L.A. Guns
Home base: Los Angeles
Line up: Chris Van Dahl, vocals; Johnny Crypt, bass; Tracii Guns, guitar; Steve Riley, drums
Label: CMC International
Album: American Hardcore
Web site: http://www.cybercity.hko.net/hollywood/crypt/index.html and http://www.cmcinternational.com

Sheila Rene': Hello, who's calling?
Steve Riley: Hey, it's Steve just to double check to see if Tracii called.

SR: No, I haven't heard from him yet.
Steve Riley: I'm having a problem getting through to him today. Is there any way I can help out by doing the interview?

SR: Sure, if you want to do it.
Steve Riley: I will. I don't want to blow off your interview.

SR:Let's do it. I got dropped through the cracks in '96 when I started working on this.
Steve Riley: Wow, then let's do it.

SR: What I'm getting from this is that you had considered giving it up at one time?
Steve Riley: No, that's exactly what we didn't do. The original five guys got back together after they released the Vicious Circle album and did one last tour of the States. We went out for six weeks. We packed everywhere we played even in San Francisco and Seattle. We were unsure about those places but it was great. We came back and they had three months of touring set up for us and that's when the other three guys gave it up. Kelly, Mick and Phil just said they didn't want to play anymore. It wasn't even a matter of them going to another band. Tracii and I were just about ready to pick up his Killing Machine project until we found Chris and Johnny. At that time we started the L.A. Guns project again.

SR: Chris has quite an octave range here.
Steve Riley: He's amazing. He hasn't even been tapped yet. He's got so much going for him.

SR: I'm wondering how many folks like myself upon hearing the first 18 seconds stopped their machine because it sounds like there's a problem with the speed of it?
Steve Riley: Right. No doubt. You know what that is? It's "Black Sabbath" from Black Sabbath played backwards. We recorded it for the album but the label only wanted us to include it on the Japan version. That would have made it worthwhile to buy the import because there would be this extra track. We play it live.

SR: At the end there's some more fun and games that come in at 6:27.
Steve Riley: That's right. It's a continuation of the little thing he does before "Pissed."

SR: Well, that's an understatment. The whole world is pissed. The songs are an insight into how the band feels on certain subjects.
Steve Riley: Oh, definitely. Chris has a great knack for lyrics. He's only begun. Now he'll get more comfortable with himself. He's really a songwriting machine. He's always writing.

SR: Crypt let me know on my e-mail when you first started working on the album so I've been following the progress.
Steve Riley: That's cool.

SR: I guess Johnny is the point man on all the computer stuff. CMC Int'l is still under construction.
Steve Riley: Yeah, he's really into it. We're all into it but just as much as he is. We're going to put up our merchandising and Crypt has his own web page.

SR: Are you getting lots of attention through your e-mail?
Steve Riley: Yes, because we have quite a folder going. We have some kids who stay up on everything. They have the most-post. It's a whole new deal to reach our fans. We played Billboard Live on January 3 and it was taped for broadcast over Hardradio.

SR: It's going to be re-broadcast later this month. It'll always be available.
Steve Riley: I have a DAT of the show and I'm told they'll need that. I'm just waiting for our manager, Doug to tell me what to do with it. Billboard Live is a new club on Sunset. It's beautiful and that night it was jammed full of fans. It was also filmed with four camera shoot and recorded on DAT. I think we'll end up releasing this video. It came out that good.

SR: You guys just went right out on the road once the band was solid without any product.
Steve Riley: We did. Tracii and I didn't want to just lay this music on our old fans who dug the band's music as it was. We still dig the old band's tunes since we co-wrote them. We wanted to move into a more aggressive sound. We felt that if we went out and played them live our fans would come to see us. We did 100 shows and got signed, alerted the fans to the new sound plus it was a great breaking in time for the new members. We got off the road and went directly into the studio while we were still warmed up.

SR: I don't know why any band wouldn't take advantage of all that touring experience to make the music sharper on the next album.
Steve Riley: I don't know why bands don't just stay on the road all the time. Stop worrying about radio and TV. You're going to sell albums from touring a lot.

SR: We've lost so many wonderful metal icons lately RIP magazine and before that KNAC and Z-Rock.
Steve Riley: The only one who keeps waving the flag is Gerri Miller. She's gotten us a lot of stuff in Metal Edge, but she's just one person.

SR: Were the songs written on the road or in the studio?
Steve Riley: We wrote most of them before we left. We spent the last half of '95 putting the band together and writing. We worked in my studio and then we realized that it wasn't enough to just demo our material. We had a lot more that had to happen. We wanted to test the material first and it was great. There were a lot of subtle changes made to the songs and came back so comfortable with them that it was so easy to record them.

SR: The fan liked what they heard.
Steve Riley: Without a doubt. We called the tour "Fistfight Every Night" because we knew we were going out there and it was going to be a battle to get our fans to like the new members and the new sound. We're still doing a lot of the old tunes such as "Sex Action" and a punk version of "Ballad Of Jane." We lost fans and we gained fans. I think we might have lost some of the female fans, but we're gaining a lot of new male fans. The female fans liked our look and we played it up a lot back then.

SR: It was a natural move.
Steve Riley: We wanted to go this route with the old band and we wanted to start getting away from the killer song to be a three and a half minute video on MTV. Just get out there and start opening up. The best thing that happened is that Tracii is the only guitarist in the band now. It makes a world of difference. He's able to play so much easier and better now. He's one of the best guitarists in the world, no doubt about it. Now that he doesn't have a rhythm drone behind him, he's really playing well.

SR: I love the acoustic guitar on "Hey World." It's a killer song and super lyrics.
Steve Riley: Big time. It's a right on song.

SR: I'm sure metal fans are surprised to hear mandolin and strings on this album, but it really fattens the sound.
Steve Riley: I know. It gives you a break because we're really hitting everyone over the head with a lot of the other stuff. It just shows a different side and I'm proud of Chris for doing it because we did the music and then we just let him go with it. It's a reworking of "One Way Ticket" from the first album where he redid the whole melody line. It's just good.

SR: Another message here on "Hugs And Needles." ...Nothing going down/not here...
Steve Riley: Right. Oh, man, I'm telling you that's another thing about this band. We never had a drug or alcohol problem in the last band. I've never met two straighter guys than Chris and Johnny. They're so on top of it. There's no hypocrisy and Chris is a wild man who's never done drugs; and he's never drinks. It's just real all the time.

SR: "I Am Alive" says welcome to the American dream...Is that Tracii's voice on the stuff at the end?
Steve Riley: No, that's Chris.

SR: I just bought a new rock and roll encyclopedia recently from the Rolling Stone folks and was surprised that Tracii Guns is not mentioned anywhere in the Guns 'N Roses section. There's a real lack of hard rock and metal bands in that book. Nothing on L.A. Guns or DIO, etc.
Steve Riley: Really. Well, you know that's so political too. They're following the same thing that MTV is doing. I'll tell you MTV sets the course for so many other events to follow. They slight bands that really did make impact. We're doing it. There wouldn't have been GNR with Tracii starting that band. He co-wrote most of the stuff of that first album and got no credit because he started his own band and split.

SR: Hopefully, the Internet will pick up the slack with the Hardradio site pumping out good music around the clock. I'm getting lots of e-mail from around the world. There's no airplay, no video...just touring and the Internet.
Steve Riley: Definitely. We have to use what we have. The only thing we've got going for us is just to stay out there.

SR: What's the touring looking like for '97?
Steve Riley: We're leaving in two weeks and we start in Sacramento and up the left coast to Seattle and Portland....then Vancouver. We do four weeks across Canada and then down the right coast through the southeast. We'll be gone all of February and March. Then in April we're looking to do some dates with a number of bands. We're doing a lot of dates with Motorhead when they get back to the States. Have you heard about the "Metal Circus" tour that CMC and BMG are doing?

SR: No, tell me all about it.
Steve Riley: Alice Cooper will be the Ring Master and they want to carry three big, black tents outside. One tent would have the Jim Rose gang and all those types of things and the other big tents would be all the metal acts. They're talking about taking out all kinds of bands. We're just going to work hard to be able to do these kinds of things. It's a great idea, I think.

SR: You worked with Dennis Degher as co-producer or engineer at the Red Zone Studios in Burbank.
Steve Riley: Degher was great as the co-producer and engineer. Tracii has worked with him before. The band knows what we want to do which is why we could produce the album on our own, but he's such a great person to work with. He has a lot of input while not looking to change things. He just rounds them out and catches you just the way you sound. We'll probably be working with him on future projects. We're all set to keep going with Dennis.

SR: How do you define success?
Steve Riley: Success to me is having product out and being able to tour in any manner. If you're playing that's it. If you're making big money that's great, but that's not the main reason. We've had that idea since '87 when we recorded the first album. We had no airplay and just stayed out there. We got an AC/DC leg that helped a lot then we went back to the small clubs just so we could play. We sold 650,000 with no airplay. A lot of bands are too proud to do that and they lose.

SR: Are there any new drums out there that we should know about?
Steve Riley: I'm playing Ludwig because I've used them all my life and they're still the best.

SR: Guitars seem to go through a quicker evolution.
Steve Riley: Yeah, but then they come back full circle. Tracii has gone from the Les Paul to the Stratocaster to a whole maze of guitars and now he's back. He just picked up another Les Paul recently. He has gone back to what really, really sounds great. Ludwigs are just the best for me.

SR: If you could change one thing in the music biz today, what would it be?
Steve Riley: I see that it's really hard to get a record deal. It doesn't matter if you're great or if you have a new cutting-edge sound, it's just so difficult. The real success is knowing that you're signed and have some product out there. In between L.A. Guns when I left the band in '92, and got back with them in '95 I had played with a bunch of different acts in L.A. that I thought should have been signed. It was just a matter of who was trying to do it for them and who's talking. Do you have full management set up.

SR: The Second Annual Grammy Showcase received more than 6,000 entries. That's twice as many as last year.
Steve Riley: That's insane. Then you also have people who sign the bands to labels ..do they hear the new sound or something good? The people they're sending out to look at new acts don't know how to do it. They're not qualified. The really good record men are gone right now.

SR: They keep firing the older, seasoned ears to save money by hiring a rookie. The same goes for the promotion departments everywhere.
Steve Riley: We have a band of our friends here called Soul and they got signed to Elektra. They're really great and came out with us in '95 and did well. They did their album but the A&R person who signed them got fired and their album got shelved. The business side of music is really bad right now. Fortunately, we got signed to a really nice deal and we're going to make the best of it.

SR: CMC is really picking up the slack.
Steve Riley: That's why BMG bought into them with that big merger. There are a lot of bands out there that are doing great live, packing arenas, but with no airplay. They're not selling records. It's backwards. I guess we'll all make a living on the road selling albums that way, but it would be really worth it if someone invested in stations that play hard music.

SR: Europe is really supporting our bands better than we do in the states. Plus they have great MTV Europe support for all the metal over there.
Steve Riley: You bet they do.

SR: Thanks for your time.
Steve Riley: Where are you?

SR: I'm in Austin. Give my best to Tracii.
Steve Riley:SR: I will for sure. We'll probably be playing there in March so plan to come down to see us.