[published]: 1985, March
[in]: Loud and Clear, Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 20-22, 44
[article]: Kick Axe! Loud and Clear's Tom Farrell and Mike LaBonte get "On the Road to Rock" with the Canadian Party Boys!
[by]: Tom Farrell, Mike LaBonte

Kick Axe made their san Diego debut while opening for Whitesnake and Quiet Riot on September 27th at the San Diego Sports Arena. The band has made a long climb from the Canadian city of Regina, Saskatchewan, Kick Axe's first gigs were at rowdy parties put on by street gangs. The group was formed in 1976 by guitarist Larry Gillstrom and bassist Victor Langen. They later added guitarist Ray Harvey and Larry's brother, Brian, was added to the roster as the band's drummer. The group eventually signed up George Criston as their vocalist, who was making quite an impression on the Milwaukee music scene.

Kick Axe was the first band to go onstage, before Quiet Riot and Whitesnake, and due to some error, our tickets/passes didn't arrive at the will call until after Kick Axe was off. Oh well... I heard they put on a good performance, though. Backstage, in Kick Axe's dressing room, we talked with vocalist George Criston and Ray Harvey, the bands guitarist. It was George's birthday, and everybody was in good spirits. One thing about Kick Axe which immediately struck me was their outlook-one of total optimism, these guys definitely have the "eye of the tiger", if you will. You won't find any rockstar ego trips here, no timid approach or phony politeness, Kick Axe are five guys who want to make it to the top, and they're thoroughly enjoying themselves while doing it. While many bands will come off stage and be ready to hit the showers, Kick Axe could have probably jogged 10 laps around the Sports Arena while telling me their lifestories. These guys are totally genuine, and it's a pleasure to interview the bands like them. After watching a bit of Whitesnake with us (yes, that was Kick Axe standing off to the side of the stage in the audience during Whitesnake's set!) We went back to the dressing room, and after my photographer Mike LaBonte and I were treated to a few odd gin mixtures (Rudy Sarzo's birthday gift to George) we started to talk.

"George, why don't you give us a brief history of the band?"

George: "Ray! You've been in the band longer that I have!"

Ray: "George doesn't know about things like that, he's a newcomer! (Laughter) It's a Canadian band, started about 6 or 7 years ago, out in the prairies of Canada, then we moved to the west coast, about 5 years ago, we played there for a couple of years, we got a record deal and came down here, to the States."

"I noticed while reading you're bio that there was a lot of youth gang activity and it was tough to keep out of that. How did you guys manage to rise above that, or did you?"

Ray: "Well, you rise above it by becoming removed from it, you just practice in a rock band, while they're out burning houses, you're in the basement of the house practicing (laughter from George) and when they have parties, you just play for 'em. It's cool to be a rock and roller."

"So, do you still consider yourselves a sort of youth gang (jokingly), and one that's just getting paid more?"

Ray: "Yeah! A professional youth gang!"

"I noticed in your music that you seem to be blues and harmonic influenced. How did you guys manage to still keep your heavy metal punch, with out being the next Loverboy, or falling into the commercial music trend?"

Ray: "Just couldn't do it. We like the music heavy. We'll put on a Black Sabbath album and like it, then put on a Genesis or Fixx album and like that. We like our music heavy, we're a guitar oriented band, "kick AXE" with the AXE coming through for the guitars, but we've always liked the harmonies, too."

"What made you choose "heavy metal" since you all come from such a wide background?"

Ray: "We just choose our music, people put a label, they say "this is heavy metal and that's pop", we don't say "we're going to play heavy metal, we're only going to play only this kind of music." We just play whatever we want, and write whatever we want and let the critics classify it."

"Well, would you classify your band as anything?"

Ray: "Oh, yeah, I'd call it heavy metal, or hard rock, that kind of thing."

"Who are your influences?"

Ray: "Lots of them, all the basic influences a metal band has... Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who, even. Can't name them all, there's so many of them."

George: "Actually, everything is an influence to us, because if it's good, it's influences us to take after it and if it's a bad influence, you say "I don't want that!" Every kind of influence, and every kind of artist is an influence to us."

"What kind of music do you listen to at home?"

Ray: "You mean listen to in the van on the way to the next town. That'd be more like it! Anything, whatever's new, whenever we're in a store we'll pick up some new tapes and new groups. Like the latest bunch of tapes we picked up were the Iron Maiden, Gary Moore, the new Zebra, whatever's new. We just like to hear what's coming out."

"What's in the future for Kick Axe?"

Ray: "We'll be recording a new album, probably around January. We're doing demos for it right now. We always like to have a bunch of songs to pick up from. Just touring more. We're going up to Canada to do some headlining. We haven't even played there yet, after the first album."

"Tell us about the video?"

George: "Ah! The Video was a real good time! We did it in Hollywood, California, with the help of our album producer, Spencer Proffer. He actually came up with a lot of the ideas for the storylines in the video. It was two straight days of solid work, about 12, 13 hours a day. It was very grueling but it was an excellent experience. It was our first video experience and we learned quite a bit about it and hopefully in the future we will gain and grow."

"I've noticed a lot of the new metal bands are heavilly into theatrics, with the makeup and the pyrotechnical displays, what strayed you away from that?"

George: "Well, right now a budget! (Laughing)"

Ray: "Money has strayed us away from that!" (smiling)

George: "It's nice to have the bombs and everything, I'm sure in the future we'll be getting into it, and into larger stage shows, but right now we're just hardcore road rats, just playing our rock and roll as well as we can, and turning as many people on to our music as we can just by performing."

"Do you see an image change in your costumes?"

George: "Kick Axe's image is just going to grow with every video and album that comes out. We'll just see what happens."

"What other bands will you be touring with?"

Ray: "Well, the first major tour we did was with Judas Priest. We did a 6 week tour with them and liked it a whole lot, and we dream about doing their whole American tour for their next album, cause we got along good with all the guys in the band and in their personal road crew, so it was just a great time. We'll tour with anybody, but we would really like to tour with Judas Priest..."

"A lot of the bands coming out today seem to be steering toward power pop instead of realy heavy metal, how did you manage to stay away from that?"

Ray: "Yeah, I know what you mean by that power pop, it's like the real crunchy guitar player with a real kinda sweet singer on top, I suppose there's always been something about that we don't like, our vocals are more harmonies and things like that. It's got to sound good to us, and that's what steers it away from our music."

"Do you think Vancouver will be getting a good hockey team this year?"

Ray and George: (Breaking out in laughter) "Oh yeah!!! I just heard they traded Tiger Williams! (band starts shouting hockey comments)

Ray: "Get Victor Langen out here, he'll talk your ear off!"

"What sets Kick Axe apart from other metal bands?"

Ray: "Well, I should be asking you that, but (laughter from the rest of the band, shouts of "VOCALS, MAN! VOCALS!) Yeah, our vocals. That's a tough question, you tell me when you listen to the album. What do you think? What do you like abour our album more than another album?"

"Any words of advice to up and coming musicians?"

George: "If you're a young musician in this business, keep going, play as many dives, to as many people as you can, for as long as you can. Never put your guitar down, never stop singing, constantly work, work, work."

Ray: "Never have the attitude, "Oh, I couldn't play there!" That's wrong. You'll pay somebody to be able to play for them, you gotta play in front of people, you can't sit in your room and practice your scales, you gotta get out there and do it in front of people."

After the interview, we stood by the side of the stage and watched Quiet Riot. Like Whitesnake, Quiet Riot put on a pretty good show. The sound system wasn't that bad, and Kevin DuBrow and the boys really had the audience on their feet. After the show, we were heading back to Kick Axe's dressing room when one of those "frightfully important" men in the red suit jackets (crowd control, or whatever) saw it as his sacred duty to inform Mike and I that our passes were only good for the support act portion of the show, and duly escorted us away. What a guy...

What ever the case, I hope to see Kick Axe next time they come down here. With their desire to succeed, don't be surprised if you see them at the top some day.

Best New Band of 1984 by the staff - position No. 4

Best New Band of 1984 by the readers - position No. 5