Latest releases: The Missing Peace (Frontiers)/Made in Milan (Frontiers)Website: www.lagunsmusic.com
“And that’s what happened the last time I was in Australia,” says LA Guns vocalist Phil Lewis at the conclusion of a 15-minute long monologue detailing the “catastrophe” that unfolded during the last attempt at touring his band here in April 2011. Originally signing on for a full east coast tour with Quiet Riot and Warrant, the trip became a debacle when first one band then the next left the tour before it began, leaving only LA Guns to meet the promoter in Sydney.
“No one showed up to meet us,” he says in the delightful British accent he maintains even after spending 35 years in California. “Eventually 40 minutes, almost an hour later the promoter, Shane [Tester] or whatever his name was, shows up with a couple of vans. We get all our shit in the vans and we’re off to the hotel. Everything seems ok. But we’re having a hard time checking in because the card’s not going through. So what normally takes 15 – 20 minutes turns into two hours, with a lot of things being left on the curb. It was a little bit frustrating. We weren’t supposed to stay there because there was going to be a party and then a luxury coach was going to drive us overnight to Melbourne.”
Seriously, you couldn’t write this stuff. A tour launch party at the Gaelic Club that only the band and members of the tour entourage attended (“We thought there would be press and fans. It was a sorry-looking event.”), a “luxury coach” that turned out to be “a knackered-looking 1970s manual transmission coach” – think Doris from Almost Famous but worse, the promoter getting thrown off the bus and arrested for drunkenly assaulting members of the crew (“We’re not even outside the city when there’s a fight”), to finally arriving in Melbourne after more than a day on the road.
“I’m used to long drives by American standards, but not by Australian standards. I couldn’t believe how long… it took about 26 hours to get there.”
Just for reference, that’s about 16 hours longer than it should take. To add further insult to injury, when the band arrived at the venue, there was no backline: “There was nothing.” The worst part was that they couldn’t afford to rebook flights back to America. There is an exasperated note in Lewis’ voice even now.
“Eventually we got hold of the promoter’s girlfriend or someone and she arrived the next day with $10000 for our new flights and we flew home,” he explains. “Then when we got back to LA, he tried to sue us! He said it was all our fault!”
A great deal has happened with LA Guns since that ill-fated journey, most of which would take up too much space to relate here. Most significantly, in 2016 Lewis rekindled his relationship with his estranged bandmate Tracii Guns, who for many years had been touring his own separate LA Guns line-up.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Lewis says, continuing after a long pause. “To be honest, if you’d’ve told me three or four years ago that it was going to come, I wouldn’t’ve believed it.”
Their rift wasn’t due to the often-cited ‘musical differences’ that shatter so many other working relationships.
“Musically,” he says, “it always felt good. Working together, it was never a problem with musical styles. It was a personal thing. Tracii went in another direction and it was frustrating at the time.”
The seeds were sown for a reunion in 2016 when they teamed up together for a charity show. That eventually led to other performances ahead of an actual reunion at the end of the year.
“We did a soundcheck, and we did ‘Over the Edge’ and a couple of other songs, and it just clicked. The line-up was just right and the right chemistry there. It wasn’t a straight-away thing. I had a solo show the following week and I asked him to get up and play a few songs, which he agreed to do.”
That was when Guns showed Lewis some new songs he was working on. The singer liked what he heard, especially the progression in Guns’ abilities and personality since they had last worked together.
“He started playing me these ideas,” Lewis says. “ It caught my attention, it really did, these musical ideas. He’d become a much better person, a much better musician and was really a lot more technical than the old Tracii had been. And I wanted to be part of it, so I said, ‘All right, I’m in’. It took about six months from that initial charity event around Christmas before I was committed to do something 100%”
Announcing his departure from his own version of LA Guns in January 2017, the revived Lewis/Guns band issued The Missing Peace the following October. The next March, a new live album recorded at a label showcase in Milan was released that further proved how vital and exciting the renewed partnership is. Australian fans will finally get the chance to see the band in action when they bring the Missing Peace tour Down Under in May. Get ready to get excited.
“It was just another show for us,” Lewis says humbly of Made in Milan. “I know it was important because it was our fiurst live release, but it was one of hundreds of shows that we’ve done. It’s wasn’t the best, it wasn’t the worst. I mean, I love it! I wish there was more than one new song on it. Now we’ve got five in our set. I wish we’d’ve put at least two on it, but people are saying they dig it and they can definitely see the chemistry between me and Tracii and the whole band, in fact – and that’s what you want in a live band. You want to hear a good crowd, you want a good recording. I’m proud of it, but the next one will be better!”