Fireworks

Fireworks Magazine Online 39 - Lillian Axe

LILLIAN AXE

Steve Blaze interview by Neil Daniels

 

Lillian Axe are one of the most fondly remembered bands from the late eighties American rock scene. Sure, they may not have reached such heights of success as Poison or even Slaughter but they produced some fine work that still stands the test of time. Their first few albums – ‘Lillian Axe’ (1988), ‘Love + War’ (1989) and especially ‘Poetic Justice’ (1992) and ‘Psychoschizophrenia (1993) – grabbed a generation of rock fans with gusto. Who can forget songs such as ‘Dream Of A Lifetime’, ‘No Matter What’, ‘Body Double’, ‘See You Someday’, the Badfinger cover ‘True Believer’ and ‘A Moment Of Reflection’? But as with many of their peers the grunge scene affected the music industry so much that it was hard for them to carry on. Lillian Axe called it a day in 1995. The most famous line-up of the band remains: Ron Taylor (lead vocals), Steve Blaze (lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Jon Ster (rhythm guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Darrin Delatte (bass guitar), and Gene Barnett (drums).

Led by Steve Blaze, a new incarnation of the band was formed but further line-up changes continued. In 1999 they released ‘Fields Of Yesterday’ and then in 2007, ‘Waters Rising’ was released but both of them were greeted with little fanfare. Here we are in 2009 and the band have released their seventh studio opus ‘Sad Day On Planet Earth.’ It’s probably their strongest effort since the early nineties with sturdy tracks like ‘Megaslowfade’ and ‘Down Below The Ocean’ on offer. ‘Sad Day On Earth’ is a real grower, for sure.

In 2009, the line-up looks like this: Steve Blaze (guitars, keyboards), Derrick LeFevre (lead vocals), Sam Poitevent (guitars) Eric Morris (bass) and Ken Koudelka (drums.) In November Steve Blaze gives us a quick lowdown on their new album as well as recalling some thoughts from the band’s past.

 

Your new album is called ‘Sad Day On Planet Earth’? What’s the story behind that title?

One day I was overwhelmed by the state of our planet and exclaimed out loud, “It's a sad day on Planet Earth!” It made me run to the studio and right the song. Then the theme seemed to encompass a large number of my songs themes.

 

How did you get involved with Blistering Records?

We heard great things about the label, such as their dedication to their artists and their desire to grow with their artists. That’s what we needed.

 

Are you pleased with the reaction to the new album?

[I’m] very pleased with the fans reactions. Lots of them feel as though it's our greatest accomplishment yet. That's what I look for. I take album reviews seriously, yet I feel that lots of journalists don’t truly put in the time and effort before they review any album. Some of them really get it. Lots of them miss the mark completely because they listen once or not even that much to hit a deadline. I think that’s irresponsible. I see that in lots of reviews not just ours. However, the reviews have really been better than I thought. I just feel that we are a band that it is hard to understand with one listen, but when you pay attention, the world opens up.

What do Lillian Axe fans want from a new album?

For us to continue to stick to our musical aura, and to move them with passion and dynamics.

What’s was the songwriting process for this particular album?

I bury myself in my studio and go into my own world. I write on guitar and keyboard. The ideas seem to channel through me and just come rushing out. It's a vey torturous process sometimes. I can't sleep while these ideas are rolling through my head all day long. Once a song is complete, I record it and send to the band. We then live with it and make necessary changes to improve it where needed.

There are 15 tracks on the new album. That’s quite a lot isn’t it?

Yes, indeed. And there's more where that came from. I want the fans to get more than their money's worth. It takes lots of music and ideas to get the points across sometimes.

‘Fire, Blood, The Earth And Sea’ is almost nine minutes long. What’s the song about?

The song tells about a séance in a church with a group of close friends and brothers summoning angels and spirit guides. Some secrets of life are imparted and a new realisation of beauty and existence are taught to the entire group.

 

Is it hard trying to get a balance between ballads and the heavier stuff?

Not really. I don’t look at songs as ballads per say, but rather dynamically drastic. I love the transition from light to dark and soft to powerful.

 

What do you want from a ballad when you’re in the studio?

The hair on my arms to stand up and a lump in my throat.

 

What are you favourite Lillian Axe recordings?

My faves are ‘Psychoschizophrenia’ and ‘Sad Day On Planet Earth.’ However, the other albums come very close in my mind.

 

How would you best describe you band’s music?

Passionate, dark, magnetic, cutting, melancholy, beautiful, a mountain breaking through the sea.

You’ve taken the band through various line-up changes. When you first started Lillian Axe did you think you’d still be around in 2009?

Yes. I will always be around. I am in this for life. Longevity is not an issue.

What is the rock scene like in the States now?

Very depressing. Not at all like it used to be. No support from radio, people don’t go to live shows as much. It's very expensive, so people stay at home on their computers. The fans are there but the economy has put a stifle on the industry on the whole. I could go on forever. Illegal downloading is also killing the industry.

 

For younger rock fans who weren’t around at the time, exactly how difficult was the grunge era for rock/metal bands?

I find it hard to understand how people are so easily swayed like sheep to slaughter. The press made this big deal about music changing from metal to grunge, so the public bought it. It was all the same with different wrapping. It still exists today. Everyone becomes more consumed with the press aspect and the outer trimmings than the essence. We are still here. How many grunge bands are there still? The grunge bands were simply rock bands in flannel. Give me a break.

 

Lillian Axe disbanded in 1995 and reformed four years later. What did you do during that period?

[I] formed Near Life Experience, wrote, toured, got my head together. Purged my soul and had a great growth experience.

 

Do you still enjoy playing live?

Absolutely. I enjoy it more every day. It is very tiresome and gruelling, yet I have a new outlook. It's hard now because I have a six month old baby, and I miss him a lot.

 

What’s life like on the Lillian Axe tour bus?

The tour bus is very clean. We are like a bunch of old maids keeping it straight. It is a place of sleep and rest. Lot of TV and DVDs being watched. After shows we are very laid back, but our band and crew are hilarious. We have a great time together. Now in the early days, it was very chaotic.

 

Are you disappointed that you won’t be coming to the UK after the cancellation of Rockfest?

Very much. We really want to tour Europe badly.

 

Is 2009 a better time for bands of you ilk?

Not in the States. The industry is in the mud.

 

What has been the highlight of your professional career so far?

So many to pick from! Going to Japan and touring with Alice Cooper are two of the tops.

 

What’s next for Lillian Axe, projects-wise?

We are doing a video for ‘Megaslowfade’ in three weeks. I am writing the next album right now. More touring in January and the months to follow. More records, tours, writing, etc.

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