Sunday, July 19, 2015


Axemaster is traditional heavy metal from the state of Ohio, U.S. The band’s brand of music is rough-and-ready, honest, gritty, blue-collar heavy metal. The band started in 1985, and has gone through lineup changes, including name changes, but lead guitarist Joe Sims, the only remaining member from the old formation, continues to steer Axemaster today. In 2014, the band signed with Pure Steel Records (Germany), and Sims produced, mixed, and mastered the new album "Overture to Madness.” Pure Steel released "Overture to Madness" in March of 2015, an album which, according to the band, “helps to define Axemaster's overall general style as a combination of the dark riffs and feel of doom metal and the energy and aggression of non-speed thrash metal.”
Geoff McGraw - vocals/rhythm guitar
Joe Sims - lead guitar
Denny Archer - drums
Jim Curtis - bass
This interview seeks to be an in-depth look into the history of Axemaster. There will be more Axemaster coming your way soon. Let’s get this show on the road.
QUESTION: Axemaster has returned with a new album on Pure Steel Records. What can y'all tell us about the current members of the band?

JOE: I'm Joe Sims and I play lead guitar. The other guys are Geoff McGraw on vocals and some rhythm guitar, Jim Curtis is the bassist, and Denny Archer is the drummer. I will tell you what, the metal gods were smiling on us when I put this band together, I don't know how a lineup could be any better all the way around than this one is. Geoff is a hell of a singer with the PERFECT sound and style for the kind of thing we do. He also plays rhythm guitar on some tunes which definitely helps our live sound, and is one hell of a songwriter. Jim and Denny are both world class musicians in their own right. It's really kick ass to not have to take into account any limitations in their playing when I write music because they are more than good enough to play anything I would ever want them to play. Above all that, all the guys are great people and I consider them all close friends. They are all veteran musicians who are true professionals with great attitudes and no egos. This band never has any kind of drama or bullshit with any of the members which is so VERY rare. We all work and write so well together it's almost unreal! For me, the totally positive atmosphere you can feel whenever we're all together keeps me power-motivated to work as hard as I possibly can. I'll tell you what, I'm proud as hell whenever I walk out onstage with those guys!!!!!
QUESTION: Only Joe Sims remains from the early days of the band, formed in 1985, correct? So, how did the current incarnation of the band come together?

JOE: Yeah, I'm the only one who has been on all the Axemaster releases. When I finally decided to put a new version of Axemaster together for good, the first couple guys I contacted were original Axemaster drummer Brian Henderson and our current bassist Jim Curtis. I had worked with them a couple years before on a CD project under the name Inner Terror and we worked well together, so asking them to join was basically a no brainer for me and they wanted in right away.
That whole situation went pretty smoothly, but finding a permanent vocalist was a whole different story. Originally I found a good singer fairly easily, but it was a tough situation right from the start because he didn't have much time at all to put into the band. Then after he had already written and recorded a couple songs for the album, he had to leave the band altogether for personal reasons, so we were stuck. It's usually so damned hard to find a decent singer, and at that point we had already recorded all the music for the album so we were pretty much dead in the water until we could find someone. It was frustrating as hell!!!!
After what felt like forever, I found an ad Geoff had put on Craigslist. Yeah, I was so desperate I was even checking there! After talking to him for a short time and hearing him sing just a couple lines unrehearsed, I KNEW he was the man. Then in spring of 2014 we replaced Brian Henderson with Denny Archer on drums. I don't want to go into the reasons why, but it was necessary to do in order for the band to be able to move forward the way we wanted. I've known Denny since we were kids and we played together in the mid 90's in a band called Reign, so it was a great fit.
Geoff: I find it funny when Joe talks about being so desperate to find a vocalist that he checked Craiglist. I too had never posted an ad on Craigslist before, and was myself pretty desperate to find a band. I had never had a good experience with musicians from Craigslist and had gotten a bunch of weird stuff and only 1 or 2 things that even had any potential when Joe called. So it was serendipitous that we were both so "desperate"

QUESTION: Looking on Metal Archives, I notice that it is possible that everyone knows each other from years in the scene. However, for your vocalist Geoff McGraw, Metal Archives does not list previous bands. That's not right, or is it? Is he a "newbie"?

JOE: Well, I guess you could say that Geoff is a newbie to the international scene, but he's not at all new to being in bands. He's been doing this almost as long as the rest of us, and has been in some original projects, not just only cover bands. He has just never been with a band that was able to get past the local scene. 

Geoff: Joe is exactly right here, I have done a lot of stuff. While hard rock and metal has always been my passion, I have been in everything from metal to folk music, just nothing so notable as to have had any real impact anywhere. The longest any of my previous projects have lasted is 2 or 3 years, and except for a couple of self produced discs that were available only on CDr, there is virtually nothing recorded. I was just never in the right place or time.
The last couple of things I did before joining Axemaster was playing guitar in a theatrical metal project called Psych Ward, and on my personal pet project called Morrigans Cross. I had always wanted to experiment with the concept I had, but it never got off the ground where I was living at the time. I had a group of guys but some personal issues arose and I found myself having to leave, so when I arrived here I had tried to get musicians for it again but consistently failed at finding the right people. Which is why I had placed the internet ad, I really needed to play with someone. On a side note, no one in this band created the Metal Archives entry for me, and I was shocked and pleasantly surprised to find that someone had made it, so "asphaalanx", whoever and wherever you are...Thanks!

QUESTION: How was the experience of putting together the new album and getting a new version of the band, too? Was that stressful? Was it a full band collaboration? 

JOE: Like I mentioned in the second question, adding Brian and Jim was pretty easy, but finding Geoff was a total bitch and pretty damned stressful!!!! I wrote all the music for the album mainly on my own. Other than a few suggestions about some little things here and there, it was all on me. So there was a very small amount of collaboration, but not much. For the most part I didn't feel any stress when I was writing all the music, except for maybe when I was trying to decide which riffs and tunes we should use for the album, that's just because of how important those decisions were. Overall, all the writing cames pretty easy for me. I was on a real roll, and what's even more kick ass is that the roll hasn't stopped! I have been writing music for something like 35 years now and not only is my creative well FAR from being dry, but over the last 5 years my writing has actually gotten a lot better and easier!!! Anyway, I spent a lot of time on small details which can be tedious at times, but overall I totally enjoyed the whole writing process. Creating new music that will be heard all over the world is probably my favorite part about being a musician. As far as the lyrics go, I'll leave that to Geoff.
Geoff: I felt no stress at Aside from the fact that I was, at the time Joe called, pretty sure that I was just spinning my wheels in trying to A) put my personal pet project back together, and B) finding any project that was a fit. So then I went to the audition, Joe started playing some of the music he had written for the album and one song just clicked with some lyrics I had written. We rolled on half a verse and the chorus, and the rest as they say is history. Incidentally that song became "Forsaken", and the lyrics are exactly the same ones as I had on that day. Once I was invited to join the band, I just began to write lyrics. I have always enjoyed the writing process and was extremely happy to be able to put my words on Joe's music. 

QUESTION: How is the new Axemaster different from the old band, and what are the similarities, in your own opinion?

JOE: Well, the way I see it, there are 2 HUGE differences in the band itself. One is Geoff's vocals. Not meaning to put down any of the previous Axemaster singers, but Geoff's singing is a major plus in what we are doing now. His voice fits this material like they were made for each other, and he's a hell of a songwriter. The other thing is that, like I said, all the guys in the band are total top notch pros who have excellent attitudes and never cause any problems or drama. You just don't find bands with a lineup that works this well together and never has internal problems very often. Frankly, it's like a dream for me.
As far as the material goes, I think the newer stuff shows that we now have more experience in music in general and songwriting in particular. Both the music I wrote for the album and the tunes we are now writing as a unit have more of a professional feel about them, better put together and I believe more interesting overall. The current material is slightly morethrashy than a lot of the older Axemaster stuff with more complex rhythms and a lot more interesting guitar layering. I still like the older songs, but to me the newer stuff shows improvements in pretty much every aspect, both in writing and performance.

QUESTION: The new Axemaster album is called "Overture to Madness" on Pure Steel Records. Is it a concept album? What motivated the lyrics of the album this time around for Axemaster?!

JOE: I wrote a lot of the words for all the old Axemaster releases. But even though I always liked the lyrics and phrasing I came up with, I think it works out better when the singer does them and besides, I don't like writing words anywhere near as much as I like writing music. So I left that to Geoff and he did a hell of a job, especially given the circumstances we had with this album.
Geoff: Honestly, no the album isn't a concept album. However when we were talking about album titles I noticed that a lot of the things I had written lyrics about dealt in types of "madness". Whether it was actual insanity or things that might be referred to as "mad". So when I submitted a list of album title ideas to Joe that one ended up being the one everyone seemed to like.
As far as the motivation behind the lyrics, well there are a lot of different things. For the most part I have always written in metaphor, so very few things on this album actually are talking about what they seem to be. There are a lot of personal stories, and genuine anger and rage in the lyrics, which I still don't feel like revealing. In many ways I think sometimes it's more interesting for the listener to abscribe their own meanings or perhaps try to figure out what it actually is about. I love to hear theories from fans about what they think songs are about, so it's fun for me too. I will go so far as to tell you about a couple songs that aren't too deeply personal:
"Chylde" is exactly what it appears to be, based in the world of the supernatural, each verse is about a different supernatural creature. The lyrics were written in a couple of hours, once I heard the music it just spilled out, like the song itself knew what it was about and I just wrote down what it told me.
"Dream Or Nightmare" started because Joe said he'd always wanted to have a song titled that, and I said "OK, lets do it." Everything in that song is intended to give the impression of that point when you are asleep and are stuck between having a dream and falling into nightmares.
"Statute Of Liberty"...NOT Statue as in a sculpture, Statute, as in law or rule. This is the 1st political song I ever attempted, and it was based around a speech by President Eisenhower which warned against investing too much trust in the "military industrial complex." Joe had the sound bites and I wrote the lyrics to describe the situation we find ourselves in now, where the populace is distracted from the things that our government does by bread and circuses, keeping them at each other’s throats rather than noticing the man behind the curtain.
I'll stop there, gotta keep some mystery after all. Plus, I still want to hear what others think our songs are about.
More of this interview coming soon. For now, check some new and old Axemaster below.
Here is a new song by Axemaster.
The song "Slave to the Blade" is from the 1987 album "Blessing in the Skies"
AXEMASTER "Slave to the Blade"
Axemaster 2015
Axemaster from way back.

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