[published]: 2004, November 14
[in]: Regina Sun, p. 3
[article]: Kick Axe Comes Home Again
[by]: Andrew Matte

We need not debate the poetic or musical merits of songs like Heavy Metal Shuffle, Too Loud... Too Old or The Dark Crusade.

Even though the music realities of the '80s have artists and fans of hard rock from this unfortunate decade rolling their eyes in 2004, Kick Axe was damned legitimate.

The quintet that was formed from teenage musicians in Regina and Yorkton in the late '70s slowly became one of Canada's hardest working rock bands of the day, touring around the world with the likes of metal icons Judas Priest, Scorpions and Whitesnake, among others.

Kick Axe's debut 'Vices' in 1984 got fans and critics talking before follow-ups 'Welcome to the Club' and 'Rock the World' continued to attract respectable sales and praise before the inevitable happened. The band was destroyed by greedy industry folks who took much of the credit for the band's successes, and most of the money.

A sad ending for a band known as much for its anthem-like melodies as its musicianship.

While its members went into respectable careers, among them computer geek and limousine company owner, Kick Axe remained a fabulous Prairie memory, buoyed by the 2001 release of CD versions of 'Vices' and 'Club.'

Today, Larry Gillstrom, a proud Saskatchewan native and 49-year-old software developer in Vancouver, admits even he's surprised he and his old bandmates are touring again, and have released their first recording since 1986.

"Four or five years ago, I wouldn't have believed we'd be in the situation we're in now," Gillstrom says. "But I'll tell ya, I'm having a great time doing it."

That "situation," he says, is new work in his old job as Kick Axe guitarist. He's in the middle of a Western Canada tour that kicked off in Vancouver last week and comes to Regina Nov. 17 at The Pump on Victoria Avenue.

The mini tour is in support of aptly-named 'IV,' which was released in September, not long after the band reunited and performed in Regina in August at the Exhibition with fellow hometowners Queen City Kids. ("We went out to Regina Beach and had a big party," Gillstrom said).

Gillstrom, whose brother Brian plays drums in Kick Axe and owns Vancouver's biggest limo service, said the reunion was made easy by technology, allowing them to produce self-made CDs digitally on computers. And the Internet has opened lines of communication between the band and fans around the world.

Among the most "communicative" fans is the keeper of a European-based Web site that proves he "knows more about the band than we do. He has all the archives for everything. It's amazing."

Among the most interesting discoveries Gillstrom has made are old friends, including radio and record company folks, starting out when Kick Axe did, and now hold executive jobs.

"We run into these people everywhere. We never knew those people were out there and then all of a sudden they are high up there."

Gillstrom says the shows serve as a celebration of the band's old music, even though members took the making of 'IV' seriously.

"The live thing is nostalgia in the sense that we're playing stuff from all four albums and we're bringing out a lot of people who don't normally go out to night clubs or concerts.

"But the CD was more of a serious songwriting effort. We all got together and wrote songs that described what had happened in the past decade and a half since we left the band. It's a lot more serious and has more depth than songs meant to recreate the past."

The band's reunion is technically a complete one, given that original lead singer Gary Langen performs with the band now, even though he left before Vices was recorded and American George Criston was recruited. Word is Criston was asked back, but declined because he was busy with other music work, including working with Avril Lavigne.

Also back is bass player Victor Langen and guitarist Raymond Harvey.

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