AXE: BACK ON THE CUTTING EDGE
Interview by R. Scott Bolton - June 26, 1997
Axe is one of those bands I discovered simply by flipping through the "A" section of my local record store. Intrigued by the cover of their debut album, I purchased it (this was back in the days when such compulsive behavior was affordable) and was delighted to find that the melodic hard rock contained therein was something I truly liked. I remember thinking that I hadn't heard a band use keyboard, guitars and vocals so well together since Deep Purple.
Axe released "Livin' on the Edge" in 1980 and "Offering" in 1981. Their biggest hit, "Rock'n'roll Party in the Streets," came off the latter album and became a nationwide rock anthem. Axe secured opening spots for Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, the Scorpions and ZZ Top.
The next album, "Nemesis," was released and was yet another example of the magic that Axe could do. It was shortly after the release of "Nemesis" that I experienced one of my greatest rock'n'roll regrets ever - the band was playing locally - opening for Motley Crue - and I didn't get tickets. I figured I could always catch them another time.
But there wasn't to be another time.
In a tragic car accident, guitarist Mike Osborne was killed and vocalist Bobby Barth seriously injured. In a flash, Axe ceased to exist. It took Barth several months to recover from his injuries after which he joined Blackfoot and, later, Angry Anderson (Rose Tattoo). He went on to become a well-known producer of melodic rock, working with such bands as Caught in the Act. But - like the Phoenix - Axe has risen again.
Recently, Barth reformed most of the original band, added a new vocalist and bassist, and recorded a new album entitled, "Five." Though "Five" is a more mature and seasoned album than the previous Axe efforts, that trademark Axe sound is there.
Axe is back, in spades.
We were lucky to catch up with Bobby Barth
recently and asked him a few questions about the band's resurrection.
Rough Edge: Why did AXE reform after all these years? What's different today?
Bobby Barth: The band reformed after MTM and Zero records had asked me about re-forming. Although we had talked about it in the past, the timing was never right until the record companies committed to a recording budget. I called everyone and we all met in Colorado to record and talk about old times. The lineup is a little different: a new bass player and a new singer/keyboard player (in addition to the original keyboard player). Bobby Barth on vocals and guitars; Bob Harris on lead vocals and keyboards; Edgar Riley on vocals and keyboards; Teddy Mueller on drums; Blake Eberhard on bass. As to the sound of the band, it has grown up quite a bit. All of us have grown as musicians and singers, so we had more to draw from.
RE: What caused the original Axe break-up?
BB: Axe broke up when in 1984 Mike Osbourne and myself were in a auto accident. Mike was killed and I was messed up for a couple of years. After my recovery I just decided to move on and go with Blackfoot. We (the band) remained friends through all the years, so re-uniting was very easy.
RE: What is your connection with CAUGHT IN THE ACT (CITA)?
BB: They were brought to my attention in 1991 after I returned to America from Australia. I did demos for them in 1992 and shopped a deal for them in 1993. In the same year I left L.A. and moved back to my home (Colorado) which is where CITA is from and have been working with them ever since.
RE: What enticed you about CITA in the first place?
BB: It was nice for me to hear a band that cared about melodies, so many of the new bands can barely play, much less sing, and CITA was quite different. That is why I liked them.
RE: Are you working on anything else or with anyone other than Axe and CITA?
BB: As a matter of fact I have two other projects in the works for later this year. But you will have to wait.
RE: What about the rest of the band? What did they do after the Axe split?
BB: After the band broke up in the 80's, Edgar did a stint with Frank Zappa, and went on to work with a couple of bands in the South, not much recording though. Teddy got into the publishing business, Bob Harris was the singer for Frank Zappa, and Blake was teaching bass guitar. I joined Blackfoot and then Angry Anderson (Rose Tattoo). Bought a studio and started to produce.
RE: How did the "Five" release party go in Germany?
BB: We had a great time in Germany. It's a lot of fun when you can just do your music and not worry about trying to impress anyone. We have been around much too long to feel the same pressure that we did in the 80's, and MTM just lets us do what we want. We hope the people like it but the real reason we do it is not for the money, but just the love of it.
RE: In your opinion, what's the best tune on "Five"?
BB: I don't know about best, but my favorite is "Sting of the Rain," because the lyric means a lot to me and the way Bob Harris sang it makes the hair stand up on my arms.
RE: Of the five Axe albums, which do you consider the best?
BB: I think without a doubt "Five" is the best. It is very purely us, without the intervention of record companies or management companies. However some of my favorite songs are on "Offering."
RE: Do you have a favorite moment in your career?
BB: I think the best moment of my career was in about 1990 when I finally figured out that my true motivation for playing was because I loved it and really didn't care about the fame or fortune, that gave me the freedom to musically to do whatever I wanted. Its a great feeling.
RE: How about a worst moment?
BB: The worst was the day that Mike Osbourne was killed in the auto accident. 1984.
RE: Do you expect to record a live "Axe" album?
BB: We would love to do a live record, maybe if we tour Europe later this fall.
RE: What about those quotations on the inside cover of "Five"? Some are very funny, but others are a little, well, weird ...
BB: Those were just personal observations by different guys in the band over the years. Things that didn't seem important at the time, but ended up being very important. Most too personal to talk about.
RE: What was it like playing with Blackfoot?
BB: I loved playing with the original Blackfoot, with Ric, Jack and Greg. It got to be a little strange after they left and the new guys came in. Don't get me wrong, the new band was musically better than the old, but the magic was different.
RE: Is the only way for Americans to buy "Five" through the Internet?
BB: That and the import sections of most stores, it might have to be ordered through MTM music in Europe or Zero Corp in Japan, but for the U.S. people the N.E.H. website is by far the cheapest: http://www.nehrecords.com
RE: How is the Axe of today different from the Axe of twenty years ago?
BB: It's the same because we were always a song band and still are. We never wanted to be a soloist's band of rock stars - just to write and sing good songs. It's different and better in that we are much better singers and players now than when we split.
RE: Now that Motley Crue is reunited, any chance of Axe opening for them as they did in
BB: I talked to Tommy the other day and wished them luck on the tour. We would tour with anybody who we liked, personally, but we're not too interested in touring for the sake of touring, and putting up with politics from some baby band. I would like to tour again with Judas Priest. It was our first tour and we went on to tour with them 4 or 5 times, and to be handled by the same management company, seems proper to tour with them.
RE: You mentioned you were mixing a new Axe record. Can you tell us about it?
BB: We just finished : "Axe (Twenty Years From Home)." It contains re-recorded versions of three songs from each of the first four records, for folks that wanted them on CD. We didn't change them too much, but the recordings are much better. It'll be available soon.
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Revised: 23 Aug 2016 22:57:11 -0400.