Friday, January 19, 2024

Interview with Prophet of St. Madness by Dave Wolff

Interview with Prophet of St. Madness by Dave Wolff

Over the years, the band has had one name change and several members. Explain why you changed the name of the band, how many new members you hired and what impact they had on the band's sound and direction.
We began as a band in 1993 under the name Crown Of Thorns and right away we noticed like five other bands in different countries who had that name. Then in 1997 we found out that a Christian rock group had actually trademarked the name Crown Of Thorns in 1991, two years before we even started using the name, so we knew we would have to change our name. The album we had out at the time was our second and it was called “The Spiritual Visions Of St. Madness” by Crown Of Thorns. Margie (our manager) and I got with an entertainment attorney and did a worldwide search to see if anyone owned the name St. Madness. When we found out no one owned it we trademarked it right on the spot and we have owned the name ever since.
Over the years we have probably had about twenty great artists/musicians in the band. Every single time we have had to replace someone. Even though it was kind of a pain to have to do that, it has always worked out for the betterment of the band by bringing in fresh blood so to speak. I am truly grateful to have gotten to work with so many great musicians. It's kind of like Megadeth and all of the band members that they have had over the years. No matter who is in the band, all of the songs and albums sound like Megadeth. Dave Mustaine knows what he wants his band to sound like and I know what a St. Madness song and album should sound like.

Were all those lineup changes an effort to find musicians who share a similar musical and artistic vision?
It is inevitable that not all members are going to stay around for thirty years. I love and respect every single current and former member of St. Madness and I am honored to be able or to have been able to work with so many talented people.

When people hear the name St. Madness, what should they expect from the band?
That we are first and foremost entertainers, not people trying to be rock stars. Our biggest goal and concern when we play concerts is that the crowd has a good time and gets more than their money's worth. We are part of show business, we are professionals and we know that our job is to do our best we can to send the audience home happy at the end of the night. We care deeply about our music and the show we put on. People can choose to go to any show that they want so if they come to our show it means the world to us. I personally am very proud to be an entertainer and I consider the stage to be a sacred place. Onstage we let the music do the talking and we understand that without fans there is no life in music, so the fans always come first.

Prophet is the name you record and perform by. What is its meaning and how does it relate to your songs and stage presence?
“Prophet” is a character I perform as. Because we are a theatrical/face painted band we all agreed that taking on stage personas was the right thing to do. When a person paints their face or wears a mask onstage it changes their personality a bit and allows an alter ego to come forth and in our band it has suited us well. I chose the name “Prophet”, believe it or not, because my aunt married a guy way back in the 1970s whose last name was “Prophet”. When she got a personalized license plate for her vehicle it said “Prophet” and I thought that it was really cool. Plus the name “Prophet” for me goes very well in the context of being the front man for a band called St. Madness or Crown Of Thorns.

What makes your stage presence different from those of Alice Cooper, (old) Kiss, Misfits, King Diamond, Gwar, etc.? In formulating your concept, did you draw on any outside sources or did you create it entirely from your own ideas?
I was the one who went to the band one rehearsal and told them that at the next show which was in November 1995 that I was going to wear face paint or war paint. I told the guys in the band that I didn't care if they wore it or not but that I needed a change. The reason for this was that in the early 1990's record companies had started to sign lots of so called “grunge” band (which to me were just rock n roll bands) and had started to drop many metal bands from their labels or not put much money behind them anymore. Did grunge music kill metal in the 1990's? In my opinion only partially, because what I believe really hurt Metal music was that in the 1980's it seemed like every metal had to have a guitar god and many of the bands started to look and sound alike, which bored even me at the time. We started wearing face paint and decidedly began to make or music heavier and heavier was our response to the record labels and radio stations abandoning metal. This was our way of making our band stand out like a sore thumb. Oddly enough my whole band started to wear face paint from 1995 on and we still do to this day. It really had nothing whatsoever to do with any of the bands that you mention though I am a fan of all of them.

Over the course of your career, you have opened for a variety of bands, from Van Halen to Lynch Mob to Misfits and Mercyful Fate. Are you aware of the appeal that St. Madness has for fans of those bands as well as those with whom you have played?
I have never really thought about it, I/we just do what I/we feel comfortable doing. We also play many cover songs of artists or bands that have influenced us as musicians over the years. We try to put one or two cover songs on each of our albums and CD's. This is our way of showing respect and love to them.

Of all the covers the band has included on their releases, which came closest to the original? Or have you always made a point of adding your personal touch to your cover artwork?
We always have and always will put our own St. Madness flavor or spin on any cover that we play however it is important to us to maintain a certain respect to the original version of any song that we cover. This is out of respect for that particular artist and for their fans. We really aren't interested in changing any cover song that we do to the point that it's hard to know what song we are covering. All of the covers that we have done have the St. Madness touch to them but not so much that you can't recognize the song when you hear it.

How did you come up with the dark humor that appears in some of the songs on your album “God Bless America”?
“God Bless America” was our third full length album and it came out on Nasty Prick Records in 1998. Remember that as a band our original name was Crown Of Thorns from 1993 till 1997 and by the time that we changed our band's name to St. Madness in September 1997. We had already released two albums under the name Crown Of Thorns. We released “Loneliness Is Black” in 1994 and “The Spiritual Visions Of St. Madness” in early 1997. As far as our humorous side goes, I have always had a bit of a twisted sense of humor. Remember we are entertainers who work in show business so it's important that our fans have a good time and this includes the “God Bless America” album. Everything we do is primarily for entertainment purposes only. We want our fans and the audience who has never seen or heard us before to have a good time. Our music is about the human experience and humans are capable of either doing great good or great evil; it's all up to each person. Our songs sometimes are very serious while other times they are funny or sad. Music is the language of the soul and our music is designed to bring out different emotions in the listeners.

Is it safe to assume that the subject matter of your lyric writing, whether humorous or serious, is influenced by your frame of mind at the time?
I get inspiration but everything around me or things going on in the world. When I wrote the lyrics to our song “Sexual Abuse”. I was purposely trying to offend as many people as possible. Metal music has always been a little dangerous and I wanted to hold fast to that tradition. Our songs go from realism and truth to humor or fantasy. I/we enjoy putting a lot of variety on our albums because it makes the creative process so much more fun for us and for the fans.

How offensive are the lyrics of “Sexual Abuse” and what sort of feelings did you intend to capture when you penned the song? In what ways does it reflect metal’s tendency toward being dangerous?
This one is kind of a funny story because the music was written first by the band and I had promised them that I would have lyrics for it by our next rehearsal. A few days later, I was getting ready to go to rehearsal when I remembered that I had completely forgotten to write and lyrics for our new song. I had about five minutes before I had to leave, so I quickly just wrote down every offensive thing that I would think of and that was that. The guys were shocked by the lyrics but they also loved them because we didn't care about who we offended with them, and to us that is a very METAL thing to do and attitude to have. It is still a lot of fun for me to sing that song onstage and to watch all of the shocked faces on those who are hearing it for the first time. Many ladies who are married will let me sing it to them from the stage while they smile, but they would never let their own husbands speak to them like that. It's really funny at times.

Was “Sexual Abuse” the most offensive song you’ve written for the band, or have you written lyrics even more extreme than that?
I would say “Sexual Abuse” is our most offensive song for sure, but it's also one of our most popular songs as well. In 2000 we found out that a modern punk band named Guttermouth had recorded a cover of “Sexual Abuse” and put it on an album called “Punk Goes Metal” that was put out by Fearless Records. We ended up making just over ten thousand dollars in royalties off of it, but later when Fearless Records sold out to another label, that other label has ignored our request to get the rest of our royalties.

When "Punk Goes Metal" was released, did Guttermouth's inclusion of "Sexual Abuse" increase St. Madness' popularity as well as royalties? In order to obtain additional royalties for the cover, how often did you contact the new label after Fearless Records?
I don't really want to talk about how many times we have contacted a label about royalties because that is a private band matter but what I will say is that Guttermouth covering our songs did increase our bands profile because they sold about one hundred thousand copies of the record. I know that one hundred thousand in sales isn't a huge number but it is one hundred thousand more people who may not have heard of St. Madness before that might make then curious enough to check us out. It is always a good thing when people admire your work enough that they want to cover it and put it out on the market for sale.

Can you tell the readers of other instances when bands recorded cover versions of your songs, and how those helped the band?
There have been a few bands or artists that covered a song or two of ours and to me it's always a good thing. Imitation is one of the greatest forms of flattery. I love hear how other bands or artists interpret our music. Back when we were still called Crown Of Thorns there was a punk band here in Arizona called Clowns With Horns who played our music but turned it all punk. The band was all friends of ours and it was awesome!!!

What is some of the gallows humor you write based upon? What songs with this subject matter have been a steady part of your live shows?
The song that we play the most is our composition entitled “Arizona” which was written in tribute to the beautiful state that we live in, as well as a tribute to all of the Native American peoples here. Another song that we perform all of the time is called “Metal To The Death and Beyond” or “MDB”. We also play “Sexual Abuse” and “The Anti-Superhero” a lot. As far as newer songs that we play all of the time now, “My Music Manifesto”, “A Time For Reflection” and “Biologic Manipulation” are also on the list. It's also good to write humorous songs because the fans at the shows seem to really enjoy them. Our concerts can take people through many different emotions, all in one show.

What about Native American culture partly inspired “Arizona”? Does it capture the essence of said culture as a tribute? How long has this song been part of your set?
The song “Arizona” was written in 2005 and it was released on the “Vampires In The Church” that came out in 2006 on Nasty Prick Records. St. Madness has always had many Native American fans and we have always shared the stage or played shows with lots of Native American Metal bands and we love it. “Arizona” lyrically is my way of saying ‘thank you’ and giving back to all of the love that the state of Arizona and the Native American community have shown me for many years. Dying Tribe, I Don't Konform, Rez Of War, Hell Defined, Native Blood and Guardians, these are some of the bands we have played many shows with for many years and they all kick ass!!!

I had heard of a few Native American metal bands, but I had no idea there were more than I knew. As someone who listens to a great deal of this genre, why is it having such a significant impact on local metal scenes, and where do you think it will go in the future?
I'm not sure where it will go. I just know that here in Arizona we have many awesome Native American bands and we always have great shows with them. If you look up Revolver Magazine/I Don't Konform on YouTube the magazine put out an amazing documentary about the band; it's one of those that you want to watch more than once. The truth is that all kinds of people around the world love metal music and because of that we have so many different flavors of metal and I personally love it. I believe that there is room for everyone.

Were there any moments when someone thought the more serious side of your writing was too much for them, or do people generally relate to what you have to say?
I have never had anyone say to me or to any of us in the band (that I know of) that we have written songs that were too serious. By now our fans know us and what to expect from us and this is why we have so much variety in our music so the fans don't get bored hearing the same old thing from us.

Describe a typical St. Madness performance to readers from other states and countries who have not seen you perform.
First of all we don't go onstage to play rock stars. We find it incredibly important that we always do our best to put the fans and the audience first and foremost in our minds. Our shows are about taking the audience into a metal journey of emotions and feelings while having a good time. We are what I call “metal theater” and what we play is “Carnimetal” music. We have had many different actors performing with us onstage over the years and also many attractive ladies dancing onstage with us while we are performing. It's all about heavy music, shock and fun!!!

Describe in more detail the stage gear worn by the band while they are performing, as well as any other props or accoutrements that are part of your show. In what ways has your live show been discussed in the press, and how would you define “Carnimetal”?
First of all I came up with the term Carnimetal, and what it means is that we are basically carnies who play metal instead of putting up rides and booths to play games. People have asked me in interviews if I fancy myself as a real Prophet because of my lyrics and stage name. I tell them that “Prophet” is a character that I perform and record as, but I don't see myself as a real Prophet whatsoever. I'm an entertainer and nothing more and that's good enough for me. I love being an entertainer and performing for people who love metal music and making people happy with our music and show. Onstage we all basically wear whatever we want and depending on the weather (because it's pretty hot here in Arizona) we could be wearing more leather or less. We all basically wear a lot of black clothing with some old school spikes and such.

When it comes to hiring actors and extras for your performances, how do you go about doing so? Are they mostly friends of the band, or do you search for them through agencies?
During “Arizona” we have an actor named Loki Toki who comes out on stage waving the Arizona flag. In past shows we have had Devils, evil monks, sexy ladies dancing, The Grim Reaper, The Jesus Clone, (check out our song “Jesus Clone 2000”) and we have also had my son “Josh” who performs as the character, Happy Evil and we have had angels, zombies, and Howard Presley who unfortunately passed away on December 15th 2021. Howard was one of our crew members and one day he and I were talking about Elvis Presley. As we were talking I was looking at him and it occurred to me that Howard would look great in an Elvis jumpsuit. I asked him if he would ever wear one and perform onstage with us by doing Karate kicks and such. He said “I could do that” and Howard Presley was born. He performed with us since the mid 1990's and when he passed away it has left a big empty space in all of our hearts. All of our actors are usually friends of our own crew members who we turn into characters and before you know it, we have them performing onstage with us.

Has the band released any live recordings on DVD, Blu Ray or digital/streaming? Or uploaded any of your live shows on YouTube, so people can see what your performances are like?
There are all kinds of live videos of us on Youtube. And we released a live record in 2017 called “Live 55” because a friend of mine recorded our show on my birthday that year and gave it to me as a birthday present. What we love about that record is that none of us in the band had any idea that we were being recorded whatsoever. We never went back and fixed anything sound wise on that album so basically what you hear is what you get. It's a very true to life performance. What do you remember about the show that was recorded for “Live 55”? Can you hear any audience participation in the recording, and how is the sound quality in general? There were no mic's in or close to the audience, so you can't hear them as well as if we had had mics out there. But it's a truly LIVE recording and that's what I love about it. None of us in the band knew we were being recorded so the whole thing was very natural. We didn't fix one thing on that recording other than mixing and mastering.

St. Madness’ new release, the first part of “Last Rites: The Final Blessing”, which came out in 2022, seems to have replaced gallows humor with a more serious theme. Could you explain this concept and what inspired you to take such a lyrical approach?
“Last Rites: The Final Blessing” is only halfway done. We started to release songs from it in 2022 but we have only released the first six songs as singles so far. We have two new songs written and have started a third plus we may be recording our cover of “Wasted Years” by Iron Maiden for the album. We are on our own label so we are just taking our time to finish it. We are really in no rush.

Which of the songs from “The Final Blessing” do you consider to be the most personal to you? In writing the lyrics, did you need to engage in any introspection, or did they simply flow like other songs you've written?
I would have to say that the song called “They're All Gone” is the most personal to me of any of our songs. It's about losing so many loved ones and beloved pets in my life. I'm sure that everyone who hears the song can relate to it in some way or another.

Between “Wasted Years” and “Wild Child” by W.A.S.P., were these songs selected as covers so you and your listeners could remain connected to when you and they discovered metal?
We just pick cover tunes that we want to play at random. If you go to our Bandcamp page you can stream all of our albums for free and check out all of the cover songs that we have put on our albums. We just pick songs from bands and artists that have influenced us in some way in our musical lives. There is really nothing more to it.

The first six tracks of “The Final Blessing” are available for streaming at Bandcamp. Have your listeners been responding to them since they were uploaded there?
They have, and we are being featured in many metal magazines all over the world lately because of those first six songs from the upcoming new album. I love all six songs very much and I know the rest of the guys in the band feel the same way. We really put our hearts and souls into the music.

Would you consider the original songs you have yet to record for “The Final Blessing” of the same personal nature as the ones you've released?
I do; we have two new songs already finished. One is titled “We Make Evil Fun”, then there is the title track called “Last Rites: The Final Blessing”. We are working on a third new song called “It's Always Hard To Say Goodbye”. Along with “Wasted Years”, those are the next ones we will be recording.

How aggressively has the band promoted their upcoming full-length album prior to its official release? Do you plan to release physical copies of the new album in addition to streaming it?
We have been promoting “Last Rites: The Final Blessing” pretty aggressively since about 2022. This album has taken long simply because we are on our own label and we went through some tough financial times with the pandemic etc. So the album will be completed and put out as a finished product whenever the time is right.

Who designed the artwork for the new album's cover? Has a promotional video been produced or is one in the works for additional promotion? What are the visual representations of your songs or how will they be represented?
If anyone goes to Youtube and types our name they will see there are tons of videos out there on or by us. The main promotional video so far for the new upcoming album would be the lyric video for “My Music Manifesto”. This song is my way of saying goodbye to our fans when I and we finally do retire. We have already been at this for over thirty years but it's not over yet. I just wanted to have a song and cool video that tells my musical story and I think it came out amazing. Again, what we do is metal theater; it's much more than just playing music. I get bored easy so we have lots of variety on all our records, and we bury samples and statements in the background of songs to make the whole thing more interesting to the true listeners.

Are you planning to perform at bigger venues and reach more listeners in 2024 due to the momentum you're gaining from past releases and promoting your new album?
We pretty much play it all by ear because we have no idea what's coming up the path that we have taken. The largest crowd we have ever performed for was just over eight thousand people, although we did also play the side-stage for Van Halen and Monster Magnet here in Phoenix back on July 1st of 1998; there were about ten thousand at that show. We never know what’s going to happen, we just stay on our path and keep moving forward. We are not in the least concerned about becoming rock stars; that is the last thing that we would ever want to be. We love being entertainers and we see it like this. When you are a rock star the fans serve, you but when you are an entertainer the entertainer serves the fans. We will put on the same show for ten people or ten thousand.

When people look back on St. Madness's career in the future, what kind of impact would you like the band to have had on metal in general? Are you aware of any changes the band has made in the present?
I just hope that when people look back on St. Madness, that our music and shows have given them some good and great memories. It is our great pleasure to entertain metal fans and as long as we have done or continue to do that, then we have done our job. Things happen as they should so we just keep doing our thing for our fans and that's it.
I would like to say thank you to you Dave for sharing this interview with your readers and letting them know more about St. Madness!!!
Prophet, St. Madness

-Dave Wolff

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