Yesterday, Matador Records announced a forthcoming split 7-inch featuring Stephen Malkmus covering L.A. Guns’ “Wheels of Fire” and the ’80s hair metal icons covering Malkmus’s “Gorgeous George,” off his recent album Mirror Traffic. Such news follows months after everybody got a good chuckle when it was revealed that Stephen Malkmus wanted to call his newest album L.A. Guns (or, if the lawyers were uncomfortable with it, L.A. Gunz). Matador promised this is no joke, but still, we had questions of our own about this seemingly uncharacteristic pairing.
Hive spoke with L.A. Guns founder Tracii Guns about the origins of the Malkmus single, his love for Pavement and what we can expect from their version of “Gorgeous George.” (Check out Hive’s August interview with Malkmus here.)
How did working with Matador and Stephen Malkmus come about?
It’s kind of a strange story. Stephen really wanted to call his new record L.A. Guns, and I guess the lawyers who work for Matador said, “No, don’t do that.” [Laughs.] And no one ever bothered just getting ahold of me to see if that was okay. And of course, when they finally got ahold of me after they changed the name of the record, I said, “Oh, you guys could have done that!” I really didn’t care.
The guy who really put us together was Steve Kandell, the editor of Spin magazine. He told those guys, “Hey, look, I’m really good friends with Tracii, and he really doesn’t care.” So everybody was all relieved, but it was too late — they couldn’t change the name of the album at that time. So they came up with the idea of each one of us covering one of the other’s songs.
Were you a fan of Malkmus?
I really relate to Stephen, particularly with Pavement. Their silly-ass song “Cut Your Hair,” that came out in ’93 or ’94, and I had already cut my hair in 1990. So when that song came out, I just laughed at it all the time. I thought it was that kind of rebellious, Revenge Of The Nerds-type thing that all those guys were doing back then.
How did you pick the song you were going to cover?
I was thinking about doing “Cut Your Hair,” and then I started thinking that Stephen had Mirror Traffic coming out, and that was the whole reason we put this thing together. So I just listened to the new record, and I loved “Gorgeous George.” It really reminded me of that movie, The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia. This hillbilly, almost-inbred kind of thing — small town, and actually I had Bronx Style Bob sing the track. It’s not even anyone who’d ever been in L.A. Guns singing. He does this real Southern kind of thing — people who hear it are gonna trip out on it.
Are you excited to hear what Stephen does with “Wheels of Fire”?
I haven’t heard what he’s done with it yet — he’s being real secretive with it. I know they went into a studio on the East Coast on tour and did it analog, a real rootsy version of it. That’s kind of the flipside of mine — I did most of the instrumentation of it on an iPad and mixed it on ProTools. It should be an interesting yin and yang. I’m really excited to hear his version.
No one would put your two bands together. What’s the motivation for you to do this?
My whole career has been to do the most unhip thing at the time. Most people want to do what’s most hip at the time, but for me, that’s never been what I’m into. If it’s leather, I’ll wear a tutu. If it’s long now, I’ll have short hair. It just doesn’t matter. I’m always intrigued by people I respect artistically. Stephen is a pretty intelligent guy. He’s real into music and all kinds of eclectic stuff, but he also really understands the power of rock and roll, and he’s a real rock and roll kind of guy. So it’s a respect thing, more than anything. A chance to connect with people I feel good about, and I feel really good about Stephen, and what he’s doing in his mid-40s, because I’m in my mid-40s as well. It’s important, if you’re not going to be Lady Gaga, then you better maintain your artistic integrity. Both of us have really managed to do that and hold onto it. Sometimes there’s safety in numbers, so it’s nice to hook up with people like this.