Tracii Guns has been rockin stages with his unique style of guitar playing around the world now for more than twenty years. Tracii shot to the top in the eighties with his band L.A. Guns. The debut album spawned the singles “One More Reason” and “Sex Action” along with many other LA Guns classics. In 1989, they released their second album, titled ‘Cocked & Loaded’ which contained my all time favorite L.A. Guns track “The Ballad of Jayne” the album sold over one million copies and was undoubtedly the commercial peak of their career. A couple of years back Guns formed Brides of Destruction and fans welcomed the debut album ‘Here Comes the Brides’ with open arms. The success of ‘Here Comes the Brides’ led the band to embark on a world tour & proved that fans around the world were hungry for more. Tracii has powered on despite the departure of former Brides/Mötley Crüe bass player and long time friend Nikki Sixx to release the second Brides album ‘Runaway Brides’ which is due to hit stores on the 27th of September. It’s sure to impress fans that have followed Tracii’s career. With a mix of Blues, Punk & high energy Rock n Roll the new album is guaranteed to rock your socks off. With tracks such as ‘Never Say Never’, ‘Tunnel Of Love’ & the first single ‘White Trash’ the new album will set standards for many bands to live up to. Being a long time fan of Tracii’s work I was thrilled to have the opportunity to recently call Tracii at home to discuss the new album, life on the road, tattoos, guitars, those early days in L.A. Guns among many other things. Let the destruction begin!
Hi Tracii how’s things going mate?
Very well, what time is it over there?
Ahh it’s just after 5:30 am.
Wow, good morning.
Yeah it’s nice & early here mate, freezing cold too.
Actually it’s cold where we live. We live near the ocean but yesterday it was so hot.
Its summer over there isn’t it?
Yeah & last year at this time we were in Australia. It was one hundred degrees when we left Japan & by the time we got to Australia & got off the plane in Melbourne, it was like ice in the wind [laughs]. We all had shorts on, it was very cold.
let’s start with the new album ‘Runaway Brides’ which is due out soon!
Yeah it comes out on the 27th of September & I think the date is the same there in Australia.
It’s unusual to have it released here the same day as the rest of the world. I mean sometimes we can wait up to three weeks after an album is released in the United States.
Well it’s lucky if you can do it, the countries that put it out first make the most money & everybody else that wants it orders it on import & pays twice as much.
When you prepare to do a new album such as “Runaway Brides”, what comes first the lyrics or the music?
Music always comes first in everything that I’ve been involved with. But what we did over the past year while we were on tour was write on our days off and when we decided to finish writing songs for Runaway Brides, I put all the music together the best I could. Then London had all the music for about a month. He basically started writing stories to all the different pieces of music & when he felt that he was at a place where he wanted us to work on it with him, he bought it back in & we turned all those stories into more of a song format. That was a little different. It was something new for me doing it that way. It’s a little bit more artistic in the end.
Awesome I’m looking forward to hearing it.
Oh you don’t have it yet?
No not yet [laughs]. At this stage no advance copies have been my way. I’m one of the unfortunate ones [laughs].
Yeah we’re being over-protective, we’re not going to let anybody have the record. Everybody’s just gonna have to take our word for it [laughs]. You can’t get it anywhere yet, but it’s great.
Now you guys shot the first video yesterday, what will be the first single & what can you tell us about the clip?
It’s called ‘White Trash’. It’s pretty much like the most popular fashion style in America right now, moustaches, corduroy pants, mullets all the fun stuff that everyone was throwing tomatoes at people in the seventies for wearing, now its very hip.
When can we expect to see the video on our screens?
Well the video will be finished getting edited in about two weeks, for some reason it’s taking a little longer than usual. As soon as that’s done it goes to MTV so I would say end of the first week of September.
Andy Johns has produced the new album. Andy is someone that who you have worked with in the past. Why was Andy the right choice for this album?
He’s just the person that I trusted the most from an audio point of view. Not so much with the arranging of the songs. Having the confidence of knowing he was the guy who recorded John Bonham’s drums. If you want the best sound ever you have to go right to the source & that was pretty much his involvement with the record. Making sure we had a massive amount of bottom end on the drums & things like that. He’s great. He’s like your drinking buddy [laughs].
What guitars did you use on the new album? Did you pull out some vintage guitars that you have kept stored away?
Yeah I used a fifties Les Paul custom on most of the stuff. I also used a Strat, a newer Strat. I had a million guitars in there but I used the Strat & the Les Paul in just about everything. There were a lot of different amp choices, I was working with a pro tools plug-in which is like an amplifier stimulator. The possibilities with something like that are just endless.
How would you describe your guitar playing on the new album?
The new album’s cool because I was able to play what people would consider to be an old Tracii Guns style on some of the songs like ‘Down in the City’ & bluesy rock from really early L.A Guns stuff & there’s other things that’s really modern guitar wise, where I tracked one guitar with an octave low harmony on it & it plays through the whole song. There’s something for any fan from any stage of the records I have done, its not one dimensional. I don’t want to call it progressive but its progressive from one song to the next. I think it’s gonna be great for Tracii Guns fans.
Do you guys have any plans in the works to release a DVD?
Actually it’s funny that you mention that, we just started making plans within the last few days. We’re going to hopefully do at least 3 videos for this album. We have tons of live footage & tons of the making of this record on film so we’re hoping that by the end of next summer here that it will be out and it will run for about two hours.
After all these years of writing & recording how do you constantly come up with new fresh sounding material without falling into the trap a lot of other bands do by repeating themselves?
When I was younger I would have told you it was my genius, but now I don’t believe that for a second. Music just comes out of you, it flows through, it’s weird. If you think about it intellectually, how does someone come up with two hundred riffs over their life time? There are only twelve notes. I don’t really know where it comes from but I know when I’m getting into an area that’s a little to reminiscent, so I’ll wait a day & something new will come through me. It depends a lot on what I’ve been listening to. If I listen to classic rock for a year it’s going to be bluesy or if I listen to metal for a year it’s going to be heavier. I just go with it. I don’t try to pre-plan anything.
Now how are things between you & Nikki now? Are you guys talking?
Yeah we’re talking & I think things have been pretty much smoothed over. He’s doing his thing & is really happy. Financially he’s doing exactly what he needs to do. I think everybody’s happy right now.
When the Mötley Crüe tour is over will Nikki be returning to Brides?
I don’t know. I think he’d like to because he’ll get home & he’ll get bored. We will see when the time comes, of course I’m not gonna say never, we’re open to it.
I would like to talk to you a little about touring! Is life on the road still as crazy now as it was in the eighties?
It can be. It can be crazier. It’s not popular to be an outlaw anymore, so if you get into some trouble now you really get into trouble. In the old days you could pretty much walk into anywhere in the states with a joint in your mouth & a copper would say “oh you’re a rock star”, now going from state to state if you get caught with a valium in your pocket you go to jail overnight. It’s a little bit different but just as much fun.
What is the most ridiculous thing you have ever asked for on a tour rider?
I don’t know if I’ve ever had that much time on my hands to think about it. Socks are pretty stupid but you’ve got to have them. I always put those on the rider. I think once we asked for a variety of hot dogs, those hot dogs that have the tough skin on them. You bite in & it’s disgusting. Even in L.A. Guns, we would walk into a dressing room and all the stuff would be there. Everybody would drink all the beer & eat a couple of carrot sticks then basically somebody else would get it. I don’t think we have ever paid that much attention as long as there’s alcohol [laughs].
What was your first experience playing outside the USA like?
Wow lets see. The first place was Japan. I had a stomach ache at the airport before we started flying. I was so nervous. But when we got there, it was so much like the United States but with short people. It was a brand new thing & it was so exciting. It makes you want to go to different places & that’s what I like about it now. I have never played in Africa, I’ve never played in Indonesia, never played in a couple of places but now I really want to go to those places. The first time was magic.
As you said earlier, this time last year you were here in Australia. Do you have any plans in the pipeline to tour again soon?
We’re definitely coming back to Australia yes. We have a licensing deal down there for the record & that has enabled us to go down there. We’re actually contracted by the label in Australia. We have to play there, so not only do we want to but we have to go play. That’s not going to happen until the end of your summer I guess. We have forty two dates in the states starting at the end of September & then the week after we go to Europe for twenty one days, then Christmas & January off & then Japan Australia & South America in that order.
So you will be here roughly at the end of February, that’s a great time to be wearing shorts here [laughs].
It’s that hot then?
Yeah February is one of the hottest months here in Australia.
I hope these places have air conditioning [laughs].
Over the years you have shared the stage with so many great bands. Who have you enjoyed touring with the most & could you share a funny road story with us from the tour?
I really enjoy touring period! I had another band called Killing Machine, we went out on tour which was only fifteen shows & we went out in a really old motor home. That had to be the most fun. I didn’t have to do radio at nine in the morning everyday. It was me & a bunch of friends. The singer was my tattoo artist. My girlfriend would fly in & we would sleep in a hammock above the bed the band were sleeping in [laughs]. I like that stuff that’s really fun, I like the camping experience.
Going way back to when you recorded the first L.A. Guns album, if someone had come up to you & told you that you would still be doing this all these years later would you have believed them?
Oh yeah, I defiantly threw pennies in the wishing well during my youth hoping that this was going to be my life. I have never second guessed it. Other people have known, I know, you know. When that’s it then that’s it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect it.
What comes to mind when you look back on those early experiences with L.A. Guns?
A lot of black hair & leather. Even from the very beginning. It was a great band & we always had fun. I remember a lot of in stores, shows & a lot of tiredness [laughs]. It was job & everyone thinks that it was so easy. The only real sanctuary is when you’re on stage & you’re so loud that you can’t hear anything else around you. That’s the quiet bedroom [laughs].
You have grown up influenced by some of the greatest bands in Rock ‘N’ Roll history. Do you feel you have played a large role in influencing many of today’s hard rock acts?
I do especially in my haircuts [laughs]. That’s another thing that I really wanted, what I listened to is what I learned from & that was always the most important thing to me to know that I could bring something to other people to listen to & want to learn. And for people to say wow this is really cool. But I think even more so, & I hate to say this but the fashion.
What would you be doing if you stopped playing music?
If I stopped playing music I would probably sit on the couch with a remote control all day.
Well you guys have plenty of channels over there to choose from [laughs].
Yeah [laughs] we do. We have a lot of infomercial's which are basically half an hour commercials.
I hate those fuckin things. They send me crazy.
It’s the same one every night, at the same time. Once you have seen it once you don’t need to see it again. We have hundreds of channels of just that.
That’s just turned me off ever coming to the United States [laughs].
Oh there are other things to do here. We have very good food over here. You want to come here?
Yeah mate, I would love to go to Los Angeles & New York.
Get there before you get old, so you can do what you want to do, out of all the places in the U.S.A. I would say they are the only two places that you really need to go to. Everything you can imagine is really what it is. What are you waiting for I’ve been down there twice now [laughs].
Twice, have you? I don’t remember you touring here until last year?
Yeah actually just my girlfriend & I went down in 1991 with Greg Bissonet from David Lee Roth’s band & we did some clinics & theatre shows. We played with a couple of guys from The Angels [Angel City] & the second time was last year with Brides.
After all these years in the business what goals have you set for yourself these days?
I do have goals that are different then what they used to be. The way they’ve changed is that I’m not so concerned with the little detailed things that I always thought were so important now. I’ve really learned how to manipulate the business a lot better. That was never really my thing in L.A. Guns. I didn’t do that at all & when Nikki was in the band I still wasn’t doing it, all the final answers went through me but it was me deciding on their educated opinions. But now that Nikki’s gone I have to do all of that stuff & I have really learned a lot from him. Even more than twenty years in L.A. Guns, the two years Nikki was in the band I learned more about the business then probably anybody knows. So I have been able to really take control of it & get it out there the way I think it should be out there.
Which Song/Album would define Tracii Guns to a complete stranger?
Hmm! Let me ask. [Tracii ask his mom & girlfriend].
[Laughs] hey you can’t ask anyone else [laughs].
Oh O.K. [laughs] let me think. You know what I’m going to say because it has a bit of everything, I would have to say ‘Madalaine’ off ‘Cocked & Loaded’. What’s funny is that I think my best stuff which represents me more than anything else is the slower stuff because that’s more of my soul, all the metal & rock n roll stuff is just fun but I don’t think that sums up what my style is.
Well to be honest my favorite L.A. Guns song would be ‘The Ballad of Jayne’. Out of the variety of material that L.A Guns released that song stood out for me.
There you go, see that’s the stuff I grew up listening to, Elton john & Led Zeppelin stuff that’s a bit more atmospheric. Hendrix & the metal stuff is just all the real fun metal. That’s the balance I go between, Elton john & Turbo Negro.
In your honest opinion what do you think about the direction that Hard Rock/ Metal music has taken over the last few years?
Over the last few years I have noticed there are definite clicks of hard rock & I think they’re getting more interesting as time goes on. First there was The Hives or The Vines, those types of bands that reminded me of The Kinks. Real stripped down not out of control. Then you got bands like Mudvayne that are taking metal to the extremes, coming up with drum beats that are so heavy & cool. Turbonegro’s not a new band but for me they are & they really remind me of the early L.A. Guns, just a lot of high energy rock n roll. Actually I like a lot of bands that come from that part of the world. Refused, they’re a Swedish band & they’re really extreme. I wish it was more commercial. I wish that a lot of the bands that are really talented & are really doing something almost educational need to be exploited better.
I agree with you there, there is a lot of stuff that comes out of Europe that’s phenomenal but gets no where near the exposure & recognition it deserves.
It really doesn’t. It’s funny because the guys in the Backyard Babies come over here & they tour all over the world but when they’re at home they play to ten thousand people, then when their record comes out they go straight to number one in their little country. And that means to me if there doin that there it can be done everywhere.
What was the first tattoo you got?
The first tattoo that I got was a little Flying V guitar which kind of looked like Randy Rhoads it goes through a heart. That was the first one. I was seventeen, a guy named Leo did it out of Bob Roberts studio, and I was with Izzy who got his second tattoo that day.
Out of all the tattoos you have had done what one means the most to you and why?
The one that means the most to me is defiantly the portrait I have of my girlfriend on my right arm. I got it about a year after we started going out and she gets really old & haggy like she is now I look at it & it reminds me of how hot she is [laughs]. I’m kidding of course.
[Laughs] watch out mate she will throw something at you [laughs].
My mom & my girlfriend just called me an asshole.
[Laughs] There has been so many highlights in your career, what would you say have been your greatest achievements to date?
Well the single greatest achievement is that twenty years later this guy named Cameron is calling me from Australia, that’s an achievement. It is things like that; the biggest achievement is that people are still interested. Personal things like playing Madison Square Gardens, playing the forum in L.A. & selling out big shows those are the highlights. Those are the really memorable events because they were goals you had & when you hit them you remember those in particular. There has been a lot of lows, I did a show with L.A. Guns five years ago where we were the opening band at an out door festival & we went on an hour before they let the crowd in. My roadie was in the audience [laughs]. So I have been to both sides of it, that’s for sure.
What is the strangest question a fan has ever asked you?
I don’t know. I don’t think I pay attention [laughs] I’m just kidding. You know I don’t have a good answer for you, I think I’m just used to them being strange, probably what’s my favorite colored birthday candle or something [laughs].
Has there ever been a question you have wanted to be asked but no-one has ever presented it to you?
I think so, I don’t know if I can pin point it accurately. Before a record comes out & I know I’m gonna be doin a lot of press, I’m laying in bed thinking to myself ‘well if they ask this then I can answer like that’ you go through this for about a month before press starts. Of course when I wake up the next day I forget all the questions & answers that were running through my head. But I think that the most important thing to me that gets overlooked that has always bothered me is that I don’t feel like people ask enough about the music that I create. I think that if I do a guitar related interview then that’s all it is, people will avoid the subject of the music. It’s strange.
[Laughs] yeah it really is, you would think that being a musician people would want to talk to you about music & not what computer games you like to play.
Yeah but that’s fine to, but it’s always celebrity hyped & that’s great because that’s what gets people excited. I agree with it but I wish that there was more of a balance. Some people that read it are actually interested in the music & they are curious about things. Luckily now with the internet it’s a lot easier to communicate with other musicians that are interested. I get a lot of questions not even about my music but music period. I think I have been able to fulfil it that way. I always think its weird when people don’t ask about how I recorded something or who the producer was I like answering those things.
What was the first guitar that you owned?
The first guitar that I owned that meant anything to me was a little black Les Paul that my mom got me from valley art guitars when I was eleven years old, that’s when I took my first couple of real guitar lessons and then again when I was sixteen or seventeen. I was at a friend’s house & there were ten of us sleeping in the bedroom & we were all jumping off the beds & somebody fell on it & broke the neck on it which is why I don’t have it anymore.
So I gather you always wanted to be a guitarist.
Oh yeah, I have a picture of me making the Johnny Rotten face when I was six years old with a guitar in my hand.
You never woke up one day & thought to yourself fuck this I am sick of playing guitar I might try my hand at singing or bashing on the drums?
No not at all. I started on piano when I was young but I was never interested in it, it seemed real mechanical to me when I was younger & there was something about a guitar that I could put it on & just make noise. That was what always interested me, all the different noises you could get out of an electric guitar. I’d listen to Pink Floyd or Jimi Hendrix and stuff like that when I was really young & it was soulful. It felt like people were whaling & screaming on a guitar & my mom was playing classical piano & rag time piano & you really have to practice to know how to play that kind of music. I saw her for years learning how to play the pedal steel & it looked like way to much work, so I learned all those styles on a regular six string guitar. I used to practice to my moms accompaniment lp’s which is a lot of major keys & that sort of thing, that’s where I got most of my country influence & my blues influence from her style of music that I use to deny liking when I was a kid. But that’s what I ultimately chose to do like in the Ballad of Jayne, it’s got that real country feel. I wish Johnny Cash would have done it on his album.
I only heard his version of Nine Inch Nails ‘Hurt’ a couple of months back, I couldn’t believe it.
Oh it’s amazing did you buy that record yet?
No a friend of mine actually sent me the file.
That’s not even the best thing on there. There’s some other stuff on there. That could be one of the most depressing albums I’ve ever heard, it’s like listening to ‘Long Long Time’ by Linda Ronstadt ten times over. Now when you listen to it he is dead & you really get attached to the lyrics & all the songs that they chose for that record. You’re listening to a dead man screaming from the grave. Rick Rubin really planned it out that way & it’s really creepy. I like it.
What advice would you give to up and coming rock & metal bands?
The truth is the more honest the band is with themselves the less bullshit hyping & latching on to other metal bands they’ll do. Loving what you do is ultimately going to get you to where you think you should be. The one thing that musicians do to much of which they shouldn’t is ‘lie to yourself musically’. You know when something’s good & as long as you can keep second guessing yourself & improving your music to what you know is great, you’re going to be successful because you’re going to feel successful. More than having bricks of cash is being satisfied knowing that you’re doing the best you can.
If you could put a band together consisting of musicians passed on and/or present who would they be & what would you call the band?
Let’s see Randy Rhoads on lead guitar, John Bonham on drums, Moby on keyboards, on bass it would have to be Nikki Sixx & John Paul Jones’ child and on lead vocals it would have to be Ian Gillan. They would be called ‘The Dry Fruits’ [laughs] it sounds good to me.
Any last words you want to share with our readers?
Obesity is a crime against humanity [laughs] it’s been great talking to ya Cameron, take it easy man.