It’s been 15 years since one of hard rock’s most talented duos, frontman Phil Lewis and guitarist Tracii Guns, have released new music together. The pair, the two core members of 80s metal veterans L.A. Guns, last collaborated on 2002’s Waking The Dead, the initial comeback disc in the band’s history. Its lukewarm response, however, ultimately led to another split between the warring bandmates. The years since haven’t been particularly positive for the band as they had the dubious distinction of splitting into two separate versions–one headed by Lewis and the other, by Guns.
Fortunately, the situation is much brighter these days. The Missing Peace, out October 13 through Frontiers Music, is a tight, blistering collection of classic-sounding L.A. Guns tunes that rivals even their most fondly-remembered material from their 1988 self-titled debut effort.
The reunion wasn’t one that either artist actively pursued, but according to Lewis, it couldn’t have gone smoother. Guns was already booked to play at a Toys For Tots charity event in 2014 when the event’s organizer contacted Lewis to gauge his interest in performing with his former partner. He immediately agreed.
“I showed up about an hour before we were supposed to play and Tracii was sitting in the corner of the dressing room, drinking a glass of milk,” Lewis told Royal Flush. “This is my nemesis? This is the guy I’ve been at war with for 15 years? I sat down, we spoke, we talked about the event, what songs we were going to play—and what he was drinking, which turned out to be a White Russian,” laughed Lewis. “We kept it light. And it felt really good.”
When the dust settled on the performance that followed, there was no question that the original chemistry that the two shared years earlier was still as powerful as ever. “We did our four songs and people were just blown away. Tracii brings out something in me and he makes me work a lot harder than anyone I’ve ever played with,” said Lewis.
Completing the new lineup are drummer Shane Fitzgibbon and bassist Johnny Martin, both retained from Guns’ previous version of the band, and guitarist Michael Grant, who Lewis brought into the fold. Each member played a part in the creative process in the making of The Missing Peace. The collaborative effort resulted in the finished product being particularly potent. “It’s a full band album, it’s not just me and Tracii, and I think that made for a better record,” said Lewis.
The group participation is just one of the reasons why Lewis doesn’t see a full reunion of the ‘classic’ L.A. Guns outfit occurring anytime soon. His partnership with Steve Riley ended when Riley, acting as both drummer and band manager, frowned upon recording a follow-up to their 2012 effort, Hollywood Forever. Rhythm guitarist Mick Cripps has moved on from his days as a full-time musician, preferring instead to jam with his own band, mostly on weekends. And bassist Kelly Nickels simply passed, feeling uninspired by early samples of the recordings.
Perhaps what’s most glaring about the new disc is its heavily diverse quality. Songs like “Speed,” “Sticky Fingers,” and “It’s All The Same To Me” stand out as typical rockers that fans would expect from the band, while “The Flood’s The Fault Of The Rain,” “Gave It All Away,” and the title track tend to dazzle the listener with more intricate arrangements. “It was interesting for us as musicians,” said Lewis. “I think people are going to like certain songs right off the cuff and others are going to grow on them over time, just like in the old days when you bought an LP and you’d listen to it a few times before you ‘got it.’ That’s what we’re going for.”
Expect to hear two or three of the new tunes sprinkled in the band’s set on their current tour, along with obvious favorites like “Never Enough,” “Sex Action,” “One More Reason,” and the song that put them on the map, “The Ballad of Jayne.” While the ballad isn’t exactly indicative of the rest of their catalogue, it was the number that catapulted the group into the mainstream. “It opened doors for us. It’s strange because it’s virtually a country song. We always wanted to be a cross between Deep Purple and The Ramones and us playing a song like that in our set goes against everything we stood for when we wrote it. But it won us over and made us a lot of money, so we can’t complain about that,” joked Lewis.
“Everything’s going really well right now,” continued Lewis. “Advance orders for the album are great, the reaction to the tour has been amazing. Things are much better now.”
The Missing Peace track listing:
It’s All The Same To Me
A Drop Of Bleach
Baby Gotta Fever
Kill It Or Die
Don’t Bring A Knife To A Gunfight
The Flood’s The Fault Of The Rain
The Devil Made Me Do It
The Missing Peace
Gave It All Away
Click here for L.A. Guns’ tour dates.