St. Madness: "You Can't Be A Shock Metal Band Without Being Shocking"
The early '90s were not the best of times for metal. Suddenly everyone who grew up listening to Sabbath--and a lot of people who didn't--was exchanging skull rings for flannel and writing grunge songs about being strung out. But Patrick Flannery and his alter-ego Prophet were just starting out playing the music he loved and would not be deterred. After a short stint as Crown of Thorns, the band morphed into St. Madness, and they haven't looked back since.
They've just released a two-disc retrospective of those 20 years, and thankfully, not a single cut is a lousy power ballad or an experimental excursion into EDM. No sir, it's pure adrenaline and crunch from beginning to end, from the early "Loneliness is Black" up to more recent fare like "Vampires in the Church" and "Metal to the Death and Beyond" where the band spells out who its heroes are, if covers of "Comfortably Numb" and "Sweet Leaf" aren't enough of an indicator.
This Saturday Joe's Grotto will host St. Madness' ninth CD release party and two-decade blowout. Performing along with St. Madness performing with past members, the event also includes performances by DCAY, Dr. Frankenshred, Heinous James and Sircyko. We spoke to The Prophet about the difficulties of keeping a group together that long, the magic of facepaint and getting the cold shoulder from Dairy Queen.
Is this 20th anniversary from when you started as Crown of Thorns?
We started in April or May of 1993. And I actually have a certificate from September of '93 that we filed so we could use the name as a business.
Then we found out there was a Christian rock band from New Jersey who filed that name two years before us. So we decided, since we named our album The Spiritual Visions of St. Madness, we should go with that as a band name. We had two albums out at the time. T-shirts and posters. And we had to redo it all,
Was there a ritualistic shedding of the merch?
We sold it 'till all of it was gone. And we sent a lot of albums all over the world to magazines and radio stations and so forth. We just sent it everywhere.
Did the name change start the tradition of wearing facepaint?
We started wearing face paint in 1995 . Before that we had lights and banners and things like that but we didn't have facepaint or anything. Around that time in Arizona, metal was kind of dying, and alternative was getting really popular. And it was killing me, as a person who loves metal with all my heart. So I said to Marge [Margie Johnson, Flannery's wife and the band's longtime manager] one day, "Next time we do a show I'm gonna wear facepaint. I want our music to be heavy and our shows more theatrical. I want to everything we can to stick out." When I told the band that, I thought they were gonna laugh me right out of the rehearsal studio.
My bass player said, "If you're gonna do it we're gonna do it, or we'll look stupid." I still wear it. I've had so many people over the years say to me, "Your band is so good--if you just dropped the facepaint..." I try to tell people, we're not about trying to become rock stars. We're about entertaining.
It's not about egos or being the coolest guy on the block. I want to be an entertainer. I'm sure Heath Ledger wasn't embarrassed wearing makeup to become The Joker. That's how I always looked on it.
It's like getting your game face on.
It's a ritual. I sit by myself, smoke pot and paint my face. It's like the calm before the storm. I think I'm addicted to that part of it as well. Getting ready for a show. As soon as that facepaint comes on, I'm Prophet. Otherwise I'm just Patrick.
How long does it take to put on?
It's taking a little longer now because as I get older my hands shake a little bit. Somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes. It used to be a lot quicker. I'd just nail it.
I notice you also use grayer facepaint now. Is that a nod to aging gracefully?
The idea is to look more dead and zombie-ish. Prophet should look like a dead outlaw raised from the dead. In the old days he was a vampire look. I'm a huge WWE wrestling fan, since I was a little kid. Wrestlers all have a certain run when their popularity is going up, and when they feel the fans are starting not to get interested, they start morphing into a different kind of character.
And we've done that with the band. After a while, you have to change. People say, why don't you wear that upside-down cross face? Well I wore that face for quite a few years, just like I've worn this cowboy face for four years. In the early days I put on a different face almost very show.
The goal in the beginning was not to be Alice Cooper and KISS, where they had the same face all the time.