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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Record review – Scary!!! pt 3 by Kel E. Burnette

Reprinted from Kel E. Burnette’s  pronouncement at:

http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=191255993910

Note: CD material is available from http://sleekbott.com

The Axemen, sans McCabe, sans Stojanovic, plus Turner, 2009
The Axemen, sans McCabe, sans Stojanovic, plus Turner, WFMU, 2009

Artist: Axemen
Title: Scary! Part III
Label: Siltbreeze
Long known underground stars from New Zealand, The Axemen are now gaining some well-deserved notoriety here in the States thanks to one of our finest labels, Siltbreeze. Tom Lax has again exhibited sterling musical sense in [repressing – sic.]re-pressing “Scary! Part III” and “Big Cheap Motel.”

Steve McCabe with Shonen Knife, Fun Fun Fun Fest
Steve McCabe with Shonen Knife, Fun Fun Fun Fest, Austin TX 2009

And while it’s not an easy task trying to pin down their sound, especially considering the variety of their entire discography (much less the territorial span of music on this release), I’ll give it a shot.

On my first listening, I immediately drew a comparison to Royal Trux, but that was basically drawn from the majority of vocals on the record, featuring some of the coolest, junked-out vox either before or after the Trux hit the scene.

AXEMEN - cool it with the pool boy
AXEMEN - cool it with the pool boy

From the get-go, the song “Heart Bullet” features some insanely fucked up vocals and word play. Unlike a lot of New Zealand music, the vocals are uncharacteristically mixed up and not buried in the instrumentation. It kind of paradoxically makes the voice seem like another instrument—I’m at a loss finding (other than Herrema) anyone to compare the vocals to while maintaining any real dignity. Suffice it to say that they’re easily in the upper echelon of all rock vox, and it’s continued across both wunnerfuly screwed tracks on the double LP set.

AXEMEN: 300% Sikh & Tyred
2009: 300% Sikh & Tyred

Though the music is varied, you never get the feeling that the album was thrown together as pieces. As incoherent and absurd as it is, the record has a marvelous cohesion, at times overtly a downer, such as the track “10 Miles (as the crow flies)” and other points like the near-sinister, hardcore influenced “Join the R.A.F.”

The Mirror News by Vince Carmody, DJ at Chapel Hill's Local 506 Club
The Mirror News by Vince Carmody, DJ at Chapel Hill's Local 506 Club

It’s near-put impossible to fix these fellers into any genre, and that’s a damn good thing. Not only that, it’s a fucking difficult thing to pull off convincingly, yet the Axemen do so with, well what’s the write word, grace? How about ‘instinct?’ That seems more apropos. It’s an instinct which speaks more to an overall aesthetic than does it any attempt to play this or that style of music.

This one of the strangest records ever sludged to wax, and it’s caused that compulsive collector in my to try and track down any and all of their recordings, which, from what I’ve read, is going to be a formidable task. This is no surprise since they formed around 1981 and have recorded pretty consistently since, and even through the broad spectrum of music the venerable Flying Nun label have pressed over the years, The Axemen stand totally on their own. Flying Nun wasn’t their only label over the years—there have been several, but as an American touchstone, it’s appropriate to mention them as one of the better-known imprints to bring up.

Sickie Stojanovic, 123 Pleasant Street, Morgantown, West Virginia
Sickie Stojanovic, 123 Pleasant Street, Morgantown, West Virginia

All I can tell you is that, even on this one double LP, influences include American hardcore and DIY, Beefheart (though nothing obvious springs to mind at the outset), a sort of Zappaesque sense of humor, bizarre synth music, employ of loops and on and on.

The Axemen are their own entity. The only downside to this is that it took so long for an American pressing to go down. I’ve heard that they’ve met with largely great critical press on their recent tour of the U.S. One can only hope that it continues and that we see them again very soon.

P. Somniferum

Record Review: Axemen – Scary! Pt. III 2xLP (Siltbreeze/Sleekbott)

November 17, 2009

Axemen – Scary! Pt. III 2xLP (Siltbreeze/Sleekbott)

Axemen 2xLP
SCARY! pt 111 - Axemen

So the Axemen finally make it to the United States to tour, and one of the local weeklies lists them as “Axeman.”

Figures, right?

Nobody who’s in a position to know has influence enough to care. Tom Lax coulda bought a very decent used car with the ca$hola he’s sunken into this beyond-insane reissue program for New Zealand’s most divisive band – even so far as to have dug up two never-heard-‘em cassettes for the introductory offers, guaranteed to chase away even seasoned listeners.

Lifting up out of the muck that was Big Cheap Motel, this four-sider thankfully doesn’t give way to clarity, though some would claim it’d give birth to Blankdoggin’, as few of the ‘90s lo-fi oligarchy would have touched a synth or a sampler, let alone subjected them to the levels of abuse that Stevie McCabe offers up all over here.

Approximately 150 people will hear a serious Dirty Faces connection to the flotsam here; more will liken it to Royal Trux in their scum/disassociative phase, and that’s fine.

Here was – and is – a band that is continually in protest mode, against common sense if not a social or political cause … fuck, one of their auxiliary members drove his ride into the glass doors of the Kiwi tax office, and from all accounts, he’s free to walk on American soil as I write this. Does anyone in New Zealand want to swap places with me?

I’ve heard too many good things and am ready to throw away my life in the USA. This 1989 release is nothing but endless ur-jammin’ on some rudimentary melody, jive talkin’ monologue, screechin’ and sneerin’, occasionally stumbling onto a higher truth and really just content to slag off anyone that comes near it.

You don’t have to like it, or even respect it, because it was made to chase you and everybody else away. I respect that Lax puts out a pop record the likes of the Mantles or Eat Skull, but isn’t afraid to keep truckin’ in the weirdness like this charcoal nug. Still waiting on Three Virgins, and more eloquent thoughts from Wood Beez. (http://www.siltbreeze.com)
(Doug Mosurock)

AXEMEN: THE ORDER OF ERRED WAYS

aka SCARY PT. IV

erredWays1

an album of unreleased Sleek Bott recordings from the 1983-1985 cache

JACKSON CREEK
from the THREE VIRGINS sessions, Christchurch, April 1985

850400 State Trinity

OM – STORY OF UNIVERSAL LOVE
from the Feast of Flesh rehearsal, Dunedin, March 1984
(not the same version that appears on A SCAR IS BORN);
features keyboards by George D. Henderson

840414a Feast-O-Flesh 1

MOULDIE (LEG STORY) full version live
from the Gladstone, Christchurch, Dec. 31, 1983
—a 2-minute excerpt from this same take featured on the CD version of THE SOUTH DUNEDIN SOUND, as well as on the AGRO/BAIRD BASS-OFF collection (where it appeared alongside another live take recorded 2 nights later at the same pub); includes Arthur Sheep on sax & the 3rd-eye guest guitar of Gordo Baird’s brother, B. B. Ryan.

831231b Gladstone

DO OR DIE
from the THREE VIRGINS sessions, Christchurch, April 1985

THE HOLLYWOOD SINGER
live at the Star & Garter, Christchurch, June 1984

840615c Star&Garter1

YE GODS!!
live at Lisa Preston’s birthday party, Christchurch, November 1984

841102 Party II the next day

GIMME ROOM #2
from the THREE VIRGINS sessions, Christchurch, April 1985

THE ORDER OF ERRED WAYS
live at Lisa Preston’s birthday party, Christchurch, November 1984

LIVING, LIVING & DYING
live at Lisa Preston’s birthday party, Christchurch, November 1984

THE GREATEST POP ON EARTH
sounds like Christchurch, July-August 1985

850708 July-August

BRAIN ONE IAMBENT 1 Music for public toilets
live at the Arts Centre, Christchurch, June 1984

840613 State of the Art

PUT THE IRON ON/TEQUILA
from the THREE VIRGINS sessions, Christchurch, April 1985

850406a Trinity Of Fire

GIMME ROOM
from the THREE VIRGINS sessions, Christchurch, April 1985

850406b Battle Of Egos

*   *   *

an axemen anno XXV rediscovery series production
specially compiled & released on the eve of their first US tour, 2009

bobAxemenWanganui

SleekBottlabel3

AXEMEN show on WFMU 91.1FM (NYC metro NJ USA) Nov 24th, 3pm – 6pm

WFMU logo The Axemen
Tuesday, November 24th, 3pm – 6pm on Brian Turner’s show,
http://www.wfmu.org (streaming/archiving)
91.1 fm (NYC metro NJ) 90.1 fm (Catskills/Hudson Valley/PA/WNJ)

One of the big touring surprises for 2009 has to be the visit of New Zealand’s legendary Axemen to U.S. shores. The band began in Christchurch in 1981 and stood somewhat aside of the pop path exhibited by much of the the Flying Nun label roster, but are without doubt one of the more fascinating Kiwi exports. Various live shows and releases displayed a loose but virulent amalgamation of avant-garage, Half Japanese style sax primitivism, confusion, and general air of maladjusted greatness.

They’ve got two reissues “Big Cheap Motel” and “Scary!” out now on Siltbreeze, and are hitting the road coast to coast with Times New Viking. You can catch them in the NYC area November 18th at Mercury Lounge, 19th at Union Pool, and 20th at Maxwells in Hoboken!

Scary Motel Tour! coming soon….

Not on the List?

Looking to get some great kiwi bands to play at your FANTASTIC SOUTH ISLAND VENUE in LATE SEPTEMBER/EARLY OCTOBER?

Contact Us immediately….

Your name could be here tomorrow…

Scary Motel Tour - Sept / Oct 09 , South Island, NZ
Scary Motel Tour - Sept / Oct 09 , South Island, NZ - b/w lo-res v1(LSM)
Scary Motel Tour - South Island, NZ, Sept-Oct 2009
Scary Motel Tour - South Island, NZ, Sept-Oct 2009 - color lo-res v1 (LSM)

POSTER VARIANTS RECEIVED:

Tues 4 Aug 09, Stu Kawowski

scarymoteldragan
Scary Motel Poster Variant: Dragan-Master (StuK)

scarymotelredlips
Scary Motel Poster Variant: RedLips (StuK)

wunderbar REEVIEW PT ONE

Wunderbar, Lyttelton July 2009

The Aesthetics, Stevie McCabe and Bastardwisher =—–Wunderbar 28th July 2009
review by a participant.
PART UNO :

>>>
“Come together – right Now – Over me.”

Gen X . The original punks, methinks the youngest of the Exers gotta be something like 33 or something. Ands there’s the ageism already. And thats the last of it.
And the Ugly Ambition get’s uglier and uglier and with brill creamed quiff’n’quim in the air and the hooting hops and testosteroney we all thought it would fall to pieces.

Wunderbar - Nice People Only
Wunderbar - Nice People Only

But salvage they do and on comes he the Little guy – Littl’ Stevie McCabe and his  gat’n’lappy, and blues as is orignal and as if as original and haast pass- haaart felt as you can linen!  Blues, riff and mulch! Audio that is – up up up the Stevie! Cause the bastards they wish!  And we’ve whipped it awl up! Ballad, plop and Kierkegaardens! Fellow puff knock colour dyke towels! Rockin on over to your best And Band tickle-me-punk!  Roster, roster outward bound to be schtoopid in Mickleodeon ! Oi Oi! Harden up! They actually told me to wear a hat! And those ballads and blues sawngs kept -a comin’! And the adrenaline flowed like lava! and mines immunes seeestem did chatter unt chortle. And the nazis and the jews didst fooozball! And the ROXY musics did SHINE! Sax and all! And meaning went home for christmas dinner! Then the bastardwisher set dried up the air and it was special interest sessions abound. Flights of plunder-beato and post-bonk riffer-refer-ama all making us blush and sneer. Blush and heave-ho ‘harden-up’ skin skin oi oi ‘this ain’t ’76’ bitches snitches and ditches. Jobs and slobs. Hogs and Dogs. Ruffle the feathers of Sunni england. Because opium is live and dangerous and the answer to all you prayers. As is Saint Barnaby. Tracker. Akka Dakka. And next was The Aesthetics. Ruffed up and tuffed up and seering. And oh the agony. And I wanna thank ya.

part two AS soon as possibull!!!!!!!

VIDEO

The Aesthetics at the Wunderbar, July 28 2009
The Aesthetics at the Wunderbar, July 28 2009
bastardwisher
BastardWisher at the Wunderbar, July 28 2009
Creaky Back Stairs - Little Stevie McCabe Live at Wunderbar feat. MattMiddleton
Creaky Back Stairs - Little Stevie McCabe Live at Wunderbar feat. MattMiddleton