Lillian Axe released their 13th CD/DVD, the acoustic, live, One Night In The Temple on May 27, 2014 via CME Records/Sony Music (RED). We recently had a chance to catch up with guitarist and founding member Steve Blaze about the new record and what is happening with Lillian Axe moving forward into 2014.
Interviewed by: Roger Scales
One Night In The Temple was filmed in a Masonic Temple in the Bayou last year. How did this show originally come about?
Well it’s kind of weird because at first what I really was looking at was trying to do something that was very small, maybe just a few people sort of like a campfire thing. Just me, our singer Brian and one other guitar player. Twenty fans attending tops. We would talk, the fans could ask questions about the songs and we would play them acoustically and make it just a very unique experience. I was looking at from the beginning as possibly just a DVD project. It kind of took on a life of its own.
It started out by adding the rest of the band and then it just went from there. As the show got bigger the details surrounding this event got bigger. It took a lot of work to get this done. We ultimately became one with the crowd by the end of the night. It was a night that ran with tons of emotions from laughing to crying while still having a ton of fun. The setting of the event had a lot to do with how fans were responding throughout the night and it became a very emotional journey. It allowed me to talk a lot about the songs and perform them in a very different format. It wound up being one of the most incredible moments in my musical career. It was really like a religious experience. The DVD really captures the moment and the emotion of the night. I was really concerned that was going to be a difficult task but the folks filming and working on this project just did an amazing job.
So it’s fair to say that this show was a celebration of 25 years of Lillian Axe as much for you and the band as it was for the fans?
Yes, you’re right about that. We were playing songs from every record. We were celebrating the chemistry of the band with the fans all night long. We had a violin player there. The crowd was singing along to “Nobody Knows” to the point where we recorded two different versions, one had just the crowd singing the lead vocals. We had a ton of unique interactions with the fans all night long. The song that I wrote called “Bow Your Head”, the family whose little boy I wrote the song about, they were there. When we played that song it was VERY emotional. We have clips of them reacting to the song. It was a very spiritual uplifting night and we all walked out of there like we really accomplished something.
Did you have a tough task in picking a set list?
Not really. You go through the list and you know there are certain songs you have to play and if we didn’t play them our fans would follow us home and behead us. There were a few surprises we added in that we had not played in a very long time. We didn’t really have to over think it, we didn’t have to sit and create new and elaborate arrangements. Just play the songs close to what we did on the records just with acoustic guitars. There are some solos I couldn’t do but I still riffed out and stayed as close to the original as possible.
It will be released as 3 disc set (2CDs/1DVD and 2CDs/1Blu-Ray), housed in an elaborate digipack. Filmed in high definition, the Blu-Ray will contain the acoustic performance, fan question and answer session, videos for the songs “Caged In” and “Death Comes Tomorrow”, featuring 3 songs live in concert from their July 4, 2013 performance at the Paragon Casino and behind the scenes footage while the DVD will contain 1 song from the Paragon Casino and the video for “Death Comes Tomorrow”. I didn’t have a Blu-Ray player until this came out but I do now.
Playing acoustic in not a real stretch for Lillian Axe as a band because I recall promotion for Poetic Justice in 1992 in the Boston area when you would do a CD signing in Strawberries Records and Tapes and then play a few tunes for the fans.
You’re right, we have always had that element within the band from the beginning. It stems from the fact that from about the age of six I would play classical acoustic guitar. On that note if you listen to Deep Red Shadows (2010) we have five acoustic songs on that record. That recording has some of the best acoustic sounds I have ever heard on any record period. I was amazed how well that guitar recorded for that album. Getting back to around that Poetic Justice period Ron (Taylor) and I went out and did weeks of promotional stops throughout the states and Europe with just his voice and my acoustic guitar. Everywhere from music stores, to radio stations to label branches. Anywhere and anyone who would have us. When I see other bands do that it really is a reflection of how sincere they are and also are they really as good as they sound on the album? It really is an intregal part of the Lillian Axe history with the acoustic work.
Are there touring plans specific to perform in support of this record and will these shows attempt to recreate that set list and acoustic vibe?
No, we were talking about playing a few different cities to play just acoustically but I’ll be honest with you it’s a lot of work almost more difficult than us playing our regular show. It’s hard for me to sit in chair for that long anyway during these shows. We will be going out and doing some regular shows for sure. If it was fiscally possible we would be playing a lot more on the east coast and just touring a lot more in general. We have a brand new booking agent and they plan on booking us starting in September. That gives them ample time to get started and also gives us time to attend to a few items as a band as well. People also don’t go out as much when they can stay home and watch shows on YouTube. To me it’s just not the same as walking into a stadium or theater or even a club and feeling the band live. Some of the greatest memories of my childhood were watching Rush, Yes and Queen live and in person. I think a lot of kids miss out on that today.
As the sole original member left in a band whose first album was released in 1988 what keeps you going and what keeps you wanting the spirit of Lillian Axe to continue?
One of the things for me is every time I put on one of our records and listen to it that’s when I know. You go through so much as an artist all the ups and all the downs. You go through periods where you are all over the place and you are on every radio station and everybody is talking about you. Then you go through periods when you say to yourself where the hell is everybody? We have been through is a lot like a roller coaster through our whole history. When I do listen to those records there isn’t a single song that I’m not proud of and in my eyes isn’t fantastic. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way because I feel that are a lot of bands that should feel the exact same way. My goal on this planet, outside of my family, is to touch people and make their lives better. I was given a gift to play guitar and write. I can’t change a tire or fix an engine or even cook a meal but I can play guitar. It’s not any more important than anybody else’s job but it’s my gift. I have a responsibility to not waste this gift that God gave me.
When you look back to the start of Lillian Axe and all the effort that went into getting signed to a major label and all the strain that a label can create for you as you record I’m sure that was very tough and had its difficult moments. Now it’s 2014 you have more freedom as an artist to have greater creativity and less label interference yet today we have illegal downloads, file sharing and YouTube. Which era do you prefer and why?
As far as the creativity is concerned I guess I was lucky I never had any extended periods where I had someone looking over my shoulder trying to tell me what to do. Tons of bands back in the day followed a certain format and created radio friendly music and were very successful, so it does work. I always felt in the early days to follow certain rules, like keeping a song under seven minutes for instance because I knew otherwise it wouldn’t get any airplay. Then as my career moved on I started to realize that if I can’t make my statement in three minutes then it might be seven or eight minutes long. What’s funny is that we had our most success just as the grunge moment took over in the early 90’s. We had the best label support when we were on Grand Slam IRS from 91-95. The label went defunct, grunge went into high gear and things started a downward spiral for Lillian Axe and that took a while to get out from.
In the early days, the learning part was the most fun for me because you are traveling with the guys in a van and we were just buddies. We knew something would happen for us and that it was just a matter of time. None of us had huge families, mortgages, kids and major responsibilities. It was all about where we were going to eat and sleep. It was a different kind of fun. I was so driven by my focus and my desire to make this band succeed I don’t think I appreciated it as much as I should have. Now I have a blast onstage and appreciate it much better now we just don’t have financial support any longer from any major label like we did. One of the biggest reasons why the shift today away from label support is how easy it is to get music anytime or anywhere. We talked about this already. People have gotten lazy and people don’t realize that bands don’t tour as often because they are not paying for the music like they once did. What’s 10 bucks for an album when it’s really not much more than a combo meal at your favorite fast food restaurant. When you think about the time and effort that went into making it and you buy something you will have the rest of your life it’s a small price to pay.
Even though Lillian Axe has had periods of inactivity you remained quite busy with Near Life Experience and also part of a reunited Angel lineup as well. Can you talk a little about how both of those bands got started and the status of each?
Near Life Experience is probably on hold in defiantly. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to doing that again. It was a great thing at the time but all of the songs I write now are for Lillian. It would be very tough for me to try and go write just for Near Life and separate the two bands. They were written in the moment of that time. I’m just not there any longer. As far as Angel goes, Frank DiMino is basically just bummed out about the music industry in general and how difficult it is for a band like Angel who had some success to even get noticed now. If he ever calls and I’m available I’m there. I do have another project I’m happy to announce I will be playing with Joey Molland and Badfinger. We will be touring. Also I have a side project with Zebra drummer Guy Gelso called “Sledgehammer”. It’s a power classic rock band playing covers with everything from King Crimson to Led Zeppelin to Black Sabbath. Guy is a great drummer and great person. In June I also start filming a Ghost Hunting show that I’m the host of here that will air regionally. “Circle of Light” my other original project as some shows coming up in August as well.
Your last studio album XI: The Days Before Tomorrow got several positive reviews and I thought although extremely heavy sounding was still quite melodic. Do you agree and you have already started to write for the next record?
That’s a perfect assessment of that record. It was a very heavy record but melodic. For me, melody and power are the greatest two elements of any great song. Not how loud the song can get but the power of the melody. I’m writing the next one right now and if it comes out how I envision it will be the best thing we have ever done. Hopefully we can start to record by year’s end. I’m really excited about it and cannot wait to get started.
Last year you released a very limited edition box set called Convergence which contained all 11 albums plus a bonus disc containing unreleased material. Is this still available and who’s idea was this to put together?
It was my idea to it. It stems from my desire to put the complete works that Lillian Axe had done into one box. I felt that fans would appreciate that patricianly given how difficult it is to even get some of our older records. We did it in limited edition and it sold out right away. We hope to put out another set in the next few months. It costs about $50.00 to make one so we are not looking to make big bucks by doing this. It is very expensive to produce. I think to truly understand our band you need to take in every album. Some live and die with the first four albums and others only the last few. It’s like a story and you need to read all the chapters to understand the book.
Is it a unique accomplishment knowing that you are the only hard rock act ever to be inducted into the Louisiana music Hall of Fame?
The only other rock band is Zebra. For me it’s just knowing that it’s something that can never be taken away from me. We were the first ones and Zebra came next. Lillian Axe never really got the push in the local press I thought we deserved. It’s not a huge rock area to begin with its more a blues based state. I’ve got a bit of a chip on my shoulder about that but now it doesn’t matter because I have this honor.
What does the future hold for Steve Blaze and for Lillian Axe?
More music until I cannot pick up a guitar anymore. I’ll keep playing until I’m dead and even then I’m sure I’ll be playing somewhere else hopefully with wings.
On a recent assignment, I had the opportunity to meet Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, a guitarist, songwriter, recording artist and producer – and since 2006, lead guitarist for Guns N’ Roses.
Ron is not just a prolific artist – he’s also a terrific guy, intensely committed to philanthropy and non-profits, supporting a broad range of causes including multiple sclerosis, autism, burn victims, diabetes, cancer, blindness, and victims of natural disasters such as earthquakes, drought, and hurricanes.
And when not writing/performing with GNR, Bumblefoot has a rich solo career; he collaborates with other artists; has a multitude of song-writing projects for TV, movies, video games; produces music; conducts music workshops and clinics worldwide; has done television acting; and is an entrepreneur with a line of hot sauces and guitar cases.
Check out what he had to say in our Q&A.
Interviewed by: Ilya Mirman
You have quite an eclectic body of work – are there some common threads that connect your various projects, compositions?
One common thing I see when looking at it all is a tendency to take a light-hearted look at life’s difficulties. Like pointing out a funny face in a storm cloud. I guess its my own way of taking power away from the dark side by twisting it into something that lifts the spirit. On the surface someone may see ‘funny lyrics’ but it’s often touching on deeper subjects that we all deal with in some way. Instrumentally on the guitar, I might do the same, adding moments of technique or intellectuality to a simple form. I like the contrast, but it’s really the completion, a balance of duality.
Aside from touring with GNR, what music projects do you have going on in parallel now?
I’m working on my next Bumblefoot album. It’s been long-overdue, but creativity happens when it’s meant to. That can be an easy way out, so keep in mind that sometimes you have to force yourself into the zone, and when you do this it’s also because you were meant to at that moment. I’ve always found it difficult to write while touring, I don’t get the down-time needed to re-charge the creative batteries and build momentum. On the most recent South American tour with GNR I forced myself to find a way, I’d be wandering the stairways of hotels for hours staring into space and writing words. Digging deep into yourself and allowing the needed emotional free-flow for songwriting, while being on the road where everybody wants your time and attention… the two conflict each other, volatility and patience, it was torment. But that’s where the good stuff comes from, you need to feel, and that’s not a smooth road.
I have an upcoming US solo tour in June/July. It’s part of the “Guitars Gods” tour, featuring Yngwie Malmsteen, Gary Hoey, Uli Jon Roth and Bumblefoot. I’ve been touring around the rest of the world for 17 years but this will be my first full US tour. I have info on tour dates as well as special VIP meet-n-greet packages at www.bumblefoot.com
You do a lot of various workshops and clinics around the world – how did that start, and what about this is particularly rewarding for you?
It’s become my favorite kind of performing. What I like about performing is connection and interaction. There’s something a little awkward to me about the separation between the audience and stage, it sometimes feels like I’m a movie being watched, and that can lead to a disconnected robotic performance. At Bumblefoot shows I like to have people sing along, strum my guitar, I’ll come play in the audience, that’s what I like, being face-to-face and making a show together. And with workshops, it’s the most spontaneous and interactive of all performing. Audience Q&A leads the events in different directions, we all get to meet, we’re taking photos, signing merch, chatting, it’s very personal and sometimes go for over 6 hours, I have to be forced to stop, haha, prying the guitar from my hands… these events are not just for guitar players, it’s a personal performance with backing tracks, sometimes including a jam with a live band and audience members get to jam with us, sharing experiences and the things I’ve learned along the way. Teaching is the most gratifying, to inspire others, to give what you’ve received.
You’re a self-professed huge KISS fan. Can you tell us about KISS as an influence, and the all-star tribute band you helped form recently?
It all began with a KISS tribute album A World With Heroes launched by journalist Mitch Lafon, with proceeds going to a cancer hospice. I sang and played guitars on a cover of the song “Detroit Rock City”, with Rex Brown on bass and Brian Tichy on drums. Rex Brown sang and played bass on a cover of the song “Larger Than Life” with Mark Zavon on guitar and Brian Tichy on drums. After the album was released promoters began to ask, “So when are these guys gonna play live?” We started getting offers and we formed a band called “A.L.I.V.E.” where we’d play KISS songs from the albums Alive! and Alive II. We did a few shows in LA and Vegas in July 2013, just for the fun of it, as fans. I don’t know if we’ll do more shows, tricky to get all our schedules sync’d up. For me, being a KISS fan started at age 5, when I first heard the Alive! album. My first concert was KISS at Madison Square Garden NYC in 1979. They inspired me, along with many others, to do what I do. I only hope I can do the same for others.
Regarding your philanthropic endeavors: how do you decide which causes to back, and what motivates you?
Making music solely to entertain people has never been enough for me. Music can motivate people to do good things for one another, and it seems wrong to not act on this potential. I do what I can, when I can. It’s important to pick the right organizations and situations. I’ve seen too much failure in small charities where a lot of people’s time, effort and money are wasted on events that are unable to deliver proceeds where they’re intended and needed. I’m becoming more selective, I have to, the time just isn’t there and I have to make choices.
You’ve recently become a cultural envoy for the United Nations. What does that actually mean, and how did you get involved?
There’s a wonderful organization, theHDI.org with U.N. humanitarian and diplomacy programs, we work with U.S. Embassies around the world to make events that bring people together through music. I simply go, be myself and do what I do. I’ve had the pleasure of making music with fantastic local musicians playing rock, traditional cultural music, and have made good friends. I’ve been to Albania, Malaysia, Indonesia and Belarus over the past year, integrated as part of my own tours, with more plans for the near future. It’s been a blessing to have these experiences.
You have several entrepreneurial projects in the works – can you tell us about them? How did they come about, where are you seeing success? Are there things in the works?
I have a line of hot sauces with Cajohns Fiery Foods ranging from mild Bumblicious to extremely hot BumbleF**KED. I love to eat. Haha, who doesn’t? I love spicy food, often to the extreme, and when you’re passionate about something, you want to share the passion. I had lots of ideas, flavor profiles and simple recipes for hot sauces, the good folks at CaJohns turned it into reality. We have more products we’ll be rolling out. I have some unusual ideas sometimes, haha.
I also teamed up with Eastsport, makers of gear bags and backpacks, to launch a line of signature guitar cases. We started with twelve custom cases in the collection, with my personal favorite the Deluxe Electric Roller Case. I thought about all the years of lugging guitars around airport terminals, carrying gear to gigs, and anything that could have made it more practical, and put it all into a guitar case. Extra padding, deeper pockets, wheels, an attachable/detachable gear bag with dividers and cable ties, and a clear window to put your flyer in to advertise your band, gig, teaching. And now we just launched the BumbleBabe line of acoustic guitar cases . We’ll continue to expand on both lines of cases with different designs and materials.
The next goal I have is to create a worldwide music festival that will bring attention to indie artists all over the world in a unique way. There’s so much talent out there that deserves to be recognized and nurtured, I want to help make that happen.
Any television work on the horizon?
I was born with a natural cartoon voice, haha. I’ve looked into doing voice-overs and would like to pursue that. I’ve done some acting in indie films, been a guest on TV shows over the years, but mostly have provided music for TV and film. To quote one of my songs, (“Rockstar For A Day” from the “Normal” album) “I’ve got a face that’s made for radio, and a voice that’s made for I don’t know…”, haha.
For more info on Bumblefoot, check out:
It’s been a year of change for Queensryche. From the exit of vocalist Geoff Tate and the addition of Todd LaTorre to their latest self-titled release reaching No. 23 on the Billboard 200, Queensryche has reinvented themselves.
We recently caught up with guitarist Michael Wilton to talk about the whirlwind of a year it has been and what the future holds for the rockers.
Interviewed by: Roger Scales
Your S/T record was released in June and the response from the fans in the US especially has been overwhelming. You charted #23 on Billboard and most critics have been extremely favorable in reviewing the record. I believe the public has more than accepted vocalist Todd LaTorre into the band and the crowds are feeding off this positive energy that was enveloped and surround Queensryche at this time. Do you agree?
Yes. It’s evident with the release of our album the reviews have been totally positive. It’s encouraging to read what the magazines and online sites are saying but what’s great is what we have heard from the fans. That’s the ultimate approval that we look for. We also appreciate what our peers are saying as well. Other bands seem to have really accepted our direction with the addition of Todd as well. Read more
In her new book Dirty Rocker Boys – the original video vixen lays it all out on the line. Brown speaks candidly about her colorful life and career, reflecting on everything from her marriage to Warrant frontman Jani Lane and his tragic passing to her tumultuous relationship with Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee. Brown has led a remarkable life and she shares both the highs and lows throughout her new memoir.
TWRY recently caught up with Brown to talk about the new book, her extraordinary life and what she’s currently up to.
Interviewed by: Roger Scales
After reading your book Dirty Rocker Boys, it seems that it is as much an autobiographical sketch of your life story as it is a story of the LA Rock scene of the late 1980’s and early to mid 1990’s do you agree?
I do. I totally do. Read more
We catch up with the one and only Lita Ford to talk about her upcoming live record The Bitch is Back…Live, her triumphant return to rock, some surprises she has in store for this Christmas season and even a book in the works she has in the works. What can we say, it’s good to be LITA!
Lita, you have a brand new live record coming out on November 5 titled The Bitch is Back…Live. Having covered “The Bitch is Back” as a bonus track on your last studio record Live Like a Runaway, is Elton John aware of you covering his song or did you seek his blessing in any way prior to or after recording it?
What we did was when Elton was performing in Ft. Lauderdale, FL at the Hard Rock Café I had my manager call his manager to let him know I would be in the area at the show and that I would be recording “The Bitch is Back” and wanted his blessing. Elton’s tour manager told us don’t worry I’ll take care of Lita. Make sure she’s here prior to the show so she can come backstage and say hello. So I went and told him I was doing a cover of “The Bitch Is Back” and he said “That’s my song!” and I said “Yes…that is YOUR song and I want to thank you for allowing me to cover it.” He said “Thank you for covering it”. He was a perfect gentleman and very happy that I was recording his song. The tour manager said “That is one rockin’ version of your song Elton!” Read more
It’s been almost 6 months since the release of your first solo album The Way Life Goes and the reviews have been very positive both of the record itself and the shows in support of it. Was it a scary concept to go out and be just Tom Keifer having been a part of a band setting with Cinderella for all of your career up to this point?
Yes, there is a safe feeling being part of a band for that long. The thought of stepping outside of it and starting something new with each step that I took was a little nerve racking and something to get used to. It’s felt pretty natural so far. We worked so long on this record and have been real pleased with how it came out. It feels really good also to be out touring in support of it. It’s cool. But it did take a minute to get used to the idea. Read more
Jeff Waters of Annihilator
Interviewed by: Roger Scales
Annihilator are back with their new disc Feast and we caught up with Jeff Waters to talk about it:
It looks like Feast is yet another collection of assaults on the senses. Is the creative process any different now than it was 30 years ago?
Hmmm. Good question I’d say no. The results can be a lot different. The actual process is pretty much the same. I just sit down with what used to be a drummer years ago years and years ago or writing by myself writing guitar riffs and putting together an arrangement and then showing the drummer what to play and then the bass player what to play it’s evolved pretty quickly into me playing everything in my own studio. I might also program a drum machine to jam along to while I’m putting together the guitar riff. I just put the music together by myself now. Slowly built it and record it from there. Usually I write the lyrics myself and sometimes pawn some of the songs off to Dave (Padden, rhythm guitar and lead vocals). It’s more or less the same idea as in the past. When I’m writing the guitar riff I kind of have an idea of how I want the bass and drums to sound so it is in a sense a solo project really but in the last ten years it has been more of a Jeff and Dave band. We decided this time to stop switching drummers and bass players (Mike Hershaw and Alberto Campuzano) out on the road and find a pair we like and keep them around. Read more
Queensryche have paved quite a musical legacy throughout their three decade career. Unfortunately, the past year has been focused on the breakups and shakeups within the band, rather than the music. The strife between Geoff Tate and his former bandmates has resulted in two versions of Queensryche, at least until the courts decide.
Drama aside, Geoff Tate and Queensryche recently released their latest disc Frequency Unknown and are now out on the road in support of it. The tour hits New England this weekend with a trio of dates starting tonight, June 7, at Lupo’s in Providence, RI, followed by the Webster Theater Hartford CT on Saturday, June 8 and the Wilbur Theater in Boston on June 9.
TWRY had a chance to chat with Geoff Tate about the new disc, the pending lawsuit and his love for wine.
Interviewed by: Roger Scales Read more
With a monstrously successful career that includes work with everyone from Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, Suicidal Tendencies and Megadeth, Jimmy DeGrasso is definitely a drummer that leaves fans saying “What could possibly come next?”
We recently caught up with DeGrasso to ask him just that. He told us all about his latest collaboration – Black Star Riders – with several members of the current lineup of Thin Lizzy. Their first disc All Hell Breaks Loose debuts today (May 28) in the US. Check out all the details below.
Interviewed by: Roger Scales Read more
November 2012 saw the release of a project more than 8 years in the making: Lila, The Divine Game by Matthew Leone was published. It’s the story, philosophies, and message the band Madina Lake–for which Matthew plays bass guitar–built their entire career around. Finally, sense was made of the clues hidden in the artwork, lyrics, videos, and stage performances of the band’s 3 full-length albums, From Them, Through Us, To You (2007, Roadrunner Records), Attics To Eden, (2009, Roadrunner Records), and WWIII (2011, Razor & Tie). Less than 6 months later, the band shocked and saddened their worldwide fanbase by announcing their final tour. Just a couple days after that, drummer Dan Torelli dropped a figurative atomic bomb–he would not be joining the band on that tour–and “WWIII” was over. Madina Lake, as we knew them for the last 8 years, was over…
In every tragedy there can be triumph; in every negative, a positive hides, waiting to be found. This is something Madina Lake has always stressed to their fans, not just through their music, but through their personal lives, as well. Medically speaking, remember, Matthew Leone shouldn’t even be alive right now.
But alive, he is, and doing very well! He joins TWRY today to help shine some light into the recent darkness that has fallen on his beloved band, town, and River People (fans).
Interviewed by: Debie “Jinx” Patton