interview by Michael McCarthy
Yesterday we ran part one of my interview with Tracii Guns. If you haven’t read it yet, please READ IT NOW. In part one, we talked extensively about Tracii’s new band, Devil City Angels, which also features Rudy Sarzo, Rikki Rocket and Brandon Gibbs. In today’s conclusion we talk about several other things, among them Tracii Guns’ League of Gentlemen, Brides of Destruction and his connections to Poison and Quiet Riot.
MM: You have a blues rock band called Tracii Guns’ League of Gentlemen, which has released a couple of albums and is pretty different from anything you’ve released before. How has it been received by your longtime fans?
TG: Well, my fans love it because they’ve known I’m overly diverse from the get go. But that’s purely a vanity project. I love psychedelic rock and real heavy blues. Not typical blues. And the reason I attempted to do that and will continue to do that is the singer, Scott Foster Harris. He’s a young guy like Brandon. He’s really this young, hippie kid that just lives in a dream world and it prompted me to want to attempt things like Badfinger songs and things like that. He just really has that gift, to sing like that. The first record is all original material and a couple covers. And the whole idea is to make records that sound like they were recorded before 1973. So, we did the first original record and that took almost two years because I was learning how to record completely old school. By the time we got around to the second record, we wanted to pay tribute to those influences. Pretty accurate reproductions of music that we love. So, that’s kind of an ongoing educational, history lesson kind of a band. When we play live, it’s just ridiculously boring, probably, to most of the audience because we just jam songs out forever. But it’s really fun for us.
MM: I have the first album. I need to get the second one soon. I checked to see if they were on Spotify, but I didn’t see the band on there.
TG: Those are Shrapnel releases and Mike Varney [ed: the owner], who’s one of my best friends in the world, he really struggles in the digital age. I had to convince him to get an iTunes account four years ago. He was just not gonna do it. He finally did that, but the streaming thing, I don’t know if he’s ever gonna get anything up there. He’s still involved with his three labels and I believe that he sold them and I think that deal’s finished, so he’s pretty much out of the game anyway. I don’t think he really cares anymore.
MM: What are your thoughts about streaming?
TG: Well, I like it – because I can hear whatever I want whenever I want. As far as the royalty rate, I know how it works, so the labels are just raping us. It’s not Spotify at all. They still pay nearly the same royalty rate that radio does. But it’s in a different formatted language where the labels are paid as if it’s a download or a sale of a song. So, let’s say a song is streamed. They’re still collecting five cents where at the end of the day the artist is getting – you know the number, it’s like .0006 or some crazy small number. I think that some people have stepped in and they’re slowly making progress on getting that back because, as you know, the amount of plays that a band like LA Guns gets on Spotify is ridiculous. It’s great. If we were each getting our half cent or a penny, it would really amount to something. But at the rate it’s going, it’s pretty bad.
MM: Yeah, I’ve spoken to some musicians who like the idea in general but –
TG: – Yeah, I like the idea in general. I’d just like to get paid for what I worked on. That’s the only gripe and I think it’s a fair gripe and I don’t think I’m alone in that position.
MM: Do you mind if I ask you a few Brides of Destruction questions?
MM: Had you and Nikki [Sixx] known each other for long before you decided to start the band?
TG: Yeah, I met Nikki initially right in the beginning of when LA Guns was getting popular before our first record came out. We were doing good here [in LA]. He’s a cool guy, you know? We would hang out and he was doing stuff that I wasn’t into and I was actually keeping an eye on him at one point because he was still young. Then over the years, every now and then we’d run into each other. And then I got to a point with LA Guns where we were really spinning our wheels and just making horrible decisions. That’s a long story. But I needed to do something that was gonna sooth my soul somehow. By the time I was getting ready to do the Brides, I was in LA Guns chasing nickles. It was ridiculous. It was absurd. And so I called Nikki with the idea and he, actually, was just getting ready to do the same kind of idea, which ended up becoming Velvet Revolver. Originally, they were talking to Nikki and Slash and I think Steve Gorman from Black Crowes. And the guys from Buckcherry – Keith and Todd – and they had just talked about doing it, but then a couple days later Nikki called me back and he said that things just, you know, I’m just getting a weird vibe about it. Why don’t we go ahead with your idea and we did. Talk about an eye-opening, grand experience. That was wild. Total freedom of music, everybody’s eyes were on us, it just had to be really gnarly. [Laughs] And we were. But we were still conscious that we needed to write palatable songs. But the whole experience was just a live experience with the Brides. It was brutal, man. It was really fun.
MM: I love both of the Brides albums, but I never got to see you live, unfortunately.
TG: Yeah, we only did like eighteen shows in the States. Most of the time was spent in Europe and Australia and Japan. We kind of went all over the place.
MM: At that point were you looking at it as a side-project or your new priority?
TG: The thing is, with the way that I look at things, any musical thing, if it’s gonna be commercial, if it’s gonna be on a record, if it’s gonna last forever, you have to go in with the mentality that it’s not side-project or a back burner type of thing. You’ve gotta give it your all. You’ve gotta put your soul into it. We always knew that Motley Crue was gonna get back together and get rolling, so there was always that kind of looming, but we didn’t think about it until it happened. By the time it did, it was actually perfect timing for Nikki. For me, it was like, OK, um, what am I gonna do while he’s doing that? So, I just went ahead and did another record because that was my livelihood. We did that and then the pattern of my career is that I could end up anywhere anytime. I just kept plowing forward and now it’s been ten years – eleven years since the first record came out. Again, it was a project that people loved and something to be really proud of, for sure.
MM: I would say the first record in particular is one of my all-time favorites.
TG: Oh, wow, thanks, man.
MM: Ginger Wildheart was in the Brides for a while, right?
MM: I know he ended up saying that he was a heroin addict – I know he’s clean now and everything – but was he really difficult to be around at the time?
TG: Yeah. I mean, this is the thing about genius artists, you know? The flip-side. I had met him in Japan of all places, playing with the Brides. He would do his set and then come hang out with us. A great guy, man. Great energy, you know? When he’s happy, there’s nobody greater to be around. So, when Nikki went to do Crue, I had kept in touch with Ginger and he was like, hey man, let me be in the Brides, I’ll come in, I’ll bring in some song ideas, we’ll have a great time. He was going through something back home, and I’m not exactly sure what it was, but he wanted to get away. So, he basically flew himself out and I went and picked him up from the airport. And me and my wife, we were living in a trailer park right on the beach in Malibu. It was great. He had his own room and he’d get up and he’d go jog up to the store and stuff. We live a kind of bohemian lifestyle. So, then, I ended up building a studio a little further up in Malibu – up the hill – and it was really secluded and private. A huge property, to do the second record. Which I thought was gonna be a great idea for him and for Scott because I can keep tabs on them – ’cause Scott’s kind of nuts, too – and they had their little places up there and they just ended up drinking gallons of Chilean wine, getting nuts and fighting with each other. It just got to the point where equipment ended up in the pool one night when I wasn’t there. So, I had to go up there [and said] Ginger, man, sorry bro, you’ve gotta go figure yourself out somewhere. Ginger was so depressed at one point they got in the rental car, him and Scott Sorry, who was playing bass at the time, and they were really good friends, and they just went jamming down Latigo Canyon, which is a very windy road, and it was night time and it was raining. Ginger was like, hey Scott, we’re checking out, man, I’m gonna go over one of these cliffs. It was a bad scene. So, yeah, it was a bad time for Ginger. I didn’t lose any love for him at all. It was really hard to watch somebody that you care about so much be outside of themselves. And that’s really what he was doing. He wasn’t really himself. He was just reacting to emotional problems and struggles of addiction, which I’d been through before with other people. But he’s a real survivor and a real talent and we comment on each others shit on Facebook once a week at least. We’re cool. But, yeah, I wish I could say it was one of the best experiences of my life but it was actually one of the toughest.
MM: Whatever happened to Brides’ singer? His name was London, right?
TG: London lives in Scandinavia somewhere. Or maybe he lives in Sweden. And he does have a band and I think they’re called Stars from Mars. I’m not sure what they do because about five or six years ago Scot Coogan got a hold of me and said, hey, man, you want to do some Brides shows? And I said yeah, where’s London? He said I don’t know. So, we tracked him down and he was like in Sweden and he’s like, oh, man, how am I gonna get there? If we fly him out round trip it’s three grand where the shows are like 2500. It didn’t make any sense. He’s a really interesting guy. A real kind of Southern gentleman with this outrageous image and really unique voice. I really miss him.
MM: In 2008 you formed a band called Guns of Destruction with Steven Adler and Chip from Enuff Z’Nuff –
TG: – No, wait, I didn’t. That was a press release that somebody put out, but that wasn’t a real thing.
MM: When you were in Poison and Quiet Riot, did you record anything with them?
TG: No. The Poison thing was really short-lived. It’s such a funny story. CC decided he was gonna do Samantha 7, a solo project – it’s really good, actually – so he quit the band officially. All three guys called me separately like, hey man, we really want you to be in the band. I’m like, yeah, OK, sure, whatever. So, what I had to do at that point is call the LA Guns guys and say hey, I want to go do Poison this summer, so we’ve gotta figure that out. And they were like, OK, cool, that’s great. So, we [Poison] rehearsed for about a week and then CC flips out; hey, no, you can’t have Tracii in the band. So, all the guys called me again like, oh, man, CC wants back in. And I’m like, OK, totally. The only bad thing was that I’d blown off my tour with LA Guns. We [Poison] actually did write a few things but they never saw the light of day. And with Quiet Riot, that was an interesting thing, too. That was something I really wanted to do on a purely retro kind of thing. Kevin DuBrow was the first famous person I ever met when I was fourteen or fifteen in a guitar store. He was really nice to me and Randy Rhodes was one of my favorite guitar players, so I’ll always associate Quiet Riot with Randy and Kevin and Rudy. Just because that’s my first visual simulation of Quiet Riot. And I love Frankie. Frankie is one of my favorite people on this planet. So, I was actually gonna play with Danzig but I had a Brides tour booked, and some bad blood happened between me and Glenn Danzig, and then Quiet Riot called and I’m like, sure. But they’re sending me the new music that’s on the record and, honestly, I wasn’t jiving with it much. It was kind of like a very traditional, blues rock, Led Zeppelin kind of flavor. When I think of Quiet Riot, I don’t think of that kind of music. I could understand why – we all eventually want to be Led Zeppelin, right? [Laughs] And at the time I didn’t realize they didn’t have a bass player. Chuck Wright had just left and Rudy was gone, but I didn’t really know that. So, I get back from [the Brides] tour and I’m talking to Frankie every day and Kevin flies out the day before rehearsal and takes me out to a really nice dinner. It was the first lobster I ever ate in my life. And we had a great, great conversation. And the next day at rehearsal we get in there and Frankie’s like, we’re auditioning bass players today. I’m like, shit, because as far as I knew we were gonna get in there and start going through the material because I hadn’t played one note with them yet. So, that day was spent looking at guys. Everybody that came in could have got the gig, they were all great. Then we had a little business meeting out back and it really didn’t make sense for me, the way that it was structured, and so I ended up not doing it. Then Kevin, he died. I saw him one time after that at Rocklahoma and I gave him a big hug, everything was cool, and then the next thing I know Kevin is gone. So, my love for the guys in Quiet Riot has always been huge. I’ve been playing with Rudy now for eight months and every time we walk on stage together it feels great.
MM: They were the first metal band that I got into.
TG: Yeah, there you go.
MM: At the end of our interviews we usually ask a few random questions. Is that OK?
MM: The first one we’ve got is what are your favorite TV shows right now?
TG: I love Vikings. Right now, I am engulfed in that one. I don’t think I watch anything [else]. I’m a dad so I wake up at seven in the morning and get him off to school and I come home and my studio’s here and I work for Universal Paris doing commercial film music. And I prepare for all of these other things that I do. During the day, I don’t really watch anything. When my son gets home, it’s immediately on one of the cartoon channels, so whether I’m watching it or not, it just kind of sits there. So, I don’t really get to watch TV. I watch the news for probably an hour throughout the day somehow but right now there’s nothing other than Vikings that I could even talk about.
MM: What was the last song you listened to?
TG: It’s a good question because last night was the first time that I listened to the Devil City Angels record. So, when it came back around to “Numb,” that was the last song I listened to.
MM: Tell us about a prank you’ve pulled on someone?
TG: I’m not a good prankster. I’m a good spontaneous prankster but… I don’t know. I don’t think I even remember one prank. So exciting, huh? [Both laugh] MM: Can you remember one someone pulled on you?
TG: Well, the biggest prank in my life is when we were first getting our record deal, our singer at this time was a junkie called Paul Black. And we were at our final meeting with Polygram and our A&R guy looks at Paul and says, hey, what do you hope to get out of this career? And he nodded off right there. He just fell asleep. That was the first time I’d ever seen anything like that in my life. Obviously, that turned into a huge problem and we had to get rid of him. And the label is completely not interested. So, we got Phil Lewis in LA Guns. I think we had re-recorded his vocals on the demos that we had already submitted to Polygram. And now we were gonna have a meeting about it where our producer Jim Faraci and our manager Alan Jones were coming over to my place – the whole band was there – to tell us what the word was. Are we gonna make a record? Are we gonna do a development deal? What are we gonna do? So, they come over and we’re all sitting around and they both have these really grim-looking faces and Alan goes, guys we’re not getting a development deal. That kind of went the way of the condor. We were just so bummed out. And he let like five minutes go by. Then he says, oh yeah, you got a record deal, you’ve got a straight up record deal, seven records. And we’re like, oh my God! So, that was five minutes of wanting to hang myself. It was a pretty mean prank. I think I was twenty one. That was not what I want to hear at twenty one.
MM: Well, I’m glad it worked out.
TG: Me, too! [Both laugh]