Stacey Blades (yes, that’s been his stage name since well before L.A. Guns) knows a thing or two about being put in a difficult position. Get to know him or his story just a little bit and you will learn a thing or two about how far he’s come and how he’s gotten there. The irony of a kid from Toronto, Canada with Hollywood dreams finding himself in L.A. Guns is cinematic and romantic at first glance. Under the surface though, it has been a long road GETTING to L.A. Guns and a long road SINCE joining the band when super talent Tracii quit to chase rainbows with Nikki Sixx. Stacey has recorded several albums with the band, including their last one, TALES FROM THE STRIP and a shredding solo album of classical music called SYMPHONIC SLAM. In addition, he wrote his memoirs SNAKE EYES, Confessions of a Replacement Rockstar and he wrote it without a ghost writer…..unlike 95 percent of Rock Bios. The more you learn about Stacey the more you want to support the Phil Lewis led L.A. Guns and that’s a good thing in this strange and often complicated tale. Read on….
Legendary Rock Interviews: Hey Stacey….how are things going? You’re ALWAYS on tour man….Did you just get back from Europe?
Stacey Blades: Yeah, we did Europe and then came back and did a little tour of the east coast. The shows over in Europe went good but going over there is just tough you know….you don’t really realize how spoiled you are as an American until you go over there and every little convenience that you’ve gotten accustomed to gets flipped sideways or is unavailable. Just little things like finding a good burger or whatever, we’re used to it and the shows are great but after about five weeks or so you’ve just fuckin had it and are ready to go home.
LRI: Since Phil’s has his roots there is it still kind of a fun thing for him and the European fans after all these years?
SB: Yeah…it is. The London show was really a great, great show, it’s always a highlight for us. There were really good shows in Sweden and Copenhagen. You know….they don’t have central air over there in Europe and if you put hundreds of people into a venue it just heats up like it’s the fourth of July. Every show, every night is like a beating and you’re freakin drenched so you tend to come home very skinny anyway and then the first week we arrived when we were in England there was a heat wave! So like, not only was it hot but it was EXTRA HOT and none of those little towns over there have air conditioning. You kinda gotta have a commando, survival mindset goin into it but it was a fun tour.
LRI: You have a book out on Amazon like EVERY rock musician nowadays but yours is a little different cause you actually wrote it 100% on your own. It’s very raw and realistic, like the real life version of the rock and roll kid’s struggle to make it to some semblance of success as a working musician. It wasn’t like the Mark Wahlberg movie “Rock Star” , it was a little harder than that for you coming up. To me it was kind of an interesting concept, writing from the perspective of a “Replacement Rock Star”. Did you enjoy writing it?
SB: It was therapeutic John. It took a long time, longer than it should have because of the fact that I didn’t have a ghost writer and did it myself. It took me about a year and a half to write. The whole process of writing it was a lot of hard work but I enjoyed it. You know I’m working on a re-write of it now, not a total rewrite but a reissue of it with a lot more material. A lot has happened of course with L.A. Guns and my life since I finished it at the end of 2008 and it came out in 2009. I’d like to refurbish the book’s look and layout and maybe add a little bit more to the overall story. Overall the whole experience was pretty smooth though. People seemed to really like it and it got really good reviews. It’s an interesting story, the way I always tell it is the old “If the shark stops swimming it dies”. I never lost my focus, I never stopped at any of the multitude of setbacks or bullshit set in my path, I never stopped swimming.
LRI: A friend of ours, Mitch Lafon from Bravewords said to tell you hello and that I should enjoy talking to you since you’re Canadian like he is (laughs). How in the hell do you make the jump from Toronto to Sunset Strip, California?? That’s a book unto itself.
SB: Oh yeah? That’s nice of him. Yeah, it’s a pretty long journey. I grew up in Toronto and there was actually a pretty good scene and a nice group of bands in the eighties but there was always something missing up there as far as the Canadian music industry. I saw bands get signed to major record labels, big deals that seemed to be based on NOTHING. It was always so staged and safe and blah. The labels in Canada would have never signed a band like Motley Crue or Guns N’ Roses to a major record deal. They wouldn’t have signed Faster Pussycat or L.A. Guns or any TYPE of band like that and I just knew, I knew I had to find the right band in the States. I was thumbing through Metal Edge and I saw an ad in Metal Edge for Roxx Gang looking for musicians. I LOVED the first Roxx Gang album and my eyes just popped on it and thought I’d be perfect for it. I sent them a tape and a picture and the whole thing you did and the management got a hold of me to say “Yeah, the band really digs you, the way you play, the way you look, we want you to fly down here for an audition and that was it.
LRI: This was early nineties….. How do you remember those days? Some of the albums were better received than others.
SB: Yeah exactly. I was in the band from about 92 to 2000. It was almost twenty years ago yeah, I was a YOUNG man (laughs). There was a lot of shit in that band that left me disenchanted for a few years. There was some fucked up shit in that band. I mean, there were a few really good years and then some fucked up shit. I am very happy for the opportunity. I feel blessed and look at it as the path it took to get me to where I am today with L.A. Guns. We did a few good albums as Roxx Gang but it just became a kind of really shitty situation during the last few years because Kevin (Steele, vocalist) had turned the band into some kind of weird psychobilly, backwater, swampy, bluesy thing. In a way it was kind of cool but I’m more of a straight up rocker and I kind of remember a few times towards the end that were pretty telling. I remember when we were touring and I just wanted to run a normal gear set up with some loud guitars through a Marshall and Kevin just lookin at me and saying to me “Hey man…this isn’t fuckin L.A. Guns Stacey”
LRI: Trying to pitch Roxx Gang in the 90s is hard enough without fuckin with the style (laughs). Fans can only be pushed so far.
SB: Yeah, the downfall came somewhere around the Mojo Gurus album where it was like “Dude? What kind of fuckin drugs are you smoking?” It was SUCH a bizarre record and i was just sitting there the whole time like “What the fuck is this dude doing???”. It was a really bizarre album and the fans just fuckin HATED it for the most part so we kind of went back to the original flavor. Then he got the idea that we were gonna rebrand the band and call the BAND Mojo Gurus and take it out and showcase it as this whole new band. We did the showcases and nothing ever happened at which point things got kind of tense. I was going one way in sort of a loud or punk rock direction and those guys were going towards slide guitars, bell bottoms and facial hair and it became clear that we were just headed different ways. They were of course in Florida but I had people in my life that were out here in California and I would come out here for holidays and everything and I remember being surprised at how the scene had sort of picked up out here. It was a little better than other places and I remember thinking to myself “Man, I need to get back here and get something going”. I felt that way every time I came out here and it ended up being a great move for me in every respect. I’m really glad I did it.
LRI: This sounds like a really silly question but…do you think it’s hard for Canadian musicians to find a way in or get a leg up in the American rock scene?
SB: No it’s not a silly question John…..It’s kind of a deep question actually (laughs). It was really strange because in the earlier days, in the 70s and early 80s the bands that were in the public eye from Canada were REALLY getting a LOT of American push. Bands like RUSH, TRIUMPH and even HONEYMOON SUITE in the early 80s were just MASSIVE. Something happened around 1985 or so and bands just weren’t getting pushed anymore in the States or on MTV. There were SO many great, great bands that just couldn’t get out of the scene in Vancouver or Toronto and just weren’t getting a fair shake and I kind of looked at a lot of these great bands struggling and knew I had to get out when I did. Still though, it wasn’t like I joined the band at a good time. Rock music was an extremely hard sell in the early to mid-nineties as we all know. It wasn’t like it was smooth sailing for me by any means and it wasn’t just the grunge thing it was the ENTIRE alternative wave that just permeated the nineties. To be able to survive all that is an accomplishment unto itself.
LRI: I have to address the elephant in the room in regards to L.A. Guns. This is kind of an interesting interview for me to be doing. I’m a big fan of Phil’s going back to the original L.A. Guns lineup and even his work in Girl but I’ve always been a loyal supporter of Tracii’s bands over the years. Looking back on all the insane lineup changes and questionable moves I think I may have been TOO loyal of a supporter of Tracii’s.
SB: It’s understandable. He’s a great talent.
LRI: Right. My logic had always been that he started the band when he was a teenager and he was the heartbeat of the band but as it stands I think it’s game over and many of us can’t take any more shit. He hasn’t always been that accessible to the press (email interviews, pre-screening questions) and I would always hear stories from other bands whenever I would defend him but it’s getting harder and harder to do so. I was astonished to hear the Tales From The Strip album with you in Tracii’s place and since then Phil and your band just seem to be winning this ridiculous war. Do you hear a lot of the shit I’m saying??
SB: I do and it’s really quite easy to dissect as complicated as it seems. Tracii quit his band, the band he started. He just quit to join Nikki and Brides of Destruction and said “That’s it, I’m done with L.A. Guns and I’m joining Brides and you can just do whatever the fuck you want, I’m GONE”. At the point that I took over and joined the band we started a really, really HUGE task of playing a LOT of live shows and just building up the public faith in our band. We toured and toured and then we toured some more. When we did the covers album that was a big accomplishment for us as a band because people actually got to hear us in the studio setting and started thinking “Wow, these guys are on to something, this might be legit”. The “RIPS THE COVERS OFF” album was a really cool way to integrate me with the band and do a lot of really great cover songs while I was starting to gel with the band and Andy Johns our producer (Led Zeppelin, Humble Pie). It was a really, really, REALLY exciting time for me personally!! I mean…..I had just replaced Tracii when he quit, I was getting to work with the LEGENDARY producer Andy Johns who engineered the fuckin Rolling Stones and shit and then I was getting set to go tour overseas for the first time in my life. Then when it came time to do a REAL STUDIO album and we did TALES FROM THE STRIP we really started to bring people over to our side and prove to ourselves and the world what we’re capable of. It was very well received and we really took our time to make sure that it would be.
LRI: That album was basically the beginning of what planted the seeds of doubt in my head because I will be honest, before that album, the concept of an L.A. Guns album without Tracii was just laughable to me. The production, the songs, everything about that TALES FROM THE STRIP album was a game changer. It sounded EXACTLY like L.A. Guns is supposed to sound.
SB: Thank you. I am glad you’re on board (laughs). I am really, really proud of the album and it was amazing working again with Andy Johns. Andy is fantastic and he’s going to do the next L.A. Guns record. He’s just a great, great producer with great instincts. He’s got such a rich history and he’s so much fun to be around personally aside from that. He’s got SOOO many stories about Jimmy Page and the Stones and all that which are just unreal to hear so it’s just a blast being around the guy.
LRI: Did you guys get a chance to kick back a few drinks with him outside of work just to soak it in?
SB: Actually we were usually kicking back a few with him while we were AT work to be honest (laughs)…. usually during the sessions there’d be some of that (laughs). John, it was just a trip to sit back and watch him work like on technical things because in the back of your mind you’re just thinking of him and cataloguing everything because the guy is such a fuckin LEGEND. The sounds he gets really can’t be matched.
LRI: What’s the story on the new album? When is that likely to happen?
SB: We’re going to start recording hopefully beginning of February. We’ve started writing of course but we still have a lot of work ahead of us. We’re just gonna try and top TALES FROM THE STRIP. We’re gonna have a new label and a new kickass album that sounds like L.A. Guns but maybe features some of that variation that people love so much about the old stuff. It’s not just gonna be the proverbial “HEAVY” record like a lot of bands set out to do. One cool thing about L.A. Guns that always separated the music from a lot of bands is that we can go from one kind of sleazy kind of hard rock song into an epic, atmospheric Zeppelin kind of thing into like a punk type tune. We’re not just a band that sounds like AC/DC. As great as AC/DC is, they’re already the best at it and we kind of have our own signature sounds we can play around with. We’re kind of going into the new album with that variety mindset as far as the writing we’re doing. We can do a cool kind of rockabilly type thing, we can do a cool swaggering rocker and we can do that trippier stuff. We’re not just boxed into one style of rock.
LRI: Has it gotten easier and easier, year by year to deal with the disgruntled diehards that not only took it out on you but also Phil and Steve (Riley, drums) ??
SB: It has. It’s gotten considerably easier in the last five years since TALES came out because people have put it all together like “Ok, this guy QUITS his own band to join the guy from MOTLEY, that doesn’t work and instead of coming back to his OWN band he decides he’s going to start his OWN all new L.A. Guns band with all different members and with all these countless arrangements of lineups and singers and no continuity whatsoever.” I think people are sometimes smarter than he is giving them credit for and realize that while he’s bringing in blondes and bringing in girls and trying all these “NEW” things we’re just busy being L.A. Guns and sounding like L.A. Guns. I think Tracii’s a great guitar player but I don’t think his bands sound like L.A. Guns nor do they look like L.A. Guns and so on and so on. I think he’s had to combat that by publicly attacking Phil or attacking me or Steve and all he has done is paint himself into this corner that he’s in currently. People like you are starting to realize that there’s something REALLY not right about this guy to be going through all these bandmembers and we just keep doing our thing. It’s really been going well but it seems to be going even better in the last year our two because the more he takes shots at us the more we keep showing up, shutting up and doing our thing. We’re not trying to create some big backlash against him to fly our own flag like he does publicly against Steve or Phil or whatever. The real fans know the deal and just glad we’re out there playing the music the way it should sound.
LRI: In the small window of time between setting up our interview with you and making the call, the Tracii version of L.A. Guns with Dilana has already taken a dive and both are jabbing at the other. The blowups are front page news on Metal Sludge and other pages and keep getting the name out there. Is it true that there’s no such thing as bad press in regards to the L.A.G. brand?
SB: Hmmm… This guy makes it hard for himself to work with others. He really put the band in a bad spot when he left and not only did he fuck up things for the Waking the Dead album but the band also lost the Alice Cooper tour coz of it. He has been slagging not ony me in the press but also Phil and has waged all this bullshit VERY PUBLICLY against Steve. Is it strange that this guy has gone through FIVE SINGERS???? Jizzy broke the silence as did Dilana. I’m sure MARTY CASEY and PAUL BLACK will all say the same thing. I could go off but I’m not gonna lower myself to his level. Never once have I slagged this guy. I have respect for him musically and his history with the classic lineup . He should be doing better on his own instead of trying to destroty the LAG name.
LRI: Well that’s just it though…..Phil made an excellent public statement in the wake of the whole Dilana (Tracii’s female LAG singer) announcement when he basically said the same thing many have been saying. Tracii’s good enough as a player to go solo, go play bigger places with another band, just stop confusing fans for the sake of your ego.
SB: Yeah, and that’s what’s really frustrating to Phil and Steve and not fair to us. It’s not like he was FIRED or anything….the guy left on his own accord. It’s like “WHY are you continuing to mess with us when we’re just doing what is natural for us, we’re just doing what we were doing when you left us?” There was no CONSPIRACY to get the guy out of the band. He basically said, “I’m tired of this and I don’t give a fuck what you guys do, I’m joining NIKKI and I’m gone”. You’re right too that it’s TOTALLY not fair to the fans. They have no idea which band is playing and it’s almost like he likes that or it’s his M.O. We just played a show in Long Island, New York and it was funny because Tracii was at a show in the city, in NYC and apparently got into some altercation or some shit and we played our show and Kelly Nickels (bass player, classic lineup of L.A.G.) came up onstage with us and played a few songs and the place went nuts. There was no problem, no issue at our show, Scott (Griffin, bassist) was cool, we all got on great and Kelly’s still a pro. It’s so hard for me to talk about it when I don’t wanna badmouth the guy or kick him when he’s down even though he won’t STOP shooting his mouth off about us….but there’s a common denominator here of what’s wrong with this equation and if you talk to enough people about the guy they will sadly give you the same answer about him. The good news is that we don’t have to deal with it and we’re loving what we’re doing. There’s a bond between the four of us and even when Kelly comes to play with us it’s like seamless and feels like there’s EVEN MORE of a bond and we are just so blessed to be doing what we’re doing.
LRI: A lot of people would undoubtably go nuts if Kelly were to get up with you guys. It must have been cool to see the faces in the front when Kelly, Steve and Phil were all up there together.
SB: It was amazing and the crowd went apeshit. We had played once before with Kelly back in 2008 during the NAMM weekend here at the Whisky which was sold out and then we heard Kelly had moved to Long Island and we heard he was gonna come out to our show at Long Island and we were like “Cool!” and we were talking to him backstage at the show and just said to him “Kelly you have GOTTA come up at least for a few songs”. It was a lot of fun and it was cool to be up there to see the vibe of that crowd for sure.
LRI: It’s amazing to me the stamina that Phil has still to this day and just his whole unshakable frontman vibe. The guy continues doing what he does night after night and never really show any signs of wear and tear. It is crazy unless he really is a vampire. You’ve gotten to know him pretty well over the years. What do you attribute that work ethic to, is that his upbringing or just an innate desire to entertain?
SB: Yeah, I think Phil’s just a graduate of that old school of hard knocks. The guy and all of us are so grateful for doing what we do and count every moment of music, every fan, every accomplishment as something really special. We’re very lucky to be able to do this and we are so humble and grateful for it. That goes a long way towards your goals and what it is you’re trying to do. We’ve all seen many different levels of this music BIZ. Steve was in W.A.S.P. and Phil was in Girl and Torme and me with Roxx Gang and many of those moments weren’t always easy or glamorous or fun. There’s a lot of hard work involved with any band and L..A. Guns is no exception but it really helps if you can isolate and appreciate those moments and be grateful for them. We’re all still like 25 year olds I guess (laughs) because we love playing together and rehearsing and recording together and the chemistry is just so good with this band that we don’t wanna do anything to screw it up. We’re so disciplined and so grateful. The reason Phil sings amazing every night is because he takes are of himself and he does his vocal warm ups and he’s very dedicated to who he is. There’s a pride that stands out whenever we do something and that extends to the meet and great after the show. We really want to go that extra distance for our fans because they always have our back.