Mad Max and the Magical Wings Of Time
Mad Max and the Magical Wings Of Time
Mad Max has returned, presenting Wings Of Time – certainly their finest album to date. Celebrating 40 glorious years as a band, there have been changes in world of Mad Max as of late. This would include the arrival of a new vocalist Julian Rolinger, who spent some time within the ranks of 21 Octayne. With this version of Mad Max, guitarist and founding member Jürgen Breforth presents his vision of the band, and the resulting Wings Of Time is sure to enrapture music fans all over the world. Now available via Rock Of Angels Records – Wings Of Time presents a refreshing new start for a band ready to rock your world for another 40 epic years if not for the rest of eternity! Highwire Daze recently interviewed Jürgen Breforth to discuss this magical new chapter of the Mad Max legacy, the Jimi Jamison/Bon Jovi connection of their single The Best Part Of Me, his thoughts on former vocalist Michael Voss, and a whole lot more!
First of all, your new vocalist Julian Rolinger formerly of 21 Octayne – how did Julian become involved with Mad Max?
First the fact that you already met him in 2018 – this is magic.
Yes, I met Julian at The NAMM Show in 2018.
The guitar player from Pink Cream 69 – he’s a friend of ours – and he actually recommended Julian. When I was looking for a singer for my new Mad Max – I had a vision in my mind how I wanted the album to sound like. My vision was the new Mad Max album should be my kind of Def Leppard Pyromania. This was the vision I had in my mind, and I was looking for a singer who could match this vision. And then the guitar player from Pink Cream 69 – his name is Marco – he recommended Julian – and right away I gave him a call, and we got along really, really great. And just from the very first moment, he got my vision. When I told him, “Hey Julian, this is my Mad Max now. And my definition is let’s make a Def Leppard Pyromania album!” – which means for me an album where each and every song you could pick as a single. I wanted no fillers. I wanted a whole album where each song could be a single. Julian got this vision right away, and I’m really, really happy I found him because he’s the right guy. He’s a vocal teacher and he’s really young – like 26 years old – but he already has a lot of experience – and he could really do vocal-wise what I wanted him to do on the album. And that’s how Julian and I got together.
You also have a new guitarist is the band named Dethy Borchardt…
Dethy Borchardt – he stepped in after the album. He’s not involved on the recordings – we met afterwards. All of the guitars on the album are by myself and my two co-songwriters Sandro and Peter. I ended up where I said okay, I want Mad Max to be a five piece – just like the classic Def Leppard lineup with two guitars, bass, drums, and a lead singer who’s only handling the vocals. I did not want a singer who is playing guitar – so I wanted to return to my original vision of the band being a five piece – and so I needed a new guitar player. And Dethy is a very famous guitar guy in the Northern part of Germany. When I told everybody he’s in the band, everybody freaked out. You know, he has this Def Leppard guitar sound, and his playing is a little bit like Phil Collen – the guitar player from Def Leppard. So Dethy was the perfect choice for lead guitar player because he could play the old Mad Max stuff and he can also play the new album – and it sounds excellent! I could tell you we had the first rehearsals in the last two weeks, and it sounds amazing!
I believe you also have a new bass player Fabian Ranft…
Actually, he’s not really new. In 2018, my old player Hutch is from the South of Germany, and he is really, really far from me. And due to the long drive, and also due to his family situation and some health problems, he told me “Okay, Jürgen, I can’t do it anymore.” So, in 2018-2019, we came up to bring in Fabian – and so he’s not really the new guy. He’s in the band for the last three years – and for me it’s natural. Because I had to make this change – I didn’t want to make this change, because Hutch is still a very close friend – the old bass player – but I had to respect his decision and I had to look for a new bass player around 2018-2019.
And Axel Kruse, who is also in Phantom 5 – he’s been in Mad Max for a while. What makes you and Axel work so well together after all of this time?
Axel is more or less the original Mad Max drummer – for now over 30 years. The only album that he was not playing on was the first album. When I founded the band in 1982, we started with different musicians. But when we signed our first record contact with Roadrunner Records from the Netherlands, Axel came in just during the recordings. He’s not on the cover of the very first Mad Max album Rolling Thunder. But that was the time – like ’84 when came into the band. So actually, together with me, he’s more or less like an original member.
Axel and I, maybe we’re kind of like these typical 80’s guys – we have the same musical tastes. Just like our favorite band is Dokken – and the Dokken album Under Lock and Key is always our favorite album of our lifetime. When we were younger in the 80s and 90s, together we went to Los Angeles a couple of times – like the golden age of our music – the 80’s (laughs). We had some good friends in Los Angeles in the music scene – and they brought us together with all these bands – with Dokken, with Y&T, with Phantom Blue – because they were all living and recording at that time in Redondo Beach. Don Dokken lived in Redondo Beach- and we had a cheap motel right around the corner from the famous recording studio with Michael Wagener – this German producer from the 80’s who produced more or less the hit albums from Ratt, Dokken, Great White. And all these guys were hanging around in Redondo Beach. And this is the key that Axel and me carry over 30 years together.
It’s good to have one of the original members still in the band, but as I told you earlier, this Mad Max is just like my vision of Mad Max. And I’m glad that everybody followed me. I had this vision and I said “Okay guys, now I have to do this, and you can decide – you can join me, you can leave the band, whatever.” And I’m so happy that the four guys trusted me so much and followed me. And I’m really happy that everybody loves the album and the songs so much. But before, you never know.
The new album is called Wings Of Time. Is there any overall story or concept behind that title?
I would not call it a concept, but it’s been 40 years! Wow! It’s been 40 years since I founded the band, and the Wings are a little bit like a symbol. Just wings carrying you over 40 years being in the rock and roll circuit with lots of ups and downs. Of course, I still have the band together after 40 years and this is what’s behind the title Wings Of Time. We don’t call the album an anniversary album, but at least for me, it’s 40 years since I founded the band, so it’s kind of an anniversary. So, in all the interviews and with fans from all over the world, everybody knows I founded the band in 1982, and they are talking about those 40 years! The title, for me, it’s perfect! I’m really happy with the title and it fits the album perfectly.
What is The Best Part Of Me and the Jimi Jamison connection on that song?
This is a very emotional story. I wrote this song together with my buddy Fred Zahl – he’s one of Germany’s best guitar players. And in 2013-24, he worked together with Jimi Jamison for two years, and they did an album together. One Man’s Trash was the name of the band if you want to look it up. In these two years, they did a lot of shows together – and sadly enough in 2014 Jimi Jamison passed away. But in these two years when Fred and Jimi worked together, Jimi made all the connections for my buddy Fred – and they met everybody from Bon Jovi to Robin Beck and all the great musicians from America. Because Jimi Jamison really was a superstar here. And there was a little piece – an idea – left from the songwriting that Fred did with Jimi Jamison. Just a few seconds – and when I listened to like the 10 seconds, I said to Fred, “Okay, let’s take this vibe. Let’s take this inspiration and all the stories he told me about Jimi Jamison.” And I came up with the lyrics first – the first two or three lines of the song and created an atmosphere – and we were absolutely in the spirit of the songs Jimi Jamison did with Survivor and stuff like that. So, we ended up writing this The Best Part Of Me song.
And what was really magic – Fred played this song for the bass player of Bon Jovi – to Hugh McDonald. And Hugh gave us the honor to play the bass on this song. He did not get paid for it – it was just because he’s good friends with my buddy Fred and he loved the song so much. He said “If there’s a chance you get over to America or if Bon Jovi is coming over here when he might be in Europe” – he will join us. And wherever we play, he’s going to join us and play the song with us. And imagine – I’m this funny guy from Germany making music for so long, and you write a song, and you get Hugh McDonald from Bon Jovi to listen to it – and he says “Okay, this is an absolutely great song!” This is really one of those stories – if someone would tell me this story, I hardly would believe it. But it’s a true story and that’s why we put Jimi Jamison in the credits – because without his influence, his vibe, and all the stories around him, we never would have written this song. It’s one of those things that rarely happen in your musical life – especially if you’re from Germany and you get to work with guys like Hugh from Bon Jovi. It’s like a dream come true.
What are you looking forward to the most about your upcoming tour with Axel Rudi Pell?
To be honest, for us getting the chance to play all around Europe with Axel Rudi Pell – it’s just a dream. It’s one of the best tours you can get. All the venues will be sold out and we get the chance to go all over Europe for three weeks. For us, it’s perfect. And you have to keep in mind that it’s not only that we have to present the new album and a couple of the new songs – also the fans and the media – they are eager to hear how Julian is singing the classic Mad Max songs. And everybody is waiting for it. We will play a few of the classics of course and some new ones, but also – which is a really a challenge for us – we will play a couple of the old Mad Max songs that we have never played before onstage ever. That is something very special for the fans. The old songs sound really different – really fresh with Julian’s vocals – and just like I had written it in the last month. For me, it’s really a pleasure hearing the old songs sounding that fresh – because that shows me that the classics, we wrote in the 80s are still working in 2022.
Do you still keep in touch with Michael Voss or any of the other former members of Mad Max?
That’s a very good question and a lot of people ask me that. There is absolutely no contact between me and Voss. I guess it’s over. I mean, the whole Mad Max thing between Voss and me was based on a whole friendship thing. I let him do this job – I let him be the front man – but just from the beginning in ’82, it was my band. He joined the band when he was 17 years old. But the thing is, the friendship broke up – it is what it is – it’s a sad story at least. I guess he’s not happy with it. I’m not happy with it – how it ended. It’s like a divorce (laughs). It’s like a divorce in some way, but it ended that way and there’s been no talk in the last two years. I guess he will have a look at what we are doing, and I keep an eye on what he’s doing. But this is my version of Mad Max. It has nothing to do with the past. Okay, there are some hints to the past in songs like Days Of Passion or Stormchild Rising. But I’m doing this for the fans. But at least this is my version, and there’s no contact with Voss. I must be honest – I’m not the guy that’s living in the past. I carry on with my version of Mad Max and I play the old classics for the fans. But I am in the now, and that’s what I can tell you concerning Voss.
Do you think Mad Max will ever play here in the States and do you have any messages for your fans here?
We get a lot of requests and messages from our American fans. And that’s what I told my record company – I told the guys before I delivered the master tapes – before they got the songs – I said, “Okay guys, this album WILL bring us to the States!” Because this is the right music at the right time. I don’t know if you feel the same, but I have a feeling the new Mad Max album – there’s no other band from Germany doing this kind of music. A couple of radio DJ’s from the States – I have to tell you that they really haven’t heard of us before – they kind of missed the last 40 years. (Laughs) But what they said was we have the impression that this band could be kind of the new Scorpions. So, I think there is room enough. I love the Scorpions. But I’m sure when it comes to touring and playing in the States, there is room enough for one more German band – and this is Mad Max! And I have the feeling that this album is the right album to bring us over.
It would be like a dream of mine to see Mad Max play at the Whisky on the Sunset Strip!
Okay! Deal! This is my dream as well, so let’s make this dream a reality!
(Interview by Ken Morton)
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