MAX MADDUX INTERVIEW:
July 17, 2005
Earlier this year I pulled an old vinyl out of the pile and decided to review it. That album was Shock’s Up And Coming, an album that is enjoyable for all the wrong reasons. I was surprised to later have Shock vocalist Max Maddux contact me and explain the details of Shock’s and Downtown Clown‘s histories. Now a hairdresser in Las Vegas, Max agreed to talk about his musical past.
SR: How in the hell did you hit some of those notes on Shock’s debut?
MM: I stumbled onto those screeches at rehearsals. I wouldn’t call them notes really. When I’d belt one in the studio nobody would tell me “hold back on that” they told me “that was beyond Bruce, do more” I bought it so there you go. I even did it in the ballad. Ridiculous. The scream on “Down-n-Out” was the longest scream ever recorded on Capitol Records (with the possible exception of anyone who actually paid money for that album).
SR: Do you ever throw the Shock album on the turntable, if so what are your thoughts when hearing it now?
MM: I don’t own a turntable anymore. Thankfully it was before CD’s.
SR: How was Shock formed?
MM: I sang on a school bus returning from a forensics tournament. The girl next to me thought I was good so she had her boyfriend (Damien) call me to jam in his basement. There I met Doug Geiger (Eric Saxan) and another guitarist named Bob who quit shortly thereafter.
SR: How did Shock get hooked up with Greenworld records?
MM: A girl who knew us had a friend who had a friend that knew Eric Greif. He was in town doing Vyper’s 2nd release. He and his engineer Mike Frasier came over to watch us play with a bass player from a country band. We only knew 1 original song. We played it and noticed they were smiling and laughing and we thought they must really love us. Eric said he wanted a 2 song demo ASAP. So we recorded our one song BFD and one that Jon (Damien) had called Fade To Black, which was the worst lyrical song I’d ever heard. In the studio we realized Jon couldn’t play a decent solo. Our country bass player had to do it for him. With all that he told us that the Greenworld guys wanted a full LP. In 3 weeks!! We managed to come up with enough crap to make a full LP. They helped us find a bass player (Carlos) and we were told we’d have a lead player but it didn’t happen. We were told to go with it. The drums had many flaws and guitars were pathetic. I hated my vocals but they didn’t want us to polish anything because “The Greenworld guys love your raw sound”. After asking enough questions we found out that everyone involved thought we were so terrible that it was funny. It was too late. We were a joke that we hadn’t been let in on.
SR: When you found out that many involved with the album thought of Shock as a joke, how did it make you feel about the music industry?
MM: I wasn’t that deep at 17. I just discovered the comic/rock persona that I got to use with Downtown Clown. If we made a joke of ourselves, nobody else could do it for us.
SR: Do you have any idea with how many copies Up And Coming sold?
MM: They printed 15K twice and they sold mainly in the Midwest and Japan. When the 3rd batch was to be released everyone signed on Greenworld (at least the KC bands) were told that their warehouse burned and all masters and copies were gone. We didn’t care. We didn’t want it to come out while we had built a solid following of fans that hadn’t heard or seen it so didn’t know we started out that backward.
SR: What were the guys in Vyper like to you?
MM: They were ok. They had a little Rock Star Ego Syndrome but around KC I suppose they were briefly. Plus they opened the door for Avalanche, Harlow, Leather Toys, Banshee, and us.
SR: What comes to mind when you see pictures of your old wardrobes?
MM: The one on the album is laughable. After that when we got Brian Fitzpatrick on guitar we had some rather cool yet over-the-top stuff made which I wish I still had. They were gaudy as hell. One fan told me it looked like I’d robbed somebody’s Christmas tree and made it into stage gear.
SR: Who were the Sushi Girls, and did any of them put out?
MM: They were just girls we knew who could make it to a photo shoot that night. It was tough to look like a rockstar when they kick your butt out of the studio immediately after the shoot. BTW ‘Sushi Girls” was Greif’s idea. Four teenagers from Missouri in ’85 had no idea what sushi was.
SR: When and why did Shock finally decide to break-up?
MM: Fall of ’86 we had become pretty damn good and popular but Brian and I had girlfriend interference and Carlos quit to start a band with a drummer friend and we knew to call it quits. Later Doug and I tried to start other Shock line-ups which were never successful. Brian and I tried to put together a new band and we could have done quite well but everyone in that band except Brian had chemical issues, including myself. It seems so foreign now. Yuck! It’s a good thing I was indestructible in the 80’s.
SR: What was your drug of choice and the craziest things that happened while strung out?
MM: I was into coke like so many others. I really wasn’t too strung out. I just did too much and sold it on the side. I had mixed priorities. I’d have to make up a story for this answer to be the least bit interesting.
SR: After Shock you fronted Downtown Clown, give us some history on that band.
MM: The guys (Shawn Beuscher – drums, Chuck Arlund & Brad Hamilton – guitars, PJ Rudkin – Bass) had a band called White Lize and they were very good. Their vocalist was great in the studio but had zero stage presence. He had a Geoff Tate meets Richard Marx voice. The antithesis of me. Their live shows suffered though so they axed him. I was available but those guys knew I was a raunchy goofball vocally and lyrically. And they needed to make sure I had straightened up. Their guitarist Chuck, had seen Shock when we were really good and said they should give me a try. From night one we were all great together. Luckily their ‘leader’ Brad knew they had to change everything about their band to fit me. So, different name, different image, and very different sound. And it worked. We gained popularity so quickly it was astounding.
SR: How close was Downtown Clown to getting a record deal?
MM: We had many offers but none that we had confidence in. We knew we were in the wrong time for our type of music. Everything had turned towards dark and mean and grungy. The offers were just because we were hugely popular around the Midwest. They had no intentions of letting us do what made us so popular. There was never big money offered so we kept our resolve of being hedonistic in a very grimy era. Brad got frustrated with having to be the decision maker so he quit in early ’92. I wanted to stay the course and Shawn and PJ wanted to evolve to suit the times. Chuck was indifferent. We started writing some great stuff with the friction between us but never agreeing we realized by the end of the year that Brad was our Gene Simmons, our Nikki Sixx. We had no solid direction or decision making after he quit. We even had a major label contact us in the months after we had broken up. Ah, to be young and stupid.
SR: Do you keep in contact with any of your old bandmates? If so what are they up to these days?
MM: We are all like brothers now. Shawn and PJ and Chuck are Dads. Brad and I are both married to hot chicks (see JamieMaddux.com) but decided that we are childish enough so no kids!! Only Chuck stayed in the music biz. The funny thing is that I’m going back to KC soon and so are Chuck (Nashville) and PJ (Cleveland) and we are going to complete recording on 2 DTC songs we never finished. Then we’re going to drink and jam. I can’t wait to see all of those filthy monkeys.
SR: What’s the biggest crowd you have played to?
MM: 3000, with Shock surprisingly. DTC booked and produced most of our live events. When we didn’t play clubs we booked the hall. We paid security, had ticket master print tix, bought the ads, paid the bartender, parking guys, everything. We tended to book VFW halls because they were large and we could sell to all ages. After what happened with Great White in Rhode Island we all knew how lucky we were nothing major went wrong with our pyros. We had pyro, bubbles, glitter guns, dazzling arrays of lights. We even played a couple of tunes from Rocky Horror Picture Show so fans started bringing squirt guns and toast and for some reason marshmallows. It got pretty messy. What a blast!
SR: What were some of the other underground bands in the Kansas City area when you played? Did any stand out?
MM: In the DTC days there was only ‘Foxy Foxy’, who became ‘Sacrifice Isaac’. That’s the band Carlos quit Shock to form. They definitely had a solid fan base. ‘The Front’ was pretty hot but had a way different following. Banshee was gone by then. Puddle of Mudd was later so ‘Isaac’ was our only equal competition I can remember but I’ve killed a lot of brain cells over the years.
SR: Currently you are a hairdresser, has a client ever remembered your music career?
MM: Considering I work in Vegas they have been few and far between. A few transplanted Midwesterners remembered. Not much more.
SR: Do you and Jizzy Pearl talk music while cutting his hair?
MM: He does. I just tend to listen. He’s a professional rock singer who has been through and continues to go through the rigors of the biz. I’m a professional hairstylist who had a couple of bands. I don’t have the knowledge he does.
SR: Long hair and mullets, what are your thoughts?
MM: I sported the ‘Metal Mullet’ down to the middle of my Achy Breaky Back way back then. I’m a hypocrite because I sported the Cobain bob much of the 90’s. I just cut my hair short in ’04 so I’m still getting used to this side of the world.
SR: Your website says you are a tattoo collector, how many do you have now?
MM: I’m double sleeved, both chest panels, about 30% of one leg and 15% of the other. The back is going to be such a huge project. I still have to finish my Batman villains on my leg too. So much skin so little time.
SR: What do you think about the state of rock today?
MM: You’re starting to see the fun stuff again. Getting better all the time. I really dig ‘Lost Prophets’. Not every band in the depressing era had terrible childhoods. They weren’t street dwellers. They had suburban parents in suburban houses. They had to practice speaking with a black-cent so they would have ‘street cred’ while they did their homework so their parents would by them new equipment. Then they wrote songs about poverty, abuse, and depression. So who were the real posers? I think they should give ‘The Offspring’ an award for towing the line on fun rock during the 90’s and early 00’s. Somehow they stuck it out successfully.
SR: What do you think when you see people paying around $50 for Up And Coming?
MM: How can the Japanese be so technologically advanced yet behave like this?
SR: Do you ever miss playing in front of an audience?
MM: Not usually. But when I visited DowntownClown.net and saw the ‘Pet Names’ video I really got that adrenaline rush. So I guess I do more than I’d like to admit.
SR: Do you think you will ever front another band?
MM: Absolutely not. I can’t beat the DTC guys. We were and are family. I don’t seek fame. I know how brutal the business is. It’s so temporary too. Some guys who were bona fide rock stars when I was trying to make it can’t afford to have me do their hair now.
Thanks to Max Maddux