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Riding the Rising Waters. Deb Rao's Conversation with Lillian Axe Leader Steve Blaze

By Debby Rao, Boston Contributor
Tuesday, June 19, 2007 @ 1:52 PM

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During the 80's, Lillian Axe toured with some of metal’s leading bands including Ratt, Poison, Queensryche, and Krokus. Originally formed in 1983, Lillian Axe carved a niche among metal fans across the country. Over the years, the band went through some line-up changes. These days Lillian Axe is comprised of Derrick LeFevre on vocals, Steve Blaze on lead guitar, Sam Poitevent on guitars, Eric Morris on bass, and Ken Koudelka on drums.

Lillian Axe gets ready to make a new mark in metal in with their first studio release in fifteen years. The new album, Waters Rising will be released on July 17th on Metro City Records. The CD Party will be held at the House of Blues in New Orleans on July 20th.

Guitarist Steve Blaze takes us on a journey back to the 80's, and steps into the future of Lillian Axe.

KNAC.COM: Steve, Thanks for checking in with KNAC.COM. Your new release, Waters Rising got pushed back to July 17th. Why?

BLAZE: Actually this is the band's first studio record since, Psycho-Schizophrenia, so it has been a while. We did Fields Of Yesterday, and a live album a few years ago. But this is our first studio album since the 90's. We have been working and recording this for four years. We actually started recording this even before we had a deal. We just decided to take our time and make the best possible record that we could and present it to that label when we were finished. That way there was no rush, no restrictions put on us, and nobody micro- managing us. The reason it got pushed back is because this wasn't an optical time. Sometimes you have to judge whether or not how a specific time frame is in relation to other releases. It depends on the time of season or what not. That is just business. I think it is etched in stone now.

KNAC.COM: Lillian Axe has a very important line-up change. You have a new front man in Derrick LeFevre who is replacing Ron Taylor. When did he come on to the scene and how does his vocal style influence the sound of Lillian Axe?

BLAZE: What happened was, a few months ago Ron at that time decided that he didn't want to pursue this anymore. He wanted to go ff and do other things. He knew, we were going back out on the road. Eventually with this record, we would be getting back into the full swing of things. He just decided it was not what he wanted to do with his life. At that point, we just started putting the word out a little. It got out pretty quick, and a lot of people contacted us. Derrick is from New Orleans. He has been a fan; I have known him for a long time. He never really realized how good he was. He called me one day, and said this is my gig. You don't need to look any further. So I said, I will send you some copies of the new stuff and some of the old stuff too. So I can hear your spin on it, and see what you got. His voice was unbelievable. He sounds uncannily very similar to Ron. Matter of fact, a lot of people that listen can't even tell the difference. He adds his own unique texture. He has got a thick, rich texture to his voice. The great thing about that is, I found somebody that is not only bringing something new to the band, and keeping it fresh, but he can do the entire old catalog and sound similar to Ron. Because you know when a new voice is singing all the past songs sounding like an entirely different singer, it doesn't work. So when I am telling you, you can't tell the difference, you really can't. It is unbelievable. Eric Morris is the bass player in my other band, Near Life Experience. My engineer Rob Hovey is also the drummer for Near Life Experience now. Eric was the logical choice. He is a great bass player. I feel that the line-up that we have right now, even though there has been changes over the years, is that the essence of the band is always going to be there. I have always written all of the material. That is an important element that the songwriter that has written all of the material that everybody knows of is still in the band. At that point, you start getting concerned, when the emphasis of the band is lost, when the person that has written all of the material would happen to leave the band. The people that have listened to this record have given great reviews on it so far. Everybody is very excited about. I think the fans are going to be very well pleased when they hear it.

KNAC.COM: When you went into the studio, were you trying to recapture the old Lillian Axe Sound?

BLAZE: When we first started, I told my engineer Rob Hovey, I said look we are not even going to try and think of any preconceptions of what should this be like. Let's just go in there and do it. Let's just keep it real, keep it natural and it will come out the way it is meant to. Every record that we ever done have been a growing experience. It is a band that has evolved and taken the jump to the next level. No matter how much we evolved, we always sound like Lillian Axe. The same thing thing holds true here. It is a very modern sounding album. It has a lot of songs on it. It is almost 70 minutes long. We just didn't think of any parameters regarding we had to do this many ballads, or this kind of song. The best material made the record. We did it without any preconceptions of what people would want us to do.

KNAC.COM: Let's discuss some of the songs on Waters Rising. Tell me about the song, ”Quarantine."

BLAZE: "Quarantine" is a song about germ phobia. I am a pretty hygiene oriented clean freak. I carry all of my sanitation devices with me. I am very meticulous. When you have been on the road for so many years, you realize how dirty things are around you. I just wrote that song, kind of making fun of myself, when I am at home. It is about someone who totally encloses himself in a bubble to lock the outside world out and keep germs away from him.

KNAC.COM: How did you come up with the title track?

BLAZE: That song was written a long time ago. I want to say six or seven years a go, I wrote that song. It seemed kind of the theme for the record because it is about how you go through your day, and there is always that boiling point factor. It is very hard these days in our society to relax. It is very hard to keep calm, because everything is on the upswing. You drive in traffic, drive to work, gas prices are going higher. Everything seems to be on the increase of stress. The older you get, and the more things you get involved in with more stress related activities. That is what Waters Rising is basically about. The whole album on a whole is how we go about dealing with different situations that make your body go insane. It is how to keep those things in check and how to find that inner spot, where you can learn to deal with them without letting them take control of you. Because if you don't take care of that on your own, it will definitely get the best of you and take over your life. I am the worst one to give advice. I get up at 7 A.M. and go to bed at 1 A.M. nonstop. So it means a lot to me personally.

KNAC.COM: What about the song ”2nd of May”? What special meaning does that song have to you?

BLAZE: We wrote that about people disappearing. I was in the post office one day, and just noticed all of the posters put up, how may of this missing people never get found. I think about that on a grand scale nationwide. It is really scary. You hear everything from like alien abduction to kidnapping. We are talking about thousands and thousands of people that disappear and vanish without a trace every year. I think there is a lot more to it than being kidnapped and buried in the woods somewhere.

KNAC.COM: Yes, I agree. It must be the worst feeling in the world to have someone disappear, and never be found. On a lighter note, there's an instrumental song, "5” on the album. Tell me about your guitar influences.

BLAZE: I have been playing guitar since I was seven years old. It has been a long time. All of my guitar influences as a teenager all had a part of me developing my style. I think once you have been playing and have a certain amount of experience, you kind of get away from everything else. Your style becomes so ingrained, and it doesn't change. It just continues to evolve and you just develop your own individual thing. I did an arpeggio type thing, orchestrated pieces, I used blues riffing, harmonic and whammy bar stuff. I wanted to throw all of my different styles in there. Just because so many people were coming up to me and asking me what I never done an instrumental record. I said, yeah know what? I am going to throw this in for everybody.

KNAC.COM: Let's go back to your debut album with Lillian Axe. Actually Robin Crosby (Ratt) produced it. What was it like working with Robin?

BLAZE: Well, before we got signed we were asked to open up for Ratt on the Dancing Undercover tour. Marshall Berle was their manager at the time and saw the band. Robin wanted to get into producing and Marshall wanted to manage the band. He got in touch with me, and Robin liked the band. We had played with Ratt for five shows. That led to us getting signed to MCA. Robin produced the first record. He was a great guy, he really was. It is a shame what happened to him. Queensryche was the opener on some of the shows. It was back in the day, when big rock shows were amazing. It is so much different the way concerts are now. There was big lights, big production, and pyro, arena packed with screaming fans. It was great.

KNAC.COM: You recently played a few shows with Stephen Pearcy with your other band Near Life Experience.

BLAZE: Yes, we did a few shows with Stephen with Near Life Experience. Stephen is a cool guy.

KNAC.COM: Lillian Axe took a hiatus for a while at the end of 1995 when the grunge scene had started to take control of the music industry. What was it like getting back together again, after the scene had changed so drastically?

BLAZE: We kind of got back together in 1999. We put out Fields Of Yesterday. We did some reunion shows, and they went so well, we decided to do some more. We went to Japan. We went to Europe and put out a live album in 2002. We just decided let's go out and do this record and find the right label and jump back into it. Japan was great. There were lots of people, neon lights. It is definitely a unique. It is hard to describe. They really try hard to be very americanized. It is very clean, and some of the areas were very beautiful. They have amazing gardens and temples. Out of all the countries that I have been to, Japan has definitely been the most unique and most memorable experience that I have had.

KNAC.COM: You played the Bang Your Head in Festival in Europe in 2004. Tell me about that experience.

BLAZE: That was great. The Bang Your Head Festival was cool because I played with Lillian Axe, and I also played guitar in Angel. I played with Angel, got off stage and changed my clothes and went back on with Lillian Axe doing two shows in one day. It was a blast. We played shows in Switzerland as well. We hadn't been in Europe in years. There were 40,000 people. It was nice to se the response. When we were finished we sat in the autograph tent for hours signing autographs. When they made us leave to bring another band in there, there were 500 people that we couldn't get to. I always felt we did well over there. We are pretty popular in Europe. So hopefully we will get back over there this year.

KNAC.COM: Are you still working with Angel?

BLAZE: Yes, I am still doing that, too. We are trying to get a label to fund the first album. Frank (DiMino) the singer handles all of the business. He is working with some potential labels to get the band in the studio.

KNAC.COM: In 2002, why did you choose to put out a live album versus a studio release?

BLAZE: Probably because of the fact that we wanted to get out some of the old material out. Because of the fact that the label had owned our old material or it was non-existed anymore and it was hard to find our records. So we wanted to at least get some of the songs released. By putting out a live album, we had the rights to do it. We didn't have to go through any problems with the record companies because they didn't own the rights to the songs. We just got together. I found a nice venue; I had a nice mobile studio. We went in there and did it in one night. A lot of times, live albums are very difficult to capture the sound. I think we managed to do that pretty well.

KNAC.COM: You hail form the New Orleans area. DO you have some personal experiences related to Hurricane Katrina you'd like to share?

BLAZE: Actually, I moved two years ago to Mandeville, Louisiana. It is about an hour from New Orleans. I just sold my house three months before the hurricane. A tree fell in the roof and a fence was knocked down. I had some minor damage around the house. My Mom and one of my sisters lost their houses. Since then they are back up and running. I was right in the middle of the whole thing. It was just pure devastation. It really had a huge impact on my life.

KNAC.COM: How is the music scene in New Orleans? Is it flourishing again?

BLAZE: Not really. I don't think so. This city has never really supported rock music. It is all about the blues and the jazz players down in Bourbon Street. It has never really supported the rock at all. It is a shame. It has always been a problem with the city not supporting rock acts. You can be a jazz guitar player, or a blues player and sell 20 records and you play on Bourbon Street, you will make the cover of the newspaper. But to be in a rock band and sell 100's of thousands of records, you barely get a blurb.

KNAC.COM: Do you still have the movie production company, Velvet Life Productions?

BLAZE: Yes, the vampire movie, "Tao of M", actually the script was just re-written. We have a new director. We are trying to get everything together. We are having a meeting next week with some possible funders. So we can hopefully get this thing up and running and filming by the end of the year.

KNAC.COM: Are you working with Type O Negative's Peter Steele on the movie?

BLAZE: Well, we asked Peter to be in the movie. But we have to recast the movie now. I am sure the director is going to want to get him involved in it? He would be perfect for the movie. I talked to Peter a few times, and he was going to do it. But this was two years ago .So now with the new director, we have got to get back in touch with Peter and see if he is still interested in doing it. He would be great for the movie.

KNAC.COM: How would you compare the music scene today to the 80's?

BLAZE: The 80's were definitely a time, that the spirit of music and the spirit of concerts and rock and roll was really an unique experience. There were much excessive things going on. People's attitudes were much better. They were more upbeat. People had fun at shows. They supported the band. It was a very uplifting experience. It was great for us, because that is when we started and get signed. We really did well. The 80's and the whole era were just really exciting. The era of live music and big concerts, rock on the radio, and people supporting it, when MTV was a true video station. It has been downhill ever since.

KNAC.COM: Well Steve, it is going to be a good summer for you.

BLAZE: Yes, we are playing the House of Blues in New Orleans on July 20th. Just to get warmed up. Then in September, we go out for four or five weeks across the U.S. We are playing out your way in New Hampshire at Marks Place In September. Our label is based out of our area. They are located up by you. Metro City is a division of Screaming Ferret.

KNAC.COM: Yes, New Hampshire still supports 80's music. Mark's Showplace is a fun club. Steve, Good Luck with the upcoming release, and hopefully I will get to see the band in September.

BLAZE: Hopefully, we will see you when we come up to play. Thank you for your support at KNAC. We are looking forward to the tour.

Lillian Axe tour dates:

  • Jul. 20 - The Parish - New Orleans, LA
  • Sep. 04 - Smith's Olde Bar - Atlanta GA
  • Sep. 05 - The Nick - Birmingham, AL
  • Sep. 06 - Jesters Pub - Fayetteville, NC
  • Sep. 07 - The Muse - Nashville, TN
  • Sep. 08 - Jaxx Nightclub - West Springfield, VA
  • Sep. 10 - Highline Ballroom - New York, NY
  • Sep. 12 - Webster Theatre - Hartford, CT
  • Sep. 14 - The Chance - Poughkeepsie, NY
  • Sep. 15 - Mark's Showplace - Bedford, NH
  • Sep. 16 - Starland Ballroom - Sayreville, NJ
  • Sep. 17 - Wreck Room - Toronto, ONT
  • Sep. 18 - Peabody's - Cleveland, OH
  • Sep. 19 - I-Rock - Detroit, MI
  • Sep. 20 - Huntington Music Hall/The Monkey Bar - Huntington, WV
  • Sep. 21 - The Pearl Room - Mokena, IL
  • Sep. 22 - Station 4 - St. Paul MN
  • Sep. 23 - Vnuk's Lounge - Milwaukee, WI
  • Sep. 24 - Static Bar - Topeka, KS
  • Sep. 28 - Outlaws Music Hall - Portland, OR
  • Sep. 29 - Studio Seven - Seattle, WA
  • Oct. 01 - Whiskey a Go Go - West Hollywood, CA
  • Oct. 02 - House of Blues 5th Ave Stage - San Diego, CA
  • Oct. 04 - Launch Pad - Albuquerque, NM
  • Oct. 05 - Curtain Club - Dallas, TX
  • Oct. 06 - Scout Bar - Houston, TX

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