Vixen - now that's girl power!

After a break of seven years one of the biggest, if not the biggest, female melodic rock bands are back with a new album and several new faces. Matthew Honey met up with Vixen's Janet Gardner and Roxy Petrucci to talk about all things Citrus. I first spoiled Roxy's day by telling her that people were spreading the vicious rumour over the internet that the new album 'Tangerine' was Grunge ...

RP  Do you want to hear something funny Janet? Somebody E-mailed Matthew and told him not to buy the record because it was grunge!
JG  It's grunge!

MH  Someone wanted me to print it in the magazine.
JG  Don't print that because it's not. It's melodic ... Grunge!!!
RP  The closest thing would be 'Page' because it's low.
JG  Maybe the lyrics to Tangerine but then it goes into the verse and it ... ah whatever.
RP  Does that mean we are hip?
JG  Maybe not, grunge is out.
RP  Sorry about this.

MH  My first question was going to be why after 9 years have you reformed?
RP  It just keeps growing and growing. We broke up at the end of 91.
JG  The middle, well towards ...
RP  Yes the end, it's been 7 years.

MH  So why are we seeing another Vixen album?
JG  Because there has been a high demand for it.
RP  Uh huh, we've been getting fan mail, E-mail asking us when we are going to put out another Vixen record.
JG  When are you going to put out a grunge record??
RP  We were all doing our own thing after the band broke up and then the opportunity came about to do the Vixen tour. I called up Janet and at that time I was already working with Gina. Janet was too.
JG  We were not going to call it Vixen at that time. So we said sure, let's do it for fun. We called up the other members and they didn't want to do it so we went out anyway and we got a really good response so we decided to keep going because it was fun.

MH  So you did a tour in the States.
JG  Yes, a small one. It went really well so we started writing, shopped a tape and got a deal.

MH  Who is that with?
RP  I will give you three guesses ... CMC.

MH  When does it get released?
RP  This Tuesday and we are not even there!
JG  I know it is strange but we are here.

MH  How did you get into contact with Eagle over here?
JG  Neil at the agency had a friend over there and he sent them a tape, he said let me take it to a few people and he came back and said they said yes.
RP  It happened really quick too, do you remember I called you and said OK it's done we got a deal. It took about a week after we sent the tape.
JG  Luckily Gina and I had just kept writing so that by the time we came to go into the studio we had plenty of material to pick from. It went pretty quick, we didn't have a whole lot of time in the studio or pre production time either but it worked. It all just fell into place.

MH  What's Gina done before?
RP  She used to be in a band called the Poison Dollies and then she went on to form a band with her sister called Envy. They had some minimal success in the US. I had read about her around Long Island, New York where they talked about this great guitar player called Gina Stile so I gave her a call and she turned out to be as good as they said she was. She is real fun to work with.

MH  (to Janet) You wrote all the songs with Gina?
JG  Yes, it was great. She is very creative, there is an endless flow of ideas, we never get stuck or bored. Our styles complement each other in the way we work and the way we get things done so it is easy to get things done. When it comes down to the last few lines of a song and I am agonising over it and I cannot finish it it is really nice to have a partner who will.

MH  Do you just write the lyrics or do you write the music as well?
JG  Yes, it happens in a lot of different ways but for the most parts we do pretty much everything together. We rehearse, we talk about it, I do most of the actual forming of it but I couldn't do it without her. We talk through it and bounce things off each other.
RP  This is just the beginning and they are going to grow even more, I can see the potential and they just keep shitting out the material. I told them you just keep shitting them out, it's great.
JG  We do it in spurts where we just pound out five or six songs like it's nothing and then we just slow down and gather our ideas together and then it's boom and we are off again.

MH What is the inspiration for the songs on the album? For example 'Tangerine', is Tangerine a person? Soft skin, hard skin?
JG  Well yes, ha ha red hair, freckles. It's a combination of people and stories actually. I have known people that as they got older got bitter and nasty and then I have known people who have gone through things in their life who I thought had it together and looked up to and then you see them fall apart in front of your eyes. Three or four years later you see them and you think wow how did this happen. You never know what can happen in people's lives and then snap, it can change overnight. LIKE I AM READY TOO. Ha ha.

MH  (nearly wets himself with fright).
RP  Hey, that was a good reaction, ha ha.
JG  Yes, it was time to wake him up. Pick him up.

MH  The music is definitely contemporary. Have you been listening to anything that has influenced that?
JG  Sure, our basic influences are the same and always will be. That first impression that you got as a kid holds you such as Black Sabbath, you never get rid of that stuff, not in a million years. You don't want to. But yes, other stuff has entered into it.

MH  Such as? Have you been listening to Soundgarden for the last 5 years?
RP  Yes, Grunge stuff, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden. If you like it you can pick up things here and there and it helps you to stay on top of things. We couldn't go and release another 'Edge of a Broken Heart', it would be shooting ourselves in the foot.
JG  If something doesn't get inside you then it won't influence you but some of that stuff did. It is not a conscious thing. You listen to it and like it and you absorb it.

MH  When you finished the record and sat down and played it, did you anticipate any criticism?
RP  I didn't, no.
JG  You just don't know because you get so close to it. I didn't have any idea and I didn't really care.
RP  We loved it so much that we thought you guys are going to love it too. We think people will give it a chance. They will put it on and be pleasantly surprised and so far they are.

MH  Do you think the MTV's of this world will pick up on it?
RP  Not unless we make a video, ha ha. It would be nice but if we don't we will be touring.

MH  The bass on the album is done by Mike Pisculli.
RP  We had a bit of a Spinal Tap situation with our bass player.

MH  Exploding bass players?
RP  Exploding hand actually. We had a bass player in mind and she fell down stairs a week before we were due to go into the studio so we were kind of stuck.
JG  We were already there in Florida getting set up when she called and told us she couldn't play for 6 months. We knew Mike from a band that Gina and I played in before so he already knew some of the songs.

MH  What was that band called?
JG  We didn't even have a name and we never played anywhere other than the basement. He was such a great bass player we knew that he could come down and nail the songs instantly. Not only did he do a great job but he was also great fun to hang out with.

MH  And your sister Maxine is the new bass player now?
RP  Yes, that is right. It is going to be nice playing with her again. When Vixen split up the first time we formed Hell's Belles for a short time and then she went into the club business and bought a couple of clubs. She ran them and I carried on playing. When the position came about she jumped at it. She kind of secretly put it together herself.
JG  I know, that was so cool.
RP  She knew we wanted a bass player, she had been practising and wanted to audition. I didn't tell her (Janet) or Gina. So I worked with her for a little bit.
JG  "I got this great bass player, you got to check her out".
RP  I said she looks great, a bit like Maxine. That was a tip off. It was funny how it went down.

MH  The album is produced by Ed Stasium. Did he not do the Ramones albums?
RP  It sure is, you bet.
JG  He was really fun to record with. He recorded this stuff on digital, this is technical crap and nobody wants to know but I am going to say it anyway. We were worried about the tracks being chopped off digitally and he came in and did some amazing things to warm it up and make it sound analogue again. He ran a bunch of tapes, all tape to tape with no digital effects, got the reverb from the stairwell. He was really original and knew a lot of tricks. He was really cool.

MH  Touring, when?
RP  June 17th in the States and then coming here in the Autumn I think.

MH  Will that include the UK?
JG  Oh yes, we always come here, absolutely. We always play three or four dates.

MH  Why did you split up in 1991, you were selling millions of records?
RP  You can answer that one.
JG  Let me think of a good one here, Jan did something. Yes, let's blame it on her. She disappeared and joined another band without telling us, we got really mad and broke up.
RP  You are going to be really disappointed but it is for all the boring reasons. Musical differences, not communicating, tired of looking at each other and instead of taking some time apart we broke up only to get back together again seven years later minus two.

MH  Did they say anything about you continuing to use the name?
JG  Um, well they were invited to come and they didn't want to do it so we didn't leave 'em any choice, we're going, if you don't want to come, fine.
RP  It is a shame because they are missing out on a good opportunity.
JG  Yes, the chance to play some good grunge. Sorry I cannot get off that.

MH  What have you been doing since 1991?
RP  Playing, I kept playing in clubs, wherever, it doesn't matter just to keep my chops up. I played with Chrissy Steele, I jammed with the girls from Phantom Blue for a while in LA. Just projects, it never stops.

MH  You also played with one of our cover stars, Lenita Erickson.
RP  She is really good. She played with my sister and me in Hell's Belles but it didn't pan out. Sometimes you fit and sometimes you don't.

MH  What have you been doing Janet?
JG  I have six children now. No, Share the bass player and I worked together when Vixen broke up but that didn't work so I started working on stuff by myself and with a couple of other people. Then she called me and ruined my life again. I was perfectly happy.
RP  Oh no you weren't.
JG  I know, I'm happy now.
RP  You're happy and just waiting to get on stage and blow people's minds.

MH  Do you have any ideas what sort of stage show you are going to have? Is it going to be stripped down?
JG  Oh no, we are going to have bombs and pyro and makeup.
RP  Jump through burning hoops, cod pieces and all sorts. No, just the band.
JG  We never really did that stuff anyway. We had some good lipstick and hair and some good lights but we never went in for wild antics. We tried to spin her upside down but she kept falling out. Ha ha.
RP  They tried to set me on fire but I just wouldn't go away.

MH  Who do you admire as a drummer?
RP  John Bonham is my favourite, nowadays the guy in the Dave Matthews Band is really good and the guy in Tool is just killer. There are so many good ones these days. You hear of someone good everyday.

MH  Would you ever want to do a solo album?
RP  I have always wanted to do something very heavy that I could get real stupid on, maybe I will one day but for now I am real happy with what I am doing.