STEVE RILEY: Why My New Band Is Rightfully Called L.A. GUNS
April 25, 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.
In a recent interview with Talking Metal, Riley spoke about his decision to call his new band L.A. GUNS. He said (hear audio below): "Here's what the situation is in a nutshell. I was the only one that stayed in L.A. GUNS. I'm the longest-tenured member in L.A. GUNS. And even though I came in pretty much last at the very beginning, I'm the one that stayed with the band. Tracii quit in 2002 — he quit L.A. GUNS, this band; he quit it. And he went on and he did other projects and was out of the band for quite a long time — 15, 16 years. And Phil Lewis and myself, we kept moving on, and it was L.A. GUNS — we were the original L.A. GUNS. Because Mick Cripps and Kelly Nickels decided to leave too, and they're still very tight with me and really good friends with me, but they decided to leave and they wanted to do other stuff. And I totally understood it. But Phil, Tracii and myself, we wanted to keep going on, so L.A. GUNS went on. And Tracii ended up leaving the band, and then Phil and I, we went on for, like, 15 years — L.A. GUNS kept moving forward and doing albums and working with [producer] Andy Johns. Then Phil Lewis decided to leave the band too. And I'm still in the band, and I'm still running the business. And we're L.A. GUNS.
"So this isL.A. GUNS," he continued. "And Kelly decided he wanted to come back and get involved again, and that was a great situation. When that happened, I was so happy because I felt like we were a great rhythm section and we did some really great stuff together and we're really tight friends. So he came back before this M3 show last year.
"Yeah, this is L.A. GUNS. I've never left the band — I'm pretty much the only one who never quit the band. And I just kept it going and I ran the business from day one — I joined in '87, all the way up to now.
"So, this is L.A. GUNS. Kelly and I consider this L.A. GUNS. And if [people] have to differentiate it with saying 'Steve and Kelly Nickels's L.A. GUNS,' that's cool with us too, because we know the other two guys are out there [recording and touring with their own version of L.A. GUNS].
"But, yeah, this is the band — this is the band that I joined and never quit, and pretty much everybody, all the original members, quit or left the band at one point or another, and I just never did. So I feel very strongly about this is L.A. GUNS."
Riley's version of L.A. GUNS made its live debut last May 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).
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."