Bring Back Glam! recently spoke with Lillian Axe guitarist Steve Blaze. During the chat, Steve talks about Waters Rising, problems with the music industry, the similarities between Poison and Slayer and the brilliance of Alice in Wonderland. Remember, the next time you can catch Lillian Axe on the road is this Thursday, July 12, at Rocklahoma. Lillian Axe is taking the spot vacated by Tigertailz. Interview transcription follows.
Bring Back Glam!: Let’s talk about your name album, Waters Rising. Explain the recording process.
Steve Blaze: As you know, we kind of took a hiatus for a few years, for different reasons. After putting out five albums and non-stop touring, we all just kind of needed a break from each other and basically from record companies and the industry. We went through a lot of ups and downs with the label, and with the band. We just let it breathe and we all had other projects we wanted to work on. We needed a kind of hiatus from each other as well. What happened, back in 1999, we got an offer to put out a B-side album and we did some reunion shows, and they ended up going really well. The entire time we were kind of off on our own, and we had amazing support from our fans all over the world…it wasn’t that I wanted to end the band. I’ll never end the band! I’ll be 100 years old and still make records… So, now it’s 1999, and we put the B-side record together, we go to Japan, start doing reunion shows, and things are looking good. It was at this point that I thought we needed to do a new record and get back into this. So we did some more shows, and we did a live album in 2002, and then we started recording this new album, Waters Rising. My mentality going into it was to take my time, make sure everything worked well, and to have a record done before we went to a record company. Not only would we negotiate a better deal, but we wouldn’t be micromanaged and we wouldn’t have to pay a record company back money used for the recording. We just did things the way we wanted to do, and it ended up taking four years.
BBG: You’re a Louisiana based band. Does the new album title have anything to do with Hurricane Katrina?
Steve: It was just a fluke. A lot of people ask if I predicted it (the hurricane)… The song (“Waters Rising”) was written probably five or six years ago, and I wanted to name the album Waters Rising three or four years ago. It just happened to be a very strong coincidence.
BBG: Who came up with the concept for the Waters Rising cover art?
Steve: That was inspired by my fiancé. She came up with the idea. She’s a huge Alice in Wonderland fan. She kind of got me into it. I’ve watched a few versions of Alice in Wonderland and it’s such a really, just odd, magical, kind of beautifully surreal story. There’s so much depth to it, people don’t often realize. It kind of worked with the theme, because Waters Rising is about the increasing inner turmoil - and that boiling point - and that pressure that builds up in our lives as we get older. The more things that come into our life, the more obstacles, it seems like life just keeps getting tougher and tougher. This is what we would look like if the water’s rose too high, and the five band members went insane. That’s what the five band members would look like right there on the cover.
BBG: Is Lillian Axe the first band to release new material under the Metro City Records label?
Steve: I think so. Metro City was kind of formed as a boutique label for Lillian Axe alone at the time and other hard rock bands. The label signed Foghat soon after us.
BBG: You talk about being Hard Rock. Lillian Axe is often categorized as a glam band. How do you feel about that?
Steve: I used to not like getting categorized as anything. I used to hate 80s Metal, used to hate glam band, hair band, melodic Metal, white Metal. It’s so ridiculous, it’s like describing fruit. “What does an orange taste like?” Well, it tastes like an orange. It’s a fruit! We don’t have to have 800 categories for what fruit is. Or anything. We just live in a world where everything is easily palatable. Nobody wants to think. We just want things to be served up nice: “give me a label; I won’t even listen if it sounds like this.” People miss out on so much. I just got to the point where you know what? We’ve been called everything, so that’s fine. As far as glam is concerned, our style of music isn’t Pretty Boy Floyd, Poison, or bands of that ilk. All rock bands have certain characteristics that are similar like heavy guitars, big drums, screaming vocals. We play loud. It’s all the same styles. You can take any type of rock music…there’s similarities between Poison and Slayer if you look down to it. All the little categories and niches that are created by people, journalists, and the media: it’s all wrapping. Give people something they can easily latch onto, so they can understand it better. I would prefer people go and listen and then make a decision.
BBG: You have bitterness in your voice. Do you think you lost fans because you were categorized as a glam band?
Steve: No, that’s just natural. I wouldn’t say… it’s not bitterness. If I ever had any bitterness in this business, it would be for the machine that is the music industry. It’s aggravating and upsetting, but used to be more so than now…I’m more settled into it now. We’ve been successful; we’re going to keep doing it. I don’t do this for any other reason than to make great music and to get it out in the world. If (the new album) is meant to sell 50 million records, it will. If it’s not, it’s still going to reach people. It’s making people happy regardless of what the scale is. I do personally get a little upset that certain elements in our society, the music industry and the media don’t allow for people to have free thought anymore…I just feel like a lot of music I’ve made has been wasted in the past by not getting it to the right people. We’ve dealt with distribution problems…and all those problems that every band goes through.
BBG: Clearly you have a passion for music and Lillian Axe. What’s it like being the only remaining original member?
Steve: The thing is I look around. I think to myself “This really sucks it’s not the five original guys all the way through,” but that’s true only in concept. When I think about the fortune I’ve had, and the fortune I have now, with the great guys that are playing with me now, it’s a great trade off. I mean, it was upsetting that Ron (Taylor, original vocalist) after all these years and albums decided to leave, but now I’m getting to play with a new singer (Derrick LeFevre) who is great – he’s amazing! It’s not like it’s been one line-up and bam! everyone changed at once. It’s been slow…gradual. This band is not about me. It’s not about members. It’s about the spirit of the material. As long as that remains in tact, Lillian Axe is Lillian Axe. We’re as good a band that we’ve ever been in our whole existence.
BBG: I’m sure there was a bit of a mourning period after Ron Taylor left the band. Overtime, did you find that Derrick LeFevre injected a new spirit in the band?
Steve: It always does. You get someone new…and the enthusiasm is high. Derrick was a huge fan of the band, and it adds a fire, a spark, and that intangible spark can really do a lot to give you the drive to keep things going. We’re getting ready to go on a six week tour. It’s going to be hectic. We have four days off in six weeks! We’re going to be working hard…and everyone in the band is excited about it. It’s been years since this band has been out! Finally, we’re going to be able to get to places we haven’t been in years. I’m getting emails from people all over saying they can’t wait. They’re not going “Well, this person isn’t in the band anymore, so it’s not Lillian Axe.” It is Lillian Axe.
BBG: What do you think of established bands that tour summer after summer with no new release to support?
Steve: I think it’s great that they do it. Obviously as a fan of a lot of those bands, I really wish they’d put some new stuff out. I just kind of think that the bands that do that, their heads are just not in it to do a new record. It becomes too much of an exhausting process. Poison is a great example. They tour like crazy, because people want to hear the hits and the stuff they’ve done in the past, but as fans…I’m sure they get a great longing for new material. I personally think, for me, I’m a musician inside and out. I can never stop creating music. I would never be able to tour the rest of my life on the stuff I’ve done before.