Interview with AxMinister. (Band Interview)
Today we speak to Bas “von Bismark” Majzoub, Drummer of Canadian Thrash Metal outfit AxMinister. Their sound is influenced by such masters as Slayer, Megadeth, and Manowar. Their lyrical content focuses on film, history, politics, and religion.
Let’s start with this: What’s the history of your band?
AxMinister was initially formed in 1999 by Nicholas Klaus (bass, vocals) and Bas “von Bismark” Majzoub (drums) as a way to creatively express our similar influences. The band disbanded in 2001, because Klaus had to move. In 2008, his schooling was done, and he and Bas restarted the band.
What’s your musical history? (Trained or Amateur)?
Klaus (bass/vocals) studied classical and jazz in university. Upon completion of his schooling, he realized that only metal makes him happy. Tim has taken private lessons with a few different teachers over the years….in terms of technique; he got that from learning Yngwie Malmsteen solos and from various REH videos…. He has been playing in bars since he was in grade 9; venues such as the Marquee and Opera House, and played at the Masonic Temple (the Concert Hall) before he was 20 years old. He currently teaches at two different schools. Bas is self taught and is still confused by the drum stick.
So what can you tell us about your latest album? (Inspiration. Sound. Style.)
We stay consistent with our historic and movie inspired lyrics. The EP has a ’90’s warm thrash sound akin to Megadeth’s Youthanasia album. The first single “Prey” delves into the dark-side of our human sexuality, and hopefully engages the audience emotionally, while at the same time they groove and rock out with what we think is a driving song. For the album, we hope the audience joins us on a journey that is at times fictional, visual and imaginative, while other times introspective and contemplative. We also hope they get to dance, head bang, and mosh to it.
How did you go about making it?
We had about 10 songs to choose from, and vying upon quality over quantity, we picked our personal favourites, the pieces we were tightest with, as well as crowd favourites. We were honest with ourselves and the music, and made sure we were studio ready; by respecting the process, and trusting Juno winning producer Ryan Jones, and with the masterful mastering from Harry Hess, we reached our goal and achieved a quality recording.
Anything you’ve learnt as you’ve gone along? Or have you simply tried a bit of everything to see how it works?
Following every recording and show, we try to reflect on our mistakes, and attempt to improve. We grew to understand our ’90’s thrash/traditional heavy metal style of song writing, and compose accordingly. We also get the importance of having a big sound on stage and on record, and the importance of working with a good producer.
What sort of technology and instruments do you work with?
Klaus uses Fender Jazz Bass; it’s the best bass available because it is a very versatile instrument that can be used use for any genre of music. Also, it’s the bass used by Steve Harris. For amp, an Ampeg B2-RE head with a 10×4 cab on top and a 1×12′ cab at the bottom. Ampeg gives a very clean tone and the equipment is very durable. Sometimes it’s a surprise that the gear still works after all the falls and bumps it goes through.
Tim uses Ibanez 7 & 8 string guitars that have been customized to his specs to get a variety of sounds and for them to be as versatile as possible….. a Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 18 and Quilter Mini 101 heads, and 2 H&K TM112 cabs, plus a Truetone Jekyll & Hyde, and Digitech Whammy DT pedals….this set-up is versatile and suits many needs.
Anything you’re keen to use on your next album?
We plan to do a rough demo of all our unrecorded songs, and then let our producer Ryan Jones pick his favourite 5 or 6 tracks to record. We’re looking forward to giving him more of a role in arranging the songs etc, he has a great ear, and can’t wait to work with him again.
Any future plans for your solo work, or do you have other projects on the horizon?
AxMinister keeps us nice and busy!
Any plans for upcoming live shows?
We are currently working on booking a summer tour in support of the album.
Let’s have a few general questions now.
What do you see as a musician’s role in society?
The first responsibility of an artist is to himself, the second is to their audience, and the third is towards society at large. It’s different in pop, but in metal, we have something colourful to say. A lot of contemporary music is influenced by its culture, while others direct it. A simple example is that if you’re a death metal band, you must have blast beats, that’s part of the genre’s culture, though if you’re Cannibal Corpse, you’re writing the book on death metal; and that’s true throughout music history, because it is another form of communication for us humans; that is to say, music is an existential expression that is integral to the human experience. Whether we’re aware of it or not, it’s a big part of how humans communicate.
How’s the scene different in your country to what we’re familiar with? -Anything unique to your country?
Canada has produced some of the greatest hard rock and metal bands in history. Metal, however, is a global phenomenon, and locally I’m sure, our vibrant Toronto scene is comparable to Sydney’s for example, as in, denim and leather clad metal heads hit their local clubs drinking and moshing to great local and underappreciated talent. We’re lucky in the West, where we have our right of free expression, and metal bands aren’t jailed or charged with ‘thought’ or ‘moral’ crimes. Metal might have a lot of sub-genres, it is one culture, and it doesn’t matter where you’re from or your creed, if a good riff or double kicks because you head-bang, you’ll fit in within any metal crowd, in any city.
Where do you stand on music videos? -Do you see their value in today’s world?
Music videos are just another way to reach an audience, as well as communicate your vision for a song or an idea. Bas (drummer) is also a film-maker, and Nicholas has done some acting, so music videos are a big part of the AxMinister experience. We plan on releasing a 5 part miniseries, one episode for each song of the ‘The Crucible of Sin’ EP.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
The music industry is constantly changing, we just have to make sure we’re honest with ourselves as to who or what we support; we, along with a lot people, are against pay to play, for example, so we don’t work with such promoters, however, there are just as many bands that have no issue with pay to play, and use the concept as a tool to advance their careers, and that’s great, why not? Like Ozzy said, “I don’t want to change the world, and I don’t want the world to change me!”
Any advice for new bands?
Advice is for lawyers, doctors, and douche-bags.
Star Wars or Star Trek?
Star Trek, because science over mysticism.
Sci-Fi or Fantasy?
Tough call. Easier to handle Sci-Fi cheese.
Depends, at the turn of the 20th century, propaganda aside, horror cinema was the first to exploit the creative potential of the new medium. Horror cinema has always been at the forefront creatively, since the beginning; however, notwithstanding every generation’s defining horror picture(s), the majority of horror cinema is crap.
Books or Comics?
Grew up on comics, graduated to books.
Trump or Putin?
Anything you’d like to tell our readers?
I hope you like the new album, and please support your local metal venues. Dave Mustaine doesn’t need your dollar anymore, there’s a ton of great music and art from local bands around the world, find the ones near you, get to their shows, and buy their merchandise!
Any last words for our readers?
Find your town’s metal bar, and start going to local shows. If there aren’t any local shows, then put some on!