Steve Riley Talks Early L.A. Guns, W.A.S.P. Days – Interview


Riley's LA Guns

Riley’s LA Guns – Story by Anne Erickson

Steve Riley of W.A.S.P. and L.A. Guns joins Anne Erickson to discuss new music, the ’80s Sunset Strip scene and more in this interview

Steve Riley has quite the history in ’80s glam and hair metal. He’s played drums in a plethora of bands from that era, including W.A.S.P., L.A. Guns and Keel. He was part of the Sunset Strip movement throughout its decade-plus reign over popular music.

Riley, now based in Nashville, recently wrapped up work on his latest record with Riley’s L.A. Guns, which also features longtime bassist Kelly Nickels. He tells Audio Ink Radio that the new record is set for release sometime in May, and the first single, the riff-fueled “Overdrive,” is currently streaming.

According to Riley, the album’s second single, “Rewind,” will drop in mid-February. The full album will arrive in mid-May. “I know that they’re jostling back and forth about what date to do, but I know it’s going to come out in May, probably mid-May,” he says.

For someone who has been involved with the rock scene for decades, Riley knows a thing of two about what’s happening at the ground level. He tells Audio Ink Radio that he doesn’t see rock disappearing.

“It’s funny, because a lot of people have sold their publishing under the assumption that you better do it now, because rock is going to disappear. I don’t see that happening at all, because the thing is, first of all, why would the publishing companies want to buy up the rock publishing if it was going to disappear?” he says. “There’s a plan. They know there’s going to be compilations, it has a lot of legs to it and rock isn’t going anywhere.”

He adds, “I know a lot has changed with rock as far as how you record, the budget you have and the touring opportunities you have. Of course, it’s not going to be like that peak performance that we had in the ’80s where everything was geared towards us, but I don’t see it going anywhere. We’re all going out on tour. You see what happened with The Stadium Tour and other tours that have gone out. I think it’s just fine. I think it’s going to be around for a long, long time.”

When asked about his early days in Los Angeles, Riley remembers Van Halen being key. “I had moved out to LA in 1977, and that was a period where it was pretty much Van Halen coming out of the shoot, and they were pretty much the ones flying the flag,” he said. “They were the ones that carried the rock scene into the early ’80s, so people like Quiet Riot and Ratt and Motley (Crue), they all got signed on the heels of what Van Halen was doing, and I was right here in the thick of it and watching it and just waiting for my turn.”

He adds, “I was lucky enough to get hooked up with W.A.S.P. in 1983 and do that for three or four years and three our four albums with W.A.S.P., and then again, luck and timing in this business. I mean talent is one thing, but luck and timing is such a big thing, and I lucked out again, timing-wise where I could go right from W.A.S.P. to L.A. Guns in 1987. So, it was such an exciting time, because the whole industry was geared towards what was coming out of LA.”

People like to emphasize the divide between hair metal and grunge, but Riley loved it all. In fact, when asked if he would have liked to have drummed in Nirvana in the late ’80s, when the band was having some drummer drama before Dave Grohl joined, the answer is a definite yes.

“Oh, man, I tell you, because I’m a big Nirvana fan and I’m a big Soundgarden fan and Alice in Chains. I really loved those bands. I thought they had some great, great material, and I would have been thrilled to play with any of those bands,” he said, “because I wasn’t one of those guys that said, ‘Oh, yeah, no, this is a different scene. It’s not as cool as the L.A. scene.’ I had lived all over the country before I even came to LA and played everywhere in a bunch of different cities and lived in a bunch of different cities trying to get record deals, trying to get something going, but I always knew that, I have to get out to L.A. I have to get to the thick of things where all the labels were, the managements were and the studios were, and I had to get out there at some point, because I had to put my nose into that whole scene.”

Listen to the full interview with Riley below and via the Audio Ink Radio podcast on Apple Podcasts here and Spotify here.

Anne Erickson
Posted by Anne Erickson | Features, Interviews, Metal, Music, Rock