Metal Bulletin Zine (est. 2006) is a metal music zine (Seattle region), online and on paper. 160 issues so far.
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Thursday, October 15, 2015
AXEMASTER (continuation of the interview)
Number 54 and 56 of Metal Bulletin Zine had two previous segments of this interview with Axemaster. Now the band has submitted more answers to the interview.
Axemaster is traditional heavy metal from the state of Ohio, U.S.
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 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 segment continues this in-depth interview into the history and the present of the band. Thank you to the band for being so professional about this interview!
QUESTION: You have been playing shows, I have noticed on Twitter. Can y'all tell us about getting back on stage, with a new formation, a new Axemaster, if you will?
JOE: It's AWESOME to play shows with this band, mostly because of the guys I'm sharing the stage with. Sure, I think the tunes we are playing are cool as hell and especially a couple of our new songs are probably my personal all-time favorites to play live, I have more fun playing those two than pretty much any other songs I have ever done onstage. But more than that, I totally love being able to play shows with Geoff, Jim, and Denny. The entire night is always great with those guys, even when bullshit happens with the show because of like any problems with the club or technical issues. Not only do I never have to worry that someone's gonna possibly act unprofessionally and screw the night up, like someone getting drunk or all pissed off about something stupid, but everyone is so great to hang out with that it makes every show night a good time that I always look forward to. Plus it gives me so much extra confident onstage to know that all the guys there with me are such great players and veterans of SO MANY shows over the years. Like when there's a mistake or we get off-synch with each other because we can't hear correctly, we always pull everything back together pretty much right away. Knowing that really sets my mind at ease and cuts the stress level by A LOT. It all comes down to what Denny said at our last gig: everyone bumps fists onstage right before we started the show and he said "it's the Axemaster family!".
Geoff: Axemaster returned to the stage at the 2014 Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse festival, since then we have gotten far more comfortable with each other, and Denny joined us as our permanent drummer shortly thereafter. Actually I hope we can go back to Chicago for Ragnarokkr again soon and bring them what Axemaster has really become.
QUESTION: After all these years, what emotions do you feel when you get up onstage?
JOE: Well, I had a problem in the middle 2000's that kept me from being able to play shows for a number of years. Thankfully everything's straightened out now and for the past few years I've been good to go. But the first show that I did after coming back (which was the first show the "new" Axemaster played together) was pretty strange: in one way I was a total veteran, but in other ways I felt a little like a newbie because I hadn't played with a band onstage in like 5 or 6 years. I really needed to get my stage legs back and it took a couple shows to totally feel comfortable again. But now that I'm back in the swing of things, my emotions are how fortunate I feel that I'm able to do what I do and how honored and happy I am to be in this band again after all these years and to be able to jam with my band mates cause they're the fucking BEST!!!!!!
QUESTION: What is it like for y'all to be onstage playing metal music? Butterflies in your stomach? Do you get nervous? Is it exciting? Do you feel like teenagers again playing air guitar to Judas Priest?
JOE: Well, I must admit that I had some butterflies especially the first show the new Axemaster did because it was the first show I had done in 7 or 8 years since Inner Terror never played together period, and from the start of the re-tooled Axemaster, we had just concentrated on doing the CD so we didn't put together a show. That first show was tough too because we were pretty unprepared. That's when the process of our drummer change was happening and Denny was just a fill in at that point that we had only rehearsed with for a little over a month, and he was starting from scratch, had never even heard our stuff before we started rehearsing! The show ended up going ok, we are surely A LOT better together now, but we did as good as you could hope for. Anyway, as I got a couple gigs under my belt and got my stage-legs back, the butterflies pretty much went away. Now, the feelings when I play of course somewhat varies with the show, how I feel (like I played one recently when I was so sick I had no business being out of bed!), and just different circumstances. But overall, I feel proud to be able to do what I'm doing and who I'm sharing the stage with. Besides that, I wouldn't say that I feel like when I was a teenager, I actually feel a lot better about everything because of the experience I have, I know that no matter what happens we will deal with it, so there isn't nearly as much to be nervous about. A lot of the excitement comes from the fans and as strange as it may sound, a lot of the excitement comes from talking to fans before and after the show. It gets me so psyched that people think so highly of us, the kick ass things we hear from them, and that they will take their hard earned money to pay to see us and buy our merch. That means a lot to me personally.
Geoff: Like I mentioned already our 1st show back was at the Ragnarokkr festival, and we were all a little unsure. We had agreed to do the show months previously, and only a month before had to make the decision to play with a fill in or to bail on the show. It felt so wrong to cancel the show so we practiced hard as we could and went anyway. I personally was very nervous for that show, and then we had some tech issues during the set, But we worked it the best we could. Like I said before I would love the chance to go back and REALLY rock the place.
QUESTION: How do you go about deciding what songs to play? Do you play songs from The Awakening and Inner Terror?
JOE: It's totally a band decision. When there's a song someone wants to do or I write a new tune I want to do, everyone talks about whether it's something we want to do. Right now there's actually a couple songs I would like to add to our setlist, but we are getting ready to record some new stuff and we want to focus on getting that perfect so I'm putting off talking about adding anything. Actually, yes, one of the songs we are gonna be recording is one that was on The Awakening's "Invictus" album. But we changed it around quite a bit; if you listen to both versions, the Axemaster version sounds like the original on cocaine and steroids!!! We basically make it into an Axemaster song. I've been thinking about taking the riffs I dig from one of my fave tunes from the Inner Terror CD and totally re-writing it. I think there are some great riffs and parts on that disc, but I think the songwriting overall could have been a lot better.
Geoff: The song from the Awakening that we play is called "Flowers For The Dead", it's a lot of fun to sing and I know the rest of the guys like it, it's one of those songs that seems to be over before we even start playing it's so much fun to play. Not only are we playing classics as well as stuff from the new album, but we are playing new songs that have yet to be released. If you want to hear something new from Axemaster all you have to do is see a live show, we're bringing all kinds of songs.
QUESTION: What is the situation for Axemaster regarding Europe in 2015 and 2016? In Europe, some people, like the people that go to Keep It True, for instance, probably already know a lot about Axemaster. Some of those old Germans are total metal maniacs!
JOE: Oh god yes, Europe in general and Germany in particular has always been Axemaster's main fan base and the metalheads there are out of hand kick ass!!!!! I'm sure that in the future we will be able to play some GREAT shows in Europe and have had some offers, the only problem is that it's so damned expensive to travel there and back that we have to have quite a few cool things set up in advance and have some time to prepare so we would be totally confident that we wouldn't lose our asses. I wish we were in the position to be able to just go over there and not worry about all that because I know we would end up doing some great shows and have a great time. But in our situation it will have to make good business sense in advance because it's a lot of cash to go and we just don't have that kind of money that we could risk. But BELIEVE ME, playing Europe is something I want to do more than just about anything and I know the other guys really want to play there as well, so getting something together to be able to do it is a huge thing for me and us!!!!!
Geoff: This is actually probably the question we get asked most, and honestly I think we want to come to Europe even more than folks want to see us there. I have friends who have played KIT, Wacken and Headbangers Open Air, and they feed the flames of my desire to come and share what we do with the insane fans of heavy metal that Europe has. We just have to get the right offer that keeps us from spending every penny we have just to even get there.