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Today is Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

T-MAD’S MUSIC INTERVIEWS BERNADETTE COOPER OF KLYMAXX
(An e-mail interview from September, 2009)

In 1974 a little known all female funk band named Isis was formed by a lady named Carol McDonald. That band drew from rock and funk influences. Isis only made three albums between 1974 and 1976 before disappearing into commercial obscurity.

Now let’s jump ahead a few years to 1979. A drummer out of Los Angeles named Bernadette Cooper envisions an all female funk band that would incorporate elements of funk, dance, pop, and R&B. Sprinkle in a little attitude and the band KLYMAXX is born.

KLYMAXX would become a fixture in R&B music in the eighties with such classics as The Men All Pause, Meeting In The Ladies Room, I Miss You, Divas Need Love Too, and Sexy. They would have a hit movie soundtrack song with Man Size Love. You can learn more about the band and its original core members here at T-Mad’s Music by visiting T-Mad’s Music presents KLYMAXX.

Now fast forward to 2009. Bernadette Cooper and fellow founding member Joyce “Fenderella” Irby have reunited to introduce a brand new Klymaxx CD titled Real Divas Never Die. It is the first official canon studio recording from Klymaxx since 1994’s One Day and the first Klymaxx album with Bernadette Cooper as a full time member since 1986’s eponymous release. T-Mad’s Music is proud to present this interview with the founder of Klymaxx, Bernadette Cooper.

Hi Bernadette. I wanted to have a little fun with you with these questions and sort of take you all the way back to the early days of Klymaxx from your perspective. Sort of go through the years, reflecting on your work with Klymaxx during its heyday, working with Madame X, your solo project from 1990, your later years, and bringing you back to the present and the future.

Let’s take it all the way back to the beginning. What was it like breaking into a “man’s world” with an all female funk band back in 1979 when you formed Klymaxx?

I really don’t have a lot of horror stories because I grew up without any stigmas or fears. If these obstacles were in front of me they just made me stronger and more determined to fulfill my dreams. I am the type of person that if you tell me it’s impossible or it will never happen, I will stay up for nights trying to figure out a way to succeed.

I am a bit of a loner and I’m in my head a lot. I believe there is always an answer to a situation; you just have to find it. KLYMAXX was an idea and a figment of my imagination that I found an answer for.

What artists did you grow up listening to? Who do you listen to today?

I grew up listening to Aretha Franklin, The Jackson 5, Mick Jagger, The Dramatics, all of the artists in the 60s and 70’s. My mother played them especially Aretha whenever she had a break-up with her boyfriend, Al, so I heard it a lot…lol!

I have very diverse taste in music. Now I am rolling with Frank Sinatra and listening to old recordings of Cole Porter. I am studying their lyrics and production and admiring sweet melodies and beautiful string arrangements.

What are your thoughts about today’s music scene, as opposed to the music of the eighties and nineties when Klymaxx was out there before?

Horrible!

We have forgotten how to appreciate good music. An example of that is I just recently attended a Frankie Beverly and Maze concert and everyone was dressed up and knew every word to every song because the music meant something at an important time in someone’s life.

Black music used to be about memories, love, coming together and connections. Today’s music does not touch anyone’s heart. It’s mainly expressing sex and violence. It is partially destroying our music culture and youth…not intelligent music. I’m on a mission to bring real uplifting music back!

What led you to want to move on in the late eighties and go solo? What was it like doing your solo CD in 1990, Drama According To Bernadette Cooper?

Major drama within the band, my ego, and also the vision of going to the next or another level which is difficult to do by committee. I felt completely free and released from my creative shackles. Also, I was able to connect with my alter ego by creating another sound different from KLYMAXX.

I had the pleasure of interacting with Iris Parker and Valerie Victoria McIntosh of Madame X during the original run of T-Mad’s Music. Sadly, I never got the chance to talk with Alisa Randolph (who passed away in 2005 from breast cancer).

How did you discover the ladies of Madame X and how did that project come about? How would you compare your work with Klymaxx to your work with Madame X?

MADAME X was a vision and an extension of my imagination that I was able to bring alive. I was able to secure a deal with Sylvia Rhone at Atlantic Records before I found the girls. Finally through auditions and other connections I found the girls. They were the prototype of girl groups to come and their first hit, “Just That Type Of Girl”, was groundbreaking.

The passing of Alisa was very heartbreaking for me. I discovered Alisa in an Audition I was having for “Madame X” and I knew immediately she was the one. Ironically before she passed I had a very strong urge to contact her so I went to every information site and called everyone who knew her seeking her phone number. I finally found her and we had a beautiful discussion that is when I learned of her breast cancer.

I miss her and I am glad we were able to reconnect before her passing.

What was it like working with Teena Marie in the late eighties and early nineties?

Lots of fun. Teena and I had a very cool connection and I respect her as an artist. I must admit I was very nervous working with her because, how do you tell an artist of her caliber to do it again over and over? I actually had my engineer Gerry Brown instruct her as I instructed him.

She is one of those artists that will be around with or without a current hit because she is an icon.

You’ve also worked with such artists as Babyface, Salt-n-Pepa, Pebbles, and others. Who are some other artists you’d like to work with? Who are some that you wish you had had the opportunity to work with in the past?

Usher and Christina Aguilera. If everyone left their ego’s at home including mine, got in a room together I believe I can create beautiful music for them.

Usher is so sexy and exhibits “a real man” as far as morals and energy. I feel a slight Marvin Gaye thing about him and throw in a dash of Frank Sinatra. All ladies’ man with mad aura.

Christina is one of the best vocalists in the music scene I just can’t connect to an image or a sound so I would like to create both for her.

Jumping ahead to the 2000s now. How did it feel when you, Joyce, Lorena, and Lynn came back together and did that first performance with each other in almost twenty years when you did the Bands Reunited special for VH1?

Fab it was like we never left…same fun, same drama!

We don’t hear anything any more about Robbin Grider. I was surprised to not even hear her mentioned in that VH1 reunion special. What is she up to these days?

Robbin has recently resurfaced and is doing well. She had to work out a few issues with her life. Hopefully life feels good to her right now.

I realize that Lynn and Lorena no longer tour with Klymaxx. Do they appear on the new CD (à la Maurice White recording but no longer touring with Earth Wind & Fire) or have they completely moved on?

No I have asked them repeatedly to be a part of the new project to no avail. Maybe this is not their vision anymore I can understand and respect that.

People grow and pursue other dreams and desires in their lives. My dreams and desires have always been music. Music is what I do. Music is who I am. I must say Joyce (Fenderella) and I both are consistent and [no] matter what we both are pursuing our love of music.

Tell me about your new touring members in Klymaxx with you and Joyce.

The girls on the road with us are outstanding musicians. Sheryl on drums, Regina and Maureen on keyboards, Portia on guitar and Penny Ford vocals.

I respect these girls musicianship and we have mad fun on the road. They are serious about their craft. However, in [no] way will they ever replace the original members of KLYMAXX.

You’ve really embraced today’s technology with MySpace and Twitter. Not all artists from “back in the day” have warmed up to it as easily. How does it feel to be able to reach your fans in such a way, letting them know what you’re up to, hearing from them through chats and blogs and comments?

I love my fans! I really do. Therefore, I think they deserve to get a sneak peak of the process in which I create music. Also to be able to reach out and touch if they feel like it. I am a very private person but every once and a while I love to peek out of my igloo and show a little love.

Speaking of Twitter, I read your tweet about you reopening your vintage clothing store, Museum 68. What was it like running your own clothing store in the heart of Jersey City, NJ? How does it feel opening it back up again?

Another escape and release. I love my store. I have never had any retail experience. When I opened I just followed my heart and the store was very successful. I closed only because my mother fell ill and I needed to focus on taking care of her. Now that she is doing well I decided to reopen the store online: museum68.com.

Now about the new Klymaxx CD, Real Divas Never Die. You’re going the independent route with your new CD. What are your thoughts on the music industry today, as opposed to back during Klymaxx’s original heyday? What made you decide to go that route as opposed to working with a traditional record label?

Well that has not totally been decided yet. The CD is so fabulous I really want the entire world to hear so now I am rethinking all the possibilities. I really want a Tina Turner comeback for this project.

What was it like getting back in the studio to make a new Klymaxx CD?

For me tedious because I am such a perfectionist and creator I didn’t know when to stop. Klymaxx’s music has a certain structure, sound and brand. I wanted everyone to be proud of the growth as well as the sound which is a mixture of past KLYMAXX and the new.

Joyce was wonderful in allowing me creative freedom and space. I had to separate Bernadette Cooper from KLYMAXX and that was a little difficult but by gosh I think we got it!

What is the songwriting process like for you? How do the songs come to you?

I am motivated by real life experiences also I am a different type of woman and I think differently so I often draw from those thoughts. Every song is different.

As I mentioned to you on MySpace, I heard the remix version of your new song “Get Up Off Me” and it is funky!

I know you have a duet with RuPaul on the CD as well — what was it like working with him? What else can we expect on the new Klymaxx CD?

It sounds like KLYMAXX but the message is now you are fly into your 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and your 70’s and then some! You are fly until you die and then some more!

I love Ru Paul he is a very smart business man and is working his brand. I would love to produce his entire next album!

I hope I’m wrong about this but, for some reason, I seem to have read that this new Klymaxx CD is going to be your last. Say it isn’t true?

Yes It Is!

I expected to do this project with the other girls involved. This is a labor of love because I felt the world needed to here from us again. Our message is important to women self love, fabulousness, being a beautiful you. However when you are involved with a group of girls KLYMAXX going in different directions it just too much unnecessary drama!

Once again I must say Joyce and I have been the only ones a part of the project from conception. We are the messengers delivering the message!

I have to ask — what did you think of Halle Berry’s impersonation of you on Saturday Night Live during that “commercial” for The Best Of Klymaxx, back in 2003?

I loved it! It was such an honor for KLYMAXX and me to be even mentioned.

Here’s a toughie for you — what is your favorite Klymaxx song (past or present) and why? (You can cheat and give me more than one if you want).

“The Men All Pause” and “Sexy”. T.M.A.P was the first hit we ever had that was the beginning of our success. “Sexy” is just sexy! Oh and “Divas Need Love Too”! Because we do!

Final question — How do you stay so fierce?

Trust me baby I work hard at it! I eat right; I work out, wheatgrass, no negative energy, attitude or negative people around me. I am connected to my spiritual highness and I have crazy work ethics, I’m sweet and sexy but I play hard boo!

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with me, Bernadette — it’s definitely a great honor for T-Mad’s Music. I look forward to getting my hands on the new CD when it comes out.

This interview is the property of T-Mad’s Music and cannot be copied without permission.
Copyright © 2009 T-Mad’s Music. All rights reserved.