VIDEO: Max the Axe – Oktoberfest Cheer (2021)

Today is the last day for Oktoberfest…but “Oktoberfest Cheer” goes on and on!

From the new EP Oktoberbest Cheer, written by Mike Koutis, here is the video for “Oktoberfest Cheer”.  Have a schnitzel on a bun and a frosty cold one, and get your copy at Encore Records in Kitchener, or by dropping us a line here.

  • Mike Koutis – guitar
  • Eric Litwiller – lead vocals
  • Mike Mitchell – bass
  • Dr. Dave Haslam – drums


  • Accordion by Catherine Thompson


Notes:  Since Eric deleted the only rehearsal footage of “Oktoberfest Cheer”, I was forced to use the video for “Randy” live at the Boathouse somewhat ham-fistedly.  However this works perfect with the punky off-the-rails nature of the song.  Speeding things up and slowing things down hides a multitude of sins in the edit, and the Keystone Cops flavour of the high-speed footage lends a comedic profile to the video.  Which is necessary for any song that contains lyrics like “don’t crush my smokes, don’t spill my beer.”

VIDEO: Max the Axe – “Pygmy Blowdart” – vertical video performance !

“Pygmy Blowdart” (2021 Koutis)

  • Mike Koutis – Guitar
  • Eric Litwiller – Lead Vocals
  • Mike Mitchell – Bass
  • Dr. Dave Haslam – Drums

From the brand new EP Oktoberfest Cheer.

VIDEO: Last Summer Weekend at the Lake 2021 / Max the Axe – “Pygmy Blowdart”

Now that the new Max the Axe EP, Oktoberfest Cheer, has been released, I am happy to present to you their new never-before-heard original “Pygmy Blowdart”.  Lead singer Eric Litwiller stressed to me (more than once) “I did not write the lyrics”.

Video footage was taken the last weekend of August, but held on to until I could use some fresh new Max music.  Check out “Pygmy Blowdart” and let Max and Meat know what you think of this new tune in the comments below!


Available at Encore Records.

Morning Dashcam

Nothing major, but watch where you’re going bud.

Music: “Pygmy Blowdart” by Max the Axe from the new Oktoberfest Cheer EP.

REVIEW: Max the Axe – Oktoberfest Cheer (2021 EP)

MAX THE AXE – Oktoberfest Cheer (2021 EP)

Pandemics suck, but last year Max the Axe began working on a remedy.  Three new songs — one cover, two originals — and a new EP called Oktoberfest Cheer!  With this year’s Bavarian festival just around the corner, Max is ready to rock your beerhallen.  It’s the second release with the same lineup:  Mike Koutis (Max the Axe) – lead guitar, Eric Litwiller (Uncle Meat) – lead vocals, Mike Mitchell – lead bass and Dr. Dave Haslam — lead drums.  It’s a much more punk rock affair than the last album Status Electric.  Perhaps it’s even a concept record about intoxication!

Opening with the original “Pygmy Blow Dart”, Max sounds like Queens of the Stone Age jonesing for a smoke.  Litwiller is in full Homme mode with the groove of the Axe behind him.  “I think I’m going downtown, looking for some dope.”  Ah, the quaint pre-legalization setting!  By the end, the band is in a singalong, looking for some smoke.  “Round and round, and round and round…”  Hey guys…check the local dispensary!  There’s one on every corner now.  Great bass solo in the middle, right before Max rips on the six string.  Fans of the last album will love it.

The Black Flag cover “Thirsty and Miserable” is outstanding, full-on punkfied Max.  Definitely some influence from Lemmy’s version of “Thirsty and Miserable” too.  This track kicks and Litwiller sounds legit.  They could play it two or three times in a row and you wouldn’t get bored.

Finally the punk-inflected EP ends with the title track “Oktoberfest Cheer!”, a song destined to be a seasonal hit.  Feather in cap, beer on tap…October is here so raise up that beer!  You can picture the festhallen going mad for this October anthem.  This is the clear hit, frantic and haggard as it may be.  Adorned with festive accordion, it’s punk rock unlike any other.  You can play it year after year…or in August.  Don’t crush my smokes, don’t spill my beer!

The great thing about this EP is that it’s under 10 minutes in true punk fashion and perfect for repeat plays.

Kitchener knows.

5/5 stars



#920: Wild in the Streets – Helix – Center in the Square, Kitchener, 1987

RECORD STORE TALES #920: Wild in the Streets
Helix – Center in the Square, Kitchener, 1987

We simply could not wait to see our first real concert.

As soon as the date was announced, we got tickets:  Helix with a band called Haywire opening.  Center in the Square, downtown Kitchener.  We were second row mezzanine.  Bob and I were so psyched to finally see our first real rock concert.

We wanted to bring a banner that said “HOMETOWN HELIX”.  We dreamed big.

Helix were hot on the road for their new album, Wild in the Streets.  We’d seen the video and knew what their stage show was going to look like.  The stage set played on the brick wall artwork from the album cover, with two ramps on the sides, that resembled the “fangs” in the Helix logo.  We thought those ramps were absolutely badass.  We couldn’t wait to see Brian Vollmer slide down mid-song,

We were not interested in Haywire — too pop.  The two girls in front of us were obviously Haywire fans.  They had the shirts and were going nuts for singer Paul MacAusland.  Bob and I didn’t think much of him, especially when he laid down flat on his face on the stage.  “That’s his stage move?” we questioned.  Bob liked the guitarist, but I wanted to hear some “real” rock, not this.

A kid from our school, Brian Knight, was there in the loges on the side.  He boasted the next day at school that Helix were not that good; he had seen better.  Ironically he later went on to roadie for Helix.  He could be seen in the 1991 MuchMusic special Waltzing with Helix.  He was also acknowledged in Brian Vollmer’s book Gimme An R, albeit his name was misspelled “McKnight”.  Sadly, Brian passed away this year.

What Brian claimed was simply untrue.  It might have been our first real rock concert, but it was a hell of a first.  We didn’t know a lot of the songs but we knew the hits and some of the deep cuts from Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge.  They certainly played everything we wanted to hear, including the new single “Dream On”, “Wild in the Streets”, “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'”, “Rock You”, “Heavy Metal Love”, “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want”, “Kids are all Shakin'”, and “Deep Cuts the Knife”.  They also played a new tune that we found amusing.  It went, “Bend over and kiss your ass goodbye” (“Kiss It Goodbye”).  Fritz Hinz took a drum solo, and turned around and shockingly revealed his bare bottom with nothing but a jock strap.  We laughed – we were easily entertained!

The highlight of the show was when Vollmer climbed the loges, and then ran all the way across the mezzanine, right past our noses!  We could hardly believe it.  Bob reached out his hand but Brian didn’t slap it.  I simply made a fist, like “right on man”!  It was amazing how we’d been watching this guy climb up, and then make his way in our direction…and then he ran past and it was over in a second!  Before we knew it he was on the other side, and climbing back down to the stage again.  We knew he had a reputation for climbing on top of things and doing somersaults, but we sure didn’t know that was going to happen when we bought our tickets!

Helix didn’t make as much use of the side ramps as I thought they would, but they did put on a hell of a show.  Doctor Doerner played that big doubleneck that we wanted to see so bad, and of course the “Wild in the Streets” guitar.  We got to see all their stage moves and tricks, and yes, the women in the audience were unlike any we’d ever seen before outside of a video.

We got all the songs we wanted, plus a few we didn’t know like “Dirty Dog”.  They put on one of the most energetic shows that I’m ever likely to see.  It was the MTV/MuchMusic era and all we had seen before were music videos.  The quick cut-and-paste editing of a music video is hard to compete with.  Helix had to work hard on stage, and they went above and beyond that night.

Not a bad “first”.  What I did notice was that Vollmer’s voice sounded thinner than on album.  I wondered if all concerts were like that?  I couldn’t believe how deaf I was afterwards!  Both of us were experiencing this for the first time.  It was a strange sensation and we must have been yelling in the car the whole way home, when my dad came to pick us up.

We couldn’t stop talking about Helix for days.  Weeks.  They didn’t really have to win us over; they were hometown heroes to us.  Instead Helix just cemented our loyalty.  It is said that a great rock show can change a life.  In this case, it simply affirmed everything we had hoped.

Rock Candy reissue

#914: The Bad Batch


Mrs. Powers used to say to us, “You are the worst class I have ever taught!”  She was good at the guilt thing.  I understand that she continued to tell subsequent generations that they too were the worst class she has ever taught.  With the benefit of hindsight, she was the worst teacher we ever had.

I had her two years in a row.  Grades seven and eight.  We were the worst class she had ever taught both years.  Coincidentally, also the worst two years of grade school.  A couple years later, my sister had her.  She was still guilting and shaming the students when my sister had her.  She was the epitome of old lady Catholic school teacher clichés.

We were not particularly worse than any other class.  We had our bad apples, that the teachers didn’t seem to know how to contain.  My time with Powers coincided with my discover of heavy metal music:  Kiss, Priest, Maiden.  Wearing my Judas Priest shirt to school was one of the biggest mistakes I made in the 8th grade.  Powers gave me a good scolding in front of everyone else, who found it hilarious.  She must have thought I was going bad too.  I will always resent Powers for teaming me up with my nemesis Steve Hartman in gym class.  The guy had been picking on me since grade two, and she thought we’d get over it by doing gymnastics together?  The fact that I even had to touch the guy was disgusting to me.  Why did she have to do that?  Isn’t that borderline abusive?

In the 8th grade I had enough with Hartman and fought him one night after school.  He brought friends; my only backup was Kevin Kirby.  He was just there to enjoy the show, he didn’t care who won.  But I managed to get Steve Hartman to leave me alone for the year after that night.  That was pretty much it for his career in bullying; he never had a comeback though not without trying.

Kiss really did a lot to get me through the Powers years.  My year of discovery for Kiss was 1985, the Asylum period.  Not the greatest entry point, but I quickly found myself drawn to better albums like Hotter Than Hell and Creatures of the Night.  It was Mrs. Powers who presided over the school retreat to Mount Mary.  Possibly the loneliest week of my entire childhood as I bunked with every kid who ever tormented me.  But we had to go; Powers scared everyone in class by telling us that any student she had that skipped the Mount Mary retreat ended up “dead or on drugs”.   Bringing your own music was forbidden, so I memorized as much Kiss music as I could, to replay in my head when the going got rough.

Sex-ed was a joke of course.  I remember the usual school films with animated cells dividing, and sketches of genitalia.  The more we learned the less we knew.  But at least we got to sit there watching a movie, so the teacher didn’t have to explain anything herself.  Rock Hudson died of AIDS that fall, but none of us knew exactly what AIDS was.  She asked us if we knew.  One kid answered, “It makes you get old and die.”  She responded, “Well, it makes you look old, yes.”  We learned that much, and that you could get it from a blood infection.  That’s what we learned.  Can’t give this bad batch of kids too much graphic information.

Do you want to know the truth?  Maybe Powers was right.  Maybe our year really was the worst batch of kids she’d ever taught.  Some of them, at least.  Our only consolation was that she if she thought we were bad, she was going to find future generations were worse.  If she thought I was heading down the wrong path with Kiss and Judas Priest, I wonder what she thought of Marilyn Manson or rap!  She thought we were bad?  The 90s were still to come!

One thing that struck me from that time that will always remain is this.  Our family did not go to church much, but frequency in church visits didn’t seem to correlate to how good of a person you were.  My sister and I were good kids.  Some of these other kids that went to church every week were real assholes.  Just an observation.

I hope that Powers did end up with worse classes than us.  She deserved it.

#913: A Walk to the Mall 1988

RECORD STORE TALES #913: A Walk to the Mall 1988

Bob and I went to the mall a lot.  Stanley Park Mall was kind of epicenter of the neighborhood.  Though it didn’t have a record store of the caliber of Sam the Record Man downtown, it had an A&A and a Zellers where you could find all the big releases and a few singles.  It had a grocery store, which meant just about every neighbour bought their supplies at the same place.  The Zellers store stocked anything else you needed.  There was a liquor store.  Two banks.  We didn’t need to go elsewhere very often.

It was a nice short walk.  We used to take a short cut through the apartments at the very end of Secord Ave.  But they fenced up the shortcuts.  Sometimes Bob and I would go that way and jump the fences just out of spite.

“They can’t stop us from going this way,” we said.

We were little assholes sometimes, but we had a good time doing it.

The Little Short Stop was an important store.  That’s where I would buy my rock magazines.  Hit Parader, every single month.  I never missed an issue from some time in 1987 through 1990.  One thing we loved doing was leafing through seeing ads for all the rock albums that were due to come out.  “New Ace Frehley!” I exclaimed upon seeing an ad for Second Sighting.  The ads would often tell you names of the forthcoming singles.  The ad for Open Up and Say…Ahh! by Poison highlighted the track “Good Love” as a song to watch for.  Maybe the marketing for that album changed midway?

I eventually stopped buying Hit Parader, and switched to other mags like Metal Edge.  The reason?  I always suspected there was something up with their interviews.  There was a sameness to them, no matter who was answering.  Then, Sebastian Bach from Skid Row got in some serious trouble when an audience member at a concert threw a bottle at him.  Injured and enraged, he made the incredibly stupid mistake of throwing the bottle back, and hitting an innocent girl instead.  Hit Parader fabricated an interview with Bach where he was quoted as saying “That’s why rock stars have lawyers, man” or something to that effect.  The quote was used against him in court.

Not to deflect blame for the incident away from Bach, but I couldn’t support Hit Parader any more after that.  Not to mention, I was disappointed to realize that many of the rest of their interviews also had to be fake.  I gave away my collection many years ago.

In 1988, however, Hit Parader was my Bible.  That, and WWF Magazine, which was equally fake.  I always left that store with both magazines if I could.  If I couldn’t, the Zehrs store often had the WWF Magazine issues that I needed.  Some pop and chips, and we were all set for Short Stop.

WWF Magazine was devious.  They had the monthly publication, but also many periodical specials, and I had to collect them all.  There was the official Wrestlemania book.  Another one for Summer Slam.  Royal Rumble.  Survivor Series.  My mom used to say that the World Wrestling Federation got a lot of money out of us!  I would also buy the Toronto Sun the day after a major wrestling event.  They had the most complete coverage, often with full colour photos.  I may still have an old Toronto Sun from that time.

Then we were off to browse the music at A&A.  We’d look at the charts and see if any bands we liked were up there.  Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was for about a week.  I was pleased when I saw Priest’s Ram It Down on the chart later that year.  We’d shop around, but I rarely had enough money for a new tape.  Bob did — he had a job.

But browse we did, usually looking for Kiss tapes that we had never seen in stock before.  Or Europe.  Or Ozzy.  Whitesnake, Cinderella, AC/DC, Def Leppard, all of our favourites.  Cassettes were like crack to us.  We were always searching.  Something “rare” would be a must-buy.

Bob would often save his money and buy five tapes at a time.  He took chances on stuff I never heard of, like Fifth Angel.  He would caution me and make sure I was making the right purchase.  He was somewhat surprised when I got into Bon Jovi and decided I wanted to buy Slippery When Wet.  He wasn’t really into them that much.  “Are you sure that’s what you want?” he asked me one night at the Zellers store.  I was sure.

“Have you ever seen this one before?” we would ask each other.  The Bon Jovi cassette single “Wanted: Dead or Alive” was one I had my eyes on for several months at that A&A store.  You just did not see it very often, so when I had the money, I grabbed it.  It was worth it for the incredible acoustic version of the song.  Bob didn’t buy singles as often.  He valued a full length for his money, but he made exceptions for bands like Iron Maiden.  You couldn’t find Maiden singles at A&A though.  You had to go to Sam’s for those.  Bob wold trek there on his bike.  Fortunately he sold his Maiden singles collection to me when he did finally let them go.

One of the most distinctive features of the old Stanley Park Mall that people remember is that it was shaped like a big “O”; like an oval.  We would walk around and around.  Just talking, looking at the magazines I had purchased.  Or the tapes he just bought.  Discussing everything going on in music, in the neighbourhood and at school.  Because the mall was such a central location for so many people, we’d always run into schoolmates or neighbours.  Sometimes a girl that I liked, but I never had the courage to talk to any.

The mall has changed so much and the “O” is gone.  All the good stuff is gone.  A harsh reminder of the passage of time.  But I can still retrace my steps.

Bob was a fast walker but I could keep up.  You didn’t waste a lot of time on your way home from the mall.  You wanted to get down to business of listening to the new music, or reading the new magazines.  That was a special kind of Saturday in old ’88.


#912: My First Guitar

RECORD STORE TALES #912: My First Guitar

Bob had a blue and yellow BMX bike, so I had to have a blue and yellow BMX bike.

Bob had a leather jacket, and so I had to have a leather jacket.

Bob had an electric guitar…so I had to have an electric guitar.

Early in 1988, Bob bought his first and only guitar.  It was a jagged, black Stinger with a whammy bar.   It had two double coil pickups.  He had strap locks so he could twirl his guitar over his shoulder if he wanted.  And I had to have all these things too.

Bob bought his guitar second-hand from a guy who said “it used to belong to the guy from Helix”.  Of course there was no way to verify this so we never treated it as fact.   The first weekend he had it, he invited me over to check it out.  How hard could a guitar be to play?  They used to teach sheet music in grade school, so I thought “piece of cake, I can play guitar”.

I told my parents that I was getting a guitar, and to them it was just another thing that Bob had, that I had to have too.  And since Bob was two years older and had a part-time job, they’d be paying for this guitar that I insisted I was getting.  Bob and I went out on our own one afternoon, to East End Music in downtown Kitchener.  We browsed, got the help of the man working (probably the owner) and I picked out a generic white guitar.  It had what I needed — the humbucking pickups and whammy bar like Bob had.

“The black and white guitars will be a cool contrast,” we both thought.

I really wanted that guitar.  I thought it was just meant to be.  Bob and I were going to form a band.  This was the first step.  We already had a few band names picked out.

“We’ll be back,” I told the guy as we left.  I was really excited.  Upon arriving at home, I proceeded with begging my parents for the guitar.  My dad wasn’t happy, especially when I explained to him that we already told the guy that I was coming back for it.

“Oh no,” he moaned.  But they agreed, as long as I took music lessons.  That seemed like a pretty sweet deal!  My dad got out his cheque book, asked the man, “What can you do for me here?” and bought me the white generic instrument that I couldn’t live without, at a slightly reduced price!  I was the only one who was happy with the outcome.

It was at this point that I discovered that guitar was really hard.

Look closely in this picture and you can see the black cardboard “air guitar” that I made, and our old Atari 2600 console.  

Sure, I could pick out the first six or seven notes of the “Detroit Rock City” solo, but not in time.  Bob and I figured out how to do a simple version of the “Wasted Years” intro, but couldn’t play the song any further than that.  I saw a kid at school playing acoustic guitar, and he did something with his fingers that I couldn’t.  He laid his index finger on the fretboard, and played multiple strings at once — the skill of chording that I had yet to learn.

My mom found a teacher that did housecalls.  It was perfect — my sister was learning keyboards from him.  Gary Mertz was his name, a keyboard player by nature but also able to teach guitar.  Bob would come over on Saturday mornings, and take his lesson after Kathryn and I had finished.  Gary could teach three lessons in one stop, and I believe there was a fourth kid in the neighborhood that he taught as well.  After lessons, sometimes Bob and I would hang out and listen to music, or go to the mall.

The first lesson I really learned about guitar is why you don’t want a whammy bar.  I spent most of my time tuning that thing, and replacing a set of strings was a nightmare.  “I’ll never buy another guitar with a whammy bar,” I said after buying a second guitar with a whammy bar.

The reason I bought that second guitar was due to an accident with the first.  I left it lying upright, leaning on a bench.  It got tangled in a cable, and when my sister got her keyboard out to practice, the cable yanked on the whammy bar.  The guitar hit the bench and the headstock broke in two.  It was made clear to me by both Gary and my parents that this accident was my fault.  But Gary found a guy who would fix it.

A broken guitar is never as good as it was brand new.  A couple years later I bought my Kramer flying V, which became my preferred instrument.  It too was a white guitar, and so I said to Bob:  “My gimmick is that every guitar I own will be a white guitar.”  He thought that was cool, because two of my favourite players, Adrian Smith and Phil Collen, frequently played white guitars.

The fact of the matter is, some people can play instruments, and some people can’t.  I went the full distance before admitting that I can’t.   I modified my first axe with some cool stickers. Bob and I both bought “super slinky” guitar strings thinking it would help us play fast.   For my guitar strap, I chose a cool faux-snakeskin thing.  (I didn’t want animal print — too 1984.)  I had an electronic tuner, a suitably heavy ancient tube amp with a reverb pedal, and a collection of different picks.  Gary tried to make my mom feel better about my difficulty.  “It’s not as easy as the keyboard,” he explained.  “If I dropped an ashtray on this key, it’s still going to make the right note.  A guitar won’t.”  But eventually, I called it quits.  It turns out that my sister got all the talent.

Bob didn’t think he was learning anything from Gary, and he quit several months before I did.  He had a new interest now:  sailboarding.

“Oh I suppose you’re going to want a sailboard now!” said my mom with a warning tone in her voice.

But I didn’t follow Bob this time.  Sailboarding was the first thing Bob was into, that I had no interest in.  I toiled away at guitar a little longer, thinking now I could be a solo artist.  I wrote some lyrics and recorded some ideas on cassette.  Half of my ideas were played on the keyboard using the “guitar” voice, because I just couldn’t play guitar.

My first guitar, the one bought in February 1988 at East End Music in downtown Kitchener, with the repaired headstock, was sold to an older lady that Gary was teaching.  I’m sure she was able to get more music out of it than I did.


This Is Your Life, Jacob Moon on the LeBrain Train + musical performance of “Someday”

The LeBrain Train reunites old friends — it is what we do!  Whether it be Mike Fraser and Andy Curran, or members of the community at large, we enjoy bringing people together.  We also enjoy improvisation, both in our music and in the live show.  This time, flying by the seats of our pants, we reunited Jacob Moon with old friends from his past.  By the stories told, you can call this episode This Is Your Life, Jacob Moon.

Watch as Meat, Trevor and Jacob relive their favourite memories, musical and otherwise.  Observe as Meat forgets how to count up to eleven.  Enjoy as Jacob performs some of his favourite impressions.  Ed Grimley?  Check.  Tom Waits?  Check.  Nigel Tufnel?  Top ten!

In a LeBrain Train first, Jacob gave us the show’s first full musical performance.  Steve Earle’s “Someday”, live by Jacob Moon, is a LeBrain Train exclusive musical performance!  He also gave us a partial version of “Downtown Train” with some hilarious impressions.

We took viewer questions and a celebrity guest question from Andy Curran.  Discussion subjects included:

  • The making of “Subdivisions”
  • Musical adventures with Trev and Eric
  • “Christmas Goalie”
  • Playing a Rush song in front of Rush
  • Playing the Marillion weekend
  • Looping and technical stuff
  • Streaming live

Thank you Meat, Trevor and especially Jacob Moon for an awesome Saturday show.  Jacob, I am honoured and flattered to have you play live on my little show!  I cannot thank you enough.