L.A. Guns, the predecessor to Guns ‘N’ Roses, far and away the most famous of the 1980s Sunset Strip bands, will bring the gluttony and decadence that has pockmarked their career to State College this evening when they perform at The Arena Bar and Grill.
Having survived the excess of sex, drugs and heavy metal that claimed the careers of many of their contemporaries, L.A. Guns may not be as young as they once were, but that hasn’t stopped them from touring and playing as loud as they did 30 years ago.
“We pretty much tour all of the time. Right now we’re in the middle of a big East Coast swing and everything has been good,” drummer Steve Riley said. “We’re still touring, we’re still doing good numbers and we play bigger shows, smaller shows. We don’t care, we’re just having a good time.”
Most people will go extraordinary lengths to avoid anything “sleazy” or “disreputable,” but for a brief, scuzzy moment in the early 1980s, this sort of booze-soaked and drugged-out debauchery was embraced by the masses, culminating with the rise of the pejoratively named “hair metal” genre. While the blinding neon of Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip has since burnt out and the majority of the bands who used to play at places like The Troubadour and the Roxy in West Hollywood have imploded and become a derided footnote, there are still slivers from this sordid cesspool that are still triumphantly strumming away.
“There was really no evolution to L.A. Guns’ sound,” Riley said. “We’ve liked a certain sound and style since the beginning, and it has always felt like we never really copied anybody and we never tried to sound like anyone else.”
This sort of refusal to compromise and aversion to accommodate gave bands like L.A. Guns an unruly reputation that both they and their fans only further embraced.
Despite the well-documented bleakness of the record industry, that hasn’t stopped L.A. Guns from continuing to trek into the studio to record and release new albums. Their most recent record, last year’s “Hollywood Forever” is just as hard and just as rollicking as their earliest releases.
“It came out during last year’s tour and we went into the studio and did ‘Hollywood Forever’ like an old- style album,” Riley said. “We did a good preproduction in the rehearsal studio and we made sure that we knew what we wanted to do and we banged it out in three weeks, so it was like a real old-style recording.”
“The biggest thing here is that the whole scene from the ’80s is now gone,” Riley added. “I’m not talking about the scene with the groupies and all of that, I’m talking about the scene with the music and having one big movement coming together and that’s just not happening now.”
In addition to paving the foundation for one of the 1980s most popular musical genres and spawning one of the most popular bands of all time, perhaps the most admiral aspect of L. A. Guns has been their longevity and the fact that despite inhabiting a landscape that looks nothing like the Sunset Strip circa 1984, they have remained loyal to both their music and their fans.
“We do things on our own and I hope that the people come out and see us.” Riley said. “We sound great right now.”