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L.A. Guns



July 5, 2023

About the Artist


One name, two different bands, dozens of lineup changes, twenty-some-odd years, a catalog of ever-changing rock and roll music, and way too much information to fit into a one-hour television special- reads like a novel. Hell, it should be! You no doubt know "the ballad of jayne". You might own more than just Cocked & Loaded . You probably know Phil Lewis, Tracii Guns, and Steve Riley. You may even know Axl Rose, Nickey Alexander, Jizzy Pearl, and Brent Muscat. But you're reading this because you want to know more. I know they're not The Rolling Stones or Aerosmith, but this is the long and crazy story of my favorite rock and roll band of all time, the LA Guns:

LA Guns was formed in Los Angeles by guitarist Tracii Guns in 1983. Tracii, drummer Rob Gardner, and bass player Ole Beich were joined by singers Axl Rose and Mike Jagosz. The first incarnation of the band featured singer Mike Jagosz. This lineup released an independent vinyl EP called Collector's Edition #1 on Raz Records (which has since been re-issued on the double CD Hollywood Raw). Mike was replaced by Axl Rose (from the band Hollywood Rose) in the summer of 1984. Guitarist Izzy Stradlin' is also rumored to have been in the band for a short time (but this may be because the members of LA Guns and Hollywood Rose became the first lineup of Guns N' Roses). Rob, Tracii, Izzy, and Axl re-formed Hollywood Rose (which was the end of LA Guns) in December of 1984, and in March of 1985 they reunited with Ole and became Guns N' Roses. Ole was the first to leave Guns N' Roses, followed by Tracii and Rob. By June of 1985, Guns N' Roses had replaced them and continued. Guns N' Roses didn't release any music with Tracii on guitar (although he had co-written some of the music that would later appear on their albums), but his name is half of the band's name, so his association with the band is not easily overlooked.

By the summer of 1985, Tracii had left Guns N' Roses and had decided to re-form LA Guns. The Joneses and Mau Maus drummer Paul "Mars" Black (who switched to vocals) & guitarist Mick Cripps (who tentatively switched to bass) teamed up with former Weirdos drummer Nickey "Beat" Alexander and Tracii to form a new LA Guns. Tracii left LA Guns for a short time in 1986 and was replaced by solo artist and former Dogs D'Amour singer Robert Stoddard (who had switched to guitar). Tracii returned to the band, and they continued as a five-piece. The band recorded several sets of demos (some of these recordings which have since been released by Paul Black and others which had been available as a bootleg) and made a good name for themselves by late 1986. The band had gained the attention of PolyGram Records and were close to being signed the company. They had already written many of the songs that would later appear on the LA Guns debut in 1988. In 1987, Robert Stoddard left the band. Paul Black parted ways with the band in March of that year. Black was growing disenchanted with the pressure of PolyGram, and the band accused him of having a drug problem. The LA Guns demos that were recorded with Paul Black have since been released on the albums Black City Breakdown and Black List . Since leaving LA Guns, Paul Black has formed and sang in the bands Black Cherry and Sonic Boom.

Paul Black was replaced in the spring of 1987 by singer Phil Lewis (who had released two albums with the band Girl and an album with the band Torme'). Mick Cripps switched back to guitar after Robert left. Former Faster Pussycat and Sweet Pain bass player Kelly Nickels (who had released one album with Sweet Pain) was added to complete the new lineup. In 1987, the LA Guns recorded their first album, released in January of 1988 on Vertigo Records, self-titled, LA Guns . Nickey Alexander was replaced by drummer Steve Riley (who had recorded three albums with WASP and toured with the band from 1984 until 1987) for their first world tour and this lineup of Tracii Guns, Phil Lewis, Steve Riley, Mick Cripps, and Kelly Nickels remained until early 1992. The LA Guns debut album spawned the singles "one more reason", "electric gypsy", and "sex action", along with many other LA Guns classics. The album is said to have achieved gold status (over 500,000 units shipped/sold). The band then embarked on their first world tour. In August of 1989, the band released their second album, again on Vertigo Records, titled Cocked & Loaded . Cocked & Loaded contained the smash radio and video hit, "the ballad of jayne", which brought the album to platinum sales status (over one million units shipped/sold; the album may have only been certified gold), and was the commercial peak of the band's career. The album also contained the hits, "i wanna be your man", "never enough", and "rip & tear". The band also released two home videos coinciding with these two albums, One More Reason in 1989, and Love, Peace, & Geese in 1990.

In June of 1991, the band released their third album, titled Hollywood Vampires , on Polydor Records. This album also achieved gold sales status and spawned a few hits such as: "kiss my love goodbye" and "it's over now". This album marked the band's last big commercial success. Hollywood Vampires was a creative effort, and is seen by some to have been ahead of its time. Also in 1991, Tracii Guns participated in the "super group" Contraband with members of Ratt, Shark Island, MSG, and Vixen. Contraband released one self-titled album on Impact Records and toured with Ratt & LA Guns in the summer of 1991 before breaking up. Phil Lewis fired drummer Steve Riley in early 1992, and he was replaced by drummer Michael "Mr. Bones" Gershima. The LA Guns released an EP titled Cuts in late 1992 on Polydor Records. Also in 1992, the band released the EP Live Vampires in Japan, featuring live performances (with Steve) recorded on the Hollywood Vampires tour.

The band took a break after the tour in support of Hollywood Vampires, and during this time Phil Lewis and Bones formed the band Filthy Lucre, Tracii formed the band Killing Machine with singer Riley Baxter, and Mick Cripps formed Burning Retna with Nickey Alexander, and later, Kelly Nickels would join. Tracii Guns' Killing Machine released an album in 1993 in Japan, which was released in America through Deadline Records in 1999. Burning Retna's album was not released until 2006 (on Cleopatra Records). Tracii had officially left LA Guns at this time (1992); he also may have been fired by his bandmates. Phil also parted ways with the band after a disagreement over the band's musical direction for their next album. In 1994, both Tracii and Phil decided to give the band another shot, and in February of 1995, LA Guns released Vicious Circle on A&M/Polydor Records. This album contained many different musical styles and commercially, for a major label release, was a failure (although it did sell a respectable amount of records for the time period). As Bones had parted ways with the band before the release of the album, Steve Riley later returned to the band for the Vicious Circle tour after trying to form a new band with George Lynch. After this, the LA Guns were dropped from PolyGram (Vertigo/Polydor/A&M) Records Incorporated (which is now owned by Universal Music). In the summer of 1995, Phil Lewis & Mick Cripps left the band.

In the summer of 1995, Tracii, Kelly, & Steve recruited Boneyard singer "Roxy" Chris Van Dahl (also of Cherry St.) and guitarist Johnny Crypt (also of Boneyard). The "new" LA Guns went on tour in early 1996, but Kelly Nickels had left the band and Johnny was asked to switch to the bass. The band went into the studio in the summer of that year to record the album, which was released in October on CMC International Records, titled American Hardcore. This was the band's fifth full-length studio album, which built on the heavy music from Vicious Circle (Tracii & Steve's contributions) and projected a darker image for the band. They toured throughout the remainder of 1996 and into the summer of 1997 when Tracii let Chris go in hopes of regaining Phil and the band's former glory. Phil declined, and Chris was replaced by (Van Halen tribute band) The Atomic Punks singer Ralph Saenz. Tracii, Steve, Johnny, and Ralph toured for the rest of 1997 and into 1998. Ralph quit the band that summer, and had only recorded an EP titled Wasted (which was released by Standback Entertainment in the summer of 1998). Wasted built on American Hardcore musically, but brought the band back to a more traditional LA Guns style. Ralph was well received by the LA Guns fans, and his departure led to yet another singer change. He stayed with Atomic Punks, and later formed Metal Skool.

Joe Leste' from Bang Tango was originally hired (for a few days) as the singer for the LA Guns, but Jizzy Pearl from Love/Hate was named the official singer in the late summer of 1998 (Jizzy had released four albums with Love/Hate). LA Guns toured clubs with Jizzy in 1998. Johnny Crypt left the band in early 1999, but the band had already recorded an album, which was released in June on Perris Records, called Shrinking Violet . Shrinking Violet had a more Led Zeppelin influenced feel but stayed pretty traditional to the style of the older LA Guns albums. Tracii and Steve had also recorded new (and old) material with their former band mates, Phil, Mick, & Kelly, which was also released in June of 1999 (on the same day as Shrinking Violet ) titled Greatest Hits & Black Beauties on Deadline Records. LA Guns recruited Dad's Porno Mag & Gilby Clarke bass player Stefan Adika (who was only in the band for about a month) to tour in support of Shrinking Violet , but Stefan was later replaced by Dio bass player Chuck Garric for their tour in the summer of 1999. In September of 1999, Jizzy and Chuck were let go as Tracii & Steve reunited with Phil Lewis, Kelly Nickels, and Mick Cripps for a reunion tour. Jizzy went on to re-form Love/Hate and also join Ratt for five years.

Phil Lewis had kept busy during his hiatus from LA Guns. In 1995, Phil participated in the release of a Japan-only LA Guns hits compilation called Hollywood-A-Go-Go and in 1996, he reunited with Mick and Kelly to record a Japan-only LA Guns cover album, Hollywood Rehearsals . His band Filthy Lucre (which also featured LA Guns drummer Bones) released an album in 1996. In 1997, Phil had been approached to re-join LA Guns, but he declined and released a solo album called El Nino in Japan, and released it in 1998 as More Purple than Black through Deadline Records in 1999. Phil and his band, The Liberators (which included guitarist Brent Muscat and bassist Eric Stacy of Faster Pussycat) toured in America and Japan throughout late 1998 and into 1999. The Liberators recorded an album in the fall of 1999 (right before the LA Guns reunion), which they released in Japan, called Access Denied , and was later released in late 2000 by Deadline Records under Phil's name.

The LA Guns set out on the reunion tour in October of 1999 and recorded a live album in their hometown of Hollywood which was released in February of 2000 called Live: A Night On The Strip (recorded in 1999 at the Key Club in Hollywood). On the summer 2000 tour, Kelly and Mick were replaced by Burning Tree bass player Mark "Muddy Stardust" Dutton and Faster Pussycat/Liberators guitarist Brent Muscat. Before Kelly & Mick left the band, they had re-recorded Cocked & Loaded, which was released in August of 2000 as Cocked & Re-Loaded on Deadline Records. Mick Cripps rejoined the band briefly (after Brent left) in late 2000 to record an album with the band, titled Man in the Moon , which was released on Spitfire Records in April of 2001. Man in the Moon was again, a very traditional rock record, similar to Shrinking Violet , and was well received by the LA Guns fans. Mick played keyboards on the album, but did not tour outside the Los Angeles area to support it. Muddy later left the band after the tour for Man in the Moon in late 2001. Danny Nordahl of Faster Pussycat rehearsed with the band, but did not end up joining. Muddy recommended and was replaced by bass player Adam Hamilton (of Joe 90 and CC Deville's band) for the early 2002 Man in the Moon tour. For their summer 2002 tour, Tracii, Phil, Steve, & Adam were joined by guitarist Keff Ratcliffe (who formerly played the bass in Pretty Boy Floyd). The band released their eighth full-length studio album, titled Waking the Dead in August of 2002 on Spitfire Records. Waking the Dead marked the band's greatest work in years, their strongest album since their debut, and probably their best album, sonically, to date. When the tour ended in the fall of 2002, Tracii announced that he was leaving LA Guns.

Chris Holmes (former WASP guitarist) filled in for Tracii on a few LA Guns shows in late 2002, but Chris and Keff soon departed the band. Brent Muscat also returned to the band, even though he was at the time still a founding and touring member of Faster Pussycat. Guitarist Keri Kelli (who had been in Warrant, Ratt, Slash's Snakepit, Love/Hate, & Pretty Boy Floyd) joined LA Guns in November of 2002, replacing Tracii Guns. The lineup of Phil, Steve, Adam, Keri, & Brent is featured on the live DVD, Hellraiser's Ball , which was released only in Europe. Brent (being a temporary replacement) left the LA Guns in mid-2003 to tour with Faster Pussycat and was replaced for a few shows by former Goldfinger guitarist Charlie Paulson. Phil, Steve, Adam, and Keri toured in the fall of 2003, still in support of Waking the Dead . Brent Muscat still played with the band occasionally, but not on a regular basis. That year, there was also talk of the "original" lineup of Tracii, Phil, Steve, Mick, and Kelly doing a new album of all original songs, which obviously never happened. Keri parted ways with the band in late 2003, but he and Brent (along with Jizzy Pearl) had already begun to play in Adler's Appetite. Keri went on to tour with Motley Crue singer Vince Neil. Brent filled in with LA Guns again (for the departed Keri) for a few dates in late 2003 and early 2004 but did not stay in the band.

Former Roxx Gang guitarist Stacey Blades was named as Keri's replacement in early 2004. Stacey and LA Guns recorded an album of cover songs called LA Guns Rips the Covers Off , which was released on Shrapnel Records in April of 2004. Stacey had originally only been brought in to do some session work for the album, and was later asked to join the band. Phil, Steve, Adam, & Stacey toured throughout 2004. The band recorded a new album in 2005, which was released in August called Tales from the Strip (on Shrapnel Records). Tales from the Strip is a bit of a concept album and is based on their experiences in Los Angeles. The album was yet another critical success for LA Guns and another great album. The band considers it to be a great accomplishment, and their fans agree. In 2006, the band recorded a live show at the Key Club in Hollywood, which was released in the summer of 2006 on Shrapnel Records, titled Live & Dangerous . This album showcases the live show that the band has been known to put on for years. In March of 2007, bass player Adam Hamilton left the band to pursue a career as a music producer. He was replaced that spring by Scott Griffin (who has played guitar in Dizzy Reed's band, Hookers & Blow with Jizzy Pearl). The band remains positive about their future and continues to make great new music, year after year.

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