By James Wood
Maxine Petrucci likes to call what she does “evolved music."
The former Madam X guitarist [and sister of former Vixen drummer Roxy Petrucci] has taken much of what she's learned from the '80s and '90s to a completely different level. It's a sound and style some may find not suitable for the “commercial” world, but Petrucci says that suits her just fine.
Bassist Billy Sheehan has called Petrucci “a true rarity, a lady who has powerful command of her instrument and her voice.” Rick Derringer cites Petrucci's guitar playing as “masterful” and has referred to her right-hand picking technique as “the hummingbird effect, so fast, it's a blur."
Continuing to forge her own path, Petrucci's third solo album, Back to the Garden, is an eclectic mix of riff and shred, one that will make even the most jaded critic stand up and take notice. Her new band features Imminent Sonic Destruction members Pat Delon (drums) and Bryan Paxton (bass), plus guitarist Rachel May (Broadzilla).
I spoke with Petrucci about Back to the Garden, her time spent with her sister in Madam X and much more.
GUITAR AFICIONADO: Tell me about Back to the Garden.
This is my third solo album, and it's completely different from anything I've done before. I don't have a label, so I have the luxury of doing what I want to do when I feel like doing it. For Back to the Garden, I wrote all of the songs and did all the guitars, bass and vocals. Pat Deleon wrote and played the drum parts, and Gaetano Di Falco illustrated the album cover.
Please tell me about “Assassinate” — the song and the music video.
I wrote that song a few years ago, and it was just the way I felt at the time. I felt that even though I had paid my dues, I still had people against me for being a female lead guitarist and always having to prove myself. It was just like, "Fuck you! This is what I do and you can't stop me." It was about a part of my life. The whole album is actually a little bit of my life mixed in with my opinion of the afterlife. For the video, I brought in Scott Sprague and Haris Cizmic of Blind Spot Productions.
How did Madam X get started?
Roxy [Petrucci] and I were originally in an all-girl band called Pantagruel, which later evolved into Black Lace. After that band broke up, we started Madam X with Chris Doliber on bass and another singer. While we were in New York, we saw Bret [Kaiser] singing in his band at a club and knew right away that he was our guy. We got together with him, hit the road for a few years and eventually made our way to Los Angeles.
We got signed by Don Arden [Sharon Osbourne's father] of Jet Records and put out our first album. There's a lot in between, but that's pretty much the story. Things eventually happened at the record company and they closed their doors, leaving us with nothing. Roxy went on to join Vixen, while Chris and I decided to keep plugging Madam X. That's also around the time we hired Sebastian Bach.
How did you hear about him?
An agent in Toronto turned us on to him. I remember we got in contact with him and drove to Toronto to pick him up. We went straight into rehearsals and took it from there.
Do you have a funny story to share about your time with Bach?
He was so young at the time (around 18) and lived at my mom's house for a while. My mom is super-Italian, and one day, her super-Italian brother came over to the house. Sebastian was up in one of the bedrooms singing Whitney Houston and my uncle overheard him and said, "Who's that girl?" I remember we all told him it was a guy and that he was in our band.
Then Sebastian walked into the kitchen wearing shorts and no shirt. He had his hair all teased up and actually looked like a pretty blonde. My uncle goes,"Wow! Who's she?" After we again told him that Sebastian was a boy, he was pissed; mostly because he couldn't believe that he found him attractive [laughs].
Let's talk about your early days playing and what inspired you to rock out.
I started when I was 12 after my father bought me a classical guitar and set me up with lessons. But it wasn't until I saw Fanny, Cradle and the Quatro sisters that I realized girls can really rock. At that time, teachers wouldn't teach me rock music because I was a girl. So I learned from records.
What other projects are you working on?
I've actually just finished recording a song for the Quatro sisters' documentary, Lost Girls, that I'm really excited about.
What’s your current setup like for playing live?
I use PRS and Hamer guitars combined with Peavey Triple X heads and Marshall bottoms. On my board, I have a Cry Baby Wah, Boss Equalizer and tuner, and that’s it. I rely on real raw playing and not some supplied, saturated sound rack.
Do you have any advice for young girls who want to play guitar?
Just being pretty and being able to shred isn't enough. Music is something you have to believe in. You need to live it. It's a feeling you have to make come across to the listener. If it's not reaching them, it's just a waste of time.
Rumor has it there's Madam X music that has never been released. What can you tell me about that?
In 1992, the original band went into the studio and recorded a six-song EP. The music really rocks, but we ended up not doing anything with it. I’ve thought about releasing it, but over the years everyone has been busy doing their own thing. When the time is right and everyone's ready, we'll decide what we want to do with it. I realize there's the whole “age thing” and that playing and doing what I'm doing now is gutsy.
I'm very lucky I'm able to still do things and people are able to hear it. With music, it doesn't matter how old you are. You can't stop rock and roll.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.