Interview with Prophet, singer of American band St. Madness
St. Madness is from Tempe, Arizona and plays heavy metal with theatrical externals. The founder, singer Prophet turned my attention to their music and was so kind to answer my questions.
(Hungarian version comes tomorrow)
Prophet, you contacted us. How could you find our page?
I found you through Facebook. I actually have a good friend here in Arizona who is a drummer from Hungary named Andras Gyenizse who played festivals in your country back in the 1980’s. He showed me some of the video footage from those festivals and it made me curious to learn more about the scene in Hungary.
St. Madness isn’t a really a well-known name in Hungary at the moment. How famous are you in the U.S.?
That is a tough question to answer but I can say this, if you look up “St. Madness” on the internet you will see that we aren’t hard to find as there are thousands of responses that come back from the search. There are also many, many videos on YouTube and others like it. Our music is offered everywhere digitally including Spotify, iTunes, Bandcamp and Reverb Nation. It’s hard to say how famous we are.
You consider important to underline that you are from Tempe that is a part of Phoenix. Why is this place so special?
Tempe, Arizona is very special to us because the band was created there and since 1993 we have written every single record (11 of them) there as well. In 2014 St. Madness was given the honor of being included in the Tempe History Museum’s exhibit called “The Tempe Sound” that ran for a year and St. Madness was the only metal band that was included in the exhibit. They even had a mannequin of me wearing one of my outfits from the late 1990’s. It was a strange feeling walking up to a mannequin that looked like a younger me. Tempe has many amazing artists and bands and we are very proud to be included among them.
The band has been run under the name St. Madness for more than two decades (before that it used to be Crown of Thorns). During this period a lot of musicians were part of the band. Is it practically your own project and time to time you just look for partners who you can record and play the songs with?
This is a really great question. If I could have had my way I would have stayed with the original member the entire life of the band but the music business is a very tough place and people get older and move on to doing other things. For me this is good because new people always bring new blood and ideas to the band.
St. Madness belongs to me in the same way that Megadeth belongs to Dave Mustaine. I own the trade mark on the name St. Madness and I am in charge of the band but I still look at it as a band and not a solo project. I am extremely proud to have worked with all the former members of St. Madness and we are all still friends. Replacing people is a pain in the ass because it takes time to get back up to speed but for St. Madness it has always worked out well.
You write all of the lyrics. Is the music a result of a common work?
Yes, absolutely and we split every song on every record credit or percentage wise. In other words whatever songs a band member records with the band for a CD or what have you, they get 25% of each song they record (this only applies to full-fledged band members). Sometimes we hire outside musicians to add little parts such as keyboards etc. to some songs and they just get paid a flat rate and sometimes they just do it for free to get the experience of doing it.
On the current record that was released in 2018 and is entitled “Bloodlustcapades” we hired a good friend named Dave Cornwall to add some keyboards, 12 string acoustic guitar and sound effects on a few of the songs. Dave is an incredible musician in his own right and we also had him add some stuff to songs on our 2012 released entitled “Canonizing Carnage”.
You are a totally DIY band: your lady, Marge and you manage the band, you are the producer of your albums, and you run your own record company… Is it better than to have a bigger label behind you?
In some ways having a bigger label would help but I also believe that the big record companies also helped to ruin the music business along with free music sharing on the internet. In the early days of recorded music or the early days of “rock stars” the record companies were much more open minded about signing artists or bands and developing them.
As the years went by record companies tried to control and dictate what got popular and thus started signing and creating cookie cutter type bands. If one Van Halen was great then every label wanted to have their own “Van Halen” thus over saturating the market with too many bands that were the same or similar in looks and styles. In the early days labels looked for artists who had originality and something new to offer. By going the “cookie cutter” route I believe they ruined the business and made the fans tired and bored.
In the 1980’s many bands (Metal in particular) were making huge sums of money so the labels started signing young grunge bands who they could sign for a fraction of the price and make much more money off of them if they became popular and successful. Then they simple made it look like Metal bands were cool anymore and the public followed their lead. If you promote something enough the public most of the time will follow.
A bigger label maybe could have made us more money but they also would have controlled our band’s image and the music we put on the records. By doing it ourselves we have been able to write the songs that we want to write and to make records the way we want to make them.
Money is good but it surely isn’t everything. I have deep love and respect in my heart for the “art of creating music”. When people think too much about money they do the same things that the bigger labels did by signing “cookie cutter” bands in hopes of making more money off of some other (successful bands’) tired old images. Can you imagine if they did that in the art world? Does every painter paint the same kind of paintings? How boring!!!
I think this (DIY) situation limits your possibilities. What did you want to achieve as a musician? Have you succeeded to realize your goals by now?
My goal has been to see how far we could get the name and music of St. Madness known around the world on our own. When I was younger I wanted to be a “rock star” with all the money, drugs and women that I could handle but this is an empty dream. Look at how many famous and successful musicians have either died by suicide, drug addiction or loneliness!
If having all that fame and money was so wonderful then why have there been so many tragedies? In the 1980’s and 1990’s we all laughed when we saw how wasted “Ozzy” and others like him was but after watching so many die it’s not so funny anymore to be a wasted “rock star”.
As you wrote before, you want to be entertainers rather than rock stars…
I personally have no interest in being a “rock star” anymore. What I am is an “entertainer” because entertainers serve the fans and the fans don’t serve the entertainers. I consider it’s a complete honor to be able to entertain people and to bring some happiness to their lives. I don’t take this lightly at all because in many ways because of being an entertainer I have got to live my dreams.
Which was the most successful period during your career?
I’m not sure because we aren’t finished yet. We have been around since 1993 and every single year has brought with it great highs and great lows. As for me I never think about such things for too long – I just put my head down and keep pushing forward.
Success is measured in many different ways not just monetarily and in my opinion being able to share the stage or be on the same festival line-ups with many of our heroes is also a form of success which we have been able to do many times over. I look at it this way. If I can gain the respect as an artist, vocalist, lyricist or producer from other bands and artists that I admire then I am already very successful.
Are your current bandmates from Phoenix, too? Do you have the possibility of rehearsing? How often do you perform on stage?
I was born in Glendale, California and I have lived all over the place including The Netherlands, Hawaii, California, Kansas, Missouri and, of course, Arizona. I have lived here since 1986 and for me it’s my home. Sid Ripster (our guitarist) is from Lacon, Illinois, Evil T (drummer) is from Hanson, Massachusetts and Devlin Lucius (bass guitarist) is from either North or South Dakota (I forget which). We still rehearse at least 3 times a week and have since the beginning. When we are focused on performing around Arizona we usually don’t play out more than once a month.
Have you ever had the chance to play in Europe? Do you have a chance to do it in the future? Do you want it at all?
We have yet to play Europe and it is a huge goal and dream of ours. The truth is since we are doing this all by ourselves we simply don’t know the right booking agents or promoters that can help us to play there yet. As of yet we haven’t played outside of the United States. We would jump at the chance to come there and play some concerts!!!
What does the phrase „St. Madness” mean for you?
Excellent question! “Saint – Madness” much like „Crown of Thorns” means Good and Evil. St. Madness’ music is about being a human being and humans are capable of doing either great good or great evil. I write all of our lyrics so I just look around me at the world and I put my own spin on what I see going on out there and how I feel about it through my lyrics.
I mix fact and fiction in my lyrics and I purposely leave hidden messages in some of the songs for people to find if they look for them. It has always been my plan to make our records more three dimensional so that our CDs are more than just something to listen to rather we design them to be more of a complete experience for the fans. A lot of thought and time has been put into each one of our CDs.
Why did you choose the Prophet stage-name? What kind of message is behind that?
The answer might actually sound a little dull but the truth is that my late aunt Judy was married to a man named “Simeon Prophet” and she got a personalized license plate for her truck that said “Prophet” and we in the band were choosing our stage names and I thought “Prophet” would go good first with “Crown of Thorns” and then with “St. Madness”. Over the years various people have asked me, “Are you a Prophet?” and I tell them, “Well I don’t know – Do you think I’m a Prophet?”
Has your music, your style changed since the beginning?
It has matured and grown in different ways and the recording technologies have improved but we have always put a lot of variety on every one of our records. This is mostly because I get bored doing the same thing or writing the same kinds of songs all the time. Even after 11 full length CDs I still like to challenge myself and my vocal and writing abilities. I love a good challenge and I think I always will.
When we perform in concert we prefer to play with bands that make us nervous because they are so great. There is no glory in just playing shows and sharing the stage with bands that we can blow away. When we play shows with great bands it gets our adrenaline flowing and it makes us step up and perform better.
What kind of role does humor play in your music?
Humor has always played a big role in our music and concerts because we are a theatrical band and making people laugh and have a good time is what we do. I also like to write lyrics and have things in the show that shock people, because it’s fun to watch their expressions. We are simply about entertainment and our goal has always been and will forever be to make people happy and to have them walk away from our concerts feeling that they got more than their money’s worth.
Since when have you used face paintings and why?
The first time we put on face paint or “war paint” was in November of 1995. At that time Metal music was kinda dying off in the United States and Grunge music was taking over in the charts. There are many Grunge bands that I like but most commonly the thing I found in their kind of music is depression. We want nothing to do with depression because we come from a time when Rock ‘N’ Roll/Metal was about having fun. I was pissed off when I saw many people I knew jumping ship from Metal music into joining the Grunge movement.
One day Margie our manager and I were out shopping and I told her that I was going to put on face paint at our next concert cause I wanted to shock people and I honestly thought that my band would laugh me right out of our rehearsal studio. As it turned out our bass player at the time, Randy Ax said, “If you’re going to wear it then we better wear it too or we will look stupid”. 🙂 So from that moment on we added the face paint and made our shows more theatrical and the music heavier. We figured is so many bands were changing from Metal into Grunge then we were going to do all that we could to be a “thorn” in everyone’s sides.
Your mask and your theatrics on stage remind me the world of King Diamond. How do you feel about his work?
I am personally a big fan of him and we got to open for him once here in Phoenix, Arizona in 1998 and later that year we were on the same Milwaukee Metalfest 12 as Merciful Fate. Listening to King Diamond helped me to change my voice and to sing in different ways and styles. Oddly enough his wearing make-up has nothing to do with why we do what we do. But his voice is still so intriguing to me, it’s like he’s vocally schizophrenic and I still love it to this day!!!
And what do you think about the comparison with Arthur Brown that I mentioned in the album review?
I really don’t see it other than the face paint. He is silly and funny for the most part which I get it. However, even though we certainly have a comedy element to our show and music, we are very serious about what we do and what I write about lyrically. We are not looking to be “Tiny Tim” tiptoeing through the tulips, we prefer to kick the door in and to stop a mud hole and walk it dry!!!
You celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the band in September. It was a very special concert where former members of St. Madness performed with you on stage. What kind of experiences do you have from that evening?
That was an amazing night for everyone involved because it’s very difficult even for major bands to stay out there that long let alone an underground band like ours. For me it was beyond words to look across the stage and to see my old buddies jamming with me once again. I smiled all night and I know how fortunate and blessed I am to still have all of them as friends and family to me and Margie.
At the 20th Anniversary concert 5 years ago that took place on Saturday September 28th 2013 we had five former members come back and perform with us and that was just incredible. This time for the 25th Anniversary show on Saturday September 22nd 2018 we had six former members come back and it was simply awesome!!! The former members of the band will always be a part of the St. Madness family.
What does the title of your new album “Bloodlustcapades” mean?
Another great question! The title to the CD has a couple of meanings to me. I break it down like this “Bloodlust” and “Capades” which means “A twisted bloody show or production”. This also means that what I’m saying with the title of the record is that what I see going on across the Earth is a twisted and very bloody show.
St. Madness is also and has always been a theatrical/vampire band and vampires put on a twisted/bloody show as well when they kill. So I mixed both meanings together and asked our two graphic artists to do the same with the album art.
Your first solo album “The Edge” came out in 2010. What is the difference between this stuff and the St. Madness albums musically?
The band name of my solo record is called “Prophet & The Cowboys of Apocalypse” and the CD is entitled “The Edge”. The music on this is acoustic and completely different from St. Madness. There are member of St. Madness who played on “The Edge” but I also brought in outside musicians and friends to perform on it as well.
“The Edge” came out in 2010 and it received the “Record of the Year” award from the “Phoenix Music Awards” for 2010. This was a very difficult record to write and record because while I was writing it I was being treated for cancer and while we were recording it my mother was dying from ALS or “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”.
All in all the record came out stellar and we are currently writing and recording a follow up CD entitled “Last Days in Paradise”, which will be out in the next year or two. We currently have 10 tracks recorded to a rough mix. It’s something that I work on in my spare time.
Where can the metal fans find your music on the net?
The best five places are probably YouTube, Spotify, iTunes, Bandcamp and Reverb Nation. They also have my solo record, “The Edge” on them as well in case anyone wants to check it out. The music on that is a mix of Rock/Folk/Country/Blues. Like I said before, I like to do different things musically and to challenge myself vocally as well as lyrically.
Is there anything else what you’d like to say or message to the Hungarian readers?
First of all I would like to say thank you Thomas for giving me this chance to share more with your readers about St. Madness!!! I would also like to ask people to go back to buying their favorite bands’ and artists’ CDs because the hard copy CD sales bring a lot of financial revenue to not only the artists themselves but to the labels so they can all keep going.
Buying music digitally may be fun and easy but you are getting a substandard sounding product and it’s choking the life out of the bands and labels and music business in general. That’s why bands sign what is called a “record deal” because the selling of the record was the bands’ and labels’ bread and butter. With digital downloading that has been taken away and bands as well as labels can’t last if they can’t make any money. You can only sell so many T-shirts, band’s need to have several products out there for sale to help them to even make the money to keep going. So I say If you love a band or artist, please, support them and go back to buying the hard copy CDs.
It has been my personal honor to share with you about St. Madness today. TOGETHER WE ARE STRONG – TOGETHER WE ARE FAMILY – LONG LIVE THE FANS OF METAL!!!