Wednesday, March 23, 2011


  Laugh all you want, haters. But, it takes brass balls to dress up in yellow and black from head to toe, grow your hair long, and use heavy metal as your vehicle to spread whatever message you're passionate about. Oz Fox, born Richard Alfonso Martinez, has played with two of the most influential bands in the 'christian metal' genre: Stryper and, lesser known, but critically acclaimed Seattle band Bloodgood. The end result: 'To Hell With The Devil', the bestselling album in the history of christian metal, the number one spot on Dial MTV (The precursor to TRL for you young hipsters!) and a permanent place in music history. Stryper are the example of a 'spiritual' group achieving what was once thought impossible, crossing over to mainstream success on radio and MTV. Whether you consider Stryper to be genuine artists or musical curiosities, no one can deny Oz Fox's talent on guitar. He's the sonic force behind tracks like 'To Hell With The Devil' and 'Surrender', which showcase the melodic, guitar-heavy appeal of Stryper's music. And don't pretend you didn't get all misty listening to the lyrics of Honestly while you were slow dancing with some bridesmaid at some wedding in 1987. The Blog was fortunate to catch up with Oz when Stryper recently played at Detroit's historic Harpos venue on their 2011 World Tour.

  Oz, does it feel like fifty ?

  Of course it feels like I'm 50. Actually I became a grandpa in December. My oldest daughter just had a little girl, so I'm really excited about that.


  Thank you.

  It's been said the Sweet brothers 'recruited' you to join their pre-Stryper project. Were you friends at the time, or were your considered a 'hired gun' ?

  No, we were all friends. Michael, Robert, and myself all went to high school together. We ended up hooking up after they started playing the club circuit. Tim Gaines left the band he was playing in, and he was someone they'd been admiring for a long time. When he left his band they got a hold of him.

  Who's idea was the yellow and black costumes ?

  Yellow and black started with Robert. He painted his drum kit yellow and black and it crept out into the rest of the band. Eventually it turned into stripes. By the time I got into the band, they were already all striped up yellow and black.

  When you look back at pictures from that era, particularly those of the skin tight spandex pants, what kind of emotions resurface within you ?

  I don't know if it's emotions or if it's just, uh . . .well, it is what it is. In one respect, you have to say, wow, that was an amazing time when bands were doing their best to look the best and have something different. And we certainly had a different look and different way of dressing than anyone else, which was pretty unique.

  Was Stryper more or less successful than you imagined from when you first joined ?

  I would say more successful. When I joined the band, and when Timmy got in it, we definitely had a Chemistry that worked better than anything else they'd had. I'm speaking of Michael and Robert because they had been playing together as a band for a long long time. Definitely a lot more successful at that point.

  Your style of playing has been compared to Jake E Lee and Mick Mars.

  First of all I have to say, Jake is an awesome guitar player. Mick is a very, very emotional type of player. These guys have been on the forefront of melodic metal for years. I basically just learned my style from a mix mashhh of being influenced by guys like Van Halen, Michael Schenker, Uli Roth from the Scorpions, Mathias Jabs from the Scorpions, Jeff Beck. Rhandy Rhoads, that's pretty much what I learned and cut my teeth on. Learning those guy's licks. And it wasn't really until later in my career that I started learning theory. Nowadays, some of my favorite guitar players are Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. It's funny how later on in my years I really got into Hendrix and Clapton and started to appreciate them more. In the beginning, that wasn't the case. Tony Iommi was a huge influence and Carlos Santana. Like I said, a mish mash of layers kind of got me going and influence me. I don't necessarily feel like I fit in any one particular mold. To compare me to Jake E Lee or Mick Mars, I have no idea what their influences were. Even being compared to George Lynch, and George blows my mind.

  Randy Jackson was a session bass player on Stryper's 1990 release 'Against The Law'. Is it odd to watch him on American Idol ?

  No. It's great to see that he's on American Idol. Randy's an icon. I was sick the day he came in to do that so I was bummed that I missed it. But Tim got a big kick out of it.

  What's been the high point ?

  I don't know. Hard to say when the high point was. Ultimately there's so many different high points, so its very difficult to give you that answer. Playing Budokan in Japan was awesome. Playing Cornerstone Festival in Illinois was a pretty amazing thing. Making it to the number one most requested video on MTV was really a great experience to see that happen.

  Was it overwhelming for you had to suddenly take over lead vocals after Michael Sweet quit the band in 1992 ?

  The show must go on. That's my attitude. And I was just trying to pay the bills. I could never replace Michael. Never. The guy is incredible. I could never sing like him and I can only sing like me. And I personally would not want to replace Michael in anyway. But you do what you have to do. My attitude at that point was 'well lets make this work and put some food on the table'.

  Do you ever wish the band's career had evolved in a different direction ?

  No. I'm glad it went the way it went. The coolest thing about Stryper is that no one else can say, they were a faith based band that crossed over to MTV for the first time. And led the way for a lot of other artists like us to do the same.

  Jerry Falwell once compared Stryper's practice of throwing Bibles (with the Stryper logo on the cover) into the audience as 'casting pearls before swine'. Did the band feed off that negative press or was it demoralizing ?

  That kind of stuff you let slip off. Your heart becomes like silicon. People are blind to the fact God can use any situation to reach people. He can use rock (music) if he wants to. The problem with these people is they get caught up in a spiritual bubble. They can't see past the church doors, which is very sad. God confounds the wise by using simple things to spread his gospel. If these guys are considered the heads of theological knowledge, I don't want to follow them, because they're ridiculous.

  You were divorced in 2006 and you're now remarried to an ex-prostitute who has calling to minister to streetwalkers in Las Vegas under the title 'Hookers For Jesus'. You played guitar in Stryper. Has it been challenging for either of you to accept the other's past ?

  Absolutely not. Annie loves what I do and supports me way more than I have ever been supported in the past. And as far as her past goes, she is who she is, because of her past. It's a miracle she came out of it, and she has an amazing story. And she uses that story to help other women. And I'm blown away by the fact that she chose me as someone she would trust and be married to. It's an honor. She's an amazing woman, she has an amazing ministry. I'm so happy to be apart of it. Some of these women started when they were twelve to fourteen years old being prostitutes. It's a joy to be an example to them and show them what a true marriage, and what a man is supposed to do with his wife. How a man is supposed to love his wife and protect her. And that's what they see.

  How do you deal with the 'stripper for Stryper' jokes ?

  Sometimes I join in on them, you know ? You got to admit it is a funny situation. You got these guys who started out in yellow and black spandex pants and hair up to heaven. There are some funny things you can say about it, but it's all in good fun. Anyone who's serious about hating Stryper or mocking us, . .whatever.

  If there is any band in the christian metal genre that can be considered one of your peers, it's Bloodgood. What's your experience been like playing guitar with them ? 

  Those guys are just incredibly talented. I am sorry they got missed. If anybody should have been watched and had the same success as Styper, it's Bloodgood. Those guys are amazing Christians and have amazing hearts, and amazing talents. Their music was awesome and touched a lot of people. I would love for that band to be recognized, which they already have in the christian world. They got inducted into the Christians hall of fame. They are an incredible bunch of guys. We have a good time when we're out playing together and they're some of my closest friends.

for the DRB

Sunday, March 13, 2011


  So, how are you spending this endlessly miserable Detroit winter ?

  The Fabulous Miss Wendy spent it opening for Slash on what could be the least commercial, but possibly coolest tour of 2010-2011. Work continues on her 'debut' album, but this adopted Daughter Of Detroit's promotional disc has already garnered plenty of attention for pop gems like 'I Like Boys' and 'Crazy Fucked Up Bitch'. Imagine each of The Runaways, brother Wayne Kramer, and one member of The Stooges (take your pick) consolidated into Lita Ford, with triple the guitar prowess. If you enjoy straightforward, guitar driven rock from every facet of a woman's perspective, you'll want to catch this crimson haired, guitar-slinging, firecracker's next performance in your town. But is it all just airplanes, tour buses, rock and roll, sex, and shots of Jim Beam ? Or is there a deeper meaning to the life and lyrics of San Fernando Valley, California's most promising musical export to the Midwest ? We caught up with The Fabulous Miss Wendy recently to have her reflect on a successful 2010, what motivates her, and where she'll be hanging her hat in 2011.

  Why Guitar ? Why not drums, or keyboards, or kitchen spoons ?

  I wanted to play drums, but my parents wouldn't let me. They gave me this old beat up guitar that was in my mom's closet. At first I protested and banged on it like a drum. Then I began to like playing the guitar. I was a really rebellious teenager and got into trouble often. I was grounded for two years of my four year high school career. My mom took pity on me and found a guitar teacher that would come to the house. I played guitar every day all day long, even waking up at 6am to play before I left for school. I am obsessed with everything guitar from the time I was 10 years old and still am!

  Summarize for us the highlights of touring with Slash.

  In one sentence, a dream come true!

  It started in El Paso in front of four thousand people in utter chaos over the sound system, which resulted in me sound checking in front of five hundred people since the venue had already opened the doors. Although I had never been there before they were screaming my name, shouting out song titles and pleading with me to keep playing. I finally finished the sound check and went back stage to get ready. I usually sound check in my freaking pajamas so It was pretty weird sound checking in front of the crowd and by the end of it, a thousand people were staring at me in my pajamas holding a guitar. My dressing room was a ladies bathroom in a roped off area with a security guard standing in front. I had about 5 minutes to warm up and get dressed into my stage clothes. There was a lot of tension in the air as I hit the stage in total darkness, faced my amp and started my intro. As the band kicked in at the start of "Just My Type" the lights came on and I played in awe and inspired as the largest crowd I've ever played in front of shook their heads to my music. The band was totally on fire that night and I'll never forget the sound of a thousand girls screaming when I dedicated "Crazy Fucked Up Bitch" to all the ladies in the house. I attempted to go out in the crowd after the show to sell merchandise but it turned into a frenzy and a bunch of security had to rescue me and bring me backstage explaining it wasn't safe for me out in the crowd. That kind of enthusiasm is incredibly exciting but I don't want my hair to get pulled out and clothes ripped off by over enthusiastic fans. I can't wait to play arenas and stadiums after this glimpse of bigger venues!
  Although I had met Slash briefly at an Adele concert and we talked guitars, and he ran into me on the Sunset Strip once and I gave him my CD, I didn't see him on the tour until Salt Lake City. I was setting up my merchandise booth during his sound check and suddenly I heard him shout "Wendyyyy"! I walked toward him as he figured out how to get around the barrier. His sound check was fuckin' awesome. He seemed as excited to see me as I was to finally see him on the tour. The first thing he said to me was "I saw your entire set in El Paso and it was great"! I then thanked him for giving me the tour as I was crawling out of my skin with excitement over the fact that one of my heroes liked my performance and had watched the entire hour long set. He then went backstage and I did my sound check.
  Slash is truly one of our national treasures and a cultural icon. It really dawned on me when about 20 minutes before my set my manager got a text to stop by Slash's dressing room. The venue was sold out so we had to leave our dressing room go down in an elevator and walk down these endless hallways with dozens of unmarked doors. It really started to feel like the scene from spinal tap with a security guard posted every 100 feet. Finally after clearance by half a dozen security guys and a few left and right jogs down alternate corridors we got to a door with a sign on it that said Slash. As my manager opened the door, a big guy jumped in front to halt our entry. Then he recognized us and jumped out of the way to let us in. So here I was with my guitar strapped on facing Slash who had his guitar strapped on too. He told me he had been working on a new song, showed me his traveling recording set up, and said he had "Twittered" me earlier. I don't think he knew that I was due to start in 5 minutes as we continued to talk guitar stuff. He said he really liked my was really zen like down there, quiet and peaceful with just him and his guitar. He asked me if I ever got nervous before a show and said he needed the quiet room to warm up and get himself ready for the show. People probably don't realize this but us guitar shredders are like Olympic athletes in that we have to practice every day and warm up for every show to give you our best. In a return to spinal tap after going thru a few wrong doors after leaving Slash's inner sanctum, a security guy finally walked us to a big freight elevator. About every 30 seconds I heard all this chatter on the security guys walkie talkies that the stage guys were looking for me as I should have been on stage already. The door to the freight elevator opened and before I knew it a bunch of guys had whisked me on stage before I could even blink. So I blazed into my intro and the show started. I started my set late(because of the detour to Slash's dressing room) and before my last song my manager was franticly waving his arms at me. I found out after the set that I had gone 10 minutes over and the stage manager had been hitting his two big fingers across my managers shoulders because I was 10 minutes late. It's amazing how precise the timing has to be in such a chaotic rock and roll environment. They also cut my set from an hour to 30 minutes. It's really hard for me to play for 30 minutes as I'm just getting into the zone at that point. A few years ago John Vitale, the artist rep for Parker, Washburn, and Hagstrom guitars gave me a backstage tour of the House Of Blues in Chicago where he is based. So here I am, opening for Slash in this
incredible place that I had dreamed of playing a few years earlier. I strapped on a Hagstrom for my last number so they could shoot pics of me as I walked along the barrier "Kickin' Out The Jams". It was a great night in Chicago and a lot of my friends turned up there.
  The last Slash gig was in Charlotte North Carolina. I had never been there before so I wasn't sure whether they'd like me there or not. My primary amp was on the fritz so I had to use my back up. For whatever reason I couldn't seem to get my usual high gain lots of feedback. I could tell that some of the crowd was getting into it, but I still felt awful after the set because of the amp and tone issues. I didn't even want to go to the merchandise booth after a performance minus my usual tone. I knew I had to go because I didn't want to disappoint the people waiting in line at the booth and my band needed the money to cover the cost of the tour. I was completely blown away by the response of the crowd at the merchandise booth. I had my biggest merchandise night ever and sold over 50 Cd's. Note to self, don't judge yourself too harshly and miss out on good vibes. So now Charlotte is officially part of TFMW.
  I did get to say goodby to Slash after the show when he asked for us just before we were heading out. He was wearing a "Debby does Dallas" t-shirt, so I asked him if it was the first porn movie. He corrected me replying, "no that was Deep Throat". He's such a gentleman, the porn talk got a little awkward so we quickly moved on to his upcoming tour of Australia, music, songwriting and said our goodbyes. Ran into Myles Kennedy, another awesome nice person and a great singer too. He had introduced himself in Salt Lake City and we shared some vocal warm up tips. The last thing I remember about the tour was going into a diner across the street from The Fillmore on our way-out to get some after gig food. Before the food arrived I looked around the diner and everyone was staring at me. I felt like an animal in a zoo until it dawned on me that these folks had seen me perform across the street and were surprised to find me snacking with them after the show. They all wanted pictures and autographs. Now I know why it's hard for Slash to go to the 7-11 for a slurppee!

  You present a very confident, very sensual appearance. Is that an extension of your personality or is that management's influence ?

  I don't try to be sexy, I'm just me. As a teenager I was an awkward looking geek with a back brace. I still see myself that way. I'm always surprised at being called 'hot', 'beautiful', a 'guitar goddess', etc. I feel that my talent on the guitar, my songwriting, and my voice are way more important than being beautiful. I am glad that others find me attractive but I don't want that to get in the way of being accepted as a truly great artist. My sexiness on stage can be more of a hindrance than an asset because people think I'm yet just another pop diva. When people meet me first before seeing me play they never take me seriously as a guitar player until they actually see me play. I used to wear dresses and skirts on stage. I was called a novelty artist back then. Yet, here I am playing the same songs in jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, and the occasional nice top, making new friends who take my music seriously! Now in jeans, people are starting notice that I'm shredding on the guitar and fronting a great 3-piece rock band that is on a mission to make a difference. Being this attractive hot person(according to others) is new to me so I'm trying it on for size and experimenting with it on stage, photo shoots, clothes, friends and such. Most girl clothing is made to look hot, but not to endure a hard-hitting rock and roll performance. Guys don't know it but, girls spend a fair amount of time pulling their jeans up, and making sure their boobs and panties are not hanging out. While onstage both of my hands are occupied playing guitar and I can't do regular female modesty adjustments. Whoops. My manager doesn't have much to do with it, except he has run on stage a couple of times and pulled up my pants up when my butt-hole was in serious danger of poking out.

  At The Ritz show in Detroit you were surrounded by male fans interested in helping you 'further your career'. How do you deal with the onslaught Male groupies ?

  The same way I deal with female groupies... Very well. Why, do you know some? Are they cute? I'd like to meet them:). Seriously, I'm interested in meeting everyone and anyone who likes my music and would like to get to know me. Music is a very emotional and personal experience for each and every one of us. The relationship between me and each person listening to my music is unique. Bonding with all my new friends after a concert is one of my favorite times. That is why I always go to the merchandise booth after the show. I want to "mind fuck"(my favorite P-Diddy line from "Get Him to the Greek) or do the Vulcan mind meld(from "Star Trek") with everyone who was inspired by my performance that wants to say hello. Occasionally someone gets carried away by my lyrics and will flat out whisper something naughty to me after a show. I'll leave the rest to your imagination! Let's just say that nine times out of ten I wake up with my candy apple red 57 Les Paul next to me.


  Describe your feelings towards the city of Detroit ?

  I played 170 shows all across the USA since March 15th of last year(2010). Name a city or state and I've probably been there. My first gig in Michigan ever was at The Machine Shop. I was sick as a dog and felt like shit but the people still loved me and treated me like rock royalty after the show. Most of them said they were from Detroit so I assumed the Machine Shop was part of Detroit even though I now know it's Michael Moore's infamous Flint Michigan! I then performed in St. Joseph on Lake Michigan and up in Bay City at The Vault. I went on the radio in Saginaw the day of the Vault show and lots of people turned up that night. The enthusiasm and energy of the crowd at these Michigan gigs was better than anything else I'd seen. I played New York New York out in Chesterfield Township, same excitement. As a kid I loved Sponge and Rotting Piñata was the 3rd CD I ever bought. I wanted Vinnie and Tim(who produced that record and now plays bass with Sponge) to work with me. They're from Detroit and Ann Arbor just like The Stooges and MC5 were from Ann Arbor and Detroit respectively. In terms of authentic American Rock and Roll it started in Detroit with those two bands on Elektra Records. There is nothing more real than that! And I have been working on new songs with Vin and Tim out at The Loft near Ann Arbor and like Rotting Piñata, the new music kicks ass. No Ramones, no Sex Pistols, and no Misfits without those two bands out of Detroit in the late 60's. The free spirit of punk rock starts and ends there. Detroiters have great affinity for real music made by real artists and they support it with their presence and their money. In fact all of Michigan that I've seen thus far has a greater passion for artists and music than the entire state of California where I'm from.
 I'm not going to take anything away from Chicago, Des Moines, or Erie, or Indianapolis and Muncie for that matter, because the entire Midwest has been great to me. But Michigan and Detroit, you guys got the fuckin' fever and it's infectious. How do I know? Because I caught it the night I played the WRIF Christmas party and decided to play "Search and Destroy" and "Kick Out The Jams" and Mr. Detroit guitar hero himself Kenny Olsen got up and jammed with me onstage. Before starting my show that night I found out that Screamin' Scott had seen my set at the Hayloft 2 weeks prior, loved my music and wanted to introduce my band. After he pronounced me an "adopted daughter of the city of Detroit", I felt born again and I played the best show of my life. It raised my guitar playing to a new level and there I was holding my own dueling with Kenny playing the songs that made Detroit and Rock and Roll famous for eternity. Earlier that night my manager who was born in Pontiac asked me if I was sure I wanted to play these Detroit born songs in the belly of the beast. He said there is no compromise in Detroit. They're either gonna love it or boo you off the stage. Thank God you loved it! So many Detroiters came up to me after the show that night and raved about my version of those songs, my entire performance, and went on and on about how they were the best versions they had heard since the originals! The next day I realized my spiritual home is in Detroit and I went out and got a Detroit phone number. I've spent so much time in Detroit, it is home to me!
  So Yes, I love Detroit. I got tears in my eyes when I saw that commercial with Eminem during the Superbowl. Made in Detroit makes me as an "adopted daughter" feel proud and hope that the rest of America buys lots of Chrysler 200's! In other cities I have been criticized for speaking what's on my mind. Detroit would tear me apart if I spoke anything less than the whole truth. I love that honesty.

for the DRB
Special Photography credit: Michael Spleet

Saturday, March 5, 2011


  I'm dating myself by admitting this, but I can remember coming home, in 1988, from high school and waiting for MTV to play 'Orange Crush', the first single off R.E.M.'s landmark 'Green' album. 'Automatic For The People' was the soundtrack of my solitary year at Olivet College. And 'Monster', that orange covered disaster, still yielded the singles necessary for me to navigate the end of my tenure at Western Michigan University. Particularly, 'Bang and Blame'.
  Has any other band blown as far off course as R.E.M.? Beginning with 1996's New Adventures in Hi-Fi and complicated with Bill Berry's departure, REM has repeatedly and miserably failed to capture the guitar driven appeal of their middle eighties, early nineties catalog. Although unlikely gems such as 'All The Way To Reno' off 2001's curiously cohesive, yet nearly unlistenable, 'Reveal' album, have occasionally bubbled to the surface, R.E.M.'s output from the 'Hi-Fi' forward has been 75% awful. Mindless babble issued by three men who feel like they should continue making records, because . . . otherwise one of them has to venture into the kitchen and actually wash the goddamn dishes. And that reason, frankly, has not been good enough to justify a one mediocre, uninspired effort after the other.
  That all changes with 'Collapse Into Now', REM's fifteenth album. This R.E.M. will remind you of the Obama administration if the President actually grabbed a chainsaw and stormed Congress while shouting 'The HELL if we're going to take this shit anymore!' I hesitate to overuse the phrase 'return to form', but it's startlingly appropriate. Instead of trying to write an album of songs faithful to one particular muse, 'Collapse' acts as a sort of relationship time machine returning us to the bygone eras of 1987 and 1991. On songs like 'Mine Smell Like Honey' there are faint flourishes of the I.R.S. Label punkish/new wave R.E.M., before Warner Brothers and history-making record contracts, who hailed from a dream town known as mandolin, Georgia. Yet, with the same stubborn authenticity, they turn and rattle off machine gun, punk influenced, tracks like 'It's The End of the world as we know it'. Yes, the band who attempted to relate the suffering of the human experience with the1993, 'everyone out of your cars, because we are all going to walk the horrible highway of life together', anthem 'Everybody Hurts'. The pop radio allure of Losing My Religion, before it became the most overplayed radio track of 1991.  All of the bright spots, but with a guitar heavy kick that speaks volumes.
Collapse's triumph is that, after all these years, REM has succeeded in forging an album that reminds us, in bits and pieces, of their finest moments.
  The first chords of Discoverer indicate, the band was determined to come out swinging. Against disappointed critics, turncoat fans, and father time. The track hesitates for the briefest instance before Stipe howls 'Discovererrrrr'. Suddenly it's November, 1988, and you're back at that frat party, where you heard 'Turn You Inside Out' for the first time. 'It Happened Today', is the first great success on the album, with a chorus that will remind you of sitting in the fourth row when the 'Monster Tour' came to the Palace of Auburn Hills. It ends with Stipe singing along with a simple ahhhhhhhhh ahh ahh chorus, but that chorus is full of bittersweet nineties memories.
  I say, congratulations are in order. This is a band back from the brink. Regardless of whether the public will ever again recognize R.E.M. as the shining beacon of alternative music, their place in rock history is secure. More importantly, they have redeemed the twilight years of their career with a determined, brilliant record.


for the DRB