Steve McCabe of The Axemen, Part Two – by Ryan Leach – SpaceCase, Boredout

Steve McCabe of The Axemen, Part Two

Reprinted from: http://boredout305.tumblr.com/post/56105133631/steve-mccabe-of-the-axemen-part-two
Part two of Ryan Leach’s Steve McCabe interview.
Photos courtesy of Stu Kawowski.

AXEMEN: Steve, Stu, Bob recording at Peterborough 1984-85 ©STU

Ryan: The Axemen’s membership was always fluctuating.

Steve: We had a good range of Christchurch and Dunedin musicians in the band. If you’ve seen our Wikipedia page, you can see all the people who’ve been in or performed with the band.

Ryan: On Three Virgins there’s a recording of you talking with an American about Beverly Hills and Mardi Gras. Do you recall who you were talking with?

Steve: No. I don’t remember.

(Stu: That’s actually me talking to a Taxi driver in LA and recording it on my Sony walkman, 1982.)

Ryan: There’s also another conversation on Derry Legend (1987) where you’re being interviewed but replying with unrelated answers—about how the New Zealand dollar is weak. It’s pretty funny.

Steve: We had a lot of abstract ideas. It had to do with stream-of-consciousness. Three Virgins is a good example of that mindset. Everything just sort of flowed out without any hesitation.

Ryan: What kind of reaction did The Axemen get from people in the middle ’80s? I imagine your sound was a hard sell to some people.

Steve: The variety of genres was probably a good thing. We had a lot of jokes in our songs. If people could understand the lyrics and pickup on the jokes, I reckon that was a good thing as well; people like jokes. We didn’t take ourselves too seriously.

Ryan: The Axemen recorded just about everything they did.

Steve: Yeah. I still have all of the cassettes. There are about three hundred of them.

Ryan: Unbelievable! Are these tapes mostly of live shows or home recordings?

Steve: A bit of both. I always preferred recording to playing live. I got a four-track recorder in 1986. We did a lot of recordings on that. We used to record our practices and do overdubs on them later. We released a lot of cassette tapes that didn’t show up on Flying Nun. They’re not available at the moment. We used to screen print covers for them.

Ryan: What was The Axemen’s relationship with Flying Nun like? I imagine the financial loss of Three Virgins might have caused a bit of strain.

Steve: Flying Nun did eventually sell all of the pressings of Three Virgins and Derry Legend. It did take them a while to sell them though. Tom Lax just rereleased Three Virgins on Siltbreeze. He was pleased with it and did two more of our records. I don’t know if Flying Nun lost interest or what but there was a demand for those albums.

Ryan: They haven’t done a great job rereleasing their back catalog. If you want a vinyl pressing of (The Clean’s) Boodle, Boodle, Boodle you’d better have ninety bucks on hand.

Steve: They haven’t. I’ve seen original copies of Three Virgins go for good money too.

Ryan: Derry Legend hasn’t been rereleased yet. That record goes for fifty bucks.

Steve: Yeah. Derry Legend is being rereleased soon. Dustin Travis White, who did live sound for us on The Axemen and Times New Viking tour, is going to rerelease it on his new label, Luxury Products. Stu remastered it all on analog for the reissue. It’ll come out after Sac Tap Nut Jam. Sac Tap Nut Jam is completely digital. Hearing those two records back to back will be interesting.

Ryan: You released your solo LP Sweat It Out (1986) around the time of Derry Legend.

Steve: I released a whole lot of solo cassette stuff too. The EMI record pressing plant in New Zealand closed down around that time. It was the only plant in New Zealand. I did release one single after Sweat It Out. Then I did about four or five cassettes on Sleek Bott.

Ryan: Did it become cost prohibitive to release records after the New Zealand EMI plant closed down?

Steve: It did. New Zealand record companies would go through Mushroom (large Australian independent label). It became more difficult for them to press up records. For individuals it really became too difficult.

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Ryan: One of my favorite Axemen records is Scary Part III which Tom (Lax) at Siltbreeze reissued recently. Did Flying Nun not want to take you up on that record when you originally recorded it?

Steve: I think it had to do with Flying Nun being sold to Mushroom. It messed up our relationship with the label. Mushroom was more interested in getting Flying Nun’s back catalog than releasing new stuff.

Ryan: That’s right. With some exceptions—like King Loser—quality control at Flying Nun started going downhill after they partnered with Mushroom.

Steve: Yeah. Things started getting a bit poppy.

Ryan: Scary is the record where The Axemen got really into sampling.

Steve: That’s true. Although there’s a tiny bit on Derry Legend. Stu and I had these SK-1 samplers. They’re a Casio sampler. It had a little microphone on it and you could create one-and-a-half second loops of samples.

Ryan: What motivated The Axemen to do an Elton John tribute record (1992’s Three Rooms)?

Steve: It seemed like a good idea at the time. There’s a good range of songs in Elton John’s catalog. Good chords and things.

Ryan: The Axemen sort of wound down after the Elton John record, correct?

Steve: No. Stu and Bob moved to Auckland in about ‘87. I was playing in Christchurch from 1987 to 1990. Bob had formed the band Shaft. My wife and I got married in Las Vegas in 1990. We toured around America for our honeymoon. When we came back to New Zealand we moved to Auckland in 1992. Bob, Stu and I were all in the same town again so we did those two records on Sleek Bott—Recliner Rocker and Dirty Den Sessions. After that we didn’t do anything together for a while. Bob was busy with Shaft and I started a screen printing business with my wife. I started a band called CFCs in 1995. We played with Shaft for a little while. I released a solo CD called Generations (1998).

Ryan: Generations is great.

Steve: I like it too. I can’t get any copies of it. The guy who released it has heaps of them—about four hundred of the five hundred pressed. They’re sitting in his garage somewhere. I try to get them off of him. He keeps saying he’ll get them for me but it never happens. It’s really annoying. People are interested in it.

Ryan: A number of your songs have a lounge feel to them—going back to “Effectively My Baby” on Three Virgins. That aspect of your songwriting comes to the forefront on Generations.

Steve: Yeah. It was great being able to do those arrangements on the computer—get the big orchestration. I always wanted to do what Frank Sinatra and Nelson Riddle did with big orchestras. I was really pleased with it.

Ryan: Over the last four years there has been a resurgence with The Axemen. Obviously that has a lot to do with Tom Lax reissuing a number of your records on Siltbreeze. How did you guys come in contact with Tom?

Steve: When I moved up to Auckland, Tom sought me out. He bought everything I had—all the old Sleek Bott cassettes. That was in about 1992. I didn’t hear from Tom for quite a while after that. E-mail wasn’t around. Tom did a couple of reviews of our albums. Later on he bought the remaining copies I had of Sweat It Out. He sold all of those. That was more recently. The Axemen had been on hiatus for a while. When Tom decided to rerelease Cheap Motel, Three Virgins and Scary, we talked with him about doing a US tour. He lined us up with Times New Viking; we did the US tour with them in 2009. Tom came to quite a few of the gigs. Tom apparently was always playing Three Virgins to people, long before he reissued it. They’d ask him if it was available; eventually he decided to put it out.

Ryan: You did a tour of Australia a couple of years later. You hooked up with Brendon Annesley and did a great single with Negative Guest List.

Steve: That was cool. Brendon died shortly after that. He was a talented guy. A good writer.

Ryan: Bob Brannigan is no longer in the band.

Steve: On the last tour he was partying too much. It sort of got on my nerves. We had a bit of fight and he decided he didn’t want to play with us anymore.

Ryan: You’ve got the young gun in the band now.

Steve: Who?

Ryan: William Daymond. He’s younger than me.

Steve: Oh, yeah. He’s not a replacement for Bob or anything. William is a songwriter—although we haven’t written any songs with him yet—but it’s good having someone else in the band who can contribute songs. He seems to be fitting in well.

Ryan: We (Spacecase Records) wrote you about doing a single. But you had so many good tracks we asked you for a record instead (Sac Tap Nut Jam).

Steve: Yeah. We were keen on the single but doing a full length was so much nicer. I just bought a sixteen-track digital recorder. It’s about the size of a laptop. Dragan has a whole lot of mics. When you came up with your offer we all decided to go down to Wellington; Dragan has a practice space there with a lot of nice mics and William lives there too. We decided to record a number of songs and pick the best two for a single. We ended up with so many extra tracks doing an album came naturally. I was really pleased with the results. I really like the sixteen track recorder.

Ryan: I was surprised by how high the fidelity is.

Steve: Dragan is a really good audio guy.

Ryan: Is this the first vinyl record you’ve released of new material since Derry Legend?

Steve: Yeah. Not counting the reissues.

Ryan: Is there any chance Sweat It Out is going to be reissued?

Steve: There’s a possibility but not on LP. It might be reissued through Dusty who’s doing the Derry Legend reissue.

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THE AXEMEN | Sac Tap Nut Jam LP | SPACECASE

Reprinted from: http://www.spacecaserecords.com/axemen-sac-tap-nut-jam

THE AXEMEN | Sac Tap Nut Jam LP

Spacecase Records
US$14.00*

Sac Tap Nut Jam
The Axemen – SAC TAP NUT JAM, Spacecase SCR006, 2013

Spacecase Records is pleased to release Sac Tap Nut Jam—the first new Axemen full length in twenty-one years.
GO BUY SAC TAP NUT JAM NOW (direct from Spacecase)!
Originally from Christchurch, New Zealand, The Axemen formed in 1983. Shortly afterwards the band solidified around the core of Steve McCabe, Stu Kawowski and Bob Brannigan. (More than two dozen musicians have played in the Axemen, notably Johnny Segovia, George D. Henderson, Mick Elborado and Peter Gutteridge). Initial Axemen releases came out on Steve McCabe’s cassette label, Sleek Bott. The Axemen signed to Flying Nun in the mid ’80s, releasing the label’s first double album, Three Virgins (1986). Like The Swell Maps, The Axemen sound is hard to define—Three Virgins runs the gamut, from country to punk to avant-garde. The Axemen released their second Flying Nun record Derry Legend in 1987. The band put out further cassettes on Sleek Bott, notably Scary (Part III) and Three Rooms (An Elton John Tribute Album), before going on hiatus in the early ’90s.

           In 2009, The Axemen caught their second wind thanks to Tom Lax at Siltbreeze who reissued the band’s cassette-only releases Big Cheap Motel and Scary (Part III). The Axemen toured the United States with Times New Viking the same year. In 2011 The Axemen visited Australia and put out a tour 7″— a label split between McCabe’s Sleek Bott and the late Brendon Annesley’s Negative Guest List Records. Siltbreeze came through again that year, reissuing Three Virgins on vinyl (original pressings were going for well over fifty dollars).

Sac Tap Nut Jam finds Steve McCabe and Stu Kawowski reuniting with Dragan Stojanovic (who played on 1987’s Derry Legend)rounding out the lineup is William Daymond. Recorded in early 2013 in Wellington and Taita, Lower Hutt, Sac Tap Nut Jam—like all Axemen releases—defies easy categorization. There’s The Beatles/Dylan pop of Stojanovic’s “These Days”; McCabe’s post punk-influenced “Doctor’s on Speed Dial”; Steve McCabe’s inimitable voice and stream-of-consciousness lyric writing comes to the forefront on “Google That Girl”.

500 vinyl copies of Sac Tap Nut Jam were pressed up—400 on black, 100 on gold. The Axemen are currently planning a tour of New Zealand in support of Sac Tap Nut Jam.

Sac Tap Nut Jam is the sixth release from Camarillo, California-based Spacecase Records.


If ordering from outside the United States please email orders@spacecaserecords.com before submitting your order for accurate shipping rates.

* + shipping

Up Front with the Yub Nubz

such a tease
such a tease

Hot on the soles of their forthcoming new 12″ release ‘Sac Tap Nut Jam’, the Axemen are chaffing at the bit for punters to step up into the stirrups climb into the saddle and hitch their wagons to the new guiding star, the star that comes from the South, the star that IS the Axemen. The current lineup, showing impeccable taste chose this outlet for their first official interview regarding the new album.

Steve McCabe - still working on the John Halvorsen / Eraserhead look
Steve McCabe – still working on the John Halvorsen / Eraserhead look

Steve McCabe, speaking from his idyllic kiwi coast bach in the Coromandel on the verge of a 3 month sabbatical in the Pacific Islands, was the first to speak out on the release:

Steve McCabe: “I was initially troubled by the concept of plant (‘inanimate’) objects being incapable of feeling pain. This is the reason we embarked on the ‘Sac Tap’ project in the first place. All things were pointing in this direction, we had a levy-breaking wall of song built up ready to breach the sea-walls, with nowhere else to run!” he enthused in answer to my first utterance “Hello”.

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William Daymond – Role Model for troubled youth

William Daymond: “Dragan came over and showed me the famous ‘swizzle-sticks in a jar’ experiment – believe it or not this was the first time i ever experimented with this kind of experiment – and frankly it blew me away. My ‘Sac Tap’ commitment started there”.

IMG_5341
Stu Kawowski – aka Ludwig van Beathoven

Stu Kawowski: “Yeah I kinda dug Will’s naivete in the beginning, but by the end of the sessions we were churning it up free flow like a machete machine with overblown muscle-cloth spun on a quantum wheel upon which no-one can see which way its rotating but experienced users can count the bleats”

IMG_5354
Dragan Stojanovic – go ahead… tap my sac!

Dragan Stojanovic: “I count my blessings. And I think the other lads are counting theirs. The Axemen are the only band I would get out of bed to play in. Of course I’m fantastic in bed too!”.

Accolades are already pouring in from all over the world and the roundabout at Stokes Valley Road is fast becoming a local tourist attraction, with double-decker buses frequently thrilling passengers by driving around it multiple times, in one case until one elderly passenger threw up (she soon recovered when the tour guide pointed out Dragan Stojanovic walking down the road to the alchemists and giving her and the other passenger his trademark “fingers” gesture – a Serbian sign usually reserved for Croation soldiers – much to the amusement of the appreciative cheering passengers).

Idols and rivals check out the scene
Idols and rivals check out the scene

Watch this Space[case] spacecasefor new revelations!

The Axemen wish to thank Ryan and Mor at Spacecase who were instrumental (and vocal) in making the project happen…  http://www.spacecaserecords.com/ cheers dudes!

Shooting Blanks

i never shot more than blanks
you should be saying thanks
not sorry desperado
wild about the tyke

wildfire in the place of worship
let me ride
i will drive
fire engine on the skids

don’t forget your skid lid
and put the trash out before the kids handle it
and decide to panhandle it
in the corridor

its a horror filled shooting galley
deadbeat kate and allie
lying in the alley
bullet wounds thru their heads

back and to the left
no-one has yet improved on zapruder
please release the tapes
its an all nite party

goo goo ga joob
walrus is a de-tusked shadow
firing blanks still in a sated way
satan’s sway piles the cash onto the millenium.

chile miners got more reason to be out of their mind
reason don’t come lightly
Officer Dibble couldn’t have detected this
This cheese is swiss and i know longer know what love is.

its full of holes
but sir its guyere
i don’t care where its grown, its full of holes
like the bulletholes in my skin, they do get in

mrs marsh, your concept is dated
but they do get in regardless
fluoride is hated in every state
hey aren’t you the mrs marsh i DATED?

chalk and cheese
chewy, chrunchy
anything vaguely rug-munchy
somebody, replace the monkey

whenever yr ready theres a firebrand ready
a fine fire brand ready to burn and beat me
keister-meisters haven’t got a prayer
i’m taking dares, burning considerate until the next fire.

goldfinger
breathing deeply till the next fire.
its a funeral pyre
shine my niggah,don’t bleed for me.