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 recent interview with the “Aftershocks” podcast if he is concerned, from a business point of view, about there being two separate versions of L.A. GUNS, Riley said (see video below): “I’m somewhat concerned, because the classic lineup is the one that’s best known, and the classic lineup is the one that was on the albums that sold the most and we had the hits from those albums.
“I think if I was by myself, I’d be more concerned. Having Kelly with me, I’m not really that concerned.
“The thing is there are really so many bands that weren’t able to stay together, and they split up or they got new lead singers — whether it’s SKID ROW, whether it’s QUEENSRŸCHE, GREAT WHITE; there’s a lot of bands that had to move on.
“If we weren’t songwriters on those original albums, I might have been a little bit more concerned that I’m just going out as the drummer who played on those albums, or Kelly is the bass player who played on those albums. Now, we co-wrote all those songs — every one of them. And so that gives you a little bit more strength knowing that.
“The way the history of the band will go down, it’ll [be] known as the classic five — with Mick [Cripps, guitar], Kelly, Steve, Phil and Tracii. The things that go on after that, we’ve gotta just not worry about it and let the fans let us know if they like it or not.”
Riley‘s version of L.A. GUNS made its live debut in May 2019 at the M3 Rock Festival, a performance Steve described to “Aftershocks” as “a very big balancing point. How were we gonna go over at M3? How were we gonna sound at M3 doing the older material?” he said. “And I just think that we pulled it off really good. The fan reaction and the reviews that we got on it was so positive.
“I’m always the guy that I stayed with the band through the entire thing and tried to talk classic members out of not leaving, and it’s just not successful all the time,” he explained. “People wanna do other things.
“Right now, Kelly and I, we feel very, very secure knowing we are L.A. GUNS, because we are classic members, we are co-writers on everything. If that wasn’t the case, I think I would feel a little bit different. But I don’t. That’s where my confedence comes from.”
Riley also dismissed any suggestion that he is partly responsible for the bickering that has been leveled at him on social media primarily by Guns, who has previously referred to the drummer in an interview as “a piece of shit.”
“I don’t think that you’ve seen anything coming from me and Kelly,” Steve said. “We’re not going down that road. He has gone down that road. From what I see, from the fan reaction, they don’t like it. It looks bad, and it looks bad on him. He started that a long time ago. He started it when Phil and I continued the band on, and him and Phil had a big beef going for years — they did not like each other at all. Actually, they really never liked each other. But the fact is when worked through it in the original band, we worked through that and we made it through that. But when Phil and I continued on, that’s when Tracii actually started with stuff on the Internet. Now he’s kind of taking it to another level. And even Phil has jumped in on it too.
“Kelly and I made a decision we were never gonna down that road,” he continued. “We were not gonna get on the Iternet and start mudslinging. We respect those guys. We did a lot of stuff with those guys, and we’ve done a lot of stuff that was successful — tours, recording and videos. And to mudsling or to say anything bad about anybody that used to play with me, it’s just not in me, bro.
“I wish they wouldn’t do it, but there’s nothing that we can do to stop it. But like I said, from the fan reaction, from them writing stuff on the Internet bad about Kelly, bad about me, it just doesn’t look good; it doesn’t go over well. We know that. So I’ll tell you, we’re never going down that road. We just won’t go there.
“It looks bad,” he repated. “It looks horrible from both sides. I just wish he wouldn’t go down that road. But what are you gonna do?”
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.”