Interview: Steve Reilly of L.A. Guns

By Matt Maric

Whilst there have been a few bands that have recently celebrated their 40th anniversary, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other well deserving bands fast approaching that milestone! Forming all the way back in 1983, L.A. Guns have quite a history; the most memorable being the fact that members of the original lineup and Hollywood Rose briefly combined to create the original Guns n Roses!

Fast forward to 2020 and whilst there have been legal battles over the name (resulting in two versions of the band existing), the version consisting of original recording members Steve Riley (drums/backing vocals) and Kelly Nichels (bass/backing vocals) are releasing their ‘debut’ album Renegades on November 13th via Golden Robot Records!

Getting to speak with Riley about the upcoming record (his first under the L.A. Gunss name since 2012’s Hollywood Forever), the first topic of conversation was about their anticipation over the fast approaching release date. Riley delivered a quick enthusiastic “we’re really excited!” before explaining, “not only were we very lucky to finish it at the end of 2019, we were originally going to release it in March alongside tour dates to support it but obviously the pandemic set in! So we went into a different mode with Golden Robot Records and decided to release a new single every two or two and a half months so the fans had something fresh to listen to. We can’t wait for November 13th as the whole album comes out, and for everyone to hear it!”

Riley then indulged a little more information about the logistical changes Covid required bands to make, adding, “we realised nobody was going to do any live shows this year, so we went ahead with releasing three different singles, two months apart. They’ve gone over so well and have been streamed on Spotify over half a million times, so the response has been really good. When you do a new album nowadays, you obviously don’t have a lot of outlets and ways to feel it out from the fans. But with Spotify streaming it that much, it was just so exciting as we felt we really did something special. We felt good about the record anyway, but just getting that many streams on Spotify alone, not to also mention iTunes and all of that, we just feel really good about it. The album has so many good cuts on it and we’re so excited for fans to hear how deep it is.”​

Returning to Riley’s earlier comment regarding the album’s originally planned March release, it was time to test Riley’s memory and see if he could remember how long the writing and recording process took. Riley was most definitely up to the task as he vividly recalled that “first thing we did was pre-production over the summer of 2019. Then we actually did it over the internet, as we live all across the USA and it was a very tight budget, preventing us going old school and sitting/writing in a studio for a couple of months. So we exchanged ideas over the 2019 summer and I flew the guys out to LA for a marathon two day pre-production in November, then we spent a week recording it before I flew the guys home. Later in November I spent about a week mixing/mastering it with the engineer and the whole product was finished leading into Christmas time. So overall, we only planned to sit on it for a couple of months before the March headline tour.”

Taking time to further pick Riley’s brain about album creation, conversation veered towards the final number of tracks on the album. When asked whether ten was the original planned number or if tracks got cut along the way, Riley cheerfully explains, “when we started the pre-production all four of us were songwriters, so we were all sitting on some material we had written. This meant we exchanged about 40 different ideas during that pre-production, before whittling it down to that ten songs. We thought ten was a good number and it wasn’t any planned number; we had so much more material to record. But ten songs was a good number to go after because with the previously mentioned tight budget, ten was a number we were able to do within that budget. But having said that, we’ve got a wealth of material! So when we do another album or two with Goldfen Robot Records, we’re all set as we’ve got the material written. These were just ten songs we thought worked really well together, and would flow together within the album.”

Delving deeper into the excess material the band is sitting on, Riley happily points out ”it’s such a good feeling to have that excess material up our sleeve, as a lot of bands really struggle with songwriting. Whilst they may end up with really good material, it’s sometimes a struggle as you don’t have enough material. It was just the opposite for us. We had so much material, we had to really concentrate when thinking about what songs would work together. Then we concluded that ten songs would be a really good number that wouldn’t result in overloading it with material. We don’t have any issue writing material, especially when everybody writes; having four writers who can not only write easily, but easily write together is a great thing for a band.”

Taking time to speak to Riley on a more personal level, the topic of his favourite song from the album came up. Riley originally couldn’t pick, stating, “you know what; I love so many tracks from that album and I’m so happy with all of them, that I don’t think there’s a throwaway track on the album!” However upon taking a little more time to think, “I really really like ‘Well Oiled Machine’, there’s something about that song. Not only is it a great pusher that chugs along, I like what we did with it and I feel like it has the L.A. Guns feel to it! I also love ‘Renegades’ which alongside ‘Well Oiled Machine’, is actually a song that Kelly bought in. Those are a couple of tracks I’m really digging, I’m glad they’ve been released as singles and it looks like fans are loving them too! It’s so exciting to do something new nowadays, especially when we have such a great catalogue of songs that we play all the time live (and we have to, because fans want to hear them); songs like ‘Never Enough’, Ballad of ‘Jayne’ and ‘Rip and Tear’. Whilst we’re proud of them, it’s great for the band’s inner soul to be writing new material and creating something fresh and exciting. Even if you know the sales aren’t like they’re going to be, I think it’s always good for a band to keep fresh and keep writing! It’s so mentally refreshing to be able to create new material after being together and playing for this long. Whilst you might not get the exposure or the sales as you used to, I think more bands should just get in there to write and record for their own creative fluidness.”

That last statement resulted in conversation taking a turn towards the huge amount of music that (hopefully) will come out next year, once bands are able to either get together and write, or get together and record. Riley threw in his two cents on the subject, adding “we were very fortunate to have finished this at the end 2019, as it would have been VERY difficult to do it this year. With everybody’s dates going down, I don’t think everyone was as fortunate as we were, having a product already done. That meant we had something to do this year, even though there were no live shows; we had the album to work on and were able to get through this hell of a year that includes no touring whatsoever! I know a lot of bands wished they had an album to work on, I also know a lot of bands here in LA that went into the studio this year. That means there should be a lot of great music coming out in 2021. Plus if everything goes well and all these albums are released, it should be one hell of a party!”

Drawing the interview to a close, the final topic of conversation was about what the band had in store for the rest of 2020 and the start of 2021. At first, Riley was quick to point out, “obviously the rest of this year holds no shows because of the situation.” Thankfully, he delivered good news as he followed up with, “everything we had planned from March 2020 has been postponed (not cancelled); we moved our entire schedule into 2021. With the album releasing shortly, it’s a nice piece to have out for December, then we’ll release another single in January and then hopefully head out on tour, kicking off in Las Vegas in March. We also had a Zoom meeting with the Golden Robot people in Australia and the band here, so make sure to keep your eyes out for some possible news regarding a tour at some stage!”