L.A. Guns is one of the hardest rocking and most notorious bands to come off of the famed Sunset Strip. Helmed by ever-fearless Tracii Guns, they continue to forge ahead, keep the creativity flowing and create powerful new material for their legions of devoted fans. Bands can encounter many bumps on the road of rock n’ roll and L.A. Guns is no exception. Faced with the departure of their former frontman Paul Black, The Guns found themselves in the middle of creating an album and preparing to embark on a massive tour when they were suddenly voiceless. Luckily for them, the answer to their troubles was right in front of them and already working with them on their forthcoming album. Enter Marty Casey, a charismatic frontman with a golden voice, incredible drive and impeccable songwriting skills. With Casey in place, the band is now set to launch the next chapter of the saga and take the world by storm. Jason Price of Live-Metal.Net recently spoke to Marty Casey about his past, his new role as the band’s frontman and what we can expect from this new era of L.A. Guns.
Live-Metal.Net: How did music first come into your life?
Marty Casey: I have three older brothers and two older sisters. I was surrounded by my brothers and sisters listening to albums. We’re talkin’ AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and early Van Halen. Music came into my life by really loud jamming on homemade stereo systems, listening to records and looking at album covers.
What drove you to make music your career?
For me it was a video generation. It had just begun with MTV. I was watching the videos and these people and it looked like they were having the time of their lives. It looked like everybody was on permanent vacation. I fell in love with the energy. When I really started thinking about doing it was watching Guns N’ Roses or David Lee Roth. It made me want to get a guitar. It wasn’t about being a singer at that point. For some reason, I just wanted to get a guitar and learn how to play. I figured that would maybe help me get a girlfriend! [laughs]
What keeps you inspired and keeps you going?
I have been fortunate and find myself inspired on a bit of a higher level. I have always just thrown myself into unique situations to keep the inspiration flowing. For the current situation, just getting to write tunes with L.A. Guns was a trip for me. It was inspiring to get to work with Tracii Guns. When writing songs with him, I was trying to impress him with my creativity or my talent. I tried to showcase it almost. I’m like “This is Tracii Guns!” and I want to work with him and want to write some great songs. I was working with them in that capacity and now getting to do the tour with them and getting to record the record, that keeps me very inspired. At this point, only having one live show with L.A. Guns and sixty to go, that’s pretty inspiring. I want to get better. I want my portion of the show to get better. Challenging yourself, putting yourself into a unique situation and getting out of your normal reality, and being safe that will keep you inspired!
Let’s talk about your current path and what you have described as “a bright light of possibility.” How did you first get hooked up with L.A. Guns?
I have been good friends with Jeremy Guns for about eight years now. We had written some songs together in the past. He said “We are working on a new record and you should come out and do some co-writes.” So I flew out to L.A. to work with the band in the studio and just started writing from scratch. We were literally coming up with ideas from scratch and just jamming. It went really well. They had a singer, Paul Black, at the time. I was writing songs and I would ask him “Is this something you dig?” or “Do you like what I have going on?” and he just kinda seemed to stay out of it a bit. Then they invited me up to Ontario where they were cutting with Steve Thompson. They were signed to Alexis Records and it really started to gel. We really started to write some great songs and everybody was super pumped. I was trying to get the former singer more involved in the songwriting and it seemed that he was always just kinda always hiding out. He wasn’t being any part of the creative process and was just kinda hanging out. So I kinda forced the singer, Paul Black, to sit down and write some tunes and it went really well with the ones that we had written together. He decided that he was going to leave the band and that he wasn’t going to sing on this record. I don’t necessarily know the particular reasons but it had nothing to do with me personally. I don’t know the reasons why or what had happened. I wasn’t a part of it but when he had left, they were sitting around like “Well, we have Steve Thompson here, we have this brand new studio, we have this deal and we have a world tour planned, ummmm… we need a singer!”
So for me, it was just being at the right place at the right time. The creativity went well, the songwriting went well and they knew me as a singer. So they asked “Do you want to do it? Do you want to be a part of this?” So the opportunity for me was immense. So we were sitting there and had a month to make the record. Once the record got done, BOOM! we were on a bus and touring around the U.S., then we go to South America, then next year off to Japan. It is all very exciting!
What was the writing process like for the record like?
For a longtime I had just been the guy sitting around and writing songs by myself. I have had the advantage working with co-writers in the past where I was trying to learn and develop the songwriting as a craft and get better and better. What is crazy about jumping in with L.A. Guns and Tracii is that they just jam at volume eleven at all times! It is really just about jumping into the fire and going with the flow. They are just jamming, soloing and drums are wailing and you just have to jump on top of it and find yourself a place in it. It was intense and I was playing guitar as well. It was intense and it felt like being a kid again. There is so much energy and flying by the seat of your pants. That is what was created and I think that is why it has turned out so well.
What is the status of the album?
The record is completed. Alexis Records has heard it and are absolutely loving it. Steve Thompson, who is an unbelievable producer and a multi-Grammy award winning guy, is mixing it. So we are in really good hands. He is doing the mixing and then it will be mastered and it comes out in March of 2009. In November we are cutting the video. Alexis is great. They really believe in it and they are really doing what they can to support it and thinking of new and inventive ways to do so. Bands just don’t throw a song on the radio and tour anymore, it is a whole different market. They are really on top of the new school of how to promote a record. I think it is perfect timing for L.A. Guns too. So many people have renewed interest for L.A. Guns and for this genre of music as opposed to something just shoegazer and depressive. This is very upbeat and full of energy and they crave it. It feels like L.A. Guns is in the right place at the right time.
Does the band have a title or release date established for the record?
No, we have already been through two! [laughs] We had one and thought that was definitely it but Tracii brought one up yesterday and again we think that is definitely it. So, no but we definitely have a couple high up on the list. As you hear the record, as it is mixed and the songs come to life and the album takes shape the more we are really excited about it. You are really trying to define the energy that is on the record. It is going to take a lot of picking through to find the best one that we can.
You will soon depart on the “Summer Blackout Tour” with L.A. Guns. Are you doing anything special to prepare for life on the road for the next few months?
Since jumping in six months ago and working on the record, it has just been trying to dedicate as much time as possible to give all the old L.A. Guns songs a really great performance. I think that they are very well written and that the original singer, Phil Lewis, is a great singer. I really want to be able to capture what they had done. A lot of people are coming out to get the feeling of those tunes that they have loved. We are also performing a lot of new songs, some Marty Casey songs and we are even doing a Brides of Destruction song, which was Tracii and Nikki Sixx’s band. Anything that Tracii has been involved in he feels is fair game to play. He is like “Man, let’s just give people a great show! Let’s make them leave having a blast and make them forget all their troubles.” It’s about digging in and throwing out some energy.
Being “The New Guy” in L.A. Guns, do you have to worry about any potential hazing incidents?
Oh man, these are old school dudes and there is a ton of hazing! [laughs] You definitely have to earn your stripes in this band. I have to deal with a lot, let’s put it that way! The fun thing is, just getting out on the road with them, they do live like everyday is a vacation when they are on the road. It’s not a bunch of drama and bad times. The only reason they are out here is to have a good time. That is why they are on tour with Faster Pussycat and Bang Tango. Those are Tracii’s buds from grammar school. [laughs] Tracii and Taime (Downe) from Faster Pussycat are friends and they want to go out and have a good time. The work in their mind is done. This is the time to enjoy and live vacation everyday! [laughs] So that takes a bit of getting used to!
Many people were exposed to your work through ROCK STAR: INXS. Looking back on it back on it now, a few years later, how big of an impact did that experience have on you?
It was the only time in my life that I had stepped away from this band that I created, Lovehammers. It was an opportunity to see what I had. Being in a group your entire life, you know what the group is about but you don’t necessarily know what an individual piece of it is about. It really gave me the opportunity to step away from what I was know for or who I was in this band and just be independent. It was also taking on a big challenge just to get a great experience. Jumping into L.A. Guns, it feels very similar. It’s jumping into a situation that you know nothing about and seeing if you can make it through, seeing if you can make it a great situation. That is where I am at right now. It is really intense working with some guys who know all about the road, who know all about having big success in their lives and make the fans feel welcome and appreciated. It is very cool to be working with some guys who have been doing this all of their lives and to be able to take hold of that and learn from it.
Without getting to deeply into the personal side of the split, I think the main thing that many of your fans are interested in is whether or not the door is closed for good on the Lovehammers.
It’s difficult. The Lovehammers, we were at the point where it was slowing down a bit. A bunch of the guys have kids and jumping into getting full-time jobs, so my outlook on where we were was like “Wow, what’s going to happen?” and I didn’t know. Getting this opportunity is an amazing opportunity for me just like Rock Star: INXS. You don’t get a lot of support because you are doing something that might be in the best interest of yourself and not the band. Where the band was, it felt like this was the only choice I had if I wanted to continue with music being my profession. They are angry at this point, ya know. They’re mad that they are not a part of it and they would have loved to have been, but I wouldn’t say that the door is closed. The cool thing about Tracii is that he is like “That will always be your band and it will always be a part of you. It’s not like you have to cut off a limb and join L.A. Guns. L.A. Guns is your focus now and it has a lot going on but when we take a break from touring, you have Lovehammers. You can support that as well.” So that is the cool thing, if I can keep the Lovehammers and we do what we need to do. I don’t know what the outcome of that will be. I would appreciate if they would support me in this and when I get back and there is time I would love to do some stuff with Lovehammers. It is based on where they are at in their lives as well and if they are still interested in making music.
Well that is good to hear and it is good that you have Tracii Guns to bounce things off of seeing as he has years of road tested experience.
Yeah. I feel lucky because he knows Lovehammers. He knows those guys and he has met them. He has been a supporter of Lovehammers. He said “I know that this is a new thing for you.” He was very understanding since he has been through it before when he was in Brides of Destruction and took a break from L.A. Guns. More than anybody he understands it and I have his support. All the Lovehammers fans are now excited about L.A. Guns and I love that. Well, not all of the fans. I mean there are some people that are just plain mad that I would even step out of the Lovehammers, but the reason they know about the Lovehammers in the first place is because I stepped out and took a risk. They found me and found the band. So it is kinda like the same thing happening here. It’s me taking a venture for something new, to grow and be part of something great. This is a great thing and in the end that will only help the Lovehammers.
What do you want to have people take away from seeing your live performance?
For the live performance, for what we are doing now I really just want people to come and have a good time. I want people to leave everything else they have going on at home and leave it outside the venue doors. Come and have a blast! Focus on the songs, sing the songs and really get into it. That is what we have been talking about. There are dramatic moments and outright fun moments in the show and it is constructed that way just so people can forget about everything and have a blast.
Is there anything else you want to add?
I just want to say again that it is an amazing opportunity to be with L.A. Guns. It seems like the old school fanbase has completely renewed interest about these bands that they loved in the best times of their young lives. This whole genre of music, not just L.A. Guns, is coming back into people’s lives. There is a whole new generation of kids out there that are getting excited about soloing again and it’s not all about shoegazer, introspective everything. It’s more of a festival and that’s what is cool. We are going out with Faster Pussycat and Bang Tango which is an assemblance of this “cry energy”, good times, sex, drugs and rock n’ roll experience. It feels like we and the fans are in a great place to be. It is cool to be a part of that.
www.martycasey.org – Official Site of Marty Casey
www.martycasey.org/blog – Marty Casey’s Official Blog
www.myspace.com/martycasey – Official Myspace Page of Marty Casey
www.lagunslive.com – Official Site of L.A. Guns
www.lovehammers.com – Official Site of Lovehammers
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.