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LILLIAN AXE STEVE BLAZE INTERVIEW JUNE 2014

HARD ROCK INTERVIEWS 2014 - LILLIAN AXE - STEVE BLAZE

LILLIAN AXE'S STEVE BLAZE

TALKS TO THE ROCKPIT

ABOUT THE NEW ALBUM AND SO MUCH MORE...

CHECK OUT OUR REVIEW OF 'ONE NIGHT IN THE TEMPLE' HERE

Lillian Axe has long been one of my favourite rock bands, blending wonderful melodies with a sense of the epic, and combining uplifting lyrics with sometimes dark visions. There has always been something unique about Lillian Axe's music and on their latest release 'One Night in the Temple' fans and newcomers alike are in for a real treat with a lavishly packaged two CD and one DVD set from the acoustic concert. We caught up with Steve Blaze to see what's new and talk about the album...

Mark: Hi, Steve thanks for taking the time to talk to us again.


Steve: It’s my pleasure.


Mark: It’s great to see you releasing a record on an Australian label.


Steve: You know what, I didn’t even realise we were doing that! I just learnt something new, that’s good!! This is my second interview with Australia, so we must be getting a little bit of a presence down there, I’d love to come and play there!


Mark: That would be fantastic, I think here there’s always an underground scene for your kind of music, there are a number of people here, who I speak to, that love Lillian Axe. Hopefully now with a label that’s starting to release a few Hard Rock releases, there’ll be some momentum to get guys like you over, otherwise I’ll have to come over to the US again!


Steve: Exactly, you’ll have to come over to Rocklahoma again. Now, what’s the name of the label in Australia, that’s got our album out?


Mark: It’s Melodic Rock Records.


Steve: Oh, yeah, there out of the UK, that makes me happy!


Mark: So, let’s talk about the album. It was a long time coming, I know, and the build up for it was amazing, my first question is, how on earth did you find that venue??


Steve: That location is actually the studio where we recorded our last three albums. We did “Sad Day on Planet Earth”, some of the tracking, all of “Deep Red Shadows” and all of “Days Before Tomorrow”, and this record, so we spent a lot of time in that studio. I also produce other bands in there, and we have a really good relationship with the owner and it’s got that mystique, being a Masonic temple. So, when we started putting this together, I thought there’s plenty enough room in here, it’s the perfect size, not too big and not too small, and with all the ambience we thought it would be perfect. It’s already built for good sound in there, so we couldn’t have found a better place and it worked out real well for us.


Mark: It’s wonderful, and looks brilliant on the DVD; it just gives it something extra.


Steve: We had a lot of props up on the stage, and we had to move a lot of stuff out, so that we could fit all those people in there, and at the end of the day, it really does look good. The High Definition quality is great and the team that did the filming did a fantastic job.

Mark: They did. I bet it was hard to pick the final set list, I know that fan suggestions came in to it, the order and the choice of some of the newer songs work particularly well, did that come down to you in the end?


Steve: Yeah, there are always the certain songs that we have to do, if we don’t do “Ghost of Winter” or "Show a Little Love" or "True Believer", I’ll be taken to court! The fans will go insane! So, we always know there are certain songs that we have to do as staples of our set, but we had so much to pick from and we knew there were some songs that we don’t play live, that could really translate well in this environment, like “See You Someday” and “Until the End of the World”, things like that, that we just knew, and had a strong inclination that they would work out well. So, we had a combination of songs that we knew we had to play, the ones we wanted to play, and the ones that the fans said they wanted to hear. At the end of the day, we could’ve played 60 songs that would’ve worked out but I think when we started to put them together, every time I’ve done a record, I spend a lot of time working on the ebb and flow of the track listing, and it’s very important to me, it usually comes pretty naturally, but in a case like this, I just listened to my head, listened to what songs we were going to do, rehearsed them and got the feel. I wanted them to flow smoothly, the highs and lows, in and out, and at the end of the day I think it worked out well, it flows very smoothly.


Mark: It is beautiful, the track listing is wonderful. The thing that most impressed me about it is how well all of the material sounds together, because I guess, some people favour the older material, and then the newer fans come in and have heard the last few albums since you re-formed. I didn’t think the songs would fit so beautifully together, but they did.


Steve: You know, even when we play our heavy electric set, we find that when we do the older material, it really does blend, even when we do the popular things like, “Dream of a Lifetime”, they still work and sound like they could be a new song, with the chemistry of the band now, they still come across heavy and powerful, and intense, even though in nature, they may be a bit lighter than the most recent stuff. That’s a good thing, when your material can still sound different and have a different feel, but still work together like that after all the years. I think that’s a sign of having strength in your songs themselves. The whole point of this was to be able to translate these songs in to a different feel and a different medium, and find out if they would still hold their own. You’re right, Brian did a fantastic job, he’s only been on one studio record, but I think this record really solidified him, and it takes a couple of records sometimes for a new singer to be accepted, and the way he handled the caterwauling on this was phenomenal, and a lot of people have come up and said “oh, yeah, we get it now!!” Apologising to me for doubting that they would ever accept anyone other than Ron Taylor! Brian has a lot to do with how well these songs came across.


Mark: I completely agree, and also getting Johnny Vines up on stage, was that a last minute thing? How did that happen?


Steve: No, to be honest with you, we wanted to bring a whole lot of different people to get involved in this. We invited Derek and Ron, they both said no, they didn’t, for whatever reason; they didn’t want to do it. I had my own reasons for why I think they didn’t want to do it, but it’s neither here nor there, it doesn’t really matter to me to be honest. We asked Johnny if he wanted to do it, and he was more than happy to, and he came in and did a great job, and I think people were really happy to see him back on stage again with us.


Mark: It was a great added extra when he came on, and of course the climax to the album is absolutely fantastic! Was that something that occurred naturally as well?


Steve: Yeah, it really did. I love hearing the crowd sing, and we did this thing live, sometimes we’ll just come up and play “Nobody Knows”, just Brian and I, and we’ll stop and let the crowd sing, we’ve been doing that for years and years, it’s a perfect sing a long song! So, we figured why not let them sing the whole song, and so we did, and amazingly enough they all had the lyrics down and they did a good job. The only thing that was a little challenging, was we had to make sure the microphones out in the crowd were able to pick everybody up, and not be overpowered by the volume on the stage. It was a little tricky on the mix on that, it’s a little different in the sound, but that’s what adds to the uniqueness and specialness of that moment. They all did a great job, even on the high notes, the crowd hit ‘em, so we were very pleased!

Mark: It must have been harrowing to get all those people together, and how much relief did you feel when the night was finally over??


Steve: You are absolutely right!! It took months of paying attention to every little detail that I can’t even recall right now, but everything down to making sure we had enough chairs, enough food, drinks, the MC was there, making sure he could do it, and that he was on time, the lighting, the several camera shoot, and making sure the people that had won the contest knew how to get in from wherever they were coming from. Making sure everything went off without a hitch, I had a lot of help, but it was very tedious, but I remember after it was over with, and when we realised how well it had come across, I just said to everyone don’t bug me today I just want to sit around with my family and just chill, and just breathe!! The tough part came after that when we had to come in to the studio, and start mixing and editing, and going through all the footage, that was months of very, very tedious work. But, at the end of the day, it’s something I’m really proud of, and it was really due to the efforts of a lot of people, even down to my wife and daughter helping people to find their seats, everybody had a part in this, and there’s really nothing I would look back on and wish we’d have done differently.


Mark: It is one of the releases of the year for me, and as I keep telling people too, it’s such great value, two CD’s, and a DVD for a very reasonable price, and everyone should rush out and buy it!!!


Steve: It really is! You are getting two hours of the audio, the movie/documentary is two and a half hours, and there’s an hour and a half of bonus stuff on the blu ray disc! So, you have six hours of material which is nice! The company did a great job, the artist that we hired is the same guy that did “Days Before Tomorrow”, he put the packaging together and did a fantastic job as well. The booklet looks great, so it’s a great price.


Mark: All the art work and the concept itself is absolutely fantastic, and of course the other release you had out was the box set, which I understand has sold out now.


Steve: That was a real spur of the moment thing, I just really wanted to put everything we had done in one box, it was almost like I was thinking of a time capsule, I wanted to carry something around with me and feel like everything I have done for Lillian is in this box! If I die, I can just take this with me, and I’ll be ok!! It was very expensive to do that, so we just decided to do it on a small scale, see how it went, and we pressed up 250 units, and we sold all of them immediately, so we’re going to do it again in the near future, with some other ideas, how to package it with some other stuff, and so we haven’t seen the end of that, probably by the end of the summer.

Mark: the last time we spoke you had a non-musical project on the go as well, I was wondering how that was going?


Steve: I’m trying to think of which one that was!


Mark: It was the 'Ghost Hunter' thing.


Steve: Oh, yeah, in June I have a ghost hunting show on called “Through the Veil”, and I’m the host of the show, and my team and I go on investigations throughout Louisiana, doing paranormal investigations, and we’re going to film 13 episodes starting in June, and we’re going to air it on a local station here in Louisiana. We are going to try and build a following for it, and then we’ll try and take it to a larger network as we build it. I’ve been working on this for over a year so far, and now it’s coming to fruition.


Mark: You are really busy then, at the moment, does that leave any time for new Lillian Axe material or a tour?


Steve: Yeah, I’ve already started writing the next album, and I’m hoping we can get in to that by the end of the year. I’m also doing some dates with the band called Bad Finger, do you remember them?


Mark: Yeah, “Magic Christian” and all that sort of stuff “Come and Get it”.


Steve: I’m going to be playing guitar with Bad Finger, playing some shows in August. Then I have another project, have you ever heard of a band called Zebra?


Mark: Yeah, saw those guys at Rocklahoma as well.


Steve: They are friends of ours, their drummer Guy Gelso is a monster, he and I are doing a side project called Sledgehammer, and it’s all classic heavy rock from King Crimson to Kansas to Black Sabbath. Then I have Circle of Light, which are the original four Lillian guys before we got signed, we’re also doing a couple of dates in August too. I have about 5 or 6 projects, plus I have a five year old son, so that’s my most important project!


Mark: You obviously don’t like to be idol!


Steve: I don’t. It’s funny because every time I have five minutes where I can sit down and do nothing, I have about thirty projects, even if it’s just cleaning up a room in the house, I have to get up and get moving on, I guess that’s why I’m not able to gain 500 pounds, even though I eat like a horse!!


Mark: Here’s a philosophical question for you. Does music still have the power to change the world in 2014?


Steve: I think it has the power to change individuals, which is the first step in changing the world. I think to be more honest with you, I think it’s more of an individual catharsis that takes place, and the reason I say that is the majority of the people that have come to me and talk about what the music’s meant, it’s all about their own personal demons and fighting inside that they have to deal with. When you get multiple people changing, then you form pockets of resistance and pockets of change, and pockets of new ideas, so I don’t think anybody’s going to write one song, and all of a sudden one country is going to change, I think real true change has got to come from an individual. Reaching individuals, in the way I think our music has, is giving them focus and hope, to be honest with you, in a despair filled, dark society that we live in sometimes. It is what you make of it, but it’s not hard to be taken down and overcome by depression when you see the things that occur in this world. So, it starts off by giving people hope, I can’t tell you the number of comments I’ve got from people who tell me my songs have kept them from taking their own lives and from really going down dark avenues. That in itself is important, and when you have positivity in just one person, that’s when change comes about. When you have depression take over, there’s no room for worrying about the rest of the world, you have to just get through your own daily life. In that aspect, music can change ideas for the good and for the bad. I think that a lot of popular music today is really sending a horrible message, the message is, me, me, me, all about me, I’m only important if I’m dressed the best or have the most money, or the best car, and that’s when kids, of impressionable ages are learning lessons that, that’s the most important thing, you appear rich to everyone else. That’s why we idolise people who have lots of money and fame, and in actuality really smart, important, cool people aren’t the ones that are out flaunting all that stuff. Let me tell you something, man, I don’t care the richest man on the entire planet can be the most miserable, and he can also die in about ten seconds if he takes a step the wrong way, and you don’t take any of that stuff with you! You take yourself and your soul with you whenever you go to wherever you’re going! None of that other stuff means crap!


Mark: I think you’re right; it is worrying, and hard to see how it’s going to change. I think we dreamed that the internet was going to bring us all closer together, but it looks like it’s doing exactly the opposite.


Steve: I agree with that!

Mark: If you could turn the clock backwards, what time would you feel most comfortable in??


Steve: That’s a good question! You know, I have different philosophies on that because the greatest happiness that I’ve ever had in my whole life was being a dad, so I have a daughter who’s 29, and a 5 year old son, and I have a great wife, so those three elements, so I wouldn’t want to go back to a time before they existed in my life. When my son was born 5 years ago, that was fantastic, I mean it still is now, but what I went through when he was born, was just the most amazing time in my life. On a musical side, I think what I’d like to go back to is maybe around ‘92/93, because at that point we were having our most success with the band, and we really let the whole thing with the grunge, and seeing the difficulty starting to kick in for all the rock bands, we really let it get to us, and we faded away for about three years, we took a hiatus, I wish we hadn’t have done that at this point. But, at the time we needed to do it to keep our sanity. So, I think if I could back there, and knowing what I know now, I would’ve handled things a little differently. As far as prior to being a responsible human being, I’d like to go back to when I was about 10 or 11 years old, that was when I started to get in to music, and I swear I really started going from being a kid, to a kid with a whole lot of aspirations, and started to wonder and look for answers everywhere, and I’m still doing that! I wanted to understand everything, I wanted to know every little thing, I always felt if I didn’t, I was missing out on things. I think that’s one reason why I have the drive.


Mark: That’s a very good answer! I’ve got an impossible question next, well, I think it’s impossible! What piece of music that you’ve created, most defines you?


Steve: I would probably say, there’s a few of them, but, “Fields of Yesterday” the song, is an eight and a half minute piece, and it encompasses a lot! The song is about sitting back and looking back at life objectively, if you had to encapsulate it and put it in a nutshell and try to explain everything. There’s a big section in the middle that is orchestrated with these four part harmonies, and that goes from the beginning of creation, all the way to the end of the human race, in about a minute and a half! It’s a very introspective kind of song, but it’s all about existence and humanity, and so, all the things that I sing about in all my other songs are just little fragments of life, lessons and aggravations, but this song encapsulates the whole thing. So, thematically and lyrically is probably my best example. Musically, to capture me, would probably be the instrumental called “Five” which I tried to play just about every different style of guitar that I could on there, from fast riffs to bluesy stuff, to classical instrumentation to orchestrated pieces, to clean, relaxing guitar, all in one piece, because I wrote that instrumental as I was recording it! I wrote the first piece and then I came and wrote the next piece, and as we recorded we wrote it, I wanted it to be completely spontaneous. There are about 80 guitar tracks on that piece, that’s why I can’t play it live!!


Mark: I was actually wondering why you didn’t put “Fields of Yesterday” on the CD?


Steve: Because there’s so much involved with it, we probably could’ve pulled it off to be honest, but it was just one of those things I was afraid to touch, I felt like we just couldn’t have done it justice, because of all the orchestration, the strings and so many harmonies, I didn’t want to sell it short.


Mark: I understand. It’s a great CD/DVD compilation, one of my favourite releases of the year, and thank you for taking the time to talk to us this morning, I really appreciate it.


Steve: Absolute pleasure, man!!


Mark: I’ll hopefully catch up with you again, one day! Take care.

 

 

Steve spoke to Mark Diggins June 2014

 

 

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