Home > Music > Mini-Issue #554.5 Steve Blaze/Lillian Axe Interview

Mini-Issue #554.5 Steve Blaze/Lillian Axe Interview

Mini-Issue #554.5
July 2, 2010

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Patrick Brower, Editor

Sean P. Gahgan, Editor

Tim Wadzinski, Owner

Steve Shumake, Co-owner

-Happy Friday, and if you’re in the U.S. then have a great Independence Day weekend! – Tim

by Tim Wadzinski (tsw512@yahoo.com)

-Interview w/ Steve Blaze (Lillian Axe)
June 23, 2010

The perennially underrated Lillian Axe is back with a new release called DEEP RED SHADOWS, hot on the heels of last year’s SAD DAY ON PLANET EARTH. But is it an album? An E.P.? I spoke to band leader Steve Blaze to get the scoop on that and a few other things.

DETRITUS: I was surprised to see you guys had another release coming out so soon after last year’s SAD DAY ON PLANET EARTH.

STEVE BLAZE: Yeah, you know, I always liked the fact there were a few bands like Kiss that used to put out an album a year in the old days. (laughs) I like that idea. We had been gone for so many years that I sort of swore to myself that we’d never wait three or four years to do a record. So three albums in a little over two years’ span — I’m trying to give as much music to the fans as I possibly can. So yeah, there were a lot of changes, a lot of good things going on and I’m always writing — you can’t stop the fever once it gets started. I’m really excited about it.

D: I was anticipating a full new album, but then I saw the track list and recognized a few familiar titles, which your Web site says are acoustic re-recordings of older songs. So I have to ask — are the “new” songs really new, or have they been kicking around for a while?

SB: No, actually what happened is we formed our own label, Love & War Records, and we partnered with Megaforce. We have a whole new staff on the label. There are several partners on this. My manager Charlie [Bagarozza] and I wanted to form our own label to do it right because this is our seventh label. It’s just the way the music industry is, we just seem to get let down by labels all the time — I know all bands do — but it’s kind of frustrating. So we formed the label and decided at first to put out an E.P., just four or five new songs to kick the label off, get fans interested, let them know what was going on. And then we had the idea, “Well, why don’t we do acoustic versions of some of the older songs?” Before you know it we’ve got nine songs on the record and it’s 46 minutes long. So it becomes an L.P. instead of an E.P., which is great.

We were able to do “Nobody Knows” from the first album, and “The Day I Met You” [from PSYCHOSCHIZOPHRENIA], doing them with a 2010 version of the song. And a couple from the last record [“Sad Day On Planet Earth” and “Nocturnal Symphony”] that we wanted to do just acoustically. Lillian has always done a lot of acoustic shows and performances where we’ve done the entire heavy songs with all-acoustic guitars, and it goes over real well for the fans. So we said “Let’s go ahead and do this,” and make it kind of a specialty record. The four new songs… Two of the songs — “Under The Same Moon” and “47 Ways To Die” — are brand new, like written in the last couple of months, and two of them I had written in the past and basically changed them up. I wrote them maybe seven, eight years ago. I have a *huge* library of material, songs that at the right time — depending on what’s going on around me and whatnot — fit perfectly as to what’s going on. “The Quenching Of Human Life” and “A Minute Of Years” I’d written in the past, but they’re perfect for this record.

This record has a bit of a theme, a kind of vampiric/gothic theme behind the songs and new material. [Bassist] Eric [Morris] and I were in a low-budget vampire movie together, and spent a lot of time in pre-production for the movie, and Hurricane Katrina destroyed our hopes of doing that five years ago. We’ve always had this thing — we’re trying to shop our script right now — but we’ve always had this fascination with the whole vampire lore. These songs kind of fit that theme a little bit. The whole record, with the acoustic versions, has songs that are a dark view of life and death and love and good and evil. There’s a nice theme, like most of our albums do, fall into a thematic type thing as we’re adding material on and mixing it and recording it. So what was going to be a small E.P. turned into a full-length specialty record for the fans.

D: So, vampires… Are you going to do the soundtrack for the next “Twilight” movie? (laughs)

SB: (laughs) I tell you what, if we could get a song on that that would be wonderful. We have a song called “Nocturnal Symphony” that’s about the whole romanticism of vampire lore, and really being immortal is a bittersweet thing. It’s either a great blessing or an amazing curse to actually be turned into a vampire. It’s kinda funny because of all the horror characters vampires, because of the romanticism behind them, they seem to never go away. They seem to always have such intrigue about them. I think that of all the horror characters, vampires are the most beloved by the public. I’ve always had a fascination with them myself, and after doing this movie we thought it’d be kind of cool. We’ve always had darker gothic overtones in our material. We wanted to do something where I wasn’t sitting there trying to write a hit. “Let’s just write some cool, dark, powerful dynamic stuff and put it out there, and do what we want to do.” So we did, and it came out real well. I’m real happy with the way this thing turned out in the end.

D: Back to the acoustic stuff for just a minute… How did you choose the songs? A couple are older and a couple are from the last record. Was there a method? Did you consider trying to do one from each album?

SB: Each one had its own fan. We have a lot of dynamic songs, going from acoustic and softness into, you know, big bombastic heavy parts. When we were picking the right songs it wasn’t thought so much of “Let’s do one from each album,” which is an idea I did have. We talked a year ago about putting an album together of all of our ballads, like “Waiting In The Dark,” “The Needle And Your Pain,” picking “Promised Land” and “See You Someday” and doing them — we still may do that one day. But “Nobody Knows” was always a huge favorite with the crowd, all the time, I guess because it was our ballad on the first record and it had a kind of dearness to everyone’s heart, fans that have been with us for a long time. “The Day I Met You” I just honestly felt like that song, if it was worked at radio, would be an immense hit. Because if you look on YouTube it has more hits than any of our videos on there — people *love* this song because it’s so beautiful and pure and simple. Because of the fact it was on PSYCHOSCHIZOPHRENIA 15 years ago, you know, there’s something to be said for doing a fresh new version of something, with changes. We added strings to it, more guitars, kinda just beefed it up a little bit with Derrick [LeFevre] singing. Then we did “Sad Day On Planet Earth” and “Nocturnal Symphony,” basically because those were from the last record, and they both kind of thematically fit the whole bittersweet, sad, melancholy, dark vibe from the rest of the record. We could’ve put 20 other ballads on there that would’ve worked, but those are the ones in the end we decided would work, and keep the album cohesive.

D: The record ends with an instrumental, the title track. Was that intended to have vocals or was it planned as an instrumental?

SB: No, I knew from the beginning that I was going to write an instrumental. I wanted something that was going to cap off the record, something not really depressing and sad or bombastic — just something beautiful that would encompass, and neatly tie up the end of the record. I actually sat down and wrote it, like a lot of the acoustic things I do, I write it as I’m recording it. Once I get started on the idea the rest of just naturally comes to me. So I just hit the mic and run it. I wrote it and played it in one take all the way through. Then I did the overdubs after that. It’s kind of like writing and recording at the same time. I do that with a lot of things; I did that with “The Day I Met You” as well. The idea is, when I start recording I’m not sure where it’s gonna go, but at the end I’ll have found a nice pattern that makes it very natural for me. (laughs) So that’s what I did for that, which was the last thing I wrote for the record.

D: I read an interview with you a while back, maybe around the time of PSYCHOSCHIZOPHRENIA or even FIELDS OF YESTERDAY, where the interviewer asked you about your penchant for writing about the seasons. Your response was along the lines of, “Oh, you noticed that, huh?” Now with the last couple of releases, plus even some of your earlier stuff, it seems colors feature prominently, too. Why are seasons and colors recurring themes in your writing?

SB: You know, that is a very good point. Colors, seasons, music, emotions — they’re all very much tied in. When I look at certain colors — I look at the color blue, I see anything in blue — an entire mood is opened up for me. There’s so many different shades of colors and stuff. They all evoke different emotions in me. Same thing with the seasons, the four seasons. On this record, a lot of this stuff I would see in fall and winter, if I had to basically put a season to this type of material. Probably every song we do I could put an emotion, a color and a season to it, and it would make sense. You know we have a song called “Deep Blue Shadows” on PSYCHOSCHIZOPHRENIA, and I always thought because of the whole vampire thing, and the color of blood being red, that it would be neat to have a “Deep Red Shadows.” There used to be a TV show called “Dark Shadows,” that was a vampire show, a series. I just found it very cool and it sounded like it would encompass the whole feel of this record. So I said, “That’s kinda cool. ‘Deep Blue Shadows’ was one of our old ones. Let’s go with ‘Deep Red Shadows.’ That sounds neat.” A whole different take on the same feel. But yeah, all those things that evoke heavy emotions — colors, sounds, senses, seasons — all that stuff, I’m very driven by my senses. In this case the color red permeates the whole record. It all worked out with the artwork and everything pertaining to the record, all the colors and stuff, was really, really well done all the way around. I’m really pleased with everything from the graphics, the pictures, the way the production company did the layout, the way the CD looks. I’m really happy about it. I think it came out well.

D: Was your label Love & War Records created to release material from other artists, or is it just for you and side projects from the Lillian Axe guys? I know you could release a ton of old Lillian demos that have floated around among tape traders…

SB: In the big scheme it’s going to be for other artists, too, but it will be an outlet for my other projects, and the other guys in the band’s projects as well. I’ll start recording in the next couple of months an all-instrumental children’s lullaby album. Stuff like that, I want to be able to release it, so it is an outlet for us to release all of our own stuff. But we are going to be looking for passionate, good artists. Depending on how well we do with this, we’ll see how much money we have to be able to get certain artists — but nowadays, a real artist will have his record done when he comes to you, you know? (laughs) But to answer your question, it’s going to be designed for any artist of any genre that we find unique and passionate about what they do. Hopefully the Lillian stuff will kick it off, so we’ll be successful and it will allow us to do more.

D: I have a gearhead question for you. One of my buddies is a guitarist and he wanted to know if you’re still happy with Guilford guitars.

SB: I have a line of guitars through Guilford called the Blaze model, and then a brand new one called the Redeemer which is just coming out now. So yeah, they make great guitars. Now Ty [Tabor] from King’s X and Damon Johnson from Alice Cooper’s band, they both have endorsements with them as well.

D: He saw you have one in the “Manalishi Green” color, and we’re wondering if that means you’ll be doing any Judas Priest covers any time soon?

SB: Oh, no. (laughs) He called it the “Manalishi Green” but, really, I picked the five colors of the jewel tones, and I call it the “Caterpillar Green” because I had them all related to “Alice In Wonderland.” That one’s named after the green caterpillar in “Alice In Wonderland.” But he had it as “Manalishi Green.” I don’t know where John [Guilford] got that one from. (laughs) No, with all due respect, I love Judas Priest but I don’t think we’ll be doing any Priest covers in the set. Maybe a Dio cover, but no Priest yet.

D: You mentioned you were involved with a vampire movie, and obviously the cover of WATERS RISING was a nod to “Alice In Wonderland…”

SB: Right.

D: …so I wonder what you thought of the recent “Alice” movie that was a big hit.

SB: Oh it was great. Actually the “Alice In Wonderland” thing was my wife’s idea. She’s a huge “Alice In Wonderland” fan. She said, “You know, hey, why don’t you guys try to do that?” We did that whole thing [with the WATERS RISING artwork]. The whole background was superimposed, created as a mystical garden, but the table and the chairs, and all the outfits — we got those at a vintage clothing store online — we built all the chairs, we created everything in that. Then we, you know, Photoshopped it into this enchanted garden with giant mushrooms and whatnot behind it. (laughs) It came out really well. It was funny — we didn’t know what to expect, but in the end it came out good.

D: Yeah, it’s cool and a little trippy like the film. I wondered if you felt like you missed the boat by doing that a year or two before that movie came out?

SB: (laughs) Ahh, you never know, huh? Bad timing. (laughs) It’s a great book, it’s a great story. My wife collects all the memorabilia — we have a ton. She’s a big fan of “Alice In Wonderland,” and that movie was great. It’s cool. We were a little early on that, but you never know, maybe it will help out.

D: I got another one from another buddy. This is kind of a “Jackass” question so I apologize.

SB: Oh, right.

D: He wanted to know if you were pleased to hear Def Leppard’s cover of “No Matter What” was nowhere near as good as Lillian Axe’s?

SB: (laughs) I was pleased when a lot of people told me that, that’s what I’ll say. (laughs) Yeah, you know that’s kind of funny, because of course when they did it everybody I knew was telling me how much they liked our version better. So that’s cool. I was surprised they actually did it, though, you know? Usually you try to do a cover that nobody else has really done in the last few years or so. But I don’t know — maybe they didn’t know we did it. Yeah, I had a lot of compliments on that cover. I think we did a good version. It’s funny, this week I’m in Florida and I’ve heard the original version twice in one day. Now how often does that happen?

D: The follow-up question is then, did you ever compare notes with Phil Collen, since of course he was in Girl and you guys also did the Girl cover “My Number.”

SB: (laughs) Never did, never even met the guy before. Seems like we would’ve met somewhere but I’ve never even met Phil.

-We went on to talk a bit more about the band’s upcoming shows in August; check out the Web sites for more info on those. Then as fate would have it, the very day I spoke with Mr. Blaze his band announced that vocalist Derrick LeFevre was stepping down, to be replaced by Ronny Munroe (Metal Church). I wasn’t aware of this during our chat, and Steve didn’t bring it up. Hopefully I’ll be able to have a short follow-up interview soon to learn a little more about the switch.

Relevant links:

Steve Blaze

Guilford Guitars

Lillian Axe

Love & War Records

*** OUT ***

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