American rock/glam metal group L.A. Guns have reformed, uniting lead singer Phil Lewis with original guitarist Tracii Guns for the first time in almost 15 years. Together with their newly released reunion album The Missing Peace, Phil and Tracii are hard at work promoting and performing new music and pursuing what feels like a fresh start for them both. With the Australian tour drawing near, we had a chat with Phil Lewis about the tour, the album and all things music.
TEO: So, this is the first album produced by Tracii himself, am I right?
Phil: Yes, correct.
So, how did it feel working in the studio this time?
To be honest, I didn’t spend all that much time in the studio with Tracii; he was doing a lot of the instrumental stuff over at his house. I did my vocals in New York over a four day period with Mitch Davis. So it wasn’t like a traditional record where we’re all in the studio, where we’re all sitting around a mixer going ‘oh, I think we need more 6k’—it wasn’t like that at all. But y’know, Tracii—as much as being the producer—what he really was, was a director; he directed the whole thing. He just designated people assignments. And then when it was all done he put it together and did an absolutely fantastic job.
Looking back on your career, you’ve got quite extensive experience working with different producers (sometimes several per album), in particular Andy Johns, who was a legend in his own right, worked with you on Hollywood Forever.
Absolutely, he was. Yeah.
What was it like working with Andy?
It was awesome working with Andy! You might notice if you look in the sleeve notes of The Missing Peace that we dedicate the record to his memory. Tracii and I first worked with Andy back in the early part of 2000 on an album called Waking The Dead. It was the first time I worked with Andy and I was really impressed with him…he was that good—and, oh my god, the stories! The best stories we’d ever heard; he’d just have you on the floor rolling, they were so funny! And y’know, occasionally we’d get some work done too. But, y’know Andy’s name was on something like 60 million records out there. He recorded the vocal for ‘Stairway To Heaven’—it was him and Robert Plant in the studio. So if Andy says ‘no no, we can do a better one,’ or ‘yeah, that was it, Phil. You nailed it.’ I listened to him because he’s incredible at what he does. If it was good for Andy then it was good for me. We miss him.
There’s a nice blend of classic L.A. Guns and fresh ideas on the latest album; on one hand the songs are very much in line with the sleaze metal genre whereas towards the end of the album there are hints of folk/classical and almost celtic sounding acoustic guitar (particularly on the intros to the title track and ‘Gave It All Away’). What do you think influenced this creative direction?
Well, Tracii has had these musical interludes bouncing in his head for years. He just sits at home and plays guitar all day and he comes up with these incredible pieces of sonic tapestry. I would go as far to say that ‘The Missing Peace’ and ‘Gave It All Away’ are actually L.A. Guns’ first venture into Metal. Y’know into that sort of classic, sort of Maiden-y, sort of operatic (if you will) metal. As opposed to being sleazy sex drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. It takes a new direction towards the end and maybe that’s a hint towards what’s coming next.
In your opinion, what makes a good song?
Well, it’s a bit like a meal isn’t it? It’s a recipe: a series of ingredients such as a tempo, a good chord structure, good lyrics, a good beat and something credible and sincere. [It’s] a believable lyric as opposed to, y’know, like a repetitive drone Goldfrapp type of techno-modern sound; soulless. It’s gotta have a story, y’know, it’s gotta bleed a bit…and, it’s one of the great feelings to write a song; people think that songwriting is easy, but it isn’t. It sounds easy; people like Tom Petty and Bob Dylan make it sound easy but it’s not, it’s really really difficult. To create something out of thin air, y’know just play a couple of chords and for it to end up as a finished, produced, sonically pleasing effort, it’s one of the greatest feelings as a songwriter and as a musician to be able to do that. To take it from nothing and later back in the studio it’s got strings and harmonies and stuff that you never thought of when it started out as a little three chord idea. I get a great deal of pleasure out of that.
Are you looking forward to the Australian tour?
Oh, very much! Tracii and I have each been there individually but we’ve never been there together and there are actually things that we haven’t done together over our history. I like to ride motorbikes. So if there are any bikers out there who want to come to our show and bring a spare bike along, I’m fully licensed. I would love to do a bit of riding while I’m over there, just to say that I did…shout out to the Hells Angels, tell them to bring a spare chopper and I’ll be as happy as a pig in slime!
Thursday 17 May – BRISBANE, Woolly Mammoth
Friday 18 May – MELBOURNE, Max Watts
Saturday 19 May – SYDNEY, Max Watts
Sunday 20 May – SYDNEY, Frankie’s Pizza (an acoustic intimate evening)
*PERTH, WELLINGTON and AUCKLAND dates cancelled
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