[published]: 2004, October 16
[in]: Melodic Hard Rock Today
[article]: Interview with Larry Gillstrom
[by]: Arne

Kick Axe are one of the greatest bands to come out from Canada in the eighties. With their debut album, Vices from 1984, they received a gold record. They toured with several rock heavyweights such as Judas Priest, Scorpions, Metallica, Rush, Quiet Riot, and Whitesnake. Between 1983 and 1987 Kick Axe released three albums with CBS/Sony and were also featured on two movie soundstracks and numerous hard rock compilation albums. In 2000 and 2001, the SongHaus/Rewind (Sony) label reissued the first two Kick Axe albums on CD. The reviews and sales were surprisingly good, especially since the band had split up 12 years earlier. The third album, Rock the World, has become a rare collectors item and recently several copies were sold on Ebay for over $150 USD. With a lot of fans and overwhelmingly good response to the Kick Axe reissues, the band decided to reunite in June 2002. Except for Gary, the new line-up today is the same as the one that played on the Vices and Welcome to the Club albums.

Arne: First of all, congratulations with your superb comeback album IV!

Larry: Thank you.

Arne: How does it feel to come back after the break back in 1988, and what was it that got Kick Axe back in action again in 2002?

Larry: It feels absolutely great to be back playing music with these guys again. We really had a good time recording the album. We've only played a few live shows since reuniting but they went extremely well, so we plan on doing a lot more. I think it was the reissue of our first two albums that got us talking about getting back together. We had always planned on doing it. Back in the late 80's and early 90's it was not safe for Kick Axe to reunite and we all had gone our separate ways. But every year one of us would contact the other guys and suggest putting the band back in action.

Arne: The new album was released on the 6th of September 2004, how have the reactions been so far?

Larry: Reaction has been great. We are getting the response we expected to get from our fans. They love it. There are some people who really miss George and we understand that. Some people are initially surprised because I guess they expected it to sound just like Vices, but as long as they give it more than one spin they start to hear everything that's there and it grows on them. All of the fan response we have received personally has been great.

Arne: How would you compare the new album to the previous ones?

Larry: We are a bit older now and a lot has happened to each of us. So naturally this album is going to be a lot different than the previous ones. The songs are mostly about the personal experience of the band members and carry deeper meaning than a lot of the material on our previous efforts. Gary, Victor and I were heavily influenced by the blues-based rock from the 60's and 70's and I think that comes out on this album. Overall the entire album is more mature, mysterious and moody.

Arne: What do you think is the biggest difference between the music scene when Kick Axe started back in the early eighties, and the today's scene?

Larry: There really isn't much media attention paid to classic hard rock acts, like Kick Axe, that are trying to put out new material. It seems that radio will play older songs by groups from the 80's but don't really give any new material by the same groups much airplay. The Internet helps a lot to get in touch with the fans and to let the world know what's going on with the band. There also doesn't seem to be the same enthusiasm for the live music scene like there was back in the 80's. But that could just be my perspective changing as I get older.

Arne: I know you have worked a lot with the new album, can you tell a bit about the process, songwriting++?

Larry: First we rehearsed and did some demos. Gary and I worked with those demos to come up with the first set of songs for the album. Then Brian, Ray and Victor all contributed additional songs. When we were writing for the first three albums it was always done on the road and under very hectic circumstance and I think that came through back then. But for this album, the songwriting was done at a much more relaxed pace and with much more individual input into the process. As we get back out on the road playing again, that process will change again.

Arne: Can you say a few words about each song from 1-14?


1. Right Now is a song about standing up for yourself and living in the moment. The basis of the song is that fear is the only enemy we need to worry about.

2. Rockin Daze was written by Brian and it talks about the band's experiences when things went strange on us in the 80's. There really were sheriffs that came on stage and took all of our gear.

3. Ray wrote Consolation several years ago and brought it to this project. It's a song of hope and expresses a certain sentiment about depressions and grief.

4. Turn To Stone was written by Laurel Aura and myself and deals with the need to adapt when your world changes dramatically. This is one of my favorite songs on the album. I really enjoy playing the guitar and think the vocal melody is one of the best in any Kick Axe song.

5. The only song on the album with two full drum kits going is Do You Know. Both Gary and Brian played drum tracks for this song. Brian does a lot of rolling on the toms, while Gary holds the beat down. Everybody in the band does a lot of background singing on this one. It also has some great guitar playing from Ray.

6. Who Knows Ya was the first song that I wrote with Laurel Aura and the first song that Gary and I rehearsed and demoed. It's a bluesy song that's loosely based on how karma works in mysterious ways.

7. Woe is another song that Raymond brought to this project, we let our resident Hammond organ player, T'Narg, have a little more fun in this one. I really enjoyed doing the background vocals on this one.

8. Another one of my favorites on the album is Time. It's got great big guitar chords and lots of space for them to ring out. I also really got into doing the wah solo through the end of the song.

9. Gary wrote Slip Inside My Dream as a long hypnotic epic, then Victor added a really heavy bass line, and we put in some guitar melodies to give it more of a strange mood. I really like the mood this song creates.

10. Who Says is a straight forward rocker with a great gear-changing guitar solo.

11. We wrote Rock n Roll Dog in the studio when our two studio dogs kept fighting every time we started playing our music loud. You can hear them barking on the song. The whole song is really tongue-in-cheek and we had a good laugh while recording it.

12. Brian and I wrote Black Heart about the grief that we went through when our Mom passed away from cancer just as we were preparing to do the album. We were close and she was always a big supporter of Kick Axe. She was diagnosed and gone within a couple of months...

13. I wrote City Lights with a friend named Floyd Ray. Floyd's a rocker who's sort of a combination of Metallica, Nickelback and Bob Seger. He's recorded his own version of this song as well.

14. The album finishes with The Only Ones Here. It's a song Victor wrote that basically sums up some of his beliefs about the meaning of life and death (or the lack thereof). I really enjoyed working on this song in the studio.

Arne: Will it be possible for us living in Scandinavia to see Kick Axe playing some live shows here, or are there any other tour plans in the future?

Larry: We would love to come over there and tour, especially since Brian and I are of Scandinavian descent. Hopefully we can make that happen sometime time in 2005.

Arne: I wish Kick Axe all the best in the future with your new album. Is there a last message for your fans out there and to those who haven't yet discovered Kick Axe?

Larry: I always like to thank the fans for the support over the years. Everyone should look for a live CD/DVD as well as the reissue of Rock The World in 2005. If you haven't heard Kick Axe before, come on over to our website at and get to know us.