INTERVIEW AND PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJALA
Madam X is an American hard rock/glam metal band formed in 1981 in Detroit by the Petrucci sisters, Maxine and Roxy. The original line-up was completed by bassist Chris “Godzilla” Doliber and vocalist Bret Kaiser. The band relocated to New York and got soon signed to Don Arden’s Jet Records. The band released their debut album WE RESERVE THE RIGHT in 1984. A single, “High in High School” was a success and not least because of it’s now legendary video which was played heavily in MTV. Unfortunately, the band drifted into trouble and after several line-up changes they finally disbanded in 1988. But sometimes things do change. In the spring of 2014 the band announced that they’re going to re-unite and soon after it was announced that the original line-up of Madam-X would perform their first re-union show in the mighty Sweden Rock festival in early June 2014. There I sat down with the whole band and tried to find about the reasons behind this re-union, the past and the future of Madam X. Read On!
THE RETURN OF MADAM X
Metal-Rules.com: Here we are in Sweden Rock festival in 2014 with Madam X and the obvious question is, why did you decide to come back?
Maxine: Because the fans demand it.
Roxy: They demanded it.
Maxine: If they didn’t demand it we would be doing our own things, but because they are demanding it we are giving them what they want. So, we decided to release a new single and then Sweden Rock kept calling and we all just found the time and place for this. It’s like it was meant to be, it was luck. To us it feels like there was no effort, all we wanted to do was to put out a single, make some new music. It’s all come down to the music right? And then Johan Hjartstrand from Sweden Rock drifted on my Facebook and said, “Would you guys like to play Sweden Rock?”
Roxy: Apparently we were big band in Sweden in the 80’s.
Maxine: Yeah. His first question was, “Is it all original?” And I said, “Yes.” Bret Kaiser in vocals, Roxy Petrucci in drums, Chris Doliber bass and me Maxine on guitar. And he goes, “We want you guys, we have a slot for you.” And then Bret lives in Phoenix, Arizona and I had to get a hold of everybody and everybody says, “Hell yes, we want to do this.”
Bret: Yeah. Because we deserved it. It was taken away from us back in 1985 or whatever, we hit the… This is what I felt, I felt we hit brick wall. So, everybody went and did some other things. Because you got to keep doing what you do.
Maxine: Right. You keep making music.
Bret: You got to keep the creative juices flowing and stuff. So, we were being mishandled and whatever and stalled. And let’s send them the accountant, let’s send them here, let’s send them there. But it wasn’t happening. So, here we are 30 years later and you can go out on stage and be embraced by a crowd like that. It was amazing.
Metal-Rules.com: The show was great and it was great to see so many young people in audience who weren’t even born when you put out WE RESERVE THE RIGHT.
Bret: They knew all the words to the songs.
Maxine: They knew the words, we were so happy.
Roxy: We were surprised, and so yeah. We still get lot of e-mails and stuff from people, Madam X fans.
Maxine: When you see people singing to your songs that means you have a great song with good melody and great hug.
Bret: It’s the end of the test of time. 30 years ago we wrote “High in High School” and everybody… I didn’t even have to do what we planned on doing.
Maxine: Right. We changed… the song changed because of the audience which was very worthy…
Bret: They took it over.
Maxine: They started singing without us having to do the singing.
Bret: We didn’t even tell them.
Chris: They took this song over, the audience took the song over.
Roxy: They did, yeah it was amazing.
Bret: They pulled me away as a matter of fact for a second I was like flabbergasted, I was like, “What do I do? Think, think. How are you going to get out of this?”
Maxine: I could feel that from you.
Bret: They just keep on singing, so you got to do something.
Maxine: That was awesome. And they were singing to our new single called, “Another 80’s Rock Song” We could see them all singing the words, and we just released it June 4th. That’s only like what? Three days ago.
Metal-Rules.com: But you guys know that Sweden is the number one country for hard rock music “Laughs”
Chris: You’ve got my vote.
Bret: Smart people.
Maxine: Well, you’ve got our vote.
Bret: I think we are going to move to Sweden Rock “Laughs”
HARD ROCK SCENE IN US AND THE BIRTH OF REUNION
Metal-Rules.com: As said, hard rock is alive and well in Sweden and Europe but how is it doing in the States?
Roxy: You mean Miley Cyrus, Bieber, R&B and all that stuff…
Maxine: No. You know what? That’s the press. Because there is this underground rock thing that only the rock bands can sell out concerts.
Chris: And for instance Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Megadeth and all those they still sell out.
Maxine: Even Led Zeppelin “Laughs”, they don’t even have to have to do anything and they are sold out without even doing all that hype.
Bret: They all sell out, you are right. They sell out without hype, people love Rock N Roll. It’s not going away.
Roxy: You’ve got your stable bands, you’ve got Kiss, Metallica, and Black Sabbath who we were seeing last night.
Maxine: God! Was that great?
Roxy: You’ve got the stable bands that will always sell out big places, and you got your bands that the radio people and the industry people are pushing. That really don’t have a clue what it’s like to engage in audience, to make them feel like they are part of the show. So, they walk away. We’ve seen them last night. You leave a Madam X show and you are like, “Damn!” They are hoarse, they are laryngitis because they are singing all the words, they got basses thrown at them, picks, buttons, everything. It’s a circus.
Maxine: It’s entertainment along with great talent.
Chris: We are not some preconceived virgin or idea of somebody in corporate scene somewhere, we just do what we do. We play because we love to play, and we play the way we play because that’s the way we play.
Roxy: The minute you start to the industry you are over, you’ve got to do what you do.
Bret: You know what I think is amazing? When we decided to do this we of course jumped on the Facebook, we put on a Facebook page. And in three days we had over 1800 people that love Madam X. And it’s just growing, it’s growing, growing. That alone or doing whatever we did on the side, I began to post Facebook messages, and people would post on my post what I was doing, “When is Madam X going to get back together? You should do a Madam X reunion. We need to see Madam X again.” We did something 30 years ago that was classic that stood the test of time, seriously. When I can go out on stage after 30 years and look down and see everybody singing the words to the songs, 30 years later. Still knowing the words to the songs. Really? Something is happening right there, magic, electricity.
Metal-Rules.com: Maybe I’m repeating myself here but was this the very first show or did you have some warm up shows before Sweden Rock?
Roxy: We did a warm up show in the States, but that was like a warm up in Detroit. What we did is we rehearsed…
Bret: It was a kind of like a private show.
Maxine: It was a private show, we rehearsed for three days and then at the third or fourth day we kind of blew it off in front of like our friends and people that we know. Just to see what it felt like to be in front of some people.
Maxine: You have to like…. You have to hammer out on the…
Bret: We blew off the dust.
Roxy: Yeah. We blew off the dust.
Chris: Today we chipped off the rust “Laughs”
Metal-Rules.com: So, before you start working on a new material, when you first started to think about putting this band back together?
Maxine: It’s her fault right here.
Roxy: Yeah. It’s my fault.
Bret: She opened what? What did you say?
Roxy: The Pandora’s Box. I opened that…
Bret: She opened Pandora’s Box.
Roxy: In last October. I played in England, Firefest.
Metal-Rules.com: I know that you played there with Vixen? Yeah.
Roxy: Yeah, we were doing a meet & greet with Vixen and Madam X was coming across the table and then the light bulb went off my head, and I talked to Maxine and said we should record a song, we called these guys and they said, “No fucking way.”
Maxine: But we sent them our ideas anyway.
Bret: And we started sending tracks…
Maxine: And then Sweden Rock just sealed the deal and here we are.
Metal-Rules.com: Roxy, in brief, what’s going on with Vixen at the moment?
Roxy: I have a gig with them next weekend “Laughs”.
Metal-Rules.com: I heard that you have plans for a new album?
Roxy: Yes. We are working on new material, yes.
Metal-Rules.com: I do remember when I first got your WE RESERVE THE vinyl in my hands and its cover was just shocking because you guys were looking really freaky. How do like that cover nowadays?
Bret: And you know another thing is we still look damn good “Laughs”
Maxine: I think we were built for it “Laughs”
Metal-Rules.com: Right and another thing I remember is when I first saw the video of “High in Highschool” and it was just great stuff. It was played all over in MTV so it was really close that you didn’t make it big time then.
Roxy: You know what though? Timing is everything, that this maybe our time. Maybe now was the time, we are growing up, we can…
Bret: Exactly now, because we deserve the right. We only reserved the right last time, now we deserve it.
Maxine: We deserve it; we are going to take it back. But the bottom line is we want it. If we didn’t want it, it wouldn’t… What’s the point? Got be all up for it, we are still very excited. We are not phony and we are going on stage and we give it everything that we’ve got.
Bret: The energy between us four on stage is unbelievable.
Maxine: We are taking this ride with or without you guys, because we love it. It’s always the fans are demanding us, so if the fans want it will give it to them.
Metal-Rules.com: But going back to the 80’s a bit more, what happened for you guys? You released that one good album, you did a great video but soon after members started to leave and the whole band soon disbanded. What went wrong then if you think it now?
Bret: And what an album it was.
Maxine: You know what? It doesn’t matter… Does it really matter though? Because we are back. Why go back to all that, it’s like we are back. We are starting a fresh…
Roxy: It’s almost like negativity. Why would we want negativity when there is something positive and new?
Metal-Rules.com: Maybe you can still tell something because people don’t know much about it?
Roxy: Okay. Chris go ahead.
Maxine: He can’t be brief.
Chris: Okay. We released our first record; we went on MTV which is big media in the United States. We went from new ad to light rotation to medium rotation pretty quickly. And as we were gaining momentum Jet Records our management and our record label had inside problems, like big time problems. Like Don Arden our manager and the owner of Jet Records was extradited back to Britain for attempted murder charges. He was also facing tax problems because of this issue in the United States, and all of a sudden we were here and then Don is not available to talk to, people panicked. And within a short amount of time they locked the Jet office doors, and we were under contract with Don. He’s in Europe, we don’t know what the hell is going on because nobody told us. We only heard little snippets and…
Maxine: And remember we were very young.
Bret: We were kids. We were babes in the business. We were babes, we were picked up, coddled, were aligned fleece and all of a sudden were put on the door step.
Maxine: We were hanging on every word, yeah.
Bret: We were put on a door step, and then all of a sudden. You know what happens when you do that? Four of us sitting around going, “I don’t care. What the fuck do you care?” Instead of internally combusting, we take our separate. Goes several ways. Roxy joined Vixen, Maxine did her solo career and I went back to New York, where I turned down Skid Row.
Roxy: We did different things. I can’t complain. With Vixen we toured with Deep Purple and Scorpions around the world “Laughs”.
Metal-Rules.com: In fact I saw you in Finland with Deep Purple back in the day, in ’91 or something?
Roxy: Where was it?
Metal-Rules.com: In Ice Hall in Helsinki.
Roxy: Helsinki? I remember Helsinki. Yeah, yeah.
Chris: We all did our own thing; we all went our own roads, our own things.
Metal-Rules.com: Like you mentioned you all did your own things but I would like to learn some more about what you guys were up to later on. Vixen thing I know well and…
Maxine: Yeah. But that means that we always kept going, we are real musicians that kept on doing it. You can do side projects, because you learn from that…
Roxy: We are musicians. That’s what we do for a living.
Maxine: It makes you better; it makes you a better musician. It’s the right thing to do.
Bret: My side project has nothing to do with interfering or anything, and these guys know it. I’ve always been a big Elvis fan. I worked full time for the sheriff of Maricopa County, Sheriff Joe. That’s what I do. I’m ready to retire; I put 20 years in with this guy. And I do an Elvis show, and I have a Band ‘56, it’s more like rock & roll band. But you know what? This is magic. The feeling I had today on that stage, I was a walking erection. No, I’m serious. It was me walking down on stage and I felt that audience hug me, there was nothing like that. I want more, I want more.
Metal-Rules.com: Chris, what you’ve been doing after Madam X finally split in 1988?
Chris: I have been masturbating furiously for the last 30 years, I’m an expert! “Laughs”
Maxine: He watches women take off their clothes for a living. “Laughs”
Chris: No. I have a lightning and sound company called NRG Lights and Sound. I do festivals like these, not such grandiose scale but in Michigan I make everybody bright and loud. So, that’s what I have been doing. I have a production company, NRG Lights and Sound.
LINE-UP CHANGES, SEBASTIAN BACH AND MORE
Metal-Rules.com: Bret left the band in 1985 and so did Roxy soon after. Bret was then replaced by British vocalist John “Wardi” Ward. But that thing didn’t work out at all, right?
Maxine: John Wardi?
Roxy: John Ward. It can’t be all bad, because I even forgot. A nice guy, I met him but I wasn’t in the band then.
Maxine: He just wasn’t the thing… That’s was a Jet Record’s thing. What do they know?
Chris: We had a few guys and John Ward was doing a Black Sabbath audition and…
Roxy: He was a good singer but he wasn’t right for Madam X.
Maxine: Who fucking cares, let’s not even talk about it. I’m with Bret, like why would we even go there. Does anybody really fucking care? But the thing was that there was no chemistry and it’s all about, chemistry.
Roxy: We, me and Bret, were gone and they want to continue. What do you do? They went up and did their things, because you have to keep playing. But we are irreplaceable in this band.
Metal-Rules.com: After Wardi you had a future Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach in a band for a while. How did he end up in the band back then?
Maxine: At the time how were we supposed to know that he would even have that band, whatever happened to him. “Laughs”
Roxy: We didn’t know that at the time. He was great in Skid Row, that’s where he belonged…
Maxine: And he still belongs there. He didn’t belong in Madam X, that’s all.
Chris: Sebastian was a Madam X fan and when Bret joined Kaiser and Roxy was working with Vixen, we got a guy called Mark McConnell. Excellent drummer. He’s sadly passed away a few years ago. He was a great guy and a drummer. And we needed somebody to replace Bret and we came across Sebastian, and he’s got big shoes to fill. And Sebastian was a Madam X fan, and learned the songs and he sang great, he was very young. But there again it’s the chemistry. You can have all the ingredients, but if you don’t have the right amount of that ingredient you are not going to make dynamite. It’s got to be absolutely spot on perfect.
Maxine: And you got to give Sebastian his credit. I mean the guy went on to sell millions of records.
Chris: We recognized his talent…
Bret: Do you know the bottom line, we played Canada with Madam X. Towards the end of our thing in ’85, ’86. We did Canada, I met Sebastian. He came to our show in Heaven, in Toronto. Nice kid, kid. I went back to New York, she went to Vixen. I got a call from Skid Row, “Hey! We want you as our singer.” I said, “No, thanks. I don’t want to go out on the road and start band with my brother.” They got Sebastian; he did what he did for the time being and then he went on to do what he does. We are here now, this is now.
Maxine: That’s what matters.
Roxy: It just really does.
Bret: We love everybody and we are not going to hold anything against anybody.
Maxine: There is a reason why we are here and why this all works.
Bret: It worked back then and then…
Roxy: Part of the process, you go through all that until you come back to… It said, finished circle. You go back to home.
Chris: Now, we are going to take back what was taken from us in 1985 very easily.
Metal-Rules.com: Okay. That’s what I was waiting to hear. Ok our time is running out soon. Any last words from you guys?
Bret: I’m riding high right now. The people at Sweden took me on a trip that I’ll never forget. I’m serious. You don’t feel no pain, after a set like that you don’t feel nothing. All you feel is alteration, you feel wonderful, you feel like a superhero. I feel like a freaking super hero. That was amazing when I went on there and I could see everybody knew the words. “High in High School” we had to do it a certain way, I didn’t have to do it that way. The audience took the song over. So, right now Chris is getting checked out because he broke his fingers during the show. But it is okay, he will be fine. It’s not like the first time this happened. I know. Not, it’s not big. We have so much emotion build up in this reunion.