I started the band in í84. Just a small tot and we were one of the first bands that were really playing heavy metal stuff. We were a cover band playing UFO and Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. For four years we built up a strong following all through the South and it was a different time. There were a lot of clubs. There were a lot of people going out. The scene was really healthy and the fans were healthy. It was really probably one of the best times for live music in a long time. In í87 we got asked to open up for Ratt and Queensryche. We did a bunch of shows as an unsigned band because we were so strong as a draw and next thing you knew, we were doing these Ratt shows and after the second show Marshall Berle who was Rattís manager called me up at home and told me he wanted to work with me and asked if I wanted a record deal. Then they flew MCA people out and told them to check the band out. They came out. I had written all the material and I was basically the leader of the band. I own the name. They werenít satisfied with the band as it was but they wanted to sign me so it wound up being a situation where I got signed to MCA and was asked to form a whole new band. It was a tough decision to make but I had to make that decision and then when I got Ron, our singer, first bass player Rob Stratton, first guitar player Jon Ster, and our first drummer Danny King, basically made the phone call. They were all in a band together. I called them up and asked them if they wanted to have a record deal with MCA and would like to be part of the band. I knew all the other guys from the tour circuit and they immediately said yeah, sure. We didnít even know each that well when we first started so we got together, rehearsed, did some shows, and started pre-production for the first album. First album came out in í88 and thatís when everything started.
You and Ron are the only two actual founding members left in the band.
From the first album, yeah. Weíve been through a few changes. For the first two albums, it was myself and Ron, Jon Ster, Rob Stratton, and Danny King. After the Love And War album which was our second album, we got a new bass player who is still with us, Darrin Delatte, and a new drummer, Gene Barnett who is from the band Dirty Looks. After Poetic Justice, we stayed the same and we got a new drummer. It didnít work out with Gene and we got Tommy Scott who is known now as Tommy Stewart from Godsmack. As of up until a couple of months ago heís not in the band anymore. I donít know what happened. Heís not drumming for them. After that we went through a situation where we split up in í95. Actually we took a long break. We all started other bands and a few years ago due to overwhelming response from fans we decided to do a couple of reunion shows. They got really good. We put out an album of B-sides called Fields Of Yesterday. My brother Craig plays drums for Zakk Wylde in Black Label Society right now. He also was in my other band Near Life Experience. He sat in for Lillian Axe taking Tommyís spot so he was our fourth drummer. When he got the gig for Zakk Wylde we replaced him with Ken Koudelka who is our fifth and hopefully final drummer. Also a couple of years ago Sam Poitevent took Jon Sterís place. Samís the other guitar player in Near Life Experience, my other band. There are a few changes here and there but the nuclei is still the same.
Why was it that MCA was not satisfied with your original members?
I think they were just looking for a different lead frontman. The guy was a great frontman. They felt that he wasnít the right voice for the material. At the time, the very original lineup, there was a lot of alcohol and drug abuse basically. It was too much for me because I donít do any of it and I really have difficulty dealing with people around me that do. We had a lot of inner turmoil and it was a decision where, you know what? You can not take this deal and stay in a situation that might not even exist in six months at this pace or you take a shot and you go for it. The guys were compensated and we moved on. Danny King, the first drummer, was actually the drummer too so I got to keep him but we replaced the singer, the bass player, and added another guitar player.
Your debut album was produced by Robbin Crosby. Why was he your choice?
Because of doing the Ratt shows, Marshall Berle became our manager on the first two albums. Robbin wanted to get into producing bands. He liked us. Because Marshall was managing him, Marshall was managing us, he just kept it in the family. Robbin liked the band so we wanted to take his shot at producing.
Did you get to work with him again after that?
No, he didnít do any other bands after that. I donít know. I think it was shortly thereafter that that Ratt started to go through their difficulties. He didnít do any more producing.
Thatís a pity.
Yeah, he passed away a couple of months ago. A wonderful guy. Great guy. I talked to him maybe eight months or 10 months or so ago. Itís a real shame.
Weíve been losing a lot of good people lately.
You guys went on hiatus for a while.
Well, kind of. We got involved in other things. My other band has started Come Near Life Experience. Our second album comes out September 17th which is a month after this Lillian Axe live album. Itís as equal a priority to me as Lillian is.
Especially if youíre going somewhere with that.
Absolutely, yeah. Plus Iím playing guitar in Angel. Remember the band Angel? Late 70ís, early 80ís.
Yes I am quite familiar with that band. I had interviewed Gordon Gebert a while back. Lillian Axe is putting out itís first live release.
Yes, yes. Weíve been talking about doing a live album for years but nothing we ever recorded came out well enough. Or it was for a radio show we couldnít get the rights to it. I hate live albums and I told everybody Iíll do a live album if it sounds good. If it doesnít, Iím not doing it. Iím not going to put my name on it. Most live albums are horrible. We brought in an outside guy named Ernie Wells. He came and recorded the show. We spent about a week mixing it and trying to make it as a true representation of the show and it came out real well. Actually even if it wasnít my band, itís one of the best sounding live albums Iíve heard and it keeps totally true to the show. The crowdís a very integral part of it. It really came out well. It comes out August 20th.
The day after my birthday. You recorded it at the 19th Hole in Houston.
Yes. We play there a lot. Lillian and Near Life Experience both play there a lot.
When was the last time you guys put out a studio album?
í93 was when Psycho Schizophrenia came out. We put out a B-side album in í99 I believe it was.
At this point in the interview Steve had me open the CD cover of their live CD and it had a very impressive collage of photos that they had received from fans around the world.
Who put this together for you guys?
The guy from the label basically worked with us.
That is fucking rad man. What did they do, just lay all the photos side by side?
Yeah, lay it all out and try to squeeze it. Thereís everything with me and Ronnie James Dio.
You guys are doing gigs with Cinderella and Judas Priest.
Yeah, tomorrow night we play New Orleansí House Of Blues which is the first time Lillian Axe played New Orleans, our hometown, in seven years.
Is everyone in Lillian Axe from New Orleans?
No. Myself, Sam the other guitar player, and Darrin the bass player. Ron and Ken are from Dallas.
How long are you guys out on the road?
There arenít lot of shows set up. Weíre actually not going out like an extensive U. S. tour right now. Weíre waiting for the record to come out. Weíre coming back here, I think itís August 23rd, to do a CD release party. Weíre doing that and weíll be adding a lot more shows plus my other bandís doing shows all the time too. Weíre very busy.
How did you become a member of Angel?
I just got a phone call. They were looking for somebody to take Punky Meadowís place. Evidently the guys knew me from Lillian Axe and asked me to fly to New York. I knew all the stuff from when I was a kid because I was a huge fan when I was a kid. I knew the material better than they did. I just flew up there and we started playing. It was cool to walk in and then ďhey this is Frank DiMino and Barry.Ē These guys were my idols when I was a kid. Barryís great. Heís a big kid.
How does it feel to play with people you idolized as a kid?
The great thing about it is theyíre like ďokay we need to do another record. Go ahead and write it.
Whenís that coming out?
Itís going to be a while. Thank God the Near Life albumís coming out September. I donít have to worry about too much writing yet. Weíre going to do another Lillian Axe studio album. A lot of itís written already but I have my work cut out there too. Thatíll be the first studio album in nine or 10 years.
When will we see the studio album?
Hopefully at the end of the year or beginning of next year.
Youíre a busy guy.
Yeah, Iím retardedly busy.
Are you just doing a couple of gigs with Cinderella and Judas Priest?
Yeah, just a couple of gigs here and there. Weíd like to get on a package tour if something came around that was good. Itís a weird situation. Youíve got to be careful about who you go out with and who you set yourself up with because of the fact that Lillian was always considered kind of a big underground cult favorite. We didnít have huge, huge commercial success which could make us look like a bunch of has-beens trying to get back into it. We always maintained a steady cult following all the time so we feel like with the right album, with the right push, this next record could still take off. We get locked into the Ď80s hair thing because we came out at that time but our success came in the Ď90s. Thatís when we sold the most records. Thatís when we had the most MTV attention. Thatís when we had the most radio attention. We toured around the world in the Ď90s so we might have started back then but we just kind of get locked into that. Weíre trying to maintain not losing our roots but at the same time weíre also pigeonholed. Weíre really not but we are kind of. If you listen to our last album, Psycho Schizophrenia, that album is probably 10 years ahead of itís time. It was a lot heavier than most of the stuff that was out right then and there. We donít look at ourselves as fitting any type of particular mold or timeframe. Itís just hereís the band and this is what we do. We try to stay away from that because it will kill you sometimes. It killed a lot of good bands.
I know. I was told Great White disbanded because they couldnít get a record deal because nobody wanted to deal with someone that was back in the Ď80s. Seems to me if they still put out good music what difference does it make?
Somebody out there would give them a deal. They might not get the 10 million dollar deal theyíd like to have but if you still have your fans and you write good stuff, find a decent deal with good distribution, put it out there and you can wind up making a lot more money selling less records. Itís tough for anybody out there. Any band that sells tons of records now. Youíve got to be very lucky and fortunate. There are bands out there selling a lot of records and all. Theyíre still struggling. Itís not easy as it used to be and thereís a lot of obstacles. A lot more obstacles now to overcome in being successful than there were 10 or 15 years ago.
I think the days of becoming a multi million dollar rich rock star are over with.
Yeah, you can sell records. You can have a good career and be smart with your money. There are a lot of people that made tons and tons of money that blew it all. The people that are frugal and smart with a decent amount of money can live well. It all depends on what youíre doing it for. Iíd love to become filthy rich too but thatís not the reason why weíre doing it. Weíre doing this to increase the bandís what we consider our legacy. For whatever extent it got and how big we became or what weíve done, weíve accomplishedÖwhen I open this thing up and I look at this right here, this pretty much says it all to me (opening up the CD cover). Thatís what we did so far. This is our seventh album. Weíll do an eighth and thatís a piece of history. No matter how many hundreds of thousands of records we sold, you canít take that away from us. Weíll continue to keep on doing this.
Itís always going to be out there.
Itís always going to be out there in some form even if itís hard to find. Thatís what we try to do with this album. Itís a little bit of every record on here. Thereís 21 songs. Itís a double album. The labelís selling it for the price of a single CD which is very good. Itís going to be everywhere and itís a nice cross section of all of our albums.
What kind of setlist are you guys playing?
Two songs from each album.
You took classical guitar training.
Yeah. When I was seven thatís when I started playing guitar. Classical and flamenco guitar. I was a teenager before I even started playing rock guitar. As a matter of fact, I met a guy the other day that was a kind of popular rock guitar player when I was a young teen and he was a little older than me so he was a hot guy in town. I went over to his house one day. He was telling me this story. I didnít even quite remember. He said ďman, you came over to my house one day and you were sitting there. You asked me how to show you all these rock licks and I was like Ďall right kid, come on. Let me show you this.í Then you picked it up and you started playing that flamenco and I quit playing guitar for a while after watching you.Ē I didnít know any riffs because thatís all I knew. I was really good at classical flamenco and nobody was playing that kind of stuff. It was an easy adaptation for me to go from classical into playing rock because my technique was good and it helped my sense of melody. I think itís helped me immensely with my writing. I still listen to tons of classical and new age. I listen to that more than anything else.
Do you incorporate some of that into the songs that you write?
Yeah, yeah. Not necessarily playing acoustic pieces in the songs but the whole sense of melody and chord progression and construction of a song. That has a lot to do with it.
Any other comments or ideas?
Sure. The live album out August 20th. The Near Life Experience album is called Day Of Silver Sun comes out September 17th. Websites are www.lillianaxecentral.com and www.nleweb.com for Near Life Experience and thatís it. Look for a new studio album from Lillian Axe at the end of the year.