Axegrinder - SatoriAxegrinder – 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 full album.  

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. 

DB:  You’ve called "Satori" a hippie album.  Please explain.  

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 with that. 

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 legendary nonsense is a myth. The reason for the 29 year gap is it simply didn't feel right before. 

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 safe.  In 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 love.

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 labels.  

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 bands. 

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 “Satori”?  

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! 

Band Line-up:
Trevor Speed   vocals
Steve Alton     guitars

"Satori" tracklist:

1.    61803398875     02:32    
2.    Halo (Snakes for the Breeding)     04:37    
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     05:06    
9.     Too Far from Home     06:35    

Links:
https://www.facebook.com/AxegrinderHQ/
https://twitter.com/23axegrinder 
https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/axegrinder/?hl=en

 

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