Lillian Axe's Steve Blaze reflects on Ratt's Robbin Crosby

NOLA band's debut LP was produced by Crosby
By Peter Lindblad

Steve Blaze and his band Lillian Axe in 2014
Knocking around the Louisiana club circuit in the 1980s, the somewhat dark and deeply spiritual New Orleans metal and hard-rock combo Lillian Axe had established itself locally and regionally as a band on the rise.

Steve Blaze, Lillian Axe's leader and the only remaining original member, remembers that time fondly.

"People were going out and supporting the bands that were playing, and we had a huge following."
said Blaze.

Lillian Axe - One Night in
the Temple 2014
Perhaps it was only a matter of time then until Lillian Axe, who recently released the career-spanning, acoustic live CD/DVD set One Night in the Temple, caught a big break, and crunchy Los Angeles glam-metal guttersnipes Ratt had a lot to do with it.

"We were asked to open up for Ratt, Queensryche and Poison … and then after the second show, the security guy or our tour manager or whatever, stage manager, for Ratt came up to me and said, 'I need to get your phone number. Marshall Berle wants to talk to you,'" recalled Blaze, who talked to the All Access blog some weeks ago about the band's history and its current work (we'll post the entire interview with Blaze in the coming days).

The nephew of beloved funny man Milton Berle, Marshall Berle was at one time the manager of L.A.-based bands like Van Halen and, of course, Ratt, the group he was representing back then. Berle had pull in the industry, and he was somebody Lillian Axe wanted to get to know.

"That was like one of those moments you talk about and just realize that, holy cow, this is really happening," said Blaze. "You know, those were the two biggest rock bands at the time and everybody knew who their manager was. But I got a call two days later, and it’s Marshall. He said, 'Steve, it’s Marshall Berle. Do you want a record deal?' Of course, at that time, when you’re in your early 20s, we’re not thinking about the possibility you could ever get screwed over by record companies. We were willing to take it, so we said, 'Absolutely.'"

Continuing on with a series of shows booked for that jaunt, Blaze recounted that Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby had taken a shine to the band, which did encounter label troubles down the line, and that he wanted to produce them. Not long after, Berle met with record-industry mogul Irving Azoff, and Lillian Axe was signed to MCA.

"The rest is just a roller coaster ride," said Blaze.

It's been 12 years since the Crosby died from a heroin overdose, his battles with addiction and AIDS well-documented. Blaze misses him dearly.

"He was a wonderful guy," said Blaze. "I just wish I’d gotten to know him more, and I wish he was still around."

When Lillian Axe recorded its self-titled debut, released in 1988, it was Crosby who helped the band refine its sound and define who they were musically. And yet, for all that Crosby had accomplished with Ratt, one of the biggest bands of the '80s with mega-hits like "Lay It Down," "Wanted Man" and "Round and Round" – a song co-written by Crosby – he was, as Blaze relates, insecure about a lot of things. (Watch the video for "Round and Round" below)

"Robbin was great," said Blaze. "I always tell people, Robbin was really … I call him kind of a fork in the road, because … just the whole fame and rock ‘n’ roll part of success, I don’t think he really adjusted to it or really embraced it."

In his heart of hearts, Blaze thought Crosby was not only a wonderful person, but also a talented musician, even if Crosby didn't always believe it himself.

"He was always such a good man, and he’d say, 'I’m going to give you a call later,' and he’d call and say, 'I’m not a good guitar player,'" said Blaze. "I’d be like, 'Robbin, you’re with one of the biggest bands in the world, buddy. Just relax. Quit worrying.' He was one of the nicest people in the world. I wanted him to be happy, you know. Great guy, very generous, we had fun working on the album, but I always felt that he didn’t quite really know how to accept the situation that he was in. And I don’t know if that’s what led to his problems, his addictions and whatnot, and it was really too bad, because of anybody I’ve ever met in this industry, he didn’t deserve to have that happen to him."

Blaze wasn't around Crosby or Ratt when Crosby's life spiraled downward. 

"We never really ever saw that side of Robbin," said Blaze. "I don’t know what went on with him there."

What does bring a smile to Blaze's face when thinking about Crosby is a story he has from the time they worked on that first Lillian Axe album.

"The last day of our pre-production, he came down to Jackson, Miss., and we had this room that was a rehearsal room that we rented out, and it was in a bad, bad part of town," said Blaze. "I don’t know who set this up for us, but we were rehearsing and during the day, he and I went and ate Mexican food. And so, that night, after it was finished, he goes, 'All right guys, we’ll do the video next week,' and he broke out the Crown Royal. Well, I was the only one that didn’t drink. For the other guys, Crown Royal was like orange juice. Robbin broke it open and just swigged and guzzled at least half the bottle of Crown, but Robbin was a big guy. And he just completely guzzled that sucker, and all the other guys are taking hits and whatnot."

Lillian Axe 2014
Blaze describes what happened afterward. It's not for the squeamish.

"Next thing you know, Robbin went into the back room and throws up all over the place, and he comes down and wipes his mouth off, like everything is okay," said Blaze. "And I’m like, 'Holy crap, man. Are you okay?' He said, 'Yeah, man. I think my nachos must have had some meat in it, today, and I’m a vegetarian.' It wasn’t the half a bottle of Crown he just swigged. It was that he got a little piece of meat in his nachos that made him throw up. And I was like, 'Okay, buddy (laughs).'"

Blaze will have much more to say about what Lillian Axe is up to these days, as well as the recordings and trials and tribulations of a band that was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2010, in our complete interview with him. Look for it to be posted here soon.

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