Steve Riley has revealed more details about the version of L.A. GUNS that will perform at next year's M3 Rock Festival, set to take place May 3-5, 2019 at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. Joining the drummer will be returning members Kelly Nickels (bass) and Scott Griffin (now on guitar after switching from bass), along with vocalist Jacob Bunton, who has previously played with ADLER and LYNAM.
During an appearance on SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation" on Monday (December 17), Riley said: "We're gonna do some L.A. GUNS material and some covers and have some fun and just try to have fun with the crowd. Kelly hasn't been up for a long time; he's really itching to do it… The band's gonna sound great. We're not gonna put an inferior product out. We're gonna sound really, really good."
Riley also talked about the reasons he is not involved with the other version of L.A. GUNS, which features classic-lineup members Tracii Guns (guitar) and Phil Lewis (vocals). He said: "I was the one constant through the entire thing — I was the one guy that was with both bands all the way through, with both of them, and then just alone with Tracii for years and doing many albums, and then Phil came back and Tracii left, and I was with Phil for 13-14 years and we did a bunch of albums too. So I was the one constant in the band. But it was a constant battle."
He continued: "If you don't realize where you're at in rock right now, as far as where you're gonna end up on a bill, if you're lucky enough to get on a bill… I fought a battle with both Tracii alone, Phil alone and with both of them together — they didn't wanna realize where the band was and where we ended up on a bill and why we ended up on a bill like that. We sold less records than some of our people that we're still friends with. And you can just use WARRANT as an example. Whether you like WARRANT or not, they're all friends of ours and they came up with us. They're gonna end up on top of a bill if we're on a bill with them, because they sold more records.
"I fought this battle for years about trying to explain to these guys we should be happy to be on this bill. Hundreds of bands wanna get on it. Don't take anything personal, if we're opening or if we're going on before another band. Let's just go out there and kick ass and dare people to follow us. That was my whole motto all the time — let's dare people to follow us, because we're gonna go on and kick ass. So I fought that battle, and it was pretty much ultimately why Tracii left. He left to do the thing with Nikki [Sixx]," referring to BRIDES OF DESTRUCTION. "But he was so mad about getting on bills and doing stuff like that, and I was trying to explain to him for years why we had to do it. We were making a little bit more money each time we did it, so [we were] climbing the ladder and doing good. But then I started facing it off with Phil too; he didn't wanna do those type of bills.
"Right now, we only have really one really good form of income, and that's if you're playing live," the drummer added. "We're seeing royalties off our albums and publishing, but the real one constant is [playing] live. If you're fortunate enough to end up being able to play live and make a living. I always said that in interviews — I felt fortunate enough that I was a working drummer. So our one big income is live. So you can't screw around with that and you can't get a too big of a head thinking that you should be going on after another band. These promoters and these festival organizers, they go by numbers — they go by who had double-platinum albums, who had triple-platinum albums and who had regular single-platinum albums. They check everything out before they put that bill together and they wanna make sure they put the band that has sold the most albums in that era on later in the evening. So it was a constant battle."
According to Riley, he and Guns own the L.A. GUNS name as a "50/50" split and Lewis does not have any part of it. "Those two guys quit the band numerous times — they quit L.A. GUNS," Steve said. "I never quit the band. I was totally invested in this band, in keeping it together. And if it was up to me, the five original guys would still be together and we would be making a lot more than we are today. Because we see other bands that were neck-and-neck with us in the '80s, they stayed together and they prospered together. They made it through it and they didn't break up and they didn't keep quitting. These guys kept quitting. These guys made terrible decisions with this band."
Although the M3 Rock Festival is the only currently scheduled live appearance by Riley's version of L.A. GUNS, the drummer doesn't rule out more concerts by the group in the months to follow.
"We're not sitting around planning an L.A. GUNS tour," he said. "We're doing a bunch of stuff outside of even thinking about L.A. GUNS shows. We're gonna start with the M3 show, see how it goes. If other festivals want us to come and we get good reviews and people like the way it sounds, we'll do other shows. We'll definitely be open to look at them and see. But to actively try to go out and do what we used to do, playing all kinds of small clubs all over the country, we're not gonna do anything like that."
Earlier in the month, Tracii slammed M3's decision to book Riley, writing on Twitter: "It's what happens when people dupe the public for financial gain and can't rely on their own merits. God bless them and may whoever is in that band enjoy playing my music."
The Guns-Lewis version of L.A. GUNS was originally scheduled to play at this year's edition of M3, but dropped out about a month before the event. The group stated at the time: "We regret to inform you that L.A. GUNS will not be able to perform at the M3 Rock Festival this year. There have been rumors swirling, and they are simply not true. We love M3 and have performed 7 of the past 10 years. We would love to come back next year and perform at the M3 Rock Festival 2019."
A couple of years ago, Guns and Lewis began working on new music together again after playing periodic dates together — billed as "L.A. GUNS' Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns" — around the tour schedule of the other long-running incarnation of L.A. GUNS, which also featured Lewis and Riley. In December 2016, Lewis left the Riley version of L.A. GUNS and joined forces with Guns in a new version of the band, which issued a studio album, "The Missing Peace", last year.
After leaving W.A.S.P. in 1987, Riley joined L.A. GUNS and played on the band's most commercially successful albums. However, he and Guns have a fractured relationship, which came to a head in 2002 when Tracii left L.A. GUNS to focus on BRIDES OF DESTRUCTION.
Photo credit: Cole Riley