LILLIAN AXE are one of the bands I grew up rocking out to back in Long Island. I saw them no less than four times at the old Sundance out in Bay Shore and I always felt that they absolutely wiped the stage with most of their peers at the time, yet somehow never got their due. Anyway, I’m happy to report that the band is stronger than ever, and they recently released a live acoustic double CD/DVD album entitled One Night in the Temple (look for our review soon!). Guitarist and resident mastermind Steve Blaze was kind enough to call in and spend some time talking with us about all things LILLIAN AXE, as well as put up with my insane fanboying! Check it:
Amps: So here we are on album number 13 and an acoustic live album nonetheless! How are things in the world of LILLIAN AXE and Steve Blaze?
Steve: Everything’s actually going real well right now. We had a bad car wreck last August and it sidelined us for about eight months. All our equipment was destroyed and it was a very close encounter with death. We are just now back to where we are comfortable, and we’re eager to play. We all needed to sit back and take a little time off to get our heads together as well as our health. We spent a lot of time getting this One Night in the Temple project together. It’s what we needed at the time, and we also were able to think about the next studio record. I’m also getting ready to host a show, a paranormal investigations show. That’s something I’ve gotten into. I have a team and we’re gonna shoot 13 episodes of this show and it’s gonna be aired regionally on Pelican Broadcasting Network and we’re gonna build that up. It’s been my other passion for the last couple of years. Between that, LILLIAN AXE, my cover band with Guy Gelso (ZEBRA), and I’m gonna be playing guitar with BADFINGER for a few dates, and being a dad, I’m pretty busy.
Amps: There have been a lot of ups and downs in the band’s career. Like, putting out PSYCHOSCHIZOPHRENIA at a time when the music industry just went to shit- I call the 90’s the Musical Vasectomy Decade.
Steve: That’s…perfect. Perfect title.
Amps: People who actually sang and played in tune were thrown by the wayside and miserable, mopey people wearing their grandfathers’ sweaters while staring at the goddamn floor were celebrated. I hate the 90’s so much.
Steve: I tell ya man, it hasn’t gotten any better since.
Amps: True, but at least now you can put a package together of three or four bands from our era and everyone has a great night of rock. Bands like you guys, FIREHOUSE, WARRANT, etc. who are still rockin’ and rollin’, still putting out quality records can play a Trees Dallas, or a House of Blues, and everybody has a great time.
Steve: That’s a good point, too. Because I look at music over the past 50 years and the best decade of all of them is still the 70’s. The industry wasn’t like it is now. I dunno, it just didn’t seem as cut-throat, and all about the money like it is now. The record labels had fewer bands but they seemed like they cultivated them and developed them. the great groups like ALICE COOPER and BREAD and QUEEN; there wasn’t a glut of crap with labels throwing stuff out there to see what would stick, and whatever made ’em money right away they stuck with and everything else they threw by the wayside.The good thing about the 80’s was music being more accessible to people through MTV and bands like RATT, SCORPIONS, BON JOVI all started to get radio play. And turned things around. But, isn’t that the way it is, man?
People are never satisfied. They never appreciated it. The press and the media are always looking for something to get a story out of so we have to have shake-ups, there’s gotta be drama, and there’s gotta be problems. And we lose a lot of simple things that way. Ever since the late 80’s and early 90’s when it started to go down and the whole grunge thing hit the labels started to become more like corporations and not entities that were cultivating artists.
All of a sudden all the cool stuff started dwindling down. Radio wasn’t playing great rock; MTV became more of a reality TV show network and not about music. It all spiraled downward and it hasn’t picked up since. But if you look at all these decades, the 70’s with rock, the 80’s with metal, hair metal, whatever you wanna call it, and the early 90’s with grunge…since then has ANYTHING in the last 20 years even been a force enough to have an identity? No. Look at the last 10 years, there isn’t even a name you can associate with it because there’s nothing special and the market hasn’t allowed it to go forth because it’s not supporting it. Look at the live venues, man. People don’t go to see shows anymore. They sit their lazy asses in front of their computer, eat Ding Dongs and watch a ZEPPELIN concert on YouTube. And kids don’t know what they’re missing. That feeling of being 15 and waiting on line outside to see RUSH. And then the doors open and you run in to get to your seat and the stage is smoky and it’s like “Wow!” The bands who cared about their entrance and exit and making the show unique.
Amps: I’ll admit, being a vocalist guy, I was skeptical about this current line-up you have, but hearing Brian Jones on this album, he really breathes new life into these songs.
Steve: I’m glad to hear you say that because everybody I talk to in interviews is saying the same thing. And it’s tough. No matter how fantastic he is he’s got an obstacle to overcome no matter what just because of the history. And on this he really shines. He added his own style while keeping the feel. He does an amazing job of delivering the things that he’s known for from the last record. It’s a blessing, he’s a fantastic singer.
Amps: I’m not gonna lie, he had to grow on me. I’m from the old school and I initially thought Brian’s voice was too high, but the more I spun The Days Before Tomorrow I started to say to myself, “This guy is really good!” And watching the trailer for the DVD I was really into it.
Steve: Well thank you, man. It was more than just us doing an acoustic concert. It was basically about us re-establishing ourselves in certain ways. Not only musically, but as a group. Because it let people know, “Hey you know what? He’s a new singer and you’re all holding the bar high but listen to how he delivers.” he got through the first album and people are really starting to come around now. Some people, it could have been Pavarotti singing and they would have hated it (laughs) but it solidifies his place in the band and it also encapsulated the history of the band and introduced a lot of these songs people hadn’t heard in years and those old songs are just as valid as the new ones, you know? Whether it’s five completely different guys you can’t take away from the songs.
Amps: I can’t wait to just sit with it, and I’m sure you can’t wait to get it out there, right?
Steve: I’m excited about the album of course, but I’m more excited about the DVD than anything else. It’s a documentary, it’s two and a half hours and we have bonus features and question and answer features. In between the songs I’m talking about them, there’s backstage footage, interviews, and guest appearances. I like sitting and watching that stuff, I’m still not bored of it!
Amps: “Ghost of Winter” is one of your best songs, period. And Brian does a great job here.
Steve: Thank you very much, I appreciate that. Brian really nailed it. That’s one he’s been complimented on a lot. That’s a tough song to sing, and Ron (Taylor) did an amazing job on it, so it’s not easy to fill those shoes.
Amps: Please tell me you’re coming back to Dallas this year. You’ve been here three times since I moved to TX and the Metal Gods have conspired against me each time!
Steve: (Laughs) we are hopefully gonna be there end of the summer. It’ll be a full-on electric show. The acoustic thing is only a couple shows, like in-stores and radio stations. If we could do what we did on One Night in the Temple and go out to a venue and do the whole thing, including the Q&A, we would. But we have too much energy man, I couldn’t sit there every night. I’d be jumping out of my skin.
Amps: I have to say, since I have you on the phone, that when anyone, and I mean ANYONE says LILLIAN AXE to me, the first thing I say is “Most criminally underrated band in the world!” And I’m so sorry I spent half this interview fanboying!
Steve: No, that means a lot, man. I really do appreciate when people understand what we do. Because LILLIAN AXE is a different breed of band and I kind of feel that the people who enjoy what we do are a cut above and really do feel the music and the lyrics, so you saying that means a lot to me. And if I had a nickel for every time somebody told me what you just did we’d be living in the Caribbean right now sipping margaritas (laughs).
Amps: Do you know how many friggin’ people I copied Love + War for, back in the days of, “Oh, here’s a blank. Copy that for me.” back in high school? I turned so many people onto that record, man.
Steve: It baffles me because I hear that so much and yet LILLIAN is always gonna have a cult following. We have a lot of people who like us, and they get it in a deep way. And then I see bands that put out a couple of records that are just surface level-type stuff and they sell billions of records. Bands like us, SAIGON KICK, KING’S X I feel deserved a lot more commercial success. I can’t tell you meaningful it is to know that we’ve moved so many people. That’s what drives me to keep doing this.
Amps: So what would you like to say to all the LILLIAN AXE and Steve Blaze fans?
Steve: First of all, I want to thank everyone for all the support. We’ve had a rough year with the accident and I hope everybody realizes how much our fans mean to us. We put out a box set, and a DVD, and we’re headed out on the road, AND we’re working on the next record. The support and all the meaningful comments that we get from people really does make us wanna continue doing this. I encourage everybody to call your radio stations and get the bands that mean something to you played, not just us, but bands who move you. It costs $10 to buy a record, support your favorite bands. That’s what allows them to continue. Call your festivals and demand they put LILLIAN AXE on. We’ve earned the right to be heard, that’s all I can say.
One of the many great things about Steve Blaze is that he will tell it like it is and pull no punches. With all the crap LILLIAN AXE has had to endure he could have thrown in the towel years ago. But he didn’t, and he won’t. Why? Because it’s all about the fans, that’s why. This band has been the soundtrack to a lot of people’s lives, mine included, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Pick up your copy of One Night in the Temple, pop the DVD in, and have some fun!