Tracii Guns is one of the most well known and influential guitarists in the last couple of decades. He was a co-founding member along with Axl Rose of the band Guns N’ Roses combining the names of both of their bands, L. A. Guns and Hollywood Rose. Tracii then left to reform L.A. Guns making it bigger than ever. The band had many hits on both radio and MTV with “The Ballad of Jayne” being their biggest. What I found out talking to Tracii is that he seems to like to stay busy with music. He’s played in various bands or projects when not touring with L.A. Guns and contributed to multiple “Tribute” cds as well.
Tracii took some time after a show to sit and share his insights on the days on the Sunset Strip…the music industry and where it’s headed and the two versions of L.A. Guns today.
T.E.N. - What have you been up to lately?
TG- Okay, lately? Let’s start from yesterday. We show up to the gig in Dayton, Ohio and this guy’s bragging to everybody that he’s just got out of jail less than twenty hours ago. So he says; “I’m running security for the club and I’m gonna help you guys load in” and we’re like; “Right on…thank you.” Meanwhile, the club thinks that he’s our security guy. They didn’t ask us so we’re hangin out with this guy…do our show and before the encore, we go off stage into the dressing room and our shit was gone! It was that guy! So, we didn’t finish the show, the cops showed up…I tried to attack the guy…the cop was gonna tazer me…he yelled at the cop…the cop threw me in his car. Finally they got the story straight and arrested the guy. We found our shit in his truck and that’s what I did last night. Now, you know what I did today.
T.E.N. - What happened on the way here?
TG- Oh shit! The lug nuts sheared off of the hub on the trailer!
Chad Stewart- They were like bullets. Like bang…bang…bang.
TG- Then the wheel fell off. But, the thing is, I got to go to Starbucks because Chads’ mom came and picked me up. Good ‘ol Zanesville!
T.E.N. - Who were some of your major influences growing up?
TG – My first real guitar influence was Jimmy Page. It was “Whole Lotta Love” that I heard on the radio when I was like six. I was in the back seat of my moms’ car and I poked my head up and said “Mom, what is this?” and she said “That’s Led Zeppelin and that’s Jimmy Page, their guitar player and he makes crazy noises. I told her that “I wanna do that! I wanna make that sound!” So, that’s where it all started from and my uncle actually played electric guitar and I would hang out with him in his bedroom when he was studying and playing his guitar. He was playin “Pinball Wizard” by the Who and I was like “Hey, can you show me how to do that and I was only six and that was the beginning. Since then it was Van Halen, Toni Iommi, Randy Rhodes, Gary Moore and of course Jimi Hendrix…all of the great guys of the seventies. I still play along with the live records of the seventies and I won’t ever change.
T.E.N. – You’ve been in some of the best bands in the business. Could you give me a run down of their names?
TG – Wow, the bands that I created were; Guns N Roses, LA Guns, Brides Of Destruction and a solo band thing called Killing Machine. I rehearsed with Poison for a week once. I did one show in Motorhead. I did four shows with the Misfits. I’ve been chasing Danzig around for about fifteen years tryin to get him to do a record with me. I’m good at startin shit, just really bad at ending it. (Laughs)
T.E.N. -You also play on a large number of “Tribute” cds. How did you become involved with that?
TG – The guy that owns Cleopatra Records made our t-shirts back in the day when we played L.A. exclusively. He couldn’t buy the catalogs for these bands so he came up with this idea that he would record their greatest hits with well known musicians and call them tribute records. But, all it is is a tribute to him because it’s like a fuckin slot machine, man. It’s like “Hey Tracii, I’m gonna give you this money to play all this shit and I’m never gonna tell you how much I make off of it.” I know he just sits at home like a big slot machine yellin “Yeah, look at all this money and I don’t even know how to play a guitar!” But, I really dig it because I got to play on the Def Leppard one and the Aerosmith one and stuff like that. For me, it really is kind of a tribute because I learned those songs and recorded them with other cool musicians. I know for a lot of the guys it’s a throw away payday but for me I actually listen to them.
T.E.N. – Didn’t you jam with Quiet Riot?
TG- Yeah, that’s right I did. That was something that I looked forward to because I’d been friends with Kevin (Dubrow) for so long and Frankie (Banali) too. I never saw them play with Randy (Rhodes). I got to meet Kevin when I was really young after Randy was already with Ozzy (Osbourne). Then about a year ago they figured that I was the guy and it made sense in a “Randy Rhodes” way but all of a sudden, they wanted to be more of a bluesy “Jimmy Page” thing. I was like “What are you talking about? You’re Quiet Riot!” Let’s tear it up! They were really excited about the stuff that they’d just finished writing and I tried to learn it, I went and played with them but I just couldn’t really get it together. That’s the bottom line. Kevin was willing to fly me out to Vegas and show me the songs bit by bit and take the extra time just so I would learn those songs so we could record them. During the conversation, we were laughing so much because all of the stuff that I had written for them was a hybrid of old school Randy Rhodes Quiet Riot and Randy and Ozzy. Kevin was way more excited about it than Frankie. It’s so crazy. Kevin just passed away, man.
T.E.N. – What was one of you fondest memories of him?
TG – My fondest memory was they’d already announced that I was in Quiet Riot before we got together and played and he took me to dinner. You know one on one and he was so animated. Even at dinner he was such a cool cat. I’ve toured with him a million times and we’ve hung out at The Waffle House, but we went to a nice restaurant and he was such a cool cat. He was so into Rod Stewart and shit. I got to know him a lot better at that one dinner. The last time I saw him was at Rocklahoma. I was watching Y&T so early in the day and when Kevin and Frankie got up on stage cause they knew I was there and they said “Hi, what’s goin on?” to me. That was the last fuckin time that I saw or talked to him. During their set, I remember he said something like “If this was the 1980s…this would be “Cokelahoma!” I really loved Kevin.
T.E.N. – “Ballad of Jayne” was one of your biggest hits.
TG- It’s the biggest hit.
T.E.N. – Was there much pressure from the record label to put out a “power ballad?”
TG- Oh yes there was…fuck! Look, I’m really grateful for the song and I’m glad we wrote it and it’s the hit that it is and it obviously helped our career in so many ways but there were only two people that wanted that song on the album…it was a song that was written before they asked us to because we knew they were gonna ask us for one. As soon as they heard that song they were like “That’s the one!” We’re all looking at each other and we were sittin in the studio with our manager and the A&R guy kinda fightin them goin “That song’s not going on this record. There’s no way! It doesn’t fit. You’ve got “Rip and Tear” “Never Enough” and then all of a sudden (mouths the acoustic guitar intro to the song,) It might have been better on “Hollywood Vampires.” It would have fit better.
T.E.N. – All right, I’ve got to ask. Why are there two L.A. Guns going around touring?
TG- Uh, because there are so many songs and so many members.(Laughs) It started out “Hey Tracii, why don’t we do six reunion shows as the original L.A. Guns.” Every promoter was like “Thank God Tracii’s doing L.A. Guns!” It turned into a hundred and seventy-something shows. I feel sorry for the other guys because they only do like ten shows a year now. Fuck you guys. (Laughs) Fuck you and your ten shows (Laughs)
T.E.N. - What was it like back in the eighties back on “The Strip?”
TG – It was crazy man…ya know? I had met Izzy (Stradlin) who was in a band that was my singers’ brothers’ band. The Sunset Strip really wasn’t happening like that yet. I started hanging out with Izzy and we were doing not really punk rock but maybe Lords of the New Church kinda vibe. The Hanoi Rocks thing was starting to happen. He had met this girl and he’s like; “Hey man, lets go up to this place called “The Rainbow Bar & Grill.” We could’ve literally walked to there from where we lived. We get there and there were these guys that were older than us but were really cool. They were the Motley Crue guys and the RATT guys. That was a pretty solid scene starting to happen. But, by the time our bands were happening, you had a lot of bands. We had Poison and we had Jane’s Addiction…Jetboy…Faster Pussycat. We had our own scene. All the bands’ images were so much more extreme than even Motley Crue and stuff like that. It was like a “fashion thing” that kinda started. You would have all of these teenagers getting together on the Sunset Strip every night. It went from like a couple hundred then four hundred then eventually mobbed every night for maybe four or five years! It was pure sex, drugs and rock n roll in the purest sense…ya know.
T.E.N. – Just pure debauchery!
TG- Pure debauchery! People were livin here and livin there it was like; “Who’s got somewhere to stay?” Every fuckin night! The insanity of the whole fuckin thing was radical. It was a really good time man.
T.E.N.- How has the music industry changed from back then?
TG- There is no “Music Industry” now. It’s almost over. Music is virtually free, as it should be…I believe at this point. What’s the point in tryin to sell somethin and fight people that just wanna enjoy the music? What’s gonna happen is, that it’s gonna be back in the hands of the musicians for a few years. Ya gotta promote yourself and stuff like that. Then some really smart musician gonna figure it out and start a new way to market music and sell a format that makes sense. When we were with Polygram Records the cd was just starting to come out. It was rich and there was so much money flowing and everything was “over the top.” Cocaine was still king. It was really a party. Then, when AIDS came in and the Bush administration came in…everything just got “Ya know…the fun is over!”
T.E.N. - Brides of Destruction was killer. Do you think you’ll bring that back?
TG- No, not without Nikki (Sixx) and not without (Scot) Coogan and London (LeGrand).That was a “special chemistry” that really fueled itself an incredible amount of energy and passion. Coogan is one of the most talented people that I’ve ever known in my life. London is the most eccentric person that I’ve known in my life. Nikki is the biggest “rock star” that I’ve ever known in my life. It was the perfect band. In my eyes BOD was the “perfect band.” I was so proud. It was badass…it was bad!
T.E.N. - Tell me something disturbing about yourself that you’ve never told anyone before.
TG- I listen to Enya sometimes. I think a lot of my fans would find that disturbing. (Laughs)
T.E.N. - Is there anything else that you want to say?
TG- It’s really important fans of music to really support their favorite bands because I think that here pretty soon all the recordings from all the bands that people like, we’re all gonna be given the music away for free so it’s important for the fans to support us in other ways like come to the shows, buy the merchandise and keep the music that you love alive!
I want to thank Tracii for sharing a moment out of his day and Chad Stewart for making the interview happen.