Near Life Experience
Near Life Experience
Line-up: Steve Blaze, guitar/vocals; Craig Nunenmacher, drums; Bob Bearden, guitarist/vocals; Jeff "Okie" Okoneski, bass
Label: looking
Album: self-titled
Produced: NLE
Engineered: Dave Reynolds
E-mail: or

I love the name of this band. You already know a couple of these musicians. Steve Blaze comes from Lillian Axe and Nunenmacher spent time in Crowbar. Bearden is a guitarist with years of experience and Okoneski has recorded five independent albums and produced a number of bands. Together, the band rips it up. Blaze definitely has a way with words.

Q&A with Steve Blaze

Sheila Rene': How are you?
Steve Blaze: I'm doing very well.

SR: I moved recently so I'm still unpacking. I was going through some files over the weekend and out popped my notes from a November '93 concert at the Trocadero in San Francisco with you Accept and Strip Mind. What a coincidence.
SB: Wow. Okay, okay. Nice going.

SR: Let's go back to the Lillian Axe days.
SB: That was a stepping stone to where I am now. I wouldn't change a thing. I'm very happy, but I'd like quicker results from things I've done in my life. My decisions are always the best I can do at the time.

SR: You're hanging out around New Orleans.
SB: I'm still living in Kentucky, but I've been down here so much during the last year and a half putting this together. It has been hectic.

SR: All these songs are new.
SB: The CD you have is a teaser. We have 80+ songs written. This project started out to be putting some songs out so we could shop the labels. It got more detailed and there was a demand for it. We love recording so it wasn't a problem. Our songs tend to be a little longer than most bands.

SR: This seems to be in line with the norm. Only two songs are in the seven minute category.
SB: The oldest song is "Goodbye Cruel World" which is the last cut. The newest is "4 A.M. In A Cold Place" which is a fun tune to do live. We have a snow machine that covers the whole stage during that song.

SR: I actually felt cold listening to that song. I went over and turned the heat up.
SB: (laughing) I feel it too.

SR: What guitars did you use on this disc?
SB: I used the same white Charvel Strat that I've always used. I used a Les Paul Standard as well. I'm still faithful to those two guitars.

SR: You got your first guitar at age seven and by age 10 you had started private classical lessons. Does classical training give one an edge?
SB: I'm still teaching. I have around 50 students from eight to fifty. I don't teach classical per se, but I teach them technique. I tell them to just listen to it more than anything. It helps develop a melodic sense. It's a cool thing to watch these students, who couldn't hold a pick, starting to develop as good players.

SR: What was the first song you learned to play on your guitar?
SB: I think it was "Malagania" by Jose Feliciano for some talent shows. I entered five and won five. It's a difficult piece to learn. At that time I was learning to read music.

SR: Is it necessary to know how to read music to be a good player?
SB: No, but it opens a new world of, not so much technique, but sense of melody and rhythm. I listen to a lot of classical and new age stuff and I find that it really sends me off into my own world. Classical puts a lot of people to sleep and it wakes me up.

SR: The same thing for me. Metal keeps me going. I listen to many different genres, but don't mess with my metal. It gets me up.
SB: (laughing) Same here. I go to the extremes.

SR: How's the hunt going for a new contract?
SB: We're just starting to send packages out. We're working with Chip and we've had a lot of suggestions. Craig and I come from being there so we will choose carefully. I want a career not just a couple of records.

SR: I have a few ideas.
SB: It doesn't matter to me who the label is. It has all come down to the reaction we feel after they've seen and heard us play. We're very strong minded about what we want, what we need, what we should get and what we deserve. We want to take it to the world. I could go with an independent with good distribution or it could be a major.

SR: I immediately think of Metal Blade, CMC International and Roadrunner.
SB: Whoever, we need to tour a lot. Our show is unique and I want to be on the road. It will matter to us what the label will do to promote us out on tour. Now we're at the point where some labels have called Chip, our publicist.

SR: I've always liked the 'Nun's' playing in Crowbar.
SB: Yeah, he's great. Do you remember Trouble?

SR: Of course. Trouble have a contract with now with Century Media. I love working with them as well as Nuclear Blast.
SB: The other night Trouble came down and did one show. Craig played with them.

SR: I'm loving these songs beginning with "The Last Days Of The Martyr" with all the tricky production. Jesus vs masturbating.
SB: ( laughing) The whole middle part is a cross between Braveheart meets Christ in the garden. Mainly, I take that into my own persecution every day. We have a part two to that song called "Joan Of Arc" which we play live.

SR: Has the Internet played a part in this project so far?
SB: You bet. It has helped a lot. We're getting a lot of response. Our road manager Jay Pelham is on the net all the time. We have a couple of sites up and running plus we're linked to the Lillian Axe site.

SR: Your writing is getting better with some age. It reads like a good poem to me.
SB: I think so. I'm glad you said that because I've been asked a lot about when I'm going to write some poetry. I want to be an actor and write poetry. I need to act.

SR: I'd say you have a real rough look that would play today. If Gene Simmons can act, you can act.
SB: Yeah, if he can act so can I.

SR: "All In Time" has those swirling guitars and super harmony.
SB: Yeah, we decided to throw a curve ball and put it on this record. I love playing that song.

SR: What's the story on "8 Seconds of Dave?" It's a great opener and slams you right into "Razor Face."
SB: It's about Dave Reynolds. It was the first time I'd worked with him and I told him he was so good I'd have to write a song about him. So, we had this little bit of digital noise that kept cropping up. In the mixing stage we decided to keep it in and name it for him.

SR: "Razor Face" is an all out blast.
SB: There's not enough room to fit all the songs on one disc. Too many to the point where it's a bit frustrating because there isn't enough time on one disc. We're constantly writing. In fact, we'll be rehearsing two brand new songs tonight. It's not like the old days where you put out a record a year.

SR: What's the story behind "Rock And Roll Killed The Family?
SB: It came from something I over heard someone say once. It spawned the idea of how rock and roll music has always been the bastard child. Not so much anymore, but just how rock and roll could represent any form of behavioral extreme likes that people have in corporate society, high society. In this case it's a tongue in cheek song about how rock and roll is the down fall of everything. When I get put in that category of scapegoat, I jump into the fur. I'll be your scapegoat. I like to jab 'em as hard as I can. In a lot of ways we get mistaken for having a different motive behind what we do just from the visual.

SR: I hear your live show is dynamite. You've already told me about the snow machine.
SB: We use a lot of candelabras, smoke and lasers on stage. It was something I always wanted to do. I'm really into Marilyn Manson and Type O Negative, the whole visual thing. I grew up loving Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath and KISS. I've always thought the visual and sonic experience goes hand in hand. If not, we wouldn't even need to play live.

SR: What situation brings out the best songs for you?
SB: I think I do my best writing is when I'm driving. I love to drive at night. That's why I get off on the whole touring element because I like moving around. I'm so hyper that moving at a high speed keeps me calm.

SR: What about the old days? What's the biggest change in the biz as you see it?
SB: Music, right now, is no different than a can of beer. It all tastes the same but has better packaging on it. There are so many bands, and so few live music clubs to play in these days. This is due to not enough people going out to clubs. There's a lack of real love and interest for music today. Fans are too fickle. Tell me why there're bands who've sold 10-20 million records who put out good product today that only sells a million? What happened to the other people?

SR: I think they're out there and simply don't make the money, over and above daily expenses. They're being pulled in many directions and multi-media takes some away.
SB: Where are the fans? But you know what, you get a lot of shows that are only five to ten bucks. People spend that kind of money on every day for cigarettes and beer.

SR: CMJ's chart is filled from 1-10 with very heavy bands.
SB: Yeah, but do their fans go to the shows? I think MTV has desensitized the public into what good music is anymore.

SR: I can't get MTV and I don't want MTV. There's no music there. Radio doesn't help out either.
SB: You don't see it, you don't hear it so you're unaware of what is out there. Radio is a corporate joke.

SR: I'm hoping that all the Internet sites such as Tracy Barnes' will pick up the slack. The sound and streaming has to get better, but it's definitely the answer.
SB: I remember Tracy from Z-Rock. As a matter of fact, I'm going to e-mail him today.

SR: What do you say to your fans at this time?
SB: I'm getting a lot of e-mail and super letters. There is some real support out there for us. A lot of people tried to make this whole Lillian Axe break up into a soap opera. It really wasn't. I have great memories and have great friends in those guys. Now we have two bands. We just want to keep doing it.

SR: The music is strong. All we have to do is what we really like to do, so you've got time. Keep on playing your music. Good luck in your search.
SB: I'm just getting started.