With 25 years in the scene German AXXIS deserves all credit that they can get. Celebrating this occasion with a DVD and an interview with Battle Helm Bernhard answered my questions. ©2015 Anders Ekdahl
Something I have been wondering is if your name is a version of the word Access? Where does the name come from?
-Haha, cool idea. No, when I’ve joined the band , they’ve called themselves ANVIL. I remember the huge anvil made out of wood in the rehearsal room and I was very impressed. I was about 20 years old. But because of the Canadian band with the same name we have to look for another one. The only rule: it must be a small word to get bigger letters on the posters for promotion. We choose the name AXIS sounds a bit like guitar axes but meaning wise, we think from now on everything has to turn around this band .
Than we’ve got the worldwide record deal with EMI and the company have found a publishing company in Germany called AXIS. So, we had to put another X inside our name to make it unique. That’s the band’s name story)
You have a 25 year anniversary DVD to promote. When you picked the songs for the DVD concert part how did you pick them?
-During our tour in 2014 and on many festivals before, we‘ve played almost all of them. So we got a good feeling and a lot experiences which songs would work better live on stage. Another input for choosing the best songs for our 25th Anniversary was a kind of poll on our webpage . After long discussions we tried to get the best ones for the best gig dramaturgy. It’s not easy to make over3 hours live music interesting for the people in the audience and for the people watching the DVD .
When you have a 25 year long history as a band how do you compile that on a DVD? How do you destill all memories to fit on a single disc?
-To be honest to you…that’s not possible. But music wise it’s a kind of walkthrough our history and the history of Germany or Europe. We wrote songs about the German Wall, the fall of the wall, the war in ex-Yugoslavia, the Loveparade tragedy in Germany , personal things like the death of my father, the dream we have dad in 1989 to become rock stars and the result today like having our own label now and feeling really independent from the business etc. AND the DVD shouldn’t get boring so a lot of other aspects are included
What is it that has made AXXIS survive for 25 years? You have been there through the ups and downs of the hardrock scene.
-Very easy: Just go through all ups and downs and learn. That makes you stronger and more independent. Believe in yourselve and
And: Respect your fans and the people around you. There was a guitar player in our band who really liked to make jokes and parodies about our fans and even our promoters…what can I say, that’s not acceptable and he had to leave the band …voluntary.
What kind of response have you had from your fans on you surviving 25 years?
-Al lot of positive responses. Even the people who are not really Axxis fans have to accept that AXXIS is still alive and had survived over the years. They are appreciating this very much today. This kind of thinking depends on the beginning of our career. In 1989 when we got a worldwide major deal with the EMI a lot of journalists expected a product made by a record company artificially. Because nobody had heard the name AXXIS before. Than we sold 150000 units and we got the best selling hard rock debut of all times in Germany. The people in the press were shocked .Since that time we’re not really accepted in the media world. Nobody knows that we had made music since 8years before under the name Anvil. Today 26 years later the situation changes and we got a many wonderful responses from people all over the world.
If you have to pick one era of the band, the present excluded, which would you say has been the greatest?
-There is no era that I could/would prefer.
The EMI phase was wonderful but we were young greenhorns. Okay, to live the sex, drug and rock n’roll cliché was awesome but strange too. I’d earned more money with music than my father with real hard work.
We got a management in London, we’ve earned a lot of money but for me it was too big. A lot of people in the Axxis surrounding earned too much. The productions in the USA were very expensive. And we have to learn: Everything is recoupable!
Then the digital age came up. We got the “kiss of death” from the EMI and after a small break we started again with Massacre Records in 2000 and AFM in 2004. The first time we have got more success aboard of Germany, because smaller labels are not concentrated only in the German market like the EMI before. We invested a lot of money in our Soundworxx studio and from now on we were able to produce our records independently from time & money. That depends on the digital market because the recording equipment was less expensive and affordable for us and many other musicians.
Than another AXXIS phase started. Because of our own studio and because of our knowhow we’ve got over the years we decided to form our own Publishing company called Phonotraxx Publishing. To be even more independent. That worked wonderful and we formed our own label Phonotraxx.
Today we are a kind of small 360-degree-company. We’re doing everything by ourselves like we’re producing our cds/dvds , we’re designing the cover & booklet, we’re designing our advertisement in magazines world wide, we’re producing the videos, we’re renting an own promoter for our releases, we’ve signed other bands (like Dawn of Destiny with To Hell right now),we’re working with a wonderful distribution called Soulfood and we can still live from music…and we survived the EMI…so which era is the best? I love all of them.
How has today’s market for music, physical V/S digtal, affected you as a band?
-Like I said before. Digital equipment is much more affordable today. You’re able to produce without a huge investment. The internet gives you million of great ways to promote your music. You don’t need a big record company anymore. The only thing you need is partner that is qualified and competent to help you like our label Phonotraxx, etc. Artists have to stick together and should use all advantages that were offered us today.
BUT on the other hand, big global players like google, youtube spotify infiltrated the music market and making big money without paying musicians enough compared to the money they get. It’s a shame but every medal has two sides.
All in all I think we have more advantages today than before.
Where over these 25 years have you gad your greatest success?
-Not easy to answer. What is success? Do you mean income/money? Or do you mean great reviews with a high position in the charts? When we started in 1989 we had earned a lot of money with Kingdom of the night but we had to share everything with managements, promoters, record company etc.
Today we’re selling less cd’s but we earn more money! For example when we sell cds from our webpage www.axxis.de we get 100% but all these records were not counted for the charts. And even if we sell more in regular cd shops or Amazon etc. we were counted for the charts but we just get 18%…so what’s more important, income or a kind of successful image that let you sleep under the bridge. I would recommend supporting your favorite band directly on their own webpage.
What is it like touring today compared to say 10 years ago? Can you carry a tour on your own with people coming to see you?
-Every year we’re going on tour and we have a huge fan base especially in Germany. So a lot of people would be disappointed if we would make a break This year we’re touring with SIX MAGIXS from Chile and two bands from Switzerland called Charing Cross & Crown of Glory. On one hand the metal scene in Germany is back in the underground and that’s what I really like. On the other hand we got millions of huge festivals like Wacken, Bang your heads, Summerbreeze, Rockhard etc, so the live business is really, really alive…it’s a great time !
What will the future bring?
-New records, new gigs, new ideas, new centuries, new political situation, new tragedies, new experiences …and in our small world we’re just have to go through all of it …and… survive.