Returns with Another Night of Passion
In the early ‘80s, with the success of the Scorpions and Accept, all eyes were turned to Germany as the new hot bed of metal contending for its place along side the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and Sunset Strip sleaze. Mad Max along with Warlock, Helloween, Grave Digger and Blind Guardian were part of the young lions roaring to be heard. Standing out from their peers, Mad Max took a positive (some say Christian) element to their delivery. Hailing from Münster, Germany the band then (and now) consisted of Michael Voss (vocals), Jürgen Breforth (guitars), Roland Bergmann (bass) and Axel Kruse (drums). They debuted in 1982 with their self-titled EP, which made waves in Europe and Japan but it was the international release of Rollin’ Thunder two years later that sparked real recognition. Capitalizing on its success followed Stormchild (1985) and the stellar Night of Passion (1987). Tours with Pretty Maids, Stryper and Yngwie Malmsteen helped spread their fame but it was all cut short when the group disbanded in late ’89 a devastating blow to fans.
In the years that followed Michael Voss went on to work with German hard rock band Bonfire and later formed the AOR masters Casanova teaming with producer Henry Staroste (Warlock, Doro) and releasing half a dozen classic albums through the ‘90s. Based on his uniquely original sound, Voss become a much sought after songwriter and producer. Among his many landmark projects was the acclaimed Demon Drive Burn Rubber (Long Island Records) and tribute ventures Metal Gods and Wings of Freedom. Relocating to LA he wrote with Shania Twain, Susanna Hoffs (Bangles), Belinda Carlisle and Sisters of Mercy’s Andi Broon. In 1999, to the thrill of fans worldwide, Voss and Jürgen Breforth reunited and put together the comeback Mad Max album Never Say Never. Less than a decade later the full band has reunited releasing a record every other year allowing Voss to still work on side projects.
This year, 2012, Mad Max will release their twelfth record marking thirty years together. The disc is a return to their early metal roots hence the title Another Night of Passion. We spoke to Voss from his German studio to discuss the magic of the record’s 11 tracks. “When we first started writing this album, we analyzed what we did on the first three Mad Max records,” says an excited Voss. “We looked at the rhythms, the energy and the riffing. I kept on searching through my own back catalog for un-used ideas - fragments or riffs and lyrics that would all fit together.” One specific track caught his ears. “There was a riff I had from ’87 that I really like but never used. It was so Dokken-like. We could have done our own melody but we decided to reach out to the man himself, Mr. Don Dokken. I met Don a couple times and we got along great, so I sent him the song to see what he thought of it. He came up with great melodies and a typical Dokken lyric that sounded straight off Under Lock and Key. It’s called ‘Fallen from Grace’ and was co-written by Don Dokken. I am so proud of that song. The whole experience was incredible.”
Voss has worked with many icons including Dan Reed, James Christian, Tony Martin, Paul Sabu, Gary Barden (MSG) and most recently Michael Schenker. “It’s a blessing to stay this busy,” he says. “I have been doing this now since I was seventeen. I’ve had the privilege of working with many great artists, many of which are my heroes in music. Right now I am working with Vinny Appice, Paul Shortino and Javier Vargas from Spain on a project. We did the new Michael Schenker record in my studio here in Germany. Working with Michael was like magic. He laid down his ideas and we both developed the songs from there. It was a very special time for me as I’m a big fan. I first heard Michael Schenker’s playing when he put out his first solo album with ‘Armed and Ready’ and ‘Into The Arena’, I was 15-years old and he became my absolute biggest guitar hero. I jumped into Lovedrive of the Scorpions then I got into the back catalog of UFO. I liked the songs writing in UFO even after Michael left. I loved The Wild, The Willing and the Innocent. Those records were absolutely amazing.”
Listening to Another Night of Passion is like revisiting the best of ’80s hard rock. Songs like “Metal Edge”, “Welcome to Rock Bottom” and “Back and Alive” drink from the same bottle of Jack Daniels as Van Halen, Scorpions and Def Leppard. “There are other songs like ‘Black Swan’ where we wanted to have that heavy metal impact,” says Voss. “The beginning of that song has the trademark ‘80s metal like Judas Priest’s Defenders of the Faith with ‘The Sentinel’ where we wanted the big guitars, the lead breaks and the power chords underneath a the fast rhythm with a double bass. Every single track, starting with ‘Rocklahoma’, reminds me of the time when I was exposed to all the great music of the early ‘80s, like the Scorpions with ‘Dynamite’. We wanted that high-energy, in-your-face, rock and roll. Mad Max were a young band during that time, so we kind of have a first hand look at it.”
“Every band we played with from Pretty Maids to Stryper helped us become a better band - helped me with my song writing,” continues Voss. “Michael Sweet (from Stryper) was one of my big heroes. I was so young - a real rooky.” Mad Max pay tribute to another of their influences in “40 Rock”. “It has this Y&T-kind of grove, a Midnight in Tokyo-kind of thing. I’ve always loved what Dave Meniketti could do with the blues. This was our attempt at it.” The darker mood of the record is reflected in “The Chant’ a song Voss wrote on holiday in the Maldive islands off the coast of India. “I was reading a book with all this voodoo stuff in it, dancing around the fire, beating on drums. The chants were a ritual at the moment of death. It was very spooky. I wrote the song in about 20-minutes and it reminded me of Queensryche. It’s creepy a real voodoo song.”
Aside from Mad Max, Voss has just finished projects Vengeance, Beggar’s Bride and King Kobra. “It’s a dream come true,” says Voss. “I have to be honest, I was never that super gifted guy. I always had to work for it, keep pushing it. I had to play my licks twice as much as any other guitar player. I had to practice twice as hard on vocal skills but there was always the vision in my head to go forward with music 24-hours a day. It’s my oxygen, it gives me my drive and keeps me alive. Over all these years I’ve been able to work with all my heroes.” When asked who he’d still like to create an album with Voss doesn’t hesitate. “I want to make a real rock album with Joe Lynn Turner, one that’s tuned into his voice now. That’s in my plan. My favorite was his first solo album Rescue You (1985). I want to hear his blue notes, that soulful magic. I’d also like to do a full album with Doro. I love the way she sings, she sings like an elf. She’s got the metal genre down. She is a special kind of singer. I’d like to bring back the huge choruses to her music.
Voss with the Michael Schenker Group recently supported Black Country Communion in the UK and Mad Max dates are planned this spring supporting Axel Rudi Pell. Voss will also join the Michael Schenker Group in Japan where they will feature Scorpions drummer Herman Rarebell. “We will be doing a couple Scorpions classics like ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’ and ‘Blackout’, says Voss. “I will be playing lead guitar. Michael said to me, ‘I’m not playing Matthias Jabs part, you play the leads’.” Mad Max would love to play America. “I love the people there,” he says. “We played Rocklahoma a couple years ago and we would love to do more. We have a great label (SPV) so maybe they can get us there. That’s the plan - to get out there and play the record to the fans. In the mean time I am staying busy doing everything from classical to kids music. I take everything that comes to me as a gift from God and I’ve very thankful.”
A special thanks to Michael Voss for speaking with us and to Jon Freeman PR.
Website: Michael Voss, SPV Records