On Sunday, April 10th, 2005, we stepped inside the cozy and unkempt hotel room of
solo artist Kevin Max at the Renaissance Hotel for an interview during
GMA week in Nashville, Tennessee. With a busy day of interviews behind him and an acoustic set
approaching later that evening, Kevin discussed with us his newest album
The Imposter (releasing October 11), his songwriting process, his passions, and more...
This interview took place on: 4/10/05.
Jesus freak Hideout (John DiBiase): Tell me a little bit about your new album. How is this
record different from your previous projects and how has relocating to L.A. and working with
Andy Prickett leant to the album's sound?
I think that the major difference from Stereotype Be to this new project is the fact that we have literally
taken a completely different angle from being in a majorly huge studio, big production, with
six or seven different players from all different places, to putting it into one, small conclave
of people, smaller budget, more grass roots, and it's really all about the songs on this record.
That's why I've taken so long, because I've been writing the songs. I've wanted to make the songs
just right. I didn't want to just put out a record to just put out a record. And I didn't want
to feel that time constraint either, I wanted to be able to go "Y'know what? I want to put the
best work out I possibly can." Because I want a career in this industry. And to me, it's a tough place
to be and survive. But I also, as you know, don't like to play the game. And I don't like to make
the stuff that everybody else is making. So that's a challenge as well because it's a smaller audience.
So I wanna be honest about that and try to figure out a way I can get that small audience to tell
more people about it and break it out into a place where it's a broader thing. Andy Prickett's been
awesome because he's literally my co-producer -- or, if anything, I'm the co-producer and
he's the main producer. He's been playing with me live ever since I moved to L.A. He kinda introduced
me to the guys who eventually brought me around to Northern Records. It's just been a really natural
process to work with him. I'd say 75% of the record is songs that Andy and I wrote. A couple of them
are written by outsiders and a couple of them are just written by me, but the majority of the songs
were written by Andy and I together. Me and a little goofy piano and him on a guitar.
JFH (John): How is it stylistically different from the EP?
It's just a lot more raw. It's a lot more stripped-down. It's a lot more rock n' roll. It's kind of
got a rock n' roll thing to it that neither of the records have. But even in that, there are still
going to be songs that have got my style my kind of stamp of what I do on them, regardless, because
I keep my lyrics kind of serious. The vocals are going to be standard Kevin Max fare. But it's
also going to be a record where I'm basically - instead of shining a light on everyone else, I'm
kind of shining the light on me on this record. I'm kind of talking about myself on this record a lot -
talking about my struggles, talking about my loves and my revelations and all that kind of stuff.
So I think it's going to be a lot more of an intimate record.
JFH (John): When are you looking for it to come out?
I'm going to get this thing out probably in the middle of August. Maybe earlier. If we can get it
out at the end of July, that'd be great. But I'm already done with five songs and we've got about
six more to go. I mean, they're all written, the basic tracks are done. Now it's just about me singing
and adding things to it, y'know?
JFH (John): Do you have any other new projects that you're working on, besides
music like acting or poetry?
I wrote a whole 'nother book of poetry that I'm probably going to put out at the end of this year.
I'll release it in the Fall to coincide with the record, actually. I wanted to put the record out
first and then the book of poetry. And then possibly after the book of poetry comes out, do a spoken
word CD as well. So that's kind of like an agenda. I am in an independent film. It's going to start
filming in November. I play a vampire. *laughter* Yeah, so it's pretty intense. It's Hollywood, y'know?
But it's an interesting chance for me to do something that I've been wanting to do for awhile.
JFH (John): Whatever happened to that film Soupernatural?
Soupernatural is still in the works. They were wanting to make it a three million dollar picture
and they've only got like a million and a half ready. So it's one of those kinds of things where they're
still trying to raise money for it. And they got a bunch of actors on it, and we filmed like a third
of the movie. I'd like to see it happen at some point.
JFH (Amy DiBiase): How does the nature of your songwriting and
your poetry differ? Do you often write the lyrics to your songs and then apply the music and melodies
or vice versa? Do you often turn your poetry (or parts of it) into song?
Kevin Max: It's different for each song. Most of the time, I will write a lyric out
and I will got and put music to it. But on this record, which is really interesting, Andy and I crafted
all the music first and I put the lyrics after singing into a microphone and to the music, just kind of like
singing and coming up with ideas as I listened to the music. I kind of formed words that made sense
to the rhythm of the song. After forming the words and kind of like working with the rhythm of the song,
then I'd go back to the apartment and actually write out the words that were the closest to the actual
rhythm I was singing on the scratch vocal, which was literally not words. They were just kind of like
meaningless phrases. So then we'd take the meaningless phrase and actually write an actual phrase that
tries to make sense. Hopefully it does. *laughs*
JFH (Amy): Did you
work a lot with syllables with the rhythms of the songs?
Kevin Max: Mhm. To me, you can write a lyric
that looks really great on paper, but when you got to put it to music, it just sometimes gets way
too choppy and way too difficult. It doesn't sound natural. The best way for me to do that is to
literally sing phrases into a microphone while the songs are playing and try to get a great rhythm
going on. I think this record has more continuity like that. It's got a little bit better design,
little bit better arrangement. Stereotype Be had great arrangement, as far as the music
went they were arranged perfectly. I'm talking about the way I arrange my lyrics. This record's a bit
JFH (Amy): Do you have poetry that you then
turn into songs?
Kevin Max: Yeah, I've done that quite a bit, but I don't do that very much on the stuff
that I put out to the public. But I've worked with some poems. A lot of the times, the poetry doesn't
come out really well in song form. There's too many words or the words don't work well together because
my poetry is not necessarily rhyme and meter, y'know? A lot of times, it's just kind of fragmented
JFH (Amy): I saw your website, I surfed around. Do you
contribute your own artistic ideas to the website?
Yeah, I'm not really excited about the website right now, to be honest with you.
I think it's a good website, but I don't think it's the best website for me. And I want to be able
to, at some point when I have the money, to really get into it and do a really good site. We
were kind of challenged on the money end of it this time to do something. Because, unfortunately,
my old site was run by a company that Forefront actually put the money into it, along with me,
and I think we ended up spending close to like ten grand just on the creation of the site. This site's
actually half that price. And I had a friend of mine put it together. They are all my ideas. The
picture of my face being the main page was my idea with changing the different colors, kind of the
Warhol idea is mine, and then going to all the different pages when you click on it was mine.
But my friend Melissa Barnes did the actual technical end and she's not a technical whiz. So, it's a little difficult
to focus in certain places... Actually, I wanted a site that you had to dig a little deeper into it
to get information. ...That's not what people want these days. *laughs* They want the information like
right in front of you and they don't want to have to dig very deeply. I found a lot of people complaining
JFH (Amy): Describe the change, if any, that you have seen with
your fans since you are solo and take a different approach to your art and music than you had years
Kevin Max: Y'know, I think the people that have listened to me from the start with
Stereotype Be have kind of followed me. I don't think it changed that much. I'm picking up
new people as I go along. I think this new record is going to pick up even more new people.
Stereotype Be did okay. Including overseas, it sold like 100,000 units or a little bit
more than that. So it wasn't bad, I mean in the perspective of DC Talk, it wasn't great. But
for me, it's like that was a record that, again, was something completely different. Like in a world
of cheeseburgers, that was straight-up sushimi. Y'know what I mean? I think people were like "Whoa,
what is this?" I hope that this new records builds on the following, to be honest with you. Because
it's that kind of record. It has just a unique feel to it. (Amy: And
then they'll listen to Stereotype Be and they'll be like "Well what happened before
this?" Who knows?) *laughs* Right. Exactly. Well we hope to continue to build at
each record and change. I love change. I love doing different things with each project. I don't like
doing the same thing over and over again. That part of it's great.
JFH (John): What are your artistic goals for your music?
Kevin Max: I feel like I've been reaching them to a degree in the fact that I've been
able to get in the studio and make a project that I'm proud of and tour it. And really just stay within
the industry, y'know? I mean if I can stay within the industry and make records, I'm a happy guy.
I really don't want to have to do something else because I'm really passionate about it. But if I
have to get another job in order to continue to provide to make music, I will. Music is absolutely
a passion for me. As far as the goals on this record, it's to get it to as many people as possible and
to get these songs on the radio, to get some videos made, to really push the project and get people
opened up to it a little bit and understanding what I'm trying to do - explain myself as much as possible
and reeducate them on what I'm about. Because I have taken quite some time off. I took two years
off, really. That's more than the other two guys in my band have. But honestly, the truth is, they
went right into making records that they felt they wanted to make right away. We just work differently.
I mean I've taken a little bit more time crafting what I wanted to do because I knew, again, the audience
is going to be a bit different than theirs, y'know?
JFH (John): Is the distribution from Northern going to be pretty wide?
That's a good question. That's a Northern question. I wouldn't be able to answer that for you.
That would be Jeff Anderson question, but I would think so, yeah. I don't think that we would
want to put the record out without great distribution. I would like to see another carrier pick
the record up as well to promote it in different places, maybe overseas. We can join with an overseas
label to make it happen overseas as well. That's kind of all up to Jeff and Eric, and people in the
company. Because I think Northern is a company that, it's a small company, but it's the kind of company
that if the right projects are there, could be a really really cool company for the people
that are really interested in art. They could get what they're looking for. Northern's got a lot
of integrity and a lot of passion. The definitely see things a certain way and do things a certain way.
And I think if they have the right artists - of course they have me, that's a good start. *smiles*
JFH (Amy): Do you have aspirations for touring abroad?
Kevin Max: Yes. We're touring two and a half weeks from now. We start in
New Zealand, and we go to Finland, and we're over in Europe close to two weeks.
(John: Is that with Luna Halo?) Yeah. We're actually
tying up some loose ends with that tour. We're meeting with the promoters today. We should make
JFH (Amy): Besides God, who has given you the most support
for your evolving music and literary career?
Hmmm. That's an interesting question. I never really thought about that one. Writing really comes
from reading a lot as a kid and being interested in different writers - being inspired by different
people in my life to continue to do it. Honestly, the fans - the people that write in to me and
say "Your poetry did this for me" or "Your poetry helped me shape some thoughts here and there,"
I absolutely consider that a gift. I wish there was somebody I could cite and be like, "Y'know, this
person helps me write my poetry," but I really don't have a specific muse, y'know?
JFH (John): What has God been teaching you lately?
Kevin Max: Patience. That in order to live a full life, I have to go to Him more
often for answers to things. Cause I tend to want to figure it out on my own all the time and not really bring
things to Him as much. Cause I feel like "Well, He's always there and He's gonna be there for me," but
it's involving Him in everyday things. It's something that I want to have more passion for. Because,
to me, I think I get really lazy. (John: Especially when you get busy.)
Yeah. It's just kind of like you can feel like you can do it all on your own, y'know? "Why do I need
to ask God that? He knows what it is." And life just kind of happens and you tend to just roll with it
after awhile. And you don't realize what you're missing. We probably would have if you'd really spent
the time to ask about it. (John: Yeah, definitely. I can relate to that.)
Yeah. *laughs* I think we all can. We're probably all in the same boat. (Amy: Yeah,
and you make more work for yourself then because then it could've been easier if you wouldn't have done it
on your own. Sometimes I feel that way after things I do.) Yeah, absolutely. When it comes
to it, we're really selfish. We're crazy people. And I think He knows that and that's why He loves
us so much. That free will makes us very interesting. I was watching a movie the other night, which
is kind of funny that I use this for an example because it's kind of a weird movie, but it's this
movie called Troy with Brad Pitt. He says "The interesting thing about the gods is that they
envy us," talking about the Greek gods, "Because we're doomed. We could die any moment. That's what makes
us more beautiful." It's that every moment, you're not going to be there again. This is the last time we're going
to be in this room, y'know what I mean? I think God really loves to watch us enjoy our lives and learn
from our lives. I think there's some truth to that. And I would say not the gods, but the angels
probably do envy us because we're slightly doomed, y'know? And they know what's going to happen
(Left to right: Amy, John, Kevin)