The Ultimate Jam Night Interviews with Maxxxwell Carlisle of Hellion
On June 21st, Ultimate Jam Night #67 presented A Gift For Orlando – a special event raising funds to benefit those effected by the tragedy at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. One of the bands who participated on this tremendously memorable night at The Whisky on the Sunset Strip was the legendary Hellion!
Just prior to their bewitching set, we caught up with Hellion’s lead guitarist extraordinaire Maxxxwell Carlisle for a chat just right outside of the iconic Whisky. Our wide array of topics included his participation with Ultimate Jam Night, Maxxxwell’s work in Hellion as well as his own solo endeavors, and other epic topics of shred and intrigue. Read on…
How did you wind up doing Ultimate Jam Night, and working with this cause?
Well, as far as coming here to the Ultimate Jam Night, I played at the Ultimate Jam once before, about a year ago when it was at a different venue. And of course, it’s a really fun event and I’m happy to come down here. But as far as this night, I was invited because of Hellion, and Dio Disciples is also playing. Hellion and Dio Disciples share a lot of band members. You know, I’m not in Dio Disciples but Bjorn, Scott and Simon are. So it was a similar thing when Hellion played with Dio Disciples on the Monsters of Rock Cruise back in February. If either band is there, that means half of the other band is already there so it’s always nice to share the bill with those guys.
What can we expect from the Hellion live show tonight at the Ultimate Jam Night?
Well, tonight we’re only playing two songs. But obviously most bands are just playing a few songs and bringing up different guests and that kind of thing. But yeah, we’re playing a Hellion classic and then we’re playing a cover tune that everybody will know and it’s kind of a sing-along, metal classic so I think people will like it. An event like this is just about bringing people together and everybody having a good time. It’s a very casual kind of event. A lot of good vibes, especially when it’s an event like this is a result of something so tragic happening. I’ve been hanging around here for about an hour now and everybody’s having a great time and it’s always nice to see.
You have a new album about to come out, “When the Clock Strikes Metal”…
Well, basically what I’m doing with that is – I don’t have a specific release date for the complete album nailed down, and I’m kind of taking an approach that’s very popular these days. I’m releasing a lot of singles. So I’m doing a long string of singles. I’m not going to release the entire album that way, but once the bulk of it is released, then everything goes on one album and then that gets released as one package. The album is a mixture of covers and original material, it’s just like a whole bunch of stuff, it’s like, “what’s Maxx up to right now?” And yeah, so I’ve released a couple covers, “Black Widow,” by U.D.O., Udo Dirkschneider’s band, which is a fantastic. (The song is from) “Animal House,” it’s his first U.D.O. album, which I think is kind of a hidden gem for a lot of people. And then “Like Hell” by Loudness. I’m a huge Loudness / Akira Takasaki fan. I love a lot of Japanese bands. It’s just songs that are important to me personally, sometimes it’s a guitar player I like or just a band that I was influenced by. But that’s what that album is about and I’ve been tossing around the idea of doing a follow-up album to that one which I’m just going to call “When the Clock Strikes Metal Again.”
There you go! Cool. Now has UDO or Loudness contacted you saying they’ve heard your covers?
No. I mean obviously those are both bands that are not in the US, but I did talk to Akira Takasaki. He was performing on the Monsters of Rock Cruise, so I got to meet him at least. He speaks very little English, so he had a translator with him there… but obviously he’s kind of a personal hero of mine. But no, as far as if they’ve heard my versions, I don’t think they have. But I did pay the royalties, so they should get the check, at least!
That works! You did something with Nita Strauss, how did that come about and what was it like working with Nita?
Talking about Nita is such a great feeling because she has gone on to do such, I mean, her career is just absolutely blowing up. She’s playing guitar with Alice Cooper now and she’s doing clinics and things like that, and even when she was getting involved with Alice Cooper, she did a band called Critical Hit that was playing all these video game themes and that kind of stuff. She’s done Femme Fatale and of course The Iron Maidens, I think is where she kind of got her start. But yeah, I did a track with her, she did a guest solo on a song off of an EP that I did called Full Metal Thunder which came out in 2013 and that EP is very just old-school kind of traditional power metal/heavy metal and her playing style was perfect for that EP and on that track. I’m very honored to have her perform on there and it’s great to see her so successful now.
What’s up next with Hellion?
There’s a lot of different things going on right now. We have a live album that we recorded on the tour we did back in 2014, which is when the Karma’s A Bitch EP came out. The tour to support that, we recorded a ton of live stuff on that tour and selected the songs we thought had the best live energy. That’s just in the mixing process right now. That’s going to be released as a full length live album. We’re also doing some vinyl releases, which I think is really cool. I’m in a different generation than some of the other band members so I’ve personally never had anything I’ve done on vinyl – it’s always been CDs. So, the Karma’s A Bitch EP is going to be released on vinyl.
How did you wind up in Hellion?
It goes back to 2013. Ann Boleyn had put the word out amongst some friends that she wanted to get Hellion up and running again, and she was looking for a lead guitarist to work with. In particular, someone to collaborate with on songwriting and someone, of course, in LA. So a guy who is a mutual friend named Dave Reffett, who has done a lot of work with Guitar World Magazine, he heard from her and thought – I had done other work with female lead vocalists with my solo material. He put us in touch and I think she went and did a bunch of homework, and looked at all my YouTube videos and looked into the stuff I’ve recorded and then contacted me. We started talking about what we wanted to do with the band and what she wanted to do as far as the style – like if she wanted to modernize the band or keep it true to the roots, which is what she wanted to do and I was very happy about. We started talking and and at that point I think Simon was already involved as far as he was on board to play drums, and the rest of the band kind of came together at the same time. We went into the studio that summer and started working on that new EP. So we actually started working in the studio before we ever played together, which is kind of interesting.
MC: I have a weekly radio show, it’s called The Maxed Out Metal Hour and it’s every Thursday. Twice every Thursday on Metal Express Radio, which is a big internet radio station. It’s an hour long, and is basically – sometimes it’s just my favorite songs and sometimes it’s stuff I’ve just discovered, but I think the listeners will like. As far as the music, it’s very much power metal and traditional heavy metal. There’s no death metal or black metal, not that I’m against tha,t but I have a very purist mentality to the songs I select for the show. A lot of European bands. Occasionally I do give in and play my own music but I try to not do that too often. But that’s been going on for about ten months now and I have a great time doing it. The other deejays and guys on the station are really supportive and it’s a real fun thing. And because it’s an internet station, I get emails from guys over in Italy, all kinds of places telling me that I had mispronounced a band member’s name. (Laughter)
And if anyone wants to contact you regarding guitar lessons, where do they go?
MC: The easiest thing is to go to my website. Maxxxwell.com – there’s links of course to my social media, but if they’re interested in lessons there’s a contact form specifically for that on there. My email is on there. I’m easy to get a hold of.
(Review and Candid Photo by Ken Morton – Live Photos by Jack Lue)
Thank you to Lisa Woodard and Ultimate Jam Night for setting up this interview. Be sure to check out Ultimate Jam Night every Tuesday at the world famous Whisky A Go Go on the Sunset Strip!
(Interview and Photos by Ken Morton)
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