"Get the Corporations out of the music business. Put the rebellion back into it. Make it art once again. We need more Warhol’s, John Lennon’s, Keith Richards, Bowie’s Hendrix’s. No more Beyoncé’s, and processed shit just to sell more crap we don’t need."
Pat Axe: Steady Rolling Man
Pat Axe is a professional guitarist, vocalist and songwriter who began playing professionally in Toronto, Canada in the 1980s; he started out in small folk clubs, and moved on to play Reggae and Soul in the band Burning Desire. His diversity is well-known among many of Canada’s leading musicians and singers. Axe has played everything from Grover Washington, Peter Tosh, Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff, to Rolling Stones, Santana, Taxi, Sam Cooke and Ben E. King. Axe toured extensively on the Jamaican and Barbadian club circuit throughout Southern Ontario. Out of Burning Desire Axe formed the Reggae outfit, 2 Pulse 3, which leaned more toward the rock than soul and roots. He worked in some of Toronto’s legendary clubs, Hotel Isabella, Turning Point, Larry’s Hideaway, El Mocambo, and The Horseshoe Tavern, to name a few.
What influenced him from the beginning though is Blues and Rock n’ Roll. Soon he was on stages with Maureen Brown, Crash Morgan, Jerome Godboo, Elbow Room, Gas Money and Cigarettes, and his own group, The Pat Axe Band. Axe relocated to the West Coast in late 1993, playing with many bands throughout the West Coast including Bitter Sweet, Rhythm Street, and the Ray Myers Band. He recorded with Ernest Lee and Cotton Traffic for a release produced by Doug Johnson of Loverboy; and played in the Ray Myers R&B and Blues Band. Pat Axe is currently recording some new songs in a more acoustic setting, so hopefully there will be a new cd of originals and maybe some of his favorite cover songs available soon.
What do you learn about yourself from the Blues/ Rock n’ Roll culture?
Well let’s put it this way amongst any community there is usually a form of social network, whether it’s a 9 to 5 office setting or working in the service industry or being an artist. I knew that the blues spoke to me and I knew there were some strick rules I had to follow there are people and institutions that have been around for a long time and they need too be acknowledged and treated with respect. Example when I first started playing professionally there were clubs that were institutions and if you wanted to play them and be treat with respect you went with the format that came before you. I remember playing some Blues Clubs in Toronto in the early 80’s and there was a kind of a guide line that you adhered to. If it is a blues & rock n roll club you stayed with in the format. Meaning Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, BB King, Albert King, Freddie King, Little Walter, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard etc., you learnt this material if you wanted to fit in or get accepted it was the template. With learning anything the challenge is so vast that. But it is rewarding if you’re playing and there is a room full of people and someone approaches the band and asked for a song by lets say Little Richard say Long Tall Sally and you don’t know it but you know Lucille you ask them will this song due and usually if you know something similar. That is all part of culture.
Blues to me is the soul of what I’m after the root the hidden gem. It is the root of almost all music if is the musical scale that give most music its voice. I’m always trying to find the blues in any format I’m playing, getting right inside of a piece and finding its pulse. Whether it be country, ska, reggae, pop, rock, I try and get as familiar with the piece so that I’m able to inject a piece of myself. And usually you get hired because someone hears something in you that stands out and that is what they would like you to bring in when they put you in the hot seat.
How do you describe Pat Axe sound and songbook?
I was born in September 6, 1955. I can still remember the music playing in our house there was always music on we had a radio in the kitchen and it was usually on. My dad loved Hank Williams, Nat King Cole and Jim Reeves. But by the time I actually really remember music coming out of the radio it was the pop music of the era and it was pretty bland. I was six in 1962 Elvis wasn’t doing Hound Dog anymore he was making movies, Chuck Berry was in jail, Little Richard was preaching, and the Beatles hadn’t come out yet in North America. So we got the Jan & Deans and Pokka Dot Bikini, Frankie and Annette. There was a lot of crap out there.
And also that was the beginning of the Motown sound, which was getting radio play in Toronto and having and older brother I was exposed to that. So I’m influenced by everything from Disney theme songs to Motown and everything in between. I can’t stress enough how having grown up in the 1960’s impacted my musical tastes and having and a brother that was five years older than I was. I got exposed to so much. At the same time I was watching the Monkee’s and Batman on TV my brother was exposing me to The Stones, Hendrix, Joplin, The Doors, Cream, Sly & the Family Stone, James Brown, Wilson Picket, The Supremes. My Brother Bob, took me to my first concert and that was The Band at Massey Hall. January 1970 grade eight. Then I was in high school from 1970 to 1975 and the music that was coming out was amazing even though The Beatles just broke up and Jimi Hendrix died. The music was changing and I was there too take it all in. Soo I’m influenced by all that came before and the music that came out during those years in school. Plus I love Reggae and Latin Base Rock, Santana, Marley…
It’s all music forget about trying to classify it, and stop trying to give it names. It’s either good or it’s not. You have to stay honest to yourself. Follow your heart.
"Rock n' Roll was an off spring of the Blues…Punk was born out of the Reggae & Ska scene its rebellion."
Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice has given you?
The most important meeting I’d say I’ve had in my life musically was meeting my best friend Glenn we learnt to play music together he played drums and I learnt guitar so we spent many hours learning together. Plus we were best friend we did everything together as teenagers... We liked the same music and we influenced each other. We both loved Santana, Cream, Beatles, Rod Stewart, The Faces, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, Jethro Tull, The Who, CSN&Y and all of the greats from the era. We were both lucky to of had older bothers who exposed us to such great music.
Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
There are so many memories, the first time performed on stage with one of the bands I was in was at a school assembly the curtain parted and we heard a bunch of people but couldn’t see a thing. I was standing at the back of the stage next to the piano and but when I saw pictures it looked like I was trying to hide from view. Then there was the time I started breaking away from the pack which it what most people do it’s called growing. I was in a band and it was a Reggae Soul Funk Band called Burning Desire. We were playing great tunes, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Peter Tosh, Ben E. King, Drifters, Stones, Motown... And we were playing in a Jamaican club this was in 1981 or 82, I was the only white guy in the band not to mention the only white person in the club. The first thing I heard when I walked into the club was the doorman saying what the fuck are you doing here. I’m in the Band I said. Thankfully the drummer and singer were still near by and they told the doorman I was ok and was in the band. But after we played a set everything was good. That was a six night stint and I saw a lot of things in that week that would make a lot of people quit the music business. I saw someone get stabbed on the dance floor, saw a guy get stopped at the door and they happened to find a gun on him plus he’d been wanted by the police. That was an eye opener. And I also remember the audience didn’t want to like me until I started playing then they realize holy shit this guy can play.
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past?
There will never be another Beatles, Rolling Stones, Hendrix, Supremes, Chuck Berry. The Record companies don’t give development deals anymore. Unless you look like Katty Perry hot and young and can sell Revlon for them all. They’ve got the youth convinced that if it’s on TV and the radio its good. Wrong it’s just that the bankers are backing it. There is no rebellion left in Rock n' Roll anymore.
"Blues to me is the soul of what I’m after the root the hidden gem. It is the root of almost all music if is the musical scale that give most music its voice."
(Photo: Pat Axe, c. 1980s)
What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
My hopes are that no more club and venues close due to the lack of support. And the young will realize no matter what is in fashion this week that the Roots of modern music are the blues. Whether its Rap. Pop, Rock, Country. It’s all comes back to the Blues.
If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
Get the Corporations out of the music business. Put the rebellion back into it. Make it art once again. We need more Warhol’s, John Lennon’s, Keith Richards, Bowie’s Hendrix’s. No more Beyoncé’s, and processed shit just to sell more crap we don’t need.
What is the impact of Blues & Reggae music and culture to the racial and socio-cultural implications?
Rock n' Roll was an off spring of the Blues…Punk was born out of the Reggae & Ska scene its rebellion.
Make an account of the case of blues in Canada. Which is the most interesting period in local blues scene?
I think there is a period in history that happen in Toronto and New York at the same time. In Toronto there was Yonge Street and Yorkville back in the Sixties where the folk scene was around and was fueling the fledging blues scene with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Pete Seeger, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot. Then there were the bars on Yonge Street, Ronnie Hawkins was playing and when he had the Band as his backing group. Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, B.B. King, Albert King, Etta James were all playing the Clubs on Yonge Street. Also Maripossa Folk Festivals helped a lot.
"My hopes are that no more club and venues close due to the lack of support. And the young will realize no matter what is in fashion this week that the Roots of modern music are the blues. Whether its Rap. Pop, Rock, Country. It’s all comes back to the Blues."
What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the local blues circuits?
What has made me laugh is when the whole scene in a city is controlled by the same four bands and agents and they build condo’s near the night spots and then complain it’s too noisy.
What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with Rock n’ Roll and R&B and continue to Reggae?
The lines as far as I view it are…Louis Armstrong, John Hammond Sr., Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker, Hank Williams, BB, Albert, Freddie King, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Stax- Booker T & The MG’s, Wilson Picket, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Motown, The Wailers… It’s all connected too good music and the one big they all have in common is good music soul and it all shares the same scales. There really is no difference between Reggae and Soul Music or Country.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?
Monterey Pop festival 1967, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Jimi Hendrix set the world on fire, Ravi Shankar, Mamas and the Pappas’s, The Who…They were all there and it was the beginning of the movement.
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