Stacey Blades’ journey into the music industry began with much more humble beginnings than you may believe. Growing up surrounded by family members that were talented piano players, the Canadian born Blades seemed destined to become a talented piano player. That all changed one Christmas when his mother bought him a cheap acoustic guitar. From then on Blades’ life became the guitar. Influenced by the likes of Joe Perry, Jimmy Page, and Randy Rhoads, he eventually found himself replacing L.A. Guns’ legendary guitarist Tracii Guns. After spending a decade with the band, Blades found himself wanting to be more expressive with his guitar playing. This need to become a more progressive player eventually led to his departure from L.A. Guns last December. Never one to be complacent, Blades has emerged back into the limelight with involvement in the cell phone app Six String, as well as the rock software package Soundtrack Loops. If that isn’t enough Stacey Blades for you, then you will be happy to know he is also in the middle of developing new music with the highly talented Paul Christiana. Steve Johnson of Icon vs. Icon sat down with Blades to talk about his influences, his time with the legendary L.A. Guns, his new business ventures, and his new music with Paul Christiana.
As a musician that has had a lot of impact on countless musicians and others, I am curious how music first come into your life?
I was actually blessed from my musical family. I’m from a long line of piano players. My mother played, as well as my great uncle. He was like Liberace actually. He had the rings, and the flashy suits. He would come over every Sunday and sit on the piano for two hours. God, he was amazing. My sister had been paying for eight years in the royal conservatory. When I was nine my mom was like, “You’re taking piano lessons.” I was nine years old and I was like, “Ughhhhhh! I guess!” I’d go to lessons every week. I remember my first teacher. She had really creepy long thumbs. [laughs] Her place smelled like mothballs. I had this image burned into my brain. I would watch her do these scales and all I could focus on was these long creepy thumbs of hers and the smell of mothballs. So that was my first musical experience. [laughs] So I took lessons for two years, until I was eleven. My parents bought me a cheap acoustic guitar one year for Christmas. I remember picking it up and just wailing on that thing. It was cemented right at that moment.
Who are some of the musicians that influenced you?
I was fortunate because a lot of my friends had older brothers and sisters. This was in the seventies, which had all the great records. Zeppelin. Aerosmith. The Stones. The Cars. Cheap Trick. It was all of those great bands that I got sucked into. I took guitar lessons for about four or five years. I developed a really good ear as a kid taking piano. I would record music or listen to the radio with my guitar. I tried to learn songs and stuff like that. All of the seventies rock bands influenced me. Musically, as far as guitar players, it was definitely Joe Perry and Jimmy Page. The most influential guitar player to me was Randy Rhoads. When I heard those first two Ozzy albums, it just changed me. There was a connection to it that was almost chemical. He was definitely one of my biggest influences.
The music industry is an insanely hard path to follow. What initially drove you to make music your career?
It was the only thing I could really focus and concentrate on. I had a bit of a concentration disorder as a kid. That was the only thing that I seemed to really excel at. It was every kids dream. I was so focused on it. All of those nights standing in the mirror with my guitar. Being on stage with the screaming fans and the light blaring down on you. It’s funny what you project… I’m going to get deep here for a second… What you project into the universe and the universe will answer you in one way or another. I felt like I had a gift and I was meant to do this. My drive was really strong and it still is. I never really lost focus on what I wanted to do.
You were a member of LA Guns. What was it like to work alongside Phil and the other guys for so many years?
There was a good chemistry between us. The last year that kind of changed a little bit. I kind of starting burning out on that a little bit. That dynamic changed. You know, that happens with bands. Anytime you’ve been in a band for a decade or more, you’re going to have differences. You’re going to have different thoughts on where it should go. A lot of different stuff. It happens. That led to my departure, among other things. My guitar playing was going in a bit of a different direction. I kind of wanted to be a little more expressive and progressive with my playing. I think they wanted to go the opposite way and that started clashing a little bit.
What’s your most fond memory during your time with the band?
It’s crazy when I look back on the last twenty-two years. A lot of people know I was in a band called Roxx Gang, another late eighties metal band. Roxx Gang and LA Guns were two of my favorite late eighties rock bands and I was in both of them. Again, you go back to what you project into the universe. Joining the band… Replacing Tracii Guns was a big accomplishment for me. I was a big fan of the band. I think they are a fantastic band with a great catalog. We did some great records. ‘Tales From the Strip’ was fantastic. A lot of good shows and some great memories. I look back on that with some good memories and stuff like that. I’m really excited about what is going on with me now.
Since you left the band you’ve hooked up with Jason Donnelly and Soundtrack Loops. Tell us a little bit about that company and your involvement with that venture.
Jason was a friend of my neighbor’s and we got to talking. There’s this whole other world that exists that I really didn’t know much about. We started talking and he told me all of this stuff. I was like, “Wow! That sounds really cool!” He goes, “There’s not a lot of these rock software packages.” It was like this big huge lightbulb going off on the top of my head. I’m like, “There’s so much we can do with this.” We ended up tracking about twenty-two, two minute to a minute and forty second guitar pieces. We wanted to explore all of these different styles, as far as players. We went from Stevie Ray Vaughn, to William Setzer, to Van Halen, to George Lynch and Randy Rhoads. We also did some old Chicago delta blues, slide stuff. We did some really cool alternative tuning acoustic stuff, Jimmy Page type stuff. It was very rewarding for me musically, as a guitar player, to do these little pieces. What’s cool is when you can change the key. They have full rhythm patterns with drum and bass. You can change tempo and stuff like that. It’s a nice little software package with twenty-two of these pieces on it. It’s really cool. It went on the market a couple of weeks ago.
Were there any challenges to that type of work?
If you are going to do a said style of said player, you’ve got to be dead on. If you say, “This is Eric Johnson.” Which we did, or Ritchie Blackmore. There’s really no room for error. It was not so much a challenge, it was really exciting to spend the time to emulate that player’s sound, their style of freezing, and attack of certain scales. Just the whole kind of attitude of it. That was really kind of rewarding for me as a guitar player to showcase that as well. There was definitely a lot of work put into that, but we knocked them out really quick. It was an easy process. It was really cool. We’re going to do some more in the next couple of weeks to a month. It’s limitless. There are so many great guitar players over the course of the last thirty to forty years. There are so many different styles too. In the next batch we might do some Santana type stuff or some Nirvana and that grunge era. All the punk stuff. There are so many possibilities.
You also partnered with an app call Six String. How did you get involved with that and what’s the function of the app?
It a really cool app. You can network with hundreds of thousands of other guitar players. It allows you to make little posts of music you might be working on and gig information. You can share equipment and gear, or tips. It’s a guitar workshop so to speak. You can do three second posts with audio. They approached me about representing the company, which was very cool. Zakk Wylde is involved with it as well. They just started that app two or three months ago. It’s very well done.
You mentioned being to interact with other players. How has that interactive experience been for you?
You have to look at yourself like a sponge. I take that approach. I learn as much as I can. I’ve been playing the guitar for thirty-three years. People think I have seen it and done it all. You have to look at it like there is always so much more you can learn. I love discovering new players. There’s so much that you do learn and people think that you must know everything about everything because you’ve been playing so long. You’re constantly learning every day. There’s so much involvement with tone, and amps, and different guitars, and recording. It’s an incredible thing that is always changing.
You recently hooked back up with producer Andy Johns and are recording with Paul Christiana. How did you get involved with that project and how is that relationship working out?
I’m making some incredible music right now. Paul’s entertainment lawyer is a guy named Al Staehely, who was in the band Spirit in the early seventies. He’s known Andy for a very long time. Andy contacted me about six weeks ago or so and said, “I’ve got a session for you.” I started talking to Paul. Once we started recording and working on songs… This guy’s energy and his voice… He’s an incredible singer with so much soul in his voice. It’s kind of like a cross between Scott Weiland, Ian Astbury, and Morrison. It’s full of power. He’s a fantastic songwriter as well. The last batch of songs that we have been doing are just absolutely incredible. I’ve got to be in a band with this guy. It would be silly not to. These songs are just absolutely incredible. What’s exciting for me is that it’s different from anything I have ever done. I just did an interview earlier today and we were talking about it. I made a post on Facebook that said, “It’s the best songs that Stone Temple Pilots, Guns N’ Roses, and The Cult never wrote.” Really fantastic guitar tones and a different approach to songwriting with arrangements and vocal harmonies. We really spent a lot of time picking apart these new songs and taking a different approach. I’m totally on a creative high right now. It’s looking like it’s going to turn into a new band. Me and the original Bulletboys drummer played on the stuff. Great guy and great drummer. He brought a lot of great ideas to the songs and the arrangements. It’s really cool to be surrounded with that kind of creativity.
So you are actively involved with the songwriting alongside of Paul?
Oh yeah! Absolutely! Paul had a lot of finished ideas. The guy is like a ping pong ball. He’s constantly bouncing all over the place. You’ve have to kind of reel him in at times. There a song that we have. It’s an amazing song called This is My Rifle. He actually pulled a muscle during the first verse of him singing when we were laying down the lead vocal. That’s how much this guy was projecting. I was like, “That’s sweet!” [laughs] We were like, “I don’t think we’ve every heard of that! That’s a first!”
I mentioned Andy Johns and I know you’ve worked with him a lot in the past. What does a producer like Andy bring to the table?
Andy is all about sound. I kind of actually started co-producing with him a little on this project. There were a couple of days where Andy was a bit under the weather. I’ve been working with Andy for ten years and being around a producer like that you absorb how they approach things. How they see things from a different source while you’re tracking. Again, it’s like being that sponge. You try to absorb as much knowledge from the guy as you can. Let’s face it, he’s done over two hundred albums. The artists he produced alone… The guy’s a legend.
When can people get their hands on the music you’re putting together with Paul?
We’re just finishing mixes now. We’re going to shop the stuff. We’ve got a couple different entertainment lawyers. I do want to give people a little bit of a sneak peak. We’ll probably throw a couple of songs up on ReverbNation, to give a taste. I’m excited to see where this goes.
You are also involved with The HardRock Allstars. What lead to the formation of that band?
That Juan Croucier, the bass player from Ratt. He’s back in Ratt now. Jaime St. James and Pete Holmes from Black ‘N Blue. I ran into Juan at a party back in January. So we started talking. I’ve known Juan for quite a while. He called me and said, “I’ve got this thing I’d like you to be part of. We’re going to do songs from everybody’s retrospective band.” I said, “Ah, that could be a lot of fun.” It’s kind of a fun gig. It’s based around everybody’s schedule because Juan is back in Ratt and Jaime and Pete have Black ‘N Blue and another things they are doing. We do a gig every now and then. It’s really fun to play all of those old Ratt and Black ‘N Blue songs. So yeah, it’s very fun.
Do you guys have any shows coming up at all?
Yeah. We’re playing Second Wind in Santee, California, which is near San Diego. That’s our first show on the 20th. So we’re going to start rehearsing for that. I’m also doing some acoustic shows with Robert Mason. We’ve got some shows on the east coast starting at the end of April. I’ve been keeping very busy! [laughs]
Sounds like you’re damn busy!
What do you attribute your longevity in the music industry to?
I kind of look at it like a shark. I keep swimming. If a shark stops swimming it will die. I’ve been at it for so long, to do something else seems out of phase for me right now. It’s a passion. I think you are born with that and skilled in it. It’s weird. This is the most I’ve been home in ten years. I’m enjoying it, but at the same time I’m getting that itch to get out on the road again. It’s just something I think that is inside of you. We all need a break every now and then. If you don’t get one you will end up in the nut house.
That goes for anything.
Being in the industry as long as you have, are there still any surprises?
You’re constantly learning. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s the following statement. Work smarter, not harder. That’s one thing I’ve instilled in myself for this new year. Music is the most difunctional job in the world. There’s so many different people that you deal with. There’s promoter, and managers, and agents, and personalities of other band members. It’s really dysfunctional. It’s the same with a business. You’re constantly learning. Year after year you go, “I’m glad I learned that, or that happened, or I’ve gotten introduced to these people.” You’re always on your guard so to speak. There’s a lot of crooks out there. There’s a lot of shady people too. You always have to be one step ahead. It’s a constant learning experience.
You have had a lot of exciting moments in your career. Is there anything that you consider the defining moment of your career?
No man. I’ve obviously had a lot of things happen. Joining Roxx Gang. Replacing Tracii Guns in LA Guns. That was a huge accomplishment. I’ve had my autobiography published. I’ve played some amazing concerts. I’ve become friends with a lot of great musicians and very talented guys. There’s more in the future. I’m excited to see where my path is going. There are more exciting things to come. If you go, “I’ve had my fill,” you become linear. I’ve seen so many people become complacent. I want more. I want more success. I want to try this and that. I think that is what separates me from other artists. I’m constantly trying to become better and experience other things.
You have numerous years under your belt. Do you have any advice for someone that would like to get involved in the music industry?
Uh. That’s tough. Be prepared to sell your soul! [laughs] It’s a tough life. I’m not going to candy coat it. It’s not an easy thing to do. Any young musicians who want to do it, you have got to be prepared to sacrifice everything. You have to put everything else aside and focus on being the best player, songwriter, and performer. It’s unfortunate for new kids. It’s harder. Let’s face it, the music industry isn’t what it used to be. It has drastically changed in the last twenty-three years or so. Not to say that you can’t do what you want to do. It really comes down to how bad do you want it, and how passionate are you, and how much shit are you willing to eat to get where you want to go. You’ve got to eat a lot of shit. So, that’s my advice. [laughs]
That’s all I have for you. Is there anything else you want to add or let your fans know before I let you go?
I’m pretty active on the social end. I’ve got www.staceyblades.com. There’s my Facebook page www.facebook.com/Staceybladesmusicpage. My regular Facebook page www.facebook.com/Staceyblades.I’m also active on Twitter. That’s www.twitter.com/Stacey_Blades. So there’s the social media stuff, which unfortunately is a necessary evil. I keep up to date on a lot of things I am doing. I encourage the fans to stay in touch with me and watch for new and exciting things this year.
Well I’ll let you get back to your busy schedule. I’m sure you’ve got a hundred bands to play in. [laughs]
Actually I’ll be drinking some cold beer. It’s tough. [laughs]
We wish you all the best Stacey!
Thank you so much for talking to me Steve!
For an awesome read, check out Stacey Blades’ autobiography “Snake Eyes: Confessions of a Replacement Rockstar” – Click Here to buy it from Amazon.com!