[published]: 1984, August 23
[in]: Kerrang!, No. 75, p. 20
[article]: The Vice is Right
[by]: Howard Johnson

"Gibber, gibber, gibber, foam, foam, gibber, foam."

Pretty nonsensical fare, I'm sure you'll agree, but these indeed were the sounds uttered by your usually verbose bard of bombast when his path through life was first obstructed by Kick Axe. Kick Axe? Yeah, Kick Axe, a five-piece Heavy Metal band from the Canadian climes of Saskatchewan, whose debut album, 'Vices', issued in the States on LA-based Pasha Records, does indeed produce this curious guttural reaction.

Now I know that Kick Axe the name doesn't actually lend itself to eliciting an outburst of positive vocabulary. Yeah, I too imagined a knuckle head sandwich of half-baked bozos macho-strutting their way across a bunch of no-hope, still-born thumpers, but (as I stated in my 'Vices' album review) they've actually come up with one classic disc, full of thoughtfull, original, talented Heavy Metal, chock-a-block with heavy hooks, magnificent melodies and head-on harmonies.

From the staccato strains of opener 'Heavy Metal Shuffle' through to cosmic closer 'Just Passin' Through' there is nary a dull moment, an obsolete chord, a vacant vocal! What more could I do than proclaim with a certain economy that Kick Axe, ' some serious ass!'? Only one thing, in truth, and that was speak to the maestros behind the music, in particular one 'Vice' Brian Gillstrom, drummer and leader of these butt pummellers.

From the faraway climes of the US of A comes the voice of 'Vice'. So, er, what's happening, man?

"We're having a ball!"

Not whilst we speak, I hope!

"Tonight will be our thirteenth date opening on Judas Priest's US tour, and the whole show is running real smooth, man. Everyone knows his job and the band are treating us so well it's amazing! We're playing as much as we can, filling in all the days off with our own club dates - it's really tight!"

Yeah, but before we get the KA lowdown there are a coupla things that our readers would just lurv to know. Like, why 'Vice' and why an album credit that reads 'drums, vocals and responsibility'? A Vesuvius-style eruption of laughter melts my ears (they've since healed!)

"Ah, em, y'know the creature voices on 'Maneater'? Well I put the backwards masking on the album to make them. I am that particluar terrible vice!"

Do I detect some sardonic anti-Moral Majority twist here? And the 'responsibility' part?

"Now this is the, er, tricky one. I'll try to explain. When the band leaves the town and a certain thing has changed, well, I'm always the one responsible for it!"

A veiled reference, but you can't fox this hound. Wedding rings are not the part of the band's armoury, I presume?!

"I think you've got the general idea there Howard!"

Well, 'Vice', you must have taken a lotta responsibility in your time...

"Oh yeah, Kick Axe is basically a bunch of guys who've known each other since elementary school. Only our singer, George Criston, is a new addition, he's been with us for a coupla years. Since we were kids we've been working as Kick Axe and, although we're a new recording act, the band has been in existence for eight years!"

How come it took so long for you to be snapped up by a major label?

"It was really our old singer who was holding us back. We weren't happy with his head space, but it took a while before we found the right man to replace him. George had just split from a band in Milwaukee and when we happened upon him we knew we couldn't pass!"

"We all got on so well it was amazing; we all loved the same music and things just started to happen. We found management (in the shape of the magnificently named Gary M. Stratychuk!) who really believed in us and we started demoing songs. We had 75 original titles and started sending tapes everywhere."

And here enters the catalyst (and capitalist, judging by Quiet Riot's 'Metal Health' album sales!), Pasha supremo/producer Spencer Proffer...

"Yeah, I think that 'Heavy Metal Shuffle' and 'On The Road To Rock' were on the first tape we sent to Spencer and he was very interested. We kept on sending him tapes and eventually he flew from California to check out the band in Canada.

Open cheque book in hand, I presume...

"Hardly! He saw us at a real dive in Alberta which wasn't too good, but we had a good party and got on very well with Spencer. He offered us a deal, so we packed our van and drove straight to LA! Spencer is really easy to work with. He's a hyper kind of guy with lots of energy, so he's very creative. I guess it was fate that brought us together!"

Cue drum rolls and wild applause. Blimey guvnor, it's enough to bring a tear to the eye! And was it, ahem, down to fate that the band came up with such a stunning set of songs?

"Er, I don't think so! We've been writing for years so it comes kinda easy. Most of the stuff was pretty fresh, but 'Heavy Metal Shuffle' has been in the set for eight years. As far as arrangements go, Spencer can take some of the credit, but we've always worked on that side of things anyway. We've worked our faces off on harmonies for a long, long time. It adds a lot of melody to some hard rockin' songs."

'Vice', George, bassist Victor Langen and twin axe-twirlers Raymond Arthur Harvey and Larry Gillstrom really have redefined 'state of the art' with their original 'Fusion Metal'. Kick Axe are that good - and healthy competition for the LA' bangers whose home town thunder has been somewhat stolen by KA recording in the smog city.

"Actually, we tended to keep apart from the other bands cos we were so busy with our own thing! We did go to the Rainbow (home of nubile nymphettes ready to bestow favours on pistol totin' longhairs!) once or twice and, let me tell ya, there were a lot of nice ladies there!"

A major source of inspiration those ladies, so much so that the band were pleased to have their van totalled on Sunset Strip; they just collected the insurance money and enjoyed the bright lights for a while longer. I told you this was rock'n'roll!

At present, Kick Axe are working furiously to get 'Vices' released in the UK, though there are no plans to put it out as yet.

"Our motto is: 'Work hard, play hard'. We love the women and we love the music. There are too many bands that go stale, that cut their hair and become businessmen. People can see right through that kinda trip and we don't want it to happen to us. We never wanna be a 'downer' type of band. There's no singing about nuclear wars or losing your girlfriend, just: 'Stay on top, gonna live it up, all night, every night!' We feel good, we have a good time, we party!"

It's a route to the top that's bound to be littered with a good few naked ladies and empty bottles of 'Jack', but if there's any justice in rock'n'roll the Kick Axe will successfully navigate the course. Check it out. All together now: 'We're on the road to rock!'

Kick Axe album 'Vices' at the position 35 of the 'Albums' Chart and at the position 7 of the 'Import Albums' Chart