Kelly Nickels of L.A. Guns (feat. Riley and Nickels) Interview

Date: May 6, 2020
Interviewer: Olivier
Photos: Christopher Carroll ROCK Photography (third photo)


Sleaze Roxx: When we spoke in January 2019, you guys were just going to be playing one show — the M3 Rock Festival. Did you ever think that you’d get this far so fast with a new album coming out with the new line-up?

Kelly Nickels: [Laughs] Yeah, I didn’t really know what to expect. It was just going to be one show and see what would happen. If it was horrible, it would have been over but I think that we did a good job. Yeah, it’s kind of snowballed into this whole other thing now so we’re ready [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: It seems that you got a great reaction for the first single “Crawl.” What are your thoughts on that?

Kelly Nickels: Yeah, really happy. Overwhelming good response, good feedback, saying really nice things. Of course, you have people who hate it or don’t like us in general but that’s OK. We’re just putting some music out. It’s for people to enjoy and if you don’t enjoy it, that’s fine too man.

L.A. Guns (feat. Steve Riley and Kelly Nickels) ‘Making of “Crawl” Behind the Scenes” video:

L.A.GUNS – Behind the scenes – Crawl – Single – April 2020 – Out Now on Golden Robot Records

L.A.GUNS – Behind the scenes – Crawl – Single – April 2020 – Out Now on Golden Robot RecordsL.A. Guns got their start on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip. The band …

Sleaze Roxx: There’s no release date yet for the album [‘Renegades’]. Is it because of the Coronavirus pandemic?

Kelly Nickels: Yeah because we’re actually thinking of releasing another single first before the album comes out. We’re talking about that and maybe a video. See if we can logistically pull that together. We all live in different states so we all have to fly so it’s a little bit complicated. We’ll see what we can do. We’re watching the news and see what’s happening just like everybody else to see if we can move forward someday.

Sleaze Roxx: In terms of the recording of the album, you guys did it pretty quickly. I think in one week, you had it all done right?

Kelly Nickels: Yeah. We had two days of rehearsals and seven days in the studio, then a couple of days of recording, and a couple of days to mix and master. So yeah, everything was done in a little more than a week. Actually, recording was [in] a week. We had some time a little bit before we went into the studio so we e-mailed a lot of songs back and forth, and wrote some new songs, and some songs that the guys had at some point. So we picked the best ones and there will be ten songs on the record. Most of them are rockers so we’re happy with them. It’s got a really good energy and just waiting to put it out. Can’t wait for everyone to hear it!

Sleaze Roxx: Cool! And are you handling lead vocals on any of the songs?

Kelly Nickels: No. No. I should have never handled the lead vocals on any song [laughs]. “Nothing Better To Do” was just kind of an accident. So everyone went to dinner when we were in the studio one night. Everyone took off to eat and I stayed in the studio with the engineer. Having written the music for it, I decided to put on a guide vocal for Phil [Lewis]. When he came back, I said, “Hey, I did a guide vocal. Do your own version of this.” After I played it for him, he was like, “I am not touching that.” He said, “It’s done. It is what it is.” He liked it like that so we left it like that. But no, I have no intention really [laughs] of singing.

L.A. Guns (feat. Steve Riley and Kelly Nickels) performing “Wild Obsession”, “The Ballad of Jayne” and “Nothing Better To Do” live at the M3 Rock Festival in Columbia, Maryland, USA on May 4, 2019:

“Wild Obsession & Ballad of Jayne” LA Guns (Riley Version)@M3 Festival Columbia, MD 5/4/19

Wild Obsession & Kiss My Love Goodbye & The Ballad of Jayne & Kelly Nickels Lead Vocals Last Song on Nothing Better to Do, LA Guns (Steve Riley Version with …

Sleaze Roxx: In terms of the recording of a full album, I think that it’s been a couple of decades since you had done that, correct?

Kelly Nickels: Yeah.

Sleaze Roxx: How was it different this time compared to a couple of decades before in recording an album?

Kelly Nickels: I definitely would say that I was more into the recording process this time. It was really an incredibly great experience with the guys and the engineer was spot on. He knew his stuff so we were able to really be precise and just try to use the time as best as we could. We always have to be prepared with this band. We live in four different states and we don’t have the luxury of getting together jamming a few weeks before we go in. We barely ever get to see each other so we always have to go in knowing what we’re doing, and we do. But it was a really great experience, good energy on the record. Really happy with it. I think that we stayed true to ourselves. We’re not a speed metal band. We’re not a death metal band. We are who we are. I think that it’s got good roots into the old style but with a new twist on it. I’m happy.

Sleaze Roxx: And how was it having Steve [Riley] produce the album?

Kelly Nickels: Yeah, it was fine man but everybody put in their bits and stuff. It was really a collaborative effort. Everybody was helping. Steve’s got a great ear and he put it together but everybody was really flexible with new ideas even on the spot. We tried a lot of things right on the spot to see if we could make it work and be better. But everybody was really open minded so it really helped and it was a team effort.

Sleaze Roxx: So who wrote which songs on the record? Was it a collaborative effort for each song or did someone come up with songs individually?

Kelly Nickels: No. Everybody came up with songs individually and then it definitely became a collaborative effort as everybody added bits and pieces to all the other songs too. So everybody came in with their basic songs and on a lot of them, we did change a few things and different little things that we could add to them, and some really good ideas that helped them. I wrote three and then the other guys all wrote some so everybody has a piece in there. We split everything equally. Everyone has equal shares. It’s a team. It’s a band. It’s not individuals. It’s the unit. We share everything. Everybody’s in it and everybody’s got a vested interest. Everybody wants to make it succeed now.

Sleaze Roxx: Kind of like the old days, right?

Kelly Nickels: Well yeah. We had that same vision back then too man. We got along really well back then too. It was always a fun process. I definitely did more drugs back then so I wasn’t really into the recording process. I just wanted to piss around all the time.

Sleaze Roxx: That’s funny [laughs].

Kelly Nickels: This time, I was more into it and having some input.

Sleaze Roxx: I have to talk a little bit about the other L.A. Guns [featuring Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns]. They released their single “Let You Down” just today. It kind of feels to me that they’re trying to take the wind out of your sail. What do you think about that?

Kelly Nickels: Our sails are full man. They can try. I haven’t heard it. I have no interest in it. If you like it, it’s totally fine with me. I get it. We’re not trying to hurt anybody. We had to put our spin on it. They didn’t invite us to their reunion so when you’re not invited to the party, you make your own party. That’s what we’re doing and it just ended up like this. It’s unfortunate and it’s complicated but I always — since I rejoined the band, I designed the logo so we have our own identity. I always put everybody’s names and everything so there’s no confusion of who’s in this band. I am trying to make it crystal clear about who’s going to be in this version. It is what it is so when you buy that ticket, you know what you’re getting so I always try to make that clear. I think it is what it is at this age and this amount of time that has gone by and the amount of work that we put in it. We feel that we have a right to play these songs and so we had a part in writing these songs as much as the other guys so we feel that we have a legal right and a musical right [laughs].

L.A. Guns (feat. Steve Riley and Kelly Nickels) performing “Over The Edge”, Never Enough” and Electric Gypsy” live at the M3 Rock Festival in Columbia, Maryland, USA on May 4, 2019:

“Never Enough & Electric Gypsy” LA Guns (Riley Version)@M3 Festival Columbia, MD 5/4/19

Over the Edge & Never Enough & Electric Gypsy, LA Guns (Steve Riley Version with Kelly Nickels -Bass, Kurt Frohlich – Vocals, Scott Griffin – Guitar), M3 Fes…

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] That’s fair enough. Speaking of legal, I think that there is a lawsuit from Tracii [Guns] and Phil [Lewis] against you guys.

Kelly Nickels: Yeah.

Sleaze Roxx: So what stage is the lawsuit at?

Kelly Nickels: Well, I cannot really talk about it and it’s still in the — they are still responding to each other, the lawyers and stuff. So we are trying to see where it’s going to end up. We’re moving forward anyway so we’ll just have to see how it goes.

Sleaze Roxx: When you first got contacted by Steve [Riley], did you ever think that there would be a lawsuit between you and the old guys, and things like that?

Kelly Nickels: [Pause] No [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Kelly Nickels: No, no. I didn’t [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: So you’re surprised by it?

Kelly Nickels: Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah.

Sleaze Roxx: And would you say that you’re disappointed by it?

Kelly Nickels: [Pause] They’ve taken a real negative tone with us from the beginning and I’m just sad about the whole thing. I remember back in the day that we all got along well. It was fun. It was a great band to be a part of. All the good experiences — I have a lot of great memories and I am sorry that it has come to this. So we’ll just let them do what they do and we’ll just do what we do. If you like it, that’s great. If you don’t, that’s OK too. We’re just trying to put out some music and have some fun and get out of the house. It’s really simple, you know.

Sleaze Roxx: Yes. And how did you guys end up with Eric Baker as your manager?

Kelly Nickels: Well, he’s one of the owners and promoters of M3 [Rock Festival]. He’s good friends with Steve [Riley] and he asked Steve to put the band together and come play M3 because the other guys didn’t want to do it. So he’s always liked the band and has offered us management so we are happy to have him.

Sleaze Roxx: Cool! And how did you guys hook up with Golden Robot Records?

Kelly Nickels: You know, I don’t really know where the connection came from but they called our management and offered us a deal. So we thought about it and wanted to make sure that if we do a record, it’s going to be good because they wanted it done pretty quickly. Once we signed, they wanted us to get into the studio so we had to make sure that we had enough time and budget to pull it off into a good record because I didn’t want to do a bad record. I didn’t want to go in there and throw some crap together.  We really tried and really did our best. We tried to make it true to what it should be and keep it upbeat and fun. They just offered it to us and they’re great. They’re in Australia and they’re super cool. They’re really happy with us so we hope to do even more records in the future. I mean, that’s a possibility.

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah! That would be awesome. So if you had to rank the L.A. Guns albums that you played on, how would you rank them from first to last, and why?

Kelly Nickels: That’s hard to say man because they’re all at different time periods so you’re going through different things at different times. I try to look at the whole experience. As a whole, it was so great and so much fun. I am proud of the stuff that we did. We did the best that we could. We did every interview, shook every hand. We tried to be cool and have fun with it. Some of them were easier to do than others and some were a little more complicated but they all worked out in the end.

Sleaze Roxx: Which one do you like best out of the ones that you played on?

Kelly Nickels: Out of the ones that I played on, I think probably…  Aaah. I don’t know man. The first one, it’s like you finally get a record deal and you’re going to do a record so you’re super excited. The possibilities are endless and stuff, and you wait to see how it goes, and then you go out and tour. And then you give it a bit more time and then it starts to get bigger. The bucks go up and then things start getting crazier [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: if you had to rank the one that you liked the least out of the albums that you played on, which one would it be?

Kelly Nickels: The one I like the least [sigh], aaah man, I don’t know because there’s good times for all of them. I don’t know which one I like the least. I mean, yeah, I just can’t say that I don’t like one of them [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: You’re just too positive Kelly [laughs]. What did you think — at one point when you guys first started again and leading up to M3 last year — Tracii [Guns] and especially Phil Lewis were really slamming you guys for stupid stuff and then all of a sudden, it stopped. Did you guys have a hand in this negative press stopping or was it just out of the blue?

Kelly Nickels: No. We definitely did not have a hand. We never responded to anything that they said negative about us as we don’t want to go down that road. We’re just going to let it be and it is what it is unfortunately. I am sorry for the band that it is what it is. It’s complicated. It’s a rock n’ roll soap opera. You know, again, we just want to play and we feel like we want to play these songs.

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, for sure. And I agree as well and it’s good of you guys to have taken the high road. Now in terms of the future plans for the band, you don’t know when you’re going to be releasing the album. Obviously, the Coronavirus has completely affected touring. 

Kelly Nickels: Yeah.

Sleaze Roxx: When do you foresee that you can play some shows again?

Kelly Nickels: Well, we have shows that have been rescheduled for August, September and October. I think that it’s good to have something to look forward to. If it’s safe and doable, we’re ready for it and we’re looking forward to a great fall and a lot of shows. So they started rescheduling for September and October so we’ll see how it goes. We’ve got to play it by ear I think. We want to make sure that people can go out, have a good time and everybody be safe, which is all kind of tentative I think.

Sleaze Roxx: Is there anything that you’d like to add that we haven’t covered?

Kelly Nickels: Check out the website for the latest news. I run the website so I always post the latest news there first, and then Facebook, and Instagram, and whatever. So there’s a bunch of cool stuff on there and that’s the way to stay up to date with what we’re doing because when I can tell you, I will tell you.

L.A. Guns (feat. Steve Riley and Kelly Nickels) performing “No Mercy” live at the M3 Rock Festival in Columbia, Maryland, USA on May 4, 2019:

“Last Song” LA Guns (Riley Version)@M3 Festival Columbia, MD 5/4/19

Last Song, LA Guns (Steve Riley Version with Kelly Nickels -Bass, Kurt Frohlich – Vocals, Scott Griffin – Guitar), M3 Festival, Merriweather Post Pavilion, C…