STEVE RILEY Says It's 'Totally Frustrating' Having To Deal With Two Separate Versions Of L.A. GUNS

September 1, 2020

Steve Riley's version of L.A. GUNS recently released three singles, "Crawl", " Well Oiled Machine" and "Renegades", from its first album, also titled "Renegades", which will arrive before the end of the year 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 is joined in his version of 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).

Asked in a new interview with how he handles, from a business point of view, there being two separate versions of L.A. GUNS, Riley said: "When Tracii quit in 2002, he went on and did a few other bands after that, but Phil and I had kept battling on as L.A. GUNS. I never stopped trying to get classic guys to not quit. I was always there. I was the longest chain and I'm still the longest chain member of L.A. GUNS. I never really quit the band, but everybody else has left the band for some reason or another. When Tracii decided to do a second L.A. GUNS in 2006, that's when all of this started. It's been something I've just had to deal with because the two of us owned the name and the trademark. We're classic members and we're former partners, but there was nothing I could do to stop him. Phil and I just had to deal with it. So, for the last 20 years, I've been dealing with it and it's nothing new. It's not, like, 'Wow, this is a new situation where there's two bands that have the same name.' He'd already been doing it for a while because when he quit, Phil and I went on for 15 years without him."

Riley went on to say that "it's totally frustrating," from a personal and professional point of view, having to deal with there being another version of L.A. GUNS.

"It's something that I don't want to happen and I wish would never have happened," he said. "Like I said, you wouldn't believe how much I tried to talk to the classic members out of not quitting the band. I would tell them, 'We all have a good thing going here. Let's just keep on going.' When Tracii left in 2002, he left Phil and I up in the air, but it was a situation where we were determined to keep pushing forward. Of course, we ended up doing another four or five albums before this all happened again with Phil leaving the band. So it's something that's frustrating, but there's really nothing you can do about it. It's like it is what it is."

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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