Cocked, Loaded and ready for Sex Action - LA Guns' Phil Lewis

From third on the bill to headliners overnight, LA Guns are ready to take on the challenge and save the day for the ill-fated 'Metal Health' tour...

You may or may not know, or indeed care, but Quiet Riot and Warrant aren’t coming to Australia this week. A farcical and increasingly hilarious state of events has panned out over the last seven days – most of it visible as thrust and counter thrust from the various involved parties on Facebook, with added unhelpful comments from the great unwashed – leaving only the third band on Metal Health’s original bill, those redoubtable Sunset Strippers LA Guns, as the last men standing from the lineup originally offered to us for our nostalgic appreciation.

Luckily for MaF readers, when all three bands were offered up for interview your correspondent eschewed the chance to speak to anyone but LAG vocalist Phil Lewis, a man as rock n’roll as a human can be without lapsing into cliché, who was happy to give his thoughts on a variety of subjects, not least the fact that the band is entering it’s second quarter century of activity, it being twenty five years since their self-titled debut album first slithered its way into the global consciousness. Is he surprised at such longevity?

“The whole phenomena still amazes me, I never expected to pass the audition, I never thought we'd sell ten thousand records and I never expected us to become so popular then and now so no I didn't expect it but I am pleasantly surprised and salute the young generation who are into their parents music!”

A lot of hard work goes into maintaining a band for that long – what drives you as an artist to keep going? 
“It is hard work make no mistake. The hours are long, the pay is never guaranteed and the food is awful but its still the best job in the world the moment my foot touches the stage”.

How distracting is it that there are two versions of LA Guns extant at the moment? Do you think that the situation damages the band’s legacy? 
Tracii (Guns, former Guns n’Roses guitarist and founding member of LA Guns, currently touring his own version of LAG in the US) and his band of nobodies have never intimidated us, We’ve had the same solid line up in almost ten years with the exception of three bass players. We've made three great records without Tracii while he hasn't released a single song since BoD (Brides of Destruction, the hair metal supergroup Guns formed with Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx) tanked. We have received a lot of attention on the situation that we might not have got otherwise so in a way it’s been a good thing. I think people are aware of the difference. Tracii is doing something for all the wrong reasons which is why his version will never work”.

Before LA Guns exploded on the scene Lewis – born and bred in England – experienced a deal of success, both commercially and critically, with glam rockers Girl (the band from whence Phil Collen – later of Def Leppard renown- also sprung), and must have been in a pretty comfortable place artistically at the time. What prompted the sudden move to the US all those years ago?

“Well the English metal scene was terrible in 1986 so when I got offered a chance to join the band and get the hell out of London I jumped on it and don't regret a moment from the day I left”.

The band has tentative plans for a new album; is it important for bands of your vintage to keep producing new material?

“Its very important for a bands soul to keep creating new music but with the internet killing off the long playing record its difficult to commit to a project that might not get the attention it deserves which is very frustrating. We have plenty of good new songs and we'd love to go back in the studio with (legendary producer) Andy Johns”. 

Johns, a man of legendary rock n'roll proclivities himself, is one of hard rock music's classic knob-twiddlers, a man with a list of 'worked withs' as long as your arm. It was Johns who worked with the band on their 'back to form' 2001 elpee Waking the Dead, and a reunition of this two parties is certainly something for fans of the good stuff to look forward to. But enough conjecture - back to the cold hard facts...

It’s a shame Quiet Riot and Warrant couldn’t get it together to get down under, though the LA Guns live show will be a compensation for that. What should we expect to see on Australian stages from the band?

“Great music played by talented, fun loving, good looking men and lots of strange costume changes from me - with just a dash of sadism. Also Scotty (Griffin, bass) is lactose intolerant, and Steve (Riley, drums, the lineup being rounded out by guitarist Stacey Blades) smokes too much.” 
This is clearly important information, especially if you were thinking of bringing the band gifts of milk to the show - but after the tour what does the rest of the year hold in store for the band?

“When this tour is over there’s another one just about to begin. Then at the end of the (Northern) summer we’ll take a breather and record a few new songs.

So, in summary; There may not be a chance to see a version of Quiet Riot fronted by a man from a Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen tribute band who bears a chilling resemblance to Ricky Gervais; there may not be a chance to see some rotund balding men who may or may not have played the guitar solos on Warrant’s debut album. But, thanks to the sheer dedication to the rock of Phil Lewis and his cohorts, what there will be is good rocking – old school style- over much of Australia this week. And that’s something to be thankful for.