In 2015 Phillip Lewis reunited with his longtime partner in crime, Tracii Guns. Since that time, L.A. Guns has been running on all cylinders. The reunited force released the album The Missing Peace in 2017 and showed the world that L.A. Guns was back. The studio record was followed up with the live offering, Made in Milan in 2018. To show that there is no stop to the L.A. Guns machine, the band has just released a new record called The Devil You Know. I was drawn to L.A. Guns back in the day because they were a little dirtier and raw than other bands of that time. This new record is no exception. The songs are loud and full of piss and fury. There is only one requirement when it comes to listening to this record…PLAY IT LOUD!!! There have been some great releases lately from band’s that we love here in The Music Room, but The Devil You Know is one of the best. I had the honor of speaking to the band’s lead vocalist, Phillip Lewis about the band’s new record as well as the blazing trail that they have been on since reuniting. Check out our conversation and then buy a copy of The Devil You Know for yourself!
The Music Room: Hey Phil! I know you have had a day full of interviews, so I really appreciate you taking time out to talk with me.
Phil Lewis: I’m very happy to talk to you. I appreciate your support
TMR: I just listened to the new record, The Devil You Know and it’s an amazing record. It’s a great hard rock, balls to the wall album. I’m curious that in the short time you guys have been back together, did you anticipate putting out…I mean two studio albums and a live record all within a year and a half, was that the plan the whole time or just the momentum of how things have been going?
PL: It wasn’t the plan, to be honest. The momentum built. Tracii (Guns) is a writing machine. He’s always working on songs. I think we were all really inspired by how well “The Missing Peace” record was received. It inspired us to want to do it all again. They are quite different records. “The Missing Peace” is lush with strings on it. It’s all kinds of gorgeous musical rabbit holes that it goes down. The Devil is much more straight forward with a punkier…way more punk attitude then the former release. But its definitely the same band. And it is a band. It’s not just Tracii and me. Shane (Fitzgibbon) and Johnny (Martin) played a huge part in the writing and the production of both of these records.
TMR: I can definitely hear Johnny in this new one. He’s got a major influence.
PL: Ohhh yeah…Johnny’s great man. He’s my favorite.
TMR: I know Ace (Von Johnson) is with you guys now, but did Tracii handle all of the guitars on the recording of the record?
PL: Yeah. I think Tracii is such a seasoned player. He’s been playing for so long. I think he would much rather…since he wrote it, he would rather play it. It would be a different story…Ace wasn’t in the band when we were writing it. Maybe if he had been and brought some stuff in it would have been different.
TMR: I can’t wait to hear these songs live. I know Ace is the right guy because he has the kind of playing too.
PL: He’s the perfect guy. I always wanted Ace. When we first did the reunion Tracii asked who should we get? Unfortunately he was tied up. He was contractually obligated to do other stuff and he’s an honorable man. He’s a man of integrity and he did what he had to do. We waited and it worked out great.
TMR: Awesome! I am curious if you have a favorite track off of the new record. I know “Don’t Need to Win” is probably the one that really got be going the most. Do you have a favorite track on here or is it too soon?
PL: It’s interesting because a lot of people are saying “Rage.” You’re the first person who has said that song. It’s a great song. Umm…my favorite songs is “Rage” I would say at the moment. It changes. I think that “Rage” is really the one that is the most appropriate for the record. It’s the most definitive for me on the record.
TMR: The way the album opens up…
TMR: Those songs. The build is just one punch after another
PL: Yeah. It’s a freight train.
TMR: That’s a great way to put it. Obviously, you guys have a lot of material that people expect and want to hear. But at the same time you are creating this new body of work.
PL: I know. It’s a huge dilemma. It’s really really difficult. The perfect solution for us is two nights at the same venue. The first night we’ll do classic and the second night we’ll do newer material. We’re just not cut out to do these packages, you know? We can’t do anything with a 45 minute set. We’re not trying to distance ourselves from the genre. We’re proud of our roots, heritage, and where we come from, but we don’t want to rely on music that was written last century either. There’s a little bit of resentment from our peers because we have really separated ourselves from the pack. But we’re not in this business to be popular. We write music. We record music and we play it live. We don’t really care about what other bands are doing. We have our own way of doing it. We know we’re not going to sell millions of records or play Madison Square Garden. We don’t give a f**k. That was never why we did it in the first place. Some people do. For me, I’d much rather be credited for a great sounding song or record than for all of the tv exposure in the world honestly.
TMR: I think that has always been the cool thing about L.A. Guns. You had your Poison’s and Bon Jovi’s, but Guns were a little dirtier, a little…
PL: You know, I’m glad you said that and not me, I would get crucified if I said something like that. But yeah, you’re right.
TMR: This record holds true to that. You guys are playing live here in Cincinnati on April 5th, and I am really looking forward to hearing some of these songs live.
PL: Where are we playing?
TMR: It’s called Riverfront Live. It used to be called Annie’s back in the day.
PL: Oh, I remember Annie’s. yeah, okay. Cool.
TMR: And I think it’s just you guys, so hopefully you will the time to play these new tunes.
PL: That’s just the thing , we will. We’ll probably play 2 hours if they let us. That’s what we like to do.
TMR: We talked about all of the stuff that people expect to hear. But you guys do have a great back catalog. Is there a deep cut that you would love to dust off a little bit a bring back out?
PL: When we agreed to do the reunion I was pretty instant that we put “Don’t Look at Me That Way” back into the set. I would love to do…off that same album, Waking The Dead there’s a song called “The Ballad.” Not “The Ballad of Jayne,” but “The Ballad.” It’s a beautiful arrangement. A gorgeous song. I would love to do that. People are always asking for “Crystal Eyes” and we do that. We don’t do the whole thing. It goes on a bit. We do a little medley before we play Jayne, which we have to play of course. So we play like half of “Crystal Eyes” and slip into Jayne to keep things interesting for us. Yeah, that’s about it. Those two have been great fun to dig out.
TMR: In these past three years you guys have done so much. Has there been a highlight for you? Some time that you just said this is really cool and I’m so glad we’re back doing this?
PL: Yeah, the first gig we did. Honestly. Everything fell into place at that first gig. This reunion…I was done with the other lineup. I had given my notice to Steve (Riley.) I didn’t want to be on the hair metal circuit anymore. I wanted to record. I wanted to record something new and original and outstanding . I just wasn’t getting any positive feedback and I had to leave. I gave my notice in 2015 and said I’d be leaving new years 2016. The reunion came after that. It was a very very favorable coincidence. Honestly, I thought I was going to get my acoustic guitar like Mike Tramp and go out and play “Crystal Eyes” (laughs.) It turned out I had a lot more exciting adventure ahead of me than that. Tracii did that to me twice now. He did it to me in 1987 and he did it to me again. I wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be having this conversation…we’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve had rivalry, and that’s not a bad thing. I think he’s awesome right now. He’s a good guy. He’s a great dad. He’s a very focused, hardworking musician. And he behaves himself. He’s the real deal. He’s a much better person…we both are a lot better people than before this estrangement.
TMR: Would you say that for you to Tracii, and from him to you that you are “The Devil You Know?”
PL: Yeah. All of these titles, “The Missing Peace,” yeah, it’s all about us. Totally “The Devil You Know.”
TMR: I know for me as a fan first and foremost it is so cool to not only seeing you guys back, but to making a relevant record. Because some of the new stuff people are putting out…I’ll be honest, it’s disappointing. You listen to it once and then you put it away. But this record here, it’s got some balls to it. So I just want to say congratulations to you and the band.
PL: Thank you. We worked hard on it and we know that monetarily it’s not going to change our lives at all because nobody buys music anymore. But that’s not the point. We would be doing it anyway whether we released it or not. We have this great outlet. I mean, where are you calling me from again?
TMR: Cincinnati, OH.
PL: That’s great. The power of music and communicating. Already, it’s got that far and I’m real happy about that.
TMR: To hear you say that is really cool to me. So many people are saying that rock is dead and there’s no reason to make new music because we’re not going to make any money off of it.
PL: No, no, no. That’s got nothing to do with it. It’s not dead to me. So I don’ really give a f**k what Gene Simmons says. I couldn’t care less.
TMR: Obviously, and when people hear this record they are going to know it. It’s not dead at all.
PL: And if Gene Simmons could come up with a record as good as this, he wouldn’t say it’s dead either.
TMR: Right on, cheers!