L.A. GUNS Vocalist PHIL LEWIS On TRACII GUNS: 'Maybe We Had To Go Our Separate Ways To Grow Up A Bit'

March 9, 2019

L.A. GUNS vocalist Phil Lewis recently spoke with MA Entertainment Global. The full conversation can be seen below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On living in Las Vegas:

Phil: "A vampire Brit blends in quite nicely. It's a challenge, for sure. Everything happens at night. [There's] absolutely no point getting up before 3 or 4 [o'clock], before the sun starts to go down, because it's a long, hot day. You become like a cat, really – you sleep a lot, stay up all night and get things done. It's a cosmopolitan city — all the stores are open 24/7, restaurants, the whole casino thing. I don't know how to [gamble]. I never bothered to learn. I think it's probably served me well. My old man had what we call a fruit machine, what you guys call slots. We had one in our living room. It was just a three-dial slot, and even then, I lost... I've been in Vegas now for about four or five years. It was a leap of faith. I'd been with a girl for a long time, and I tried just to move on and find another place, but it was so much memories and so much stuff that I'd become so ingrained in, I really felt it was time for a change. Vegas is pretty much a suburb of L.A. It's a 45-minute flight, or, in my case, a three-and-a-half-hour drive — no big deal. I thought I'd give it a shot and see how it went, and it's worked out well for me."

On what he misses about England:

Phil: "The humor, definitely. Americans have got a great sense of humor, don't get me wrong, but it's something about that Brit humor. It gets my funny bone, and when I'm around English people, I roar with laughter — the belly laughter, the hurt laughter."

On joining L.A. GUNS:

Phil: "When I first moved to L.A., there was the amazing Cat & Fiddle [bar] on Sunset... In fact, that was the very, very first place where I met Tracii [Guns]. Alan Jones, the manager, picked me up from the airport. We literally drove straight to the Cat & Fiddle. We had the back room – the banquet room. I met the whole band for the very first time. [Then-vocalist Paul Black] OD'ed in the A&R man's office as they were just about to sign. Literally, at the signing ceremony, he was all skagged out and he passed out, and poor Tracii, he had no idea. He was young; he was naive. He goes, 'What's the matter with Paul? Why's he so tired?' The penny dropped, and the A&R man said, 'You've got the deal, but you've got to get another singer. This guy's got to go.' That's when I got the call from Alan. I flew over and stayed at the Tropicana on Santa Monica — sadly gone; an amazing motel, '60s motel — and went to Cat & Fiddle and met with the guys. The next day, we had a rehearsal. The guys are tuning, getting ready to do an audition, and so I go up to the mic, and I'm like, 'Check-check, one-two. Hello, Wembley.' Tracii looked up from his guitar and goes, 'Yeah, OK, that's it. You've got the gig.' That was the audition. [Laughs]"

On opening for IRON MAIDEN in 1988 after GUNS N' ROSES canceled:

Phil: "At that stage, [they] were simply too big to open for MAIDEN. I don't know what excuse they came up with, but they weren't doing it, so we got asked. It always an honor to open for Steve [Harris] and the guys. It was a challenge, because we did Irvine and we did Santa Fe, New Mexico, and weren't quite as well received [there]. They just announced it right before we went on stage — 'GUNS N' ROSES can't make it, but we've got L.A. GUNS.' It was like, [groans]. We definitely had our work cut out for us."

On L.A. GUNS collaborator Mitch Davis:

Phil: "Mitch played a huge, huge part of [2017's] 'The Missing Peace'. He's a songwriter/producer, and I compare him very much to the Mutt Lange/DEF LEPPARD relationship that they had. I really do believe that Mitch is our Mutt Lange. He doesn't do all the mix-out like Mutt did — he doesn't do drums or guitars or anything — but he specializes in vocals. Tracii will send him a piece of music, and boom, he comes up with a great idea – just a sketch. I'll go in the studio and we'll put it together. He also writes lyrics as well. It's great having a collaborator. Tracii's so about the guitar, he leaves the songwriting aspect to [others]. He'll bring the riff, and Mitch and I will turn it into a song. Mitch records my vocals as well. We do it in New York. I'll fly out on Friday and we'll record Saturday and Sunday, and we'll work our asses off... It's definitely a challenge having somebody write stuff that I might not be able to. He's really good. I consider myself to be pretty good, but he's really, really good. He's writing commercials for [Apple]; he's doing stuff for banks. He was involved in the production of the last U2 record — not really a rock n' roll guy, but he loves us."

On drummer Shane Fitzgibbon, who has also worked with the likes of Steve Vai:

Phil: "Shane's a bit of a whiz-kid, for people that don't know. He does a bit more than play drums. He's engineering the entire new record, and he played a huge part engineering and recording 'The Missing Peace'. He programs... he's got incredible potential. He's definitely one to look out for."

On L.A. GUNS' momentum:

Phil: "I'm proud of this band [for] putting out not only just recently a new record, but already getting back in and doing another one. Can you name any band, especially a band from our genre... As much as I love GUNS N' ROSES' reunion, and I'm happy it makes a lot of people happy, where's the new music? It's, like, 'Appetite For Destruction' is a great record, but it was a long time ago. That was 30-something years ago... I knew from a very early age that rock n' roll would be my salvation. People are like, 'Oh, you'll go down dark roads,' and I have been, there's no doubt about it. It's the hand that you're dealt, and right now, I'm feeling so positive. There's nothing to feel dark and introspective, or want to hide the things like drugs and booze and stuff make you want to do. I want to work. I want to get shit done. There's nothing more gratifying than playing a sold-out show and opening with songs that aren't from the last century. I have a great sense of accomplishment because of that."

On burying the hatchet with Guns:

Phil: "Me and Tracii, we've got to make up for missing time. We spent a long time apart, so we're trying to make up for that... Maybe we had to go our separate ways to grow up a bit. He's definitely a better person than I fell out with 17 years ago. He's grown up a lot; he's had a kid. He's focused on the band. Back then, he was all over the fucking place. He was a shotgun. He wanted as much as he possibly could, all different genres with different people. It was too much. Now, he's very, very focused. I think Tracii's got a great future ahead of him as a producer. I can see him doing a lot of stuff, but right now, we're very, very focused. The band is the main thing... It didn't take long before I realized just how much I missed him, and how well we know each other. He finishes my sentences. The stories, the stuff that we've been through... The first time we toured, we went on tour for two years. We gave up our apartments; we gave up our girlfriends. That's a very, very bonding experience, and even 20 years down the line, we still have that bond, that vibe. We talk and laugh about it. It's great."

On what he learned about himself after Tracii quit L.A. GUNS in 2002:

Phil: "That I could do it — you know, picking up the pieces. It wasn't an easy thing to do. We just finished recording 'Waking The Dead', and it was a great record. I was in disbelief that he wanted to walk away, but I get why... We were very much bottom-rung of our genre of music. We were on an agency that really didn't understand the kind of band we were. We were doing county fairs and playing at four in the afternoon, and that's not L.A. GUNS. I think Tracii got really fucked off with that, and behavior like that. He had an opportunity to do something bigger and better, and he took it. I might have done the same thing given the same opportunity, but unfortunately, I didn't have that opportunity. What I had was a great record and four-fifths of a band, and I had to decide whether just to throw in the towel or pick it up and go with it, roll with it, promote the album. We went on to record two, three other records without Tracii that I'm incredibly proud of too, but I don't see them being relevant in our set. Even as it is, we don't have enough time in our set to play everything. It wouldn't make sense for us to do stuff from 'Hollywood Forever' or 'Tales From The Strip'. I wouldn't want to put Tracii through that, to be honest, and he wouldn't want me to do anything from 'Shrinking Violet'."

L.A. GUNS will release their new album, "The Devil You Know", on March 29 via Frontiers Music Srl. It marks the group's second recording since Phil and Tracii reunited after more than a decade apart.

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