EXCLUSIVE: Lillian Axe Is Back For The Attack!
By Larry Petro, News Monkey
Wednesday, September 18, 2002 @ 2:21 PM
Steve: Hey Larry.
Darrin: How’s it goin? KNAC.COM: Okay, first off I’d like to get our readers up to speed on what’s transpired with the band, because at the end of the Psychoschizophrenia tour Lillian Axe virtually disappeared from the music scene. What was going on within the band at that time and why did you decide that it was time to take a break?
Steve: You know over the course of a history like we’ve had we’ve been together so long we never really took breaks, we never stopped, we went from tour to album to tour to album and it just got to the point where, I mean I could tell you little tiny things that kinda led up to it, you know writing material… I was writing material that was goin’ in one direction and other people thought maybe we should go in this direction and some people thought we should go here… and I think it was just a matter of bunch of frustration over the industry and over not getting the promises that we deserved, so you tend to start to look from within and think maybe ‘Are we doing something wrong?’, maybe we need to change they way we’re doing things and then you get frustrated because you’re with people on the road constantly and those are the kind of things that, if you’re not smart, will break a band up. We just decided that it was time to move on, we all had some things we wanted to do… I wanted to start a new project with my brother, the other guys had some musical endeavors that they wanted to pursue… so people think we broke up, but we never really broke up.
Darrin: We just took a break.
Steve: We just took a break, doing some other things, settling things in our lives and it got to the point where, you know it never left us, but the fans really helped us through. (Steve’s cell phone now rings) By the way, that’s my phone. (Answers phone to tell the person he’s in the middle of an interview, then hangs up).
Darrin: Just like a rock star.
KNAC.COM: That was perfect! Couldn’t have timed it better!
Steve: I’ll turn this off. Anyway, so we got to the point where there was just too much demand -- our fans are just amazing, they kept us going.
Darrin: Also, the industry kinda turned itself back around so to speak, you know with the type of music that’s happening now, it’s opened the door for us.
Steve: Even if that hadn’t have happened, we’d still be doing what we’re doing. We’ll get stereotyped or we’ll get thrown into categories, but we’re not. We’re one of those bands that really are elusive to all type of stereotypes.
KNAC.COM: You guys really have your own unique sound.
Steve: I mean because of the fact that we came out in the ‘80s and we happened to have long hair, we’re gonna be called an ‘80s hair band. Our biggest successes and most album sales were in the ‘90s, and we’re a better band in 2000.
KNAC.COM: But any band in the ‘80s had hair.
Steve: Exactly. You know, it’s just ignorance and we live in a society, especially in the U.S. where everybody has to have a label for something to get in order for themselves, everybody wants to categorize and have everything in neat organization, but it’s not like that in other parts of the world -- you go to other countries and any stereotyping and categorizing is pretty much influenced by what they see us doing over here in the states ‘cause there’s a huge market for any kind of music over there. That’s one of the cool, unique things about playing out of the country. KNAC.COM: And I guess that’s why so many bands play out of the country.
Steve: Yeah, well they do, they like to play out of the country because it’s a whole unique environment and fan reaction is different. The only problem is the food’s not as good and it’s expensive.
Darrin: And we don’t understand the language either, so that’s a trick.
Steve: You know, we never really think about it. I mean, I kept writing, I was writing different material.
Darrin: We all continued playing and getting better and learning more, finding ourselves.
Steve: These guys started a new band, I continued on with my other band and…
Darrin: Grew as people.
Steve: That’s another thing too that’s very important as well, learning how to say, you know I can be a pain in the ass when I’m like this and this, accept it, it’s who I am, you can be a pain in the ass like this and this. You put all that aside and it’s a testament to the kinda guys in the band because we could have let egos easily say ‘No, I’m not giving in that direction.’
KNAC.COM: And that’s what happened to so many bands in that time period.
Steve: Well, you start to sit back and say ‘Okay guys, why were we successful?’ Okay, there’s certain reasons why we were, why did we get along, why did we get the opportunities to make records and tour? Let’s don’t throw that away.
Darrin: Also what’s special about this band is it’s some magic that just happened, and it’s still there and it’s going to be timeless.
Steve: The cool thing about it is, like we’ve had a lot of member changes throughout the years -- the core has stayed the same -- but we’ve had member changes. We still maintain a unique chemistry where we were able to find good guys even they were short lived for whatever reasons. I kinda feel like right now that the chemistry in the band, I think we play tighter and sound better than we ever have. KNAC.COM: Was there ever any point in time during that break where you guys felt that maybe that was the end of Lillian Axe?
Steve: Nah… I’ve said it many times when I was mad at ‘em! [Hysterical laughter]
KNAC.COM: It’s like a marriage -- you have to work at it every day.
Steve: Yeah, then you sit back and watch home videos or something and you think, if we could just put aside our own personal stupid things… Every time I meet a fan, you know I meet the most rabid fans. I was in a mall in New Orleans a week ago and this guy came up to me and I thought he was gonna mug me. He comes up and he’s like shakin’ and he goes ‘You Steve Blaze?’ I didn’t know whether to say yes or no. My girlfriend was like, ‘C’mon Steve, let’s go.’ Then he goes ‘Maaann, somebody up there...’ and he points to heaven ‘…said you were the baddest MF on the planet,’ and I was freaking out, I was like ‘Whew! Thanks man.’ Then I had a call during the week from a couple, people I don’t even know asking me to be the Godfather of their baby, they were naming the second one after me. You start thinking over the course of the years [about] all these people with your name tattooed all over their back, girls falling on the ground… KNAC.COM: Do you think that all of the fans forgot over the years? There’s a resurgence of Lillian followers now. You knew we were out there, but we were kind of silent for a lot of years.
Steve: You can only be as vocal as the band is. There’s no forum for you guys, but nobody’s ever went away.
Darrin: Once we started producing stuff and getting back into the scene, our fans are there, they’re loyal. They’re gonna be there.
Steve: And you start thinking about all these nutty stories over the years like that and they’re still happening and you start realizing that whatever the size and extent of our legacy is, it’s still a legacy and it’s still a career and it’s still a history… and it’s a shame to let it go by because when we’re on stage and those people are singing “Nobody Knows” and they know all your lyrics, you start goin’ ‘You know what? They know the lyrics.’ Let me tell you something about the fan mail we’ve gotten over the years: I still get a hundred letters and emails a day, it’s amazing.
Darrin: It’s from everywhere.
Steve: And you start thinking that for us to not continue on, we’re not taking advantage of a gift God gave us.
Darrin: One of the key facts here is that there’s this whole new generation of kids that have no clue about us. Last night a friend of mine who has never seen the band, has never heard “Misery Loves Company,” is nineteen years old, came to see the band and he was blow away. He loves us now, he’s goin around telling all his friends and stuff. [Now the hotel room phone rings.]
Steve: You’ve got to be kidding me. ‘Hello?’ And they hung up. See, nutty fans?
Darrin: Even Robert [Miguel] at the Eagle in Dallas [KEGL] are actually playing us on what’s called the Record Room, which is new music. They’re playing “Crucified,” which is actually being recorded again and we’re getting calls for it, they’re playing it every night on the radio, on a new music show!
Steve: I remember in ’92 when Poetic Justice came out and the first time it was just so simple how it started, you know with the whole alternative/grunge thing started kicking. I remember reading it in Rolling Stone -- it was like Rolling Stone did the first article on it and then [grunge] was it. That was like the cornerstone; if Rolling Stone says it, then everybody follows suit. But it was like ‘the end of hair metal,’ or something stupid like that. Then everybody just jumped on the bandwagon, so many followers just like sheep, you know. There’s so many kids these days that have no idea about bands like Lillian Axe or King’s X or Saigon Kick. And they haven’t even heard a Whitesnake record. All they knew about it was it was stuff that somebody at MTV called ‘hair metal’ or whatever and they’re missing out on a lot. And I’m not knocking music, because they got some new bands now that I think are incredible, some of my favorite bands are new bands. There’s some great bands from the ‘70s before some of us were even born and when we were kids, amazing bands, that some kids don’t know anything about: Deep Purple, Scorpions, bands like that. A whole league of music that really started it all. We came out in the ‘80s and we’ll be goin’ for the next 20 years. Honest to God, we look pretty good for our age. And the Rolling Stones, look at them and we’re straight! For the most part we all take good care of ourselves, we work out, there’s no drug abuse in the band and there’s no alcohol abuse… so if the Stones can still do it in their ‘60s, then in 30 years we should still be able to do it. So, to me the way I look at it, it’s something we’re gonna be doing until we all pass away or any individuals decide that they don’t want to be a part of it anymore. KNAC.COM: On May 4th you guys recorded your first-ever live CD at the 19th Hole here. How did you guys decide that now was the right time for this CD?
Darrin: Well, we were talking about doing a new record and we just figured that a live album would lead us into a studio album. Rather than rush into a studio album let’s put out something so that all of our fans can get the record, number one, to hear the music, then us to gain new fans. Like I said early about our friend that came to see us, he had no clue, he had never heard “Love and War” and “Show a Little Love,” “Crucify” and all those songs… all that stuff is new to them so now we have an opportunity for those people to go out to the stores and buy this.
Steve: We also toyed with the idea of a greatest hits live just because it’s a nice cross section of all of our albums. It’s no secret that it’s very hard to find our records in stores. So, I told the band and we agreed that if it doesn’t sound good, if it’s not a real representation, if it’s chronically beyond normal then we’re not gonna put it out.
Darrin: Yeah, we all agreed with that.
Steve: The guy that came out and recorded it, Ernie Wells, did a great job, he spent a lot of time listening to it. We did very minimal adjusting, equalizing, etc. The only thing we really did was in between songs if Ron was giving a ten minute speech we cut that out of there. We kept it very true to the experience. I wanted to make sure that when you listened to the record and you cranked it up loud, you felt like you were there and you could almost see the band, and you could feel the crowd because the crowd was an integral part of the show and you could feel the energy. It was a perfect show to record and it came out well. Not only to have a live album for people to realize that this wasn’t just a band that sounded good on tape, there is a magic at our shows, but to give them the opportunity to hear songs that they can’t find in the stores anymore. KNAC.COM: Why Houston? I mean, you guys probably could have a drawn a bigger crowd in say Dallas, or even your home state of Louisiana.
Steve: A few reasons. We play the club [19th Hole] a lot. The label [Red & Gold Records] is located here. It was just a club we had played a bunch of times, they have good PA, a good sounding room, and most of it had to do with the link to the label. But it’s a cool club, it’s a small club but it’s neat, they have really good bathrooms (huge sarcasm mode here).
Darrin: We played enough times here for New Year’s that we just figured that it’s comfortable for us. It’s a great city for us to do this in. KNAC.COM: Now most if not all bands when they make a live record, they record several shows and pick the best versions of the songs to put on the CD. You guys did using only one show. How much pressure did you guys feel knowing that you had to put on the performance of your careers in order to pull this thing off?
Steve: Before the show, anytime you made a mistake it was a $100 fine. No, we just paid attention. A lot of us are seasoned players in the band and we’ve been doing it for along time. I know myself personally I’m in that area now that, I mean, I’m in two men’s basketball leagues and I get nervous before games. Onstage, I’m like falling asleep before I walk out there I’m so relaxed. There’s no pressure because it’s just natural and the only thing we did I think is everybody just made sure they were relaxed, made sure everything was set, you know, a good sound check, no possibility of any kind of mechanical failures or anything like that and we just wanted to make sure that as much troubleshooting as possible was done ahead of time so there would be no glitches because there is no such thing as a rock concert without a glitch. KNAC.COM: Right, which leads right into my next question. Of course, if you had encountered any technical difficulties at all through the evening that could have put the entire project in jeopardy.
Steve & Darrin: We did!
Steve: The very first song. What happened was the kick drum pedal malfunctioned and had to be fixed in the middle, and it’s something we could have just sampled a kick drum and dropped it in but instead at the end of the show we asked [the fans] if we could just play it again and we did. KNAC.COM: I know that one of the prior times you played here you had all kinds of technical difficulties, so really it could have been an all or nothing shot on this.
Steve: We’re very fortunate.
Darrin: The stars lined up properly. KNAC.COM: Okay, now the original plans as I understood it was for you guys to play an extended set of tunes and then you were just gonna pick the best ones for a single live disc. What made you change the plans and do a double live disc?
Steve: It wouldn’t be fair to do a single disc. And the label was cool enough to make it a double disc for the price of a single. With too much catalog and too many songs, the fans would have lynched us if we had done a single disc. As it is, I’m like ‘Okay, why didn’t we do this, this, this and this’ because we’re only human. KNAC.COM: Yeah, and made it a triple disc! [Darrin and I] had this conversation at the Judas Priest show. Darrin said, ‘Yeah, Steve would love to play just like Rush, play a long set, take a break, then play another long set.
Darrin: [Laughing] Yeah, I just told Steve today that I thought we were playing a little too long and he says ‘Unh-Uh.’ There are so many songs that I would love to be playing especially when we write some new material.
Steve: Yeah, we’re going to have to really do some weighing when we have a new record out because you know that we’re gonna want to be playing the new stuff. A lot of the new stuff is gonna be a challenge to play because there’s some really off-the-wall different, not your typical chordal arrangements and stuff, a lot of really cool stuff. We’re challenging ourselves and challenging the industry as well. We’re writing new stuff but we have stuff that’s already demoed and just judging what we have so far, it’s gonna impress a lot of people I think. KNAC.COM: In preparation for the CD’s release, Lillian Axe was given the nod to be the opener for a couple of dates with Cinderella and one with Judas Priest. The sold-out Cinderella show at the House of Blues in New Orleans was an interesting one. The club wasn’t too sure about you guys, but then it took kind of an intriguing turn. Tell me what occurred.
Steve: Yeah, we sold it out. They mentioned to us that the majority of the calls and interest seemed to be coming from our fans.
Darrin: We had another date there that was tentative and they wanted to see the band actually play and before the first song was over they said, ‘You guys are coming back to play on August 31st.’
Steve: Well, the good part about it is, alright, you guys that come in and they’ve only been around for a little bit, most of these guys aren’t even from New Orleans and have a limited knowledge about musical history. The guys that worked there are really amazing and great guys, they were so cool to us and I guess they felt like the band hadn’t been around in seven years, so before we pay them that much money we need to be sure. Then to see it so slam packed, we sold tons of merchandise and had a great response.
Darrin: Like I said, the date was tentative prior to us going onstage but before the first song was over we were already booked there again. We walked out onstage and just torn ‘em up. KNAC.COM: Well, then you opened for Judas Priest in Houston and many people openly questioned whether or not this was a good match, but you took many people by surprise that night.
Steve: It’s so funny because I think that no matter who opened up for them, you would have had doomsayers questioning whether it’s a good match -- I mean what’s a good match? For Christ’s sake you can’t judge that. Like I said, it’s all the same animal, it’s just a different color on the skin, so what? I would rather go see a concert with a little bit of variety -- if I’m gonna go see Judas Priest, I don’t wanna see another heavy metal bands with studs on, I wanna see something that’s just good music. We’ve played with everybody, Jesus Lord man, from Ratt to Queensryche to Judas Priest, even Eddie Money, Stray Cats. We’ve played with Accept, they opened up for us for God’s sake, so it doesn’t matter, if the band’s good, the band’s good and we’re a heavy band, we do have a lot of very heavy stuff. Psychoschizophrenia was probably as heavy as any record, if you want to look at just downright balls and meat and attitude. It’s as heavy as any record you can find out there, but at the same time you have a band like Led Zeppelin, they had some incredibly heavy songs; “Kashmir,” “Black Dog,” stuff like that. That was heavy, but then they still turned around and wrote “Stairway to Heaven.” That doesn’t mean they were a wimp band because they wrote that, they were a great rock band and that’s what it’s all about. That’s why I hate stereotypes and I don’t wanna be categorized, do it if you need to, I don’t care, but we know that we’re just a rock-n-roll band. KNAC.COM: And Judas Priest was less than cordial to the band, is that correct?
Steve: Let’s put it this way, first of all I guess the first thing to say is they were British. No, those guys have been around for a long time and I’m sure they probably didn’t even want to be in the States, who knows, but this band’s been around for a long period of time and we always enjoy meeting everybody that opened up for us and stuff like that. We didn’t get a chance to say ‘hi’ to them. The few people that did see ‘em it was like they barely got a nod, you know, a crude attitude about being backstage and I’m like ya know, c’mon guys, there’s a thousand people out there, if you’re lucky, and don’t take yourselves so seriously that you can’t even be human. But you know, I thought it was a great show, Ripper sang his ass off and they were good and I loved seeing them, but that’s one of the reasons why I don’t ever want to meet the bands that I’m a big fan of because as soon as they piss you off and you realize the human element involved you wanna go take their CDs and make potholders out of them or something… so that’s why it’s very important to us, we did an in-store today and there’s 4 or 5 year old kids going ‘Take a picture with me’ and we have ‘em do the metal sign and all. Shit man, that’s important. KNAC.COM: Now, the band has embarked on a major campaign to promote the new CD. In a reversal of past fortunes when the band had little support from MCA, Lillian has taken a very hands-on approach to the promotion this time around.
Steve: Yeah, the machine we have to work with is not as big as when we were with IRS and Grand Slam -- it was a big machine we were working with there. I think we were the victim; I mean right after we got that label, the label folded. We were a big victim of the industry change too and our label being folded, but I’m not gonna say that Grand Slam/IRS didn't do a good job, beacuase they did a great job for a while. They dropped the ball too quick and a couple of decisions that they made were crucial, like us not doing a video for “True Believer” after releasing “No Matter What” as the single with the video, that was like a spoof video. I’ll go on record as saying I don’t like any of our videos, we never had anything to say about it. Then we came out with Psycho[schizophrenia] which was clearly to me our best record, and “Crucified” should have had a video, we even had treatments for the video and it never got released. What do you do, you know, you’re at their mercy. But we had a lot of great people like Chipster Entertainment doing publicity for us and we were in a lot of places, we did get to tour Europe several times and we had a lot of things opened for us but nowadays you got to have a machine that’s turning on all the cogs, working in the right direction clicking at the same time and we always had like a piece of brick in the spokes and we couldn’t turn the wheel. KNAC.COM: Of course, all signs point to this record doing well by your standards. The last figure I heard from Darrin on August 1st was that 8,000 copies had already been preordered. What was the final count prior to the disc’s release?
Steve: Not sure. As a matter of fact we’ll see the label guy tonight. It was probably about that because a lot of the independent chains come in late with their orders.
Darrin: It’s probably a little bit over 10,000 right now. It’s like we’re working with an independent label, a startup label with a distribution company, which is the smartest way to do it. We have more control over what happens as opposed to them telling us what’s going on. KNAC.COM: Not as many hands in the middle.
Darrin: You know, it sort of takes a little bit longer but the end result is that we’ll be able to get our record out to our fans.
Steve: We can call the president of the label on the phone and call him an asshole and get away with it. KNAC.COM: Also of interesting note is that during your entire career you were there for the fans. Now, with the release of Live 2002, the fans are returning the band’s loyalty, not only by buying the CD, but many are actually taking an active participation in helping to promote the band as well.
Steve: we’ve got a core group of people that are going out and putting flyers and posters up -- a street team so to speak -- and it’s cool. The only problem is we have people like that all over the country and we can’t get to them personally because of the fact that we all live down here. They have done everything short of selling their souls to get this promoted, and we’re trying to get ‘em to sell their souls [Laughs]. KNAC.COM: All right, so what’s next for you guys? You have about five release party shows planned, one being last night in Dallas, and one tonight at the ‘scene of the crime’ in Houston and now even a couple of dates booked in the Midwest. How tough is it going to be for you guys if it comes about, seeing as how you all have what could be called a ‘normal’ life now, to get the time off to do a major national tour if it becomes available?
Darrin: Well, if that ends up happening, if that materializes it’s not gonna be hard at all because the money will be there. The way we’re doing it now is a little bit different ballgame, especially with the way the label is, but if we get to that point it’s gonna be like okay, let’s go, let’s make the plans, let’s make it happen. My work is cool, I can take a leave of absence if I have to. They shake their heads and go ‘God, you guys should be huge! What happened?’
Steve: And in that environment we all have support so it shouldn’t be a problem at all. KNAC.COM: I am sure you are looking forward to being able to get back out in front of so many fans across the country.
Steve: I can’t wait to get back out.
Darrin: You never know, something might break, we might sell X amount of records and get put on a tour. I’m real good friends with Jeff LeBar, the guitarist from Cinderella and he was like ‘Why don’t you guys continue playing with us? You guys are grueling, this is good.’ It was just a good match, you know, somewhere down the line it could happen.
Steve: We’re gonna be smart about who we tour with too. There’s a lot of bands we could tour with, but I’m not it would be the right type of environment for us so we’re gonna just take offers as they come. Right now offers are coming in all over the place because they know the record came out so we’ll be smart. The most important thing we’re really going to concentrate on is this next record.
Darrin: I was gonna say that. The most important thing is to make a really great record and everything will answer itself there. KNAC.COM: All right, the Bitch is indeed back! Lillian Axe – Live 2002 is available now and can purchased through www.lillianaxe.com, www.lillianaxecentral.com, and a whole slew of fine music-carrying stores worldwide. If your store doesn’t have it, tell them to order it! And look for Lillian Axe to hit a city near you in the near future. In closing, I just want to say that while many bands only talk the talk when it comes to doing things for their fans, Lillian Axe truly walks the walk and can easily stake their claim to the title of ‘World’s Greatest Fan’s Band.’ Thanks again guys and best of luck on the future!
Steve: Our pleasure! Thanks again Larry, we appreciate it, man. After leaving the interview, we headed back to The 19th Hole to prepare for the show. While there vocalist Ron Taylor pulled me aside and sincerely apologized for not being able to make the interview. He was evidently not feeling 100% physically and desperately needed some rest, but imagine that, a rock star apologizing for not making an interview. That being said, the band came out and still played a full 2-hour plus show to the horde of fans that had attended that night. I’m telling you people, whether you like the band or not, these guys are an absolute class act! (Photos Courtesy of Larry & Lea Petro)
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