Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tracii Guns

The League of Gentlemen

Meet LA Guns

Tracii Guns is a rock & roll survivor. He’s toured the world and left his name like a signature with Guns & Roses and LA Guns. He manned up, wished them well and never looked back.  Last year two versions of LA Guns were touring at the same time. Tracii did what he needed to do; walked away from the fray and fashioned a new vehicle for his creative juices to flow. The League of Gentlemen was born. Tracii is recognized as a virtuoso guitar player with a fine tuned craft and an astonishing eclecticism.

Tracii will be performing @ the Hamilton Street Pub on Saturday June 2nd. Tickets are $8 adv: $10 door. The Doors open @ 3pm. Special Musical Guests include Crash Dollz, Sizzlechop, Harlet, and Fearing gthe End. Advanced tickets are available @ the Hamilton Street Pub, The Vault and White’s Bar.

Tracii, you’ve had a great career most musicians only dream of. How have you been able to do it for so long and keep the dream alive?

Well, I think I might have a different perspective than a lot of other guys. You know I’ve been playing my whole life, and it’s kind of, you know, the puzzle that you just keep building. It’s not really, I don’t really have a destination or anything like that. It’s just you constantly create and be creative with other people and, you know, give people something new to listen to every now and then. That’s kind of the whole reason I did it in the first place and it’s the reason I still do it. You know, I don’t have, I’m not a real goal-oriented kind of musician.

I listened to your guitar work. I think you’re a great guitarist. You can do country, acoustic, and you can rock & roll and rip it up with equal facility - you can really hit the mark.

That’s the thing, you know, being my age I grew up mostly in the ‘70s, and those were most of my formative musical years so you know anything from like the ‘30s like straight through 1980, you know all that stuff goes into my playing, whether it’s country or mellow or the blues. I mean all these things you hear when you’re growing up, it just kind of gets inside your soul and you got to let them out. If you’re a musician, that’s kind of the way you filter through music. You know it’s hard to just listen to music when you’re a musician. You’re always like, “Oh, what’s that guy doing? How did he do that?” You know that’s kind of how my brain works.

I’ve heard that from other guitarists. It makes a whole lot of sense when you see how they do an inverted chord or like Keith Richards when he discovered an open tuning technique. He did this crazy 5 string open G stuff that started with Honky Tonk Woman and suddenly he had this great new sound.

Yes, like Satisfaction, you know, you kind of always take things for granted when you’re just listening to great songs, but that riff...ahh, ahh, ah ah ah. It’s incredible. I can only imagine what people in their 30s and 40s thought of that sound when it first came out. It was so rebellious. Now it’s nothing’, you know, but then, I mean probably you could only describe it as anarchistic.

Oh absolutely. I didn’t even know it was a guitar when I first heard it.

Yeah. You know, and that’s really what it’s all about. You kind of let these things flow through you and if you’re lucky, you might come up with some stuff that’s really different and people notice it and they love it and they pick up an instrument because you influenced them or, you know, inspired them somehow.

 You really get some incredible sounds from the guitar. I was thinking about the intro to Don’t Call Me Crazy and that beautiful acoustic piece in Ballad of Jayne and Little Soldier. You have so much with you, all that knowledge.

I think that’s the thing. When you talk about guys like Chuck Berry, then you talk about guys like Hendrix, and you talk about Jimmy Page and guys like that, you know they had a kind of smaller encyclopedia to draw from so they could get to the conclusion a lot quicker. Being 15 to 20 years younger than those guys I had a lot more music to pull from. I think it takes somebody that’s writing and creating and willing to keep on developing so that you keep drawing from this never-ending well of music and ideas and things like that. So I think it’s possible to have a longer influential career because you have so much more to offer. My favorite guitarists stopped just improvising on the blues and took it somewhere else. A guy like me has the benefit of all that heavy metal that goes along with the blues and obviously stuff like Pink Floyd. Man, there’s so much great stuff to draw from. I just keep making these musical puzzles and then play them in front of people.

Did you have a teacher or a mentor?

I had one guitar lesson when I was like 11, I think. This guy, I’ll never forget his name. He had a really weird name. His name was Gunnars Knubis.

That’s a weird name for sure

Yeah, he was from another planet I think…my mom was taking pedal steel lessons there. So she said, “Do you want lessons?” I said, “Not really, but I’ll try it.”  I was a real Page-head when I was 10, 11 years old. This guy didn’t want to have nothin’ to do with Jimmy Page. He just wanted to teach me all the Clapton stuff, and at that time the Clapton stuff just did not grab me. He wanted me to play like After Midnight and stuff like that. I wanted to know the solo Communication Breakdown and Good Times. I wanted all the mystery. I wanted to know where all these sounds came from. I loved Rush, too, and he’d never even really heard of Rush. So that was my one lesson. After that in junior high school the guitar ensemble all the way for three years. That was a real lesson, definitely, learning how to play with other people in a group. You know that was real beneficial. Then after Hollywood Vampires, our third record, I went to Valley College, the music program there, and brushed up on some theory and stuff like that. So you know I’m schooled to a point. Most of my rock and roll guitar playing is improvised from stuff I picked up off live records, like Frampton Comes Alive and Ted Nugent Double Live Gonzo, you know stuff like that in the mid-70s when I was really learning my stuff.

There was a lot of great stuff then too. You’re currently touring with a new band. I want to go into this new formation

It’s the League of Gentlemen and we do mostly brand-new material. We do seven of the L.A. Guns classics and then we do some materials from some of the other bands I’ve been in over the years. You know, so it’s a big. There’s some music, and you know, kind of like a big pimple in each city and then we get there and we pop the pimple and all the different stuff comes out.

Can you describe the creative, because I was listening to Hollywood Vampires and Cocked and Loaded and this great stuff. Can you describe what the creative process was to create such landmark albums?

I think it all starts, kind of in a way, either sitting on the couch watching TV with the guitar in your hand. Back then in particular we had these little tape recorders and stuff and we would play around with these little ideas that you have and then you build upon them and you take multiple ideas and you put them together and kind of string something that makes sense together. The way I’ve always done it is I try to create a real solid foundation of music so that if someone were only to hear the music, the music would appeal to them first and then I’d hand it to whoever is singing or writing lyrics and say, “Here’s a fine piece of music see what you can do with it.  I’ve never attempted to be any type of lyricist or poet. That’s really not my bag. I would record all my ideas on four track or just a regular tape recorder and I’d get into a rehearsal and teach the band everything and then the band would have their ideas, the singers would have their ideas, and ideas were flying around from everywhere. We just started jamming on the stuff especially rock and roll. You know you just start jamming on the stuff and if it feels good, then you know that you’re heading in a good direction.

I want to back up just a second. Who is in the band right now with you?

Right now I’ve got Doni Gray, he’s playing drums and he was in Izzy and the Ju Ju Hounds, and he was in a band called Burning Tree. That’s how I know him with Marc Ford who also happened to be with the Black Crowes later on. So he’s like a real soul, blues, Mitch Mitchell kind of guy. Then there’s a guy named Scott Foster Harris. He’s from Texas. We actually started working on this project about three years ago. He’s just a real kind of throw-back to the early ‘70s, kind of Robert Plant looking guy. Really into psychedelic music, really into the blues and country and stuff. We do the bulk of the writing with Doni. Then my friend, Craig, we call him Patches. He’s a bass player. He’s a teacher… of everything. Then we have an organ player, a guy named John Bird who has played with everybody out there. He’s actually a couple of months younger than me, so we have a wide range of ages.

I don’t want to bring up too much of the past that you may not want to talk about, but I was wondering if you feel like commenting on the early days of Guns N’ Roses, another band that uses your name.

 You know that was another great time and another great launching pad for everybody. Again that was a situation, a bunch of guys that were friends and we had amazing creative energy together, and we were young. When you’re that young, your ideas come fast and often and with a lot of ownership, you know. There’s a volatile situation once you really started going, with everybody growing in different directions obviously, and Axl now with a complete new line-up of guys. You know, it’s turned into his thing. Like I said, it would be scary for any of these guys to be in the same band for that long. The difference is with Guns N’ Roses, those cats, man, they’re leaving billions of dollars on the table for a 10-year period. I guess in the end money’s not that important. You can’t take it with you. Axl doesn’t have any kids, so he aint’ gonna leave it to anybody, so, you know, he can just do what he wants and let his creative juices flow. That was a great experience in the end. I’m very proud of all the ups and downs.

Do you still talk to some of the old mates from Guns N’ Roses?

Uh, not very often. I see Dobson and Slash. I saw Izzy for the first time in years a couple of years ago. It’s just like you saw each other yesterday. They say, “Man, what’s going on?” you know. They’re all good guys and everybody’s been through their thing and everybody’s human.  I haven’t talked to Axl since, shit like 1989, but I don’t think anybody has.

You’ve been in several bands. I was thinking about Contraband and Brides of Destruction, Poison. What was most satisfying for you in terms of creativity or even something more emotional like brotherhood and friendship? 

Well, I think there are a lot of different angles. Probably the greatest family I’ve been in is these guys I’m with now just because we’re all on the same musical level, you know, so this is a real highlight for me right now. I think as far as live performance, I think Brides of Destruction by far. It was the most focused metal-type band I’d ever been in, and a lot of that had to do with Nikki being very focused and keeping me from straying and going into blues and la-la land all the time. We were able to really put a very appealing metal show together. We looked great, the songs were great, we sounded great live, so that had certain highlights. I think the early, early Guns, you know, the first five years after our first record came out that whole experience was quite, quite a ride. That’s fine when I was 21, you know, I thought my career was over when I was 26, so that was 20 years ago. Then those five years were pretty amazing, you know, just the traveling the world for the first time, playing  and having millions of people love ya and know that it’s you and coming up to me, “Hey, I played guitar because of you” when I was 22, you know.

The LP Rips the Covers off, you did did all these covers. You’re so eclectic, AC/DC, Kevin Rudolf, Blue Oyster Cult, the Beach Boys. What prompted you to do that?

I think you don’t become the player you are without learning other people’s music, you know what I mean. I just think that over years you have ideas about how you want to do things, so for me personally I do cover stuff to see if I can recreate it and amplify on it and things like that.

What do you consider the highlight of your career?

That’s a good question. Well I think playing the Download Festival with Brides of Destruction in England in 2004. I mean that was incredible because…It wasn’t a huge crowd. It was like 15,000 or something. We were playing in one of the smaller tents. We weren’t on the main stage, but we were on the stage with Slayer and it was very cool. We did our whole Brides of Destruction set, did the L.A. Guns set. I mean that’s pretty satisfying. That’s the only band that I really feel I could do that with, even at this point, because it was so focused. The chemistry was so right. We played loud and heavy and fast, and that was the highlight for that kind of thing. I’m sure there are other things, but that gig always sticks out, that one particular one, especially that much later in my life.

Do you have any last thoughts or anything you want to say to be published to your fans?

I can’t wait to get back to the Hamilton Street Pub. It’s a great place to play and I met some cool people there like Chris Palmer…he’s a good guy and when you come into a League of Gentlemen show you’ve got to come in with an open mind. You’re not going to see L.A. Guns. You’re going to see our guys on stage really pouring their soul out on the stage. At times it’s a lot mellower than L.A. Guns but at other times it’s a lot more frantic. It’s a live band so you know people coming to the show shouldn’t have any preconceived idea of what they’re about to see because we mix it up. I guarantee you it’s a great band.

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