’s what I love about the entire record.  It’s not at all a retro release by any means. But, it does have certain elements of the LA Guns vintage sound incorporated in it and but it’s fresh, diverse and innovative. 

SB:  Yeah, I think so.  I kind of A/B this release with “Tales from the Strip,”  and  “Tales..” kind of has this “Cocked and Loaded” vibe to it, and “Hollywood Forever” is more like a heavier version of “Hollywood Vampires.”   This record has a lot of different styles to it.  Also, the production is huge on it.  We got some amazing guitar sounds on it.

RMS:  Yeah, it’s great.  What about the song “You Better not Love Me,” what was the inspiration behind that one? 

SG:  That’s our first single off the new record, it’s going to be number one with a bullet.

SB:  That was a song that Phil brought in.  Scotty wrote the bridge for it, right?

SG:  Yeah, I did,  I came up with  the chords for the bridge.  I tried to come up with a Blackie Lawless tyoe of thing.

SB:  Yeah, it had an old school WASP type vibe going on.  And I think that was the last song that we worked on.  It really took shape in about three rehearsals.   Andy Johns had an idea to put some B3 Hammond organ on it.  That added some texture, it really worked.

SG:  All last year, during sound checks, I would hear Phil dicking around with this song.  It was just actually a bunch of riffs.

SB:  Once the band started playing that song it really stated taking shape.  Yesterday, we tackled an acoustic version of that song.

RMS:  You have this great record, now what are your touring plans?  I heard that you were offered the opening slot on Def Lepaard/Poison tour, but you turned it down.

SB:  The thing about those tours is that we would always get a shit time slot.  Those big tours are great, but  when you go on at 6.30pm, you’re playing in a huge ampitheather in front of a very few people.   Most people work until 5 or 6 o’clock and they can’t get there until after we go on.  So, the more we thought about it, we decided that it wasn’t the tour for us.

SG:  It was like Phil’s decision, but there’s a part of me that really would love to be on a tour bus tour, I wouldn’t care if we went on at 5am.  But I went to the Motley Crue/Poison/New York Dolls show last year in Hollywood, at the Hollywood bowl.  I had my “I Love NY” t-shirt on and I was totally there for the Dolls.  And when I got to the show, there was just nobody there, at the Hollywood bowl!  Everyone was still getting there when they were playing.

SB:  Yeah, but we have some great shows lined up with Skid Row, Cinderella, Warrant, plus some of our own shows.  We will be doing a big festival in Scandinavia with Alice Cooper.  And we finish up the year with a UK tour.

RMS: How do you feel about the classic line up members in LA Guns that you replaced?  What do you think about them as musicians?

SB:  Tracii will always be a big part of the band, that’s a given.  I think that he’s a good player and still is.  What he did on the first three, four records was great.  But, I don’t really thing about that too much,  but as a musician I ways thought that he was a good player.

SG:  Kelly Nichols is horrible.  (laughs)  No, he’s awesome!  I like that he’s not like a Billy Sheehan type of guy.  I would hate it if he was like that.  He actually came in and played on the song “Venus Bomb,” which is one of Stacey’s songs.  And he nailed it!

SB:  He did a great job and he’s a fun guy.  He’s come out a bunch of times and performed with us over the last year.   That’s always fun and the fans really like that.   And I think that he may be doing some shows with us in the New York area this summer.

RMS:  Do you feel that because of the strength of your new release and your growing reputation as a great live band, that you will finally put the final nail in the coffin of this two different LA Guns band nonsense?

SB:  Yes, totally.  And I believe that Tracii has a new project that he is really involved with and he’s doing a record with.  We wish him the best,  I just don’t think what he did over the last five years, with having his own version of LA Guns was really fair.  He had like five different line-ups in that time period as LA Guns and don’t think that it’s fair to the fans.  We are so excited about our release, and this is LA Guns for sure.

SG:  When we are on the road, we never really heard about the other version of the band.  Yeah, we knew it was around, and there may have been a little confusion from club owners, but I never thought it was a hindrance to us, just a little thorn in our side.  But we kept getting better shows.  Everytime we would play somewhere, when we came back the next year, there would be more people.  Everyone can get there first gig somewhere, but can you get a second gig?  And if so, will there be more or less people?

RMS:  In talking to Phil a few times over the last few years, he was always very confident that this line-up would be that last one standing.

SB:  Exactly.  It was Tracii that left the band, he left LA Guns.  He kind of burned the bridge when he left, and then he started his own version of the band after his project that he left the band for didn’t work out.  It was always a bit difficult to comprehend that.

RMS:  I’m sure that you guys are really sick of answering that question.

SB:  Yes, next question, please.

RMS:  Well Stacey, my final question is in regards to the book you wrote entitled, “Snake Eyes: Confessions of a Replacement RockStar.”   I’ll admit that I haven’t read the book yet, and I’m assuming that it’s not about fictitious dealing with heroin.

SB:  (laughs) Correct.  It’s funny, because it’s been out for three years, it was published in 2009.  I can of look at it as a demo, because right now, I’m working on a re-release.  I’ve written another five chapters.  I re-edited the book entirely and I’m looking to get a much bigger publishing deal.  I want to do it right.  But, writing the book wasn’t something that I was planning on doing, it just kind of happened.  I didn’t put it out for money.  It was my story and a story of inspiration and all the shit I had to go through to get to where I’m at, and all the crazy things that happened along the way.  It has stories about alcohol and drugs and stalkers and car crashes, and all the stuff that you would want to read.  But there’s a little different twist to it.  It’s more about never giving up on your dream.

RMS:  Yeah, I really would like to read it.  So Scotty, when is your book coming out?

SG:  I don’t even know how to read a book.  (Laughs) Maybe I’ll do a pop-up book.  An all nude pop-up book, for chicks only.  No, I don’t have any thoughts about writing a book.

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