It’s been a while since we last interviewed Tracii Guns and the cool thing is a lot of good things have happened for him since then. He has mostly hung up the L.A. Guns moniker, enabling him to work on scoring movies and spending time with his family including his son Jagger. He seems way happier and fulfilled as a result, which is also a good thing. Of course, Tracii is, was and always will be a guitar god and one of the most mesmerizing onstage performers period, so there will always be a spotlight on him anytime he picks up a guitar. He is still writing, recording and playing in his band, Tracii Guns League of Gentleman and has now also found himself smack dab in the heart of Las Vegas as part of the new show “Raiding The Rock Vault”. The show is a talent packed rock history extravaganza and is gearing up for a yearlong stint at the world famous LVH Hotel where Elvis once held residence back in the day. The shows kick off March 9th, so if you’re going to Sin City be sure and drop in to check it out. We recently had the pleasure of talking with Tracii again about all this and more, read on….
Legendary Rock Interviews: Hey Tracii, are you enjoying a little bit of downtime while working on this new Raiding The Rock Vault project?
Tracii Guns: No, I’m actually working on the music for this movie, High On The Hog, which is this new Sid Haig movie. If you’re not familiar with him, he is the big clown guy Captain Spaulding from the Rob Zombie movies. I am writing all different kinds of styles of music and recording, it’s gonna take me about a month or so total. It’s great though! This is the first movie I have ever done and I have a couple others on the table, it’s cool though and it’s kinda easy in the sense that it’s just fitting music to the work that’s already edited and so much work has gone into.
LRI: What about the documentary about your music and your life, “The Guns Story”?
Tracii: I’m not as directly involved in that one but it is coming along. I know they have some really cool interviews done but they are still working. There are so many people to talk to and it just takes a lot of time lining it all up. It will be finished but I wanna make sure it’s done right because I don’t want to have to tell it again (laughs).
LRI: It’s a story that is pretty complicated at times, I have interviewed you and various members of GNR and L.A. Guns and will still end up reading something about one of those bands that i didn’t know. It’s an interesting story to any fans of the scene.
Tracii: Yeah, I know. I don’t think it’s that interesting honestly (laughs)…
LRI: Well, yeah, not to you! Speaking of, I am sure you still have to put up with endless questions inboxed to you about the current state of flux in your former band’s lineup. First Stacey was all set, then he’s out, then the guy from Sea Hags, then he’s out….There were a lot of people wondering if you were gonna go back but I kind of got the vibe that you’re sort of over it. Is that accurate?
Tracii: Yeah, I’ve been getting messages and all that about it. It’s funny. People are funny.
LRI: When I spoke with Stacey and Phil it seemed like everything was copacetic so it struck me as kind of odd.
Tracii: Well, it was a party that ended in 1991 to be honest with you but some people just don’t like to leave the party but it burned out a long time ago and so did the magic.
LRI: You said something a while back when your version and Phil’s were both active about how it was essentially two bar bands battling it out and it was beyond frustrating and that really stuck with me.
Tracii: You know, I think at the end of the day, you have this blast, L.A. Guns certainly had a blast there for a couple of years but that was a VERY long time ago. It is just ridiculous for any of these bands to think that their heyday is still going on for anyone other than their fans who are still around, of which there aren’t that many. The average person on the street does not care about a band like L.A. Guns or so many of those other bands.
LRI: True, they have their hardcore followers but to the average person it’s KISS, Motley, GNR and Van Halen and even those audiences are splintered.
Tracii: Yeah, I mean there are certain bands there that did something very unique, certainly a band like Motley did something unique and of course Guns N Roses did and those are the bands that are still important. L.A. Guns was certainly a cool band, don’t get me wrong and I will go do it again in the future just because I wrote all those songs and I get offers for a lot of dough to go and play all those songs but you have to put it in perspective, the party ended in 91. I’ll do it, there are some things that I’m just waiting to be confirmed but obviously it’s not L.A. Guns (laughs) you know? But, with that being said, nobody really cares (laughs).
LRI: It’s like if a given promoter is asking you for L.A. Guns and the price is right then that’s what you’re gonna give em?
Tracii: Exactly and at this point in the career of a band like that, not my personal career but the whole L.A. Guns thing, it sure is a lot more interesting to me when I’m not having to do that all the time. I actually can enjoy it more when I do actually do it.
LRI: What is going on with Tracii Guns League Of Gentlemen? The music I’ve heard is very good but definitely different from what people might expect.
Tracii: That’s my band. If people are looking for what I’m doing musically, that’s what I am doing. We have an album ready, it’s in the can and it’s supposed to come out this spring. The lady who did the post production photography for the album art and all that was really sick and we were having a real hard time getting the photos from her. That is pretty much the only thing we were waiting on but it’s looking to be officially released very soon. We’re doing a double album and with the art and everything it’s looking to be a pretty incredible package for a band’s debut album.
LRI: I have enjoyed listening to the tracks on ReverbNation because it sounds like you are playing outside of the box, a lot more like I am accustomed to when I’ve seen you live. Is it a little more free flow, improv and what has the reaction been from people who’ve heard it?
Tracii: The reaction has been pretty wild. People who are my age and older really, really like it because it is a direct connection to the late sixties and early seventies. It really has a lot of that magic about it. Our singer, Scott Foster Harris is great and the band’s really good. It’s got such a classic rock sound to it there’s no thought whatsoever about “making it fit” in 2013. That was never a thought, the idea was more like, “Let’s make a record that fits in 1973” because that sounds more fun to us right now.
LRI: The live show has always been your strongest suit. Are you putting a twist on one or two of your L.A. Guns songs during the League of Gentlemen set?
Tracii: Every now and then we do because sometimes I can tell that it is just right. That’s why we did so many shows last year, I wanted to really get a read on the audience and sometimes you can just tell by reading the energy level of the audience. If someone is like “Hey, hit me with a little ‘Never Enough’ or something” we’ll do it but there’s never a certain point in the set where we do 3 or 4 L.A. Guns songs back to back or anything like that. The League of Gentlemen music is a little more loosely based on improvisation and the set’s already about two hours long so trying to cram an extra L.A. Guns song or two in there can be kind of tough. People are really digging the looseness of the shows though I have to say. Sometimes it’s utter shit and sometimes it’s AMAZING. Most of the time it’s amazing. It is just so much fun playing music with these guys.
LRI: Every time I have seen L.A. Guns since you and Phil split there have always been those really cool loose moments where you just play and riff with the audience and segue into classic rock covers and stuff. It’s usually the highlight of the show but with L.A. Guns the setlist can be kind of confining.
Tracii: Right, right. That’s always been the thing and back in the MTV days when we would have these 30 45 minute support slots that was always the most frustrating thing to me personally. It’s like “Ok, shit, I wrote these songs and this is what people want to hear” but at the same time people don’t realize that as an artist it can be very frustrating after you’ve written, recorded and played the song live 20,000 times. I understand where the fans are coming from but as a player, as an artist it’s like “Ok, next” (laughs). If nothing more it’s like “Ok, let’s just do something else with it and take the same song but do something a little different or more interesting with it”. That’s just because of the way that I grew up listening to music, everything from Led Zeppelin to the Grateful Dead to The Doors and all that. That era was an era where bands didn’t just go onstage and play the songs note for note, by the book.
LRI: Was that same sort of risk taking element or search for fun kind of what was going through your head when you shocked everyone with the Dilana announcement?
Tracii: That’s exactly what my line of thinking was man. Talk about talent and natural, innate ability to sing, that girl is UNREAL. I have never, ever been onstage with someone who sings like that and I think I’ve been onstage with some pretty damn good singers. The way that she sings, the way she delivers comes from that fire within her, the same fire that people call her an asshole for. That fire that burns in her belly is the fuel that gives her that insane voice and presence onstage, especially when she’s singing great songs.
LRI: You could say the exact same thing word for word about Axl Rose couldn’t you?
Tracii: Totally. That is very true. Axl is the same thing, he has that same fire. When you sing and your instrument is your voice and you have that talent, passion and fire, people are going to take note. I would definitely compare Dilana to Axl for a million reasons. They are both super talented as well. In the future if I’m gonna do the L.A. Guns shows the two people I would use are Greg Devine who is from Kansas City, because he just nails the stuff and Andrew Freeman who sings with everybody and is just amazing. That said, as far as anyone delivering L.A. Guns material, no one has ever, ever done it like Dilana. That was just amazing to be a part of and was worth all the trouble (laughs).
LRI: I want to ask you of course about “Raiding The Rock Vault” the new show you are a part of. I hate, hate theatrical Broadway style shows and really hate “Rock Of Ages” to the point where I was actually applauding the bands who refused to let their music be in the movie. This sounds very different from that type of show, is that correct?
Tracii: It is, it’s very different. The exciting thing though is that the same people who made “Rock Of Ages” a success came to our show and they like it (laughs). So that’s good!! It is a complete different thing though. It’s a true story, kind of like a non-fiction book that comes to life and tells the history of classic rock from the beginning through the decades. It starts with a narration of things before the mid-60s with Allen Freed and Chuck Berry and all this stuff and starts out in the mid-60s with The Who and “My Generation” which is actually a great place to start. It is a really amazing setlist that goes along with the story and works its way through Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Toto and on and on. It’s pretty incredible and the great thing is there are so many songs it could always expand or change. I’d even like to see it start even earlier and include some of that Chuck Berry era material and work it’s way through. Adding songs or changing the set a little from night to night isn’t really that difficult of a thing to do for them, it really just means a little extra rehearsal for the band.
LRI: This stage set, lights and show element looks great of course but what impresses me as a rock fan is the talent onstage is pretty badass. I love Howard Leese (Heart guitarist) up there with Tracii Guns and Lorraine Lewis (Femme Fatale) up there with Paul Shortino. I would go just to see that.
Tracii: The singers alone are ridiculous, we have a collection of singers bringing this to life that is like “Oh my god”. Robin McAuley (MSG, Survivor) and Joe Lynn Turner (Deep Purple, Rainbow) and Andrew Freeman (Offspring, Hurricane). These guys all on the same stage is like “Jesus Christ!!”. They mean business, these vocalists don’t casually do anything and the band is the same exact way. The thing is, also, these guys who are doing the media, the production elements, they really are at the top of their craft as well and the show has been refined and made better and better since the debut we had at the Mayan Theater and leading up to this residency in Las Vegas. The audience who were able to attend the debut really reacted well, they were really happy to be there (laughs).
LRI: This all sounds like really good news for you and your career at this point man. Would you be on board for the long haul if it expands even further to do like a national tour?
Tracii: Oh yeah, yeah absolutely. There’s a lot of things that are really enticing about it. The most obvious being that if we did tour we wouldn’t be driving around in a van or a bus or anything (laughs). We would be flying into a city and doing a week or two of shows at a given theater. I could bring my son and my wife with me and everything is easy and cozy. The money is great (laughs). That’s another nice thing about it, and the band and show is great on top of all that so there’s really no reason not to do it. It’s the kind of thing where being afforded that type of security is pretty attractive and pretty nice. It also allows me the opportunity to still work on these movies and my music with League of Gentlemen and really just do it for the love of doing it rather than worrying about always trying to make a buck or something. With my main job being the Rock Vault it would enable me to make two records a year of complete garbage if I wanted to (laughs). And you never know man, I might want to (laughs).
LRI: It was nice talking to you again man, I have to see this show and hopefully catch you on an off night with League Of Gentlemen.
Tracii: Definitely, thank you John. League of Gentlemen will absolutely still be active and I will talk to you again when the album is ready.
Tracii Guns on the net: