By James West
To start off with, I have been a musician for well over thirty years. My first endeavours into music involved a couple of really cheap electric guitars purchased at the Army PX, but I didn't take it too seriously. Then I took to beating on a snare and bass drum with a cowbell taped to it, that was my drum kit. At about the age of 13 or so, I started playing bass and guitar in earnest, taking cues from my older brother Bill. There was no stopping after that, I was hooked on guitar, (although I still sat in on the drum kit whenever needed).
In 1978 a monumental event occured that would shape the history of the world for eons to come. It was the formation of Axis! Okay, maybe it wasn't so monumental, but to four guys from Widefield Colorado, it sure seemed that way. To the left you see myself, (guitar and vocals), and Bob Claypool, our sometime vocalist, and self proclaimed manager. To the right, my older brother Bill West (guitar and vocals), and Willy Claypool, (bass and vocals). I'm not sure if they are as drunk as they look, but it's a real good possibility. We called ourselves Axis because Bill and I are half German, while Willy and Bob are half Japanese. Axis powers right? We thought it was pretty witty. Not shown is drummer Robert Avilla, or B.A., (Willy swore that stood for "Big Asshole"). He was really not into the band as much as we were, although he could beat the hell out of those drums. He was always wanting us to play some funk. He didn't last that long. Bob eventually faded out of the band, and later Willy did as well.
Well, you can't stop Rock and Roll, right? Bill and I hooked up with a drummer named Gar Middleman, whom I had known as a youngster, and with Bill on guitar and myself on bass, we did the power trio thing for a while. All the while, a fellow named Mark Loveless, who had been a friend of mine for a while, was bound and determined to learn how to play bass, and he did a fair job of it pretty quickly. Then came the fateful day when Mark and Bill brought home a drummer named Bruce Kohler, (he and I would form a musical relationship that lasted for many years, through a lot of crazy shit, and various bandmates). We were pretty good, even playing some original stuff. Mark left and in came Jerry Young, a self proclaimed ladies man, (read: wanna be pretty boy and narcicist), who had been in a KISS imitation band called..., (wait for it...), KISS II. (brilliant, right?) When I say band, I use the term loosely because they didn't even really play any music. They dressed up like KISS and pretended to play with KISS music in the background. Then came the fateful time when Bill decided he was joining the army! Well, that was it. I had no hope of finding anyone who I would be able to jam with as easily as my brother Bill. Sure we had our disagreements, even fist fights in the front yard, but we were a natural fit when it came to jamming. Trading guitar solos, arguing over whose guitar was louder, all that good stuff.