They’re one of the most exciting rock bands on the planet right now. I caught up with Alexisonfire’s charismatic bassist Chris Steele before their enigmatic Newcastle show for Rushonrock.
November 26th 2010
rushonrock: Your sound was described as two Catholic school girls mid-fight with knives. First of all, who made that description?
Chris Steele: That would be George Pettit, our frontman. Back in 2001 it was a corky way to describe our sound. At the time, we all came from different bands, Wade (Macneil) and myself played in a punk rock band from St Catherines, Ontario, Dallas (Green) played in a melodic rock band, George played bass in a metal band and all of those bands fell apart for their own personal reasons and we wanted to continue playing music. We all knew one another from the scenes, we all played shows every Friday or Saturday night. Like in a Chinese buffet, we’d just take the tables out and make it a venue for the night! When we got together we didn’t really have a direction or sound that we wanted to do. We wanted to try something combining the screaming and the singing. It was just a corky way to describe what was going on at that time.
rushonrock: It may have been a term used to describe your sound a long time back, but the new EP Dog’s Blood is very experimental in it’s own right, so how would you describe that?
CS: The new EP? I think we could collectively work on a new phrase for the new EP. The song Vex was recorded out in Vancouver when we did Old Crows, Young Cardinals. We recorded 17 songs while we were out there, 11 made the album and there were a few just sitting there in the back-burner that weren’t mixed and mastered and not doing anything, but for us, they didn’t fit the mould for Old Crows, Young Cardinals but we still wanted to get it out there. And the other heavier songs like Dog’s Blood itself are the heaviest songs we’ve ever written. We were just going for the direction of something new to keep us as a band interested as well. It’s a little bit of a teaser tie over for fans and to maybe what is to come for maybe a new full length in the new year. We get bored pretty easily and in soundcheck we get our mixers right and our monitors fixed and then it’s time to just jam for an hour. We’ve just got millions of ideas in our heads.
rushonrock: Do you think the EP is a sign of what’s to come or was it something that you just had to get out of your system and onto CD?
CS: Yeah, that’s pretty much it. We don’t have any long time goals, it’s just what we had in our souls that we just had to get out of ourselves and out to our fans. It was trapped inside of us and we needed to get it out. We do have some ideas for some new stuff. I’m not going to spoil the surprise, it’s like opening your gifts before Christmas morning! It’s Alexisonfire and it’s what we’re feeling at the time.
rushonrock: You mentioned the song Vex before. It’s the first instrumental song that you’ve done and it was quite different from anything you’ve done. Do you feel the merging of these styles is something you’ll be doing in future? I know you don’t want to give too much away of course.
CS: When we ended up recording it, George and Dallas were working on some sort of lyrical pattern for the song, but it was so chilled and pretty on it’s self that we thought vocals wouldn’t work for it and kept it instrumental. It works and for new stuff down the road perhaps you’ll hear some more jams like that aswell.
rushonrock: Do you feel that coming from different musical backgrounds, it has given that kind of platform to be experimental and allow that artistic freedom?
CS: Absolutely, 100%. Although Wade and myself played in a punk band and there was a melodic rock band and a metal band, at the same time I think it’s very important being a musician to keep an open mind and appreciate all genres of music. We bring it all to the table. Musician or non-musician, just keep your mind open.
rushonrock: There’s a few side projects like City Of Colour and Black Lungs that are happening within Alexisonfire. Is it hard to have that going on aswell as Alexisonfire?
CS: It’s becoming a bit more difficult these days. Some of the projects are becoming a lot bigger and trying to both at the same time is definitely difficult. But at the end of the day Alexisonfire comes first and these are just different side projects with Dallas in City Of Colour and Wade in Black Lungs. Those are just ideas and songs that they both have that don’t fit the Alexisonfire mould. Alexis does come first but then when we do have time off we branch out and do our side projects then. It’s a way to fulfill their passions aswell.
rushonrock: You mentioned about being diverse in music taste. Could you give us an idea of what you’re personally influenced by?
CS: I’ve been listening to a lot of The Black Keys, I do listen to a variety of hip-hop and I love my classic rock like Creedence Clearwater Revival, Neil Young. Who doesn’t?!
rushonrock: Tell us about the name of the band. From what I know, Alexis Fire is a porn star, is that right?
CS: Yeah. We had two songs written already and not a band name. We found out we were going to play our first gig at Niagara Falls actually. And we thought ‘right, OK, we’re going to need a band name and Dallas was watching the discovery channel. He was watching this segment called Alexis on fire and it was the female’s name Alexis Fire who was a lactating contortionist stripper from Nevada. She actually did try to sue us in the early days! we had lawyers look into it and we were able to beat around the bush and I don’t know exactly how it worked but yeah, that’s true. Alexisonfire; lactating contortionist stripper from Nevada!
rushonrock: In Ontario, you mentioned you were all in separate bands before Alexis began. Do you feel there is a community feeling with the music scene in Ontario?
CS: Absolutely, especially from the southern Ontario Niagara region. I think things may have been different, I can’t say for sure, if we all grew up in the big city in Toronto and tried to break it out there. There was a nice underground community in Niagara where, like I say, we played Chinese buffets and we worked our asses off and just flyer ever Wednesday afternoon after high school for the upcoming show on Friday. We had loyal true fans back in the area and all around Southern Ontario from St Catherines up towards Toronto. We call it the golden horseshoe, it’s just around the edge of Lake Ontario and it’s an unbelievable scene. There’s so many awesome bands coming up from that area. Bands like Constantines, Statues, Moneen.. the list will go on. There’s just so many.
rushonrock: Where would you say your favourite places or best atmospheres are when it comes to touring?
CS: Always back it home is a stable ground for us, being loyal to our country. But not just saying it, we’ve always loved the UK. We’ve been here so many times now and your festivals over here are fantastic, your clubs, fans are unbelievable here. It’s kind of home away from home over here. The shows feel relevant to how it would be in Canada and we always love it down in Australia, even though those flights are absolutely disgusting! That also has, I don’t want to say Canadian bond but the people are really chilled out down there and the vibes feel kind of like at home, but better weather!