Intervista a Maxx Klaxon di Giosuč Impellizzeri 02/11/2005 -

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Interview with Maxx Klaxon by Giosuč Impellizzeri

Published Wednesday, 02 November @ 12:46:14 CET
He comes from Miami, a city famous for crime, political fights and nightlife. His love for electronic music dates from the age of infancy. We speak of Maxx Klaxon, a name that for the international scene of electronic music sounds like the new flagman of electropop made in America. Maxx is the spirited and unexpected leader of an ideal movement for electro called Klaxon Youth that stands against the norm of music. Its goal: To free the masses from mental distortion.

Some American critics have tried to describe his combination of music and politics as Moroder and Marx, or perhaps Mussolini. But Maxx does not want to fight in order to kill, but only to support the world of the underground that, much too often, lives in the shadows, relegated to the borders. The electro brigade now has a leader, assisted by the vocalist Zoreta who helped in completing his disc recently released on the Popular Front label. We meet while he works, in his laboratory in Brooklyn, New York, on new experiments that have yet to be shared with the world.

Ciao Maxx. To start the interview, let's talk about your first contact with electronic music. When did you discover it for the first time? And why the curious pseudonym 'Klaxon'?

When I was young, my parents bought me records of classical music performed on synthesizer, by Wendy Carlos and Isao Tomita. And I watched the British sci-fi series "Doctor Who", which was full of electronic music. When other kids were discovering rock and roll, I was discovering Tangerine Dream and Vangelis. This did not exactly make me popular at school. Also around this time came the emergence of electro. I heard Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" in a skating rink one day. Back then we just called it "breakdance music", but I knew it was brilliant and futuristic. This style spread quickly in Miami, and soon it was coming out of cars and boomboxes all over the place.

Another big part of my musical development was new wave and synthpop -- Alphaville, Depeche Mode, Yaz, the Pet Shop Boys, the Human League, and other acts, like the Art of Noise and Laurie Anderson. And a-ha, Wham!, Madonna, Tears for Fears, Mr. Mister: basically, whatever was on the radio. Later came techno, industrial, house, IDM, drum and bass... My mind was warped by every kind of electronic influence. If you hook my brain up to an EEG now, it actually outputs sine, square, and sawtooth waves.

How did I become Klaxon? During my adolescence, there were many subcultures, but I fit into none of them. I wasn't a punk, or a metalhead, or a surfer. I felt a need for a new youth movement, inspired by the power of electronics. I started experimenting with tape decks, sampling, keyboards, and sequencing programs. Over time, I developed my sound and my identity. I saw that my destiny would be to liberate the world from musical and mental imperfection, using electronic soundwaves. And so I set out to become an international pop star, and benevolent dictator.

Today, my comrades in the Klaxon Youth and I are still fighting for our electro revolution. One day soon, our victory will come, and the masses will march to a new and perfect rhythm! Or, at least, we'll make sure there's something better playing on the radio.

How do you define your music style? Simply electro?

I would call it electro/pop. It's a mixture... the energy and sound textures of electro and techno, applied to the structure and content of pop. Pure electronica can be very enjoyable. But it's possible to express more, in terms of ideas and personality, through music that has lyrics.

You appeared, in 2004, on "Powerslaves", a special compilation released on the Angelmaker label. How did you first make contact with the personal label of electro artist Ra-X?

Well, my music was not being widely heard a few years ago. The enemies of the electro revolution were trying to suppress me! I knew that if I could contact the electronic resistance overseas, they could help me spread my message of sonic liberation. I gave a CD-R to some British DJs visiting New York. They took it back home with them, and soon my demo was circulating throughout Europe.

Ra-X heard it, and contacted me about collaborating on the POWERSLAVES project. This was in early 2003, as rumors of war were swirling in the air. I recorded "Die With Your Boots On." It seemed like the perfect song at the time, because of its commentary on war, and because I like boots.

A few weeks ago your new e.p. called "Paranoid Style" was released: talk about it.

Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean you can't be stylish. Fear and terror are very chic these days, thanks to Bush, Blair, and Berlusconi. This EP contains a collection of songs that share a dark, but humorous, outlook on the world. I also tried to give all of them a similar sound: very hard, crisp beats -- especially from the Roland 808 drum machine -- analog synths, strong melodies, male and female pop vocals, and some interesting noise.

Of course, there is also a subliminal mind control signal encoded into the music. But don't worry, it's completely inaudible.

"Paranoid Style" is the first release of your label Popular Front. Why did you decide to found a personal label? Talk about it, the philosophy and the next projects.

The American music industry doesn't promote or release much electronic music. And many Americans think that all electronic music is dance or club music. There is very little recognition of electronic pop. So I felt that it would be better to release this EP myself, to make sure that it was handled in the right way. I was also annoyed that no labels were willing to grant my requests for an armored limousine, a team of bodyguards, and a high-tech underground command center. How am I supposed to take over the world without those things?

The name of the label, Popular Front, represents the idea of unifying different forces toward a common goal. Music is very segregated right now, especially in the US. I would like to see more connections between electronica, pop, and rock, between the underground and the mainstream, between clubs and radio, and between America and Europe. Of course, the label is still a small operation. Also, I'm working with another label, Kinetik Media, on some Maxx Klaxon vinyl releases. But I hope that Popular Front will release more material in the future, by myself and other artists.

Talk about your forthcoming releases.

The next release will be a complete 12-inch version of PARANOID STYLE, from Kinetik Media. For a long time the only track of mine available on vinyl was "Die With Your Boots On", released by Star Whores. Now all six tracks from PARANOID STYLE will be on vinyl. After that, we are working on another vinyl release, focused on the song "Italian Ice". It will include some great remixes of that song, and also some other material.

Do you know the Italian music scene? (One of your recent tracks is called "Italian Ice"!)

I don't know as much as I would like to about what's happening in Italy right now (but I'm a big fan of DJ Gio MC-505!). Of course I love the great pioneers of Italian electronic music, like Giorgio Moroder and Alexander Robotnick. I enjoy vintage '80s Italo-disco... it's being played quite a lot here in New York these days.

But Italians have been making good music for centuries! In "Italian Ice", I included a little excerpt from Vivaldi, one of my favorite classical composers.

What do you think about the European music scene? What are your favourite labels, dj's and producers? Why?

It seems like Germany is where the most exciting things are happening right now. Gigolo is probably my favorite European label, because DJ Hell is really focused on underground electronic pop. And Ellen Allien is producing brilliant techno with a brain and a heart. I also like some of the stuff being released by Beautycase and Kompakt.

And there are interesting scenes in Holland, Finland, and the UK. I hope I can do a European tour one of these days, and meet all the Klaxon Youth of Europe!

You live in New York: how is the music scene in your city? Is it good? Talk about it.

For the last couple of years, it's been mostly dance-rock, and post-punk and garage revival bands. There was a very strong reaction against electroclash... Some Americans, even smart people I know here in New York, just have a prejudice against electronic music. They perceive it all as "fake" or "not authentic" compared to rock and roll. It's a very conservative, reactionary attitude.

It's true that there were some crappy electroclash acts. But there were also some great bands that got put into that category, and unfairly dismissed. And now NYC is overrun with crappy rock bands trying to imitate The White Stripes and The Strokes.

So there is not a unified electronic scene here. Instead, there are many different artists on different wavelengths. Sometimes it seems too fragmented. But at least some people are listening to the new albums from Fischerspooner and Mount Sims and Ladytron and The Juan Maclean, and recognizing that there is very original, diverse electronic music being produced today.

Do you have any thoughts about the possible next evolutions of electronic music? Many guys talk about minimalistic tracks and the return of acid and Chicago house.

I like any music that makes a statement, tries new ideas, and reveals the personality of the artist. I'm focused on electro/pop, but I also enjoy dancefloor-type stuff... it serves its purpose, which is to transport the mind and the body. I don't know how it's going to evolve, but I will be watching it -- and stealing ideas from it!

The U.S.A. is the nation of house music (all big dj's like Morales, Knuckles, and MAW are coming from America). Do you think that the classic house tunes will live in the future? Or maybe the electronic side of house music will be the trend?

The interplay between electro and house has produced some exciting results in the last couple of years. I'm looking forward to the new Tiga album, because he really walks that line. I don't think classic house is going to disappear, but I think the electro influence will continue. If I had to predict what else will influence house, I would guess maybe electronic street music, like hip-hop, Miami bass, baile funk, and UK grime. Those are all very raw, sexual, beat-heavy styles, with a lot of energy.

Many guys talk about the death of vinyl. What do you think about it (your last e.p., for example, was released only on CD)?

I don't know. Vinyl seems to be alive and well, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of my music come out on vinyl. But it seems like it's getting very easy to be a DJ without owning any vinyl at all. The CD mixing consoles are very slick, and now people are DJing from their laptops with MP3s.

Vinyl or CD? What is your favourite? Why?

I have a vinyl collection, but it's pretty small. I like the portability of CDs, and I like being able to burn my own mixes. But I predict that vinyl, CDs, and MP3s are all going to die off soon. I'm looking forward to the next generation of music delivery: beaming it directly into the listener's brain, via satellite.

Analog or digital: what are your favorite instruments when you work in studio?

I have a very simple setup. My main keyboard is a virtual-analog Yamaha AN1X. I also have an old, cheap FM-synthesis keyboard that makes great noises. I run everything through a small mixer into my computer. I recorded and mixed most of the PARANOID STYLE tracks in ACID and Sound Forge. Now I'm using Tracktion: it's a very powerful new program, similar to Cubase, but with a simpler interface. I do all drum sounds, filters, EQ, and vocoders with software. My goal is to play with sounds, rather than play with gear.

This is the end: thanks very much for your time. Now you can leave a message dedicated to all Italian guys.

Thanks for your great questions! I leave you with these thoughts:

"The variety of noises is infinite. If today, when we have perhaps a thousand different machines, we can distinguish a thousand different noises, tomorrow, as new machines multiply, we will be able to distinguish ten, twenty, or thirty thousand different noises, not merely in a simply imitative way, but to combine them according to our imagination." --Luigi Russolo

"Our objective... consists of working without respite toward the construction of the perfect pop song for the tribes of the global village." --Ralf Hütter, Kraftwerk

"Ambition is a dream with a V-8 engine." --Elvis Presley

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