KELLY NICKELS On Existence Of Two Versions Of L.A. GUNS: 'It's A Rock 'N' Roll Soap Opera'
June 15, 2020
Steve Riley's version of L.A. GUNS recently released its debut single, "Crawl". The track is taken from the band's first album, "Renegades", which will arrive in late summer or early fall via Golden Robot Records.
Riley's version of L.A. GUNS is not to be confused with the band led by guitarist Tracii Guns and vocalist Phil Lewis, which issued two well-received albums, "The Missing Peace" and "The Devil You Know", plus the live release "Made In Milan", under the L.A. GUNS name over the last three years.
Riley's version of L.A. GUNS made its live debut in May 2019 at the M3 Rock Festival. The drummer is joined in the group by Orlando, Florida-based guitarist/vocalist Kurt Frohlich, bassist Kelly Nickels (a member of L.A. GUNS' "classic" incarnation) and guitarist Scott Griffin (who played bass for the band from 2007 until 2009, and then again from 2011 to 2014).
In a recent interview with BigMusicGeek.com, Nickels spoke about Riley's decision to call his new band L.A. GUNS. He said: "[Phil and Tracii] didn't want us to be in the group, so when they got their reunion together, they didn't invite us. I really don't think about what they do. It's totally fine. I get why people like them and why people want to stick up for them and argue with us about it all, but I just want to play, man. I get tired of hearing it, but it's okay. I understand the loyalty. I'm loyal to my bands, too. I have my favorite bands and if this was the situation, I don't know what I'd do. We get it, but at the same time, at this stage, we're just going to play and have fun and put a lot of work into the name and the band. We were there, too.
"We're all either in our mid-50s or early 60s, and you get another chance to go play again, it's hard to not take it. Changing the name and everything was just too complicated. There's been too much put into it. It's too much to try to get everybody to learn what the new band's name is this, especially when you don't have that advertising budget you had back then. People still don't understand what the two versions are.
"The first thing I did when I joined was re-design the logo so that we can differentiate ourselves from them as much as possible, which is why we have a new shield logo. And I always put our names on everything so you know who's in it. You know who's in this version of the band and you know there are two versions of the band.
"It's a rock 'n' roll soap opera. It's unfortunate that it had to come to this, but at the same time, we deserve the right to play. We have the right to play all those songs. We worked awfully hard on all those songs. We did all those songs when we were out there and definitely earned our parts."
This past January, Riley was sued by Guns and Lewis in California District Court. Joining Riley as defendants in the case are the three musicians who perform in his recently launched rival version of L.A. GUNS; that group's manager, booking agent and merchandiser; and Golden Robot Records.
The complaint, which requests a trial by jury, alleges that Riley's version of L.A. GUNS (referred to in the case docket as "the infringing L.A. GUNS") is creating "unfair competition" through its unauthorized usage of the L.A. GUNS trademark. In addition, Guns and Lewis are seeking relief from and/or against false advertising, breach of contract and unauthorized usage of their likenesses.
At its core, Guns and Lewis's complaint calls into question Riley's claim of partial ownership of the L.A. GUNS name and logo and alleges that his usage of both has been unauthorized. In addition, Guns and Lewis claim — as Guns has done publicly in the past — that Riley has embezzled much of the group's publishing proceeds over the past two decades.
Despite leaving the band soon after the release of 2002's "Waking The Dead" to focus on BRIDES OF DESTRUCTION (his short-lived supergroup with MÖTLEY CRÜE bassist Nikki Sixx),Guns "is the owner of common law trademark righs" for the L.A. GUNS name and logo, the complaint claims. It notes that Guns founded the band in 1983, four years before Riley joined, and that Riley did not perform on the group's 1984 debut EP and contributed to just a single track on their 1987 self-titled full-length debut.
According to the complaint, Guns "has been injured by Defendants' unfair competition," while he and Lewis have "suffered harm including damages and and irreparable injury to their goodwill." It also claims that Riley's L.A. GUNS was formed "with the intent of tricking and confusing consumers into believing that the infringing L.A. GUNS band is the original [Tracii] Guns version" of the group.
In addition to actual and punitive damages, Guns and Lewis are seeking a "permanent injunction" that restrains all of the named defendants from using the L.A. GUNS name, logo and likeness, as well as "a declaration that Guns is the sole owner of the common law trademark rights" for the L.A. GUNS moniker "and any related design marks."
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