Christmas and New Year’s Eve is the time of magic when we all want to get surprises. But when one of your favorite bands announces departure of its long time singer and one of the main songwriters that’s not how you want to be surprised to say the least. It takes some time to get over it. Well, Mad Max and Michael Voss went separate ways. All we have to do is to deal with it. The band who also lost bass player Thomas “Hutch” Bauer has already announced new members: Fabian Ranft on bass, Ralf “Doc” Heyne on second guitar and (drum rolls) relatively new guy to the scene — singer Emmo Acar. I got in touch with Emmo to learn more about his music experience. So here we go!
Emmo, could you tell me a bit about your music background? When and how did you get into singing and who were favorites and role models?
When I was 14 I started playing guitar. I made a fast development, so that I broke up the guitar lessons I had for a few months ’cause I wanted to become better. I had a wise Russian guitar teacher who brought me more into the early Deep Purple days with Coverdale and Hughes. There I found my first concrete idols that would lead me through my musical career and influence the way I’m making music nowadays. When I got well in my playing I started writing own songs but I had no opportunity of recording them, so I met a guy named Felix Braune back in my school days who was sitting next to me in the ethics class. As we had a school trip he sat next to me and it came out that he produces beats in his own home studio and that’s where all began. I called him the same day to ask if we could record that one special track I had back then. The problem was that I had no singer. So we sat there in the room, looked at each other and none of the guys in the room would be brave enough to record his vocals and it ended up, that I gave myself a try singing my song. Since then we continuously rushed to his home studio after school and I would never do my homework again cause all I could think about was Rock. Later I got kicked off the school. At that time I was something between 17 and 20. While working hard on my own improving my guitar and especially vocal skills I was able to record my stuff for other musician. I had the honour cooperating with some musician like Thomas Blug, Leo Leoni (Gotthard), Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69), Danny Rexon (Crazy Lixx) and a few more. Unfortunately I was in the background and rather known in the underground scene. Back in times I was really influenced by David Coverdale, what led me to join a Whitesnake Tribute Band called Coversnake. There I received the acknowledgement I was wishing for deep inside when we were known as the most authentic Whitesnake Tribute Band people would get to see. But my vocal influences developed as well when I was developing. I realized that my childhood days contained a lot of 80’s Pop, R n’ B and Soul and even Oldschool Hip Hop. So I realized that my blood was screaming for melody and groove. That’s when musician like Michael Bolton, Joe Lynn Turner, Steve Overland and even Mariah Carey were taking place in my heart. And there were those certain bands that would inspire my music forever like Journey, Survivor, Toto, H.E.A.T, Whitesnake, Michael Bolton, Talisman and Queen.
You’ve been singing with Slizzard Lizzard, Street Hawk and Coversnake. A few words about each of these bands — did you record any EPs or LPs with them?
Slizzard Lizzard was my first own band that gave me the opportunity of doing what ever would come in my mind, not only as a vocalist, guitarplayer, also as a songwriter that would learn to understand the rest of the instrumentals. That was when I learned to write songs thinking as all individuals in a band. We had great potential back then and touched a lot of even “No-Rockers” but that all would come to an end to soon due to individual personal aims in life. We did our experiences and were lucky enough to find back together which means that we’re working on our EP at this time. We only published an EP back then.
Street Hawk must be the most authentic AOR band, consisting of young, but special and some very talented musician I ever worked with. Looking like our mothers in the 80’s (only in tight custom outfits) we lived all those Rock n’ Roll stories you would only read in them books. We partied like no other and we rocked like no other. It sure was the most intense work flow I ever got to experience. Those guys were so meticulously and perfectionist that some singers even wrote me to not work with them but it came out that it was a good experience I could have at that time because they saw my potential, helped me to develop and let me do at the end. This gave me a respected role in the band and I was happy. As I only could record 3rd and 4th track for an EP in the flat of the guitarist, I had to quit the whole thing immediately due to family and personal problems. This hit me as hard as the boys due to some bigger chances we already got offered back then. I want to keep this part of my life in my heart… Good old Berlin Days. Luckily there are some two songs of our demo on Youtube (“Poison Heart” and “Dreamrunner”).
Coversnake means a lot to me. Chasing the old wish of singing in a Whitesnake Tribute Band I found those men that gave me shelter, a place to sleep and a perspective when my life was meaningless. Back then I lost a lot in my life and was financially indebted by the health insurance. I couldn’t find a job to get out of it when I was living on the edge in a small room with my parents ‘cause I had no car to get out of the village where I was living. My dad has a taxi firm consisting of him and another guy. Sometimes he earned 5 bucks a day and couldn’t even pay the other guy. There were times I was lucky to have a warm meal at home to eat it for 4 days or so. So the situation was fucked. Coversnake took me to better places back then. To stages, where a crowd was happy to see and hear me. I could eat warm meals backstage. That was life to me. The guys don’t really know till today how my life looked like and how they saved me somehow ‘cause I never wanted to complain. I was trying to be that tough frontman that takes his role self-evident. Since the first day those guys have a place in my heart and I will sing for them whenever I can live.
You also took part in The Voice. How did you get there? Was it any different comparing to singing for rock fans? At what stage did you quit the show and why?
I participated in The Voice of Germany in 2015 ‘cause my friends would want me to. There I won a crowd voting as the best auditionee of the season. Unfortunately it gave me nothing ‘cause I only made it to the live show and the jury didn’t push the buzzer due to the problem that the teams were full. Only one guy had one space left, but there were still 6 till 8 more candidates to come. So they apologized to not be able to pick me. When I was standing and performing “Can’t Stop Loving You” by Van Halen I knew the crowd wouldn’t react directly. They didn’t seem to even know the song and seemed a little curious about me. Then in the chorus I received a huge feedback “wave” which blew me away ‘cause I wouldn’t expect that as the outsider there. All in all it was a great experience and a cool reference to have with the video.
When did you discover Mad Max for the first time and what albums and songs of this band are your favorites?
I discovered Mad Max when I used to work with Frontline on their comeback which didn’t happen due to conflicts between the members referring aims and name rights. The funny thing is when I was asked to sing for Frontline I was thinking that it’s about Mad Max ‘cause Hutch’s Facebook page (who was also in Frontline) seemed to me that it’s all about Mad Max. Unfortunately I didn’t go deeper with Mad Max back then ‘cause it was about Frontline. That was when I was 25 or so. The real and intense contact with Mad Max started when I was asked to join the group. Since I got to know the songs, I fell in love with “Losing You” (“Rollin’ Thunder”), “Wild & Seventeen” (“Night of Passion”) and “Stormchild” (“Stormchild”). But those are only a few of many more songs I love to listen to! You can say that Mad Max definitely gained one more fan, who is stuck in the album “Rolling Thunder”, “Stormchild” and “Night of Passion”.
When and how did you get in touch with Jurgen? As far as I understand you knew that Michael was leaving the band a few months before it really happened?
This last summer I used to cooperate with Leo Leoni from Gotthard and he was a good friend of the guys from Mad Max. He knew about their struggle with Michael Voss and proposed me to join the group. The band contacted me and we planned to make a rehearsal together as well as a meeting in general. Due to Corona it wouldn’t happen. In spite of this we managed to build up a strong relationship even though we didn’t meet in person. The guys got to hear me when I was singing over their tracks for fun via some video calls and had faith in that collaboration. It was only about that meeting, which was impossible to happen due to the pandemic. So one day I received a call from Jürgen asking me if I wanna join the band and I had to laugh out of joy cause things were real and clear for all of us with that moment and I knew I’m in. I am excited to meet the guys, especially Doc and Fabs. Especially when Doc used to play in Mad Max back then. Fabs seems to be a good friend of Axel, who must be good I heard. It is sure exciting for all of us to rehearse for the first time. Of course we never met but you can tell, that those guys in the band know what they’re doing and they’re doing it for a real long time. So it won’t be a catastrophe I can already reveal. Only very exciting for all of us !
Some fans already claimed that without Michael there is no Mad Max and you should change the name of the band. What do you think about such statements? Are you ready to make these people change their minds?
I understand those who are upset because of the loss of Voss and skeptic referring the new line up and I feel them. So I can say that I don’t expect that those guys forget about the old times and should start to love me. I have to work hard and give all I can to win some hearts hopefully. I know that and I am thankful with all the respect to Voss, that he influenced Mad Max and did his best on it, so that we have all those true Fans out there wanting more. I don’t aim to reproduce Voss because we are two different individuals with two different voices. So it doesn’t mean that those songs are only made for Voss’ voice on them (whereby Voss wasn’t the first singer). They can also sound good and deserve the chance to be listened with a slight different but still interesting character change by another singer. I compare this to Van Halen. David Lee Roth sang, performed and was totally different to Sammy Hagar but it was so interesting to see how those Van Halen songs can also sound like. I mean you still can hear that it’s Van Halen, but it’s another level, not better, not worse, just different and somehow still the distinctive character. To change the name would maybe honour the times with Voss and close the chapter of Mad Max. But isn’t that somehow sad to know, Mad Max is “dead” forever? It would be a tragedy giving up, when we can show the versatility of Mad Max’s distinctive sound by letting another singer interpret the songs in his conception. People want to keep their habits, especially when you’re older and you know what you have and what you have even gained more worth after all the years. It’s a part of your life and no one has the right to take that away. But those guys don’t consider that there is nothing I or we want to take away, ‘cause the memories with that band and even the legacy live on forever. We will still perform those nostalgic songs and the spirit will still be the same, cause I’m not here to change the band, I’m here to be a small part of this.
What is the future holds for Mad Max? Do you plan to re-record some old stuff with your voice or do you want to release a new album as soon as possible? When can we expect new music from the band?
Due to the fact “Stormchild Rising” just came out recently, it would be shame to not perform those great songs, especially when Voss didn’t sing them live so far. So these songs haven’t seen a singer live yet. But they sure will as soon as the concert dates are possible. Another good thing is that this album contains some featuring guests like Paul Shortino and Ronnie Romero, so there is no main singer, people can expect. This leaves it open, how Voss would have sung those parts or how I would have sang them. I cannot promise anything at this time because the world is going crazy right now but what I can already reveal, is that I am a huge fan of those good old Mad Max Times and I would love to bring some forgotten songs back to life. The future isn’t written yet but it’s in our hand to make it to our time!
Mad Max official sources: