[published]: 1986, March
[in]: Metal Mania, Vol. 1, No. 4, p. 32-34
[article]: Welcome to Kick Axe
[by]: Georges Sulmers

"If they put ratings on record, the first thing a kid's gonna do is look for an album rated 'X'. Then every rock band is gonna make sure their album is bad enough to get rated 'X'. What kid is goona go out and buy a 'G' album?"

With their second album, Welcome to the Club, about to be released any day now on Pasha Records, Kick Axe stand poised to attack and establish themselves as a premier hard rock group. Their debut album, Vices, went gold in their native Canada, and did fairly well Stateside, giving them the opportunity to open for such bands as Judas Priest and the Scorpions.

Formed eight years ago, the band consists of Brian Gillstrom on drums; his brother Larry on lead guitar; Raymond Arthur Harvey also playing lead guitar; George Criston on lead vocals; and bassist Victor Langen. These guys are probably the craziest five guys you'd ever met. They firmly believe in the philosophy of "working hard... and playing harder." They're perfectly comfortable with the rock and roll lifestyle - as evidenced on the title track of Vices: "We are living our Vices/We're indulging tonight/It's all a part of a crazy world we like."

Metal Mania talked with drummer Brian Gillstrom about touring with Priest, the work they did on the soundtrack of the '84 movie, Up the Creek, and the general trends rock is taking this year.

Metal Mania: How did you get involved with Spencer Proffer and his Pasha label?

Gillstrom: We always liked Billy Thorpe. He put out a song called 'East of Eden's Gate,' and we couldn't believe how good the production was on that song. Spencer produced that and we liked it because it was so crisp. We really wanted to work with him, so we got our manager to get in touch with him. When he did, he sent him a tape, and Spencer was really interested. He felt he had a unique kind of sound, so he flew up to Canada to check us out. He liked us live and agreed to do it, but he wanted lots of material to choose from. We gave him about fifty tunes for the first album, and he was into them, so he flew us down to L.A. to record Vices. It was that simple, really. He came up and he liked us, we got off on his producing and wanted him, so we got him.

Metal Mania: How did you get involved with the 'Up the Creek' soundtrack?

Gillstrom: We were doing the first album at the same time the Up the Creek soundtrack was happening. Spencer wanted 'Thirty Days in the Hole' on the soundtrack, and he thought we could do a good version of it. He just asked us to do a remake of it. We did, and it was on the album. It was just good timing.

Metal Mania: How did your tour with Priest go?

Gillstrom: Fantastic! They treated us really, really good. Like spoiled brats! We did about thirty-five or forty dates with them.

Metal Mania: Were there any wild times you can tell us about?

Gillstrom: Yeah, there were. First of all, the thing that was really weird about the tour was that Priest really like to party, but their road manager would try and keep us away from the band. We couldn't let the band know what the road manager was doing, and the road manager couldn't let them know what he was doing because they'd get pissed off at him. The thing was, we couldn't let either one of them get pissed off at us because we'd be off the tour.

Their road manager would let us watch the Priest show, but we had to leave before they got off the stage, because he knew that Priest wanted to party with us! Once in a while we wouldn't make it out in time and we'd party with them, but most of the time our tour manager would get us out in time. It was really awkward, though - because the guys in Priest would come by and say, 'Listen you guys, make sure you stick around, because we're gonna party after the show'; and their road manager would be giving us the evil eye. We'd just tell them sure, and they'd go, 'Well you guys didn't hangout last night.' It was just so strange, but we had to do it. Sometimes we'd meet them at a bar and go crazy with them, but we'd catch hell the next day with their tour manager. What could we do. We had many parties, anyways, like Rob getting carried away in a stretcher. He really likes to party.

Another thing that happened while we were on the tour with them was when we were in Florida. Me and Larry, my brother, brought a couple of those two-gallon bottles of wine during the day, and we picked up a couple of chicks. Toward sunset, we went to the beach. The tide was out, so we went in about a quarter of a mile and went body surfing. We found out the next night that the area that we were in was a shark feeding area. Smart, eh? We were just like shitfaced, and I remember these big fish hitting us and I didn't think they were sharks at the time, so we were just booting them. Another thing that happened that night was that Larry almost drowned out there. A wave caught him the wrong way, and he was so gone he went under. I had to carry him all the way back to shore. We were just about history that night. We were out there for about three hours because we were having so much fun, but never again will we do that.

Metal Mania: Why doesn't George wear shoes onstage?

Gillstrom: Because he likes the feel of his feet on stage. It just gives him a real loose, animalistic feel on stage he can't do without - and plus, he wants to meet Cyndi Lauper.

Metal Mania: What was your very first gig like?

Gillstrom: Hmm...Well, I guess it should have been memorable, but I don't remember it. Let's see. I don't know how to explain it. There was a lot of pacing backstage. It was such a small-time gig, but back then it must have meant the world to me. It must have felt like the big deal; you know - the big break. We must have just went out there and rocked out as best as we could in front of fifty people. I remember that it was like my major concern in life. It was, like, once I got past this first gig, I'd be set for the rest of my life.

Metal Mania: Let's talk about Welcome to the Club.

Gillstrom: The meaning behind it is, like, we all belong to the club already, it's just that some people don't know it yet. You've got these people who keep telling you about their vice problems, or their woman problems, but what they don't realize is that we all have our problems and we're all in the same boat. We're trying to say like, 'Welcome to the club, buddy.'

Metal Mania: Why did you choose to do a cover of 'A Little Help From My Friends'?

Gillstrom: Well, I'd say our major influence for everyone in the band was Led Zeppelin, and as far as songwriters go, I'd say Lennon and McCartney were tops. We always wanted to do a remake of a Zeppelin song, and we always did 'Whole Lotta Love' live.

We thought it would be kind of like a sin if we did a Zep tune on vinyl, because they're kind of sacred to us. Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were studio musicians before they were in Zeppelin, and they got together and arranged the version that's on the Joe Cocker album, Mad Dogs and Englishman. That's were those two met, and they formed Led Zeppelin about a month after that. So it's kind of a tie with Zeppelin and the Beatles...and the title gave us a good idea. What we did was, while we were recording in Toronto at Triumph's Metal Works, I phoned up the guys in Triumph, and Lee Aaron, and the chicks in the band Toronto, and anyone else I could find that was in Canada at the time...and we just had one big party in the studio. We had many barrels of wine, kegs of beer, and it was just one big party on tape. Everybody had different lines they were singing and stuff. It was just an all-out real good time. You'll hear that on the album.

Metal Mania: How is Welcome to the Club different from Vices?

Gillstrom: This one has wider scoping. I really think you're gonna like it. Musically, it's sounding really tight. It's a lot crispier-sounding, everything is just brittle-sounding. It's not paper-bag-sounding at all. There's a lot more room for the songs to breathe - you know, like when you hear the studio air - but there are still those effects that we used on the first one. So if, like some kid is on some serious acid trip, he's still gonna freak out while listening to us. We've still got all our tricks.

Metal Mania: What do you think of this upsurge of all these new metal bands?

Gillstrom: I think the industry tried to make it out to be a kind of a trend there for a while. Rock and roll is no trend. It's always gonna be there. It's always kept coming back, you know? It survived the 'Urban Cowboys' days, disco and new wave, so they tried to make rock and roll a trend by signing everything in sight. I think a lot of the bands that got signed were really under par. I don't know. I'm just sick of that on-ten, strum the open E chord, with their screaming singing about hell. That's not really music to me. I tend to think of us as a hard rock band. I used to think Led Zeppelin was heavy metal, but that's when you had to have talent to get signed, not just go 'boomtap' or strum the E chord and go crazy. I miss bands like Zep. But I'll tell you what, all these new metal bands sure beat the hell out of all that machine music that's coming out. I'm hoping that's kind of a trend, because if that stays in, I'm gonna have to fly to another planet. That music drives me nuts. There's no feeling in it. It's lost the whole human element which is rock and roll.

Metal Mania: What do you think of the Government wanting to put rating labels on albums?

Gillstrom: I think it's stupid. If they give ratings like the movies, G to X, do you think a kid is gonna go out and buy a rated G album? The first thing he is gonna do is look for an album that is rated 'X'. Then, what every rock band is gonna do is make sure their album is bad enough so it can be rated 'X'. Nobody likes a 'general' album. How many kids would rather stay home and watch a Disney movie than go see a rock show? Really. I don't think they're gonna make kids show their ID's to buy an album. So I think all the X ones are gonna sell and the generals are gonna be shipped back to the plant.

Metal Mania: What do you think they'd rate yours?

Gillstrom: It'd be X'! We'd make sure of it!