Steve Riley's version of L.A. GUNS has released its debut single, "Crawl". The track is taken from the band's debut album, "Renegades", which will arrive later in the year via Golden Robot Records.
This version of L.A. GUNS made its live debut last May at the M3 Rock Festival. The drummer is joined in 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).
In a recent interview with Talking Metal, Nickels stated about "Crawl": "It's a cool tune, man… It was done pretty quickly but really methodically, and I feel like it has a really good energy about it. So that's what I'm digging."
Regarding how the rest of "Renegades" sounds, Kelly said: "It's definitely upbeat. There are two slow songs on it, and the rest are pretty much all rockers. So that's one thing we wanted to make sure that we did was rock. It rocks from the beginning, and it just keeps rocking… I feel like it's the old energy but with a fresh coat of paint on it."
This past January, Riley was sued by L.A. GUNS guitarist Tracii Guns and vocalist Phil 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.
Asked by Talking Metal if there is anything legally stopping Riley from using the L.A. GUNS name for his new band, Nickels said: "They're trying, but there's nothing. 'Cause there's nothing that we can do to stop them, so there's nothing they can do to stop us.
"Steve legally owns half the name," he continued. "It was Phil and Steve [who were there at the end of the previous version of L.A. GUNS], and Tracii was out. It was L.A. GUNS, and then Phil left and he took the name with him. But he left. The name stays with the last guy in the band, man. That was the deal in the contract. Last guy using the name. Steve's the only guy who never quit. He just feels like he's earned it, man, and he has. He's the one that's run the whole show for the last 30 years — playing every night, doing all the business every night. They never helped him at all. So he's put a lot of work into it. I asked him if he wanted to change the name. And [he said], 'No, man. [I put] too much work into it.'"
Kelly went on to say that he is "doing everything" he can to "differentiate" the Riley version of L.A. GUNS from Guns and Lewis's latest collaboration. "First thing we did is we designed the badge logo," Nickels explained. "Everything has our names on it, trying to make it as crystal clear for people to get it. This is just the way it is. It's a rock and roll soap opera. It's a drag."
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."
For much of the 21st Century, there have been two competing versions of L.A. GUNS — one featuring Riley (which, until 2016, also included Lewis), and another featuring Guns. After Guns and Lewis reunited in 2016, Riley's version of the group disbanded, but the former W.A.S.P. drummer relaunched his version last year with Nickels, Griffin and Frohlich.