Axe - Bobby Barth

Axe - Bobby Barth

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“Axeology 1979-2001” is already out there and in fact was a perfect occasion to contact Bobby Barth and have inside info about this release and all the immediate plans. As it turned out this was a mostly friendly phone call and, to tell you the truth, I fully enjoying talking to what it felt an old friend of mine rather than doing a typical interview. So, check it out below.

Good morning Bobby, how are you?
Hey Dimitris, I am good and rather cold.

First of all, excuse my accent since I am Greek…
Your speak English way better than I speak Greek. (laughs)

Yeah, you are right. So, the obvious question, how did you decide to release “Axeology”?
I always wanted to put out as much of the material that I own in one spot, so people won’t have to search and eventually buy all these bootlegs out there.

Does this mean that you own the rights of all the albums?
I don’t have the rights to all of them. Atlantic has the rights for “Offering” and “Nemesis” so the only thing I could do was to re-record some of the songs in order to use them. They also have another label that has those two released but there is not much to do about it. It is just the way the contracts were signed.

Yeah, AXE was one of those bands that signed ridiculous contracts dismissing in reality all the rights to their music…
Rock ‘N’ Roll Party In The Streets was a huge success in the US being number one in almost every market and I never made a dollar for this.

That’s exactly what I am saying…
So many people took advantage of bands back in those days. Of course as I got older, I started to understand the business better but it was too late. On the other hand, there is not much to do, so there is no point to sit and complain about it. Move on and do something else.

Do you think or in fact do you know if this situation between the managers and the bands has changed nowadays?
Oh yeah, the bands are aware of the situation and the labels know that they can no longer get away with it. There have been many lawsuits and many labels were sent to court so yes, the situation is way different nowadays. But it’s true that up to this day, I have no idea how many copies of Rock ‘N’ Roll Party In The Streetswere sold. I know it was in number 61 or 62 in the year ending charts of Billboard having beat Sting’s “Spirits In The Material World” for airplay.

Even though you said that things have become easier for the bands to be protected by the labels when signing a record deal but don’t you think that the feeling of writing music has been lost. I mean, nowadays you see bands going to famous producers to make a successful album.
Well, the technology we have today allows everyone who just has the desire to make a record to do so. And this also means many bad albums are released out there and it eventually clogs the highway for people like yourself who listens and writes album reviews. In the old days you would get five or six albums a week and now you can get a hundred, because everyone is making records. Again in the old days you had to walk a long and hard road to get to the point to make an album. Now you can buy a machine for 200 dollars and you can home to make an album. In some ways this is good because many young artists come out but it is also bad since there is so much traffic from new releases. It seems like everyone is moving in a real slow pace.

I see what you’re saying. So, you had to re-record some songs from “Offering” and “Nemesis”…
Indeed, I try to stay as true as I could but back in the old days I was not the producer. In fact, I was one of those guys who when the engineer said ‘push that fader up’, my hand would start to sweat and I would be afraid... Now that I am a producer, I found so many things that I would like to change but I had to stop myself in order to leave the songs as much the same as I could. I tried to give the fans a true representation of these tracks; I used the same keyboard player and drummer to get as close as possible to the originals. But still, people change as they grow, so there are some differences. We kept listening to the original versions in order to spot any differences with the new version and made the proper adjustments.

I have to say that your vocals sound pretty much the same…
Yeah, there are some songs that I sing with Bob Harris who was also AXE’s keyboard player and was from Frank Zappa’s band. So, all those two double vocal harmonies are Bob and I singing together. The reason that I liked him was because he sounded like me but had also a little better range from me. I smoke Gauloises cigarettes for forty years so my voice is very gritty and bluesy, so he can sing those high notes that I cannot sing.

And this is why you sound great for your new band LOUISIANA HOODOO KREWE, right?
Yeah, this has been a lot of fun. And in fact fun was the only reason to form this band. I can play what I want and exactly the way I want it. You know, I spent the last few years with BLACKFOOT again that is a well-structured band with every song being the same every night. With LOUISIANA HOODOO KREWE we don’t even have a setlist and choose on the spot what we want to play. And it’s a wonderful band by the way.

You have an album coming out, right?
Yeah, we are thinking about it but many things business-wise happened the last year, so I am trying to decide with the thing I want to do. I have an entire album written that is sort of Blues and I think you can check some tracks on Youtube. The thing is that I record these songs in one take. When I have a new song, I just enter the studio to record it because I don’t want to forget it. As you understand, I have a huge collection of songs sitting on my computer, so I am thinking of making an album with them. It might not be AOR hits but it’s very personal material and I don’t think I have something to prove. I do things because fans like them and because I simply like to do them.

What about getting AXE back on the road?
We have scheduled to play in ‘Sweden Rock Festival’ and in ‘Z7’ (10th of June) in Switzerland. I wouldn’t mind recreating one of the tours that we did when we were younger. You know we toured with JUDAS PRIEST (4 times), Ozzy, KISS, IRON MAIDEN, MÖTLEY CRÜE so it would be great to do that again. But touring is so different now and it’s very expensive. You have to pay hundreds of dollars to see a good show. If AEROSMITH comes to town you have to pay big money to get a good seat. In the “Axeology” there is a ticket photo with a price of $1.05. Of course, it was a radio station promotion (their number was 105), but still, you did not have to pay that much to see a show. Plus, there are not that many good bands out there, although I am not looking to find some. But I see the bands that come in New Orleans to play live that are not that good.

The strange thing for me is that even though the US have given birth to many great AOR/Hard Rock bands, people (especially the young ones) seem to have forgotten them.
Well, it’s a new generation and I think every new one wants to show that is smarter and in the end of the day, you don’t want to listen to the same music your parents were into. Even if you liked it, you wouldn’t admit it in an attempt to prove that you are different. I also think that is slowly comes around. I am seeing people rediscovering AOR and, in fact, I am getting mails from young guys who had just listened to “Axeology” and want to learn more about AXE. You know AOR was all about great songs and great songs never die.

Is there any chance to get “Axeology” on vinyl?
That would be a matter of the record label. But I also think this would be very expensive since there are 36 songs in it, so having a limit of 26 minutes per record, I am afraid it would be a lot of records. But I love to see that.

Are there any plans with Cleopatra Records to release more music? Or did you just sign a one-time contract?
No, it’s a long term situation. The deal we signed was for the entire catalogue and there are two or three albums setting there. So, in the months to follow, you will see things released. There are a lot of the recordings that Andy Parker [original drummer of UFO] and I did together. There are also songs that never made it in an album, simply because there were already two power ballads and there was no space for a third one. The original contract took forever to do because it took a lot of time to find all the publish information about the songs.

Going through the liner notes of the compilation, I realized there is a really interesting story about AXE. So, have you ever thought of writing a book about all these?
Actually, I have been writing a book for a long time. The problem that I have is that there are so many people mentioned that I wouldn’t like getting them in trouble. There are things that I and Nikki Sixx did I wouldn’t like to reveal, since Nikki’s wife would not be so happy (laughs). So, I am trying to be careful about this. I think the story will be also helpful for new bands to be on the look out for people who do not have the best motivation in their hearts. It is true that this happens less than it did in the past, but it sill happens.

Wherever there is money involved, there are a lot of people you cannot put your trust in them.
Yeah, and this is kind of sad. There is a term called produciary responsibility; do you know this term?

No, I haven’t heard of it.
This means that when you sign a contract with someone, you have the responsibility to look after them. Your responsibility is to make them money. And managers have the tendency to forget this. They are hired to make the band’s money and not for themselves. There are manager with millions of dollars and the people who got them there very little. I even thought of making t-shirts with the definition of this term and send them to all these managers and help them remember that they suppose to work for the bands and not the other way around.

Is there any kind of time schedule for this book?
It just keeps getting bigger as the years go by. I started writing this, six years ago and eventually I will have to find a real writer to help me out and clean it out a little bit. I rumble a little bit when I am talking about things; I go from Chicago in 1968 and suddenly we are in Denver 1965 and then back in ’68, so I need a professional help. Eventually it will get done even though it’s not my number one priority. I am also doing some charity work with an organization that works with kids. And in fact for this reason I had to take down part of the book that I had put online on my website, since I didn’t want kids to learn what I had done in the past and think it was alright. I started being in a band in 1967 so lived through the sexual revolution, the drugs and I was very afraid to give the kids the impression that this was ok.

But at the same time you are the person who can talk about these experiences and explain what is good and what is not.
Yeah, if I had the kids in a room I could explain all these things but having stuff on the internet cannot work that way. You don’t know who is going to read it and what impression it will make.

Well, Bobby it was a pleasure talking to you, so I’d love to discuss more with you. Also I’d love to watch you live with AXE or with LOUISIANA HOODOO KREWE.
Yep, that would be cool. I also have to tell you that we are planning to video tape the AXE show in ‘Sweden Rock Festival’ that will be released as a DVD. With this way we will give people a chance to see the band, if they cannot come to a show. Probably we will release the DVD by ourselves. Actually we are going to have a site called axebandcentral and make band-related stuff available to the fans. This is not for making money but just for posterity. I think it’s better to do this by ourselves rather than going to some label. It makes more sense that way, even though we won’t have the publishers from a label, but it will be available online for people to find. After all, the prices will be reasonable, since the costs will be also low.