KERRANG! ISSUE 30 DECEMBER 1982
AXE INTERVIEW WITH STEVE GETT
“ROCK ‘N’ ROLL is fun, but if you ever lose sight of that fact then what the hell are you doing it for? I’ve always wanted to play music as long as I can remember and I’ve never had ideas about doing anything else.
“If I wanted to make money, then I’d be selling insurance! I can recall playing for a couple of years when all I made was 10 dollars a week, if I was lucky. But I certainly don’t look back on that as being a bad experience – in fact it was a hell of a lot of fun.”
Bobby Barth, lead guitarist/vocalist with the American outfit Axe, is unquestionably a diehard rock ‘n’ roller. Originally a drummer, he first took up guitar in 1965 and has been striving to make it ever since.
At last, the years of hard graft are finally paying off and Barth is currently enjoying the most successful phase of his career to date. In recent months Axe have made chart impact in the States with their ‘Offering’ LP and they’ve also been out on the road supporting the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Cheap Trick and Judas Priest.
British rock fans might be aware of the band through their two MCA albums, which emerged in the latter part of the 70’s, and were somewhat uninspiring, lightweight pop/ rock packages. The 1982 Axe is a lot different and their Atco released LP ‘Offering’ boasts a fine array of numbers.
Produced by Al Nalli, who also handles Blackfoot, it should be available in the UK very shortly and one suspects that when they recorded it, Axe had aimed for a more live, aggressive sound than had been evidenced on the earlier platters.
Barth agrees: “Yeah, that’s what we were after – we wanted to hit out much harder. The first two albums were a little too ‘studio’ for us and so this time we just went in there and let loose.”
What happened with MCA? “Who?” laughs Bobby. “It just wasn’t right for us. We’re touring band and like to be out there playing all the time – every night we have off is no fun at all! When we were with MCA we really wanted to tour but they weren’t into it.
“The first band to really give us a shot at touring was Judas Priest. They saw the band live and said ‘Well, this is a HEAVY band!’ But the problem was that people would then listen to the albums and find that they were much lighter. In fact we ended up living under that shadow for about two years.”
Didn’t that get a bit frustrating?
“Yeah, it did. But when we got out and did some touring, the people who saw us realised what we were all about and got turned onto us.”
Unhappily though, the lack of road work during their MCA days caused Axe to break up. They recorded some demos with Judas Priest producer Tom Allom though and subsequently these led to their deal with Atco. Was it tough getting another label interested?
“It wasn’t too bad actually,” answers Bobby. “After the band had broken up I’d decided I was going to branch off on my own, I sat around for about six months not doing anything and then I got a call from Atco saying that they’d like to do something. So I called everybody up and we all got back together in a couple of days, although we got ourselves a new bass player.”
‘Offering’ was recorded in February of this year and took just over a month to complete. One of the appealing factors is the strong use of vocals and clearly this was something that Barth had been keen to pursue from the outset.
“I wanted to put together a heavy band which had good use of vocals. So many heavy rock bands tend to forget about them but they really are important. I’m not talking about cissy vocals – in fact if I do things that sound a little wimpy I gag myself! I’ll go home and chastise myself for it!
“No seriously, I think there’s a place for good vocals in hard rock music and I always loved the way Uriah Heep used to employ them. They still managed to keep their identity and that’s what I feel we’ve achieved.”
Barth mentioned his dislike of ‘wimpy’ vocals (somewhat ironic in view of the early albums!) and it was a topic he was keen to pursue.
“Let me tell you something, I can’t stand anything wimpy – I really can’t. And there’s an awful lot of shit out there these days that’s pretty wimpy…..and I certainly don’t want to be a part of it.”
How long has Barth held these anti-wimp views?
“My whole life! I grew up fighting and scrapping and I never had time for wimps. I can’t handle anything that’s wimpy. Like the other day, I bought myself a new pair of blue jeans, which I put on just before we went on stage, and believe me I felt shitty all night long! I just couldn’t stand ‘em.”
“So we ran the truck over him a few times!” interjects drummer Teddy Mueller.
Barth laughs loudly, and indeed it wouldn’t have surprised me if the drummer’s words had been true. Bobby Barth is a pretty tough looking character and his manner of attire (faded blue denims and old leather jacket) suggest an air of street credibility.
“Oh yeah,” he confirms, “we’re definitely street. We dress street, we act street and we breathe the streets. We’re street kids. That’s how we grew up and that how we’ll die!”
Does he consider Axe to be an HM band?
“Well, that’s what everybody’s been calling us but we’ve always figured that we were simply a rock ‘n’ roll band. I don’t know if we’re heavy metal, in fact names don’t really matter. It’s the music that counts.”
With ‘Offering’, Axe have certainly proved their vinyl capabilities (check out their electric rendition of the old Montrose classic ‘I Got The Fire’ -very impressive.) Whether they can deliver the goods on stage I’ve yet to discover but according to Barth: “Playing on stage is what this band’s all about – believe me!”