The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

Shane Pinnegar interviews Tracii Guns

 

 

My talk with Tracii Guns was delayed for a day when his wife developed a nasty migraine, and he had to step into the breach and play Daddy for the day, so I started the interview by asking how she was feeling.


TG: “Oh yeah, she usually gets them for about 3 or 4 hours but yesterday, my God, it started at like 5 in the morning until you know, [late] last night and we have a baby, and she couldn’t watch him while I was doing the interview so it was kind of a pass forward and I really appreciate it.”


SP: “That’s cool mate, I’ve got a 3 year old, I know what its like. So that’s fine.”


TG: “Oh, you know exactly what it’s like!”


L.A.Guns did a whirlwind tour recently of the East Coast of Australia, and I asked Tracii, who had previously visited the country twice - in 1992/93 with Greg Bisonette doing some music clinics and in 2004 with Brides of Destruction – if we could expect a full tour of the country including South and Western Australia any time in the future.


TG: “If this goes well then it will open the door to go to other places there, but we just wanted to make sure that no one loses their butt on this first trip.”


What was Tracii most looking forward to on this tour?


TG: “You know the thing that’s cool, even for me, is that going for the first anywhere for with the LA Guns is always, you know, unpredictable. You just never know how it’s gonna be and more times than not its just extra exciting, cause once you’ve been somewhere a few times before, you know how the audience builds you know, but the first time I am hoping that people are really excited about it and that energy translates into the room while we are playing and that makes us extra good. And you know like I said I hope it goes really well and we can expand our touring capability next time we come to Australia.”


SP: “Well we hope so. I caught you at Rocklahoma last year when you just slayed the Hill Stage just before Twisted Sister went on at the end of the last day.”


TG: “Yeah, yeah, so you know what the band is all about.”


SP: “That was just a fantastic way to end 4 days of great rock n’ roll, and we were hangin’ with the Gypsy Pistoleros a lot of the time…”


TG: “They’re the life of every part
y! [Laughs] We travelled in a van with them all through Europe one year.”


SP: “Yeah, I’ve seen some photos!”


TG: “Nice, so that’s what Australia can expect. You know, you probably have a better account of what we are like live than I do!”

 


SP: “So what are the pro’s and con’s of smaller headlining tours versus festival tours for you?”


TG: “Well, you know, there’s such a difference between touring [by yourself] and doing festivals - the pay day’s bigger and you play to more people. So, our rule of thumb, the more the band plays the better the band is, so I don’t really feel that L.A. Guns is ever really firing on all cylinders until we’ve got at least 4 or 5 shows under our belt in a row. Then when that leads us to the bigger festivals then we are usually one of the bands that absolutely kills it.”


Tracii stops to check on his son for a moment…


TG: “…hang on, what’s my kid looking at. [To his son] Jagger, stop it. [Back to me] I think he wanted me to put watermelon in his mouth, but I took it from him and ate it.”


SP: “Well that’s only fair. You gotta have perks to the job, don’t you!”


TG: [Laughs] “That’s funny, but yeah, you know I prefer really to do everything just because you never know how you’re gonna be, so we don’t rehearse that much when I’m home so the more shows we do the better the band gets, and sometimes we learn new songs at sound check and we’ll play that song in the set that night.


“I try to keep it fresh, that’s the thing when you do 100 shows a year you tend to get less interested in a live show and it not good when you do that but certain types of venues with different types of people and set lists all the time [helps] and so far my way has been the way to go.”


SP: “How did Rock N’ America go for you? We heard some really good reports.”


TR: “Rock N’ America was great you know, because – well, you were at that last Rocklahoma where we played, and [the attendance] was less than a quarter of the people that were there the last couple of years.”


SP: “Yeah I heard that.”


TG: “ Yeah, I mean it was really pretty bad for the promoters out here. So what happened was that Rocklahoma kinda reformatted their whole schtick and some of the guys went off to do Rock N’ America and the venue was only a 10,000 seat venue and with the same types of bands that you saw like Twisted Sister here, it really had that kinda energy once again that it did at the beginning of Rocklahoma - because of the smaller venue, it was packed. The weather was really co-operative and a good time was had by all, and the promoters made a killing and you know, I don’t know what the future of it is but this time it was really good.


“And the thing is that they had it so wrapped up in a package that, you know, they couldn’t over sell the show because its part of a zoo – you can’t wake up the animals at like 11.30 or midnight with the campers going nuts and drinking.


“It was very organized and that’s what I kind of like about it. We had our bus parked right next to the stage and you know, I went out and could watch every band that I liked and I could go right on stage and just sit there and do my thing, but I still had the comfort of my own tour bus and I really dug it, I really had a good time.”


SP: “Well they did 3 years of Rocklahoma to get their act together didn’t they, really, before they sold that brand name on.”


TG: “Yeah, yeah, yeah, well you know the first Rocklahoma was so massive that I think there were people involved that disappeared after that. They got real greedy, took a bunch of money and a lot of weird shenanigans happened behind the Rocklahoma camp the first year and so the following years you know, they were just hoping to capitalize on the same thing and it didn’t quite happen the same way.


“But you know, it’s not like Donington, the huge music festival in England is a different line up every year, every time and that is really the key and to kinda host an 80s festival every year, well there just aren’t that many 80s bands, you know, there is what there is and people will pay every 3 or 4 years to go by the 50 thousands - but not every year, you know, they’re not gonna go.”

 


SP: “Well I think they HAVE to start getting in modern bands that reference the 80s sound I think, it’s the only way to make it sustainable.”


TG: “Yeah, that completely makes sense and I think that’s what they’re trying to do with Rocklahoma this year. They had some modern bands and they had some older ones, like Tesla.”


SP: “But I do think they went kinda too emo/ nu metal with the Rocklahoma lineup this year “


TG: “Yeah”


SP: “It was okay from what I heard from friends there. But you’ve got bands like Dirty Penny, The Gypsy Pistoleros, Vains of Jenna and there are so many good bands that are really steeped in that 80s sort of sound.”


TG: “Yeah, Dirty Penny was good too. I like those bands, really like Dirty Penny. I’ve seen them play a few times and the first time I saw them, it just kinda, I kinda like chuckled when I saw their stage attire and their attitude because it just reminded me straight away of like 1987 in LA and then I went and saw them play and they were really good and they sounded good and the singer sang in tune and all those things.”


SP: “That’s always a bonus!”


TG: [laughs heartily]


SP: “So it must be frustrating that you started L.A. Guns and it bears your name but some fans still identify the band more through the voice of whoever’s out front. How are you coping with Phil Lewis’s version of the band going around and there basically being TWO L.A. Guns?”


TG: “I just really… it doesn’t affect me you know, so, the question gets asked a lot and I don’t honestly, I don’t really know what they do and how they are doing it and you know, I look at their tour dates sometimes and it seems like they try and do more of a weekend thing - like 20 or 30 shows a year and I watch some of the videos and they’re fine. It’s like, you know, they just kinda play the songs you know and it’s a little bit different than my attitude to playing live music, so I think it’s probably kinda healthy that, because of the level they are going out and doing, playing the songs on the records they’ve recorded and they are making somewhat of a living I’m sure and then people get to hear the songs the way they do them, you know, more true to the record and stuff like that. But it’s different to what we do because it doesn’t affect what we do.”


SP: “Have you been working on any new material?”


TG: “Yeah, we have been actually for months now and its kinda through email, you know me and the guys sending ideas back and forth, and as soon as we can get a month off where we can relax and reset then we can get into a kinda rehearsal situation and start really playing these ideas out and getting some songs finished so we can record. You know we have a great label and they keep saying “Hey, what are we doing and when are we doing this?” and I keep saying as soon as we are done with this - we have a record that they put out and we gotta finish all our tour plans before we can [record].”


SP: “You’ve worked with so many talented rockers over the years, off the top of your head, what would be a dream band if you could assemble one for a one-off gig?”


TG: “Ohhh, for a one-off gig, wow. Ummmmmm, well could you imagine me and Nikki Sixx and Axl [Rose] and Neil Peart!”


SP: “That would be cool man”

 


TG: “You know, that would be a great one-off. I kinda have another super group now it’s this Carnival of Dogs thing - we just played the other night, its me and Matt Sorum and Phil Soussain who’s played with Billy Idol and Ozzy - and kind of an unknown singer, we’ve got Franky Perez who’s just - Oh my God he’s got the most amazing soulful voice.”


SP: “He was rumored to be attached to the Slash project for a while, wasn’t he?”


TG: “Yeah, exactly. He was gonna be the guy in Velvet Revolver and I think they finally put that thing to bed so I had the luxury of [having him in my band] – it’s sorta kinda funny! But really right now we only do covers - I don’t know exactly what we are gonna do but we are gonna keep doing what we have been doing, playing covers and you know. So, in a way this new band is so fresh I can almost answer your question with “oh the band I’m in now”…


“Sorum is a much better drummer than I realised. When he was doing the Guns n’ Roses thing I think he was pretty much, you know, playing the Guns n’ Roses songs as simple as possible, I don’t know if that’s right, but you know being in a band like this with him where we are playing covers but there’s a lot of jamming within our set list, that guy’s really, really good. And I think people need to know that ‘cause I think sometimes he gets a little bit of a bum wrap.”


SP: “Well he does the job, that’s for sure”


TG: “Oh, I’ll tell ya that!”


SP: “You don’t get a gig in Gunne
rs and Velvet Revolver and The Cult and all that unless you are pretty good!”


TG: “Yeah, you are absolutely right and I tell ya it’s a pleasure to play with the guy, he’s a loud drummer and its nice - like all the other guys in the Carnival band, they are all just great guys.”


SP: “We talked with Bobby Blotzer a while back about Contraband [Contraband was Tracii with Bobby Blotzer, Michael Schenker, Share Pederson of Vixen and Richard Black from Shark Island. They released one self-titled album in 1991] and he said he would love to revisit that one. What are the chances of that happening?”


TG: “Ahhhh, not very good” [Tracii laughs]


SP: “Why’s that – because everyone’s got their own thing going on?”


TG: “You know, the thing is, we had a specific singer in that band, we had Richard Black and, you know he just kinda disappeared off the face of the earth and no one knows what he did after. And that album, that project was put together by our management company and everybody on that album was managed by the same company and it was organized in a way where we didn’t… it was effortless for the artists.


“You know, the songs were written or they were cover tunes and there was a kind of invisible band that actually laid down the basic tracks before Blotzer went in to redo some tracks so, you know, I really dig everybody that was in that band but I just don’t know how it would be organized and how it would be put together. But I know that Bobby really is fond of that project and he has approached me at least one time and asked me would I talk about it. If it happens, it happens but it’s not something that I can put in my brain enough to start making phone calls and figuring it out.”


SP: “And what about Brides of Destruction? Any chance of that being arced up again?”


TG: “Well, that is always a possibility because you know it happened for such a small amount of time and created such a kind of a big bang within the L.A. Guns and Motley Crue kind of fan base. You know Nikki was very accepting of that fan base and it was an explosive show and I have been addicted to that kind of energy and I think he is - and Scott Coogan is. I don’t want to say no, but you know, you just gotta see how things play out, and you know, when there’s time to do something like that again… because that was definitely one of the more special things I’ve done in my life.“


SP: “You were present at the birth of not only L.A. Guns and Brides of Destruction but also Guns n’ Roses! Do you personally have a sense of your place in the history of hard rock?”


TG: “Oh, I don’t - but I keep being told about it [laughs] Oh well you know, I am doing a book. You know, somebody came and offered me 5 grand to write that kind of a book and I’m doing with this guy who’s got a kind of strange reputation for putting out books that aren’t authorized, this is one of his first authorized books. We’ve got real publishers to make it big and I gotta make sure that it is an easy read with a lot of information, that it’s fun to read and not boring and that I don’t leave out details because I don’t want to [have to] do it again. If I do a book up to being 44 years old where I am now, I don’t want to have to do another book anytime in the next 30 years - it has to start where this one leaves off so I gotta make sure that its great, great, great.


“And I’m sure it will be cause there’s a lot of information in it, so I get kind of thrown into - like the question you just asked me, but this time its by the guy who is actually writing the book and it’s, well, you know, you’ve done this and you’ve done this and these tours and you are regarded as this and I really dig it. Those are all the things that when I started playing really young that I wanted: the notoriety, to influence people, I wanted to be part of a bigger musical being, well you know, almost spiritually in a way. And from what I’m told by certain people I may have started to achieve that and that’s a great feeling but it’s not something that I’m gonna like, you know, put on the roulette table and say hey I’m so sure of myself that I’m just aware…


“You know, I can’t ever have that attitude, if I ever take that attitude then it’s a sure sign of just being an asshole and I don’t want to be that guy.”

 


SP: “Well talking about writing a book, there’s been a lot of books out recently - Slash, Vince, Ozzy, Steven Adler, Dave Mustaine has got a new one out - how does the reality of those crazy days when big hair and rock n’ roll was king and all that sort of stuff, how does the reality of it differ with what’s actually publishable because of lawsuits and things?”


TG: “Oh… I think, when you are doing a book you know what you are giving is your account of the situation, and I’m making a point in this book not to run anybody into the ground, you know not to air dirty laundry and things like that because, although they are interesting to the perverted rock fan, you know no-one really wants to hear that kind of dirt - there is all kinds of dirt around but they really didn’t, if you really look at Motley’s book [“The Dirt”], they made it more fun and more about sex and drugs than really about motherfucking people”


SP: “Well, they ran themselves down more than anything didn’t they…”


TG: “Yeah, yeah and I think that the key is when you are talking about yourself to be really open and honest about yourself almost like you are talking to a physchiatrist and doing it but at the same time I don’t want it to be depressing so I will touch on the sort of deeper subjects and will get in and out of them very quickly without bringing people down


“My book has got to be a little bit strategic and that there has gotta be some psychology behind it because of the amount of people I have worked with that are volatile… I’ve worked with a lot of volatile people.”


SP: “To say the least!!”


TG: “Yeah, you know, so I wanna show their real positive side and what makes them great as artists and what its meant to me to work with them in the first place so those are the important things that I’m gonna be emphasizing in the book for sure.”


SP: “So you don’t want to totally kiss and tell, do you?”


TG: “No, no, no, no because I mean the things you have done in your past life although I personally stand behind things that I’ve done, someone else that was involved in that time might not be past that yet even though its 20 years ago.


“People still have emotions, people still get hurt and its just, I’m not in the business of hurting peoples’ feelings”


SP: “Well looking back at the excess of the 80s, would you do anything different?”


TG: “Ummmmm, well, that’s a very good question. I mean there is a… I am a very free spirited person in that I kinda go with the flow. I don’t like to make waves and a lot of that type of attitude has kept me in the business this long but at the same time I’ve hurt myself in a lot of aspects by that I, you know, making deals without contracts, umm, you know, letting people get away with murder here and there just because I don’t wanna confront people and get in arguments especially when it comes to money. Money is just such an evil, wicked, crazy manipulator of emotions, you know, but yeah there are definitely you know, things I would have done differently but mostly contractually and ownership rights and things like that.


“But that’s really about it. I mean, every drug I’ve ever ingested, every sexual experience I ever had - I mean those are the normal things that people go through in regular lives, so I don’t think would have changed any of it.”


SP: “How do you balance the rock ‘n roll Tracii Guns with the family man?”


TG: “Oh its easy now, I’m 44, I don’t have the same kind of energy that I used to have when you are in your early 20s and late 20s and things like that and so you know I focus more on just music and when it comes to touring, when I play at night, I’m ready to go to the hotel and watch some TV, you know, and wake up at a normal hour and go do my thing… [compared to] when you are younger its just 24 hours a day [partying] for months on end.”


SP: [Laughs] “Yeah, I’m the same age, you’re about 6 months older than me so I know what you mean…”


TG: “Yeah, so you know, you kinda get here and I’m still grateful that I can still do what I do best and so I have to… you know, I’m slower


SP: “Exactly, its like that 5 weeks I did in the States last year, honestly I didn’t schedule enough rest days and by the end of it I was just a shadow of myself! Ten years ago I could do it for 2 months nonstop, easy.”


TG: “Oh, I know [what you mean], there’s no doubt about it. Oh God, you’re not kiddin’ me, my first L.A. Guns record, we toured a total of 18 months out of 24 months when the record came out and I mean some of those legs were like 5 months long. you know. and I would never do that again. I must admit I have my own bus with my family on it now, you know


“Its just that you know when you are in your early 20’s - man you can go and go and go and go and go but when you are in your early 40s its certainly different!”

 


SP: “Do you have a favorite song or album that you wish you had a hand in creating?”


TG: “Ooooh, that’s a great question. Ummm, wow let’s see. What would be different. One of the most magical things, there are 2 – “Diary of a Madman” [Ozzy Osbourne] and “Physical Graffiti” [Led Zeppelin]”


SP: “Ah, classics!”


TG: “Yeah, I mean right! That is just so great, the blues influence, the classical influence, the recording techniques, the song writing just like, man, just to be a fly on the wall at either one of those recording sessions with those people, I mean I can only imagine what the conversation was like or what the music sounded like in the studio when it was being mixed you know. I mean those are 2 records that I wish I could have had anything to do with”


SP: “Fantastic, so, for you what is the meaning of life?”


TG: “Oh, the meaning of life at 44 is to make sure my kid’s not homeless, you know I mean. When it boils down to it you make the best out of your life and some people find security in having a very secure job and doing that until their retirement, and they have the family and those types of things, and it’s a real secure way of living. My lifestyle, I’m real lucky cause what I love to do happens to be my job so the meaning of life for me is to travel and to raise my family and to nurture my family instead of having two separate lives, its one big life now where everything is included and to continue doing the same things I’ve been doing.”


SP: “One very last one - do you have a favorite Axle Rose story?”


TG: “Ooooooh. Well, lets see. Ummmm, well there’s one. We used to - this is the truth - Axl and I were so broke at one time that we were staying at our managers house in the Santa Anna valley out here and we wouldn’t eat until this one taco stand would change the French fry machine at midnight and we knew that and so at midnight we would go there and they would give us all the old French fries for free [laughs]


“We did that a bunch of times, so there’s your Axl story!”


SP: “Well he’s certainly a different man from that guy these days.”


TG: “Oh, he sure is
- he don’t sit with the slummers any more.”


SP: [Laughs] “What was the first song you learnt on guitar?”


TG: “Ummmm… lets see, I wanna say ‘Whole Lotta Love’ but it wasn’t. The first song that I was taught was by my Uncle and it was ‘Pinball Wizard’ by The Who.


SP: “Another classic, cool man. Tracii Guns, thanks so much for your time“


TG: “Thanks for your time!”

 

 

Shane Pinnegar