Anarcho-Punks and Crusties, Oh My!
By Dave Schwartz
Trevor Speed and Steve Alton bristle at the idea of their 1987
cult classic, “The Rise of the Serpent Men,” being anything more
than “just an album.” Nonetheless, here we are 30 years
later talking about Axegrinder’s latest release, “Satori,” and
drawing comparisons to ancient history. The fact that there
has been scant new material released between the two records may
just be fueling the fire.
Initially Axegrinder was a metallic crust/punk/thrash band formed
1985. Their musical style was directly influenced by Amebix,
but there are obvious comparisons to both Motörhead and Venom as
well. After a whirlwind few years, Axegrinder folded in
1991… and then reunited almost 30 years later.
I was fortunate to arrange an email interview with Trevor and
Steve. It went like this…
DB: Congrats on “Satori.” You
originally planned to do and EP but ended up with a full album. Please
talk about how the record came together and why you expanded to a
Trev: Yes we originally thought about doing an EP but when Steve
came up with more tracks we quickly decided to do a full album.
Steve and I have kept in touch over the years so when he sent me
some new tracks I just knew immediately I wanted to be involved.
Steve: After I'd bounced the first couple of demos off Trev, we
originally decided to do an EP for the hell of it and self-release
it. But then the songs kept coming and we thought why not an
album. The album just grew from there. We decided to go with a
label, because we felt we'd written a storming set of songs and
wanted to get it out to as many people as possible.
called "Satori" a hippie album. Please
Trev: I think that came
off the back of a comment I made about Satori having a message of
love and I referenced Crass being all about love, whose overriding
message was essentially a hippie one. Absolutely nothing wrong
DB: It took 29 years for a new full record. Did
the legendary status of “The Rise of the Serpent Men” affect the
time between “Serpent Men” and “Satori"?
Trev: There is no legacy of "Rise" and
it certainly doesn't have a legendary status. It
is just an album that some people
have taken to their heart, which is totally humbling but all this
is a myth. The reason for the 29 year gap is it simply didn't feel
Steve. Not at all. I walked away from recording the first album,
thinking no one will give a shit in 12
months, how wrong I was. And as Trev explains, the timing
never felt right until now. It's something we've talked about over
the years but the reasons felt wrong.
DB: You’ve commented that playing live today feels more
alive and honest than 30 years ago. Are
you rediscovering the truth and energy that was built into the
original Axegrinder songs?
Trev: I think there is way less pressure this time around as we
all have other things in our lives and our focus isn't just
Axegrinder. We are all older and a lot more chilled out with each
other so I think the live experience reflects this, the old songs
certainly sound a lot better now.
Steve. Many reasons. I'm a better musician and songwriter than 29
years ago mainly.
DB: Axegrinder isn’t a band that ever tried to play it
many ways your music can be very polarizing. Do
you still conscientiously strive for the same result?
Trev: Yes I agree we do seem to polarize opinion which
I think is pretty healthy but it's not a conscious thing on our
part. We have always had a clear vision of what we wanted and what
we didn't, and have never been bothered about how we are
perceived. Most scenes or musical genres end up with a set of
unwritten rules and if someone tells us we can't do something then
we will immediately question why. If people find that contentious
then so be it.
Steve: Never one to follow the rules, which is fine by me.
DB: In many ways "Satori" carries the same anger and
ideals as your earlier records. Has
anything about your approach to music changed?
Trev: We stayed away from listening to any other music whilst
recording this album and the anger and ideals are straight from
the heart. There's also a lot of love expressed on this album;
“Under The Sun” is about my love of a little place in Norway and
“Too Far From Home” is dedicated to our family members who have
died from cancer. "Rise" was rage and anger, "Satori" is rage and
Steve. Well I certainly didn't listen to any Amebix, and to be
frank I haven't for years. I don't really have an approach to the
songs. Just what comes out of my head mostly.
DB: Axegrinder came through the squat scene – the
Anarcho-Punks and Crusties – what happens when the purity of the
underground music goes mainstream and the labels take interest
Trev: I have never understood the purity thing, what's the point
of having something to say if no one gets to hear it? As soon as
you release a demo, an album etc then it becomes product. I think
Crass demonstrated that you could make records and still remain
true to yourself. I can look you in the eye and say any profit we
have made has either gone to a benefit or been reinvested into the
band. Rise Above never asked us to compromise on anything, when
you compromise to a point that makes you feel uncomfortable then
that's when you should walk away.
Steve: It's nothing new. Depends on what is mainstream? Ever since
the Sex Pistols, labels have had an eye on any underground scene.
The only major problem is the demise of the smaller independent
DB: You’ve commented about politics and the political
climate frustrating and inspiring bands in the underground scenes
to share their voice – to speak loudly. With
respect to music, is rebellion back in fashion? Will
this rebellious passion lead to more classic albums?
Trev: Not sure it ever went out of fashion but yes, I do see
mainstream artists flirting with rebellion. This political climate
is generating a lot of opinions and bringing people out onto the
streets. I think as long as there are musicians who are passionate
about the injustices of this world then there will always be
passionate music played with heart and integrity. Long live those
Steve: Protest never went away. I just think there's a hell of a
lot more to get angry about now. Yup, the sad fact is when times
are bad; you do tend to get classic albums.
DB: Will there be any extensive touring to support
Trev: Extensive, I very much doubt but we do want to visit places
that have supported us throughout the many, many years. We do have
ideas but no concrete plans as yet.
Steve: I'm sure you'll see us doing
some gigs. Touring is hard, as we all have day jobs and family to
consider. But plans are in motion.
Much thanks to Trevor Speed and Steve
Alton for sharing a moment with DaBelly!
Trevor Speed vocals
Steve Alton guitars
2. Halo (Snakes for the Breeding)
3. Rain 04:59
4. The Unthinkable 04:57
5. Over 05:20
6. The Hurting 05:32
7. Satori 07:04
8. Under the Sun
9. Too Far from Home