Formed in 1986 AXEGRINDER quickly became one of those bands that influenced the crust metal scene of today. With just one full-length release entitled “The Rise Of The Serpent Men” on Peaceville Records, they folded soon after. And like a few other brilliant punk bands of that era, they are back. 30 years after “The Rise” came “Satori”, the second full-length album by AXEGRINDER (reviewed here), which gathered positive response. The band seem to be gigging more and more, acting like a “full-time” band, so SANCTUS PROPAGANDA talked to Trev (voc.) about past, present and future of the band.
SP: What was the main trigger point for AXEGRINDER to reform? I remember reading an interview with you on CVLT NATION a few years ago when you stated it was very doubtful. What made you change your mind?
Trev: In a word, Steve! He had written a few new tunes that he thought were AXEGRINDER sounding, passed them onto me and I immediately said yes. We were going to do an EP but Steve kept writing so we deiced on an album. There was no game plan other than not to repeat what we had done before.
SP: Didn’t you think people would say “another old crust band reforming, everyone is doing that right now”?
Trev: We were aware of a few other bands that had reformed, ANTISECT, DEVIATED INSTINCT, etc. and I am sure they would give different reasons to reforming but I think we would all agree on ‘Why Not?’ I really don’t care what others think and us reforming wasn’t a big thing, just two old punks making some noise. Anger and frustration do not belong exclusively to the young and age is relative anyway.
SP: You started off again slowly getting to the point of releasing your second album. But first came the split with the American WAR//PLAGUE. Why did you decide on the split EP to mark your come back and what was the reason behind choosing WAR//PLAGUE?
Trev: Andy from W//P is a good friend and really encouraged us whilst recording the new album so when the opportunity arose to do a split with W//P for World Record Day we just couldn’t say no. W//P are much harder sounding then us and I really like the contrasts between us and them, showcasing how diverse crust can be. Andy always impressed me with his view on music, very open-minded, not at all blinkered or hemmed in by music genres. I think his work with TAU CROSS speaks volumes.
SP: The song from this EP, “My Plague Queen” sums up pretty badly the civilisation we happen to live in. “Watching the cancer slowly spread” doesn’t leave us with much hope, does it?
Trev: I really do not like the track but it was the only thing we had that didn’t make the album so we tried to make the best of it. The tune is pretty decent but the programmed drums sound very sterile and I just don’t think it makes the grade. As for the lyrics and sentiment then yes I agree it’s a worrying time for the human race. Intolerance and greed seem to be the new code for living a successful life, where we chain up our door, ignore the bodies floating in the sea and deem anything worthy as fake news. Stubbing out progress where seeds are sown…indeed
SP: What line-up did you use for this split EP, ‘coz the insert doesn’t say?
Trev: Just myself and Steve. We didn’t bring in anyone else until we recorded the album
SP: But before the album came out, there was the Bandcamp single “Grind The Enemy” where you rerecorded the old song from the demo under the same title and it was your benefit for the Grenfell Towerblock Fire tragedy that happened in London. Why did you choose this exact song, why didn’t you write something new?
Trev: We wanted to respond quickly to the murder, I won’t call it a tragedy as it was totally preventable and was a financial calculated risk where money took precedent over the safety of human lives. I called Steve saying we had to contribute in some small way and I think he literally re-recorded GTE that night and our session drummer did his thing the next morning. I re-wrote the lyrics and I think we had it out within a week or two. We both agreed on Grind as we had never played in our Rise set and we thought it would surprise a few people.
SP: How much money did you manage to collect from this single and where exactly did it go?
Trev: I think it was only about three hundred. We knew it wouldn’t be a lot as it was a very UK based tragedy and disasters in faraway lands don’t resonate on a global scale until that one tragedy escalates into many more tragedies. Sad but true. We gave it to a local based charity that helped the homeless replace everyday items.
SP: What has happened to Grenfell families since the tragedy? Have they been given the support they needed and what has happened to those responsible for the tragedy? I assume the case might still be going?
Trev: I wish I could say justice has been served and those responsible have been held accountable but as with any political backlash the whitewash brigade quickly moves in, spin and PR are invaluable tools to a government on the back foot. Many families remain unhoused and support has been minimal. An enquiry told us what we already knew, the building was unsafe and as a result many other buildings have been identified as unsafe but still continued to be occupied as the financial implications far outweigh the cost of human lives. In short austerity wins out!
SP: Didn’t you want to release a hardcopy of this EP?
Trev: No, it was important to get it out as quickly as possible otherwise it lost it relevance.
SP: ”The Rise of the Serpent Men” has been reissued many times. Has it always been done with band’s permission and on band’s conditions?
Trev: Peaceville own the publishing rights for the album so we are powerless to stop re-issues. I have no problem with re-issues as long as they bring something new each time. The first re-issue had the four additional Wartech tracks which I thought was great but I can’t see anything different with the subsequent re-issues. If re-issues stop people spending ludicrous amounts on the originals then I suppose that’s a positive. I really like the Grind The Enemy vinyl package, good quality, lyric sheet and fantastic packaging. They are the type of bootlegs I support fully.
SP: On your new album, “Satori”, your music bears quite significant resemblance to the first record, it sounds as a natural continuation after so many years. Have you had a plan for that or it just happened?
Trev: Not at all, there was no plan other than not to write Rise II as we didn’t want to repeat ourselves. The sound and production is AXEGRINDER as that’s who we are but I think the songs on Satori are pretty far removed from Rise. The lyrics are very different to Rise with a lot more based upon personal experiences rather than the normal subjects traditionally covered.
SP: Does the title “Satori”, the Buddhist term for “awakening”, have any connotations with you practising Buddhism? Why did you choose this word and why in Japanese not other language?
Trev: We just liked the connotation of “awakening” and “understanding” in a world where that seems very little understanding or tolerance. We are just hoping that people wake up to the fact that without control there is no power, without tyrants there is no tyranny and if we refuse to be led the leaders become impotent. Its not a political message just a message of hope
SP: Your new album boasts completely different approach to artwork and representing your ideas. Why is that so? Are you still looking for your new concept or is this what we can expect, more or less, in the future?
Trev: We have never done anything to be part of a scene or appease those that have an idea of how we should represent ourselves. The big thing for us is not repeating what has gone before and we did the whole skull, black and white thing with Rise so it holds no interest for us. We know a lot of people had an issue with the pink cover but show me the crust /punk rule book where it stipulates what you should or shouldn’t do! If you look at DEVIATED INSTINCT’s artwork it definitely doesn’t conform to the stereotype and I think Rob brings something different to their releases every time. We don’t think ahead too much and certainly don’t plan ahead so our thoughts on perspective artwork or visuals changes constantly, so expect more of the unexpected.
SP: How did you start the co-operation with Rise Above? What were you looking and hoping for when choosing the label?
Trev: Lee had an advance copy of some music he was thinking about releasing so it was a case of “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” There was never a question of us thinking he would be interested in releasing it as it’s not your typical Rise Above fodder, it was just two mates tape swapping as far as I was concerned. Surprisingly he offered us an album deal just because he could and has that true punk spirit running through his veins. He knew he would make a loss, how reckless is that!!! We weren’t looking for a label and had settled on a DIY approach but knew our selling power would be very limited which seems a bit pointless after spending so long on recording and packaging etc. We are so thankful for Rise’s offer and support.
SP: Wasn’t Peaceville interested?
Trev: We spoke to Peaceville about a publishing deal but things escalated too quickly for us and we didn’t feel comfortable signing the deal. Let’s just say it didn’t work out.
SP: How much of a DIY punk band do you consider yourself and do you have any plans and ways of functioning outside this scene with your message? If so, what scenes are you considering?
Trev: If someone can explain what a DIY punk band is then I maybe could answer the question. If you record your songs in a studio run by others are you still DIY? If you get a printer to print your covers, are you still DIY? We recorded it all ourselves in a home studio, did all the artwork design, mixed and produced it ourselves. We did everything apart from putting it out and distribution. I can tell you we have made no profit off this album as sales for albums suck in this download society. Any money we have seen has been plugged straight back into the band.
SP: How do you view the DIY punk scene after all these years? Have you been somehow involved in it since AXEGRINDER disbanded? What differences do you notice and what is your opinion about the condition of the scene?
Trev: I have had no involvement since I walked away in the late 80s. The only difference I have seen is how much more professional it is now. Bands are using top notch gear now, we used whatever we could get hold of and Steve even got spat on because he got himself a guitar case, fucking pathetic. Obviously we had no mobile phones or internet back then so things took a lot longer to evolve which I really miss. Today is all about instant gratification and nothing is allowed to nurture organically. You can write a song now and upload it onto the web immediately. If you listen to the old AXEGRINDER squat tapes there are lots of different versions of the songs that actually got recorded. We wrote, re-wrote etc. and I think that has petered out a little.
SP: What is the current line-up of the band? You show just two original members on official photos and on the record, though you seem to practice with other people as well.
Trev: Myself on vocals, Steve on Guitar and Daryn on Drums are all original members. In addition we have Chris on Bass (ex-WARTECH) Debs on Samples (ex-BE MY ENEMY) and Phil on second guitar (ex-SLUG). Only I and Steve were on the “Satori” album hence the official pictures for its release.
SP: What’s the plan for AXEGRINDER in the nearest future? Are you planning to be an active live band? There was a gig with DEVIATED INSTINCT in Camden recently, any more to expect? A tour?
Trev: We did the gig with DEVIATED INSTINCT which went really well and we were so pleased to have DI on the bill. We have a few dates in Europe in 2019 and another in the UK, where we are doing a one night only special set. Hopefully at the end of the year we will head out to the States. We have started writing the new album and have rough ideas for about three tracks, sounding very different to “Satori”! Beyond that we haven’t got a plan.