[published]: 1985, December
[in]: Music Express, No. 97, p. 29, 69
[article]: Welcome to the Club: Lovers, Looners, Hard Rock Choosers,
Kick Axe Has Something for Everyone
[by]: Lenny Stoute

"I'm glad someone's still thinking of Led Zeppelin." Brian Gillstrom, drummer with Kick Axe, hotel room renovator and rabid Zep fan, kicks off the conversation with a refference to Metallion's 'Roots of Metal' section. We discuss the rumour a Zep reformation is under way with Tony Thompson, sometimes of Power Station, on drums. We agree he may not necessarilly be the best man for the job, but, concludes Brian, "just the idea of getting them back together is nice."

Then he bombs me one, "It's because of Led Zeppelin that we did With A Little Help From My Friends. It's when they were in the studio working on that track that Page and Plant met and about three weeks later, Zep was formed. We'd always wanted to cover a Zep tune but that's like a cardinal sin. So we did this one because it reflected a little on Led Zeppelin. And it was written by Lennon-McCartney, two of the best, plus there's the connotanions of the song.

It's the kind of tune that makes for a good party, so when we were in Toronto cutting it, we got everyone we could think of to come out to Metalworks studio and just put the party on tape. It'll be released in Canada only as a single because of the hometown connection. I loved the song and the whole process of recording it because it totally defied that machine music, it goes right back to the roots, when music was about feel.

The track appears on Kick Axe's new opus, Welcome To The Club, and all nostalgia aside, it's by no means the finest track on the album. Picking THE one would be a tough go since the boys in Kick Axe have gone and cooked themselves up one helluva record, bristling with hooks, memorable melodies and crisp and snappy as a barracuda on speed.

The songwriting continues to flex its collective muscle; there are four or five instantly grabby tracks that have nothing to do with sex, drugs, violence or devil worship. They're just powerful, ass-kicking tunes, well thought out and well executed. The production (by Bishop/Proffer) is crystal clear and sharp as a needle; it's also possessed of a monster of a drum mix, great huge walloping whacks vibrate inside your breastbone 'til it feels like your chest is going to fall apart. What it does for a female chest, you can well imagine.

"We're really happy about it because it's a definite improvement and once you stop improving, you get stale and that's when the rot sets in. All the songs were written in the last year. You know the thing of having your whole life to write your first album? When we went in to do the first one we had about 100 songs. But when we started thinking about this one, we threw all those out and wrote this whole batch.

"Basically, we wanted songs that reflected the changes we'd gone through and the experiences we'd had in the last year, which has been one of the busiest in our career."

The idea for Welcome to the Club is that we all belong to the club already, but don't know it. The line 'if the habit's hard to break', well, it's whatever habit that's got you: drugs, alcohol, sugar, whatever. Some guy comes up to you in a club and starts talking about breaking off with his girl - hey! welcome to the club, we've all been there. It's an anthem of hope for even the worst moments, it's got a warm 'we're all in this together' feeling. There's nothing personal in it; this band doesn't have any habit problems, we manage to cope with everything."

"Make Your Move is the most straight-ahead rocker on the album. It's a song for cruising along on wheels, looking for action. So's Comin' After You, but that one's a bit more about us cruising along the roads of America, spreading the word. No matter where you are, you're gonna hear about Kick Axe. Comin'... will probably be the next single, after the title track."

More than a feeling

"Feel The Power is one I personally like a lot. It's about the unique power of live rock. It's about when you're at a really good concert how it can just take you away. If your feet hurt or you find yourself having to move around because you're restless, then the concert isn't that good. You should lose all the feeling in your body because of the power coming off the stage. The power is that magnetic field which attracts you to the stage, makes you forget everything but just being there, and you feel you don't want the concert to ever end."

For me, it's Can' Take It With You that's the shiver maker. It kicks off with an ominously building drum rumble, like a large black car following you up a dark dead-end street late at night. Then it kicks into a defiant celebration of life, loving and freedom of choice with direct links to Steppenwolf's Born To Be Wild.

"That line in Hellraisers, 'Every mother's child born to be a hellraiser,' everyone has that in them, even the straightest person has a party animal in them somewhere. Everyone's mshared the urge to now and then say fuck it and just let it all out for a while. That's what the power of rock is all about, letting out frustrations and having a good time doing it. With some people, the party animal is easier to draw out then with others. But if you can get it out of them, they like you."

"That's what is all about on the road; they don't have to be loons all the time, but if they can get it out the one night we're playing, then they go home and say, 'Jeez, I had a damn good time.'

"Feels Good - Don't Stop" isn't necessarily about sex, it's about when you're on a roll, on whatever it may be and not wanting to stop. It's about really enjoying all the fun things that humans like to do."

In keeping with radio-conscious times, Kick Axe has come up with the obligatory ballad; in their case, it's much better than most. It also pins you with just how powerful and controlled a singer George Criston has become.

"The ballad is saying that no matter how fucked over the world gets, there's always you and me. Whicj, when you can actually be sincerer about that, is an amazing thing to have. It seems like relationships ghet to be about things; what can she do for me, what can he give me? But when the shit hits the fan, it's people who love you that'll put you through, not things."

During the band's busy-busy US tour last summer, Brian was called upon to do something a shade extra in the way of a relationship pullin through.

"There was this beach festival happening in Florida so me and my brother Larry (Kick Axe's ace axe), grabbed a couple of two-gallon magnums of wine, the kind with the chugging handles, and we went partying. After a while we grabbed these two women and we went way, way out, because it was quite shallow, to do some body surfing. By now it's getting dark but hey, we've having a great time. It was one of the best times I've ever had in the water but being Prairie boys, we aren't too ocean conscious. Anyway, we're out there about an hour and then this one wave hits Larry broadside and he goes down."

"I looked back and I couldn't se him anymore. I'm not that great a swimmer but we had to play a gig the next day, so I floundered over, grabbed him under the arms and dragged him to the beach. He looked funny with all this water just pouring out of his face. I went back in and had a great time 'til we couldn't see anything. Next day the guy at the hotel told us that beach was a big shark feeding area and I caught a shiver because I remember there were big fish bumping into me but I didn't think nothing of it at the time. You know how it is when you're pissed, I was just booting them as hard as I could. The guys said they have someone on shark watch even during the day because the sharks chase fish into the shallows where it's easier to get them. I had nightmares about it."

Touring headspace

Their sojourn in the U.S. was mostly more dream than nightmare. Kick Axe spent the better part of the year touring with the likes of Judas Priest, the Scorpions, Ratt, Helix and a bagfull of other household names. Their debut album is still being played in some places and their management and record company displayed extraordinary hustle in working the band. Someone's caught a glimpse of the potential and it's rubbing off on the band members. The importance of professionalism on all fronts is coming into sharper focus.

"There's a certain headspace that gets you through a tour successfully. It's a very high energy, almost hyper attitude and you've got to have it from the beginning and you can't ever let it go. Because all the stuff you're doing between shows, signing autographs, meeting radio and record people, doing in-stores - whenever you meet the public, they expect to see the kind of guys they have in their minds from the music and you don't want to let them down."

"They don't want to come out and meet some boring guy who does just it for a living and is only into it when he's on stage. Basically, they're paying to see freaks and that's what they want, to meet somebody a little different."

"Everybody in the band is best friends; we've been together years and we still like to hang out together. That makes it easier keeping the band together and so does the way we've handled the writing. Lots of fights in bands start over who wrote what and who's going to get how much money from royalties. Everything is credited as written by Kick Axe so it's an even split all the way. We trust each other in knowing that everyone is in this for a long haul. This way, if you have a good idea that would enhance someone else's good song idea, no one's going to say, 'I'm going to keep this idea for my own song.' We just all dish it up and see what goes in."

"When you finally get to do those songs live, the enthusiasm is there because everybody had a hand in writing them, so everybody gets off on playing them. There's none of this, 'I'm gonna lay back and go through the motions 'cause it's his song and I never liked it anyway.' It comes real easy for us to run this band as a democracy."

Certainly the boys in the band are committedd to hanging together. They need to in a radio climate that's cheerily committed to letting them and their kind of music go hang. And for Kick Axe to extend their Welcome To The Club to significant numbers, they gotta hear it on the radio.

"I don't think radio stations even know where they're at just now. There's serious confusion happening because it seems they're not about music, they're about getting advertising dollars. How can you tell rock stations apart anymore? They're all playing the same kind of machine music, where it's all emulated. You know, you need drums here? Oh, just punch it in. Four-part harmonies, you say? Here, just punch this in. It's more like being a keypunch operator than a musician."

"Rock'n'roll has always been about human feel, when you listen to machine music, it sounds so stale. I think it's a trend and that people will tire of it. Radio airplay is so important or else your stuff gets passed over, but the kids are getting smart and if the aren't hearing what they like on the radio, they know where to look to get the music they want. There are lots of kids who've completely tuned out radio."

"Kick Axe lived through disco, we lived through punk, we'll live through this and at the end of it they'll still all be Welcome To The Club."