An interview with The Mad Mad Ones drummer, Nick Bretl
by Mike Huberty
November 2015

The Mad Mad Ones  - photo by Kris Eidnes

The Mad Mad Ones
photo by Kris Eidnes

Straight outta Wausau, THE MAD MAD ONES are alternative-style hard rock that will make you think of the big rock anthems of STONE TEMPLE PILOTS’ first record (still their best) and the wails and screams of JANE’S ADDICTION’s groove-metal head bangers. Guitarist/vocalist Ted Fox, drummer Nick Bretl, guitarist Jeff Sandbom, and bassist Ryan Anderson have delivered a monster in the form of Down The Rabbit Hole, their debut album. It’s all belching guitars, piercing vocals, and relentless drums that evoke equal parts ALICE IN CHAINS and WOLFMOTHER. I went down the rabbit hole with Nick to talk about their album and their upcoming Madison show at the Willy Street Pub and Grill (AKA The Wisco) on Friday December 11th.

MI: So what’s the story? How’d you get started? NB: My dad was a well known jazz bass player for years, and my brother was a drummer in several bigger bands (EVERCLEAR, FLIPP), so the music is in his DNA so to speak.

Ted and I grew up 1 block from each other, and our families have always been tight. We both have older brothers and sisters, so growing up involved hearing the classics… ZEPPELIN, FLOYD, BEATLES, etc… Sandbom and Ryan are more of the metal guys, so OZZY, METALLICA, MEGADETH, etc… We all seemed to be lucky to be around for the early ’90s revival, so Nirvana, Primus, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, et al, were big for us as well.

MI: Who were the bands that you guys gelled on as musicians?


MI: What was it specifically about hard rock that got you going?

NB: Going to TOOL, NIN, etc… type shows, and seeing and feeling the power and force of the music, and how it affects the room…fuck man, we wanna do that! Playing the music in rehearsal is great, and excellent therapy for 4 guys with day jobs and wives and kids. But when you play shows and see 300+ people losing their shit because of what you’re playing… that’s the elixir! No offense to anyone, but MUMFORD AND SONS or MAROON 5 just don’t do that to people… we want people to be worn out and sweaty after our shows… not asking Siri whether Starbucks is still open so they can get their latte.

MI: What’s the song you’d recommend for first-time listeners?

NB: Thinking any of our material is “single” material is almost an oxymoron. Our songs don’t follow the typical radio friendly structure or length. I think the song that most exemplifies our sound… the heavy stoner rock grooves, the melodic but slightly caustic vocals, the great lead guitar work, is probably “California”. “Clarity” has that all and more, but is 9+ minutes, so not for the faint of heart. As for a single that would appeal to a broader audience and maybe sniff some radio time, I’d say start with “Hold On”.

MB: What’s “California” about?

NB: Ted had a good run about 15 years ago with his hardcore band DRUEL out of the Twin Cities. Had major label interest, played some huge shows… that got him out to Cali a few times, and that song reflects on those visits and the bureaucratic crap that is involved on that scene. A very cynical view of the LA music scene… let’s just say it’s by no means an homage to LA and California.

MI: What’s the deal with the band name? TWO MADS?!

NB: The Jack Kerouac quote, when asked who his favorite people are, he said “The mad ones….the ones that are mad to live, mad to talk…” We’re all a little mad so to speak, and it really makes sense for a dentist (me), a computer analyst (Ted), a luthier (Sandbom), and a laser technologist (Ryan). We have our normal grown-up lives, but are definitely “mad” about our preferred style of work. And The Mad Ones was already taken, so we added an extra “mad” to it…

MI: What’s been your favorite show so far?

NB: Probably opening for CROBOT at The Q&Z in Wausau in August. Not only are they a kickass band and ridiculous musicians, but they’re killer guys. The show was great, the crowd was 300+, and we got to meet some killer dudes….plus WILSON and MOTHERSHIP played the show…also great guys. Left us with the feeling that rock n’ roll is not dead.

MI: So, if someone comes to The Wisco December 11th, what are they gonna get?

NB: Unadulterated rock n’ roll. We hope to rip people’s hearts out of their chests, and stomp on it right in front of them… all while smiling. People are amazed how much fun we have on stage, considering the seriousness and rage involved with some of our music, but we’re truly having a great time up there. And getting to hang later with the other bands… and the whiskey doesn’t suck either.

MI: Anything you need to get off your chest?

NB: Nothing to get off our chest so to speak. We just hope to be on a path that is everything that the traditional music scene is now. The shit-burger bands and music that is shoved down our throats now…from TAYLOR SWIFT and ONE DIRECTION to the Disney machine…it’s quite sickening really. People need to listen to more CLUTCH, and CROBOT, and MOTHERSHIP, and QUEENS… real bands writing their own music, playing their own instruments, no auto-tune, no fuckin’ gimmicks… just straight-up rock n’ roll.

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CD: Down The Rabbit Hole