Kick Axe was one of a group of underrated bands (alongside Faster Pussycat, Black N' Blue, etc.) that sort of got lost in the shuffle in the 80's. They did manage to release 3 major label albums before their disappearance however and, as it turns out, there is much more to the bands disappearance then meets the eye. Kick Axe re-emerged in 2004 with the appropriately titled, IV, and have also returned to the stage. We had the chance to catch up with the guys and find out more about Kick Axe circa 2005. Here's what we found out...
Mark Fisher: How are you man?
Larry Gillstrom: I'm doing great. The band is back together and we're having a great time making music with each other again. After playing three consecutive nights in 3 different cities that are hundreds of miles apart, we realized that we are indeed a decade or two older. But I'm really enjoying myself. I forgot how much fun it was to play all the old Kick Axe tunes on stage with these guys.
Mark Fisher: If you don't mind me asking, would you mind refreshing our memories as to why Kick Axe broke up years ago?
Larry Gillstrom: Kick Axe was a group of guys that go along really well, and when we broke up in the 80's it was totally due to external issues. Our management had screwed us up financially and legally, during the Welcome to the Club period and the fall-out from the things that they did, hit the band really hard. In the middle of the Welcome to the Club tour, sheriffs literally came on stage and repossessed our gear. It was right around that time that Ray left the band. He was just too depressed about the whole thing. We tried to carry on as a four piece unit and recorded "Rock the World" on a shoe-string budget. But everywhere we went we were getting sued and our assets were being taken. So in 1987, we agreed to stop trying to do anything as Kick Axe, but we never officially broke up. We always planned to get back together when it was safe to do so.
Mark Fisher: What led to the return of Kick Axe? What made now the right time? I believe your website says you actually reunited in 2002.
Larry Gillstrom: I think we waited long enough that all the old ghosts from the past are either gone or no longer interested in what we do now (I hope). We probably could have done this a few years earlier, but not enough members were available then.
Mark Fisher: Why was your third album never re-issued? Is there a plan for that to make it possible for fans to get a complete set?
Larry Gillstrom: We have acquired the masters for that album and it will be re-issued in a few months. We're redoing the artwork, because the artwork that was used on that album wasn't our choice and we never liked it. The record company, rejected our initial artwork, and used that artwork without our approval. We're also including a bonus track or two.
Mark Fisher: In a lot of ways this is a true reunion, due to the fact that your current vocalist is also your original vocalist. How has that been? Do you feel it adds a different element to your music than you had during your major label run?
Larry Gillstrom: When George informed us that he was going to be on the road basically forever with various Nettwerk artists, we initially thought we would not bother doing another album. We did not want to bring anyone new into the band. When Gary mentioned to his brother Vic that he would like to do an album with us, it was a different story because he was one of the founders of Kick Axe and was one of the driving forces behind the band's early growth and success. He and I wrote Heavy Metal Shuffle together back in the 70's. He is obviously a more blues-based singer than George, so the overall sound of the band has been changed by that. We had an easy time melding back with Gary, as all the other members had written and performed with Gary before.
Mark Fisher: The new album, aptly titled "IV", has a really classic eighties rock sound to it. Was that purposeful or would you disagree with the statement in general?
Larry Gillstrom: I think I would agree with the statement partly. I think there is a bit of a classic 70's sound as well. We did not set out to achieve any particular sound, but I think the production was influenced by the fact that most of the band's favorite music comes from that time.
Mark Fisher: When it was all said and done what did you want this album to say about, or add to, the Kick Axe legacy?
Larry Gillstrom: I never really gave that much thought. Kick Axe is like a family to me, so it was more like a family re-union. We talked about our past and all the good and bad things that happened, but that really didn't enter into the discussion about what kind of record we wanted to make. We basically just started gathering up everybody's current material, writing new material and letting the album unfold as we rediscovered the band.
Mark Fisher: Being a bit older, and probably a lot wiser, how is your approach to Kick Axe different in 2004? Or perhaps it isn't different at all.
Larry Gillstrom: It's almost like we stepped back to the Kick Axe that existed in the 70's instead of the 80's version that got lumped in with the "metal trend" that happened. When Kick Axe formed in the 70's, our inspiration was groups like Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, and Uriah Heep. I think we've gone back to a sound more like that on this album.
Mark Fisher: Was it more enjoyable or more frustrating to make this album outside of the major label machine?
Larry Gillstrom: It's very hard to compare the two experiences and say one was better than the other. It's nice to have the control without the "major label machine" interfering and pushing us around. But we enjoyed the recording experiences we had with Pasha Records/CBS back in the eighties and did not find them frustrating until our management screwed up before "Rock the World". Making that third album had a lot of frustrating moments like having our budget cut to 25%, having our artwork replaced without our approval, no marketing budget... This time around we were just making the record for the fun of it, so it was not frustrating or stressful at all. We'll see what the future holds.
Mark Fisher: Is there a particular song on "IV" that you feel absolutely embodies where the band is at in its journey right now?
Larry Gillstrom: I would say, probably a combination of "Rockin Daze" and "Time". Although my favorite song on the album is "Turn to Stone". "Rockin Daze" describes the events that led up to the band's demise back in the 80's and "Time" defines how the band feels now about moving forward.
Mark Fisher: How have you been received live so far? Are there any tour plans for 2005?
Larry Gillstrom: The crowds have been excellent so far. Lot's of old fans and new fans. We will try to tour as much as possible in 2005, although we are finding that there are not as many venues and promoters for hard rock groups, as there were back in the 80's.
Mark Fisher: What was that first moment back on stage as Kick Axe like for you? Scary, unbelievable, or you could have cared less?
Larry Gillstrom: The first live date was an outdoor festival in Regina and the weather was cold and raining. So my first moment back on stage had a lot of distractions... trying to make sure I didn't slip on the wet stage.... Keeping my fingers warm. After about 1 minute into the first song, "Alive and Kickin", I was having a blast and forgot about the weather. I never find it scary on stage, although I do get unnerved if my gear isn't working right. It was a great stage and sound system for that first gig and there were several thousand fans that came out to see us headline the show. It was really cool to hear the volume bouncing back at us from distant buildings. We heard from several people the next day that they could hear our set clearly in their living rooms a few miles away and that they enjoyed it...
Mark Fisher: Thanks for your time. Hope to see you live in the states soon! Any parting thoughts for our readers?
Larry Gillstrom: Thanks Mark. I'd like to thank all the fans for the support. Especially those people who have been coming out to the shows. We hope to get to most of the major centers in North America over the next year or two. Rock the World will be available as a re-issue within the next few months. All Kick Axe albums will soon be available directly from our website. We answer all fan mail.