Monday, August 3, 2015

Axemaster, part 2

Here it is, this is part 2 of the interview with Axemaster.
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
QUESTION: Axemaster was formed in 1985. Were the members of Axemaster in other bands before 1985?

JOE: We had all been in garage bands and jammed with different people through the time we were in high school, but none of us had ever been in a band that did anything more than maybe play at a few parties or something. I was only like 19 when we first started Axemaster, damn, seems like a lifetime ago!!! The main thing I had done at that time was a year or so before I had recorded like 8 or 10 of my original songs in some guy's basement on his 4-track, dubbed some copies on cassette, made a cover for it that I just photocopied, and gave it away to some of my friends at school. Looking back, doing that little homemade release back then really showed where my mind was at and the direction I was going. While the musicians I knew who were my age were mainly learning cover songs to play small gigs and show off to their friends and the girls, I was writing, recording, and putting together my own "album" of sorts! That was actually the first time the name Axemaster was used. I wanted to make the tape appear like a band did it and wasn't a solo thing, and I had thought before that Axemaster would be a cool name, so I just used that. By the way, I named the tape "The Heirs to Revolution."

QUESTION: What was happening in Ohio that inspired the formation of the band back in the day? 

JOE: It really had nothing to do with anything happening in this area. I loved metal, totally addicted to it, loved to play, and loved to write music. So I wanted to put together an original band really for no other reason than that the music was and still is my biggest passion. It might sound clichéd, but it was honestly ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC. I had a bunch of original songs and wanted a band to play them, all of which is why I started Axemaster. I honestly didn't know much about the local club scene and what was happening with bands in our area, so that had no bearing on my wanting to start an original band.

QUESTION: What type of expectations did the members of Axemaster have in 1985? Did the band expect to make it? Why or why not? 

JOE: I can't speak for the other guys, but for myself, I was hopeful but had no real expectations. I was a stupid kid but I still knew it was tough to do something major in the music business. I just didn't realize how tough it actually was (and is)!!!!!! I thought there was a possibility that the band could "make it", but always knew it was a big time long shot. I never kidded myself by thinking we were gonna be the next Black Sabbath or Judas Priest, I just hoped we could get with a company that would allow us to record, put out albums, and go on tour without having to spend a ton of money out of pocket (which we never had) to be able to do it. But it wasn't an expectation, just something I thought was possible and hoped for. Even back then I knew that expecting to "make it" was way unrealistic, which wasn't a problem since I've always been in this totally because of my love for metal, not because I was looking for fame and fortune. Of course, it would have always been kick ass if that happened, but that wasn't the reason I got into music to begin with and is why I never gave it up and never will!!!! 

QUESTION: Are any of you old enough to grow up in the 1970s? What do you remember about heavy metal in the 70s in your part of the U.S.? 

JOE: I was a little kid in the 70s, I'm not QUITE that old HAHAHA! I really didn't know any hard rock or metal bands outside of Kiss until around 78 when I went to junior high school and some of the kids there turned me on to some different stuff like Aerosmith, Foreigner, AC/DC, and Ted Nugent. So I was pretty ignorant of the scene until then, and even then I didn't know much until I got into high school and started going to concerts.
QUESTION: What bands inspired you all to go from listening to rock music to picking up an instrument? 
What memories do you have about getting inspired to play an instrument?

JOE: When I was like 10 or 11, me and all my friends in my neighborhood were HUGE Kiss fans. It was just a short time after they had put out Alive 2, so they were at the top of their popularity here. Anyway, and it sounds goofy as hell but it's true, one guy I knew who lived by me played guitar and another played drums, so I thought "if I played bass we could make a band like Kiss!!!" So I talked my mom into getting me this cheap ass bass and amp from J.C. Penney's department store and I started jamming on it on my own. I loved playing and stuck with it even though we didn't make the next Kiss HAHAHA! But after a year or 2 I got a little bored with bass and wanted to try the guitar, so I got a cheap used one and my buddy showed me the major chords. From that point on I was ADDICTED! So the main influence for me to start on the bass was obviously Kiss. But when I switched to guitar I was getting into bands like AC/DC and Aerosmith. I didn't start getting into heavier stuff until a little later on.

QUESTION: When thinking about the 80s for the young Axemaster, what are some highlights? What comes to mind, that beings a smile to your face?

Joe: Old folks??? HAHAHAHA! We're not quite there yet, still got a ways to go, can still put on a show like I was in my 20's!!!! Anyway, three totally kick ass things come to mind right off the top of my head. One is when I first saw the letter from Azra Records saying they were prepared to offer us a record deal. Another is when I saw our debut album ("Blessng in the Skies") for the first time. And third is the first fan letter we got from Europe. There were a lot of other cool things that happened in the 80s, some memorable times, but those were the most special. Definitely things that not everyone gets the chance to experience and that I definitely don't take for granted!!!!!

QUESTION: What were the major obstacles facing Axemaster in the 80s?
Joe: There were a WHOLE HELL OF A LOT of obstacles, too many to mention them all! But I would say the biggest would be lack of money, especially to record. The second full length thing we did was "Death Before Dishonor", but there was no cash to have it done in a studio so the sound isn't even decent which sucks because there's some killer stuff on there. Even with the crap sound that kept it from being picked up by a label (it was released on cassette by a management company and promo company in Europe), it got GREAT reviews worldwide, even from bigger magazines like Metal Hammer. And the fans loved it, hell, Unisound Records practically begged to re-release it in like 2002 and we still get requests for it!!! So I think the history of the band would have been A LOT different if we had had the cash to give that album a label quality recording. Another big problem was my having to change band members all too often (especially singers) and band members being unwilling and/or unable to travel much if at all. So we didn't tour like we should have which really kept us from moving forward. There were definitely a lot of other obstacles but I see those as the main ones.
QUESTION: Was being from Ohio, and not California or New York, a problem? 

Joe: The main downside to this area back then was that so many of the clubs around here didn't want to give an original band a chance to do a decent show, so we had a hell of a hard time getting good gigs (which made it even worse that nobody wanted to travel to play!). I really don't know if being in Cali or NY would have helped a lot with that because I don't know A LOT about those scenes back then, all I know is that we had a hell of a hard time gigging here. But one thing's for sure, no record execs other than from a small metal label in the area (Auburn Records) were gonna happen to see us play at a club in Akron!!!! So, especially back before the internet, not having the main labels or management based in this area did make it tougher to get noticed. So in those aspects, being outside Cali and NY was an obstacle.
Sanitys Requiem Official Video
Axemaster- the reaper - 1987 (USA)

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