Features - Lillian Axe with Wendy Jasper
Lillian Axe: Louisiana Music Hall of Famers are back with new album and worldwide touring
By Wendy Jasper
In a word: Amazing! What more can be said about a band that has been a musical mainstay for those of us that have lived so long in the South? Fame, MTV videos, worldwide touring; it has all been a part of Lillian Axe’s brilliant career. But the thing that stands out to all of us Texas folks is that they were our neighbors and we could see them play just about any time we wanted. How many times did I see them at Backstage in the late 80’s and early 90’s? Probably too many to count, but that is where our story will begin.
Many Texas fans remember Lillian Axe in their early incarnation with singer Johnny Vines belting out songs that we could all sing along to. Not too long after Johnny’s departure, we saw the next version of the band, sporting new singer Ron Taylor as he strutted for the camera in the 1988 video for “Dream of a Lifetime.” Guitarist Steve Blaze, with his signature blond streak and flashy guitar moves, was also carving out a niche for himself. And it’s quite possible that everyone in the gulf south knew the words to “Misery Loves Company.”
After the band’s self-titled debut came their sophomore effort, Love and War, in 1989. Both albums were released by the metal graveyard that was MCA Records and the band parted ways with the label shortly afterward. The band’s third disc, Poetic Justice, was delivered via I.R.S Records in 1992 and the single, “True Believer” is still as popular today with the band’s diehard fans as it was when it was released.
BECAUSE THE MUSIC MATTERS!!!
What may be the band’s most critically acclaimed work, Psychoschizophrenia, hit the airwaves in 1993 and solidified band founder and guitarist Steve Blaze as one of the most proficient performers and songwriters in the genre. Songs like “Crucified,” “Deepfreeze,” “Sign of the Times,” and the poignant ballad “The Day I Met You,” were met to rave reviews.
The band continued to tour and record, but following their Live 2002 release, veteran vocalist Taylor left the band and was replaced with Derrick LeFevre, who would hold the spot for nearly 6 years. During that time, the band released three more CD’s, Waters Rising, Sad Day on Planet Earth, and Deep Red Shadows.
In between the album releases and after the departure of LeFevre, the band did a show with well-known metal singer Ronny Munroe; however, the vocalist and Blaze came to the mutual decision that it was not a good fit.
“Ronny did one show with us, sort of like an audition or test to see if it would work out. I had met Ronny previously and we had talked about working together. His musical background is different from Lillian Axe but he had so many good qualities. We did the show at BB King’s in New York. It was a good show and he has a great presence, but there were some many other things to consider, like logistics and we elected not to pursue it,” Blaze explained.
Fast forward to the present. Blaze and Company have a new singer, a powerhouse named Brian Jones, and a new album entitled XI: The Days BeforeTomorrow. The rest of the band is rounded out by drummer Ken Koudelka, bassist Eric Morris and guitarist Sam Poitevent and each shared Blaze’s sentiment regarding the selection of a new member. Originally a guitar player, Jones approached Blaze when the vocalist search was announced. Blaze was cautious during the new search as he wanted to introduce just the right voice to the fold.
“When Brian contacted me, he was adamant that he could do this and I said I didn’t need another guitar player, but he said he was a singer too and I told him to send me his best stuff and show me what he could do,” Blaze said. “When I heard what he sent, I was impressed with him right away and we talked to him for months and rehearsed and recorded for a very long time before we made a final decision. At the end of the day, we decided he was right for us and he stood out on so many different levels and we were comfortable with making him an offer at that point.”
Additionally, Blaze points out that he not only wanted a singer that would do justice to the band’s extensive catalogue, but would also be able to move in the direction that the music was currently headed.
“We wanted someone that would grow with the band and Brian has really fit that description,” he elaborated.
After the release of the new album, which was produced by Blaze and mixed by Sylvia Massy, the band started preparing to tour and latched onto the wildly popular America Rocks Tour that also featured Jack Russell’s Great White, Faster Pussycat, Pretty Boy Floyd, and the Bulletboys.
“We are booked through the same agent as Jack Russell, an agency called Artists Worldwide,” Blaze said. “The opportunity for the tour came up and we thought it sounded like a great idea. All of the bands in the line-up are from the same era so it worked out well.”
The tour covered most of the major metropolitan areas across the country and Lillian Axe ended their run with line-up in Dallas on July 8th. The show at Tree’s was well attended and a large portion of the audience was clearly there to see Blaze and Company. Even former bassist Darrin DeLatte, who lives in the Dallas area, came out to enjoy the show.
The band’s set consisted of new tunes like “Babylon”, “Death Comes Tomorrow,” and “Take a Bullet” as well as consistent fan favorites like “Ghost of Winter”, “Deep Freeze,” and “Show a Little Love.” Each song was carefully selected to share the past and present with the audience and it was amazing to see that everyone was singing along. Even Blaze’s three-year-old son Jude gets some artist recognition as he has a small voice track on the new album and the clip is worked into the intro for Babylon at the start of each show.
What’s next for the band? They embark on a European tour on August 31st that runs through the middle of September. After that the band will work on more U.S. dates for the rest of the year. Stay tuned as we will be updating you with more touring information as it comes available.
The new album is available worldwide on CME Records and there are several ways to keep up with all of the latest Lillian Axe news. The band has a Facebook page, a full service website at www.lillianaxe.com , and more recently, the band has launched an iPhone application that plays music, lists tour dates, and gives general information about the band.