Saturday, September 12, 2015

AXEMASTER (continuation of 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 the interview with the band. Previous segments of the interview were posted online and published in the zine, too. This interview seeks to be an in-depth look into the history of Axemaster.
QUESTION: Did Axemaster feel pressure to become more glam and radio friendly in the late 80s?

JOE: Not in the 80s, it wasn't until the early 90s that there was any pressure to change our direction at all and that came to me from the other guys in the band, not from any outside people. The only thing there was any pressure to do in the 80s was to play more covers and less originals. That came from the local clubs and also some band members because back then around here it was tough to get decent shows being an original band. It seemed sometimes that all anybody wanted to see was a living, breathing jukebox! That's never been my gig. A lot of people like doing covers, and that's totally cool, it's just never been for me, not what I got into music to do. It's fun to play a cool cover every now and then, but I get bored with them REAL fast and after all, I started Axemaster specifically to play my originals. So it got a little frustrating sometimes when I'd keep hearing shit about playing mostly covers since it's something I'll never do no matter what.
QUESTION: What are the changes in musical direction between Axemaster and The Awakening, the band that came after Axemaster with some different members in 1991. Why the change in name?
JOE: That whole situation came from the guys in the band putting pressure on me to change the band name and musical direction somewhat, it's what I was talking about in my last answer. That was during the time that metal was starting to go downhill, and the guys bitched at me for probably a year to change the name and play stuff that was more commercial, thinking it would help get more shows and airplay. Unfortunately, I finally got sick of the bitching and gave in and did what they wanted. That's how The Awakening was born, which is one of my biggest regrets in my music career. Nothing against that band and what we did, the one album we put out was a quality release. The tunes were good and the CD was well done, certainly nothing I'm embarrassed to have put out. It just wasn't ME, the style was a hell of a lot more mellow than anything I had ever done or ever wanted to do. The stuff's cool to listen to every once in a while, but I could never really get into it. Actually, right now we're re-doing my favorite and the heaviest song from that disc, but when we do the tune now it's like it's on cocaine and steroids, a whole lot more intense and aggressive!!!!!
Anyway, I should have just went with my instincts, stuck with my guns, and kept Axemaster alive through thick and thin, even if I had to replace all the band members. But hindsight is 20/20, and I'm really happy with where Axemaster and myself personally are at and what direction everything's going, so I guess everything happened for the best in the long run.
QUESTION: Then, in the mid 90s The Awakening ends. What led to this? How was the Ohio metal scene in mid 90s? Were things so bad that you all decided to leave the music business altogether?
JOE: Between what I said in my last answer, some issues with the band members, and them wanting to play more and more cover songs, I got sick of it all, said fuck the whole thing, and stopped the band. I was certainly frustrated with things, not even so much the music business because the problems I was having had less to do with the business and more to due with musicians I had worked with and that the metal scene had gone so far downhill in general (and was probably even worse around here). I can't remember ever thinking of leaving the business or quitting being a musician for good or anything, I have always been too addicted to music to ever do that. I took a short time away from the band scene and played on my own, but it wasn't more than 6-8 months before I was back in another band called Reign, which ended up being one hell of a great band!
QUESTION: Did some ten years go by with no band activity? Did you take time away from all the hassle and drama of being in a band? Did you raise kids during that time or take up other hobbies or obsessions?!

JOE: Honestly, the answer to every one of those questions is a huge NO! Like I said in my last answer, after The Awakening it didn't take an awfully long time for me to help start another band called Reign. We put out one album that did OUTSTANDING for being an independent release, especially considering how far metal had gone down in popularity by the mid/late 90s which is when that disc came out. It did so good in fact that Divebomb Records just re-released it last year. The band also played some awesome shows, some of the coolest ones I've ever done. I was with Reign for 3 or 4 years, then some unusual circumstances led me to split with them which was a real shame because we had a TOTALLY killer thing going for a while.
After that I wrote a bunch of songs on my own that I wanted to turn into a solo album. That project didn't end up happening, but from it came my next band which was called Dream or Nightmare. That lasted about 5 or 6 years. Also during that time I got together with Unisound Records to re-release most of the old Axemaster material on 2 different CDs. After the end of DorN, the original Axemaster lineup got back together briefly and got the deal with Burning Star Records to re-release the band's debut album. The reunion didn't last very long, but me and the drummer stayed together and put together a studio band that ended up being called Inner Terror. So I was really active in music the entire time between The Awakening and Inner Terror, I would have probably spent at least half those years in the nuthouse if I had not done music.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about the band Inner Terror that you were in?
JOE: What happened as to why Inner Terror came about was the reunion of the original Axemaster lineup only lasted a very short time for various reasons. So myself and the drummer got a different singer and bass player to do a studio album with a bunch of the new music I had written. Not only did that "band" not play any shows, but we never even rehearsed together, everything was totally done in the studio. Because it was pretty obvious that it was gonna be just a studio project, and the fact that I didn't think the material was totally representative of what I thought a new Axemaster release should be, we decided to go under the name Inner Terror.
Like I said earlier, there were several factors which made it pretty obvious that Inner Terror was gonna be just a project to record the "Behold the Inner Terror" CD. I don't want to get into the specific reasons, but believe me, there was really no doubt that the "band" wasn't gonna do anything beyond that one release. I never want to rip on anyone in interviews, and a little bit that went down had to do with some issues I was going through at the time, but finishing that disc was a nightmare. I'd sure as hell never want to repeat the shit that went down through the whole project!!! The disc ended up coming out allright at least. There's some decent stuff on there, I like the CD as a whole, but if I was gonna play any of the tunes now with Axemaster I'd change them quite a bit. I think the stuff shows a lot of potential, some great riffs, and with a few changes I think some of the tunes would be TOTALLY kick ass which is why I wouldn't mind re-writing a couple of them now and making them sound more like "Axemaster". But I think it's a shame to have an album where a lot of the riffs are better than the songs as a whole; every time I listen to it I wish the songs had been done differently!!!!!
QUESTION: They say that for underground metal musicians there is no money, generally speaking. They say that having a band is like being married to several people at the same time. There's also scene drama, club owners, managers, backstabbing, rumors, money issues, social media, so and so forth. Do you ever ask yourself if you are crazy to do this?! What would you say makes you do it?!
JOE: That's a REALLY easy one, I do it because I love metal, love to play guitar, and especially love to write music. You're right, there's a LOT of bullshit from a lot of different sources that's associated with being in a band. The music business as a whole is definitely a real bitch a lot of the time, and dealing with band members can be anywhere from being a real challenge to a huge problem. This is the first lineup I've ever been a part of where someone (which 90% of the time was me) hasn't had to majorly play psychiatrist, father, mediator, and/or even baby sitter!
Anyway, it's also really expensive to have and maintain pro gear and it takes a hell of a lot of time and effort for your work to be totally professional which has to be the case if you want real success. Through all that you have a lot of disappointments and are often kicked in the teeth. Basically, people in my position HAVE to love being a musician and the music they play to wade through all the shit and stick with it non-stop for as long as I have (over 30 years). Musicians who get involved in it for what I think are the wrong reasons, like just to show off or impress the ladies, usually give up playing before they've gotten anywhere near doing it for 30 years. Especially the ones who did original music since, unless you're pretty big, it's a lot harder to find decent paying gigs doing originals than it is if you're in a cover (especially a tribute) band and you obviously also deal more closely with people in the music business when you do originals, and that's usually never fun. But even with all that, I NEVER ask myself if I'm crazy for having done this for so long and still going strong. The love that I have for creating and playing metal has made the music to be as important to me as breathing, I'd be so lost without it I don't know how I'd go on!!!!!!
QUESTION: Then the cycle closes: Axemaster returns as Axemaster. Why the name change back to Axemaster?

JOE: Well, like I mentioned before, I had some personal issues when I was doing the Inner Terror thing and not too long after that CD was released, I took a short time basically away from the scene to deal with some things. I didn't COMPLETELY take the time off, I still played some and wrote some stuff, but I backed off a lot until I got some things in my life straightened out. When I felt the time was right to get myself back into the band scene, I felt like the time had come to put every ounce of energy I had into doing Axemaster again and make it the last full-time band I would ever be in. At that time I had and still have the proper frame of mind to make the kind of commitment necessary to make a HUGE push toward taking the next step of success that I have never quite been able to reach. I learned a lot about life and myself in the 5 or so years from the time that the original lineup briefly got together until I decided to bring Axemaster back to stay. I changed and grew a lot as a person and developed an attitude that allowed me to have a new focus and gave me the ability to do things in a way that I had never been able to do before. Bottom line, the time was right for me to do this the way it should be done. And hey, I'm far from old, but far from being a kid too, so it was time to stop fucking around and start doing what I truly always wanted to do and put everything I had into it!!!
Listen to the music here:
[This is the end of this segment of the interview with Axemaster.]

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