Okay Syracuse, you metal fans must know by now that I love this new CD being released tomorrow, Valentine’s Day, by Lillian Axe. The album “The Days Before Tomorrow” which has been reviewed here was also discussed in my January 9th article here. So, for a band that was helped along by Milton Berle and Robin Crosby of RATT fame, the impending release of this, their 11th album see’s some change in the band and fresh excitement from its founder Steve Blaze. Check out our conversation via telephone as we discuss the band, its history and direction, as well as the new album.
David – Let me say first ‘Thank You’ Steve, for taking the time to do this. Talk about the history of Lillian Axe if you would.
Steve – Now that is a loaded question right there (laughs)
David – (laughs) okay, well the basics and then we’ll get to any ugly stuff.
Steve – We started Halloween night in 1983. Just a bunch of teenage kids all in various bands, a different one each weekend it seemed; I was very serious and determined to make things happen. So, I formed the band, found the right three other guys, but we just started playing all kinds of heavy metal that no one else was playing at that time. Bands like; Judas Priest, Ratt, Motley Crue, Black Sabbath; and we started writing originals. You know, we knew at that young age that we were not going to go anywhere without writing our own stuff. We started getting a lot of popularity; we were playing all over the South. Back then there were venues everywhere, you could tour the state of Louisiana, play five nights a week, and not hit the same club twice. It was a flourishing time for music back then, even at the club level.
David – It was sort of like that even here in Syracuse back then. The local scene was killer!
Steve – Exactly! We spent four years just building our reputation and a following. After some time we became one of the regions biggest unsigned bands. We got offered to open up for Ratt and Queensryche on five of the “Dancing Undercover” shows; which was cool having an unsigned band opening up on tour. So after two shows we got a call from Milton Bearle, who was managing Ratt at that time. Robin Crosby had really liked us and wanted to get into producing and before we knew it, got us a deal with MCA.
David – Man, you just don’t hear stories like that very often anymore.
Steve – Well, it was a very difficult situation because the label only wanted to sign me. I had written all the lyrics and came up with the name of the band. They liked the band but only wanted me. So, I made the difficult decision to take the deal and reforming the band except for the drummer, Danny King who stayed for the first two records. From that point on, we were signed with MCA, did a few albums there, over the last twenty years, and this is our eleventh album coming out, we’ve toured, put the records out, had breaks, done other projects back and forth, and in the last five years we’ve put out our last four albums. It’s just so much history; doing records and what-not, that a BIG milestone was last year we were the first rock band to be inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. So, that kind of was a pivotal point for us and here we are on the verge of releasing our eleventh album. There’s a whole lot of history in between there, but that’s it in a nutshell.
David – That’s a cool story, Steve. Way back about that timeframe I was a budding rocker, and of course I started having a family so, that kind of went out the door. My point is, I can relate to a lot of what you said and went through.
Steve – It’s a tough struggle man. I have a two year old baby boy now, and I can’t stand to be away from him for two hours let alone touring, leaving town, and taking me away from him. It makes it all that much more difficult.
David – Yes, absolutely. So with the current line-up and a new singer; how has that changed the sound and even the attitude within the music, if at all?
Steve – It really hasn’t. The only real change is that we have the new vocalist; Brian Jones. He’s been in the band around eight or nine months, I would say. We went through a very grueling audition process, trying to find the right singer due to the fact that it’s such a VERY pivotal stage in any band when you change vocalists. The fans want to hear the new guy sound like the old vocalist, and then some of the fans, they don’t want that so, you can’t win for losing you know? They get upset if you don’t sound enough like your past catalog, but they want you to grow at the same time.(laughs) So you have to find the proper medium and we were able to do that with Brian Jones. We spent months rehearsing with him, studying him, getting to know him, learning all about him as a person as well as his ability to perform. That was the easiest part, I mean, he’s a great singer, great front man; that was the important part was finding out how he would interact with us in the band, what kind of person he was, and how he would react in certain situations. It took about 4-6 months before we finally said “Okay, you’ve got the gig” I knew from the beginning just from talking with him that there was something special and unique about him, and that it was going to be the right thing, you know? You have to be certain. His coming into the band, Brian, I don’t want to say it made us a ‘better’ band, it opened a new door. It brought a new element to the band. He sounds enough like his predecessor that he’s not going to disappoint the crowd when we perform the catalog stuff. Yet he has a whole new feel and range in emotion that I really think has catapulted us up to a whole new level with the band. He sings with a lot of emotion and passion. You know it’s a very difficult thing, like I said, fans, you know they don’t like change. All of a sudden, if you’ve thrown a monkey wrench in the middle of the whole thing, they will let you know about it. We’ve gotten nothing but great response with him so far.
David – Actually, you just covered some questions further down (we both laugh) Now the song “Babylon” kicks it all off on the new album and it caught my attention right away. I’ve listened to the whole album I don’t know how many times now. Very melodic, a lot of tempo change it’s all really, really cool stuff.
Steve – Thank you, man. You know, I always think of an album as a complete work and not as a collection of individual songs. I try and make it cohesive, sometimes it works and sometimes there’s nothing you can do. It may not just smoothly run through all the way. I think this album is the most cohesive album that we’ve ever done. When you do listen to it, it’s almost like one work all the way through. The peaks and valleys really work well together. It’s like one work with a bunch of little chapters in there that all run with each other and works well together. I’m getting that from a lot of people, that cohesion and how they all interlock with each other.
David – Yes, it’s like one big story. They just keep going along with each other.
Steve – It’s good to hear that because at the end of the day, I don’t want to be remembered as “Oh that was that album with that one good song on it” you know? We don’t put ‘feelers’ on records.(laughing)
David – Yeah, there’s too much of that. One hit wonders are just that, one hit wonders. You don’t want that. Now you produced “The Days Before Tomorrow”, is it difficult being both musician and producer?
Steve – No, you know, the only album that I didn’t have a hand in on producing was our first album; Robin Crosby was there for that one. Being that I write all the material, or 95% of it, I’ve always had my hand in on it. From back then on, I’ve always been at least the associate producer up until we did the live album. I can step away from that though. It’s the producer’s job to get the best performance out of the individuals and the songs and try to put them at their best. When I’m writing, I am very, very alert to the arrangement, and like we talked about having that cohesion within the song and having things interlock well. Especially with dynamics, they work well when you go from light to dark, hot to cold in a song, there’s got to be a smooth transition. As a producer, I’m able to get away from trying to make it so mechanical; I can sit back and let things work according to my feelings. It’s like that inner clock you have; that you can tell when something works well. Being a perfectionist of sorts, I’m able to step back from that and really get the best performances out of the guys.
David – And it really shows in the music.
Steve – Thank you!
David – Now with the official release on Valentine’s Day, are there plans yet on touring?
Steve – WE have two separate tours that are being worked on now that we’ll know details on in the next couple of weeks. Closer to summertime and we are definitely going to Europe in October as well as a shorter run there, we also want to go back to Japan, too. All of that will come out then, as well as two coast to coast tours of the U.S.
David – Sound’s great, make sure you all keep me informed!
Steve – Absolutely man, tour updates, reports, just let me know!
David – I’m sure Chipster will keep me up to date, Chip is cool like that.
Steve – (laughing) Yeah, he’s great! You’re in good hands with Chipster. We’ve been with them since ’93! He’s just a great guy and Jan, his wife, is as well.
David – It’s taken me a year, but I think I have his trust now. Now, do you have video’s coming out as well? It’s different now from when we had MTV and they actually were a music video entity.
Steve – Oh yeah! We should be working on one this month for “Caged In”, just working on the perfect script.
David – Well, we’ve covered a lot, so I’ll just go ahead and say that this album really kicks ass. This is where I ask you to say what you want directly to the readers and fans.
Steve – Well first, thank you man, I really appreciate that! I want to thank the fans, they have been with us for a long time and we really wanted to put a record out that they would love; has elements of what they liked about us from the beginning, but also something new and fresh. When we are out there on tour, we really ask everyone to come meet us and hang, just keep checking in with LillianAxe.com for when we hit the road. Say your prayers, all that good stuff. For anyone that is interested in my guitars that I play, I have my own line of guitars; the Blaze model and the Redeemer model. They can go to GuilfordGuitars.com and check ‘em out! So, we are excited to hit the road and come see everyone out there!
David – All right Steve, I wish you great success with the new release and I hope to see you out there.
Steve – I appreciate that man and thank you for having me!
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