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Maximo Park - Interview

  by Aaron Brown

published: 18 / 5 / 2005

Maximo Park - Interview


Newcastle band Maximo Park's debut album 'A Certain Trigger' has been one of the bestselling albums from a new group this year. Aaron Brown talks to them about their success and acclaim, and instant popularity

Newcastle isn’t known for being a hotbed of musical talent. Sure, we all remember black metal legends, Venom, and who can forget Gazza’s timeless classic, 'Fog on the Tyne' ? But that’s about it really. If anything, it is known for its nightclubs, binge drinking, Viz Magazine, women-beating footballers and depressingly bleak Alan Parker films about coal miners. But in the last ten years or so, something of a renaissance has happened in Newcastle. And it’s fast becoming a more cultured city; open to new ideas and attitudes. And just before you begin to think this is a brochure advert for 'Come to Newcastle', let me introduce Geordie-based five piece, Maximo Park. With the recent success of singles, 'Apply Some Pressure' and 'Graffiti' from their excellent debut album,' A Certain Trigger', it looks like they are about to put Newcastle on the map as a rival to Glasgow or Manchester. After much wrestling with the neanderthals that are ‘Door Security,’ Pennyblackmusic joined guitarist Duncan Lloyd, keyboardist Lukas Wooller and singer Paul Smith before they took the stage to a sell out crowd at the legendary King Tut’s in Glasgow. PB: So Newcastle, it isn’t exactly a city known for its music scene? LW : We’re based there. We’ve been living in Newcastle for about eight years. We studied there. We all met from being in different bands because we had all played the circuit around Newcastle and Sunderland. And Maximo Park rose from the ashes of these different bands. PB : Is there much of a scene in the North East ? I know of just you guys and the Futureheads. DL : Not really, we haven’t really come out of any scene. There hasn’t really been any bands come out of the North-East in a couple of years. The Futureheads came out of Sunderland. They were doing their thing, and we were doing our thing and we weren’t really aware of each other. It’s a bit of a coincidence obviously because there’s a regional accent thing going on. The bands are definitely getting better. It’s just we’ve a lack of venues. It was kind of good for us because we didn’t want to be influenced by anyone and we ended making music for us. We didn’t have any competition or with a record label in mind PB: It is evident from your lyrics that there’s a lot on your mind. Is your writing therapeutic? PS : Yeah, I’m in a more relaxed mind, especially as I’m on stage singing the songs every night. If I was still singing the songs in my bedroom and nobody was listening to them I would probably still be frustrated. I get the chance to get rid of all my energy on stage so I’m calm and relaxed the rest of the time. It's one of these things where I’ve always written down words. I wasn’t a singer until a few years ago, and then these guys asked me to sing for them. I just thought this is an ideal opportunity to get rid of some of these things and put them into a format or a context. Your thoughts can be sprawling and if they were unreconstructed then it would just be a dirge so it’s nice to able to try and construct words for the people as well. If you’re going to make music that’s delivered to the people you’ve got to involve them. It’s not going to be self obsessed. My lyrics are personal specifically because I believe that through that personal aspect you can engage with people and they understand you better. So yeah, I’ve got a lot on my mind. Music is a positive thing and a a lot of the negative aspects are transformed through the process of making it so that it becomes upbeat. It has a force and energy behind it rather than being self-obsessed. PB : Yeah, your lyrics are very observational; they remind me of The Clash PS : Yeah, it’s one of those things, because it has inspired you, you have to write it down PB : What do you think of the current spate of NME bands ? Do even like being lumped in with them? PS : There’s a certain inevitable aspect that we have ended up lumped in with them. I suppose being around at the same time as them who write pop songs and play guitars. We’re always going to get lumped in with them. I think the record that we made and when we play live, it’s just a different thing to what you would normally hear. We’re certainly not part of any scene. We wrote music just to excite ourselves in a bedroom in Newcastle and all of a sudden we’re signing a record contract. It’s strange. There’s a certain process where all bands of our ilk are filtered through the NME and they either decide that they love or hate you and then you’re discarded or whatever. We just stick to our gun. We know exactly what we want to do. PB : The thing that really annoys me is that industry tag,’ Guitar bands.’ LW : Yeah, well we’ve got keyboards as well .It's pop music. DL : The guitars are the best bit obviously (Laughs). LW : The media just lump every sort of music together so it’s easier for people to understand. PB : Are you playing any festivals this summer ? Paul: Yeah, we’re playing Glastonbury, then Reading, Leeds and T in the Park. We’re also playing the Oxygen Festival in Ireland. PB : Paul, have you found your notebook yet ? I’ve been reading in the press that it was lost (Paul’s notebook which has his lyrics in was taken in Newcastle. He reads his lyrics on stage using the notebook-Ed.) PS : I have to go home tomorrow. My number was in the book and whoever found it called me up. It was in a bag with my keys and my wallet so I can’t even get into my house. Luckily we’ve got an in-store tomorrow in Newcastle. The guy hasn’t replied to any of my messages so I will probably give him a call tonight. PBM: You’ll get it back as long as you don’t get too big of course. Then you’ll probably have to bid for it on Ebay. Paul: Somebody threw an identical book up on stage the other night. It was weird because it was the exact same make of notebook. So I’m using that at the moment. I’ve written the lyrics in it. PB: When you read the lyrics out on stage is it just a performance thing ? PS: Well it sort of is. I could probably sing the songs without the book. It’s become more of a sort of psychological need as well. There are lot of similar lyrics in a few of the songs and I don’t want to slip on any of them. Also, it’s one of those things that sets us apart from other bands. I don’t want the music though to get lost in anyway. I probably won’t use after this tour very much. It’s one of those things where you don’t want it to become a noose round your neck. I’ll find another way of conveying my individuality. It's a gimmick in a way (Laughs). PB : So Warp records, home of Aphex Twin. How the hell did you did you get signed by them? PS : We released a seven inch single by ourselves, which was recorded in my bedroom. I think they saw a lot of themselves in that. Warp started off putting records out in a small record shop in Sheffield. There’s a lot of diverse acts on their roster. They are not all electronic based but obviously they are known for it. They wanted to move away from being just an electronica based label. So it’s kind of a grand statement to sign a band like ourselves who have an edge and are known for their downbeat, depressing lyrics. Our music is built for people’s radios. DL : It’s the first time Warp Records have ever gone consciously into the charts. Our first single charted so it is a new thing for them. They made a conscious decision but they have not signed us because we’re a band that happened to fit that mould. There were looking for a band that was creative and wanted to make music. I think our second album is going to be pretty progressive. If we were to do a rock opera, they would be fully behind it. PB : What do you think of the charts these days? PS : It’s not really a chart. It’s just a list of records. It’s one of those things where if you have a top twenty record people will take notice of you. It’s part of a kid’s life watching things like 'Top of the Pops'. And even kids today, if they are not 'Top of the Pops', they’re watching 'CD:UK'. It’s this whole popular culture thing. There’s just a load of things in there devised to crack pop culture and become synonymous with people’s lives. Our music is, however, about people’s lives. We feel it’s better to get that sort of music out there, rather than something that is manufactured. PB : Thanks lads.

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Maximo Park - Interview

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In the latest in our 'Photoscapes' photographic series, Katie Anderson shoots Maximo Park at a show at the Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth

digital downloads


Our Earthly Pleasures (2007)
Lavishly-produced, but nevertheless bitingly sharp second album from Maximo Park, the follow-up to their bestselling 'A Certain Trigger;
A Certain Trigger (2005)
Apply Some Pressure (2005)
Patonki (2001)

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