By Jeb Wright
Lillian Axe seemed like they were going to be the next big thing in hard rock and heavy metal in 1987 when Ratt’s Robbin Crosby was slated to produce their debut album. It didn’t happen.
On their sophomore effort the band was supplied with Tony Platt of AC/DC fame at the production helm. Despite the huge name, and some fine music, it didn’t happen.
Things seemed to be picking up on the band’s third album, Poetic Justice, released in 1992. The song “True Believer” was becoming a hit and the band was ready to break into the big time, but then Grunge hit the scene.
As with many other bands of Lillian Axe’s stature, the changing musical climate kept them from garnering the success they deserved.
The band continued on and kept pushing, mainly due to the perseverance of lead guitarist Steve Blaze. Now, in 2014, Blaze is still pushing on, as the band has released a massive undertaking, the double-cd, and DVD of an unplugged concert recorded in his home state of Louisiana.
The album, titled One Night in the Temple, is an acoustic concert filled with surprise guests and cool rearrangements of the band’s biggest songs. The DVD features many bonus features that will keep the band’s fans plugged into what’s going on before their very eyes.
Blaze has a passion, a commitment and warrior-like mentality. He is keeping this music alive, even though the band never made it has big as it seemed they were destined. Blaze and Lillian Axe have a large fan base that follows them through thick and thin.
Blaze realizes what his music means to his fans and he goes out of his way, as he did with One Night in the Temple, to please them.
Jeb: When you do something, you do it big. This has to be the most comprehensive ‘Unplugged’ project released by anyone… hard rock or metal band ever. From the start, did you plan to make this event this much of an event?
Steve: It started off as a small idea, consisting of me, Brian and Sam sitting around a campfire with 15-20 fans, talking about the songs and playing them with just the three of us. Of course, I can never do anything small, so I constantly kept conjuring up ideas that took this event to the next level, until it became what it is today.
Jeb: Were there any songs that were harder to move into the acoustic realm than others?
Steve: “Moonlight In Your Blood” was. We played it that night but we didn't include it. It just didn't translate as well that night as the others. The rest were very smooth in the transitions.
Jeb: As this grew, did you keep just adding to it? How did you decide to include stuff, like the question and answer session?
Steve: Yes, I kept adding more things to make it an event, such as the Q and A, meet ‘n’ greet, guest musicians and singers, catering, etc. I wanted it to be a mini circus, where we could bring the audience into our world.
Jeb: Is being transparent to your fans something you enjoy? You know, getting close to them… getting to know them? Some hard rock artists think it takes the mystery away.
Steve: There is absolutely a way to show everyone your human side without giving it all away. Every musician is a human being first, or at least they should be. Some of the coolest and most respectful people I have ever met are not entertainers by far. The mystery is in my mind, and no one can get to that place, trust me.
Jeb: Tell me about the history of the Temple… Was this a specially chosen place? New Orleans Voodoo Hoodoo stuff? Or just a good venue to record in?
Steve: The Temple is Sound Landing Studio. We have recorded 4 albums there. It is still a functioning Masonic Temple. There is a great aura about the place, and we are very comfortable there. In addition to Lillian Axe, I have worked with many other projects there as a guest guitarist and a producer.
Jeb: What does it mean to you to have done this in your home area?
Steve: Huge. The Louisiana press has never given us or any rock bands in this state the respect they deserve. However, the fans are amazing here and this allowed them to be a part of this event.
Jeb: Here is the tough one…why didn’t Lillian Axe get huge? When you listen and watch this sucker back… do you ever wonder why?
Steve: If I had a nickel for every time that question has been asked, I would be very wealthy. I have wondered this for 25 years, and so have a lot of other people. The important thing here is that we have been able to make the lives of thousands of people worldwide just a little happier with our music. That in itself is huge.
Jeb: Let’s talk about some of these songs… how you converted them to acoustic. How you came up with them… hell, anything about them. Let’s start with my FAV track by Lillian Axe… and, surprise… it’s not an old one…”Death Comes Tomorrow.” That is a great tune.
Steve: This song was inspired by the idea of the inner battles of a man travelling alone through the pitfalls of life. Whether it be Conan the Barbarian or Steve Blaze the Guitarist, we all have that inner fight to learn who we are and where we fit in. This song is fast joining “Ghost of Winter” as a fan fave.
Jeb: “Bow Your Head” is obviously an emotional moment. Tell me the story and how you got involved in this.
Steve: This song was written about a 2-year-old boy named Tripp Roth who passed away 2 years ago from a rare genetic skin disease. He was about the same age as my son, so this story tore me up. This song celebrates his short but inspiring life.
Jeb: Talk “Ghost of Winter.”
Steve: Probably the biggest fan fave of all Lillian songs. This track delves into my thoughts as I lay in bed at night, as I contemplate life and the mysteries of our existence.
Jeb: Hmm, let’s do one more…”Crucified.”
Steve: This song relates ideas about persecution and the strength of standing up for your beliefs in the face of adversity.
Jeb: Describe to me the amount of sheer work in terms of time and energy that went into this project.
Steve: Months of work went into the details of this show, such as catering, seating, filming, mixing, getting the host, production of sound and lights, etc., not to mention the months of mixing and editing. There were many smaller details as well, such as chairs for the band, guest appearances, and hostesses, parking, not to mention the fan contest to attend!
Jeb: There were some reunions, guests and tributes made. How did that all come together?
Steve: Each song has its own story, so if there was a way to amplify it, we did. I always wanted to add a violin to “The Day I met You,” so I did. Johnny Vines is a great friend and our original singer, so it was a no brainer to ask him to sit in. Tripp's family being there was the icing on the cake.
Jeb: Last year didn’t you almost die in a car wreck? What happened, and how did it change you?
Steve: I was blessed to live. It was all God. He let me know that my job on earth is not complete yet. I also wouldn't go down like that. I have a five year old son and a wife and daughter who need me. I have always maintained what I consider strong spiritual Christian beliefs, but this accident strengthened them even more.
Our driver fell asleep on the way to a show in Dallas and we hit a construction sign at 70 mph. Our equipment and vehicle and trailer were all destroyed. We are still battling the effects, but we all lived. That's the blessing.
Jeb: There has been some confusion about your mission. Are you a God Squad band? Or is spirituality just a subject that you find compelling to write about?
Steve: Neither pigeonhole works. I am a Christian. I write about life, emotions, events that move me, happiness, sorrow, death, afterlife, anger, power and strength. These are the basic spiritual essences of life and our existence. If something moves me, chances are it will move others, and I write about it. Do I wish people acted the way God has taught us? Absolutely.
Jeb: What is next? Tour? New Studio album?
Steve: Shows, shows, shows! And writing the next studio album, which will surpass anything we have ever done as far as intensity... I am also filming the first season as host of a reality ghost hunting show, where my team investigates paranormal activity in Louisiana.
Jeb: You really believe in this music. You are totally passionate. Do you ever feel like giving up? You always fight the fight, man.
Steve: I never give up. The passion comes from God, my family, my friends and my music. Life is amazing when you let it be. I can never allow anything to defeat my will.
Jeb: Last one: Every recorded live thing has a funny story. This one had to have something go totally Spinal Tap… share with us one funny thing that happened during the project.
Steve: During the show, I was talking about a very serious topic as I was answering a question from a fan. All of a sudden a loud thud and crash broke the calm. My daughter Brittany had fallen out of her chair in the middle of taping. It was hilarious. She was embarrassed, but it was epic.
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