by: Avalon Clare
The first track on Plasma Canvas’ self titled debut album starts with a scream. Vocalist Jamie Lynn Axton screamed so hard while recording the vocals for it that she puked. It’s an intense choice for an opener, one that Axton herself described as “inaccessible.”
“If you can get past “The Killer, Majestic”, you’ve earned the rest of the album,” she said.
The rest of Plasma Canvas is a sprawling rock odyssey, at times indeed much gentler than “The Killer, Majestic.” Most of the songs are close to five minutes long, and the longest is just shy of seven minutes. There are elements of southern rock, metal, and rock ballads reminiscent of those from the 70s and 80s.
This record came straight from the heart and life experience of Axton, a 26-year-old trans woman from a small town 40 miles west of St. Louis. The songs are personal, and the whole album has a weight and density to it that demands to be taken seriously. The song “So I Was Thinking”… addresses the complexities of falling in love while being queer and transgender. “Sitting In A Trailer And Everyone’s Dead” describes an incident in which her mom’s boyfriend pulled a knife on Axton.
“I didn’t know I was writing a record,” Axton said. “I thought I was just dealing with sh*t.”
In an effort to carry a universal message, words like trans, dysphoria, or gender do not appear on the album. It was imperative to her that the record be “more than just queer.”
“I tried to make it as accessible as possible, so anybody who’d ever felt like ‘you don’t belong here’ or ‘this place or these people [aren’t] for you’ because I felt that way before I ever came out.” she said, “[I wanted to] write in a way that put forward my struggles but didn’t erase anybody else’s along the way.”
The lyrics focus on themes of isolation and rejection, but the weight of life as a marginalized person is also there, peeking through the cracks. It is a concept album about the first two years of her life as a trans woman.
“As much as it is an album that I would hope would empower LGBTQI people,” Axton said, “it’s not just about that. I really hope that it resonates with more people than just the queer community, because some of these songs I wrote before I ever came out.”
Axton moved to Colorado in December of 2015, just one year after coming out as trans in her small home town in Missouri. Once she had settled in Fort Collins she set out to record the album that had been building up inside her for years. But she needed a drummer.
Unfortunately, a Craigslist post looking for someone to play drums on her album yielded little promising results at first. Most interested parties made excuses once they discovered her transgender identity. Until metal drummer David Sites contacted her.
Sites was already the drummer for Wyvern Spire and Age of Mythos, and was looking to expand his recorded catalogue.
Although originally they only planned to record together, Axton and Sites had such a great time playing live together that they became Plasma Canvas. After three practices Axton told Sites that she went ahead and booked the album release show. This was in the summer. By the end of September they had finished recording the album, and in October they played that release show in Denver.
As a live band, they don’t seem newly formed at all. Axton and Sites could get away with telling people they’ve been playing together for years based on the authenticity of their stage chemistry alone. With a solid rock record alongside their already powerful live shows, Plasma Canvas is definitely on the right path.
As for the future? Axton already has enough songs for another album.
Plasma Canvas was recorded at Stout Studios by Darren Radach and mixed by Jace McLain in TN. You can listen to it and purchase physical copies at plasmcanvas.bandcamp.com
Plasma Canvas is playing at 7th Circle in Denver on December 16th. For booking inquires please email firstname.lastname@example.org