The Hair Nation Festival Interviews with Tracii Guns
The Hair Nation Festival will be taking place on September 17th at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre – and one of the highlights will surely be the reunion of Tracii Guns and Phil Lewis – the nucleus behind the almighty L.A. Guns – together for a very special performance.
In mid-August, there was a Battle For Hair Nation competition at the world famous Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip, and Tracii Guns would find himself being one of the judges on the panel. The top two bands would play on the stages at Hair Nation, opening the event. Just moments prior to the Battle, we caught up with Tracii at the Rainbow Bar and Grill, asking a few questions about judging bands, working with Phil Lewis again, his Devil City Angels project, and more…
What are you looking forward to the most about Hair Nation?
Well, it’s an opportunity for particularly this one – a lot of the LA guys to play at the same venue. Irvine Meadows Amphitheater. That’s how we know that venue. We all played there in the late 80s / early 90s and they’re closing after this, basically. It’s a good thing, especially with Lita Ford. Doing it there, getting that last one done there. That’s what I’m looking forward to, doing it with Phil LA Guns style. It’s gonna be kick ass.
How did that come about, you and Phil getting back together to do this special show?
It’s the right thing to do, you know? And every now and then musicians will do the right thing. And as we get older, it’s more important to do more of the right things and stop experimenting. Really looking forward to all of that going into one occasion and then turning it into more later.
You’re about to be a celebrity judge. What are you looking forward to the most and what are you looking for in the bands tonight?
Any time you’re judging art, which is something you’re not supposed to do. You’re supposed to interpret art, right? But in this situation, we have to pick a winner, which is always not cool. But, we’re looking for something unexpected. That’s always the key, to be surprised by musicians and their chemistry and their take on what they’re doing and originality. When I say originality, what are they taking from their influences? What have they taken from them and what have they turned it into that I can relate to? Most people have influences and they wear them on their sleeves. Other people have influences and they turn that into something new. That’s what I look for, so hopefully they’ll be some bands down there – hopefully every one of them is mind blowing. But I doubt it.
Let’s talk about your latest project Devil City Angels – how did that project come about and how does it compare to your past material?
Well, I was in Poison for a minute. I can’t remember when, maybe 1999, I think. Just for like a month. Rikki (Rockett) and I got along real well. Bobby (Dall) and I did too, but Bobby didn’t call me to start a new band. Rikki and I played together at the House of Blues down here for a Keith Moon / John Entwistle tribute show and our bass player was Sean McNabb at that show and he said, hey man you guys should start a band called Guns and Rockets. Initially we thought, that’s not the worst idea. So anyway, we turned that idea into creating a new band and doing Devil City Angels. It’s a great experience and Rikki got cancer and he’s been dealing with it for, God it’s been over a year now and he beat it. He won. So there’s talk of us doing some shows. So maybe Devil City Angels still has some life to it.
How does Devil City Angels compare to your your other bands?
It’s different in a way that we went into, or for me anyways, I had to go into that record writing songs that weren’t self-indulgent. Meaning, musically progressive and more tuned to the song as opposed to just the music and then putting words over the music. Which, at the end, the band was very pleased with the way that we wrote the record and how it came out. It still has a serious edge to it. They could have been Cheap Trick songs, they could have been Queen songs, they’re from that era. That was the goal, to recreate something that Rikki and I and Eric Brittingham, who is the bass player that recorded on that. Music that we grew up listening to and loving that wasn’t metal. I think we achieved it, I think we did exactly what we needed to do and I would look forward to playing those songs live if that opportunity happens.
At this point, we needed to send Tracii down the street to the Whisky to judge the Battle For Hair Nation as the show was about to commence. Incidentally, the first band who played was Electric Hound, who won 2nd place and will be playing the Festival Stage at Hair Nation!
(Interview and Photo by Ken Morton)