Facing the Music | Music Feature | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Music » Music Feature

Facing the Music

Amadis performs with Maneuvers and Cccome? at 242 Main, Monday, January 28, 7 p.m. $5/6.


Chaim Rochester, second from right, with Amadis
  • Chaim Rochester, second from right, with Amadis

From trashy groupies to trashing hotel rooms, "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" has a storied tradition in modern popular music. In particular, debauchery and overindulgence are as intrinsic to classic metal as, say, Flying V guitars and leather pants. But as much as we collectively romanticize the audacious antics of reckless rock stars, the truth is that, eventually, hard living carries a hefty price tag - often in the form of hard time.

Local Judas Priest acolytes Amadis have built a strong following in a relatively short period of time, thanks largely to a fierce dedication to metal authenticity. Sporting ragged hair, scandalous leather chaps, monster musical chops and outlandish pseudonyms, Sid Distic, Franky Vitriol, Chaim Rochester, Gustavus Adolphus and Johan Sebastian Rock are throwbacks to the days when guitar gods ruled the airwaves. Sadly, that's true in more ways than one.

On Friday, February 1, lead guitarist Chaim Rochester, 32, enters the custody of the State of Vermont as he begins serving a three-month sentence at the St. Johnsbury Regional Correctional Facility. Seven Days recently spoke with Rochester at a Burlington pizza joint, in advance of the guitarist's farewell-for-now show with Amadis this Sunday.

SEVEN DAYS: So . . . what the hell happened?

CHAIM ROCHESTER: With my life or the band?

SD: Well, I guess one is sort of tied to the other.

CR: True. It basically stems from spending 10 years of my life letting drugs and alcohol get in the way of my dreams and ambitions, musically and otherwise. So with that comes the usual run-ins with the law, and general chaos.

So, about a year and a half ago, I got in a little bit of a pinch out of state. And my marriage was failing. So I checked into rehab. My then-wife decided to strike it up with an old friend of mine while I was there, so I came to the conclusion that maybe it's time to pick up the pieces and move on to greener pastures. I turned 30 and was sort of looking at my life and was, like, "This is a fucking wreck." So I came to Burlington. And that's when I met Franky.

SD: And that's when Amadis was born?

CR: Sort of. I moved up here and was kinda harassing him about starting a band. But he teaches and was in bands and had all this other stuff going on.

Then one day he called me and said, "Look, dude. There's this Flying V here at the store and the only way I can justify it is if we start a '70s leather band." I said, "Well, that's perfect, because I need to buy these leather pants." So that's how the band really began.

SD: Awesome.

CR: Yeah. It happened really quickly. I called Gustavus and Johan to see if we could recruit them into this mess. I had never met Sid, but I was in the car with Franky when he called him. He was saying that we wanted to start this metal band based on the Judas Priest model, which has pretty much been our direction. And I heard him, through the cellphone, say, "Do I get to wear makeup?" And I was like, "Hire that guy! Hire him right now!" As it happens, he hasn't actually worn any makeup yet.

It really started as kind of a joke, the band none of us really has to think about. But now it gets taken really seriously. All of a sudden, this is the band everybody wants to see.

SD: So how does Johnny Law figure in?

CR: Well, everything was moving along nicely. I've got jobs. I'm in this band. I'm stabilized. Then I get a visit from "the law" for something that had happened a couple of years prior to my coming up here.

SD: And that was?

CR: It was a petty scam to drum up money. It pretty much happened at the bottom of my spiral. Strung out. Out of work. Trying to hold on to this marriage, to pretend like everything was fine. Pretty much street-level junkie psychosis. And that's where things came unglued. When you can tell you're at the end of the line, but you can't seem to do anything about it, something will get in your way and say, "Hey, guess what? The party's over." And the specter of the past will always want to exact its pound of flesh.

SD: You seem to be handling it well.

CR: I'm trying to handle it gracefully. But, basically, I've got to pay my debt to society. And maybe it will serve as a warning to kids going through that kind of stuff, or who haven't faced it yet, that this is what happens. This is what has kept me from achieving all the stuff I've wanted up until now.

It's three months. So I think the feeling was, it's long enough to serve as a reminder to me as to why I should keep on the track I'm on. And it'll give me time to think and write new material, which is good. But it's also just long enough to turn my whole life inside out, too.

VH1 has the "Behind the Music" show. But I sort of did my stuff before the music and it didn't work out. It wasn't a good formula. But, I mean, no one who's really all that noteworthy hasn't at least done a little time, right?