Tracii Guns Talks "Raiding the Rock Vault"
Thu, 11 Apr 2013 11:24:48
Raiding the Rock Vault is the perfect way to experience rock music's heyday. It's a pastiche of the greatest moments and songs reproduced live by a top tier band at its current year-long residency at the LVH - Las Vegas Hotel & Casino. You've got to see it to believe it…
In this exclusive interview, Tracii Guns talks Raiding the Rock Vault and so much more with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino.
What attracted you to Raiding the Rock Vault?
Originally, Robin McAuley called me and said John Payne was putting together this one gig at the Mayan in downtown Los Angeles. I'd done stuff with Robin before so I trusted him. John called and said, "Hey, we're doing this show. It's got a full production and the 'Ultimate Set List' of classic rock and a little bit of eighties". I said, "Sure, I'll do the gig". I didn't know it would turn into something like this. It wasn't really discussed in the beginning. I was on tour while they rehearsing for the Mayan gig. I was trying to learn the songs on the road, which was impossible. I came off the road and right into rehearsal with Howard Leese—the other guitar player. We were having a good time, and he was showing me everything. Everybody really bonded. We did the first gig, and it went very well. It was amazing. All of these people showed up in L.A. People in L.A. don't usually show up to things like this. We had a great time. After the show, John said, "We might do more of these. We're going to try to get some residencies in places for a week or so at a time because it's a really expensive production. Anything we'd do would have to last a little bit". All of a sudden, he called me and told me we were going to do it in Las Vegas at the old Vegas Hilton in the big theater. He said, "You really should do it". I was like, "Yeah, I should" [Laughs]. It wasn't much of a decision to be honest with you. I'm just playing these songs with these guys. It's like when I was in junior high school getting together in the garage with my friends and learning songs except it's on this crazy level. It's amazing. It's so much fun.
What does the production add to the songs?
It's the biggest production I've ever been involved with in any band or on any tour ever. The way the production works is it's a whole backstory to how rock 'n' roll started with Alan Freed coining the phrase "Rock 'n' Roll" and all that stuff. We kicked in with The Who and "My Generation". For every song we play, there's a montage and atmospheric change to each era. There are actors on stage who do little scenes before a few of the songs in the seventies and we kick into this eighties set. It's like a live concert. At the same time, there are all of these things going on in the background that flow with the music. The music takes a front seat. There's a great visual. We have the craziest laser show. I've never seen anything like it.
What's your favorite part of the show?
I get to play "Stairway to Heaven". You're not supposed to do that [Laughs]. You grow up going to guitar shops, and that's the thing you can't do. If you're in a band, you don't play "Stairway to Heaven". It's like "Freebird". We get to do it. I play that doubleneck like Jimmy Page. It really is a magical moment for me since I play guitar because of Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin. To get to do that every night with the way the audience responds to it is just insane. I've watched The Song Remains the Same a billion times since I was eleven-years-old. It's definitely my favorite spot. Then, we also do "Hotel California" which is right up there as far as the performance goes. Those are really the highlights for me. We do "All Along the Watchtower", and those are the songs I love.
That brings everything full circle.
The only thing that could be better is if we did "Whole Lotta Love" because that was the first song I learned on guitar. When we first started doing it, every morning I'd wake up here in Vegas and think, "Oh man, I can't screw up 'Stairway to Heaven' tonight" [Laughs]. You can't screw it up if you're going to do it. Now that I've grown comfortable playing it, I look forward to it every night. I work on getting the solo right.
You definitely preserve the integrity of these songs.
We do the songs pretty true to the recorded versions. We're really paying tribute to these things. What are we going to do that's going to make the song better? These are songs you can't do better than the original. We all have our stage personas. We do our own thing. Musically, we stay close to the albums. It's live and loud and energetic. It's like seeing a great band in one concert do all of the songs you want to hear.
This is more of a reflection on rock 'n' roll than a tribute.
There's no doubt about it. It's a history lesson, especially for people who are under thirty let's say. There's a nice video montage before we play that goes through Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and all of that. The little scenes explain the eras.
Do you enjoy posting up in one city?
It's like being on tour except the town comes to you instead [Laughs]. I get out and go about my day. I don't have to drive 400 miles. Sometimes we soundcheck, sometimes we don't. You go up there, play for a couple of hours, and you have a few laughs after the show. Everybody goes to the employee dining room, has a meal, and we go back to our hotel rooms. It's just like being on tour just without traveling. The backstage of the theater is ridiculous. It's where Elvis did his shtick. There's even a bed in the bathroom. It's awesome.
Will you be going to Raiding the Rock Vault? For tickets, visit RaidingtheRockVault.com.