Friday, May 19, 2017

Just Gimme some AXXION! Just Gimme some AXXION! Emily Merrick of Axxion interview (2017)

 This next interview comes from one of my favorite drummers, and no, I'm not just saying that because she agreed to do an interview with me, I really do mean it. Not only has she been in numerous bands, and still continues to be, she is a well disciplined, very skilled drummer with a no-nonsense attitude who is dedicated to metal, along with everything she is passionate about in her life. Along with all of that, she is a very nice person, and if you haven't heard any of her drumming work, you should give it all a listen, because it is well worth your time. Here are some great words from Emily Merrick of the wonderful Canadian heavy metal band: AXXION! Enjoy, and thank you for reading! And thank you, Emily (And Kevin for the use of all your awesome pictures)!

Photo taken by Adrienne Mignardi edited by me (Olivia)

The latest happening album wise for Axxion was "Back In Time", which came out October 15th, 2016. How long did that to come together, and was it a tough process?

Emily: It honestly took from the end of the EP in 2013 to pretty much early 2016. The song writing process itself wasn’t so long, but combing over all the fine details and getting everything to sound exactly how we wanted took forever. And I really mean everything from the right drum fills to the pronunciation of words, the vocal line, harmonies, writing and re-writing to fit it in. It was grueling, meticulous and we had a lot of ideas that were just not coming out exactly how we wanted so it was just a matter of doing it over and over again until it was perfect. Of course everyone who records their own record will always nit-pick about this and that but at the end of the day I always go back to the word ‘proud’ because that is exactly how I feel about this album!

Jason Decay joined the band on bass for this album, on wild racer, Chris Riley was on bass. What made you guys have Jason come in and do bass, and how was it to record with him?

Emily: Jay is just this whole package of hilarity and talent. It was super easy to work with him and we asked him to record on the album because he is a fantastic musician and we were short on bassists that could give us the sound and feel that we wanted. It was all really natural and overall a great experience.
Photo by Nic Pouliot

How has the overall response to the band Axxion been since you guys first put anything out, and how has it changed through the years?

Emily: We’ve been so fortunate to have the greatest fans. No one can expect to take us too seriously and I think most of our fans totally get that. If anything, I think our fans have become more supportive! I think initially we had a good response to the EP and Wild Racer, but Back in Time really put us out there and captured what we were really going for.

Dev Kerr does vocals, but is also listed as playing rhythm guitars on the album, but just sings live, what's the reason for that?

Emily: AS a band we agreed that it would be better for Devon to focus on really kicking ass at singing and being a frontman instead of having to be stuck with a guitar and having to focus on that.

This album seems to take it a step up in a way, not that Wild Racer isn't a great album, but it seems that Back In Time has really solidified a sound for Axxion, would you find any truth in that statement?

Emily: Absolutely, I really think that album captured the sound we were looking for. Everything from the melodies, wording, the way it was recorded etc.; we really got what we wanted out of this album.
Photo by Kevin Nunes

Were you a founding member of Axxion?

Emily: Totally! After Shred and I left Skull Fist, I knew I wasn’t going to give up that easily! So Devon had just left his previous band and we started jamming and writing songs and finally got the first line up together, and the rest, as they say, is history.

When your first record "Wild Racer" came out, was it well received, and did you guys get a lot of gigs to play? I remember you had that one with Accept a few years ago, that must've been pretty cool.

Emily: Yea we definitely did some small touring with that album and a few festivals (the song Headbangers didn’t come out of thin air!). We did have a fairly good response, especially in our hometown and in Europe. Playing with U.D.O was totally cool, I wish I had a change to sit down with Udo and pick his brain over a beer….alas my courage failed me that night. Not sure if I’ll get that chance ever again.

The onstage theatrics are certainly something to see, who came up the idea for that, and do you guys do it every show?

Emily: It seems to be an ever-changing thing to me. Sometimes we have this super babe (Jiordi) in stage with us for some murder/ whipping stuff (I must say I enjoy watching her beat up Devon haha!), it just depends on the show. The boys have also introduced the powersuits and that’s all on them. I’m gonna stick to my denim and leather, but they love the suits and hey man, they love ‘em so who am I to say who can wear what. Shred’s also the one who makes ‘em all so that’s pretty cool!

How is it that you guys are distributing your stuff, just on your own?

Emily: Yes, for the most part, everything we do is through us. We have some international distributors for the new album, but mostly we do it all ourselves through BigCartel (

What are some of your other favorite Canadian metal bands around now?

Emily: Where to begin!  Obviously Cauldron is on my go-to playlist all the time; Striker, our boys from the west. Black Moor, our boys from the east! Spell from B.C. seems to be kicking butt these days too….I know I’m forgetting a bunch sorry!

Where does Axxion practice, and do you guys get to practice pretty often?

Emily: Shred and I have a place together and he’s vamped up the basement with soundproofing and it’s super convenient we can keep whatever we want down there, don’t have to share the space and we can drink as much as we want when we jam haha!
Shred (Kenny)
Photo taken by Kevin Nunes

You're also a drummer in the band Phantom. Does that get complicated sometimes?

Emily: Well, Phantom has been pretty inactive for the past couple months, but that is mostly because of me to be honest. With all the work with AXXION and working crazy hours (I’m an RVT) I haven’t been able to commit much more time to the Phantom boys these days. I had a blast jamming and working on tunes and I know they will be entering the studio soon, but I’m just not sure what role I will be playing (literally!) at that time. I guess we’ll have to see what pans out!

You have to know the drums for both Axxion, and Phantom, does that get to be a lot when you sit down to practice?

Emily: Not at all. Once I know a song it’s stuck in my head, but I will say I have a hard time remembering intros ALL the time. I mean, how the song starts; and it could be any song, one I’ve played a hundred times even if we don’t have a big setlist. I’m not sure why it happen, but usually I sit down and really force myself to think over sets before a big show so I know I’m not gonna blank on the night of the show!

How long have you played drums, and what inspired you to start playing?

Emily: I started when I was 13, and I’ve been asked the second part of that question so often and I never really feel like I have a satisfying answer. I’ve always loved music; there is far too much videographic evidence of me and my siblings singing/ playing ridiculous things. I started piano at a very young age (though I hated it then) and my entire family is musical. So I was always drawn to it, but that doesn’t really explain the drumming. I remember one day just thinking “I want to learn drums”, there wasn’t any specific reason, it was just such a natural thought that I didn’t think anything of it; it was going to happen because I felt the need to inside of myself.
Photo by Kevin Nunes

Who would you say kind of influenced your playing style when you first started out playing drums?

Emily: Now and forever; Nicko Mcbrain. Yea yea everyone is going to say ‘how stereotypical!”, but as a young learner it was just such a shock to hear him play. The speed, the accuracy, the natural way he plays, nothing forced, and everything was always exactly how it should be you know? His fills are perfectly places and the timing is always in the pocket, there’s so much feel there. Of course other drummers have inspired me for other reasons (Mike Portnoy and George Kolias for the technical stuff), Sean Reinhart and Gene Hoglan both for the speed and just the insanity of it all. Though I do have to say that I’m a huge fan of everything just coming together and fitting in its place, to me, making your overall music sound better is going to make me fall in love with you as a drummer.

Other than playing drums, what are some of your other main interests?

Emily: I’m kind of all over the place. I work as an RVT (Registered Veterinary Technician), but my work is still something I love and take home with me (sometimes literally!). I’ve had my fair share of foster kittens kicking around the house bugging my other cats. I’ve also taken up piano again after a 14 year hiatus and it’s kind of nice to struggle again; to start from the beginning so to speak, and work your way up to the level you want to achieve. I’m sure it’s also pretty obvious from my social media stuff that I’m a HUGE nerd. Give me anything Zelda or Star Wars related and you won’t be able to shut me up. Videogames, movies, the occasional board game even. Along the nerd line I am a serious bookworm. Anything from anatomy textbooks to human evolution to sci-fi novels I can’t get enough. I love just getting out of my own head and being transformed into another world.
Photo by Kevin Nunes

Do you prefer any specific shoes to wear when you play drums? Might seem like an odd question, but I like to have something really thin and light to wear when i play.

Emily: I actually don’t wear any shoes at all. Sometimes I have socks (definitely at shows) but generally no shoes. I used to wear them, but I found a lot of the ones I had were restricting my ankle movement, added too much bulk and took away from that natural feel of the pedal. I always laugh because when we play I usually wear some serious heels to the show and people always ask “do you play in those?!”….sometimes I humour myself and tell them yes hah!

What's your favorite gig you've played so far from both Axxion, and Phantom?

Emily: Probably Headbangers in Germany a few years ago….2015? I’m really horrible with places and dates, but that was a great show. We played early everyone was hungover but still showed up for the set and I think it was a nice way to get everyone pumped for the rest of the day. I also had a huge drum riser and I could see the whole crowd (for once!) so it was a unique experience for me in that sense.

When the songs are written, is it more of a colaborative thing, or is there someone in particular that comes up with the riffs usually?

Emily: Shred definitely takes the bulk of this project! Devon will come with some songs in too, and we usually tweak those up. Of course I have freedom to play whatever on drums, sometimes we’ll all sit down and go over melodies and wording, harmonies etc. But I’ve definitely never written a song!

What's some of your favorite drum equipment you have, and what would you like to have in the future?

Emily: I just purchased a nice tasty pair of Speed Cobras from Tama and I actually can’t believe how much more I like them. I was a little skeptical about how much better they could possibly be than my Iron Cobras, but once I had them set up, they’re heaven. The footboard is a bit longer so that ‘sweet-spot’ is a little bigger and gives me a bit more leeway. The pedals in the case are heavy, but once you’re kicking they’re light as a feather! I also love my Black Beauty snare drum; I can’t play a show without it, it’s the best damn sounding thing I’ve ever owned.

If you had to pick one person to sit down and talk drums with, who would it be?

Emily: You guessed it…. Nicko Mcbrain! He’s my one and only.

Do you still use the name Alison Thunderland, or do you just go by Emily for the records and everything? I find myself calling you Allison sometimes by accident! And where did that name come from?

Photo by Kevin Nunes
Emily: After leaving Skull Fist in 2011, I wanted to really represent myself as who I am and since that name was made up for that band and I was cutting all my ties, I really wanted to leave it behind and be taken a bit more serious. Someone did once tell me it sounded like a porn star name so…yes I use my real name now and I’m digging it. I feel like I’m not hiding behind a gimmick or anything, I want people to appreciate my drumming and our music, nothing more.

Do you play any other instruments?

Emily: I can squeak by on guitar (especially if everyone else is drunk!), I’ve come back to piano (mostly classical conservatory stuff but I really dig it!), and I only sing in the show and in my car where no one else has to hear me. I think I could probably play a mean triangle if I really tried to.

What kind of stuff do you practice when you sit behind the kit, and do you practice a lot before gigs and everything?
Emily: As a band we definitely practice a bunch before shows. Personally, when I sit down to warm up I just kind of jam and work on whatever I feel like; speed, patterns, whatever I’m in the mood for.

What are some of your favorite bands, i know it's a typical interview question, but I like to know what my favorite musicians listen to.
Photo by Nic Pouliot

Emily: I’m all over the place. I love the trad stuff like Grim Reaper, Saxon, W.A.S.P, Dokken. Speedy stuff like Blind Guardian, Helloween. Also occasional find a black metal band that I can’t live without; Dissecton and more recently and American band called Dumal. But then I have a hundred other bands that I can’t even place into a general category; Tyr, Nightwish, Sabaton, Ensiferum, Dimmu Borgir. To me it’s less about the genre and more about what makes my brain just light up when I hear it.

How do you feel the Canadian metal scene has progressed over the years, or rather just your overall feelings on it?

Emily: I love the Canadian scene; we are small yes, but overall rather tight knit and supportive. It’s funny because 10 years ago I was just entering the scene and now seeing new people coming in, it’s pretty cool.

You guys were on high roller records for "wild Racer" but don't have one for "Back In Time", what made you guys leave high roller records?

Emily: We didn’t leave per say, we just decided to do “Back in Time” on our own. We had a good response to “Wild Racer” and wanted to try and promote this one ourselves.

Is the album title "Back In Time" kind of implying you guys sound like you are from a different time, or that you could go back in time, or that your minds are back in a different time?
Emily: I think you’ve got the right combination there; I suppose it’s a little bit of everything with an undertone that we were all born just a little too damn late in this world.
Photo by Kevin Nunes

What genre of music or metal do you seem to gravitate towards the most when you sit down and listen to something?

Emily: It’s usually metal, maybe some classical if I’m in the mood, or folky stuff; if I can find a mix of these within metal music I am one happy camper.

What are some of your favorite songs to play live from Axxion?
Emily: Headbangers for sure, Ride Thru Hel is my go-to speed song, but I think Sinner is my favourite, it has my favourite AXXION solo and we all get to sing a super sweet harmony at the end.

The album art I think represents the music on this record quite well, where did the idea for that come from, and who illustrated it?

Emily: This was 100% Shred. It’s actually him in the car on the cover, we snapped a shot in my little Mazda and he worked some editing magic to get it to where it is now!

Are there any bands that you like that people you think wouldn't expect you to, or are a "guilty pleasure" if you will. I don't believe in that stuff, though, if you like it, you like, nothin to feel guilty about.
Emily: I get made fun of for listening to bands like Nightwish and Sabaton; a lot of my buddies don’t go out of that old school genre. But I like what I like and I’m not apologizing…..poor Shred has had to listen to my live Nightwish DVD too many times….he usually hides in the basement and plays guitar when I put that one on haha!

Where can people get a hold of Axxion merch, and where can people see you jam on the drums? Any specific youtube channel and fanpage for that...?

Emily: Yea! You guys can get merch at our Bigcartel ( and I’ve got a drumming page up on Facebook (Emily Anne Drumming) and the same on Youtube, though I haven’t had a serious drum cover up in a while. I am itching to get more up there though!
Emily and Jay Decay
Photo by Kevin Nunes

What are some of your personal goals for the future music wise, and what are some future goals and events for Axxion?

Emily: I think for all of us, we are aiming to make another record that we are all really proud of. I know will likely take a long time, and I am probably the worst for being a perfectionist about stuff, but I’m never going to rush through an album just to get it out you know? Personally, I’d like to make the time to put up some more videos, maybe get funky and compose something with multiple types of drums….who knows!

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