Phil Lewis’ scene is “music and motorbikes”. The LA GUNS singer states: “When I’m not on a motorcycle, I’m at home listening to records, or tinkering around with … I’ve got five or six collections of motorbikes, different styles. Like a trail bike, I’ve got a big cruiser. I’ve got a motorized bicycle. You know it’s something of a collection and, when I’m not on tour, I like to mess around with bikes. That’s my scene.”
Lewis was influenced by “the big three: Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath”, but he continues, “there are other more obscure bands that I was listening to in London in the early seventies. Bands like Heavy Metal Kids, Alex Harvey, a band called Family, Humble Pie, of course. I was very much a child of the seventies. I grew up in a wonderful time, a wonderful era, when record players and vinyls were king, and everybody knew how to play a few cords on the guitar, everybody was either in a band or involved with a band. It was a wonderful time to go and meet girls on a Saturday afternoon, at the record shop and sadly those days are behind us, but I’m a product of that and very proud of it.”
Still, the call to the US came at the perfect time. Lewis states: “Well, it came at a really good time. I was a little bit depressed in London, a wee bit depressed, as they say. It would have been like ‘86, and there wasn’t much of a … well, actually that’s not true, there was a really decent rock scene in London, but the labels, the record companies, they weren’t interested in it at all. It was a really dry time, and like the rest of the world, we became aware of the energy and vitality that was coming out from Los Angles at that time, the LA scene. Everybody wanted to be part of it, wanted to check it out, and rather like a game of snakes and ladders, I went from like, you know, on my ass in London, to being a key player in the LA music scene almost overnight. That was pretty amazing I have to say.”
I went from like, you know, on my ass in London, to being a key player in the LA music scene almost overnight.
Lewis doesn’t forget his influences, and many of the tracks on this new album honour his idols through either the lyrics or the music, such as Queen with The Missing Peace and Gave It All Away, Deep Purple with Speed, and The Animals with The Flood’s the Fault of the Rain. With the latter, Lewis states: “You know that song, it actually may be my favorite song on the record. It certainly is one of my favourites to do live. It’s kind of a tribute to The House of the Rising Sun, by The Animals which they of course covered. It’s an old traditional song. We wanted to do something in that vein, but not do a cover. We got the vibe and just started bouncing lyrics, ideas, just to see what worked, timing-wise, for the phrasing in the song. It didn’t take too long before the thing was pretty much writing itself. The chorus, the verse is great. And then this chorus is just this huge anthem of a chorus, in my opinion. Very much a collaboration between me, Tracii, and Mitch Davis on that one.”
Similarly with the other tracks, they was much collaboration with the writing of the tracks. The music giving rise to some hot and heavy lyrics at times. With the track Baby Gotta Fever, which Lewis co-wrote the lyrics with Davis to music by Martin, Lewis states: “Johnny brought in the music for that. Me and Mitch, we got the lyrics for that, and that was something that came together seamlessly. It’s a fun song. You know, it’s one of those sort of sex, drugs, rock and roll songs, a bit like Speed.”
Although Lewis didn’t write the lyrics for The Devil Made Me Do It, he does relate to them and states: “The lyrics are very strong. They depict a man torn with guilt and doubt, and ‘The demons are calling. I tried to resist, but give in. The reckoning is dawning, the danger is too alarming. I feel the possession, a flag to all my obsessions. The evil takes over. I can’t fight if off anymore, any longer’. It sounds a bit like a desperate plea. ‘A wretched human being. Please make it stop’, but he can’t stop himself. He’s in too deep.” Lewis is proud of all the tracks on this new album, and its running order, and hopes it is played from start to finish. “You know the great thing about this record,” he states. “it’s multi-faceted. It’s got the Saturday night specials, like Speed, and like, Fever, and like Sticky Fingers. Then you’ve got these epic musical interludes towards the end, and it’s great to be in this band, because it’s always interesting. As much as I love bands like Motorhead and AC/DC, they are all really one-dimensional, and I would be bored as fuck after no time at all. I never ever get bored in this band. It’s always so interesting.”
Lewis continues: “We worked so hard, figuring out a running order, to be exactly what song should go where; it took a long time doing that. It’s such an important aspect. When we started this record, we wanted it to be like an LP.
We envisaged, the punter, the person buying it, and buying it on vinyl, getting it home, taking it out of the sleeve, and putting it on the record player, and hopefully listening to the whole thing, in one sitting, to really appreciate and care what the album’s about.
This reunion, it didn’t come overnight. It took easily a year before we were both really comfortable, in going forward with it. It’s really important that the people understand it, it isn’t just a nostalgia reunion.
Lewis continues: “Definitely. Well, you know, the thing about Tracii, me and Tracii, we have this chemistry. We’ve always had it. When we worked together, when I’m on stage, when I’m playing with him, he makes me work a little bit harder than anyone else I’ve ever worked with. It’s something, he just turns the heat up, and he gets stuff out of me that nobody else does and I like to think, it’s the same way for him too. I keep going back to these two songs at the end of the record, The Missing Peace, and Gave It All Away. I had never sung like that before. I had never done it. I’ve sung songs like Seed, and Sticky Fingers, you know, full-sleeved rock stuff, I can sing that in my sleep, but the more metal for the want of a better word. I’m sort of rock vocalist, but I hadn’t done that, and I kind of surprise myself actually. I sort of turned out all right. I’ve always been a rocker, so for me to get my metal on, it was fun.”
The importance of the running order of the album then becomes a challenge to translate in to a live set. Lewis states: “It’s very difficult to do that. It depends on how long they give us. If they give us a thirty-minute set, sixty minutes, or ninety, or the best-case scenario is: play as long as you want. Then generally, we will go into the two hour, pass the two hour, mark pretty easily. We do a lot of this new record live. We’re doing five songs, maybe not all five in one night, but we are covering five songs from the record: Devil Made Me Do It, Fever, Sticky Fingers, Blood, Speed. We haven’t tried to do anything else yet. The difficult thing about the ethics at the end, is they’re real strings you know, it’s a real cello’s, real violins, so it’s not like we have a master track that we could play to. It’s not like it’s midi, so to do those songs properly would require a chamber orchestra. Hopefully that would be down the line. That would be amazing. Yeah, so you know for the most part we do the rock stuff live, in a set. The thing is, it is very difficult, especially coming to a place like Australia, where we haven’t played before, we’ve got songs people have been waiting a long time to hear. They want to hear Never Enough, they want to hear Over the Edge, and we want to play them too, so it’s always difficult but hopefully we will get a good seventy-five, ninety-minute set, and do a good mix of both.”
Catch Lewis and the LA GUNS on tour next month!
Australia finally get to experience The Missing Peace!
L.A. Guns 2018 Australian Tour Dates
May 17th BRISBANE, Wooly Mammoth
May 18th MELBOURNE, Max Watts
May 19th SYDNEY, Max Watts
May 20th, SYDNEY, Frankie’s Pizza (Acoustic Show only)
TICKETS: On Sale now from: https://www.ontourpresents.com/laguns
PLEASE NOTE: Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances LA Guns are canceling part of Australia / New Zealand Tour scheduled to take place on May 23 (Perth) May 25 (Wellington) and May 26 (Auckland). Refunds will be provided to ticket purchasers at the point of sale. The remaining dates will go ahead, as originally planned.