Guitarist and songwriter STEVE BLAZE
,,Lillian Axe Will Keep Going Until We Drop!’’
One of the bands that has always stood out and recorded gem after gem is LILLIAN AXE. The New Orleans band around guitarist and songwriter Steve Blaze has been around since 1987. It’s proven to be hardrock’s best year with tons of quality albums being unleashed upon the masses. It’s not more than obvious a band like Lillian Axe is of the ultimate high quality as the albums of that year. Lillian Axe dominated my record player since day one and has been doing so since. Their albums were (mis) labelled “hairmetal”, a term that does not do justice to the action packed melodic metal presented on their recordings over the years. `Deep Red Shadows’, `Waters Rising’, `Psychoschizophrenia’, `Poetic Justice’, and so on. All albums displayed intensity executed with precision by a band that kept on growing and kept on gaining momentum since their recording debut. That debut and its acclaimed follow up `Love + War’ recently were re-released by UK based Rock Candy Records and gotten the labels treatment. Extensive liner notes and upgraded mastering, to prove what fans and critics already knew: Lillian Axe’s music is timeless!
Hello Steve, how are things going with you and Lillian Axe?
,,Things are great. We just recorded a new track called ,,The Weeping Moon” for the best of the epic ballads album, and I’m writing the new studio record. Aside from that we keep touring and doing great live shows.’’
Rock Candy Records recently re-released the first two albums of your band. ‘Lillian Axe’ and ‘Love + War’ were made available for fans again. Now strangely enough you had to find out about those reissues through the Internet right?
,,YES! It was strange being congratulated on something I didn’t know about. Our fans seem very exited, as these albums have been difficult to get for a while now. Those who have them want spare copies!’’
On Facebook you stated it would be preferable to contact the band and give them a heads up. With social media and other outlets, the world has grown smaller. It would have been an easy thing to do right?
,,Yes I agree. I believe it was an honest mistake where involved parties thought we knew. That’s however a story for another day….’’
The least thing they could have done was to contact you and ask for assistance. The new batch won’t be carrying anything new or added. A sour miss which won’t ignite the spark for fans. Would you have done it in another way?
,,I like bonus material but I also like putting out new stuff more, which is why we are putting out this new track and will be releasing a new album soon. I will say that the reissues sound great.’’
How disgruntled are you as the main songwriter and composer?
,,Okay… Let’s go back to 1987 and count the times my bandmates and me have endured actions that would leave us “disgruntled” by countless people in the business. Do you have time to write a book?!! And as you know, every musician with a career has experienced the same. I am someone who lets no one knock me down and keep me there. The amazing people, stories, experiences and accolades outweigh the things we didn’t deserve to happen to us. As the composer, my greatest goal is to move people, and for many years we have done so.”
That’s very true. So…MCA still owned the rights and sold them off?
,,I don’t think MCA even exists nowadays. I believe it was Geffen/Universal who did so.’’
Aren’t they obligated to contact the songwriters for credits?
,,They never did that in the beginning! Why start now?!‘’
Anything lying shelved collecting dust from this era, which would have been treasured additions for die hard fans?
,,Sure thing. Lots of interviews, live stuff and rarities. Many acoustic shows as well!‘’
The debut was rock solid, but ‘Love + War’ orbited your status. How do you look back on these albums after all these years?
,,Each record is a piece of my soul. Every time I hear them, all the memories of my life at the time start flooding back. I had someone tell me the other day that ‘Sad Day On The Planet’ was their favourite Lillian Axe album. I listened to it again and realized how special it was. Yet it flew under the radar because of the current state of the music world.‘’
What surprised me, and caught my attention, was the press statement hailing from Chip Ruggieri who is handling your PR. He shot the official statement for the Rock Candy re-issue into the world. To me that was pretty odd.
,,I really did not know. Chip has been with me since 1993. He’s my friend and amazing at what he does. I’m convinced he thought that we knew.‘’
Was it to repair lost terrain?
Ratt’s Robbin Crosby produced the debut but (my honest opinion) he made it sound way too much like his own band Ratt. Choruses are similar to Ratt’s sound, not doing justice to the uniqueness of The Axe. This album would have benefitted re-recording rather than re-issuing.
,,That’s also an option; bearing in mind the new line up is pretty rock solid and metallic…”
,,I think that redoing the whole record would take away the unique qualities of that time and place. However, I agree that that album would probably be the only candidate for a re-recording in its entire. It would come out a lot heavier sonically. But hey: I have so much new stuff!!’’
Meanwhile Lillian Axe has 30 years behind their belts. Three decades in which a lot has happened and during which the band has morphed and changed line-ups frequently. We even got to see a surprising name pass through the ranks of the band…
Do I recall correctly to see Metal Church’s Ronnie Munroe pass by in a line up of the band a couple of years ago?
,,Yes indeed. Ronnie did one show with us. He is a great singer and wonderful person. There were just certain obstacles logistically and events occurring at that time that kept it from being and optimal situation for both of us. He and I became close very quickly. Ronnie is a good soul…’’
The bands current line up however has proven to be firm and is touring frequently. The core of the band has been together for a long time and with Blaze as the guardian of the band’s sound, it’s about time we hear new music. Their last studio album ‘XI The Days Before Tomorrow’ already lies 5 years behind us. For a composer with this much creativity this is hard to imagine. Steve is focussing on his present more than the past as he proves over and over again on his facebook pages as well as during this interview. Lillian Axe has a firm history but it also has a future ahead of them. Blaze gladly casts aside the reissue to focus on the new material and an unexpected sidestep into another direction…
Any chance the Axe will swing in studios soon?
,,Yes, like I said before: just recorded the new track for the upcoming best of the ballads album entitled ’The Forgotten Art Of Melancholy’. I’m also writing the new album called ‘Womb To Womb’ which we will start recording in January at Malaco Studio in Jackson, Mississippi. It’s about time….’’
Other plans for the band?
,,Shows, shows and more shows! Writing and more writing. We’re getting tighter and better!’’
Though the vast majority of the music scene has not noticed the qualities and class of the band, Lillian Axe was the first ever hardrock band to be inducted into the Louisiana Hall of Fame in Erwinville in 2010. Lillian Axe also received the Jackson MS, Indie Music ICON award in January of this year. It is recognition for a long running career for one of the finest bands in hardrock.
How do you look back on these awards and honours?
,,We are deeply honoured to have achieved these, especially when the industry seems to be such a beast. Being from Orleans, you would think the local press would be supportive, but that never happened. Not for us, nor for Zebra, or any of the bands who had careers for many years. They spent their time writing about only jazz and blues and the tourist-related music of the area. So when we receive these awards, it is a moment of vindication that no one can ever take away from us. I’m very proud of all those who were ever supportive, including each and every fan!’’
Okay, then I say it again: For a hardrock band to be inducted in the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame…. I believe it’s the biggest recognition a band can ever get in that particular state, right?
,,YES, IT REALLY IS!’’
Like you stated with the ICON award, you are growing old. How old will Lillian Axe grow?
,,I don’t look at life that way. (A statement addressed later in this interview, when this falls into perspective.) We are making the best music of our lives. We still have the same energy we have always had. Lillian Axe will keep going until we drop!’’
In the midst of all appraisal and honour, tragedy also struck the band in the last couple of years. In 2013 Lillian Axe was involved in a car accident, which you all miraculously survived with only minor injuries. The van was a completely destroyed wreck, which I honestly thought no one would have survived from.
How do you look back on this horrific crash and aftermath?
,,This accident retooled my existing outlook on life. As I was lying in the grass with glass in my eyes, not knowing how badly I was hurt, all I thought about was my family and my son who was only 5 at the time, losing his dad. I already thanked the Lord every day I was alive, but at that point, priorities of my life were re-established. We were completely blessed, as you can see by the damage done.’’
Guitar player and long time member Jon Ster passed away due to heart failure in 2015, age 52. How did that strike you, having toured and recorded extensively together for years?
,,I’m still deeply hurt. He was a great person with a huge heart. In all the years, I could not recall once where he and I ever argued about anything. He just loved playing and touring. That was his life! He dealt with addictions, but no one ever knows how much they harm the physical body until it’s really too late. I love that guy and I really miss him…. ‘’
How much does it affect you to see time fly by so rapidly and losing friends and musicians we all love along the way?
,,It’s really insane to see. I lost five very close people in the last two years. Time is short my friend…. Be ready when you meet your maker.’’
The reason I ask is because of this other project you are deeply into is The Veil…
You and your team of experts are hunting for signs of paranormal activity. You seem to be successful. Enlighten us?
,,I started ghost hunting and paranormal investigating 4 years ago and put together a very educated team of experts to form The Veil. We are currently shopping our show to the networks. It’s a show that will give hope to the world that after we die there is an afterlife.’’
How did you get so fascinated by the paranormal?
,,I have been since I was a child and saw things others didn’t.’’
Any chance we are going to hear more from you and The Veil, or see you soon as TV celeb?
,,I am hoping so. The TV world is as much a challenge as the music business.’’
Come to think of it… The last few albums of Lillian Axe also had a darker edge and gloomier undertone. Is work for The Veil affecting your songwriting and lyrical content?
,,NO! I think it is the other way around….’’
I know it has grown extensive, this ‘short interview’…. Thank you for your time and patience.
Anything you want to add Steve?
,,THANKS SO MUCH! GOOD TO TALK TO YOU! FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER AND FACEBOOK.
LOOK FOR THE NEW ALBUMS ‘THE FORGOTTEN ART OF MELANCHOLY’ AND ‘FROM WOMB TO TOMB’.’’
Follow LILLIAN AXE and STEVE BLAZE on Facebook and on the LILLIAN AXE website