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 (Metallica, Ozzy) 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.
She’s feisty, she’s beautiful and she’s also one hell of a drummer. From her days performing with her sister Maxine in Madam x, to touring the world with Vixen while supporting Ozzy, Deep Purple and The Scorpions, there can be no denying that Roxy Petrucci is the real deal. Proving she’s one of the best drummers around (male or female); she was even asked by Billy Sheehan and Steve Vai to audition for David Lee Roth’s band shortly after his original departure from Van-Halen.
The classic Vixen disbanded in 1991 and despite doing a one-off for a VH1 show, have never officially reunited. But that didn’t stop fans from continuing to clamor for a full-on reunion.
In 2012 Roxy, along with former Vixen vocalist Janet Gardner and bassist Share Ross, approached guitarist Jan Kuehnemund about reuniting the classic Vixen lineup. When Kuehnemund passed on the opportunity, guitarist Gina Stile (who worked with Petrucci and Gardner on the 1998 Vixen album, “Tangerine”) was brought in to form JSRG (Janet, Share, Roxy, Gina).
Now, with a plethora of hits in their arsenal and having completed a successful run on the Monsters Of Rock Cruise, JSRG prepares to hit this year’s M3 Festival in Columbia, MD. In addition to more shows being in the works as well as a trip across the pond for this year’s Firefest, there have also been rumblings of new music.
I spoke with Roxy about JSRG, the MOR Cruise, Vixen, jamming with a guitar god and much, much more!
How was the Monsters of Rock Cruise?
It was the ultimate rock and roll experience. For everyone, both fans and performers. I’ve never done anything like that before and it was so much fun. It was intimate and a rock concert all combined into one. It was also one of our first gigs as JSRG. We did a walk on in New York last summer and played a few songs, but Monsters of Rock was our first full-on gig.
How did the JSRG project come together?
We had been working on a Vixen reunion for quite a while, but Jan wasn’t ready to commit. We then decided to call Gina Stile and before we could even hang up she was at the door ready to “Rev it Up”. [laughs]. Seriously, the fans were asking for it and we were ready. Now there’s no stopping us.
What’s it like working with Gina?
Gina is a firecracker. She’s great. I enjoy playing with both Jan and Gina. The difference I would say is drinking whiskey out of the bottle or on the rocks. One is more unfiltered, the other is more savoring. Both are great, it’s just what you prefer.
Tell me a little about your days with your sister in Madam X.
We truly lived on the road and were around each other 24/7. Sometimes, we didn’t even go home for Christmas. I think the thing that actually kept us together was our love of heavy metal and being on stage. But the thing is, when you’re around people for so long, you’re bound to get on each other’s nerves. It’s more than a marriage, and we would have fights. I remember Maxine and I used to go at it and Bret [Kaiser, vocals] and Chris [Doliber, bass] used to go at it. That’s how we would get our aggression out. Sometimes, Maxine would even go at it with Chris and kick his ass. [laughs]. Maybe it was the whole love/hate thing made what we had even better!
Do you have a funny story to share from your days with Madam X?
Not too people were aware of this, but Bret and I were a couple for many years during Madam X. I remember one night on stage he got a little too flirty with a female fan and I happened to throw out my stick and “accidentally” hit him hard in the back of the head!
How did you get into Vixen?
Janet [Gardner] was actually keeping track of me with Madam X because she had heard some rumblings about us breaking up. She came down and saw me play and after the band did break up` she contacted me. It took a few rehearsals for me to get the jest of how Vixen worked. The whole experience though was great for me.
What was the transition like going from Madam X to Vixen?
It was culture shock times 10! In Madam X, we were always full-bore. Vixen took more finesse in my playing and I had to listen more. Initially, it was clear that Jan didn’t seem to like me very much or the way I played; as she would plead for me to not play so hard. It was then that I realized Jan needed some “Rox-therapy”, so I shot back by asking if she had a mouse in her pocket or if this was an acoustic set? As I spent more time getting to know the girls and the dynamics of the band I became “Vixen-ized”, but there were still times I’d double-check to see if Jan’s guitar was plugged in. [laughs]
Did you know at the time it was going to be something special?
I knew there was something special when I first started rehearsing with them. I wish we would have had more of our own tunes to record for the first record, but it was beneficial for us to record “Edge of a Broken Heart” and “Cryin”. Not only are they great songs, they put Vixen on the map. As we toured, we gelled more and then came the “Rev It Up” record that was written by the band.
What’s one of the most outrageous things a fan ever did to get your attention?
One of my favorites was the time when a fan wanted to meet us so badly that he actually crashed his car into the back of our limo. We all got out and autographed his traffic ticket. [laughs]
You also auditioned to be the drummer for David Lee Roth’s band after he had left Van-Halen. How did that come about?
It was shortly after I had just joined Vixen. I don’t remember if it was Steve [Vai] or Billy [Sheehan] who told me that they were having auditions and asked me to come in. At the time, Steve Vai’s wife Pia was the bassist in Vixen so I got to know Steve through her. Dave wasn’t there for the audition but I just remember looking to my right and seeing Steve Vai and there on my left was Billy Sheehan. It was awesome! I was scared shitless, but it didn’t matter if I got the gig or not. I was jamming with Steve and Billy! Another career highlight. I was solid and kept it going but Greg Bissonette nailed it and eventually got the gig. I was happy for him. He deserved it.
Do you remember which songs you auditioned on?
We did two songs from the ‘Eat Em And Smile Record’. I remember one of the ones I did was ‘Ladies Night In Buffalo’. The other was ‘Big Trouble’. That track has a real sexy groove and it felt great to lock it in with Billy. After that tune, I remember Steve started playing this monster riff and Billy and I kicked in and jammed! It just doesn’t get any better than that! Well, maybe if Rob Halford grabbed a mic and joined in! [laughs].
Tell me about your musical background.
I came from a musical family so it was never a question of “Do you want to play?” it was “What instrument do you want to play?” At the time, Maxine was playing flute, my brother was playing sax and my other sister was playing accordion, so I played the clarinet.
Eventually there came a time where my Dad asked me if I wanted to play something else. Maxine was playing guitar and said that she was going to start a girl rock band, so my choices were either bass or drums. I picked drums and never looked back. Although, the last tune on the Vixen “Tangerine” CD is a hidden track called “Swatting Flies in Wanker County”. It’s a swingin’ blue grass instrumental with yours truly on the clarinet!
Did you ever find it challenging being a female drummer or being in an all-female band?
Sure, clearly I’ve encountered challenges in this highly charged testosterone driven industry. But overcoming these tough challenges also brings sweet success few ever get to experience. My focus will remain on the things I can control. Therefore I like to think I’m a dominant drummer with a stage presence that allows me to hold my own in any rock band. Love me or hate me I’m rock-n-roll to the bone!
Are there any players you’d like to work with?
I’d love to jump on stage with Billy Sheehan and Paul Gilbert to rock ‘Shy Boy’. I love that song! In fact, I may try to convince the girls to throw it in our set. Now THAT would be an unexpected treat, don’t ya think? [laughs].
What was the reason behind the Vixen break up?
I guess it depends on which band members you ask, but after 20 years, does anyone really give a rat’s ass anymore? We’re BACK and better than ever! Who knows what the future holds but for right now, we’re fired up and focused on JSRG and giving fans the ultimate Vixen experience.
Roxy will be performing along with sister Maxine and Rachel May (Broadzilla) at The Detroit Pub on May 18. It’s for the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Against Cancer Benefit. Click Here for more information.