Talking today with Brother Max, Max Radings; hermit, farmer, rockandroller, buddhist monk, and great guy overall. He played guitar in Brant Bjork's live band some years ago, which was how i got to know him.
Alright, i am ready
Ok, what hardships can you relate about being in a band and keeping it going?
In my experience, the hardest things about being in a band and keeping it going is not the music - that's the easy part - the hard part is an equal mutual commitment to a common goal, making sure everyone puts in enough time, money and effort to not just get the music and performance to be quality, but also keep make the band make sense from a business point of view. Of course everyone has obligations and bills to pay outside of the band, just like any non-musician, but you can't deny it costs money and time to buy and maintain your instruments, invest in merchandise, travel money, etc - all the things needed to keep a band going. You can't expect one guy to take care of all of this; if you all invest then you all feel equally connected and responsible to make the band successful, and whatever level you're on or achieve will be the fruit of your collective effort equally, and this creates a strong foundation and emotional connection to this band entity you've collectively created, and there can be no argument over unequally and ownership later down the line. Music is a labor of love, you've got to all love what you're creating equally and realise there's strength in unity.
Good one! next question.
Economically, we could say that live music is a over-available commodity: lots of great musicians out there trying to get attention from the same public and booking gigs at the same spots. Do you agree with that point? Has the amateur music scene been commercialized too?
I mean, under-commercialized
I feel that's a tough question to answer. As live amateur musicians, we're also competing with DJ's and electronic musicians - who can provide a bar or club owner with a whole night's worth of entertainment for a fraction of the cost of a band, who usually only play for an hour or two, at most.
And as modern bands, we often play music that does not always appeal to as many people and doesn't bring in as many customers as a DJ playing familiar, popular songs.
So from a commercial point of view, amateur music isn't very profitable. Also the band, the audience and the club or bar owner also have different priorities; the band usually wants to have a good time playing music they love, the audience wants music that is familiar enough to have a good time going out to but also new enough to excite them, and the club/bar owner wants to pay his bills and attract as many customers so he doesn't have to struggle to keep his business running.
My experience is that most amateur bands are in general too self indulgent, proud and insecure, and don't put in the work required to really move and captivate a fresh, unfamiliar audience.
It takes a lot of practice, awareness and self-reflection to get a band to a level where it can do that, break the ice so to speak.
While i think artistic expression is important, and loving what you do is a must in any profession, especially music, you have to be aware that if you're playing music comercially, no matter at what level, you're doing business; it's commercial. There's a so-called exchange for value. As with any business, even if i have a great quality product, if i don't market it to the right audience in the right place in the right manner, i'm most likely not going to be successful at my business.
Outstanding explanation! more coming up.
I'm myself a musician. I always tried to put up a scene here where i live. But now i see it differently. Some others advise that if you wanna "make it", you'd better move to where "the action is". What is your take on that?
I think that while there's value in building a scene and community, there's also truth to the saying: "you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink" - you can't force something to happen in a community if you're the only one who wants it to happen.
It is always a dialog between the needs and demands of the community and your own vision. It's kind of like if i want to grow sunflowers in the Winter in Siberia; i can make it happen if i put in the money, time and effort to build a greenhouse in the siberian tundra, but most likely i will not have the support of the local community behind me. They'll say: "why do you want to grow sunflowers in Siberia? it's so much trouble!
Why can't you just enjoy the few wildflowers that grow during our short summer?" - so then you can either choose to put in all the work yourself, or move to a warmer place like France where there's whole community of people who love sunflowers and grow them most of the year, where they thrive naturally outdoors, without the need to artificially create an environment to make sunflowers grow. That's kind of the metaphor i like to use.
Again, it's exchange for value; you have to do the math and observation yourself to see how much you want to put in and is it worth what you get out of it. Do you build the greenhouse in Siberia anyway, and hope that after sometime people will appreciate and realise the value of sunflowers, and eventually join you in support of your effort and vision, or do you just go to a place where people naturally grow and love sunflowers?
What's the core of a song for you? How a "simple idea" becomes one of your songs?
For me, a song starts (and ends) not just as a feeling, but also as a way of being and a state of mind and body. There's a rhythm to everything in life, and there's a tone and frequency of vibration to everything in life.
Several tones spaced apart (rhythm) become or suggest melody.
This is usually the basis for the 'music' of my songs. Finding words to express and describe this feeling/state of mind body usually becomes what you would call 'lyrics'. The process of transforming this nebulous and undefined feeling, sorting out the different 'ingredients' and finding a way to put them together in the right way is a lot like cooking a meal, to use another metaphor. You have to know which ingredients go together to make a certain taste, when to put them in, how long to cook them for, to get the 'dish' you're looking to cook that satisfies the appetite or hunger you had that inspired you to start 'cooking' (writing the song) in the first place.
To me that's the art of turning a simple idea into a song. and it is an art, because just like when you're first learning how to cook, sometimes you burn the dish, sometimes it's undercooked, sometimes you put the wrong ingredients together and it just tastes bad, or sometimes you put the right ingredients together at the wrong time, and there's no harmony and balance between the flavors. Practice makes perfect, and it's a lifelong practice. As you get better you introduce more nuances into your cooking, so that even with simple ingredients you can cook a delicious, nutritious, satisfying meal. The most important thing is first to learn what satisfies your own appetite and nutritional needs, and how to create meals to do so. Not everyone likes or needs the same food, but eventually you'll find people who have the same taste as you, and they'll be delighted if you cook for them.
|Muddy Grande, Max on the right|
Nicely put! we're near the end.
I'm going to dare with this one...i think you have been "out of the road" for some time, but you seem the kind of guy that's diehard about music. Are you wishing to get back to stages? would you mind playing alone?
It is true that i haven't toured clubs in quite of number of years, aside from the occasional gig. But i have never stopped playing music, and with the exception of the last year and a half or so, i have always been on the road, traveling, going to different places. having visited many people from different countries, like Mongolia, India, Nepal, China, Eastern Russia, Taiwan, Korea and Japan.
It has given me a different perspective of what music means to people and what it means to 'perform' and play music for people. For example, in the mongolian countryside, everyone can sing.
At the end of a day, people gather together in their tents, cook, drink vodka, and sing songs together. Some are family songs, some are traditional songs, some are pop songs they hear on their little satellite radios, some are songs they came up with themselves riding their horses. Everybody can play music, and it is a huge part of life, but no one considers themselves a musician.
In my experience, to them it's just something people do. Like eating, sleeping, talking, making love, etc. So they would always ask me to sing 'my songs' for them, and they would sing me their songs. It was very touching and made me look at my relationship in a different way. Also a country like china, where they do have popular music but most live music is still in big arenas, or people singing karaoke, people would be so excited to hear i played music. They would call their friends, we would get together at someone's house, have a party, and i would just play songs all night. Kind of like the vibe of the blues juke-joints i visited in the american south.
The fact that i was able to play my own songs, and not copy another artist, was very inspiring to them - to realise you can create something yourself, that doesn't have to meet some 'official' standard. I've had this experience in cities, but it was especially potent in the countryside of these countries, where people had been even less touched by modern music culture. I myself realised at that point, after all those experiences, that music is a natural human expression, and for me "success" in playing music is not per se going on tour and playing in front of hundreds of people every night, supporting or playing with other 'big artists', but to move and touch the hearts of the people that i was spending time with, by sharing songs that i wrote from my own heart. Because the root of that for me is love, and while although there's a million different ways to express that love, music from the heart played with love is a universal language that everyone can understand.
I like this one specially, i didn't know about that way of understanding music. Or maybe i have already forgotten it could be other ways.
Well mate, i have my 5 questions, but i think it would be righteous that you add whatever crosses your mind.
Entertain your friends and those who want to listen, those who want to hear something different can go somewhere else, that's fine too. Everyone's got their own family or tribe, but as long as we can all respect each other and leave enough space, there needs to be no problems. To me that's the "guerrilla approach" to rock and roll (and all music); for people, by people, together, with love and respect.
Great! you've put much heart in this little interview, i thank you truly.