Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Rob "Maxi" Maxfield Interview

A couple of days ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Rob Maxfield. If you are unfamiliar with Rob or Maxi as he is known, he used to be the drummer with Manchester band Audioweb back in the early 90's.

The band consisted of Martin "Sugar" Merchant (vocals), Sean McCann (bass) Robin File (guitar) and Rob Maxfield (drums).

The band had two top 40 hits and actually supported U2 back in 1997. Fans of their work included U2 and Ex Stone Roses singer Ian Brown. When the band split in 1999, Maxi went on to drum for Ian Brown, and continues to work with him to this day.

Please take the time to have a read and I hope you enjoy the interview as much as me.

Hi Maxi, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. How's it going mate?

Good thanks, bit of time off from touring but I have ended up renovating my house. It's a lot harder than drumming....

Which musicians influenced you as a kid and which drummer made you want to make a career out of it?

All obvious answers really. I started trying to play guitar first but didn't know where to start so after being told to stop tapping on everything, my Mum bought me some stix. The thing that got me first wanting to spend every hour making noise was The Who I guess. Moon was the man, but after that the Manchester thing kicked in and that was when I realized I had to become a drummer. Hearing Public Enemy for the first time probably sculpted the type of drummer I became. I just became obsessed with break and beats. I could listen to the funky drummer beat all day and all night and die a happy man.

If you could work with anybody alive or dead, who would it be?

Christ, the list would be endless. So many people I'd like to work with but I wouldn't be good enough to even be in the same room as them. Let's pick Elvis.....

Interesting choice. Although you have probably done more now than you did when you were in Audioweb, do you miss being in the band?

Sure I miss being in Audioweb. That thing of being mates, then getting a deal, then getting a tour, then a record release...... The whole process is amazing and if you're lucky enough for it to happen to you then you have to look back and say it was top. Saying that, when it goes wrong, it goes wrong big time. I'd like to think after all this time, we'd still walk over hot coals for each other.

The sound you guys produced at the time was unique and in my eyes brilliant and way ahead of it's time, but do you think your music was over shadowed by the bands around at the time gaining commercial success. eg Oasis, Blur and all the brit pop scene?

Cheers for saying that. You know what, pressure was always there for us to become a more electronic Oasis or some other stupid comparison but we weren't about that. For a start we had a black singer and let's be honest, if you're not a rapper from America, you've got no chance of gracing the pages of NME. It has changed a bit since, but back then there was no chance.

We once had an article cut because Black Grape were in that week and people at the NME didn't want to confuse the readers. Can you believe that? We were up against that shit all the time. For us it was simple, we sat down and if it sounded good and we liked it, it went in the music. Whether we'd been listening to King Tubby or The Pixies or Manfred Man, we just didn't care. Probably our downfall.

Looking back how would you had done things differently with Audioweb?

Maybe we should have produced our second album ourselves. Maybe we should have dug our heels in a bit more about remixes, artwork, videos etc. But when your skint and the record company won't give you your next advance unless you pick this director or this art director, you tend to give in so you can just make music.

On the first album we worked with Bacon and Quarmby and they were amazing. Real mentors to us, but the record company sort of pushed them out. Personally I wish we'd have kept them closer to us through our whole career. But, fuck it, no regrets, we had a blast.

Do you still keep in touch with the other guys? I know Sean briefly played bass during Ian Brown's live shows with you?

Sean lives in New York now with his wife and has just done this project : http://seandmccann.bandcamp.com/album/the-story-of-swan-act-1

Martin has just done the theme tune to Rastamouse, a kids TV thing and still sings. Mainly he DJ's playing 50's and 60's rare Ska music.
Robin lives down south and I think still does music but I've only spoke to him briefly.

How did you become Ian Brown's drummer? Was there an audition?

Ian was after a rhythm section, and as he was a big Audioweb fan, he wanted to try and locate us. His manager at the time had worked with us at Polydor so managed to track us down. I'd met Ian before but only briefly and the first day of rehearsals was the first time I'd seen him since the end of Audioweb. We ran through a couple of songs and he was happy. It was that informal, relaxed and welcoming. We've been family ever since.

Do you prefer the creativeness in the studio or the madness of touring?

I prefer touring. I miss my family of course and its meant I've missed a lot of important parts of my family's life but I'm addicted. The joy of getting on a bus not knowing what the next few weeks hold is like prolonged adolescence.
I can't being to describe the laughs you have. To the point that when you get back home you talk a totally different language to everyone else because you only know how to communicate with your band mates.

The studio on the other hand is something else. Being creative all day, everyday for weeks takes it out of you and I tend to forget what I was trying to achieve in the first place. It's an essential part though and that's where the art is formed so it's rewarding in a different way.

Was there any pressure on you when Ian decided to play Roses tunes during his live shows?

Ian had decided to use a Stone Roses tribute band to play the Roses stuff and I pleaded with him to let me at least try and play 'em. Luckily he said yes. I could only play 'em as I heard 'em. I never wanted to try and be Reni, I just wanted to play the songs as I'd want to hear them as a fan.

I'm guessing the music industry can be a bit of a nightmare to be involved in. I dont think it did Audioweb any real favours back then. What are your current thoughts on it and what advice would you give to the youngsters looking for that big break?

Christ, the business as changed so much I can't even begin to give someone advice. I wish someone would give me some. I suppose do what you love. Nothing more nothing less. You can tell a lot of stuff these days is made when a band has a lawyer, a publicist, a manager and a plan before then even play a gig.

Maybe it was always that way and I'm just a bit old and cynical. In saying that, I do still hear some things that push the envelope but it's mainly hip-hop. I think guitar music is going through the motions now. Too many middle class bands funded by daddy's trust fund. Where are all the angry kids? And folk music???? Fuck me, who's getting off on that?

Name your top 5 albums without thinking too much.

Christ this is hard as you can imagine. But without too much thought. Stevie Wonder - Innervisions, Beatles - White Album, Beastie Boys - Ill Communication, Lou Reed - Transformer, Herbie Hancock - Headhunters, and fuck it I'm putting 6, Eminem - Marshall Mathers LP.

What does the future hold for you Maxi?

Who knows mate. Being a musician can lead to anything at anytime. You get used to not planning. Maybe I'll become an actor......

Many thanks for Maxi for allowing Retreat to interview him, and an even bigger thanks for supporting Retreat over the years.