Steve Riley's version of L.A. GUNS recently released its first album, also titled "Renegades", via Golden Robot Records. Riley's version of L.A. GUNS is not to be confused with the band led by guitarist Tracii Guns and vocalist Phil Lewis, which issued two well-received albums, "The Missing Peace" and "The Devil You Know", plus the live release "Made In Milan", under the L.A. GUNS name over the last three years.
Riley is joined in his version of the group by Orlando, Florida-based guitarist/vocalist Kurt Frohlich, bassist Kelly Nickels (a member of L.A. GUNS' "classic" incarnation) and guitarist Scott Griffin (who played bass for the band from 2007 until 2009, and then again from 2011 to 2014).
Asked in a new interview with the Scars And Guitars" podcast if he has a strategy, from a business point of view, for differentiating between the two separate versions of L.A. GUNS, Riley said (hear audio below): "I think that we definitely sound different, even though we're going to play some of the older material that me and Kelly co-wrote. Obviously, everybody knows Kelly wrote 'The Ballad Of Jayne', our biggest hit. But we're going to, obviously, do the older material, 'cause the fans wanna hear it. But the difference is, in this new record, we don't sound like the other guys do — we definitely have a different style of writing. And it still stays true to L.A. GUNS.
"We're also gonna do a different approach to our live shows," he continued. "For the last 25 years, I've been doing two to two hundred and fifty club shows, and I don't wanna do that anymore. It's a grueling, grueling experience. You go on at 12:30 at night, and you're driving four hundred miles to each club show, and it's just a really, really hard deal. What we're gonna do — with me and Kelly — we're going to do maybe, like, between 25 to 40 shows a year, and they're all gonna be festivals, casinos and maybe fairs, and maybe a couple of satellite club shows. But the other guys are going to continue on doing those two hundred to two hundred and fifty club shows and not do as many festivals. So there is gonna be a different approach to how each band goes out live. We're not gonna do that big club tour everywhere. If we come over to Australia or New Zealand or Japan or Europe and there's clubs to do, that's fine, but in the States, we're gonna definitely stick to festivals, fairs [and] casinos. They're real comfortable shows to do, the festivals."
This past January, Riley was sued by Guns and Lewis in California District Court. Joining Riley as defendants in the case are the three musicians who perform in his recently launched rival version of L.A. GUNS; that group's manager, booking agent and merchandiser; and Golden Robot Records.
The complaint, which requests a trial by jury, alleges that Riley's version of L.A. GUNS (referred to in the case docket as "the infringing L.A. GUNS") is creating "unfair competition" through its unauthorized usage of the L.A. GUNS trademark. In addition, Guns and Lewis are seeking relief from and/or against false advertising, breach of contract and unauthorized usage of their likenesses.
At its core, Guns and Lewis's complaint calls into question Riley's claim of partial ownership of the L.A. GUNS name and logo and alleges that his usage of both has been unauthorized. In addition, Guns and Lewis claim — as Guns has done publicly in the past — that Riley has embezzled much of the group's publishing proceeds over the past two decades.
Despite leaving the band soon after the release of 2002's "Waking The Dead" to focus on BRIDES OF DESTRUCTION (his short-lived supergroup with MÖTLEY CRÜE bassist Nikki Sixx), Guns "is the owner of common law trademark righs" for the L.A. GUNS name and logo, the complaint claims. It notes that Guns founded the band in 1983, four years before Riley joined, and that Riley did not perform on the group's 1984 debut EP and contributed to just a single track on their 1987 self-titled full-length debut.
According to the complaint, Guns "has been injured by Defendants' unfair competition," while he and Lewis have "suffered harm including damages and and irreparable injury to their goodwill." It also claims that Riley's L.A. GUNS was formed "with the intent of tricking and confusing consumers into believing that the infringing L.A. GUNS band is the original [Tracii] Guns version" of the group.
In addition to actual and punitive damages, Guns and Lewis are seeking a "permanent injunction" that restrains all of the named defendants from using the L.A. GUNS name, logo and likeness, as well as "a declaration that Guns is the sole owner of the common law trademark rights" for the L.A. GUNS moniker "and any related design marks."