Interview: Maxine and Roxy Petrucci discuss new Madam X album, ‘Monstrocity’

Thirty years seems like a long time for a band to release sophomore album, but for the all-original line of Madam X: Bret Kaiser (vocals), Maxine Petrucci (guitars), Chris “Godzilla” Doliber (bass) and Roxy Petrucci (drums), the wait was certainly worth it. The band, who’s 1984 debut, We Reserve The Right was fueled by the infectious guitar/drum wizardry of sisters Maxine and Roxy Petrucci have released the long-awaited “follow-up” three decades later. The ferociously aggressive, Monstrocity.

Monstrocity captures the classic vibe of the veteran foursome while tastefully bringing the band into the 21st century with well-crafted songs, ubiquitous grooves and a production that includes the likes of veteran mixer, Michael Wagener (MetallicaOzzy) and Mark Slaughter as well as a guest appearance by Janet Gardner (Vixen).

AXS recently spoke with Maxine and Roxy Petrucci about Monstrocity and more in this new interview.

AXS: It’s been more than thirty years since we last heard from Madam X. What sparked the reunion?

Roxy Petrucci: Madam X fans are so loyal. I’d been out touring in Europe with Vixen and noticed a lot of Madam X memorabilia coming through our meet and greet line. I thought it would be cool to maybe release one song with all the original Madam X members, just for the fans. I ran the idea past the band and everyone was on board.

Maxine Petrucci: We released a single in 2014 to get us started, “Another 80’s Rock Song.” That sparked interest from Sweden Rock. They contacted us and asked if we’d be interested in playing Sweden Rock 2014. When we played, there were close to 20,000 people there. We were in shock, but once we hit that first chord we realized the chemistry was still there. It felt very comfortable and like thirty years hadn’t even gone by. We picked up right where we left off. That was when we thought about doing an album for the fans. Madam X was back.

AXS: What were those early writing sessions like?

RP: Bret had a song with a cool riff that needed a little work. So, Maxine and I took it and started tweaking it. That song turned out to be, “Hello Cleveland,” and that’s what really inspired us to write some more. But we didn’t want to just throw something out there. We were passionate about releasing great stuff and worked really hard and took our time.

Read the rest of my
axs
Interview with Maxine & Roxy Petrucci Here.

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Under A Neapolitan Sky

I am super-excited about the release of my new novella, “Neapolitan Sky”.  Right now, it’s going through a second round of test readers and the plan is to have a final edit done prior to publishing, which as it stands now appears to be in early spring.

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I’d like to use these next few articles to share with you more details about the book that will hopefully pique your interest. First, I should mention that a novella is about half the size of your traditional novel. Some of the all-time great novellas include “Animal Farm,” “Of Mice And Men,” “The Old Man And The Sea” and “A Christmas Carol”.  I’m in no way putting my book in the company of those classics, but if you’ve read any of them as part of your high school English class, or even for your own enjoyment, you’ll have an idea as to length of my story, which right now is 155 pages.

“Neapolitan Sky” is a thriller about a girl named Nica Mitchell; a college student with dreams of becoming a professional writer. Nica is forced to return home when her ailing father is hospitalized after suffering a near-death experience while receiving cancer treatment. While there, Nica learns about what happened to her father during those precious moments in between life and death. It’s a haunting secret that will change her world forever.

Interested? Please, read on!

The next thing I’d like to discuss is what actually inspired “Neapolitan Sky”. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing hundreds of artists, musicians and actors over the last five years, and the idea for writing this story actually came about as a result of an interview I’d done with the amazing actress, Fiona Dourif, in the Summer of 2017.

For those who aren’t aware, Fiona’s father is Brad Dourif, whose film credits include “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Eyes of Laura Mars” and “The Lord of The Rings” among many others. He’s perhaps best known for being the voice of Chucky in the “Child’s Play” films, which has also featured Fiona in the last two installments.

Since Brad only plays the voice of the doll, Fiona hasn’t really had a chance to work face to face with her father on screen. So, one of my questions was to ask if she’d ever be interested in working with him in a role outside of “Chucky”, even if it was in a short film.

I remember her exact words to me were, “Absolutely! You write it. Let’s do it!”

Although I realized such a thing would most likely never happen, it nonetheless led me to write a story about a father and his daughter, using Fiona and Brad as inspiration for the main characters–and with that, “Neapolitan Sky” was born.

I hope you’ll stick around to learn more about the story in the days and weeks ahead. For me as a writer, it doesn’t get much better than this!

FionaBradFiona Dourif photo by Ryan West

The Darkness’ Dan Hawkins Discusses the Band’s New Album, ‘Pinewood Smile’

Photo courtesy: Simon Emmett

Fresh off touring with Guns N’ Roses and headlining European summer festivals, The Darkness have returned with their fifth album, Pinewood Smile (set for release on October 6).

Produced by Adrian Bushby (Foo Fighters, Muse) the new album boasts glorious hard rock anthems like “All The Pretty Girls,” the emotional “Why Don’t The Beautiful Cry” and the groove-ridden “Solid Gold,” which finds The Darkness addressing the turbulent nature of the music industry and how they’ve enjoyed its flamboyant highs and spectacular lows.

In addition to the distinctive guitar tones of Dan Hawkins, Pinewood Smile also features the drumming and vocal talents of newest member, Rufus Tiger Taylor, the son of Queen legend, Roger Taylor.

I recently spoke with Hawkins about Pinewood Smile, songwriting, gear and more in this exclusive new interview.

How would you describe Pinewood Smile in terms of its sound and maybe how it relates to some of the band’s previous work?

I think it’s more urgent than some of the other albums and maybe a little bit edgier. It’s hard to sum up. It’s kind of like The Darkness on steroids.

What’s your writing process like? Does it begin with a melody? A hook? What inspires you when you write and create?

It depends and always comes in different ways. The first album was primarily written on acoustic where we’d be sitting around talking about things. Normally, I’d be in my own world making music and riffs and writing backing tracks while trying to pick up on the conversations that are going on in the room. This album was slightly different.

I wrote all of the music with Rufus in a rehearsal room at full volume. There are so many ways of getting around making noise these days with V drums and pods, and every fucker’s got their own studio these days. We wanted to get away from that and get back to it sounding good when you’re standing up playing it loudly. We wrote it in a very uncivilized way.

Let’s discuss a few tracks from Pinewood Smile, beginning with “All The Pretty Girls”

The backing track was written in London and me, Rufus and Frankie had it recorded and demoed. Then Justin came in with this idea based on a line about how all the pretty girls love me for who I am, but only when I’m selling out stadiums. Basically, if you’re just a tight-jeaned, long-haired, ugly mother fucker no one really cares. But the second you’re doing well it increases your beauty in the eyes of a lot of people. It’s a funny observation.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Dan Hawkins by Clicking Here!

What’s in a name?

Wes Craven (1939-2015)
Wes Craven (1939-2015)

What’s in a name you say? Well, when I was growing up, there were certain words that – whenever spoken, always conjured up a feeling or an urge inside of you. Something that was more than just a rational, cognizant realization.

Let me give you a few examples from my own childhood to prove my point:

Barney

No, not Fred’s “Yabba Dabba Doo” buddy from The Flintstones. In my neck of the woods (on the south side of Easton, PA), Barney meant only one thing: The guy who made the  best cheesesteaks this side of Philly. Although Barney’s been dead for nearly two decades I can still recall the days of eating his wares in his Steak Shop while trying my luck on the latest video games like Vanguard and Defender and listening to the Foreigner “4” album on the jukebox.

Utopia

No, not the imaginary place or state of things in which everything is perfect (although some of the questionable paraphernalia they sold there may have you think otherwise). Utopia was/is a store in the downtown section of town where all of the teens would congregate in the 1980’s in order to purchase the latest AC/DC or Pretenders album and get concert tickets for Stabler Arena or the Allentown Fairgrounds.

Lucy

I’m not talking about the chick that swiped the football out from under Charlie Brown. Lucy’s was the neighborhood candy store that served up the finest in Swedish Fish, Tootsie Rolls and Hostess Twinkies.

See how one word can easily trigger something deep inside you? And while we’re on the subject, let me give you a pair of words that does the same thing for me:

Wes Craven

Whenever these two words are mentioned together it instantly reminds me of one of the scariest films I ever saw as pubescent teenager – “A Nightmare on Elm Street”.

Sure, by the time that movie came out in 1984, I had already been covering my ears to the creepy intro music of “Halloween” and hidden my eyes from the inevitable pop up scare scenes in the closing minutes of the first two “Friday The 13th” movies. But there was something far more diabolical with Elm Street. For unlike Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees – who at least early on were actual human beings,  Freddy Kreuger represented something that was far more sinister – an unknown, malevolent creature who came to us in our darkest dreams.

Watching the scene where poor Amanda Wyss’ character, Tina, is standing in the alley way while Freddy’s arms grow and he pounces on her still gives me an uneasy feeling some thirty years later.

Back then, I wasn’t even aware of some of Craven’s earlier films like “The Last House on The Left” or “The Hills Have Eyes”. All I knew was from that point forward, anytime I saw the words “Wes Craven” before a film’s title, I knew immediately it would be scary and I would have to see it. And although some of his work was questionable in the years following NOES -“The Hills Have Eyes Part II” and “Shocker” immediately come to mind, Craven was back in top form for “Scream” in 1996. Single-handedly creating a film that (at least to me) rivaled Elm Street in terms of its originality and scare.

So hearing the news late last night that Wes Craven had passed away at the age of 76 was somewhat shocking. Knowing that there will never be another film that will give me that same feeling when I see the title. But whenever I hear those two words together – “Wes Craven”, I’ll always remember a man whose vision and memorable characters will continue to live on, both on screen and in dreams.

Dennis DeYoung and Guitarists Jimmy Leahey and August Zadra Discuss New ‘Music of Styx’ Live Package

DennisDeYoungIt’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years since Dennis DeYoung’s acrimonious split from Styx.

But one thing’s for sure: DeYoung’s contributions to the success of that band run much deeper than his role as the band’s keyboardist.

Together with a new band dedicated to preserving the legacy of his old one, DeYoung’s new DVD/Blu-ray package, Dennis DeYoung and the Music of Styx: Live In Los Angeles, quickly dispels any notion that he wasn’t a “rock guy” in Styx.

Filmed with eight high-definition cameras in front of an enthusiastic audience at the intimate El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, DeYoung performs the catalog of Styx hits that have become staples of classic rock radio, including “Lady,” “Blue Collar Man,” “Show Me The Way,” “Mr. Roboto,” “Babe,” “Best Of Times” and “Come Sail Away.”

Guitarists Jimmy Leahey and August Zadra perform regularly with DeYoung. I recently caught up with DeYoung, Leahey and Zadra to ask them about this new live package and more!

GUITAR WORLD: Dennis, how did this project come about?

DeYoung: Originally, AXS TV came to me last year and asked me if I’d be interested in doing an acoustic “Live from the Grammy Museum” performance. But I was bound and determined to do an electric show with this great band to dispel any notion that I wasn’t a “rock guy” in Styx. So they suggested we go to the El Rey Theatre, because that’s where they did shows with John Fogerty and Ringo Starr. That’s when Frontiers Records got involved and said they wanted to make the performance into a CD/DVD/Blu-ray. That’s how it all began.

Was there any sense of added pressure going in with this being a one-shot, live performance?

DeYoung: When you do a show like this, you have to accept the responsibility that you have to be good, right then and there. There’s always a certain amount of pressure when you know it’s live and going to be recorded. But having said that, I wasn’t really nervous because I had great belief in this band. They did so admirably that all I can say is, “fantastic!”

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with DeYoung, Leahey and Zadra by Clicking Here!

Very High Frequency: Joel Hoekstra Discusses VHF and New Night Ranger Album, ‘High Road’

Joel Hoekstra

It’s no secret that Joel Hoekstra is one the hardest-working musicians you’re ever likely to meet. The Night Ranger guitarist, who just celebrated the release of the band’s new album, High Road, also performs regularly as part of Broadway’s Rock of Ages and tours every fall with Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Hoekstra also has unveiled a brand new project, VHF, which stands for the initials of band mates Todd “Vinny” Vinciguerra (drums), Joel Hoekstra (guitars) and bassist Tony Franklin (the Firm, Kenny Wayne Shepherd).

Co-produced by Joe Floyd and Tommy Kessler (Blondie, Rock of Ages), VHF’s debut release, Very High Frequency, which was released June 20, isn’t a shred record by any means. It’s full of trippy, groove-inspired rock that’s been built from the ground up.

I recently caught up with Hoekstra and got an update on Night Ranger, VHF and the secret to mastering his two-handed technique.

GUITAR WORLD: High Road reminds me a lot of the classic Night Ranger sound. Was the intent going into this album to pay homage to those early records?

We just wanted to be ourselves and were able to find a nice balance of sounding like the classic Night Ranger while giving ourselves the leeway to express some our influences. We’re still a rock and roll band who likes to create new music and give our fans something they’ll appreciate. It’s an honor for me to be a part of it.

What else can you tell me about the new album?

There’s really something for everyone on this record, and a lot of it starts with Jack [Blades], Brad [Gillis] and Kelly [Keagy] together. “Knock Knock Never Stop” is really a good example of that. It’s got that signature Brad Gillis riff in it. “Rollin On” is another song that started out with a bluesy-sounding riff. I think you can hear a little bit of Brad’s Hendrix influence on that one. Eric Levy and I are involved as well. Eric came in with the ballad “Only For You Only” and I came up with the riffs for “I’m Coming Home.”

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Joel Hoekstra by Clicking Here!

Zakk Wylde Talks New Black Label Society Album, ‘Catacombs of the Black Vatican’

ZakkZakk Wylde has announced the next chapter in the Black Label Society story, Catacombs of the Black Vatican.

The album, the first disc of all new material from the band since 2010’s Order of the Black, will be released April 8.

Wylde also has announced a new tour, “An Evening with Zakk Wylde.” The 13-city Canadian trek will feature Wylde and new Black Label Society guitarist Dario Lorina performing intimate versions of some of BLS’s most popular songs, plus readings from Wylde’s 2012 book, Bringing Metal to the Children: The Complete Berzerker’s Guide to World Tour Domination. You can check out all the tour dates below.

I recently spoke with Wylde about the new BLS album and upcoming tour and got his thoughts on Black Sabbath’s Grammy nomination.

GUITAR WORLD: What can fans expect from Catacombs of the Black Vatican?

I think everyone can expect a lot of fun and excitement [laughs]! It was like what Chris Farley did in that one skit, where he was selling that hair-care product. Make sure you always use the word “fun” when you describe it [laughs]!

Someone asked me what the difference was between this new record and the other nine. I told them that it’s basically all of the songs we used on the other nine records, except they’ve got different titles now [laughs]. It’s fun and exciting for the whole family!

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Read the rest of my Guitar World Interview with Zakk Wylde by Clicking Here!