Friday, December 7, 2012

Interview: Alison Thunderland of Axxion

The renewed popularity of traditional heavy metal has brought with it a fresh generation of wild and crazy bands, one of which is Canada's Axxion. Based in Toronto, Axxion has been making an impact on the trad metal scene with their energetic live performances and their recently released self-titled EP. The band's drummer, Alison Thunderland (ain't that one helluva metal name?), spent a few moments answering questions about the band, the EP, and  everyone's favorite elven ranger - Legolas.

[HMM] For those who may be unfamiliar with Axxion, would you introduce the band?
Alison Thunderland of Axxion

[Alison Thunderland] Axxion is a good old fashioned Heavy Metal band from Canada! Dee’s the singer and guitar player, Shred’s also on guitar and Chris Riley on bass and I’m the drummer…but come on, no one cares about the drummer.

How and when was Axxion formed?

I guess you could say it all started in July of 2011. I had just left my last band and Dee and just left his as well, and I’d known him for a long time so we just started jamming me and him in the hourly rental jam spaces goofing off playing tunes, then we found our first guitar player Inti and bass player, who both ended up leaving pretty early on, and now we’ve finally got the final line-up.

Your debut, self-titled EP was just released this past Halloween. How as the feedback been so far?

I’m honestly so friggen surprised! Haha I’ve only heard good things so far, people seem to be loving it, but then again who’s gonna call me up and say “Hey I just got the new album…it sucks!” Who knows maybe someone will do it haha!

Where was it recorded, and how long was Axxion in the studio?

It was recorded all by Shred, he did everything man; record, mix, master! This is a legit basement recording haha. We were too damn poor to pay for a studio and he offered to record us (when Inti was still playing guitar). The drums were done in a day and then we just hit obstacle after obstacle. First we had our bass player leave, then the guitar player not long after but once we got the solid line-up with Shred, Chris, Dee and myself it all fell into place in a couple weeks and voila! We changed up a couple songs once Shred came along and just went for it.

Is the songwriting process for Axxion a group effort?

The writing is one of the best things about this band; I call it the democracy rule haha but really everyone has an equal say in everything from riffs, to lyrics to drums fills. Usually we go with what the majority of us want but you’d be surprised how many times one person manages to convince the other three! It makes writing a lot easier and a lot more fun, because everyone feels included in the whole process.

Original Axxion guitarist Init Paredes left the band just a couple of months before the EP's release. Does he still make an appearance on the album, or did your new axeslinger Sir Shred handle all of the lead six-string duties during recording?

Yea after Inti left, we got Shred in there and he and Dee got everything finished up as quick as possible so it’s just those two guys on the album.

Is the band already looking ahead to a follow-up release?

Yea we’re gonna be working on a full length in the new year, hopefully we can get it recorded quick after all the songs sound nice and tight, so maybe we’ll have something out by early spring?

Are there any tour plans in the works?

No tours planned yet; maybe in the new year, we’ve gotta see what opportunities come up and I think we’re all hoping to tour in Europe instead of North America, but right now it’s a bit off on the horizon.

Are there any interesting stories from past gigs that you'd be willing to share?

Hmmm. Well we’ve only had a few shows so nothing too crazy yet; there is this guy in Toronto who comes out to every show and he looks like a legitimate gangster but he loves the shit! He kills everyone in the mosh pit haha!!!

Is there a particular song that you love to perform live?

I think my favourite might have to be "Stallion" because I get to do a lot of my favourites in that one. I mean, come on, it starts with a drums fill of course I love it haha! And there’s a nice part in the pre-chorus where I just get to ride the bell of my ride, I love that, bell riding that’s where it’s at! I’ve also got a couple cool fills in that one as well and I get to sing back ups, I’m not the greatest singer but I actually like doing it, it’s like a mental activity moving all four limbs and singing.

Before joining Axxion you were in another traditional metal band called Skull Fist, which you recorded an EP with. Were you in any metal bands prior to Skull Fist?

I actually recorded the full length as a favour to Jackie as well….not like anyone cares haha. But no nothing serious before Skull Fist, I jammed with a couple people, I used to jam with a couple people that I knew from a recording studio I worked at when I was like 16 but that ended pretty quick. It was tough I never knew anyone playing metal growing up, so I was a loner for a long time haha, playing alone in the basement.

You recently had a starring role in Cauldron's video for "Nitebreaker". How fun was that, and how did the opportunity come about?
Alison Thunderland of Axxion

Dude that video was so fun! We shot all night from like 5:30pm until 8:30am the next day but man was it cold overnight and we had to do all the cool shots overnight. Well one night Decay asked if I would be interested in being chased by some Cauldron zombies and I said hell yea! So we went out into the woods and ran around all night. It was awesome working with the Cauldron guys, they’re all super cool guys it was definitely an experience to remember. And I got to beat the shit out of some zombies too haha!

There seems to be a fair number of classic metal outfits emerging from Canada recently. Do you think there's more of a hunger for old-school metal in Canada than, say, the U.S.?

It seems to be that way doesn’t it? I guess I’d have to agree with that, I always say there’s this “American Metal” scene they’ve got going on down there with bands like Lamb of God and Meshuggah style bands. Not to say that we don’t have it here, it’s just not as big. We’ve got a fair bit of thrash over here as well, I think like 2/3 bands here play some form of thrash/ death metal, so maybe that’s why the old-school stuff stands out more; not everyone’s doing it and when people hear it they’re thinking “Oh damn! It’s good.”

The "denim & leather" scene holds a lot of nostalgia for metalheads of a certain age (like myself). What is it about this particular era in heavy metal history that appeals to you?

I think it’s the way the music feels when you listen to it. If I listen to an album and it makes me want to run away and quit my job and just go to festivals all year long it’s a damn good album!! There are so many bands that got shafted because they didn’t have media appeal so they never got big, but some of my favourite bands just have that OOMPF! You know? And I never look at a band based on one member; I don’t care if you have the best guitar player in the world if the songs aren’t good then the band’s no good. And everyone in that era was way cooler, no one gave a damn, there was no internet to go complain on, if you wanted to say something you said it face to face like a man, and if you got punched in the face so be it! That’s life, the age of technology has given us a lot but it’s also taken away a lot of face to face stuff. Speaking of Denim and Leather we’ve been playing a cover of the Saxon song with the same name, gotta stay true to your roots!

How long have you been playing the drums, and what led to your involvement in heavy metal?
Alison Thunderland of Axxion

I’ve now hit the nine year time flies! Well, when I was growing up I didn’t have anyone to show me music, or at least no one who wanted to so I just listened whatever was on the TV, and I’m not sure why but one day I went into my brother’s room and found this Metallica album and that was the first time I heard heavy metal and I was thinking where can I get more!? Then I started listening to whatever I could get my hands on, a lot of thrash in the early days then Megadeth, Yngwie Malmsteen, Iced Earth, it all starts to branch off, I didn’t know how to get my hands on music so whatever my brother had. The day my life changed was probably when I found Blind Guardian, I think I crapped my pants that day, and the first time I heard Iron Maiden and I’ve never looked back.

Are there any specific drummers who inspire or influence you?

Ok ok here comes the generic everyone loves him drummer but, Nicko Mcbrain. Just his footwork and the way he plays that ride it gets my blood going! When I was like 13 my dad bet me $20 that I would, in his words “never be able to play "Run to the Hills"”. Let’s just say he was $20 poorer within the week. You should have seen his face when I got my double kicks. Anyways, everything Nicko’s done I just eat it up, sorry to be cliché but he’s my hero! Also my drum teacher, Neal Busby; coolest guy ever. I’m not doing lessons with him anymore, been a couple years, but he’s a WICKED drummer and an amazing teacher. I owe everything I know to him; he made me get out of my comfort zone and really play, not just smash everything in sight haha. He used to play in a band called Slik Toxic and now he’s doing a project with his wife called Twirl. Another one of my heroes hehe.

I read in an interview you did a while back that you consider yourself to be a true Lord of the Rings fan (as are most metalheads, of course). What do you think about Peter Jackson's handling of The Hobbit?

I dunno about over there but it’s not out here yet! I’m really stoked to see it though. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has got to be my favourite movies of all time (the original Star Wars comes in a close second). I actually watched the first one like…yesterday haha, my tapes are going to stop working soon I watch them so much. He did a really amazing job with the first three and I only have high expectations for the Hobbit. I hope Legolas makes an appearance, what a hottie haha, though I don’t think he does, at least not in the book which I also read last week- wow do I sound like a super nerd yet? When I first saw Lord of the Rings I thought his hair was real and when I found out it wasn’t…..not a happy camper.

I also read that you were studying archaeology. Is that still true?

Yeah I actually am finishing up a degree in Biological Anthropology and Archaeology so I get to do everything from fossils, to animal biology to human evolution. Unfortunately university here is really expensive but it’s something that I’m also really interested in, now I have  to go watch the Indiana Jones trilogy you got me all riled up! haha

If there was one bit of advice that you could give to a woman with aspirations to play the drums in a heavy metal band, what would it be?

Practice your ass off! Don’t be a chick that sells her ass, sell your forearms! The biggest insult anyone could say to me would be “you play good for a girl”. I’m not down with that at all. Yea yea the media wants to sell your tits but if you can kick ass people will RESPECT you, and that’s way more important than wanting to sleep with ya. Look at Doro she’s the coolest chick ever, queen of metal (sorry Lee Arron) and she’s got the pipes to prove it! Another one of my life heroes.

Finally, do you have any parting words for your fans and for those who may be reading about Axxion for the first time?

Yea, if you’re a musician and you’re getting down about not having anyone to jam with and think you’ll never form a band, don’t quit! People are out there, they’re looking for you too. I played alone in my basement for years before I even found someone who could play heavy metal. If you quit no one will ever hear it, we need heavy metal to stay alive, keep the flame burning!

Thanks for the excellent interview Alison! I can't wait to hear what Axxion has in store for your next release.


  1. It is so attractive to see a woman plays the drums. I love to play them but I don't know how.