[published]: 1984, September
[in]: Metallion, Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 17
[article]: Prairie rockers connect/Metalmongers that wouldn't die
[by]: Keith Sharp & Stunner Crunch

In one scummy bar and out the other. Maybe 15 people a night have any idea of what you're doing as you play yer guts and balls out every night. At the end you're not even sure if you'll get paid or if the bastard promoter will sleaze out and offer you a third of yer price - grinning like a shark with a lightbulb up its rectum. It's easy for him, seeing as how there's these two Indians big as silos standing behind him - and grinning too.

You stumble back to the van which smells of dead laundry, too fucked-out-tired to even notice the under age sluts picking their noses and mixing it up with the roadies. All you wanna do is fall down dead from fatigue, except the tour manager's shagging some leftover on your slice of foam in back of the van, so you lie there and feel the adrenalin chasing itself round and round yer system and hope you pass out before dawn...

Well, piss on all that, say Kick Axe. After years of that kind of bullshit, dragging their hopeful but tattered asses all across the West and then some, they've finally broken through to the next level of recognition. And of course, once ya get a taste of the goodies, hey, all you want is more. So ya bust your ass figuring out how to do it.

In Kick Axe's case, they lacked something sharp up front. They needed a firebrand metalmouth to focus and connect that energy the music implied with the audience. Enter George Criston, stolen, said drummer Brian Gillstrom, from a band called Tripper in a Milwaukee nightclub.

"We had the songs, the energy and the firepower. We needed a frontman to project all that. I called everyone I knew in Canada and asked them if they knew of a suitable singer. Mike White, then with CIA booking agency, tipped us to this bar owner in Milwaukee who approached George. He sent us a tape, we sent for him to audition in Vancouver and we realized right off he was the man for the job. He's got ther right vocal dynamics and he's real colorful frontman and a good mover."

Damn right he is. Caught the band at Toronto's Gasworks on their last swing through Canada before hooking-up with Judas Priest for a two-month U.S. tour and that George Criston is the right stuff. Leaping on chairs, demanding and getting singalongs, prowling through the audience for one-on-one encounters, singing from various parts of the club, the man shows the makings of a rabble-rouser supreme. And he does it all with a warmth and boy-next-door accessibility that's sure to help Kick Axe build their audience.

Cooked up in Regina in '77, the Kick Axe backline of Brian, his brother Larry (lead guitar), Ray Harvey (also lead guitar) and bassist Victor Langen have stayed intact and writing while an assortment of frontmen came and went with much of an impact. These were the dues-paying years that kill off many bands but Kick Axe hung in there like crabs, working hard and sharpening their skills.

"There were times when it looked like things were going to happen for us but it never came together and you can get kind of depressed about that, but through it all we kept believing in ourselves and we kept on writing. Once you stop writing tunes and start doing covers, in a way you've already given up on yourself."

"Those times are very tough on the people in the band. You just have to get along and have a good time within the band and push on."

Right now Kick Axe have just about pushed themselves onto the second level of success. They're not up there in the ranks of Helix or Lee Aaron just yet but, given any kind of luck, they will be 'cause there ain't nothin' lacking in the talent department. The raucaus, well-paced live show is backed by the just released Vices album, a tough, briskly-produced piece of business, studded with sharp hooks and cunning looks.

There's playlist material all over the place but Alive and Kicking and Vices will kick you in to their finest moments.

We're into power rock obviously but I don't like that tone-deaf headbanging stuff. It's got to have a strong melody, it's got to have good harmonies and the rhythm section should be up to more than just whacking away."

"We realize that the extreme leather element may not like us but we don't care to appeal to a cult following. We know our music is worth reaching a wider audience."

So strong is their belief in their own stuff, Kick Axe wouldn't release their cover of 30 Days in the Hole, which appears on the cassette version of the record.

"We realize if we'd put out the cover on the record, it would have given the radio stations something to jump onto that would have got the whole album immediate attention. We didn't do it because we had at least 14 strong tunes to pick 10 out of, so we figured we didn't need to give anybody royalty money. And we didn't want to get tagged with Quiet Riot thing, because of how they made their break with Cum Feel The Noise.

Oh yeah, the Quiet Riot thing. A big one too. Vices is coming out under the Pasha label, the same bunch that had a monster hit with Quiet Riot's Metal Health. They are therefore soon to be projected into the U.S. market and into the video studios.

Before that Pasha had Spencer Proffer was so taken with the lads that he personally produced their record and landed them a track on the Up the Creek soundtrack album, in addition to scoring them a gig writing songs for the new Black Sabbath album. As George remarked to the Gasworks faithful: "This is the last time you'll see us in a club situation." He's probably right and ain't it about time.