Stevie Blaze is a brilliant guitarist and songwriter for the hard rock band Lillian Axe.
He is also a great person to interview, speaking his mind freely.
I really enjoyed interviewing him for an article that was printed in The Indiana Gazette on Sept. 7, 1993.
Lillian Axe is a band that has long been overlooked and deserves to get more acclaim than they have had, in my opinion.
There’s more to Lillian Axe than meets the eye.
Guitarist and band co-founder Stevie Blaze, is hopeful that Lillian Axe’s just released fourth studio album “Psychoschizophrenia” will be the album that finds listeners looking past their long hair and into their souls — through the music.
“The only thing that we’re lacking is luck,” Blaze said during a recent telephone interview from his home in Kentucky. “I definitely think this is the most powerful record that we’ve done and I’m just working my butt off making sure this happens.”
Nothing has come easy for Lillian Axe. Originally signed with MCA they released two albums, a self-titled debut and “Love and War” in the late 1980s, scoring minor hits with “Show A Little Love,” “All’s Fair in Love and War” and a rowdy re-make of “My Number” originally recorded by Girl, a band which featured a pre-L.A. Guns’ Phil Lewis.
In 1989, Lillian Axe was unceremoniously dropped by MCA. After being picked up by Grand Slamm Records, a division of I.R.S. in 1991, “1987-1991 Out of the Darkness, Into the Light” was released, and contained 11 of Lillian Axe’s best songs from the first two albums (including the songs mentioned above.)
In early 1992, “Poetic Justice” debuted, breaking new ground for Blaze and his band mates vocalist Ron Taylor, rhythm guitarist Jon Ster, bassist Darrin DeLatte and drummer Gene Barnett recently replaced by Tommy Scott, with “True Believer,” a turbo-charged rocker.
Unfortunately, a lively reworking of the Badfinger classic “No Matter What” may have created the band’s problem with being taken seriously.
“You get people that maybe saw our one video for our last record, ‘No Matter What,’ which in hindsight, maybe wasn’t a good choice for us to even come out with as a single,” he explained.
“It is a great song, and I think we did justice to it, but it’s not representative of Lillian Axe and what our material is about.”
Despite the fact that Blaze writes songs with more musical and lyrical depth than most of his contemporaries, Lillian Axe has been unfairly branded a “hair band,” suggesting they have more style than substance.
It is this misconception that aggravates Blaze the most.
“People unfortunately don’t give things a chance. Life is so hectic that the immediate impression somebody gets is it. They see what we look like and they’ll hear one song and that’s it. I’m like. ‘Hold on a second — there are three albums, now four albums worth of material and you want to look at “No Matter What” and call us a hair band because we all have long hair?’ Hold on a second — look at just about every rock band in existence — they all have long hair.
“Let’s put it this way — I didn’t go out trying to hire guys that were good-looking guys to be in the band. I went out and found guys to be in a band that were good musicians. Unfortunately, they had to be good-looking,” he explained, laughing.
“But a lot of people don’t look past that. I mean, people that haven’t even listened to the albums say. ‘Oh, they’re a hair band.’ Hey, what happened to rock and roll being rebellious and having long hair being part of the rebellion when it first started. ‘Oh, now you have to be a conformist and have real short hair.’ What the hell does having long hair have to do with the band’s ability?
“The reason why we all have long hair is because you should see us with short hair — it’s horrible!” Blaze laughs an infectious laugh as he offers the description.
“The biggest misconception about us is about the way that we look — if you’re not a blubbering, ugly slob, and you take care of yourself, you’re not a musician. Come on, give me a break!
“People think we’re … I don’t know … we’re too pretty? I don’t know what it is. That’s why this record — which I think is pound-for-pound a very hard rocking record — is going to make a lol of people feel like idiots. ‘Oh. I didn’t know they could do that’,” Blaze says, imitating a startled listener and answers.’ “That’s because you didn’t listen.”
“If people are going to make a judgement on a band, I think they should know all about them. Nobody can sit there and listen to a cover of ‘No Matter What’ and have a clue as to what Lillian Axe is all about. Unfortunately, you get a lol of people in positions where their criticisms are being listened to that don’t even do that.”
The fire in his voice carries through the telephone line as Blaze stands firmly behind his beliefs.
The first single, “Crucified,” released to radio stations on Aug. 10 scored a 70 percent favorable response when Pittsburgh’s radio station WDVE premiered it on the station’s “Love It or Shove It” segment on Aug. 20.
The song offers insight into Blaze’s belief that it’s important to be one’s own person: “I can’t accept what they say, choose to go my own way. I don’t want to be crucified.”
“My whole life is pretty much guided by I have to do the right thing.’ and I always have since I was a kid. I would go against any kind of adversity by myself if I had to,” he explained.
“Standing your ground. I know it sounds cliché … I’m trying to get down to the meat of the matter, without all the pretty trimmings around it. There’s a lot of difficult things out there these days, when kids are being force-fed so much crap. For them to have options of their own is difficult.
“On one hand, you see certain parts of the media saying ‘Be individual. Be yourself.’ Then. ‘But you have to like this … here’s the trend of the day …’ That’s very hypocritical.
“The media is hurting the industry a lot in the way that they are categorizing so much stuff and not really giving the kids enough information to make their own choices. They’re kind of forcing things upon them even though the kids don’t realize it.
“In ‘Crucified,’ I also touch on the Holy Wars — which, come on, that’s a contradiction in terms! I mean, there are people that actually think you can murder another human being that hasn’t done anything to you, other than not believing in what you believe in. When I hear things like that, when I see that does exist, I wonder, ‘What is the incentive in life for these people?’ They must be so ignorant and so shut-in from reality that they really believe this stuff. It’s a scary thought.”
While each of the 12 songs on the album make a strong statement, the most touching songs on “Psychoschizophrenia” are the ballads “The Needle and Your Pain” and “The Day I Met You.”
Blaze and Taylor offer lush harmonies in “The Needle and Your Pain”: “Nothing can convince me that there’s method to this madness, as I watch you fade, the hours tick away. With the courage of a lion, and a steadfast heart of gold, you gave me strength while the flames of my hope burned so cold.”
“The Day I Met You” is an incredibly delicate song featuring only Blaze on an acoustic guitar and Taylor on vocals.
There’s something about the song that can reach in and tug at even the tightest heartstrings: “One painful morning. I stared straight into the sun. It overwhelmed me. I came undone. So if you can find it in your heart to be forgiving to a broken man, we’ll go back to the day that I met you.”
“There are some emotions that are just really pure and simple, like loving somebody else and losing them and wanting to be forgiven and start over. It’s a very uncomplicated song. When I wrote it, I wanted it to be one guitar and one vocal — no harmonies, no strings, no double guitars, no overdubs,” he explained.
“I think if anything, just the fact that people can relate to its simplicity and its honesty can make it touch a nerve. You would not believe how many people — and not just women — say they’ve cried over the two ballads on the record. I mean, literally just bawling! And I’m like. ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that’,” he concludes, admitting, “but if it works like that, then I’ve accomplished my goal.”
The current line-up is Steve Blaze, lead guitar, backing vocals and keyboards; Brian C. Jones, lead vocals; Sam Poitevent, guitar and vocals; Chris Brown, bass guitar; and Ken Koudelka, drums.
Lillian Axe is still playing shows in the U.S. and also worldwide. Go to http://www.lillianaxe.com/ to learn more.