March 2011 - STONE AXE
Now, the wait is over: STONE AXE will finally be on tour in Europe for the first time in April 2011. Reason enough for me to do another interview with guitarist Tony Reed. Strictly speaking, this is our third virtual conversation, which clearly implicated that I have a strong preference for this U.S. band. This is partly the result of the fact that STONE AXE are masters of their disciplines, which is the blues-based heavy rock of the 1970's. In doing so, they target the legendary British bands from this period and prioritize tradition over innovation, which in this case is not at all a derogatory term. They master their craft to such an degree that makes innovation dispensable. It is obvious that their music comes from the heart and that it's not an idea born from the wish to be rich and famous. Although actually STONE AXE really deserve to earn some more bucks, but that's a different topic. Now it was more important to answer my questionnaire on other subjects. These include, of course, topics such as the upcoming tour, the re-release of the first album via Ripple Music as well as the latest news about Blood From The Sun and Tony's other band, Mos Generator. And anyone who knows him will know he's a huge fan of obscure heavy rock bands from the 70's. Needless to say that it was inevitable, therefore, to lose a couple of words for this purpose.
Next month, STONE AXE will be on tour in Europe for the first time. It's a premiere for the band but not for you, because you've been already here with Mos Generator in 2008. Are you excited about the upcoming tour and about the fact that you have the possibility to return to Europe with your "new" band?
It's always exciting to get out on the road. We've been doing some good roadwork for almost 2 years and I feel like we are ready to take the live show to the UK and Europe. The roots of our music are primarily based on late 60s early 70s British rock bands so it will be great for us just to be here and play music regardless of the attendance of the shows.
I was a little bit surprised at how short the tour is. What is the reason for this? Jobs and/or family?
You hit it exactly Klaus. We'll make the best of the time we do have.
You will also play at the Roadburn Festival. How did that come about?
Our first single and album were released in Europe on Roadburn and we couldn't do the festival last but Walter was kind enough to have us this year. We are very honored to have been asked.
As far as I remember, it was planned first to come over to Europe in 2010. Why did that not happen, or am I wrong?
We were working on a tour with DEXTER JONES' CIRCUS ORCHESTRA but the booking wasn't getting done quick enough and we backed out. Good thing we did because it never happen. I would still like to do some touring with Dexter Jones.
Do you rehearse more frequently before going on tour?
We have a lot of gigs before we leave so we use the gigs as a chance to brush up on the songs we don't play often. We are also adding some songs we have never played.
That's pretty cool. What can people expect from a STONE AXE live show?
We like to move very quickly in the set and we don't use setlists. I just call out the songs I feel will make the set flow good and that I think the crowd might like. You never know what they are going to be like until you get in front of them. We keep it high energy & fun. Always gotta be having a good time.
A few days ago I received the deluxe edition of STONE AXE's first album from Ripple Music. To make it short: It's a superb package and the bonus tracks as well as the DVD are more than just a great bonus. When was the idea born of re-releasing that first album and what was the reason behind your decision? I wonder because the original album has been released only two years ago.
I can't remember if it was our label's (Ripple Music) or our idea but it sounded cool to both of us and because 'Stone Axe I' wasn't released in the States. This was a good chance to do so. Ripple also reissued 'Stone Axe I' on LP.
There's one chapter on the DVD titled 'Beat Club' Sessions. As the title suggests the footage looks as if it has been filmed in 1971 at the legendary German Beat Club. Who came up with the idea for that?
There is a theater in our town that our friend owns and I knew it would be the perfect place to do something like this. So we brought in the gear and some recording equipment and did the setup, recording and teardown in about 3 hours. I think it turned out great and the performances were good. They were supposed to be in color but the cameras had different settings and in editing we couldn't get the colors to look right between cameras. I wanted it to look like the inside cover of the first URIAH HEEP album. Black & white is great as well.
As much as I dig your studio recordings - the bonus live tracks on the CD clearly show that STONE AXE is born for the stage. Of course, the same applies to the 74-minutes DVD. What's your view on this and what do you prefer, live or studio?
I think I enjoy the studio better. You have so much more control over things in the studio, but, there's nothing like a smokin' live set when it really feels good and everybody is jiving.
It's not the first time that you've worked together with Todd and John of Ripple Music. You were also involved in the official re-release of Poobah's 'Let Me In' album. Due to your interest and love for 1970's heavy rock I wasn't surprised to see your name in the booklet. Please, tell us more about the whole thing and how you get in contact with Poobah and Ripple Music.
Todd Severin from Ripple Effect had been reviewing Mos Generator records over the years and been a loyal supporter of the rock cause. When I had talked to Woody from MIGHTY HIGH about doing a split 7", he contact Todd who was just starting the label Ripple Music. Todd and John Rancik decided that we would take a chance on us and that 7" became the first Ripple Music vinyl release. I have since became part of the Ripple 'family'. I do the restoration and most of the mastering for Ripple releases. My first job was restoration and mastering for the Poobah album. That was a lot of fun for me because I got to get my hand (and ears) on these 30+ year old recordings and clean them up. It was good fun for me. Right now I am getting ready to mix the new IRON CLAW album and master the new GRIFTER album.
Excellent news! Speaking of less-known heavy bands from the 1970's, you have a good relationship to some of the ex-members of Necromandus. Last year, I read somewhere that you were working on lost studio recordings and previously unreleased live recordings of Necromandus. What is the actual situation? Are there any plans for a release?
I've been on a scavenger hunt for lost Necromandus material. With the help of Buzz Elliot in the UK I have managed to get my hands on some unreleased studio tracks and 4 complete live shows from 1972 with unreleased original songs. I've spent many hours restoring these recordings and the good news is Buzz has found some first generation cassettes of a few of these shows. I would like highlights of these recordings to be released and if everything comes together and sounds good, they will be. To me, Necromandus was the most promising hard rock of the early 1970s. 'Orexis of Death' is a masterpiece and these live recordings show the power of the band live.
You're right, Tony. But back to your band. Why is it that STONE AXE change record labels so often? Is it a special kind of band philosophy?
When we write new material I just offer it to record labels and who ever wants it gets it. I'm pretty set with Ripple Music now but we are given the blessing to lend out songs for singles and compilations and we always have extra songs for things like that.
What is STONE AXE's future? What are your plans when you return from the European tour?
After we get back we are playing Doom In June in Las Vegas and a motorcycle rally in Fort Worth, TX. Then we'll slow down live and I'll start writing for the third STONE AXE album and continue my work on the next MOS GENERATOR, BLOOD OF THE SUN and a country rock album.
It's good that you mention Blood Of The Sun. I was pleased to hear that you are also involved in the upcoming fourth album of Blood Of The Sun. What exactly are you doing? Tell us more about your input.
I went down to Texas to set up a studio and record the next album and ended up playing all of the guitars on it. It's coming together to sound like the kind of BOTS album I always wanted to hear. It will have Derek St. Holmes on vocals again.
Finally, I would like to refer very briefly about Mos Generator. Are you planning to record a new album and what are you up to?
This year Ripple is reissueing the long out of print 1st Mos Generator album with bonus stuff on CD and LP and right now we are woring on a new album with no scheduled end date. We are just working on it until we feel it's done. No live shows in the works, just working on songs and recording.
That's all! Thanks for your answers. It always a pleasure to do an interview with you. Hope to see you and STONE AXE next month.