St. Madness vocalist Prophet is one of my favourite people. Besides being a great songwriter and performer, he is one of the nicest, most authentic rock dudes I've had the privilege of getting to speak with. We connected recently to talk about Carnimetal and St. Madness, its past and its future as well as whole lot more. Read on.
antiMusic: To start with the most recent news, 20...actually now 21 years later, you've accumulated enough history and status to warrant being included in your city's museum exhibit. Tell us about receiving this honour.
Prophet: It's crazy isn't it? You know, it's funny because St. Madness has been together almost as long as Elvis Presley's career was. He came out about 1954 and hit the big time about 1956. He died in 1977 so that 23 years and we're at 21 right now. I look back at us and sometimes it feels like it was only yesterday when we got started and then sometimes I think, well Elvis' whole career is only two years longer than our current career as a band. It seemed like his career was forever and it was only 23 years long.
So here's what's funny, Morley and you're a guy who enjoys metal music so you'll probably get a kick out of this. The reason why St Madness and Crown of Thorns, which we were called in the beginning, wears face paint is because in the early '90s here in Arizona and certainly across North America, metal music started to die. Now, I was a fan of Nirvana and I liked Soundgarden and all of those bands that came out at the time...Alice in Chains and those. But all of their fans were suddenly saying "metal sucks" and basically letting you know that you're an idiot if you still play metal.
And it was so over-night. One day people were saying "Long live metal" and a week later, they were wearing plaid and they were changing over to that grunge sound. And I got angry over that. At the time, we wore no face paint. We had some banners and lights and a little bit of smoke but certainly weren't what we are now. So out of frustration and anger over hearing people put down metal and kind of watching it die on the vine here in America, I decided to paint my face at the next show. I just wanted to do something different. I wanted to go heavier and darker. I thought if the band doesn't want to do it, that's fine. I'm going to do it. So the next rehearsal, I went in and told the guys what my intentions were. And I really thought they were going to laugh me out of the building. But my bass player said, "Well if you're going to wear face paint, we'd better do it too or else we'll just look stupid."
So originally it started as a way of wearing war paint against the people in the alternative music who were happy to see metal go away. Now the reason I bring this up and the reason it's so important is the Tempe Music History exhibit that they're opening in November is primarily full of alternative bands because one of the big places in America for that kind of music, besides Seattle was Tempe, Arizona. The Gin Blossoms came out of here and The Refreshments. Roger Clyne who now has Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers was actually a member of The Refreshments.
Now 21 years later, we're going to be in an exhibit with bands that we originally weren't very friendly with. Because they didn't like metal. We didn't care for alternative music. But if it wasn't for the alternative explosion, St. Madness would not be wearing face paint and would not have been pushed to be the counter point to their music. We have them to thank for it. So now, I don't have any ill will or negative feelings toward alternative music at all. I mean, at the time when that whole movement started, we were one of the only bands in this area and one of very few across the country who actually excelled during this period. For some reason, our popularity soared so I have to thank alternative music. (laughs) 21 years later, we're all going to be in this exhibit together.
antiMusic: What kind of pieces are you going to have in the exhibit?
Prophet: They're going to have a mannequin dressed up the way I used to look in the late '90s. And there was a door that I made years ago. It's basically from a time of 1993 to 2000. At the time, my bass player Randy Ax and I were the only members of the band left. The guitarist and drummer had just moved on. So our first thought was to audition new people. And at that time, Sacred Reich said they were over. I knew Wiley Arnett was an amazing guitarist and he didn't have a band. So we called him and said, "Wiley, we'd really love for you to play guitar for St. Madness." He said he'd like to hear our recorded material and I said no problem because we had four records out at the time. Wiley lived right across the street from us so I went over and left him the four albums.
About a week later, he called me up and said, "Pat, I'd really like your music a lot and I love your voice but I'm really not a face paint guy. I'm not the right guy for your band. But is there any way that you and your bass player would consider starting a side project with me?" So I talked to Randy and we said, well we don't have a full band right now so maybe it's time to do something else so Randy and I joined with Wiley and started a band called The Human Condition which still exists to this day.
So I was the singer for The Human Condition for about 3½ years. But at the time, I didn't wear face paint and just used street clothes. Most of the lyrics I wrote were pretty positive, which is fine. But after awhile I started missing being Prophet and St. Madness. I missed everything about it, the theatrics and the dark music. I would go home and write these songs about murder or sex or whatever and knew I could never use these lyrics in The Human Condition.
So whenever I used to get in these moods of missing St. Madness, I would get these photos of us from different shows and cut them out with an exacto knife and start putting them on the bathroom door in my apartment. All my friends would come over and we'd be hanging out and I was just always looking at the door and it was like a canvas. Before I knew it, I had completed this door. Well, at the time, I thought St. Madness was over so let's put out a Best Of and take pictures of the door. That record was We Make Evil Fun and all the artwork is made up of pictures of this door.
Little did I know that years later, the door is going to be part of the exhibit. And they have some of our drum heads and a couple of our banners. And I have a friend in town who actually made some St. Madness figures so there's a Prophet figure waving a cleaver and wearing a butcher's apron like I did back in the '90s. That's in there with some of the other guys in the band at the time. And they wanted all of our awards from the Phoenix Music Awards and LA Music Awards as well. So it's all just pretty cool.
antiMusic: Last year saw you celebrate 20 years as a band. And Carnimetal is the marker of that accomplishment. Tell us about the decision to put out a greatest hits of this era of the band and some of the best moments since We Make Evil Fun in 2003.
Prophet: Carnimetal was actually a concept by Marge, our manager since 1995 and Marge and I are together now. When she first became our manager in the early days, we were room-mates but I pretty much didn't want a committed relationship. I wanted to have variety and keep sowing my oats. But one day I looked at Marge after years of living together and I thought to myself, "I really love this woman and she loves me and I know she does." I was there when her parents died and she was there when my parents died and we've been through so much together.
So it was just really weird how it happened but basically one night, I grew up and realized that the lady I had a home with was way better than probably anyone that I was going to meet. And so she and I are together but it was her who said, "You know Pat, it's coming up on 10 years since you released We Make Evil Fun. Maybe you should do a 20-year Best-Of." And once she said that, I said, "Marge you are right. That's exactly what we should do." So we went in and recorded three new tracks. The first one was "Drowning on Air" and then "Sweet Leaf" and then "Blood, Guts and Glory" which is the last track, all on disc one.
Basically what you get with Carnimetal is the best of from the last three albums and then you get a bunch of really cool stuff on disc two that are back from the early days and then also three new tracks. You get new, old, unreleased, bootleg and best of. So you actually get a whole lot of stuff in this two-disc package. And I'm very proud of it because I can't believe that the band is still going after all these years. It just blows my mind.
antiMusic: I first got into the band when I heard the Vampires in the Church record. Do you agree that the band sort of turned a corner with this record? To my ears there was a distinct upgrade in the songwriting. Do you agree and was there a intention to really bear down on the song construction or was it simply a natural progression?
Prophet: I think part of it was a natural progression because obviously the more you do something, the better you get become at it, hopefully. By the time, Vampires in the Church came out, I think it was our sixth album so we were getting more comfortable. On seven of the nine albums, you have the same drummer which is the drummer we have now and you have the same singer and the same two producers which is me and Larry Elyea who owns Mind 's Eye Digital Studio. So you have a certain element or vibe or sound on many of the albums which is the same drumming and the same vocals.
So that kept a certain amount of continuity and the one thing that we figured out right away was, if we wanted to maintain our sound, if we happened to lose a guitar player or something....see you couldn't have one album with the guitar player playing Mesa Boogie, the next a new guy would play Fender and then another guy playing Marshall. So we bought our own Mesa Boogie two stacks and we explained to any guitar play who wanted to play in St. Madness that they have to play on those stacks. Now they can certainly use their own foot pedals and effects but we wanted to be sure that the guitar sound had a certain continuity through all the albums.
That's the only way we could truly do a good Best Of and I think about bands like Metallica and if they put out a Best Of, it's hard to mix the early albums with the later albums, because the sound is so completely different. But people don't realize when they're listening to Carnimetal that they're hearing several different guitar players. But there's still that St. Madness vibe through the whole thing.
By the time we did Vampires in the Church, we had a young hot-shot guitar player named Brandon Morrison and in the band he was called Altar Boy. And Brandon has a style all his own and you can definitely hear it on the two albums he did with us which was Vampires in the Church and Saintanic. And he brought sort of a modern feel to the St. Madness sound. Because before that we were pretty much a thrash metal band or old-school heavy metal thrash. But because he was so young...he was 18 when he joined us in 2004...he was so good, Morley.
He actually auditioned as a bass player and we gave him the gig since he was a very fine bass player. But one day he said to our guitar player, Marvin, "Hey man, can I see your guitar for a minute?" Marvin says "Sure." And Altar Boy picks up the guitar and OMG he just starts wailing. You know, there's a lot of guitar players who can wail and sound great but the thing that I thought was unique about Brandon was that he had a very modern sound to his playing. He just had this modern flair that he really added to the old songs and what I think it did was open us up musically to broaden our horizons but still sound like St. Madness.
Another thing is something hardly anyone knows and I don't think I'll really ever do again, but I sang that whole album in one day. I didn't intend on that. I had a number of days set aside for vocals but when we went to record them and it was just one of those days where I was having a really, really good day. And even when I was starting to get a bit hoarse...which is why on that album my voice gets a little more raspy than on the other albums but it works for those songs.
Larry would say, "Are you sure you don't want to just take a break and come in and do it another day?" And I said, "You know Larry, I'm just having such a good time. I'm not having any problems hitting the notes. I think we should just keep going until I can't go any more." And I basically did 90% of the album done vocally and the next few days I just had to come in and just little things like fix a backing vocal or something. But the meat of the whole record was done in one day. The whole recording process for that album was like the gods smiled on us or something but everything just fell together.
antiMusic: Talk to us about some of the songs that make up Carnimetal. If you had to pick one song that best represents this era of St. Madness, what would it be?
Prophet: Probably "Metal to the Death and Beyond" and "Blood, Guts and Glory" are the two. "Metal to the Death and Beyond"...again, this is Marge's idea. Here's how this came about and nobody knows this either so it's kind of cool that I'm sharing this with you. When my son, Joshua, was young, Marge and I took him to see the movie Toy Story and we just loved that movie. So years later, her and I were laughing and maybe it's because we smoked too much pot or whatever it is but we were laughing about Buzz Lightyear. And his slogan was "To infinity and beyond." And I think we were talking about all the rock stars who had passed on who were probably jamming in heaven and she goes, "Metal to the death and beyond." I said, "That's brilliant. We need to write a song to that." So we wrote it and it's easily one of our most popular songs now.
Basically I wrote the song about my whole life in heavy-metal music. I started in music in 1979 as an Elvis Presley imitator at my high school and by 1982 I had completely gone metal. Actually more like old-school hard rock/metal at that time. So "Metal to the Death and Beyond" is someone giving their whole life to their passion which is heavy metal music and hopefully when I leave this world, I'll still be able to play it in heaven if I'm lucky enough to go to such a place.
So now we have a new song called "Blood, Guts & Glory" which is the last track on side one and that is dedicated to anyone out there who has given their life to being in a band or being in music. It's about the blood, sweat and tears that you put into your passion. It's about turning you life over to your passion which is the music.
antiMusic: "Drowning on Air" is a really personal song for you. Tell us about the inspiration behind this one and if writing it helped work through the experience.
Prophet: Well, in all my life, my best friend was my mom. And one of the reasons I was so close with my mother and this is something that a few people know now, Morley but for years and years I never talked about this in the press. I was born with a really rare blood disease which is called Bruton's Disease. And the medical explanation is congenital hypo-agammaglobulinemenia.
And it's the same as the boy in the plastic bubble. Now he had to stay in the bubble because he had no immune system so if he were to catch the flu, for instance, it would immediately go to pneumonia and he would die because he had no immune system to fight it. So part of my immune system worked but part of it didn't. People who to have Bruton's disease used to mostly always die when they were children. The doctors even told my parents that I wasn't going to live that long so be prepared for that. So parents were worried every time I got sick and got hospitalized and would think, "Is this the time that Pat is going to die?" And my mom was always there for me.
Well, in February 2007, my mother was diagnosed with ALS and right now you have all these ice bucket challenges going on and my mother actually died from ALS. She died in September 8 of 2008. So immediately after she died, because I lost my best friend, I wrote the song, "Drowning on Air". And the idea is that with ALS you can't take a full breath. You're breathing but you can only take short breaths because you can't catch your breath. So because I'm a songwriter, I write about things that affect me the most, whether it's good or bad. And losing my mom was a colossal event in my life. So all I could do is write some songs.
The song, "You Are My Light", I wrote for my song while she was dying. The last two days of her life, she kind of slipped into a kind of a coma. She basically went to sleep and never woke up. So I spent her last night on the planet with her and she was just lying there sleeping and I got to play her the final version of "You Are My Light" on a little CD player I had brought in there. My mom had heard the rough version and knew what the song said lyrically and all that but eight hours before she died, I actually got to play the finished product for her.
"You Are My Light" is basically saying "Hey Mom, you're my mentor and you're the one who taught me every good thing about life and you taught me about God and respecting other people. And you're my light. "Drowning on Air" was about how I didn't know what to do with myself. I felt completely lost and I'm sure a lot of people feel like that when they lose their mom or dad. I was a man when she died but it hit me no less. All of a sudden, in my heart I felt like this little boy who lost his mom and so we wrote "Drowning on Air".
The guy who wrote it with me is Sid Ripster who I've known for probably 25 years now and it's so awesome having him in the band because we can just look at each other and write a song. No stress whatsoever. And we've got a number of new songs that we're getting ready to go and record in January. But he had the riff for "Drowning on Air" and we sat in Bad Manor which is our rehearsal studio. We just took his riffs and said, "OK, let's put that one there and that one there." And then I wrote the lyrics and it fell together that quick.
antiMusic: There are two covers on the record from both Pink Floyd and Sabbath. You've done your share of covers in the past. What sort of criteria do you use in choosing them and in doing these two in particular?
Prophet: We cover bands that we admire. It doesn't matter if they're metal or not. We turn it into metal by putting the St. Madness spin on it or whatever. So "Comfortably Numb"...who doesn't love Pink Floyd? And actually, I have met a few people who have said, "I hate Pink Floyd but I love your version of "Comfortably Numb". I look at them and go, "How the hell do you hate Pink Floyd? (laughs) Those guys are geniuses."
I was really nervous about putting out that version more than any other cover we've ever done because if you do a sh*tty version of "Comfortably Numb", people will never let you live that down. They will not forget that. So it's important that if you're going to take on a song by a band like Pink Floyd that you do a really good version. And again, that was one of those situations where we all really wanted to do it and we just went into the studio and did it.
I brought in a keyboard player who also played some 12-string guitar on that, a good friend of ours by the name of Dave Cornwall. He's a total pro. Everybody in Arizona has known Dave forever. So he just came in and laid it down like butter and, boom, he was done. That song was just another of those magical times where it all just fell together beautifully. And I have to say, I love our version of "Comfortably Numb".
And for "Sweet Leaf", well, who doesn't love Black Sabbath and we like to smoke pot so that was a no-brainer. For the intro was, I put out a solo record in 2010 called The Edge and it's 95% acoustic but there's one song on there called "High As Hell". I thought "Wouldn't it be kind of cool to put in the intro to "High as Hell" and slow it way down so that it sounds like you're stoned.
The idea I wanted to give was like a person is getting ready for work or whatever and you have music on and they start singing along with it. So I slowed down the music to "High as Hell" and sang along with it in the studio. Then when I started coughing after taking a big hit...I don't know if you know this but on the original version by Sabbath, the coughing is from Tony Iommi. He took a big hit and the engineer recorded it when he started coughing. Later when they went back to listen to it, they said, that's the intro. So when I started coughing, we just overlaid Tony's cough right before the song started and it just fit perfectly.
When we do a cover, it's completely in tribute to the band that we're doing the cover for. We're not trying to make money off of them and we do pay the royalties on all of them. But it's just our way of saying "Hey we admire these bands and that's why we do a cover of their music." We have one or two covers one most of our albums and the reason for this is I want people to see that St. Madness can do cover songs as well as they can write their own. I'm trying to show the complete spectrum of the talent in the band. I mean, it's a real art to take a song that's been a hit and put your own spin on it and make a killer new version of it. So for us, it's a challenge.
Every cover that we put out, and there's been a lot of them, is part of the reason that we exist. I grew up listening to all of those songs and it made me want to be a singer. People have asked me recently, "Why hasn't there been an Elvis song yet and you know, they're right. I need to do an Elvis song because I'm a singer because he was a singer. If it wasn't for Elvis Presley, you and I wouldn't be talking right now. So I have to come up with an Elvis cover before the band retires, whenever that is going to be.
antiMusic: The Crown of Thorns material is really interesting. How do you view the music when you listen back to it and what memories come to mind?
Prophet: You know, that's an excellent question, Morley, because for most of us, when we were in high school or whatever, there were songs that were popular and we had girlfriends that we made out to with those songs and 30 years later, a song will come on the radio and all these memories will come back from when I was a teenager. But the beauty of being a songwriter is I get that from my own songs since we've been around for so long now.
The beautiful thing is that number one, I get the regular memories that everybody gets when they hear a song from way back when...you remember what you were doing and who you were hanging out with. But I also get the added bonus of remembering when we wrote the song and what it was like to record it in the studio. Remembering how the fans responded to it back then. So I get all these awesome memories and when Loneliness is Black came out, we were all heavy metal people but we also had a wide variety of music that we liked.
So the first album really has a mix of different kinds of music on it. It certainly has some very heavy stuff on it. John McLerran, Steve Van Peursem, Chad Crabtree and Randall "Mad Drums" Garton and myself are the people that made that album. The very first song that John McLerran wrote for Crown of Thorns was the song "Crown of Thorns". I've even thought, "Hey, should we go and re-record that because the technology is better now because that song is such a beautiful, work of art. And John is just amazing.
I was in a band with him before Crown of Thorns called Blitzen and we played around Phoenix for a few years. So Crown of Thorns was actually made up of two guys who came from Blitzen and started a new band. I have so many good memories.
You know, music is like a marriage. I'm sure people wonder...and I always wondered....you know these bands who achieve huge success...they work their whole life and now they have huge success and then they break up. And it's never about the money. If it was just about money, then the most successful bands would never break up. It's like a marriage. After you work so closely with someone, day in and day out, it's just natural that sometimes you start to get on each other's nerves.
I think if bands want to last for long lengths of time, they need to have away from each other, which a lot of bands don't do. And we never did. We never said, "OK, we're going to take three months off. See you in three months." We just kept going so after awhile you have a disagreement with a band member and they would quit or end up getting fired. Then you replace them and keep going.
So it's never about money. If you ask bands about why they broke up, they'll probably say it was "creative differences". What that really means a lot of the time is I got tired of that *%$^. I got sick of him not liking what I do or being drunk too often or whatever. But it's sad. You look back and ask, why didn't The Beatles stay together? Why didn't Van Halen stay together with David Lee Roth? I mean, they were at the height of their biggest album. A #1 album. Biggest tour. Breakup. But it's a natural thing and that's why you should never look at your favourite band and say "I'll catch the next concert." Because there might not be one.
I'll tell you when Van Halen broke up, it really affected me. I was a huge Van Halen fan back then and I was like "You gotta be kidding me." But you look back and there were a lot of people who like the Van Hagar years and if they had never broken up with David Lee Roth, that never would have happened. If Ozzy had never been fired from Black Sabbath, we might never have got his amazing solo career. I mean, those first three records are the sh*t. So things happen for a reason.
By the time we started Crown of Thorns, I had already been in about 15 different bands in 15 years. So when we started Crown of Thorns, I said, "I'm staying. If everybody else quits or gets fired, that's fine, I'm going to stick with this as long as I can." And so one of the reasons I believe we're going into the museum exhibit is because we kept St. Madness out there for 21 years. I didn't band-hop. I watched a lot of great musicians band-hop and they look back and they don't have much of a legacy. It's like if someone has 25 jobs in 25 years, it doesn't look that good on their resume.
Now in music, if you're a hired gun or a studio musician, then that's perfectly fine. But if you're trying to build a reputation, it's very important. It's one of the things I don't understand about Phil Anselmo. Every year he has a new band. I enjoy his other bands but they don't touch Pantera. And I love Down....I have to say that Down is a close second for me.
Can you imagine if Paul Stanley had put together a bunch of other bands over the last 40 years besides KISS? Basically it just mucks it all up. If you want to create a legacy and make a true name, it's important to stick with what you love, even if you don't "make it". Stick with it. What happens is that you win by attrition. People grow to respect you over the years because you didn't give up on what you were doing. Look at Lemmy. For years Lemmy and Motorhead were almost kings of the underground. It's not like they didn't make it, they did. But they weren't going as high as some of the bands they played with.
But Lemmy never stopped being Lemmy. He never changed Motorhead. So what happens is that now all these years later, people are saying Lemmy's God. Because he never gave up on his love which is Motorhead. He stuck with it, album after album. Year after year after year. And you look back and go that's a tough $%^% right there because he never gave up.
antiMusic: Essentially, you ARE St. Madness being the sole original member as well as the frontman. The sound of the band has remained pretty close to what you started off with originally. Have you always had a pretty clear idea of the kind of music that you wanted the band to do and has that ever been a problem with band members in the past, perhaps wanting to take the band in different directions?
Prophet: Um, yes, we have had band members that wanted to take it in different directions. One of them was Alter Boy. He wanted to take it way further afield than we did. I just said to him, "You know Brandon. We admire your talents. St. Madness is what it is. But when you're done with St. Madness, go start your own band and show me what you're talking about so that I can fully get your vision of what you want to do."
And here's another thing and it's good that you brought this up too. When you look at a band like Pantera and their breakup, what happened was basically something that happened in Van Halen. Van Halen was owned by the two brothers. It was their band before David Lee Roth joined. Pantera was the same way. It was the brothers' band. They had two singers before Phil so what happen was after awhile he joins this band that is popular and he goes "Yeah, I'm in this band." But then after you're in it for awhile, you realize that you're in their band. It's your band but it was their band before you joined.
So after awhile, and I connect this to Brandon because this is what happened to him. He was excited to join St. Madness but after awhile he wanted to turn it into the St. Madness that he thought it should be. So I just said to him, "No, you have to understand that we're on a pathway and we're not going to deviate to become something we're not."
So someone might join your band and be a true natural leader but in your band, you're the leader so they have dreams about leading their own band and eventually they leave. It's just a natural thing.
Most often we had people who had already heard of the band. They wanted to audition because they wanted to be in St. Madness and they already knew what we were. So when they come in and we are looking at them as possible new members, we sit them down and explain it to them, you know St. Madness wears face paint....cuz sometimes you would get guys who would be in the band for a year or two and then say, "Why don't we drop the face paint?" And I'm like, "Well St. Madness wears face paint. That's the way it is and it's not going to change."
Sometimes you get guys who see a different vision that they would like to take the band in. But if I let every guy do that who had a different idea, then we'd be all over the place. That's why we own the guitar equipment to keep that same similar guitar sound. But we've been real lucky. Most of the people who have joined the band get a real flavour for what St. Madness is and they're able to write to that.
antiMusic: 20+ years is a long time for a band. You've had more than a few member changes. While it might not have been seen as a good thing at the time, in retrospect, do you think the continual infusion of new blood is one of the things that has kept this machine going for as long as it has?
Prophet: Absolutely I do. And I think that every time we get a new member, they bring their own flavour to it and it allowed me as a songwriter to develop with different people. I believe it made me a better singer and songwriter and lyricist. If I were to have my way, the band would have stayed Vam Pierce 'Em, Randy Ax and Dark Soul, who is the drummer we have now. It would be the guys from the Spiritual Visions album and I would have stayed with them forever. When we were together, I figured we'd never break up. But that's not how it happened and thank goodness because if we didn't break up or these people have moved on, I wouldn't have got to work with all these other cool people.
The beauty of winning the LA Music Awards Metal Album of the Year for Carnimetal is everybody who was on Carnimetal deserves one of those awards and because it's a best-of album, we all won that award collectively. It's not just an award for the current lineup of the band. It's an award for every lineup of the band. And that's such a cool thing. How often do you see a best-of album win an award? That was a great thing that I could contact members who had not been in the band for 15 years and say, "We won this award and you were on that album. It's your award too."
Now here's another weird connection. Last year when we went to pick up the award, it was November 14 of 2013. November 14 was also the date that I buried my mother in 2008. 14 has been my favourite number since I was a kid because I lived in Holland and I learned to play soccer. One of the best players to ever play the game was Johan Cruyff and he wore 14 so from the time I was nine years old, I always took 14 as my number. So the 14th was a hard day to bury my mother but it is what it is.
antiMusic: We talked about this in our last interview but for those who don't know about it, tell us about how close you came to being a member of Black Sabbath.
Prophet: Well this is a good story because a lot of bands will say, if you get offered a Monday night show or whatever, they'll say "Oh that show doesn't matter." But one day Franco Gagliano who owns The Mason Jar in Phoenix which was the Whiskey-A-Go-Go of Arizona...it was the most famous metal club ever. It's gone now which is really sad. But everybody played The Mason Jar including members of Black Sabbath.
So Franco calls one day and get Marge on the phone and says, "Can you do me a favour? I had a band pull out on me this coming Monday. Is there any way you guys can come down and play?" And because we love Franco so much...because we didn't play Mondays anymore. It was always Fridays or Saturdays. But we said, "Franco as a favour to you, of course we'll do it."
So we go and there's probably 30 people in the whole place. We were lucky to have that on a Monday, I thought. And we do our show and afterwards I'm sitting with my then-girlfriend and I'm smoking a cigar --- you could smoke in the clubs back then --- and I'm covered in blood and face paint. Marge comes running up to me and says, "Pat, you have to come with me right now. There's a man who wants to talk to you and it's something big."
So I get up and start walking towards the bar. Franco cuts me off and looks at me and says, "Pat, you listen to me. This guy who wants to talk to you. He's real and he's interested in you." And Franco was so excited. So now I'm really like, what the hell is going on? So I walk up to this guy and I don't recognize him. He shakes my hand and says, "Hi, I'm John Baxter. I manage Rob Halford." And I'm just in my mind like woah, Rob Halford? He goes, "You've got a hell of a band there. The problem is, I'm not looking for a band." I said, "Well, what are you looking for?" And he says, "A vocalist." And I'm thinking, well you already have Rob Halford, what the f*ck do you need? You've got THAT guy. He's the guy."
So I say, "Well for what?" And he says, "Black Sabbath." And immediately I could feel all the blood rush out of my legs and I said, "Could you repeat that?" And he goes, "For Black Sabbath." This was around January of 1997. And he says to me, "A lot of people don't know this but Rob actually joined Black Sabbath and they were planning a world tour and they were going to write an album but six months ago, Rob and Tony Iommi had a falling out. So now Tony Iommi has been auditioning guys for about six months. He hates every one of them. Doesn't like any of them. And I came out tonight just to hang out and I looked up there and I can see that you sound a bit like Ozzy and you move a bit like Ozzy. Do you think you could cover Black Sabbath music?"
I say, "Oh yeah. They're one of my favourite bands of all time."
He says, "I think I can get you an audition. Would you be interested in auditioning for Black Sabbath?"
And I say, "Well yeah. Sure. I would be glad to do it." So he says...and this is the truth what this man told me...he said, "I think you're the guy. I believe if you audition with them, they're going to take you because I know what Tony likes and you're the guy. And if you get the gig, then you're going to be doing me a favour too because you're going to put me and Rob in Tony's good graces again because we helped him find a singer."
So he gave me his card and he says call me on Friday. So the next four days I barely slept (laughs) and don't know how much I ate but I was pretty jazzed up. So I called him on the Friday and he immediately said, "Pat, you're not going to believe what just happened. Ozzy has literally just agreed to rejoin Sabbath and they're planning a world tour."
And half of me was jumping up and down going "Ozzy's back in Sabbath. F*ck yeah!!" And the other half of me was doing the 'ol Maxwell Smart thing, 'Missed it by that much.' Now I'm not saying I would have got the gig because I don't know what would have happened but it sure would have been an honour to go in there and play a song with Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler and hopefully Bill Ward. But you know what, just having Rob Halford's manager approach me and think that I was good enough to audition for Sabbath is like someone just handing me a Grammy. I was so honoured by that. I never take any of that stuff lightly, Morley. Every little thing...or big thing...that's come to our band, I never take it lightly because here today, gone later today like David Lee Roth says.
If you've got good things going on, be grateful. And stay a little bit humble. Humility goes a long way in this world. There's nothing worse than someone who's all into themselves. It's one thing when fans call you a legend or the king of metal or whatever, but when the artists start calling themselves that, it's a turn-off. It's important to keep humility because that's what keeps us teachable. When we stop being humble, we stop being teachable because we think we know everything.
So any award or gig we've played.....I mean, I said before that I was a huge Van Halen fan and we actually got to open for Van Halen a few years back. It was when they had Gary Cherone and I wasn't into at all but it was still playing for Eddie, Alex & Michael. They were playing with Monster Magnet and our stage was right near theirs. As our last note was ending, they were just starting it up. I could look over my shoulder and they were right there. What an honour!
I've got to do so many cool things in my life, Morley. Gosh, I could die right now and I've had a very full life in music.
antiMusic: Well, hopefully we won't have to worry about that for a long time.
Prophet: Well, I've had the last rites read to me three times because having my blood disease, you just never know. I'm one of the old guys with this blood disease and one of the things that my doctors will tell you why I'm still here is because I'm a vocalist. Because people with Bruton's Disease get a lot of lung infections and sinus infections. In 1984, I got a sinus infection that was in my spine and I ended up getting spinal meningitis from it. But I walked away from cancer. I walked away from spinal meningitis. I walked away from having a fungus growing in my lungs. And I'm still kicking.
antiMusic: I guess it's the power of positive thinking and knowing a bit about you, that's what has helped you stay around.
Prophet: I actually read that book, The Power of Positive Thinking and what a beautiful book, man. What a gift we have, when we remain positive and when we remain humble. The more positive energy you put out, it comes back to you. It's like a karma thing. If you put a lot of black out there, you're gonna get it back. But if you stay positive and work hard, you remain teachable and humble, all kinds of good things will come your way. You'll be amazed.
antiMusic: I was really surprised today when I saw the video you posted from the old band Blitzen. You've shown flashes of it in the St. Madness material but man, you've got some Halford-isms in you.
Prophet: Yeah, back in Blitzen, we were very much a band that sounded like we came straight out of the '80s. So I was doing all these crazy screams. I don't think I could do that stuff anymore. Some of that stuff you could almost say that it has a Black Metal influence, that high-pitched scream. I learned that from Rob Halford, of course, and King Diamond. Actually King Diamond is the reason I changed my voice so many times. He was the first guy that I listened to and thought "This guy is musically schizophrenic."
A lot of people...like Dio for instance who was one of the greatest ever, but pretty much uses the same voice on everything he does. But King Diamond doesn't. Not every piece of music is the same. So I don't want to give every song of mine, the exact same voice. And lo and behold, years later, we got to open for King Diamond. And we played with Mercyful Fate at the 1998 Milwaukee Metal Fest. So King Diamond was a huge influence on me vocally and years later we got to open for him.
antiMusic: You indicate in the booklet for Carnimetal that you're unsure of new recordings for St. Madness. Tell us about your feelings at the moment for what the future holds for the band?
Prophet: Well, the immediate plan for the band right now is to record a final album and do the 25th anniversary show which would be in what, 2018 and then retire the band after that. That's the plan. If the band is still doing well at that point and we feel like we want to keep going, then we'll keep going. But in the last few years, I've had a number of health issues. I have one bone spur in my neck and three in my spine. And even when I go to rehearsal, whenever I hear loud music --- this is a real suffering because I love loud music so much --- it literally goes right through my body and to my neck and spine and actually causes me pain. When I go to rehearsal and sing, I'm in pain. So we kind of set that as a template to say, let's try to go to a 25th anniversary. Let's make one final record and then we can put it to bed on an up note.
The other thing is Morley, I don't want to keep St. Madness out there if we're still not delivering a quality product and if I'm not able to give it my all. I don't want to over-stay my welcome. So that's the plan right now and again, if things are going good and everybody says, "Hey man, I don't want to stop", then I'll keep going as long as I can.
Morley and antiMusic thanks Prophet for doing this interview.