BBC Radio 1
Prodigy man Maxim dropped into Radio 1 recently to talk to Entertainment News' Briggy Smale about the new single, 'Carmen Queasy', his solo album, what's happening with the Prodigy right now, and why you'll be needing a very good stereo to listen to his next single on...
How does it feel doing a solo project?
It’s good. In a way it worked out quite well with the break from the Prodigy - not that I’m leaving! The timing worked out well to release a solo album. It’s cool to do something different while I’ve got downtime and then next year, the Prodigy album, I’ll be working on that.
You have to be careful what you say - you just stopped yourself because people assume that because you’ve got a solo project the Prodigy have split up...
Exactly - people get on this thing that when an artist does something solo then he’s going to leave the group - and 90% of the time they do. But not me. This is a chance to do music a different way on my own. I’ve got a studio at home and that’s my hobby. I’m always writing music. I also say that, because certain things are going on within the group and people think that we’re splitting up cause we haven’t had something out for quite a while. I'll make it clear now though - the group’s going to be bigger and stronger next year.
Why hasn’t there been any Prodigy material for a bit then?
Cause we don’t need to put anything out yet, do we? Nah - there’s no point in rushing anything when it comes to writing music. We take things easy - we’d rather put something out that’s good and 100% real, so we’re working on it.
Have you had a different approach to your solo material?
No - same approach. I wouldn’t put anything out that I wasn’t happy with, and for the sake of it. I have to be happy with it, and if the inspiration comes, it comes. That’s why this has taken so long. I’ve changed so many tunes on the album It started out just me and 12 tracks. But I thought that’s just like painting a black and white picture - nobody wants to hear 12 tracks of me! That’s why I brought in a few collaborations, and just being unselfish when it comes to music - letting people put their ideas on my music.
What inspired you for the album?
It comes form all different places. It’s been in me for a long time really, or me to have a product in my hand, for me to say "This is my album". And I’ve had that from the age of 17, 18. Also, it’s something inside of me - do the music different from the norm, which a lot of people are doing - going through the motions just to make money. I’d rather put something out that’s 100% real, 100% me - and people will appreciate that because it’s nothing like what’s out at the minute.
You mentioned collaborations, and you have Skin on the single - how did you get to work with her?
I’ve known Skin for a few years from the festivals circuit. That’s how we initially met up. Just drinking after shows. Just seeing their show - Skin’s voice is so powerful, you realise when you see their show just how powerful she is. For me she’s the only female artist in the UK doing that, and probably the world as well. Especially a black female artist, making rock music as well, on that level. So it was challenging really, for me to put in her voice, which I knew would be good, but I didn’t think it would be to this kind of level - I just wanted to write a hard track with Skin’s vocal on.
It’s almost like you two could have been in each other’s bands, actually.
Yeah, I suppose. Visually, we’re quite similar - we’ve got the same kind of approach when it comes to music. I growl… and Skin sings! It’s like the video in a way - we realised visually that Skin and myself were enough for the video, we didn’t need any theatrics.
Did she write the song with you?
Skin came up with the actual lyrics, I wrote the music, and fitted my bits on - I put my growls on in the little spaces, and constructed the song, changed the chorus a bit.
Was she happy with that?
Yeah. Initially we did it in two hours, and she said, "Are you sure you don’t want me to do any more", and I said, "No, it’s all done". I was happy with the way it sounded, it sounded quite raw. She wanted to come back and do more vocals but I said, "No, it’s cool" - I knew I could crop it up and re-arrange certain parts. I added the guitars after, and I thought, "The chorus is a bit sparse now". So I had to add extra guitars to make the chorus a bit bigger. It turned out to be a good track.
But two hours is no time at all to write a song!
Nah. I had the track already. She came with the vocals. She’s got such good idea, as soon as I heard it I thought, "That’s good".
What’s she getting at in the lyrics? Is she having a pop at the music industry?
Yeah. It’s about a female called Carmen Queasy who would do anything to make it in the music industry. I look at it in a different way as well - someone being calm and remaining a bit queasy, for instance doing this interview. Your boss is telling you to do it and you say "OK" and remain calm and do it, but you're not sure cause it’s not the right mood for you to do it. So that’s not just the music industry.
How nice for you to understand - that sometimes happens!
Oh yeah, that sometimes happens, especially in the music industry! You see so many groups who obviously don’t want to do it, but they do it, don’t they?
Do you agree with that sentiment though - having a pop at the industry as it is? You’ve spent many years in it - how do you see the music industry?
It’s the way it is, know what I mean?
Do you feel like you have to sell your soul sometimes?
There’s a track on the album called 'Soul Seller' - you hit the nail right on the head. Yeah, people do sell their souls, but I’m not going to sell my soul. I’m into music and as soon as I sell myself short I’m not going to do it. If someone starts demanding me to do something else and I’m not feeling it 100%, I won’t do it.
Have you been asked to do some ridiculous things, where you’d just go "Absolutely not"?
No. I don’t think anyone tries to take the piss.
They know you’re going to growl at them!
I think as far as the group goes, we’ve built a foundation or respect where people understand. As far as the record company goes as well, there’s mutual respect. They respect our judgement and what we want to do, our direction. Obviously we’re signed to an independent and not a major label where people are saying to you, "You’ve got to do this to sell X amount of records". It's about doing good music and the more you do good music, the longer you’re around. If you just do things and sell yourself short, you’re only going to be around 6 months, like a lot of acts you see and hear on radio.
You set yourself different targets then - a bit of a challenge for you.
Not so much of a challenge, it was just I wanted to do things a bit different rather than the norm. I just thought "Hold on a minute - maybe it’s not the right thing to do". I thought it more interesting bringing in other people who I respect musically, vocally and then take a back seat and concentrate on the production side. I brought my cousin in who’s a really good singer given her a chance to shine on it - just doing things different.
You’ve got a great mix of flavours on your album…
Yeah, there’s a track with Poetic from Gravediggaz which is quite a hip hop based track. Divine Styler… I tried to mix it up - a couple of instrumental tracks, couple of guitar tracks, couple of up front quite heavy beat tracks. But the foundation is the beats and the darkness of it.
That’s what it’s been called a lot, your album - dark yet commercial… is that so?
I wouldn’t say commercial. When I set out to do it, I wasn’t thinking of making anything commercial. Not to spread it to anybody, I was just trying to make music that reflected myself. I don’t expect everybody to pick up on it. A lot of people will think, "What’s this all about? Can’t really understand this". It’s just about people who are into the same things as me. A lot of people won't pick up on it. My niece calls it devil music, but she doesn’t know what she’s talking about…
How dark are you outside of your music? Are you a dark person anyway?
Nah. It's just the way the music comes out - quite soundtrack orientated. If you asked me to write a house track or garage track, I wouldn’t be able to do it. I just like tracks with moods. If you asked me to write a track for a film, it’d be something like 'The Matrix', that’s the kind of vibe. As far as being dark outside that, nah, but I do like looking at gothic buildings - I appreciate good architecture in that sense.
How did it feel when Leeroy said he was leaving?
That’s just part of the process which we’ve been going through - changes - just different inspirations. We’re all doing different things. Life goes on and people change, and that’s part of life really. We’re still friends - I’ll be seeing him tomorrow - presenting an award with him. I still ring him up. I last saw him a couple of days ago. Still good friends.
Have you heard his stuff?
Yeah - really good, really good.
With the Prodigy album, how near to completion are you, or have you not even started yet?
It’s started and we’re taking it easy, and not rushing it or anything like that. When it comes it comes. There’s 2 and a half tracks done at the moment, but you can’t really put a time on writing an album. When you get into a studio, and you get ideas - maybe you have 2, 3 ideas that week - you get 3 tracks done. Or you could be in the studio and you think - "No, it’s not working". So you can never really put a timescale on music. That’s what I can never understand about the music industry - people writing to order. "Oh yeah, I’ve got to write another album next year". It doesn’t work like that. When it comes it comes; an album could take 3, 4 years. You don’t write an album every 6 months, that’s when you’re just cashing in.
What if you’re writing a track though, for the Prodigy and think
"Ah, no - this is a Maxim track". Does it happen?
You have different heads on… the Prodigy album and your album is there any likelihood that a track could fit both?
Erm - there have been ideas that have been in the pipeline, and could have been a Prodigy track, but I’ve kept it for my own album. As far as the next album, we’re progressing so I will be involved more in the musical side. Liam writes most of the music and Keith and myself do the vocals, but I will be getting more involved in the musical side of things. It’s going to be a completely different album. I keep the Prodigy and Maxim as two separate entities - there’s no middle ground really. People will try and label it, whatever, but certain things will sound a bit Prodigy to Prodigy fans because I’m a percentage of the Prodigy! There’s going to be some influence in there.
And how do you feel now about the single itself?
I never expected it to do as it’s done so far, so I’m quite pleased. It’s put some different music out there. I’m into good videos as well, and I think the video’s good and strong. I’m sick and tired of just girls dancing behind them - it’s so boring. I do look at the girls, but that’s about it!
You’re very theatrical though aren’t you?
You appear to be.
I don’t use theatrics. Everything you see and everything I do is 100% real.
You don’t walk down the street looking like that though…
Nah, but that’s just my personality coming out, and I think everybody’s got that other side to them. It’s just they don’t know how to express it. And I know how to express it because I’ve been tapping into it for 10 years.
And there’s more where that came from…
Totally - loads more.
Have you got anything coming up for the rest of the year or are you concentrating mainly on the album?
The album’s done. The second single will come in August and will be called "Scheming" featuring my cousin, and then the album in September. It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be strong. Anybody with sense will pick it up and get a good stereo fitted - you can’t play it on a tin pan stereo.
I hope you live in a detached property!
Do the neighbours know what you do?
Are they alright with you?
Yeah, my neighbours are cool - they’re all old people, but… it’s funny cos they’re into it. They’re probably more open minded that young people nowadays. More open minded than my niece anyway!
What did you niece call it?
Devil music. But she’s very R'n'B - if it’s not R'n'B, she’s not interested.
Yeah, I try and educate her. She’s got such a good voice as well but if I knock something up for her she goes, "Yeah, but I want to listen to R'n'B beats!"
You could start off like that and then just do a few growls in the background, and it’d have that satanic message…
I’ll let her get on with her life and do her thing.