Ted Axe of The Action
Interview by Andrew Daly
Affectionately dubbed “The Count of Rock,” Canadian punk rocker Ted Axe has roots that sprawl as far back as the ’70s. Having shared the stage with the likes of The Ramones, L.A. Guns, and The Stranglers, Axe’s reputation as a stout performer with a unique vibe has been well-earned.
With his band, The Action, aka “Canada’s first punk rock band,” Axe scored a minor hit with “TVs on the Blink” before the young band imploded before it could truly make its mark. But no matter, Axe has soldiered on, bringing his macabre vibe and vampire-laden ways to the stage often as he continues to pursue his rock ‘n’ roll dreams.
During a break from the action (no pun intended), Ted Axe beamed in with ClassicRockHistory.com to give the rundown on his long and wild career in and out of punk rock.
What first sparked your interest in music?
I used to be absolutely glued to the radio! We had a cottage in Canada close to New York, and I listened to WABC in New York City all summer long. I was in heaven. They played rock and soul as well as pop and bubblegum.
What moments early on shaped you as an artist?
I started playing electric guitar in grade school. I started thinking I was a rockstar at an early age, covering my cheap Japanese guitar in leopard print wallpaper and wearing my mother’s sequin jackets, see-through shirts, and high-heeled boots to school in grade five. The boys were jealous, but the girls loved it.
I still wear things I love on stage, like my top hat and a copy of a WW2 German long trench coat, Beatle boots, black nails, and a ton of vampire makeup. I saw blues artists like James Cotton and saw and met B.B. King, but one day, I played hooky High School and skipped class hitchhiking down to the local arena to see Alice Cooper. It was The Killer Tour. The Alice Cooper roadies picked me up. I got in free and helped them set up the stage.
When the crowd came rushing in, and I was on stage, I knew that’s where I belonged. I saw the show on top of a sideways monitor on stage a few feet from guitarist Michael Bruce but hidden by the giant PA. It was the best show I have ever seen. Alice had trunks of props and held the sword with dollar bills out into the audience, taunting them. After the show, I tried to join the road crew, but they said I was too young. This concert still influences me today.
When did punk rock enter the picture?
I went to London in 1976. It was the birth of punk. England was very conservative in an Orwellian way. Peter Frampton was on the sides of the double-decker buses, and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was being played on the radio, but New Rose by The Damned had just come out. The embryonic beginnings of punk were raw and violent.
I saw bands kicking over monitors, throwing mics, and seas of little boys moshing in front of bands spitting and slamming into each other. Upon returning to Canada, I promptly formed The Action. It was all attitude. Our hit was called “TVs on the Blink” on Montreco Records. We toured with The Stranglers and were chosen for a twenty-city U.S. tour with The Ramones. We are considered Canada’s first punk band.
What ended up happening to The Action?
There was that surreal moment on stage when I first came onto stage opening for The Stranglers first North American show and heard the sheer volume of the applause! It was an amazing moment. In true punk fashion, we nicked all their beer from their dressing room while they were onstage but partied with them later.
The Ramones tour started in Flint, Michigan. There was real palatable excitement in the air. I felt like I had finally made it; however, it wasn’t long after that summer and the recording of our first EP that The Action self-destructed. After that, I spent ten years in Hollywood and had various bands. I opened for L.A. Guns at The Coconut Teaser and John Entwistle at The Roxy, but then I moved to Seattle, where I formed Sister Hyde, who was signed to Heart of Steel Records.
Tell me about your songwriting approach.
I write about what was happening in my life at the time and how I feel about it emotionally. Some of my best songs were written after huge conflicts and came from feeling hurt. I hope someone will identify with the lyrics. I usually have a riff that I will develop, scribbling down my first thoughts. Writing about relationships sets my subject apart from other writers and bands. I loved The Beatles and always loved how they wrote, so I suppose that has also influenced me. As they did, I still use a cassette tape recorder to write.
What songs stick out most, and why?
There is a tune I open my album Sex, Horror, Violence with called “Get Out of Rehab.” The riff chugs along like a runaway train. And “Death Us Do Part” is a song about a marriage gone wrong, and I filmed the video in a graveyard! Around this time, my “fangs” christened me “The Count of Rock.”
A magazine called Paranormal Magazine from Salem, MA interviewed me, and I was under the impression I was a real vampire. The interview was called Interview with a Vampire. Another song called “Isolate” stands out from the set with its edgy guitar and powerful message. The video has gotten a lot of views very fast in just a few short weeks since its release.
What moment or moments from your career define you?
I could say it was a moment from my illustrious past, but I find the whole problem with older artists or bands is that they start using “I used to” too much. We recently played at a neighborhood bar here, and our teen fangs suddenly overran the place. I entertained them and had a mosh pit in front of the stage going. I invited an older woman, one of the regulars on stage, to dance.
That night defined me as an entertainer, singer, frontman, and performer who can bridge the generation gap but, more importantly, as a provocateur. It was a lot of fun as the young fans acted like we were the return of The Beatles, and the fire in their eyes gave me why I am onstage today.
Really, the thing I am most proud of, and my defining moment has nothing to do with music; is that I rescued over 100 dogs and cats while I lived in L.A. Most were Pit Bulls. They called me the “Pit Bull Man,” and I had a good ending to all my rescue stories.
Does making music in a low attention span world frustrate you?
Low attention span with blinders on and earplugs in. I have been on stage, writing and producing my music in different bands for decades, and I am still doing it. I have pursued my rock ‘n’ roll dream in seven other cities and now see it all coming together.
What’s next in all lanes?
We have a full calendar of shows where we’re opening for some major bands and some shows at this city’s biggest clubs. We are shooting a video for a song off our new EP, The Count of Rock, and hope to go back into the studio in November. I am moving forward and feel like I’m on the launching pad for the next level, where more people can hear my music. We are planning a U.S. tour for next year.
When I was in Hollywood, I used to ask celebrities the most obvious question because I was thinking about writing a book based on the answers. I asked this game show host Chuck Woolery: “What would be your advice for a young person getting into show business?” He answered, “Have a good time while you’re trying to make it because even if you don’t, you will have a good time.”
Ted Axe of The Action: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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